Audio-Technica AT-LP60 turntable review: A beginner's turntable for the vinyl revival
The vinyl revival may be in full swing, but Audio-Technica isn't a newcomer to the party -- the company has been making phono cartridges for more than 50 years. The company's AT-LP60 is a fully featured turntable, and includes a premounted phono cartridge, a built-in phono preamplifier, a metal platter, and a clear plastic dust cover. And it does all that at a street price of just $100 in the US and £140 in the UK (There's no official price or availability information for Australian customers as yet, but a rough conversion of the US price translates to about AU$108).
Using the built-in phono preamp, you can hook the turntable's line-level outputs up to an integrated stereo amplifier, AV receiver, computer, boombox, Bluetooth speaker, or any device with an analog audio input. (By contrast, most turntables offer only preamp-level phono outputs, which require a dedicated phono amplifier or high-end AV receiver.) Based on the budget price tag and super simple operation, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is ideal for folks just starting to get into vinyl or for baby boomers getting reacquainted with their LP collections.
Design and features
The AT-LP60 is a belt-drive turntable, the same drive system used by the vast majority of audiophile turntables. Belt-drive means the turntable's motor pulley spins the platter with a rubber "belt," which means it's not suitable for DJ use where fast start and back-cuing is required. The AT-LP60 is a little more compact than most turntables at 14 inches (36 cm) square by 3.8 inches (10 cm) high and 6.6 pounds (3 kg).
The rear panel has a small switch that lets you select either the built-in phono preamplifier (and thus, line-level output that's universally compatible with audio-in jacks) or a higher quality, external preamp you can add later.
The turntable's output is limited to a hardwired 24-inch-long cable terminated to a set of stereo RCA plugs. Of course, you can get a cheap RCA-to-3.5 mm adapter, which would provide the ability to plug into nearly any boombox, portable speaker, or stereo system -- anything with a line-in port.
After putting it all together, just put the metal platter on the turntable, reach through the hole on the top of the platter to pull the rubber belt over the motor pulley, put the felt mat on the platter, slide off the small plastic piece protecting the cartridge, and you'll be ready to start playing records. For your convenience, the company has preset the tonearm's counterweight and set the stylus tracking force.
One side of the felt mat that covers the metal platter spells out "Audio Technica," but you can flip the mat over and just have a plain black mat. The well-written, easy-to-understand owner's manual makes the setup process painless -- even neophytes can have the AT-LP60 up and running in a few minutes.
The AT-LP60's front panel has four buttons: Speed, (you select 45 or 33-1/3rpm ), Start, Stop, and Cue. The Cue button raises and lowers the tonearm onto the record, and that's especially useful for buyers with unsteady hands, or if you can't see what you're doing. The top surface of the AP-LP60 has a lever that selects 7- or 12-inch records. Most 45rpm singles are 7 inches in diameter, and they have a larger center hole than LPs, so Audio-Technica includes a 45 adapter disc you place over the turntable spindle to play 45s; LPs are 12 inches in diameter. If you just play LPs, you'll never fuss with the Speed or Size controls, but if you play LPs and 45s, just remember to set the corresponding controls.
The only real downside to the AT-LP60 design is that you can't upgrade to a better phono cartridge; the one that it comes with is permanently installed, but the good news is the cartridge's stylus is user-replaceable. Audio Technica's cartridges are excellent, so even though you'll be stuck with the one in there, it's not a deal breaker.
The AT-LP60 is, after all, a budget turntable, and the better cartridges typically sell for more than the price of this entire turntable, so if you want to significantly upgrade the sound over the AT-LP60, buy a better turntable, such as a U Turn Orbit or a Rega RP1.
If you would also like to "rip" your LPs to digital files, Audio-Technica offers a USB version of this turntable, the AT-LP60USB that you can get for almost the same price online.
Even after they're all set up and ready to go, most turntables are very hands-on devices: you have to manually put the stylus (needle) in the groove and lift the stylus at the end of the record side, so LP playback can seem like a lot of work. Here's the good news: The AT-LP60 turntable eliminates all of those hassles.
Just put the LP (or 45 RPM single) on the platter, press the Start button, and the platter starts turning as the AT-LP60 automatically lifts the tonearm, positions the stylus over the LP's lead-in groove and gently lowers the stylus down onto the record. After the last song on the LP's (or single's) side is finished, the AT-LP60 automatically lifts the tonearm, returns it back to the arm rest, and turns off the platter motor.
We played dozens of records for this review, and the mechanism worked flawlessly every time. No matter how fumble-fingered you are, you'll never scratch an LP or damage the stylus if you use the autoplay feature. Of course, you can also choose to manually start and stop playback and lift or lower the tonearm.
This is the cheapest turntable we've ever reviewed, but we really enjoyed using it and wound up playing a lot more records than we needed to -- it's that good. Warped (not flat) LPs played well, and no rumble or speed variations were audible. Record surface noises, clicks, and pops were audible, but not overly intrusive.
Unlike a lot of budget turntables that sound thin and lack bass, the AT-LP60's overall sound quality, from bass to treble, was smoothly balanced.
The LP60 will not be out of place as a starter turntable for amateur audiophiles or veterans looking to get back into playing records. We recommend it for folks who might have a hard time getting used to the more hands-on aspects of manual turntables -- with the AT-LP60, you just press a button and enjoy the tunes.