Wondering whether to buy the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB?
According to Statista, in 2020, LP sales exceeded 27.5 million in the US alone. A 46% increase from 2019. It’s official, the vinyl record is back! And you want in.
It seems obvious—but you’re going to need a record player.
As a vinyl nut, I’ve gone through my fair share of players. I’ve learned the hard way, the cheapest is not always the best. If I can offer one piece of advice to any budding vinyl collector—get the right player.
So is the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB any good?
All in all, it’s a great buy for anyone looking for top sound quality at a mid-entry level price point.
In this review, we’ll scrutinize some key attributes. As we explore the appearance, features, performance, and sound, you’ll learn whether the AT-LP120 is for you.
So let’s give it a spin and dive into our Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB review.
A popular choice, the AT-LP120-USB graces the shelves of the world’s biggest retailers. This coveted piece of Audio Technica tech offers pro performance in a sweet price range.
But, there’s one slight problem—it’s discontinued.
With manufacturing ceased, the AT-LP120-USB is becoming rarer by the day. As stock supplies diminish, expect a price hike.
That’s the bad news, here’s the good news.
Recognizing the popularity of the AT-LP120-USB, Audio Technica developed successors to the throne.
So let’s dissect the AT-LP120-USB and see how newer adaptations compare.
First, let’s inspect the appearance of Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB. Turntables are the centerpiece and talking point of a room. So the aesthetics are worth considering.
The AT-LP120-USB balances retro design with modern appointments. It’s a delicate harmony making it easy on the eye.
Personal highlights include the balanced S-shaped tonearm. The chunky dimensions not only look the part but give you confidence in the build quality.
The Stroboscopic die-cast aluminum platter decorates the player well.
When relaxing with vinyl, the atmosphere is all-important. I love mood lighting to enhance the experience. This turntable has a target light for easy cueing when in low light.
A nice touch to heighten the listening experience. I suspect this feature has DJs who perform inside dark clubs in mind, but I enjoy it regardless.
The plastic dials and knobs keep costs low. But on the whole, the AT-LP120-USB looks every bit the classic.
If the AT-LP120-USB looks like the turntable to spin your records. Then the AT-LP120X-USB is ideal. It’s a close replication and available in a black or silver finish.
If you’re an obsessive like me, what started as one 12″ has grown into a collection comprising 7″ records too.
While most modern systems can play all RPM records. The AT-LP120-USB makes switching the speed a smooth process. Shifting between speeds is actionable with the press of a button.
The USB connectivity allows for integration with any PC or Mac with a USB 1.1 or above port. The record player comes with the software to safeguard your records in digital form. So timeless records become, well, timeless.
One feature that the AT-LP120USB is missing is Bluetooth. So why does this matter?
As homes turn smart, you may want a wireless connection to speakers. If you’re a forward thinker and want this modern twist, there’s the AT-LP120XBT-USB. Sure, it’s a few extra dollars, but it’s an upgrade worth it if you have visions of a wireless setup.
The AT-LP120-USB will spin records for years to come. Built to last, this turntable is home to some top components. By translating record groove information into an electrical signal, the cartridge is critical.
If the cartridge is of poor stock, sound reproduction will underwhelm. Audio Technica has a good rep in this department. The AT-VM95E Dual Magnet phono cartridge is a top performer.
You can pay big bucks for a cartridge. The VM540ML is a case in point. While audiophiles swear by the accuracy of a premium cartridge. The stock AT-VM95E is an affordable alternative.
Compatible with any VM95 series stylus, modification and upgrading your kit is simple.
The AT-LP120 model has a direct-drive motor. A feature often reserved for more expensive turntables. So what does this mean?
Direct-drive motors offer a direct connection to the platter. With the lack of a belt, there’s less maintenance involved.
The AT-LP120X has an upgrade on the original. With improved starting torque you’ll get to playback speed in no time. The original motor came under scrutiny because of motor noise. This evolution keeps the noise down.
I’m a huge fan of the counterweight on the tonearm. The balance adds precision to the experience of spinning a record. Optimum stylus pressure offers the best sound in addition to protecting my precious records from scratch damage.
If you plan to spin a copy of Wu-Tang Clan, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, or any other expensive record. I plead, follow the instructions and balance the tonearm.
Budget turntables often fall short with the most important attribute—sound quality.
A common symptom of budget turntables is a muddy low end. Sure, the warm charm of vinyl is one reason I love this format. But don’t confuse warmth with mud.
Then, if the weight of the tonearm is wrong, it’ll exacerbate the groove causing a screechy tone.
Turntables with built-in speakers won’t have the best sound quality. Nevertheless, the benefits of this are portability. The Shuman MC-275T/T is ready to go from the off.
For a newbie on a tight budget, I can vouch for this player. It’s a no-frills quick solution. An excellent choice to reminisce over a few old LPs. But it’ll only go so far.
If vinyl records suck you in, and they will. You’ll need an upgrade.
Audiophiles understand the importance of a good turntable to maximize sound quality.
So how does the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB hold up?
It’s a great-sounding turntable to capture every nuanced detail of the groove. Remember, it doesn’t have built-in speakers. However, the dual RCA output connection means the AT-LP120-USB will connect with most external speakers.
Pairing the AT-LP120XBT-USB with Edifier S1000DB speakers is a tried and tested combo. Working hand in hand you can expect pinpoint clarity and vinyl warmth.
Edifier alludes to this pairing in the article ‘Ultimate Guide To Getting Into Vinyl’. Talking sound quality, they point to using S1000DB’s alongside ‘a quality turntable with built-in phono preamp.’
Does the Audio Technica LP120 have a preamp?
The AT-LP120-USB comes complete with an onboard phono preamp. Furthermore, the AT-LP120-USB has a switch to facilitate outboard preamp. A preamp will boost the signal level of a vinyl. This ensures it functions with a standard speaker system. Many turntables need a separate preamplifier to boost the signal.
Is the Audio Technica LP120 Bluetooth?
No, the Audio Technica AT-LP120 doesn’t have Bluetooth. If you want all the features of the AT-LP120 but with a Bluetooth connection. Look at the Audio-Technica LP120XBT-USB. This model is an upgrade that features a wireless Bluetooth connection. So you can enjoy vinyl records through Bluetooth speakers.
Are USB turntables any good?
USB turntables have a unique selling point. Not only can you spin your vinyl, but they also have a built-in analog-to-digital converter. This means you can digitize vinyl into MP3. This feature allows you to back up your collection onto a hard drive. So, you can listen to your favorite vinyl on any application capable of MP3 playback.
While the original is no longer in production. The legacy of the AT-LP120-USB lives on.
If you want a long-term investment, we’d recommend the LP120XBT-USB. This turntable is a prime example of why Audio Technica has such a good rep with audiophiles.
Offering sturdy build quality and pro lucid sound, the LP120XBT-USB deals with the basics well. But with the addition of Bluetooth and USB connectivity, it has a modern twist and gives you versatility moving forward.
So all that remains—kick back and enjoy the music.