Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Review

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB ReviewAre you ready to buy a good quality turntable without spending a fortune? The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB may be just what you are looking for. This is a very well crafted copy of the popular Technics SL-1200 series of turntables made by Panasonic. The Audio-Technica AT120 is becoming popular because of its sound quality, durability, speed accuracy and reasonable price. You can’t really get a better turntable for this price.

I decided to review this product because of its popularity and high consumer ratings. I recommend this turntable to someone looking for a good sounding record player at a moderate price. Top quality turntables are quite expensive. Depending on your experience and expectations, you may find this one just perfect for your needs without emptying your wallet. One good thing about this turntable is that you can always improve the sound quality by upgrading its components.

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Silver

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This product is also excellent for people wanting to digitize their music with good sound quality because it can be connected to a computer via USB or analog audio. However, this record player is not recommended for somebody who wants an easy solution to transfer their albums to their portable device or car without messing with calibration or learning a “complicated” software.

With the appropriate stylus, the AT-LP120-USB makes a great disk jockey starter turntable because of its high torque direct drive motor and features like accurate speed, fast start-stop, reverse playback, strobe speed indicator and pitch adjustment. If you have been needing or wanting a Techniques 1200 but can’t afford its price, this turntable can be a viable substitute.

Don’t worry if you have never setup a turntable before, this one is easy to setup. Audio-Technica provides detailed and easy to follow instructions, on video and written form. However, if you don’t like messing around with adjusting components, then you are better off getting a record player that is already adjusted for playback like the AT-LP60USB which is also fully automatic.

Before we continue reviewing the Audio-Technica AT-LP120, let me warn you that this turntable is completely manual. It doesn’t have an automatic tonearm return or auto-stop feature. If you tend to fall asleep while listening to music, this may not be a good player for you.

So, if you are looking for a decent quality turntable at a decent price and don’t mind the operation being completely manual, you’ll find this review very helpful and this turntable a great choice.

Headshell, Cartridge and Stylus

Autio-Technica Universal Head ShellThe AT-LP120-USB comes with a Dual Magnet phono cartridge pre-mounted on a universal or half-inch standard headshell. The advantage of having a standard headshell is that you can upgrade the cartridge in the future if you need a better quality one.

The cartridge that comes pre-mounted is the green Audio-Technica AT95E. This is a high performance cartridge that produces a clear and detailed sound. It has an elliptical diamond stylus designed for high tracking accuracy and excellent audio playback.

The cantilever is very soft and delicate, so you have to be careful about how you handle it because it can easily break. If you ever need replacements you can find the AT95E on Amazon. If you only need to replace the stylus, search for ATN95E instead. Some times people can’t find the information on the tracking force required for this cartridge. Audio-Technica suggests setting a tracking force of 2.0 grams.

Audio-Technica ATN95E Replacement Stylus and CartridgeDoes the color of the cartridge matter? Well, not really, but I thought I should warn my readers about the white cartridge that used to come with this unit. In the past, this unit was sold with either a white (ATP-2) or a green (ATP95E) cartridge. In fact, Audio-Technica provided a different manual depending on which cartridge came with the phonograph.

Many consumers have complained about the white ATP-2 cartridge because it doesn’t sound as good and may wear out your vinyl records faster. When reading consumer reviews, be cautious and find out what cartridge they are referring to. The good news is that the ATP-2 cartridge was discontinued. The AT-LP120-USB does not come with the white cartridge anymore, it comes with the green ATP95E instead, which is much better.

The cartridge that comes with this unit is not appropriate for scratching. If you want to buy this product for that purpose, consider spending a little bit more to get the proper stylus. You can get the Shure M44-7 on Amazon for about $50 at the time of writing this review.

There are different opinions out there about whether or not this is a good turntable for DJing. Some reviews suggest that this turntable is appropriate for DJ starters and basic scratching, but they don’t recommend it for juggling. I’m not a DJ myself but I found this interesting video comparing the popular Technics 1200 and Audio-Technica AT-LP120 so you can judge for yourself.

This record player supports the playback of 78 rpm records but it does not include the appropriate cartridge. Remember that 78 rpm vinyl records have wider grooves and are monophonic, meaning that they contain a single audio channel. The cartridge that comes with this unit is only appropriate for 33⅓ and 45 rpm records. I don’t recommend using the included cartridge to play 78 rpm records because the stylus and your vinyl could get damaged. For 78 rpm records you need a special monophonic cartridge. The most popular is the Shure M78S.

If you are planning on listening to 78, 45 and 33⅓ rpm records continuously, you’ll need to switch cartridges often. This can be a pain because replacing a cartridge can get really tricky depending on your ability to handle small objects with your fingers. One thing you can do, is to buy a separate headshell for each cartridge as it is easier to insert the headshell in the tonearm than it is to mount the cartridge on the headshell. This way you go through the trouble of mounting the cartridge once. Next time you just slide the headshell and you’re ready to play some music. The base or plinth of this turntable has a storage receptacle for an extra headshell.

Tonearm and Adjustments

The AT-LP120-USB comes with an S-shaped metallic tonearm with adjustable counterweight, anti-skate adjustment and tone-arm height adjustment. The S-shape of the tonearm helps reduce tracking errors. It has a tonearm lift control lever or cueing lever with an hydraulic mechanism for a slow descend motion. The tonearm rest includes a lock clamp to secure the arm during transport. Be aware that the lock clamp is very delicate and can easily break.

To get the best performance and sound quality out of this record player, the tonearm components need to be assembled and adjusted. That means balancing the tonearm and setting the appropriate tracking force and anti-skate for a particular cartridge. This may sound complicated but it’s actually very easy, even for somebody that has never done it before. You just need to follow the instructions on the user’s manual or watch the video setup by Audio-Technica. I find the video clearer and easier to follow than the manual.

The tonearm height adjustment is very useful, as you can set the height according to the thickness of the record you are going to play. For example, if you want to play 78 rpm records or if you have recently bought one of those high quality 180 gram or 200 gram vinyl records, just adjust the height so that the tonearm is parallel to the surface of your vinyl record.

Remember that the tone arm operation is completely manual. This unit does not have an automatic arm return or auto-stop mechanism. When the needle gets to the end of the album, you will need to manually lift the arm and return it to its rest. You may not need the auto-stop or auto-return feature if you are using this deck for DJing, but many casual listeners consider the lack of this feature an important disadvantage.

Platter and Motor

High torque, direct drive motor

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB professional turntable has a high torque motor. High torque refers to the ability of the motor to rapidly acquire the desired speed. This particular unit has good start-up times – it can reach 33⅓ rpm in about 0.7 seconds. This type of motor is commonly found on DJ decks. This is a direct drive turntable. The platter mounts directly to the motor’s shaft or center spindle, so there is no need to install an elastic belt. Generally, direct drive turntables are noisier than belt driven ones, but the rumble on this one is barely noticeable. If you pay close attention, you may be able to hear some motor noises in the middle of the playback. Someone has suggested to replace the felt mat with a rubber mat to reduce the noise. But be careful, this may not be a good idea if you are planning to use your turntable for scratching.

Felt slip mat

The turntable comes with a felt mat. The right type of slip mat is really a personal preference and also depends on your specific needs. A felt mat, for example, allows a disk jokey to manipulate a record without damaging it. The felt helps the platter spin underneath the record during scratching. A rubber mat, on the other hand, wouldn’t be a good choice for this purpose. Some people argue that the type of slip mat also affects the quality of the sound. It may attenuate some frequencies and boost others depending on its material. The slip mat can also help reduce external vibrations getting into the stylus through the platter. I would personally stick with the mat that comes with the unit, generally that is the one that works and sounds best in most situations.

The platter

This record player comes with a light-weight die-cast aluminum platter. It has strobe dots on the edge of the platter that function as a visual indicator of the platter speed accuracy. They are used in conjunction with the strobe light. The top two rows indicate speed accuracy for a 50Hz current. The two bottom rows indicate speed accuracy for a 60Hz current. The small dots correspond to the 33⅓ rpm speed and the big dots correspond to the 45 rpm speed. No dots are provided for the 78 rpm speed.

Rotation speeds and power source

The motor supports the three standard rotation speeds, 33⅓, 45 and 78 rpm. The speed of this turntable is very accurate and it has a quartz-lock button that will bring the platter immediately to the proper speed regardless of the pitch control slider’s current position. This record player has forward and reverse playback. It has a voltage selector under the platter so you can connect it to either a 115V (60Hz) or 220V (50Hz) AC power source.

Wow and flutter

The terms wow and flutter refer to the magnitude of the speed fluctuations. This turntable has fluctuations of less than 0.2% according to the manual. This value is high compared to other turntables. The Techniques SL1200, for example, presents a wow and flutter rate of 0.01% according to the manual. Although the value of 0.2% seems high compared to 0.01%, it is still a decent value. In fact, 0.2% actually corresponds to the Just Noticeable Difference for Frequency in Complex tones. In other words, we cannot perceive pitch variations of less than 0.2%. That’s just a limit of human hearing. I state this with authority because I have research experience in the field of phychoacoustics. But if the theory doesn’t convince you, I found only one review complaining about the wow and flutter being a problem on this particular turntable.

Pitch adjust control

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB has a pitch adjust control slider. Its purpose is to increase or decrease the speed of the platter by small amounts. The range of of pitch variation can be changed from +/- 10% to +/-20% by pressing the pitch button. This slider has a nice, smooth feeling. The center position is dented for easy finding. When the slider is at the zero position, the quartz control lock is activated. You can also toggle between the internal quartz lock and variable pitch by pressing the quartz lock button. When quartz lock is active, the platter will spin at the precise speed regardless of the position of the pitch control slider. The pitch adjustment is used a lot by disk jockeys for beat matching and mixing. Casual listeners may find this feature useful to adjust old records to the right pitch or tempo.

Outputs on the AT-LP120-USB

I have read many questions and comments regarding the different possible audio setups for this turntable. Here are some of the most common questions I have found:

  • What are good speakers for this turntable?
  • Can I connect this turntable to a wireless wifi system like Sonos, Jambox, JBL Flip, etc.?
  • Would this unit record to a SD card?
  • Does it have Bluetooth or wireless connectivity?
  • Would the USB only work with the computer?
  • Can I connect this turntable directly to an amplifier through USB?
  • Can I plug headphones into this turntable?

I’ll try to answer some of this questions the best I can, but bear in mind that the possibilities are endless. So are the amount of audio components on the market that could possibly work with this unit. It would be impossible to list them all. Instead, I will explain the basic output features and some possible audio setups. I’m sure you should be able to apply this information to your particular situation.

There are only three types of outputs available on the AutioTechnica AT-LP120-USB:

  1. USB, cable included.
    USB End
  2. Phono, RCA cable hardwired to the unit with the pre-amp selector switch set to PHONO.
    RCA Male ConnectionPhono Selection
  3. Line, same RCA cable with the pre-amp selector switch set to LINE.
    RCA Male ConnectionLine Selection

For your convenience the product includes 2 cable adapters to be used with the LINE output:

  • Dual RCA to stereo 3.5 mm mini-plug (male)
    RCA to jack male
  • Dual RCA to stereo 3.5 mm mini-plug (female)
    RCA to jack female

You could buy other adapters if you need to, but these ones are the most commonly used. The RCA cord that comes with this unit is rather short, so you may need to buy RCA extensions or an extra cord with a pair of couplers.

Now let’s discuss each one in more detail.

USB connection

The USB connection on this unit was planned for transferring your music to a computer through the USB port. According to the manual, no special drivers are needed. The record player comes with a CD containing a recording software called Audacity. It’s an Open Source audio editing software that can be downloaded for free. Some people find it difficult to use. I personally love the software and find it easy to use. This really depends on your experience with computers and technology. I must say that Audacity is a 3rd party software and you don’t have to use this particular tool for your recordings; feel free to use your favorite audio recording tool.

If you have never used Audacity before or any other audio editing software, expect a certain learning curve and don’t get discouraged. You can also read my tutorial on how to transfer you vinyl music to a digital format [link coming]. Audacity is in constant development, so I suggest to download the latest version from their website instead of the one on the CD provided.

Some amplifiers and audio receivers have a USB port. One would think that you could plugin your AT-LP120-USB to hear some music, right? The thing is that those ports are generally meant for storage devices like USB flash drives, memory sticks or mp3 players. You wouldn’t be able to play your music through that USB port because the turntable is not a storage device. It streams audio through the USB port live and in real time. It would work only if your amplifier or audio receiver supports USB audio streaming. USB Audio InThe problem with receivers that support USB audio streaming is that they have a USB type B port like the one on the image. This means you would have to find a cable with two type B ends. I’ve never tried it, so if you want to be the first, be my guest, but please leave us a comment to let us know how it went :)

It is not possible to transfer your music directly from the turntable to a storage medium like an SD card or an external hard drive. However, you can first save your music in the computer, and then transfer the files to your other storage devices.

Phono output

Phono cartridges produce a weak electric signal. The phono signal needs to be amplified to line level in order to be manipulated by other audio devices. The device that boosts the phono signal to a line level is called a pre-amplifier or preamp. The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB has an internal stereo phono pre-amplifier. You can bypass the preamp by selecting PHONO on the preamp selector switch. You may want to use this feature if you have a receiver or amplifier with a PHONO input or if you have a better quality external preamp. Great way to improve sound quality!

If you decide to buy an external pre-amplifier, make sure it is RIAA equalized. When vinyl records are made, low frequencies are attenuated and high frequencies are boosted so that more music can fit in the vinyl record. During playback this process has to be reversed. A RIAA equalizer is a standardized equalizer that serves this purpose.

Line output

As we said before, this record player has a built-in RIAA equalized phono preamplifier. This is very practical since many receivers, amplifiers and power speakers don’t have a phono input. In this case, you need to connect the RCA cables to an amplifier with Line-In or Aux inputs. Or you can connect your player to self powered speakers with RCA Line inputs. Again, there are many possible setups.

The two adapter cables come in very handy. They allow you to connect your turntable directly to powered speakers or to your computer’s sound card without the need of an amplifier. You can even connect your headphones using the 3.5 mm female mini-plug adapter. Just be aware that you cannot control the volume of the signal from the turntable. You will have to control the volume with whatever device your player is connected to.

Wireless connections

Being a knock off of the Techniques 1200, I wouldn’t expect the Audio-Technica LP120 to have a built-in Bluetooth or wireless transmitter. But that does not mean that you can’t have this benefit. Of course you would have to spend a little more to get an external wireless transmitter or receiver. There are many out there. The Sonos System, for example, has a wireless receiver component called SONOS CONNECT that would allow you to connect any analog audio, including your turntable, so you can wirelessly transmit the music to any Sonos speaker. I could list other products, but I’m sure you can do the research yourself. Just search for wireless or Bluetooth transmitters and you’ll get what you are looking for. Make sure the device has Line or Aux inputs.

Sound Quality of the Audio-Technica AT-LP120

Sound quality depends on many factors: vinyl quality and condition, cartridge, stylus, pre-amp, amplifier and speakers. Think of it as chain, if one link doesn’t perform well, the whole chain gets affected. Imagine a top quality turntable with a super hi-fi cartridge connected to the cheapest portable monophonic speaker you can find. Obviously, the sound quality will be that of the portable speaker. Why buy a super turntable if you don’t have a comparable audio device to connect it to? When assessing the sound quality of a turntable always consider all the factors.

In my opinion the most important element in terms of sound quality is the cartridge. As we have seen before, the AT95E is a high quality cartridge that will give you a clear and detailed sound as long as you have a good amp and speaker system to go with it. Remember that you can always get a better cartridge or audio devices to improve the sound quality of this turntable. Also, always keep your vinyl records in optimal condition to get the best sound and to extend the life of your vinyl and stylus.

One caveat is that the pre-amp has a gating circuit that shuts off the sound when it falls below a certain level. It was designed this way probably to avoid background noises when no music is being played. This could only be a problem when playing music with very soft passages like classical music. The only way to solve this is to bypass the built-in pre-amp by selecting PHONO on the pre-amp selector switch. You would obviously need an external pre-amp or receiver with PHONO inputs.

Overall, the sound produced by this phonograph is beautiful and clear, with a good balance of low, mid and high frequencies. It has good dynamic range and channel separation. The motor can be heard very lightly during quiet music passages. The speed is very accurate, so you shouldn’t have problems with background noises or noticeable pitch variations. The sturdy, heavy and thick construction of this unit helps it isolate external vibrations. Just remember to be cautious with reviews complaining about the sound quality of the cartridge, they may be talking about the white ATP-2.

Body and Look

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Black

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This unit comes in two colors, black and silver. Some times there is a different in price depending on the color. If you don’t care much about the color, go for the one with the lower price. The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB has a nice professional look and a very familiar and intuitive layout. It looks pretty much like the Techniques 1200 series. It has a removable transparent dust cover. It can be safely closed when the unit is operating. The dust cover and the entire body are made of durable, high-impact plastic. The platter base and tonearm are made of high-quality steel. It comes with a metal 45 rpm adapter for playing 7-inch vinyl records that have a larger center hole. This turntable is very heavy and solid. The record player has adjustable feet with a dampening material on the bottom to isolate external vibrations. It really feels like a quality piece of equipment.

Dimensions:

  • Width: 450.0 mm (17.72″)
  • Depth 352.0 mm (13.86″)
  • Height 157.0 mm (6.1″)

Weight :

  • 10.7 kg (23.5 lbs.)

Accessories

  • USB cable
  • Audacity software
  • RCA output cables
  • Headshell with pre-mounted cartridge
  • AC line cord
  • dual RCA (female) to 3.5 mm (1/8″) mini-plug (male) stereo adapter cable
  • dual RCA (female) to 3.5 mm (1/8″) mini-plug (female) stereo adapter cable
  • 45 RPM adapter with storage receptacle for playing 7-inch records

AT-LP120-USB Consumer Reviews

This product has very good ratings. Many users report using this unit without a problem for more than a year. They appreciate the durability and professional look and feel. In general, consumers have found this unit easy to assemble and setup. Most people have been satisfied with the sound quality of this unit. For many this turntable has exceeded their expectations. The Audio-Technica video tutorials are considered very useful and people brag about the great customer service. Most consumers appreciate the many features and adjustment options of this turntable as well as the ability to upgrade the cartridge. I have found many reviews of people satisfied with the sound quality of their digitized music. They find the USB connection to the computer very convenient.

Despite the high ratings of this product, there are a few things that have disappointed some consumers. I’ll start with the most serious and repeated complaints.

Many people have reported one of the channels not working. In other words, sound would only come out through one speaker. Either the left or right channel was not working. I know that Audio-Technica offers great customer support, so before you send the product back, it’s always a good idea to contact them. It may be a simple issue that could be resolved with a quick phone call. Few people could not get it fixed and had to return it or get a replacement.

The most common cause for the “one channel” problem is that the cartridge has 4 little cables connected to 4 little pins inside the tonearm. Sometimes those get stuck and can’t move freely or they may be loose. To fix the problem you have to remove the headshell and make sure the pins are well connected. Some times the cable adapters are bad which isn’t a big deal, just get another cable. Other times, the problem is the RCA cables that are hardwired to the unit. If that happens to you, again,  call customer service as Audio-Technica has a very good reputation.

Another important issue that has been reported by users is a warped platter. This seems to be an old issue that has now been resolved. How much warped? I don’t know. People have different perceptions. Some times it’s not the platter that is warped. It may be that shaft of the motor is not completely vertical and makes the platter look warped when sniping. I personally would compare the platter against a flat surface like glass. If it does not look warped I would play a record and see if I can hear anything. My advice is again, to call the manufacturer, they can send you a replacement.

Few consumers have complained about a electrical humming during playback. That can be caused by many things. It could be your wires, your electric connection or your computer sound card. I don’t think this one is a big issue. You can also check the connections inside the tonearm as in the channel malfunction case.

Many casual listeners complain about the lack of auto-stop and automatic arm return function. There is nothing that can be done about it at the moment. There is a product called “The Q Up”, which is an automatic tonearm lifter for manual turntables, but it was pointed out to me that this device is not compatible with the AT-LP120-USB or the Techniques 1200. I’m leaving this information here so that you don’t make the mistake of buying “The Q UP” for this particular turntable.

One of the most annoying problems of this unit is it’s extremely delicate arm locking clamp. It can very easily break. Be very careful with it or prepare yourself to get a replacement in the near future.

Finally the last minor complaint repeatedly seen in reviews is that the RCA cables are hardwired and they are too short. I agree, I think Audio-Technica could have done a better job by adding RCA inputs with removable cables. But I can live with it, can’t you? As for the length of the cord you can just buy some RCA extension cables.

Audio-Technica AT-LP120 USB Video Review

I found this very detailed review on YouTube.

Pros, Cons and User Manual

Pros

  • Good sound quality
  • Many adjustment options
  • Very high quality for the price
  • Easy setup with good instructions and videos
  • Well written instructions
  • Great customer service
  • Universal tonearm and headshell
  • Built-In preamp
  • Heavy and solid
  • Quiet for the most part
  • Strobe and speed adjust for accurate speed
  • Good looking machine
  • Good quality cartridge
  • USB for computer connection
  • Reasonable price
  • Familiar layout, easy to operate

Cons

  • Lack of auto-stop/automatic arm return
  • Fixed and short RCA cable
  • Flimsy lock clamp
  • Possible channel malfunction
  • Possible warped platter
  • Full manual operation

Manual

You can download the user manual here.

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Overall Review

Overall this product has excellent ratings. It has a good sound quality. It’s a product suited to somebody looking for a good quality turntable at a reasonable price. This is a viable substitute of the Techniques 1200 at a lower price. Good DJ starter turntable. Great for digitizing your collection with high sound quality. Not a good option for somebody wanting an automatic turntable. Some issues have been reported but remember that Audio-Technica has great customer service. I hope you liked this review. Please feel free to leave your comments so other readers can benefit.

Comments

  1. mike thompson says

    I just bought the AT-LP60 on Amazon, hoping to play my collection of vinyls through my sound blaster X-fi soundcard via the usb connection. Is this correct? or do I need other connectors . RCA to 3.5?
    I have no wish to record, so the Audacity software is of no use to me.

    • Francisco says

      Hello Mike,

      Which soundcard do you have?
      sound blaster X-fi HD
      Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro

      The sound blaseter X-fi HD has RCA PHONO Inputs, thus you don’t need to use the Turntable’s USB connection. The USB of the sound blaster sound card is only for the computer.

      Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro doesn’t have RCA inputs. In this case you will need to connect your AT-LP60 to the sound card using the RCA to 3.5 mm jack adapter cable that came with the turntable. Look for the 3.5 mm jack input labeled “Line In”. Again, the USB port was designed for computer connectivity. So, you won’t need to use the turntable’s USB cable in this case either.

      Hope it helps.

      Let me know if you need more help.

  2. Hm01910 says

    Thanks for this very in-depth review! Super helpful. Just set mine up and it is working well connected to a Bose wave radio.

  3. Johnny M says

    I have a the very popular and powerful Sansui 9090DB reciever which has everything. I am in need of a turntable, and I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a turntable. Will this turntable work with my Sansui 9090Db reciever.

    • Francisco says

      Hello Johnny,

      Yes it will work with your receiver.
      The Sansui 9090Db has 2 phono inputs on the back.
      Just make sure you set the pre-amp selector switch to PHONO.

      • Larry says

        I have had many turntables over time mostly REGA
        Just got the AT 120 with 95 E – just great combo
        Also got AT 120 EB CARTRIDGE ITS TERRIFIC

        BTW I removed the pre amp and use aRega phono pre amp- this process is not that easy and can be diff if note experienced- but it’s a great sound!

        This TT is just one under priced item

        It’s just great- the diff between a S vs straight arm is to me not an audible difference.

        However the two cartridges do sound diff from each other- both are enjoyable

        If you have a good LP it will sound terrific- to me the variance in sound quality is the record quality- however the 12O EB does sound brighter than the 95

        AT makes a great product

  4. Mike says

    I have had mine for about 3 years now and love it. We use it almost daily. I did have one of the issues mentioned above. At one point my wife complained that something didn’t sound right. On a Beatles record she could hear the music but not the singing. Turns out the singing was on the left channel and it had gone out. As I would put my hand near the headshell it would “hum”. I wasn’t sure what to do so I contacted AT tech support and they were a HUGE help. Turns out the “green” wire was a bit loose and once I fixed it I had no more problems.

    Last year disaster struck – the stylus hit the felt mat and broke. Not being familiar with replacing a cartridge I wasn’t sure what to do. I ordered a replacement AT95E (stylus only). It was probably easier to change that than adjusting the tonearm. The old one simply pulled off and the new one snapped into place. Literally took about 10 seconds to replace and I was back in business (I have also since replaced the felt mat with a cork one).

    I have been eyeing the AT120eb stylus. I wonder if it has the same “plug n play” and will fit? Would be cool if I could simply snap off the AT95E and then replace it with the 120eb in the same 10 second fashion.

    Overall a great table, if anyone is considering buying one, skip the AT LP-60 and get the 120. Much better.

    • Francisco says

      Hello Mike,

      Thanks a lot! You have given us great information.

      Yes the AT120eb stylus will fit the AT-LP120.
      Changing the cartridge is a little more complicated than changing just the stylus. But I would encourage you to do it. It’s fun, you’ll learn something new and your turntable will sound better. Just remember that you will have to align your cartridge.

      • Mike says

        I found one on-line that is already pre-aligned and comes with a headshell. Not a bad price if you don’t have the patience or the time to try it yourself.

        http://www.lpgear.com/product/ATC06bSET.html

        They have a similar one on Amazon with an AT headshell for around 149 and with Amazon prime it makes it a bit cheaper than the one from LP Gear.

        As for my AT95E, we are happy with it. No need to replace it right now (since I just replaced it a few months ago after my mishap). Recently I wanted to check the alignment of it so I downloaded a Stevenson Protractor and it was dead-on. I have heard people say that sometimes it comes from the factory not properly aligned. Maybe I just got lucky because it was right where it was supposed to be.

        This table has brought many hours of listening enjoyment to my family. Even my 14 year old daughter will ask for The Beatles at dinnertime. How many 14 year old girls listen to The Beatles on vinyl?

        Here is some more detail from my previous post — If you have a hum in one channel remove the headshell by unscrewing it. Turn it upside down and make sure all the wires are snug. If that doesn’t work, contact AT Tech support by e-mail or phone. That worked for me but another “fix” is to take a toothpick and make sure the connections have a clear path (you do this by removing the headshell and inserting the toothpick into the tonearm — but contact AT before doing this, they can give you the proper procedure, I did not need to do this).

        Here is my video explaining Audacity use for anyone who cares. It’s pretty fast and crash-course but it may help some: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeS9gbO9bAc

        • Francisco says

          Thanks again Mike for your great comments. How many 14 year old girls listen The Beatles on vinyl? Not many for sure! Your daughter is very lucky.

          Nice to know lpgear sells the cartridge pre-aligned. It’s always a good idea to check with a protractor. (I say this for other people reading this comment.)

          I watched your video. Very nice! You mentioned the low level of the USB signal. And you provided the solution as well, to amplify it with audacity. The only thing I don’t like about this approach is that you also amplify background noise.

          I love your 16′ USB cable. Good tip for those who have their turntable far from their computer. I have my turntable close to my computer on a computer desk that has a shelf on top. It’s very convenient for me because it allows me to record my vinyls with audacity right on the spot. I have a pair of reference monitors on each side.

          Any way, thanks again for your comments, your tips and your video.

  5. Damien Hatfield says

    Many thanks for your review. I have been investigating the purchase of a turntable and I was just about to pay A$599 for the AT-LP120 USB but then I read your review of the 60 and thought “that should do me”. Now I’m very confused. I have 3 requirements. More recently I started buying Audiophile HI-RES audio in AIFF format and playing them on a top of the range Sony NW XZ2 with various high end IEMs. The sound quality is way better than iTune Plus AAC or LossLess ripped CDs. Unfortunately the album catalogues are limited hence vinyl. So, can the AT-LP60 USB into a Mac, produce the same sort of sound quality as the download AIFF audiophile albums? I also want to play the vinyl albums via a Sonos Connect. I know wireless streaming is limited but I have my Sonos system hardwired via ethernet. Can I get away with a automated 60 v’s the 120? If I am comfortable with this form of recording I can always upgrade to the 120. Thanks.

    • Francisco says

      Hello Damien,

      I doubt that the digitize sound quality of your digitized album with the Mac would be the same as an AIFF audiophile one.
      The reason is that the USB Audiocodec has a maximum resolution of 48000Hz 16 bits. Take also into consideration the condition of the albums. One thing I should mention is that remastered albums sond different than the original ones. They tend to be louder and with lots of compression. In this sense, you could make a digital version that is closest to the original. In the past the materialization and equalization of vinyl records was done with lots of care.

      There is also an AudioTechnica AT-LP60-BT with bluetooth. This may be interesting option to you since if you want to use your Sonos Connect.

      If you need anything else, let me know.

  6. John Varela says

    I have purchased this turntable for DJ use and returned it. Although the starting torque is up to par with a Technics 1200, it’s constant torque is not the same.

    For DJs, this means nudging the platter lightly with your finger (or twisting the spindle) to manually match the phase and tempo (pitch) of another song on another turntable is difficult. The torque is not as constant and strong as a Technics or the AT LP1240 which makes pitch bending on these turntables difficult but not impossible. This aspect is not demonstrated in the example video you posted.

    • Francisco says

      Hello John,

      I really appreciate your input! It’s good to have an actual DJ give us his opinion about the AT-LP120-USB. From your comment I would infer that for DJing purposes it’s better to get the AT-LP1240. Thanks again for the information.

  7. Neo says

    Hi Francisco

    I am looking for my first turntable and I found your review very useful and informative. I have some satisfying experiences for using Audio Technica’s headphone so this turntable is now one of the options under serious consideration.

    I am a vinyl newbie and have a couple of questions in my mind. Could you share your insight on it?

    1. I read your another review about AT-LP60 USB. How do you compare the two product? I am looking for a easy-to-use / maintain and robust turntable. I aware there are noticeable difference between the price of two models.

    2. What is the quality of the music recorded? Is it going to be a lot better than those available in CD or i-tune?

    3. I often convert my CD music to portable format like mp4 in few clicks only in my Mac. Your review seems suggesting the sound recording from vinyl will be a very complicated procedure… I hope not.

    Thanks a lot for your review and help. :)
    Neo

    • Francisco says

      Hi Neo,

      The AT-LP120 and AT-LP60 are very different products. Both are great products but satisfy different needs.
      I’ll try to answer your three questions the best I can:

      1. The AT-LP120 is a manual turntable. You’ll get the real vinyl experience with this type of turntable.
      But you’ll have to learn all the adjustment features of a manual turntable. It has anti-skate, The sound quality is defiantly superior but most importantly, there is room for improvement. In the future you could upgrade the cartridge for example. This turntable can also be used for DJing. The rotation speed accuracy is better than the AT-LP60.

      On the other hand, the AT-LP60 is fully automatic, very easy to use and maintain. It has a very decent sound quality for the price. The problem is that there’s very little room for improvement and all adjustments are factory set. You won’t be able to upgrade the cartridge in the future so you would probably have to buy a new turntable in the future if you get serious about vinyl.

      So, if you want something easy to use and automatic, go for the LP60. If you want more control and want to get serious about vinyl get the LP120.

      2. The quality of the music recorded depends on many factors. Both turntables have a similar circuitry. The USB sound on both turntables is kind of soft, you will need to boost your recording with some software. I prefer to connect the unit via the analog input for recording. But it depends on your hardware. I use a Lexicon Omega USB sound card for this. Some laptop sound cards may produce humming, in this case I will use the USB connection. But, the sound quality of the LP120 is superior so will be your recording.

      3. No, it’s not a complicated procedure. It depends on what software you use. There is a learning curve, of course, but it’s worth it. I’ve been planing on writing a tutorial on how to digitize Music. I’ll do it soon if time permits.

      Let me know if you need anything else.

  8. BasJ says

    Great in-depth review Francisco! Thank you! I had a (el-cheapo) Lenco turntable and just a few records, before I really started ‘digging’ into vinyl crates….

    After hearing Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark side of the Moon’ on a vinyl Hi-Fi set at a friend’s home. (thorens) I was sold to vinyl completely.. But what record player to buy? (on a budget…)

    Your review convinced me to buy the AT-LP120 about 4 months ago. And it didn’t disappoint me at all!!

    The sound is really incredible! I’ve paired the player with a Denon PMA-1500R (late 90’s amp) and a set of JBL 4206 studio monitors. After buying this turntable I’ve decided to throw away all my .mp3 files (and CD’s eventually) I’ll just replace all my digital music with vinyl. Because it sounds so-much-better! :-)

    The reviewer is spot-on in his review. This is (imho) the best Hi-Fi Capable turntable to buy on a budget

    Next upgrade will be to remove the internal pre-amp (don’t need it) and looking for a better element. (Ortofon Red maybe?… :-)

    • Francisco says

      Hello BasJ,

      Thanks for your comment and congratulations on your AT-LP120.
      Vinyl records were mastered differently. More care was put into the mixing and equalization. Now a days a lot of compression is applied to recordings to make them sound louder. As a result music looses detail and dynamic range.

      Thanks again for your comment!

    • Francisco says

      Hello Drian,

      I would like to know what happens when you press the quartz speed lock button.
      Have you tried moving the pitch adjust?

  9. Reuben says

    Hi there, quick tech question. I have just bought an AT-LP120-USB and have just been going through the unboxing and setup stage and I have found the AC power supply is not as described. Where it connects to the unit the plug should have a square side and a rounded side. However the cable I have is round on both sides, so my concern is that if I plug it in the wrong way round I will damage the unit.

    Please advise ASAP, was hoping to use immediately but don’t want to proceed till I know what to do.

    • Francisco says

      Hello Reuben,

      Sorry for the late reply.
      I guess by now you have fixed your issue.
      I would like to see some pictures of your cable. You can send me an email through the contact form and I’ll get in touch with you.
      You can always contact Audio Technica, they have an outstanding customer support.

      Click here for contact information.

  10. Richard says

    Very comprehensive review… Thank you.
    The stylus light seems? pointed a few degrees left of the mark. Any adjustment advice. Other very happy with product.
    Thanks
    Rh

    • Francisco says

      Hello Richard,

      Sorry, I don’t know how to adjust it. I’ll look for that information and if I find something I’ll update this comment.

      Francisco

  11. Jon says

    Hi,

    Great review, seriously considering taking the plunge on this, however the AT-LP120-USB I am looking at is listed as mk 2 with an AT HS10 Headshell, is this the same as the one in your review or any different?

    Regards,
    Jon

    • Francisco says

      Hi Jon,

      The AT-LP120-USB comes with Auidio-Technica’s universal headshell HS10. I suppose that mk2 refers to the fact that this turntable is similar to the Popular Techniques 1200 MK2 turntable.

  12. Lukas says

    Thanks for the review, and thanks everybody for the helpful comments :)

    I have two questions (since I bought this table a few weeks ago).

    1) Is it safe to use the START/STOP button with the stylus still on the record? I have the standard stylus AT95e (green stylus) Will it damage the LP? I do not feel comfortable using it… Please let me know.

    2) Is there any flight case made for this turntable? I cannot find this information, I look everywhere. Is any case made for the Technics 1200 compatible?

    Thank you very much!

    Lukas

    • Francisco says

      Hello Lukas,

      1) Yes it is safe to use the Start/Stop button with the stylus still on the record. The green stylus won’t damage the stylus. It is a good quality stylus, just make sure it is set up properly. You can watch the videos I placed on the article.

      2) Look for Odyssey FTTXBLK Flight Style Dj Turntable Case on amazon or bhphotovideo. There are other options on the market.

  13. John says

    Hi Francisco
    Thanks so much for the review of the Audio Technics 120. I’m thinking about buying this turntable BUT, I’m a little concerned about some of the minor issues I’ve read about. I’m skeptical because 1) I’m spoiled with a,30+ year old Dual 1219 turntable that has never failed me…no repairs and 2) even though the price of the AT120 is very, very reasonable, I don’t want to have to buy another turntable in 3 or 4 yrs. (Remember, I’m spoiled by the Dual) And I know with AT120,I will get better sound. Is it worth buying the AT 120,with my longevity concerns and will I get a much better sound? (My system is: Carver Premiere THX power amp, Sony TA ES9000E amp and the Dual 1219) Thanks again for the great review!!

    • says

      John,
      Francisco asked me to respond to your inquiry. The Dual 1219 you have is an awesome turntable. The Audio Technica AT-120 turntable is nowhere near the quality of your 30+ year old Dual.

      With a new cartridge or stylus and a little cleaning your 1219 can sound better than it did in the 70s.

      Many of the United Audio imported Duals came with a Shure M91ED cartridge. This cartridge gives a nice, vintage, warm, analog sound that many people enjoy. It was Shure’s 2nd from the top of the line in the early 70s. The original nude mounted stylus is no longer manufactured by Shure, but decent aftermarket styli are available.

      If you’re looking for a more modern sound, changing the cartridge to an Ortofon OM series will give you a less “jukeboxy” sound, and works well with the low mass Dual tonearm. Ortofon also has styli available from the absolute basic, to sophisticated line contact type that fit this cartridge. My company, PhonoNuts, can supply you with an Ortofon OM premounted and aligned on a TK14 sled, that you just attach to the bottom of the headshell, as well as any of the styli. My personal recommendation is to go with Ortofon’s line contact stylus, Stylus 30, on Super OM cartridge. Stylus 30 gives good detail resolution without also digging out excessive surface noise from dust embedded in the deep recesses of the grooves.

      This being said, with no attention in the last 30+ years, I would advise you to clean and lubricate the mechanism on the underside of your 1219, and possibly obtain a replacement stuerpimpel, for when the tonearm inevitably quits transiting left and right. The grease on the undersides of these classic Duals tends to turn into glue after 30 to 40 years. A little lubrication will keep controls from getting stiff and reduce the possibility of the mechanism binding. It’s also a good idea to clean the contacts in the muting switch, the RCA jacks, and the headshell contacts at the end of the tonearm. All of these contacts oxidize over the years, and greatly benefit from having the oxidation removed with a little DeOxit and some elbow grease.

      If you are not mechanically inclined, then there is a company in Iowa that can handle the cleaning and lubrication for you called fixmydual.com.

      Hope this help,
      Anthony
      The Head Nut at PhonoNuts

    • Francisco says

      Hello John,

      Audio Technica products are durable, so I wouldn’t worry about your longevity concern. Will you get a better sound with the AT120? I’m not sure, it depends on the cartridge of your Dual 1219. What cartridge do you have? Is it in good condition? The preamp circuitry on the AT-LP120 is not the greatest and it doesn’t have a ground cable. Even when you set the preamp switch to PHONO to bypass the built-in preamp, the signal is still routed through the board. Some users have reported a slight buzz and interference. You can find procedures for removing the built-in preamp on the internet, this may improve the sound quality but it’s not an easy task.

      Anyway, If I were you, I would probably buy a better cartridge and give you beloved Dual a nice service. I have asked a friend who repairs and refurbishes turntables to comment on your question. That way you’ll have another opinion.

      Please keep us posted!

  14. Jonathan says

    Great review. Very honest, unbiased and detailed, I thought. I have been using the LP120 for a little over a year now and it really is an excellent table. My suggestion for anyone looking at this table is to not listen to the negative reviews that compare this table to ultra high end tables that cost upwards of $5000 or more. Of course those tables will sound better, but most people, including some audiophiles like myself, can’t afford those expensive turntables. One of the best things about the LP120 is the ability to make upgrades that will get you that entry level audiophile sound. First thing, is to upgrade the cartridge. Try the Audio Technica AT120eb or AT440mlb. Both of these cartridges are audiophile type cartridges and can be had on Amazon for under $200 (the 120eb is around $100 and I’ve seen the 440mlb for as low as $160). The second upgrade to make, is to swap out the slip mat. You will get much better sound and less static from a cork or rubber slip mat. This is also an inexpensive upgrade (most quality mats are under $50). The third upgrade, aside from upgrading the cartridge, may be the most important IMHO, and that is getting yourself either an external preamp or quality receiver with a phono section. There are plenty of used, vintage receivers that can be had for $200 or less and are leaps and bounds better than the built in preamp that comes with the LP120. If you have a receiver and the phono stage just isn’t cutting it, go with an external preamp. The best external preamp for the money is the Cambridge Audio Azur 651p MM/MC. Also got this for under $200 on Amazon. Lastly, make sure you have a pair of quality speakers. You don’t need to break the bank for good sounding speakers, and there are also plenty of vintage speakers that are excellent and can be had for $100 or less for a pair. You can easily assemble yourself a high quality system with the LP120 as your center piece for under $1000 and have years of listening enjoyment. I believe you mentioned this in the article, but you can also attempt to remove the built-in preamp that comes with the LP120. It is not of the highest quality and some say it actually degrades the sound of the turntable, even when it’s switched off. I have not attempted to remove it as I’m just not sure the improvement will be significant enough, especially since I’ve made all of the aforementioned upgrades. If you do decide to remove the preamp, you will void the warranty and you won’t be able to use the USB section.

    Anyway, I’m happy with the LP120 and I would recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade from their entry level turntable.

    • Francisco says

      Hello Jonathan,

      I so much appreciate your comment and honest opinion about the Audio Technica AT-LP120. Your suggestions are great, this is going to help other readers. I agree with you, not many people can afford top of the line turntables. The AT-LP120 is really a great turntable for the money. Thank you also for your suggesting cartridges and setups for this TT.

  15. keith rose says

    Great review. I like adjusting everything possible on audio equiptment. This is why i like this table. Are the same adjustments on the 1240? It looks like a better unit. What others do yo know of with many adjustments to be set by the user? Im in the market. I just bought the Rega, Queen limited edition, but just for a collectable

    • Francisco says

      Yes, same adjustments on the AT-LP1240. However, the Audio Technica AT-LP1240 is a higher quality turntable with better sound quality and motor. It is also much more expensive. Any good quality turntable would have adjustment features. What do you mean you are in the market?

      • keith rose says

        Well i need a good turntable, my old Technics is gone. I dont have a problem paying up to 7 or $800.00. I like to have complete control of as many adjustments that i can make myself. So many are factory set plug and play.

        • says

          Keith,

          Depending on what features you are looking for, you can get a quite decent new turntable for that price. My recommendation would be a Rega RP1, with an upgraded Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge. The RP1 is a fully manual turntable with a very nice tonearm. The 2M Bronze cartridge is Ortofon’s 2nd from the top of the line moving magnet cartridge. It’s capable of mind blowing detail resolution. It’s also upgradable to TOTL with a simple stylus swap.

          Retail on the RP1 is $445, but comes with a very basic cartridge. The 2M Bronze retails for $440, and includes a nude mounted “fine line” stylus that tracks at a kind 1.5g.

  16. ferdz ines says

    my AT LP 120 USB suddenly lost its power. I checked all the cables and fuse in the power cord, they are all working. Volts is set to 230 for the longest time and its fine. What seems to be wrong? Please help

  17. Ryan Z says

    Hello Francisco,

    Awesome review. This helped convince me to buy the AT-LP120-USB from Amazon this week.

    I’m actually having a bit of issue now. I was in the middle of listening to an album and stopped play because I had to leave the room. I left the tone arm suspended above the record (resting on the tone arm lift) so I could resume where I left off. I left the turntable on and was only gone for 15-20 minutes and when I tried to start playing the album again there was no sound. I checked all of my connections to the speaker (switch was to Line Out as I had left it) and I even examined the headshell/cartridge and it all looks good, so I can’t understand what’s gone wrong.

    From what I read it’s likely the cartridge, but I don’t see how it could have stopped working after 20 minutes. I don’t want to just buy another headshell if it could be something else that’s going wrong. Maybe I’m missing something.

    Do you have any advice?

    Thanks so much,
    Ryan

    • Francisco says

      Hello Ryan,

      If I understand well, you just bought the turntable during the week. So your AT-LP120-USB is brand new.
      That is weird. Your turntable should work fine. There is nothing wrong about leaving the tonearm lifted.
      I would definitely contact Audio-Technica, they have an excellent customer service:

      ATUS Service Department:
      (330) 686-2600 Monday-Friday 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (EST) if you have questions.

      Keep us updated.

      • Ryan Z says

        Thank you for the quick reply. It actually turns out to have been an issue with my speaker. I have been using a rechargeable Bose speaker. It definitely still had juice when I was having issues because that was one of the first things I checked, but after a few more tries it died shortly after. I plugged it in and once it was fully charged again, the sound was working perfectly and has been since.

        So the turntable itself is fine. It’s just weird the sound stopped coming out if the speaker before the indicator light changed color to show the speaker needed to be charged. I think I’ll invest in a better speaker set to avoid this in the future.

        Thanks so much again,
        Ryan

  18. Kristijan says

    Nice review! I have 2 JBL 305 monitors and an m-audio fast track pro interface (I know that it sucks). What is the best way to connect this turntable to my monitors? I would be most likely buying a pre-amp so I am assuming I can run the TT through the pre-amp and into the interface through an RCA connection? Should I invest in a better interface first or can my m-audio fast track pro handle the lp120? I am looking to record my vinyls through a DAW. Thanks for your help!!

    • Francisco says

      Hi Kristijan,

      I have a Lexicon Omega interface and I have used a similar setup in the past. Your m-audio fast track pro should be able handle the AT-LP120.

      You’ll need an RCA to 1/4 in jack adapter. I don’t know if the m-audio inputs handle stereo signals. I’m assuming they are mono. So you’ll need two adapters, one for each of the RCA terminals. Using the RCA to jack adapters, connect the turntable to your m-audio inputs. Don’t forget to set the preamp selector to LINE on the turntable and the instrument/line selector to LINE on your m-audio fast track pro.

      That should work. Let me know if you need more help.

      Keep me posted.

  19. Duane says

    I hope my comment doesn’t turn up twice. I think I hit the back on my phone and it disappeared. Anyway Francisco your review was the make or break point on me making this purchase. Unpacked and set mine up 3 hours ago and it’s working great! The Amazon reviews were too hard to gauge the purchase from. Just got done playing “LA Woman” 180 gram and “InThe Court Of The Crimson King” 200 gram and they both sound outstanding. I realize some Amazon reviewers probably did have motor noise and platter issues when the turntable first came out. That was the only thing holding me back. I was raised on records so I have A Lot of vinyl! I was replacing the AT-LP60-USB after the motor or something stopped the pulley from spinning. This is a HUGE upgrade! The only question I have is concerning the pitch slider and quartz lock. I’m not a dj and probably won’t use the pitch slider but if I do I would like to know “what is the proper sequence? Do you just slide past the green light up or down and it goes out of quartz lock?” I do know the pitch slider in the middle goes into quartz lock by default.
    Anyway thanks again Francisco for the most in depth review of the AT-LP120 I’ve read.
    Duane

    • Francisco says

      Hello Duane,

      Thank you very much for your comments. I get very excited when I see my readers happy about the products they buy. Yes, going from AT-LP60 to AT-LP120 is a huge upgrade. The quartz lock is a great feature, you can use the pitch slider to change the rotational speed. When you press the quartz lock button, the turntable returns to the normal speed without you having to move the pitch slider. I hope that answers your question.

      Greetings

      • Duane says

        Thanks Francisco! That indeed answers my question. It’s interesting to read the comments and questions other readers have and your solutions. Still loving my AT-LP120. I really think the AT95E is underrated. For someone like me it’s perfect and I’m getting great sound out of my system. I can see where scratching with it would destroy this needle very fast!
        Thanks again!

        • Duane says

          Well things were going to good. Now I have a problem. The stobe dots are moving “very slightly” in quartz lock. Still, there is noticeable movement of strobe dots. I have never taken it out of Quartz lock until today to see if I can solve the problem. I emailed Audio Technica and they told me to send it to one of their service centers. Not crazy about that seeing the turntable has been here 2 weeks. I’m either going to call them on the phone or see what the Amazon Prime return policy is. I’ve never had to return an electronic so I’ll have to check their A-Z Return Policy. Unless you have another suggestion Francisco? If not I’m still within the 30 days of purchase. Like I said I’ve never returned anything this heavy and don’t know the exact policy. Thanks for any suggestions.
          Duane

          • Francisco says

            Hello Duane,

            I’m so sorry about the issue you are having.
            If you are still under the 30 days of purchase I would go ahead and return the item.
            It’s going to be easier than sending your item to a service center.

            A phone call is always a good option as it doesn’t take long.
            That way you can clearly explain your issue to the person on the phone.

            Sorry again Duane.

          • Duane says

            Final Thoughts: Took awhile to get back (health issues what else) but still going strong with the same Lp-120. Changed to a different electrical socket with no load on it and solved the problem. I think with the higher wow and flutter number you may see a very slight movement with the strobe dots. I tested it with an audiofile friend who had the same turntable for 5 years and the same minor issues. Sound wise no noticeable issues. My friend said the higher wow & flutter number is enough to see on the strobe if you stare at it long enough but you won’t be able to hear it. For the price, still a great bargain for an entry level audiofile TT or just a great purchase for anyone getting into vinyl again. Especially upgrading from the lower end Audio Technica’s. Still using the AT95E and very satisfied with its sound. My friend said the first thing he did with his was replace the cartridge to a Shure. I personally don’t think it is necessary unless you are a DJ that will put the AT95E through physical abuse. The 95 cantilever is delicate as Francisco has mentioned in the review. I bought a nice “digital deck cover” to camouflage the TT from my grandchildren. Toddlers REALLY like nice shiny electronics! The cover was made for the Technics 1200 but fits the Lp120 perfectly. Thanks again for the awesome detailed review Francisco. For the $220 I spent, I am very satisfied. I’ve had totally manual TT’s before in my years so getting up and cueing the tonearm is not a deal breaker for me. Even at my older age. To stress that it is totally manual in the review is a nice warning for those not used to a tonearm not returning on its own. Good luck everyone!

  20. Doug says

    great review one of the best if not the best, Could you not just leave the internal preamp to line which is off and run an external preamp, would this work also would this make the sound better . I find there seems to be more volume coming from my cd player .Iam running a yamaha sr300 reciever 50 watts per side also heard it only accepts mm cartriges the sound just seems much louder when playing cds

    • Francisco says

      Hello Doug,

      Yes, you can turn the line switch off (set to phono) and run an external preamp. If you have a better preamp than the built-in one, it sure will make the sound better. Others have commented on the same issue, that the CD player or other audio sources tend to sound louder than the sound coming from the turntable. I don’t know if this is something that happens to this particular turntable or if has to do with difference in studio mastering techniques used to produce a CD or a vinyl record. You would have to try with other turntables to see if you get the same results with the same albums. There are some people that have completely removed the built-in preamp to improve sound quality with great success, however, it is not an easy task. There are many tutorials on this subject on the web if you are interested.

  21. Mike D. says

    Hi Francisco,
    I just bought the AT-LP120 and set it up. I seem to have a couple of issues:

    1. I have a Yamaha R-201S receiver that does not have a pre-amp, so I am using the turntable’s internal one by using the line out option. Now, the turntable does play through my speakers, but at a much lower volume compared to a Sony CD player that is also hooked up to the system.

    2. In addition to the comparable lower volume issue noted above, the turntable sound through the speakers really lacks the clarity, almost muddy at times, that I get with the CD payer. I have a very good pair of Acsend bookshelf speakers, along with a Polk Audio PSW505 subwoofer, for the system, which again sound awesome with the CD player.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks,

    Mike

    • Francisco says

      Hello Mike,

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear about the issues you are having with your AT-LP120.
      Have you tried with different LPs? Do you get the same results?
      If you know someone with a turntable or if you have another one, you may want to try to see if you get similar results.
      The Yamaha R-201S receiver has several RCA line level inputs. Have you try different ones?

      Audiotechnica has an outstanding customer service. I would contact them just to make sure that you did’t get a faulty unit.
      Click here for customer support contact information.

      Hope it helps!

    • Josh says

      Great review. I’m new to all of this and I’m pretty dead set on this unit. Unfortunately, given my lack of experience, I don’t know exactly what I need to start playing stuff. Could you tell me what is needed with this set up to start playing? Thanks in advance.

      • Francisco says

        Hi Josh,

        To start playing, you’ll need at least a set of powered speakers. You can read my post on powered speakers for more information.

        It really depends on what you are looking for. If you want something easy, fast and cheap, I would just buy the turntable and a set of powered or computer speakers. If you want better sound quality and control, I would buy the turntable, a receiver and a set of bookshelf speakers. There are many options and price ranges. If you give me more information regarding your particular needs, I can make some recommendations for you. But if you are new to Vinyl, I would probably go with a simple setup (turtable + powered speakesr).

  22. Gary says

    Thanks for the review! I just purchased and set up and I’m very
    happy with it so far. I replaced an older Sony turntable that had
    a ground wire to dissipate the static buildup. This unit does not
    have a ground wire and yet there doesn’t seem to be a problem
    with buildup. Can you comment on why that would be?

    Thanks much!

      • says

        Actually, the turntable/tonearm to receiver ground goes through the right RCA’s shield, and not the wall plug. This usually works perfectly, but relies on the cleanliness of the right RCA plug’s shield (the outer portion) to work properly.

        Also, the ground connection does NOT dissipate static buildup. It is there to give EMI a route to be harmlessly conducted instead of polluting the signal we’re trying to amplify.

  23. Neale Madden says

    Hi,

    Great review! Good to see a detailed piece and glad to say this helped my girlfriend get me this turntable for my birthday. I had just a quick question on speakers however.

    I am planning on getting the q acoustics 3020 speakers to partner this turntable so a very simple setup with just these two linked. I am a bit of a technophobe and so am wondering if these speakers are compatible for this?

    Thank you!

    Neale

    • Francisco says

      Hello Neale,

      The Q Acoustics 3020 speakers are not powered (they are passive loudspeakers), it means that you need to attach them to a receiver, amplifier or sound system. In other words, your turntable would be connected to a receiver and your Q Acoustics 3020 speakers will be attached to the receiver. So, it is not a simple setup as you first thought. If you want a simple setup, is better to get powered speakers. If you want more control over your sound, then get a receiver, obviously you’ll end up paying more.

  24. Anuj says

    I bought this player about three years back and one of my friend nudged on the player. Now it is having a slight jerking movement. Do you have any suggestions on how to go about this.

    Thanks a tonne!!!

  25. pddennis says

    Hey Francisco,
    Like the others, I really appreciate your research and review. I have been researching alternative cartridges as a possible way to upgrade the AT 120USB. I’m interested in the Grado Prestige series, but I’ve heard that they are not shielded and so they pick up hum from the motors of direct drive turntables, especially as they approach the center of the platter. This seems not to be a problem with belt-drive models or with direct drive models that have insulated/shielded motors. Is the AT 120USB’s motor shielded or insulated? Also, I think the Grado would fit in the standard/universal headshell of the AT120USB, but I’m not certain. Any info you have about this would be wonderful. (FYI – the Grado Prestige series seem (especially the Black and Green models) seem to be a super match for this turntable because they are very high quality for a surprisingly low price.) Peace, pd

    • Francisco says

      This is a very good question. I personally have not used Grado Prestige cartridges but there are testimonials of people having hum issues with the AT-120USB. So, my advice is not to use the Grado Prestige with this particular turntable.

      The AT-LP120-USB Turntable accepts standard half-inch mount type cartridges. The motor is not shielded. There are reports that the Grado Red, Silver, Gold and GF3 with Blue stylus all hum with the AT-LP120-USB Turntable. The 78C (78 RPM Cartridge) apparently does not.

  26. Joe says

    Thank you for your detailed review. I do have a question that you may be able to clarify for me. I’ve seen videos and discussions out in there in internet-land describing the steps to “remove” the internal pre-amp / USB circuitry from the unit and directly wiring the phono output right to the RCA jacks. I’ve not discovered why others were doing this. To your knowledge is there a significant difference to using the AT-120 in phono mode (bypassing the pre-amp) and feeding an external pre-amp vs. removing the internal pre-amp altogether and then feeding the external pre-amp?

    Thanks.

    • Francisco says

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve seen those videos too. It’s a good alternative for an audiophile. It really depends on how serious you are about vinyl. I personally wouldn’t do it. Instead, I would probably buy a turntable without a pre-amp. Obviously, people do it because the AT-LP120 is a good turntable at an affordable price. However, this particular turntable has a little bit of background noise and rumbling that you might notice if you are really picky. This may be caused by the lack of a ground connection. Some people have found that by removing the internal pre-amp and using an external one, improves sound quality and reduces background hiss and noises. Whether or not there is a significant difference also depends on the quality of your whole system, including your listening room. If you don’t have a good pre-amp, receiver, speakers, or your room is noisy, I doubt that you’ll notice a significant difference. So, in short, if you have good audio equipment to go with your AT-LP120, go for it, other wise, it’s going to be a waist of time.

  27. Ed says

    I’m an old guy (think ’60s in more ways than one) and my wife just gave me the AT-LP120-USB for Christmas. I used to have an extensive set of vinyl and a nice H-K turntable, Onkyo amp and hell if I remember speakers. My house burned down a few years ago and I lost it all. Time to re-build.

    That was a great review / tutorial and your comments have been very helpful. Thanks for taking what must have been a long time to work on this.

    Can you make any recommendations for a compatible amp and speakers? As you mentioned, a system plays to its lowest common denominator and I want something that will be on par with this turntable. I think my system will be set up in my home office / man cave so I don’t need anything too crazy but suspect just running through my computer would not be as good a quality. Or am I wrong?

    Thanks again!

  28. Sue says

    I just bought this turntable and have a Sony Micro home Audio System ordered and coming. I know nothing about the technology. I don’t even know if I can use the AT-LP120 with this system. I am thinking I should have ordered the AT-LP60 as I just wanted a nice turntable to use with a stereo system that I could only hear CD’s and AM/FM. I could use some advice !! Help !!

    • Francisco says

      Hello Sue,

      Congrats on your AT-LP120!
      Don’t panic, its very easy to operate, I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it.
      Yes, the AT-LP60 is much easier to use, but that shouldn’t discourage you.
      Your Sony Micro Home Audio System should work fine with the AT-LP120.
      If you need help, just let me know through the contact form.

      Francisco

  29. Mike says

    Hello From the UK,
    Just read your review which I found the best so far after looking at quite a few , and has made my mind up to buy the AT-LP120 USB for my wifes Christmas present to upgrade an old worn out model she has at present !
    As I am no technophobe, I would like to ask a question. I fully intend to buy a set of speakers for this but until I do , is it still possible to play and listen to records on it ?
    With thanks.
    Mike

    • Francisco says

      Hello Mike,

      If I understand well, while you get a set of speakers, you want to use your turntable alone.
      The turntable itself doesn’t produce any sounds. You have to connect it to either a set of powered speakers, amplifier, sound system or home theater. I have even connected mine to an old TV.

      So, if you don’t buy speakers for the moment, you can just hook it up to an existing sound system that you may have.
      You can always connect the turntable to your computer via USB and use your computer builtin speakers.
      For that you’ll need audacity or another software that allows you output sound coming from your turntable.

      Please let me know if you need any help.

  30. Mark says

    Like so many others have said, great review.
    I am curious to know of any suggestions you might have for both regular hard wired and powered wireless speakers and also a good match for a receiver. Not a newbie , just out of my element and know it after reading your review. Also, would you advocate connecting to my AV system receiver?
    Thanks
    Mark

    • Francisco says

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for you comment. The possibilities are endless. Almost any receiver or home theater would do. You may consider for example, an Onkyo receiver. For people on a budget, a good option is to buy a set of powered speakers, recording monitors or computer speakers. Theses are decent quality and very easy to setup. The problem is that they don’t give you as much control over the sound.

      As for wireless speakers. You just need to get a wireless Bluetooth transmitter and combine it with your favorite wireless speakers like Sonos CONNECT.

      As for your AV system, go for it! If you already have an AV system, you don’t really need anything else. You are good to go.

      I know I’m not giving very specifics but as I said there are many choices out there.

  31. Tom M. says

    First let me start by saying, “great review!” By far the most detailed one I have seen. Just thought I would point out that you said the black is the better priced one in comparison to the silver one, but depending on what sight you’re on, it is in fact, the opposite. As of this comment the price for each color is the same on Amazon, but just yesterday the silver was $249.99 and the black was, get this, $319.99. I don’t know why there was such a huge difference in price, but there was. Just thought I’d pass that info along.

    Other than that, great job, keep up the good work!! 👍👍

    • Francisco says

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks a lot for your comment. And thank you also for pointing out the price difference.
      I’m not sure if it was my mistake or if the prices were like that at the time I wrote the article.
      It’s hard to keep the inforamtion up to date. I’llchange the post so that people know that there may be a price difference depending on the color but not necesarily mentioning wich one has the lower price. Or maybe I can just have a realtime comparison table.

      Thanks again Tom for your valuable input.

  32. uncle says

    Hi, thanks for the review.

    My Audio technica 120 arrived today, I’ve been listening to music on it for some hours,so far i’ve been very happy with this turntable. This is the best turntable that I’ve had and among the best ones I heard. I don’t even se the point of upgrading this unity, it plays music flawless.

    Some peple complains about some noise when it is not playing music, to be honest, regarding my unity I’m not sure if it is noise or if it is just my phono stage? If there is noise I think it is very very tiny because I can’t be sure if I can hear it.

    My last turntable was a Pro-ject 1 Xpression (1 or 2, can’t be sure, it was 8 or 9 years ago), and let me tell you the Audio Technica 120 is a looooot better than the Pro-ject Xpression. I’m not saying the Pro-ject Xp was bad is just the Audio T. 120 is so good. I dare to say it is a night and day the difference among both.

    I didn’t try the phono that comes with it or recording vinyl.

    • Francisco says

      Hi uncle,

      I so much appreciate you taking the time to write your comments about this turntable. I love it when my readers post their optinion about turtables they own or buy. It really helps other readers.

      I’m very happy for you.

      • uncle says

        Thank you for the kind comments Francisco :)

        By the way the cartridge that came with this unity was the “new” Audio Technica AT95E with a Audio Technica ATN95E as a stylus.

        Kind regards

        uncle

  33. Juan Carlos says

    I ‘ve purchased a new AT-LP120 a month ago . It’s a nice TT but i note a constant (although weak) noise coming from the motor, directly by ear (without a record on it) or through the baffles in the weak or silent parts between tracks. The dealer says by mail that this noise is normal in high torque DD TTs as this one.
    BUT: I have a belt drive Numark TTUSB and an old direct drive JVC-QLY3F without this annoying noise at all.
    The question is if I should return this unit or if this kind of motor noise is normal in this model.
    I would really appreciate your opinion about this matter. Thank you.

    • Francisco says

      Hello Juan Carlos,

      Thanks for your input. You made a good point comparing your Numark and JVC. A weak noise coming from the motor on this turntable is normal. How much noise is normal? That is hard to tell without personally hearing it. The idea is that the noise should be completely masked during play back of soft music. My advice is that if it really annoys you, return it and get a different model. Or try a replacement and see what happens. The problem is that getting a replacement may cost you money and the replacement may have the same noise. Can you tell me how weak the noise is? Do you use your TT for DJing, digitizing or casual listening?

      • Nancy says

        Hi Francisco,
        Your review is great and so helpful. I just bought this turntable for my son. It is the first I have had since I was a kid. We are still deciding on a speaker system but he is so excited to hear an album. If we plug this into the computer can he atleast listen to music? We don’t have external computer speakers. I guess what I’m asking is there any way we can actually use this now either by plugging into computer or tv? He has never used a turntable and is excited.
        Also, any recommendations on speaker system?

        • Francisco says

          Hi Nancy,

          Thanks for your comment. Yes, you can listen to your music throgh the computer built-in speakers.
          You just need some software to do this. You can download Audacity and enable software playthrough.

          You can connect the turntable to a TV with RCA inputs. In the past, I have set up my AT-LP60 this way. I have an old Toshiba TV with RCA inputs and the setup works very well. The only thing is that the cable is kind of short so I had to connect some extension cables.

          You may want to read my post about speakers for the AT-LP60 5 Powered Speakers for AT-LP60 and AT-LP120.

          The posiblitities are endless. If you have an old sound system with RCA inputs, you can also use that.
          A set of computer speakers are also a good option.

          Hope it helps.

  34. Michael says

    Thank you Francisco, your review convinced me this was the turntable for me. Primary use will be to digitize an extensive LP collection so…. I will upgrade that cartage to the Shure 95

    • Francisco says

      Thanks Michael,

      You’ll love the ATLP120-USB

      Keep us updated. I would like to know your opinion on the product.

  35. Josh says

    Hey, Best review i have found very detailed. I can live with those cons especially when most are covered by the guarantee. A few noobie questions really but ones i need help with as cant get a straight answer
    Ive heard the internal pre amps sound quality isnt very good is this true in your experience or was it fine?
    If i chose to bypass it using the phono switch id then have to connect it to and external pre amp and reciever and speaker?

    • Josh says

      Just in addition. the reason id be bypassing the internal premap is because to get a good set of powered speakers they go out of my budget. Thanks :)

  36. Gavin says

    Great review. I’ve been looking for a review of this depth and objectivity since I started to research this product for an eventual upgrade to my current player (Innovative Technologies ITVS-750). I don’t use that one much because I don’t want to destroy my small, but growing collection. It seems that the platter issue has been solved (per an e-mail I received from AT). My suggestion is to spend a few more dollars and buy one from a “brick and mortar” store as opposed to the Internet, if you have that option. If not, buy it from a b&m store’s website.

    • Francisco says

      Thanks for your comments Gavin. I’m glad you found my review useful.
      I also appreciate your suggestion. Many people will benefit from it.
      I’m glad to know that according to Autio Technica, the platter issue has been resolved.
      Good luck upgrading your player! :)

  37. John Daniel says

    Thanks for the excellent review.I have got one.I use a Audio Technica at 120 cart.Sound is very good..Definitely better than my AT 95E.
    Just curiosity sake can i do anything else to further improve the performance.?
    Regards.JD.

    • Francisco says

      Thanks for your comment John.

      It really depends on what you want to accomplish. But here are some suggestions:
      + You may change the slip mat and experiment with different materials.
      + You may also upgrade the counterweight. There is a heavy counterweight upgrade for the AT LP-120
      + Some people don’t like the built-in pre-amp. You may want to remove it and utilize an external pre-amp. Look for youtube videos on how to remove it. Not an easy task.

      If I think of anything else, I’ll post it here.

    • Francisco says

      Hi Lexxus,

      The AT-LP120 has a power source switch under the platter. You can select either 115V/60Hz or 230V/50Hz depending on your county’s standard.

      The platter rotates at the specified speed no matter what power source you are using. If you select 33 1/3 rpm, your turntable will rotate at that speed regardless of your power source.

      What concerns us here is not the platter rotation or the DC motor but the strobe light. The flashing frequency of the strobe light depends on the frequency of your power source. Normally, for an AC current of 50 Hz, the strobe light flashes 100 times per second compared to 120 times per second for a 60Hz current. This is why different dot patterns for 50Hz and 60Hz are needed.

      • Anthony says

        The older, better, direct drives with one set of dots coupled the strobe LEDs to an internal frequency reference, not mains frequency. These cheap Chinese decks have the LEDs coupled to mains frequency because it’s cheap to do, and accurate enough for 95% of the people out there. This requires 4 sets of dots. One for 33.3 at 60Hz, 45 at 60Hz, 33.3 at 50Hz, and 45 at 50Hz. It works well enough, but mains frequency can vary, slowing down when demand is high, and speeding up when demand is low. The motor speed won’t vary because of mains frequency variations, even on the cheapo chinese Hanpin decks, but it can look like it does because the strobe frequency will.

        A decent DD deck hasn’t been made since 2010.

    • Anthony says

      This review is fairly in depth, but is obviously written by someone with decent consumer electronics experience, however more limited experience with turntables. I submit that the venerable, entry level, Pioneer PL-12D made in the early 1970s, is a much better turntable than the AT-120USB. Most AT-120USBs that come into my shop have AWFUL levels of play in the tonearm bearings, when NEW! I can move the arm fore and aft, and rotate the arm, changing the cartridge azimuth by several degrees. You can’t do that with a PL-12D, even after 40 years of spinning vinyl, the bearings have no noticeable play. Why is bearing play important? Think of a turntable-tonearm-cartridge system as a precision measuring device, having to resolve measurements down in the range of 10 microns or so (the size of some of the groove undulations as the inner groves). If your tonearm flops around because of bearing play, you can’t make these precision measurements accurately, precisely, or repeatedly.

      Hi torque motors, while loved by DJs for their quick starts and stops, tend to have AWFUL, audible wow and flutter. What is wow and flutter? It’s the variation in rotation caused by static and dynamic stylus drag. Think of it like this…the platter rotates and drags the stylus through the grove. When the stylus gets deflected it has to get that energy from somewhere; the platter. The higher the amplitude and the higher the frequency of the music, the more energy it takes to move the stylus. This slows the platter down more. The turntable has to then speed the platter back up. How well the deck’s electronics detect and correct the rotational variation is directly represented by the wow and flutter spec. Lower is better.

      This deck’s wow and flutter number is .1%. That is audible. The PL-12D achieves better than that with a super simple, low torque, synchronous AC motor and a heavy platter riding on a stainless steel shaft in a bronze housing. The deck the AT-120 attempts to imitate, the Technics SL-1200 has 40 times less variation; a wow and flutter spec of .0025%.

      One other comment. The cables are short on most turntable for a reason. To limit the capacitance of the RLC circuit that is the cartridge, phono preamp, and interconnects. Longer cables introduce more capacitance, which has a negative affect on the frequency response of the circuit. Too much capacitance will make the audible high frequency signals disappear, or depending on the inductance of the cartridge, could accentuate them, and make cymbal crashes sound distorted.

      The best turntables that most regular folks can afford were made in the 70s and 80s. Quality started to drop off in the 90s. Now we’ve got few choices for new decks, either expensive low feature decks that focus on quality, or high feature decks that are built to a price point, but destroy vinyl, and sound awful.

      • Francisco says

        Hello Anthony,

        As you can see, I have been busy lately, and I just had a chance to read your comment.
        You are obviously an expert and we appreciate a lot you sharing your knowledge with us.
        We learn thins every day and that is what I enjoy more about maintaining this website. As we have discussed through email, a good option for everyone is to get a vintage turntable. Anyone interested, Antony has shared with us some nice vintage turntable buying tips.

        Thanks again Anthony!

  38. says

    Great information about the Q-up. The Q-up web site indicates that the device will not work with the AT-LP120 nor the Technics 1200. Great review with wonderful information about this product.

    • Francisco says

      Hi Ernest,

      Thank you very much for pointing that out. I have read the compatibility page and you are right The Q-UP is not compatible with this model. I’ll make sure to update that information on my review. I wonder if there is another solution. I’ll look for something else.

      Thanks again.

      • Margaret says

        Just bought the turn table and absolutely love it – except for the tone arm not lifting up when the record is over. Have you found another solution since the q-up isn’t compatible?

        Thanks

        • Francisco says

          Hello Margaret,

          I’m happy for you!
          Thanks for posting.
          I’ll be honest. I haven’t had the time to look for a viable solution to the q-up. I’ve been very busy lately. But I’ll look into it and get back to you if I find something interesting.

        • says

          At this point, there is no automatic solution devised for lifting the tonearm on an AT-120 LP turntable.

          As a side note, Technics added automatic functions to the EPA-100 derived arm used on the SL-1300MK2 tables. Virtually every one of those turntables has a cueing problem now because of an unobtainable, broken part.

          If you want a turntable that is excellent, and auto return, look for a vintage Technics SL-23 or SL-220, or anything Technics with “2” in the model designation after SL.

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