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A detailed comparison vs. the AT-LP120
on December 26, 2015
The only thing that could be better is a vintage one in good shape. The problem with vintage is that how does one *really* know it is in good shape without taking it home? The best you can hope for is to discern that it actually works. If you don't have the time or money to gamble on vintage gear, go for this one.
I have 3 other turntables, against which to compare it:
1) Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB. (from here on, I will refer to this as the '120' and the AT-LP60 as the '60) This is a great turntable. It looks better, feels better, but I can't say that I can tell the difference in sound it produces. Some of the things we pay extra for on that model are:
a) Quartz timing control. This is something of value.
b) 78 RPM speed, if you want the option of being able to play back the pre-1950 records. This is something of value.
c) Manual pitch adjustment. I'm told some bad recordings had the speed off, so this is a way to manually correct it. I've got a couple hundred records, and have not yet found one that had the speed obviously off, so I can't see any value in this.
d) Reverse direction. I can't see any value in this either. Some records have hidden messages if you play them backwards. Seems like something that might give a little thrill to hear it once or twice, but to pay extra for this ability? Nah, just go listen to those albums on YouTube to get your thrill.
e) Electronic controls. These will probably hold up better many years down the road than the mechanical controls of the 60. No moving parts = fewer failure points.
f) Counterbalanced tonearm. In theory, this is better, as we can adjust the stylus to ride heavily enough in the grooves to provide good sound, but not so heavy as to cause undue wear to the records. I've read elsewhere where someone measured the weight at the stylus and found this one to be 3 g. When I got the weight adjusted properly on my 120, it was 2.5 g. Not a notable difference, in the end.
g) S-shaped tonearm. They say this is better, but I'll be darned if I can hear the difference.
h) Interchangeable headshell and cartridge. They say a change of cartridge makes a big difference in sound. Some people will spend hundreds of dollars on high-end cartridges to tailor the sound just to their liking. That seems silly to me. Why not just adjust the tone controls on one's amplifier? Or get a proper EQ component. Anyway, I can admit there could be some value in this.
i) USB out option. The 60 is available with this too, for an extra $20. It works great with the free Audacity software. I've ripped several LPs to .wav and .mp3. It's worth paying extra for this feature, if only to make the records portable. But you don't need to upgrade to the 120 to get it.
j) Much heavier. The 120 has a big steel plate inside. I'm not sure what is up with this obsession for vibration dampening. There's no discernable difference in sound as a result of all this damping. Any difference heard would be mostly down to the cartridge.
k) LED strobe, to confirm at a glance that the RPM is correct.
More comparison between the 60 and 120 later.
2) Ion Vinyl Transport turntable. This uses the same mechanism as the ever-popular Crosley Cruiser, but adds battery operation, which I love. With the battery operation option, it is totally portable, not just portable in theory. I bring this to me to the Goodwill and other places for listening to used records. Gotta find out if those scratches are "skippers" before paying the full $1 and taking up room in my apartment for more junk. I bought this for sixty bucks at a local Half Price Books store, which also sells records. I just love this turntable, but it is not at all in the same league as this AT-LP60. It has a ceramic cartridge instead of magnetic. Sound quality is pretty terrible in this class of turntable. If you're listening to a Crosley with this mechanism, you're really missing out on how good vinyl can actually sound.
3) Fisher-Price from 1978. I just gave this to my daughter for Christmas. Check feeBay, you'll see the one. Believe it or not, this has a much better speaker than the Crosley/Ion/Jenson ones, and hence, better sound quality. But of course not comparable to this one, since it still has a ceramic cartridge. For techno-geeks, it has a really interesting drive mechanism though! (check YouTube for 'how to repair a fisher-price turntable)
Now if you're looking at this turntable and you're on a budget, you're likely also looking at the 120 model, for over double the price. Having both of them now, I think this 60 is a much value. For the money, it gives just what one is after:
2) HiFi-grade sound
3) Not too big or heavy
4) Semi-automatic operation. This is the key difference. It makes it very nearly as convenient to play a record as a CD, yet we still have the option to do it manually.
The 60is about 40% smaller and 70% lighter than the 120, yet it functions just as well. It doesn't take up as much room, and it isn't a back-breaker to occasionally move around.
The one con I've found so far about this turntable is that it comes with a felt slip mat. (same as on the 120) These are a disaster when it comes to static. I opened my 60 yesterday for Christmas, then re-packed it to bring home. I wasn't careful enough in repacking, and I crunched up the edge of the slip mat, so now the records don't spin flat. I pressed it underneath something heavy and flat last night, but it is still jacked up. I've got a couple cork ones inbound to replace these. That will address the static problem, as well as the crunched up problem.
In short, the 120 is probably a much heavier-duty turntable. It will run hour after hour, year after year and keep going. No belts to break, no mechanics to break, nothing to really go wrong, except maybe electronic. But considering it is basically a copy of the famous DJ-favored Technics 1200, which was a mature design to begin with, that's probably not even a concern.
The 60 is a lighter-duty unit. It MIGHT wear out after 10 years of constant, heavy use. But its a lot more affordable, a lot more convenient, and a lot lighter and smaller. (though it can still operate fully with the dust cover down)