Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB
After ignoring vinyl for the past couple of years - I already have a collection of vintage turntables and LPs - I received this turntable as an unexpected Christmas gift. I say unexpected since ages ago I expressed interest in having a turntable with a USB output suitable for digital dubs of some obscure out-of-print LP tracks. So here I am, somebody who has tried to move away from vinyl because it's a lot more work to clean your records, clean your stylus, align everything and so forth.... and before I install this Christmas present into the computer room, I take it out to the living room to connect to my real component stereo system. The AT-LP60 USB is very easy to assemble, Audio-Technica's instructions are very concise and it could not be easier to set up precisely because the dual-magnet cartridge is totally integrated into the simple tonearm assembly. No adjustments other than being able to replace the stylus (including a possible upgrade) or to replace/upgrade the belt. Connecting this directly to my Marantz receiver's phono inputs and bypassing the built-in preamp, I was quickly surprised how decent the sound quality was when playing some well-worn older records. There have been frantic arguments on these forums about the real vertical tracking force on the AT3600L cartridge as calibrated here, but I played a few of the same album sides on different days and did not discern any particular loss of fidelity. This fully-automatic table is absurdly easy to use and sound quality is far, far better than I could have imagined from an ultra-low-cost unit. I reactivated my old Dual 1219/Shure V15 Type RS turntable and it generally sounded better, with more dynamic range and more bass slam but the AT-LP60 wasn't embarrassed in the comparison. It's a great way to become re-introduced to vinyl playback. Here are the drawbacks to this turntable: a) Pitiful lack of a tonearm lock - Audio Technica supplies a white tie-twist to secure the tonearm when the table is being moved, but for most neophyte users there's a serious risk of damaging the stylus when the unsecured tonearm flops around when being moved. b) Ultra-short connecting cables, while they serve the purpose of minimizing noise and hum which can be generated by longer cable lengths, make proper installation and connection inconvenient. You want enough cable length to set the turntable in a secure location away from speakers and the possibility of airborne feedback. You should never place a turntable on top of a receiver or amplifier, creating a heat trap which can cause overheating in the amp/receiver as well as damage/warp the AT-LP60's very lightweight plinth. c) The supplied AT-LP60 phono preamp stage is adequate but not sonically close to the sound quality of an average 1980s-vintage receiver much less an audiophile preamp. It isn't particularly noisy or distorted but sounds a bit grainy in the highs and doesn't reveal much soundstage imaging. Not awful, just rates a C-minus. d) There's only so much you can do for sound quality with a very modest tonearm, no antiskating, but the supplied AT3600L cartridge is amazingly open sounding and competent given this context. I have not yet evaluated the AT-LP60-USB for digital dubbing using Audacity, this review is primarily as an entry-level high fidelity turntable. I'll put it this way: if I had not received this unexpected Christmas present, it's unlikely I'd be rediscovering my enjoyment of analog vinyl records after a few years away. This has re-energized my interest in using my legacy record players, trying new cartridges, getting my Audio Advisor Record Doctor cleaning machine out of the garage, and generally enjoying the benefits of listening to music on the best mainstream audio format ever devised, the 33-1/3 rpm microgroove long-playing record! This Chinese-made Hanpin turntable probably won't last for decades but for the price of a nice night out on the town, you can rediscover whether listening to vinyl is for you.
I know nothing about tone arm balance, or any other technical aspect of turntables etc. I bought this TT last summer, and it has allowed me to finally listen to my old record collection, a project years in the making. And thanks to my brother for saving most of my old records.
I ordered the Audio Technica on Amazon, and it came within a few days. The turntable is flat, the mechanism works when I push the button, and my music sounds good. It is nice looking, and only cost me about $105.00.
I have no complaints about this turntable, except that the lid squeaks a bit when I open it up. It has been a year now and I need a new cartridge.
Non-audiophile review: This is my first record player, and if you're a vinyl nut who cherishes their collection (and if you're on this site you probably are) then you know already not to mess with cheap turntables like this. The tone arm doesn't balance, too much weight on the needle, etc.
That being said, for the absolute beginner (who knows, at least, not to do with a ceramic cart Crosley), this is a great and CHEAP started record player. I got mine for $70 on Amazon and you know what? It plays records. And when you can buy used records for 50 cents to a few dollars, why not? It has a lot of features a beginner would appreciate and it plays records! You can swap out the cartridge and even install a higher quality one if you want, and it plays records! If you're new to vinyl, try it out. You don't have to drop $400 on a Pro-Ject Carbon. Have a friend who is curious? This would make a great present to introduce them to the world of vinyl. Once they (or you) get more experience and decide you like it, you (or they) can upgrade to something better. Then buy a better amp, custom tone arm, new speakers, and so on.
But for the beginner, this is a great start.