If you're the kind of listener who likes to treat your records with the utmost care, you'll be happy to see a hydraulically damped cue lever on the side that gently lifts and lowers the tone arm down.
Finally, there's a small plastic latch that locks the tone arm in place, but be careful when you're using it because it's plastic and could easily snap if mishandled.
The LP120-USB has an integrated phono amp built into the unit so you don't have to buy a separate preamplifier to get the signal up to line level. Most people would consider that a handy feature, but it's also worth noting that you can also bypass it to hear how the table sounds with anstage. If you're confused by this paragraph, then don't worry about it -- you can hook up any powered speakers (that have a separate power cord) to the turntable and play music straight away.
The only downside to this system is that the RCA cables are hardwired out of the unit so you'll go through a lot of trouble to replace them if they ever malfunction. In all likelihood that won't be a huge issue for most users, but it could happen if you plan to move the turntable around a lot.
To make things a little easier for users opting for the line out, the company includes two short dual RCA-to-stereo 3.5mm cables in both male and female plugs that are necessary to connect the turntable to an amp (or receiver) through the line-in or auxiliary inputs.
This model also has a USB port on the back that's used to convert vinyl records to a digital format. That's a common feature with modern turntables, but AT goes a step further and includes a free copy of the open-source audio recording program Audacity, which you can also download online. Of course, you're not limited to using that software title exclusively if you have a different one you prefer.
As with all turntables, the sound quality of your vinyl setup is dependent on a number of factors including the cartridge and stylus, amplifier, speakers/headphones, and the quality of the record used for listening, but in general the LP120-USB has a very well-rounded sound that pairs well with a variety of music genres.
The AT95E cartridge that comes in the box is a preferred choice among casual listeners for its aural abilities relative to the low price point, though you'll certainly get more nuanced frequencies out of an upgraded styli from Ortofon or Shure.
One concession in the argument for direct-drive versus belt-drive turntables is that you can often hear the faint rumble of the motor at low volumes, and this is indeed a symptom with the LP120-USB but only if you put your ear right up next to the platter. In my experience testing this unit for several weeks, I couldn't hear a sound coming from the motor through the speakers and headphones.
The Audio-Technica LP120-USB is a worthwhile turntable for record enthusiasts, amateurs, collectors, archivists and everyone in between.
Its versatile design can easily connect to a pair of powered speakers for plug-and-play simplicity, or you can bypass the internal preamp and use your own bookshelf speakers in a traditional setup.
Either way, you can depend on this turntable for quick spin-up time, easy switching between rotation speeds, and an excellent cartridge that plays well with any music you throw at it.