The Audio File: Turntables for the Entry to Expert-Level Vinyl Enthusiast

The Audio File: Turntables for the Entry to Expert-Level Vinyl Enthusiast

By now, it should be of little surprise that vinyl records continue spinning in a world dominated by streaming. As convenient as it is to carry around a digital music library in your pocket, the analog experience is something digital service providers can't replicate.
 
As the world has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, so too have our listening habits. A 2020 revenue report published this past February by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) shows that vinyl LP and singles sales grew 23% over 2019, as music fans used their homebound hours to begin building or continue padding out their record collections.
 
Whether you're a beginner spinner or a professional player, Audio-Technica's expansive line of turntables can get you in the groove with analog audio for a more active listening experience.
 
 
New to Vinyl
 
Having successfully taken listeners beyond the suitcase player with the popular AT-LP60, Audio-Technica has further refined their balance of affordability and ease of use with the AT-LP60X.
 
While its predecessor had a set of features users would be hard-pressed to find in similarly priced turntables, the fully automatic belt-drive AT-LP60X brings notable improvements to the entry-level vinyl experience, playing both 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records and offering a simple connection to a home stereo, powered speakers, computer, and more.
 
The AT-LP60X boasts a redesigned tonearm base and headshell, both reducing resonance and improving stylus tracking within a record's microgrooves. An improvement to audio quality was made with a removable AC adapter, moving power conversion outside the turntable body to eliminate possible signal interference. Additionally, the AT-LP60X's audio output cable has now been made removable, with an included 3.5mm aux to RCA cord further simplifying your setup.
 
Aesthetically, a reshaped body and removable dust cover give the AT-LP60X a sleeker look compared to its predecessor, while faceplates available in black, brown, red, or gunmetal grey add a dash of colour. Tables come loaded with Audio-Technica's Dual Magnet cartridge with replaceable stylus (ATN3600L), integrated into the headshell for assured performance and ease of setup
 
All of the AT-LP60X's features can also be had with modern technology in mind, with additional models in the series packing wireless Bluetooth (AT-LP60XBT), USB (AT-LP60XUSB) or both (AT-LP60XBT-USB) forms of connectivity in alongside the table's analog abilities.
 
Whether you're just getting into records or dusting off a collection for rediscovery, the AT-LP60X is a practical player with which to start.



 
Stepping Up
 
If you're ready to take a deeper dive into the world of analog listening, Audio-Technica offers a range of turntables with which you can make the leap.
 
The AT-LP3 is a fully automatic belt-drive table that offers more precise needle drops with its hydraulically damped lift control. Its balanced straight tonearm offers high-fidelity performance out of the box with its AT91R Dual Moving Magnet phono cartridge, while its 1/2" mount universal headshell allows the use of other moving magnet or moving coil cartridges of your choosing. Constructed of anti-vibration damping materials that limit low-frequency feedback, the table's die-cast aluminium platter and included 4mm rubber dampening mat further reduce resonance.


Not unlike their retooling of the AT-LP60, Audio-Technica has also updated the AT-LP120, which is now known as the AT-LP120XUSB. The upgraded, fully manual model features a new DC servo direct-drive motor that can play records at 33-1/3, 45, and 78 RPM, in addition to adjustable anti-skate control and selectable phono preamplifier. Along with a detachable dual RCA output, the AT-LP120X also includes a USB output for computer connectivity. With the AT-LP120XBT, wireless Bluetooth capabilities are included among those impressive features.


Rounding out the mid-level lineup of tables is a trio of decks that strike a balance between substance and style. The AT-LPW30TK, AT-LPW40WN, and AT-LPW50PB are all fully manual, belt-drive tables designed and built for optimal high-fidelity audio reproduction from vinyl at 33 1/3 and 45 RPM.
 
As their names imply, each arrives with a different finish to its MDF (medium density fiberboard) plinth: the AT-LPW30TK arrives in a simulated teak veneer, the AT-LPW40WN with a simulated walnut wood veneer, and the LPW50 with a high-gloss, piano black finish. But no matter the look, the MDF bodies limit low-frequency acoustical feedback while remaining aesthetically pleasing and eye-catching in any space.
 
All three LPW tables come equipped with a built-in selectable phono preamp and a detachable dual RCA output cable, while further details on their respective VM95 series cartridges can be found through comparing the trio on Audio-Technica's website.



 
Audiophile
 
Many an audio pro will tell you that the music source is the most important component of any home playback system, and given Audio-Technica's history as a designer and manufacturer of high-end phonograph cartridges, it makes sense that their AT-LP7 turntable was created with this importance in mind.
 
The fully manual, belt-drive turntable was constructed entirely around the company's CM cartridge line, and built using materials and designs to support cartridge performance.
 
The AT-LP7's platter is made from 20mm-thick polyoxymethylene, and is driven by a sensor-monitored motor that ensures a continuously accurate platter rotation speeds at either 33 1/3 or 45 RPM. It sits atop a 40mm thick MDF chassis, ideal anti-vibration damping material that limits low-frequency acoustical feedback.
 
The AT-LP7 comes with a VM520EB Dual Moving Magnet Cartridge, though users can pair the included AT-HS10 headshell with any of the other six VM line styli.

The headshell attaches to a curved tone arm — inspired by Audio-Technica models of the 1960s and '70s — which comes complete with a metallic gimbal suspension system and precision bearings to mitigate tracking errors, along with an adjustable counterweight and anti-skate control.

A built-in switchable phono/line preamp and a selector for moving magnet or moving coil cartridges open the AT-LP7 up to a world of sonic possibilities.



Here are some quick tips to get the most from your listening space:
 
Isolation Drills           
 
When it comes to vinyl playback, vibrations should be kept to a minimum. But that can be hard to achieve in rooms with limited space to spread out components, or with unstable floors or shelving.
 
In the case of a a turntable, any noticeable vibration-related playback issues can be remedied with special isolation feet, foam pieces or specially designed platforms, while the use of a level can determine whether or not your source and supporting surfaces are sitting correctly.
 
Ideally, your speakers should rest on a surface separate from your turntable to avoid a potential feedback loop between components. If your space does not allow for this, and you find the sound is not clear to your ear, try moving them farther away from your turntable using stands or other nearby, separate surfaces.
 
As far as some other quick placement notes, speakers are generally designed to sound best at ear-level when you are listening. Look to leave space between the wall and your speaker for improved mid-range and mid-bass dynamics.
 
A Clean Sweep
 
A regular cleaning of records, turntable, and styli can work to prolong the life of your setup and its components. Of course, Audio-Technica offers a lineup of products to take care of it all. Watch below for instruction on how to wet and dry-brush your vinyl using the AT6011A anti-static record brush, the AT6013A Dual-Action Anti-Static Record Cleaner and the AT6012 Record Care Kit, ahead of learning how to keep your styli dust and dirt-free for optimal playback with AT607A and AT617A cartridge stylus cleaner.
 


Pet Protection
 
If you have your turntable in a space that your furry friends are eager to explore, we recommend keeping the included dust cover on the unit at all times for protection against prying paws and loose hair. Thankfully, suitable alternatives exist for audio-inclined animals out there.

A connection to analog audio offers a way to experience your favourite albums and artists unlike any other, no matter your listening level. For further details on Audio-Technica's complete line of turntables, cartridges, styli and accessories, visit their official website.