Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

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NewOldVinyl
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Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by NewOldVinyl » 03 Feb 2019 05:55

A local community radio station has 2 of these turntables. They get quite a lot of use including a weekly 2 hour all-vinyl show. During their last fundraiser the did an All Vinyl Friday, 13 hours of nothing but vinyl.

As a listener I’ve noticed they’re sounding pretty rough lately. I volunteered to do a tune up on the TTs for them and the station accepted. (They had no record of when the last service was done.)

Both TTs had non-DJ AT95E cartridges. Tracking forces were set to 1.2g and 2.75g (counterweight gauges both incorrectly said 3.0). One of the carts had a severely bent cantilever. Gee wonder why it sounds bad. Oh and Yes, their DJs do use back-cuing.

I’ve ordered them new AT-XP5 DJ carts. So that will get resolved this coming week.

Meanwhile I bought a brand new LP120 from Best Buy. The idea was to use it to set up the new carts on it, then donate it to the station so they’d have a spare TT with pre-aligned replacement cartridges.

The box for the TT was missing the platter! I kid you not. Exchanged it for a 2nd one. That TT made an audible warbly pulsing motor noise that was picked up by the cartridge and amplified during playback. It sounded awful. Returned it as well. There are many videos on YT demonstrating that this noise is a common problem on the LP120. Also the platter was slightly wobbly.

I know the LP120 is rated “professional” and has its fans. But color me not impressed.

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by ChrisLovesRock » 03 Feb 2019 09:41

How long ago did you get it? And when was it made? I have had none of these problems. No motor noise; quiet as a mouse. Mine came with everything, including the platter -- which is perfect.

I guess I'm impossibly lucky. Craig Farraway (Vinyl TV on YouTube) has also complained about motor noise, but he got his way before I got mine. Some earlier models had anti-skate issues. The only issues I've had were poor sound quality (I think I damaged my original stylus from the get go) and the tonearm going back to the beginning of a 45 without even playing it, which ended up breaking my stylus/cantilever. I replaced my stylus and have had no problems since.

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by Vinylfreak86 » 03 Feb 2019 09:56

You get what you pay. You will have to go with at least something like PLX-1000 (where is also some Pioneer engineering present, not just chinese product chosen out of catalog). And even in this case you can get a unit with motor noise or faulty cueing lever.

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by NewOldVinyl » 03 Feb 2019 15:58

ChrisLovesRock wrote:
03 Feb 2019 09:41
How long ago did you get it? And when was it made? I have had none of these problems. No motor noise; quiet as a mouse. Mine came with everything, including the platter -- which is perfect.

I guess I'm impossibly lucky. Craig Farraway (Vinyl TV on YouTube) has also complained about motor noise, but he got his way before I got mine. Some earlier models had anti-skate issues. The only issues I've had were poor sound quality (I think I damaged my original stylus from the get go) and the tonearm going back to the beginning of a 45 without even playing it, which ended up breaking my stylus/cantilever. I replaced my stylus and have had no problems since.
This is within the past week. Both units had serial numbers beginning with 18 which presumably means they were built in 2018. I made an audio recording of the warbling/pulsing noise, will try to find a way to post it somewhere and link to it here.

It should be obvious but just for clarity: The incorrectly calibrated tracking force gauges on the radio station's turntables is setup error, not the fault of the turntables.

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by smee4 » 03 Feb 2019 22:46

Quality control is abysmal. I would never rate an LP120 as professional, it's a cheap consumer lookalike.

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by KentT » 04 Feb 2019 03:29

Agreed, the AT-LP 120 is not professional grade. Consumer, light duty rated. None of the SL-1200 wannabees are either. For broadcast work, false economy for sustained use. Even the Pioneer PLX-1000 isn't built for 18 hours a day use either (which is what a typical vinyl playback day in the USA was for a music intensive station who spun vinyl). The Technics SP-10 Mk II, SP-15, and SP-25 in DD were built to handle this in stride, and the SL-1100 and SL-1200 also could do this job. Denon's DP 100 broadcast turntable and the EMT DD also were. Some perspective from a broadcast engineer (who maintained turntables used for broadcasting).

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by NewOldVinyl » 04 Feb 2019 03:47

The radio station in question has been using the LP120s for about five years without problems. They didn't even have proper DJ cartridges. After talking to their general manager, I'm guessing the station does at most around 10-15 hours of vinyl playback in a typical week (split between 2 turntables). Occasionally they'll do a marathon all-vinyl show but that's rare.

Anyway after I looked at what they're using, and with my recent bad experience with two brand new LP120s, I'd like to steer them toward something better but at a reasonable price point. $2K each for the resurrected SL-1210 is out of reach.

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by BMRR » 05 Feb 2019 15:46

If I were you (and kudos on wanting to give them such generous gifts!), I'd consider getting them a pair of used 1200s in good condition. In terms of price, you should be able to get a pair in great condition for under $1000. I live in Maine and I recently saw a pair of 1200 MkIIs for $750, and they were in great condition -- the owner used them in his home studio for mixing; never took them on the road for gigs.

Alternatively, the new 1200 Mk7 is currently available for preorder at Guitar Center for $999, which is a really great deal for a brand new Technics:

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Technics/S ... rntable.gc

As an observation, it sounds like the AT120 turntables at the station have been used pretty consistently for a few years and possibly haven't had any maintenance/upkeep during that time, so it might be a good idea to offer to train the DJs and other staff on the proper care and feeding of turntables, including such things as how (and when) to replace a stylus, how to set and check tracking force, etc. Otherwise you might give them a pair of brand new Technics turntables and still hear bad audio quality on the radio a month later because someone messed with the counterweight or bent the stylus or whatever. The fact that you noticed this as a radio listener but no one at the station noticed it is proof that they need some guidance. ;)

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by BMRR » 05 Feb 2019 16:00

Another alternative would be to find a preowned SL-1500 or SL-1500 Mk2. These were consumer turntables but I've actually seen them in a few radio stations, and they're still going strong after 35-40 years, so that tells you how well they were made. They don't have as many bells and whistles as a 1200, but they're super reliable and very easy to maintain.

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by Vinylfreak86 » 05 Feb 2019 19:20

I would buy a new SL-1200mk7 only for myself. Fot guys on a radio station PLX-1000 is a good compromise. These younger generations don`t know how to properly maintanin turntable and records.

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by BMRR » 05 Feb 2019 19:23

Vinylfreak86 wrote:
05 Feb 2019 19:20
These younger generations don`t know how to properly maintanin turntable and records.
Which is why I suggest teaching them the basics before giving them any additional gifts. :)

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by BMRR » 05 Feb 2019 19:30

Another idea (sorry to overload you with so many suggestions) is a used Numark TTX or TTXUSB. Don't be put off by their rather unconventional appearance; they are VERY heavy and can take one hell of a beating. I have one that I use for playing 78 RPM records. It is a beast. It's much heavier than it looks and has been very reliable. One of its unique features is that the motor magnet is built into the underside of the platter, just like on a Technics turntable. It also has a metal top deck and a rubberized base, kind of similar to a 1200 in that regard. The really great thing about these is that they're selling for next to nothing these days because everyone wants a PLX-1000 or a Technics. I just saw a pair of TTXs in super condition for $150. At that price they're an absolute steal, and they can take far more abuse than an LP120.

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by NewOldVinyl » 05 Feb 2019 20:31

Appreciate the suggestions. I'll look into all the options.

One thing we can all agree on is the LP120 is *not* professional-grade. ;)

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by andybeau » 06 Feb 2019 08:44

Vinylfreak86 wrote:
05 Feb 2019 19:20
I would buy a new SL-1200mk7 only for myself. Fot guys on a radio station PLX-1000 is a good compromise. These younger generations don`t know how to properly maintanin turntable and records.
So you're saying young people can't learn new skills? Really!! :roll:

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Re: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Observations

Post by Vinylfreak86 » 06 Feb 2019 14:04

andybeau wrote:
06 Feb 2019 08:44
Vinylfreak86 wrote:
05 Feb 2019 19:20
I would buy a new SL-1200mk7 only for myself. Fot guys on a radio station PLX-1000 is a good compromise. These younger generations don`t know how to properly maintanin turntable and records.
So you're saying young people can't learn new skills? Really!! :roll:
No I don`t. Because I am also young but have learned a lot. But I am very precise person and it is for me not problematic if it takes few hours to set up something properly. But majoriyt of younger people expect from analog things that they will be ready in a minute like their digital counterparts.
That Numark turntables can be interesting. I have also seen that some models available for around 400 EUR new uses this magnetic platter technology, same like Technics. But I have never used any Numark, and also all of them are not made by the same manufacturer.

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