For any serious audiophile owning a turntable is an absolute necessity. How else can one hear the warm, unique, and intimate sounds of vinyl records?
Put simply, nothing quite compares to listening to records on a turntable.
Whilst the digital age has dominated the music-player industry, from the days of mini-disc players to the Apple iPod and now music streaming apps, the turntable has stood the test of time as the old faithful of serious music lovers!
Established in 1962 in Tokyo, Japan by Hideo Matsushita, Audio-Technica started as a phonograph cartridge manufacturer.
Since then, Audio-Technica has grown to astronomical heights and is considered one of the leading manufacturers of microphones, headphones, turntables, and other audio equipment.
So much so that Audio-Technica has provided microphones and headphones for some of the biggest international events like the Summer and Winter Olympics.
Turntables are one of the hottest items on the audio market, having never truly gone out of production.
To us, this is a testament to the quality of the sound they produce. With this being said the audio market can seem like a jungle, with so many record players available.
Narrowing down your search by considering what your individual needs are could help make the correct purchase.
In this article, we turn our attention to the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 USB and discuss its main features, its pros, and cons along with its technical specifications.
If you’re considering a new turntable, or just simply interested in what’s out there, read on and see what we thought of the AT-LP120 USB!
Out of the box, it’s very apparent that the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 is packed with features. Some self-assembly is required, however, a comprehensive user manual is included which will guide you through the process.
It’s packaged in such a way that everything you need to get started is laid out for you. Included with the shipped item is a high-quality dust cover, which will keep the delicate components under cover and away from dust and debris.
Be careful not to open the dust cover beyond 90 degrees as this will snap the hinges.
Along with the headshell dust cover, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 comes with an AC Line Cord, 45 RPM adapter, dual RCA (female) to 3.5mm (⅛”) mini-plug (male/female) stereo adapter cable, USB cable, and recording software (more on this later).
Getting set up as quickly as possible was clearly Audio-Technica’s intention for the AT-LP120 as its cartridge comes preinstalled.
We liked the fact that you can swap the AT95E preinstalled MM phono cartridge out if you want to play some old-school 78s. This felt like a nod to the golden oldies and we take our hat off to Audio-Technica for this move.
What We Like About The AT-LP120
- Direct Drive Model – instead of using a belt, the AT-LP120 has a Quartz PPL (phase-locked loop) design. It’s capable of spinning the platter at 33 ⅓, 45, and 75rpm meaning that unlike most models in its price range, it has three-speed settings. You can also disable the Quartz speed lock function and increase the speed by plus or minus 10/20%
- Unlike many models in the same class, the AT-LP120 has a built-in preamp function. It can easily be hooked up to a computer via the USB cable included. With the recording software included (Audacity), you can convert vinyl tracks to MP3 and burn them onto a CD or music-playing device.
- Looks and Feels Well Made – weighing in at just over 23 pounds, the AT-LP120 is a sturdy-looking turntable. The base is made of metal as are the controls.
- Completely manual – the AT-LP120 is a completely manual turntable. Meaning that you must lift the tonearm and place the stylus in the groove. This process is mechanized in a lot of more recent turntable models. This kind of active engagement in the music-listening process is highly valued by many vinyl fans.
Getting The AT-LP120 Ready to Play
As mentioned earlier, some assembly is required as the AT-LP120 is a sophisticated device. Elements of the tonearm must be assembled and adjusted accordingly, including balancing the arm, setting the right stylus tracking force, and the anti-skate.
The anti-skate is particularly important as it’s the mechanism that stops the arm from sliding across the record. This can cause damage to the record and it’s a truly horrific sound if it happens.
All of these components need to be calibrated carefully and as such you need to take great care with the assembly. It might be worth picking up a stylus-tracking force gauge if you’re serious about getting the best from the turntable.
This might sound complicated but the process is very satisfying, plus the user manual goes into great detail on how to set up the turntable. There’s also a handy YouTube guide from Audio-Technica which walks you through from start to finish and can be found here.
The AT-LP120 ships with Audacity software for both Windows and Mac. Along with the MM phono preamplifier function, the Audacity software allows you to digitally convert your records to MP3.
The digital converter is capable of converting analog to digital in 44.1 or 48Kbit resolution. If your goal is more on the easy listening side of things, the AT-LP120 does a good job of converting to CD quality for slightly less than “archival quality.”
A detailed guide for using Audacity with the AT-LP120 can be found on the Audio-Technica website here.
Direct Drive Turntable
As mentioned above the AT-LP120 is a direct drive turntable. This means the spindle beneath the platter is motorized.
They’re renowned for their ability to deliver faster start and stop times and great torque, plus with no belt, there’s no worry about wear and tear over the years.
A common drawback for Direct Drive record players is that vibrations caused by the motor can transfer to the platter and the record, affecting sound quality.
More experienced turntable users prefer the belt-driven record player but they aren’t usually a good choice for the novice user.
How Does it Sound?
In short, the AT-LP120, whilst being budget-friendly, offers impressive specs. Measuring the speed-accuracy through the Feickert Platterspeed app shows that the AT-LP120 runs precisely at the correct speed.
With regards to that “wow” factor and speed stability, this turntable holds its own. Owing to the lightweight platter, we noticed a delicate softness to some of the more orchestral records we played.
It also didn’t lose the intoxicating quality of the light jazz piano pieces we spun either!
It lacks a certain refinement available in more expensive turntables and cartridges, but for the price, it gave good quality sound across different musical genres.
- Three Speed – compatible with 33-, 45-, and 78rpm records.
- The USB port allows you to easily digitize vinyl records without the need for drivers
- Built-in preamp means you can connect the turntable to a wide range of devices/equipment. The preamp can also be easily disabled via a bypass switch if you prefer to use a different phono preamp.
- Stylus Target Light – handy if you’re inexperienced at putting records on using a manual tonearm.
- RCA output cables are hardwired
- Direct drive motors can transfer vibration to the platter, however, this is still a point of debate.
- Connectivity Technology: Wired
- Included Components: Headshell/cartridge
- AC line cord
- dual RCA (female) to 3.5 mm (1/8") mini-plug (male) stereo adapter cable
- dual RCA (female) to 3.5 mm (1/8") mini-plug (female) stereo adapter cable
The AT-LP120 has scored a home run in terms of filling a gap for its target market – the semi-casual record spinner. It’s a solid choice for entry-level vinyl enthusiasts who need a good-sounding no-hassle player.
The addition of a built-in phono preamp and USB output for digitizing your vinyl is the cherry on top of this deliciously sounding cake.
The lightweight platter on the AT-LP120, we’d argue, is one place Audio-Technica saved money to produce. However, this only adds to the soft and lush sounds this record player produces.
The AT-LP120’s features and solid appearance put it a cut above its competitors. The metallic silvery finish and loud platter mat give this record player that “in your face” look which a lot of vinyl users look for.
Its extremely well-made, packed with features, and relatively inexpensive for the build quality. We appreciated the layout of the packaged product as it was clear which parts needed to be assembled first.
Last update on 2022-05-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API