Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB
FOR Clear and articulate listen; easy operation AGAINST Sound could do with more solidity
Two budget turntables scooped What Hi-fi? Awards last year: the traditional Rega Planar 1 (£250) and record-ripping Audio Technica AT-LP5 (£330), both more than worthy of ‘My First Turntable’ status – for those that can afford the outlay, of course.
However, those with tighter purse strings don’t have much choice beyond the five-star Pro-ject Elemental (£150) or four-star Lenco L-85 (£120). Or rather, they didn’t until now. The Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB changes that, combining simple operation with a clean, balanced and organised sound and, like the aforementioned Audio Technica and Lenco, the ability to rip your vinyl to digital files. And all for the price of a handful of albums.
Some DIY involved
The Audio Technica offers a more understated aesthetic to the brightly hued Lenco or suitcase-style Crosley. Its plastic chassis, available in silver or black, wears a shiny, tasteful finish, and the streamlined tonearm mechanics and hood fixings mean that, at a quick glance, it could pass as a model costing twice the price.
Set-up isn’t quite as straightforward as rival decks around this price, such as the Lenco and Crosley Keepsake. A little DIY is involved – the die-cast aluminium platter needs positioning and the belt attaching (no tonearm adjustment is required) – but it’s not arduous enough to put off even the most clueless novice. Those won over by the tactility of vinyl may even consider it a bonus.
An upgrade dead end
Not one for wasting space any more than time, the compact AT-LP60-USB barely exceeds the dimensions of a vinyl cover. Like all the decks in this test, it should be positioned on a flat, rigid surface for optimal performance, well away from the connected speakers to avoid any risk of feedback issues.
Once up and running, operation is as familiar and effortless as using a CD player, which seems to be the new (and rational) norm for entry-level decks battling with the convenience heralded by modern technology. The start button on the front of the AT-LP60-USB positions and lowers the tonearm and gets the record spinning, all within about five seconds, while the stop button next to it reverses the process.
When a record finishes, the tonearm takes itself back to its cradle so you don’t have to worry about leaving it to its own devices. The button on the other side merely changes speed between 33⅓ and 45rpm.
With a phono stage built in, the Audio Technica can be plugged straight into your system or a pair of powered speakers via an RCA cable, although a switch at the back gives you the option of using an external phono stage instead, for example in your integrated amplifier.
The latter path is one way you could potentially improve performance, however it’s worth bearing in mind that’s really where the upgrade journey on this deck ends. While the supplied stylus is replaceable, it’s not worth upgrading due to the restricted adjustment of the tonearm and thus the tracking force (which, in case you were wondering, measures 3g on our sample).
We lay down Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ The Boatman’s Call for the main event and while the Audio Technica is far from thin, its lack of solidity compared to the Lenco LP-85 is immediately noticeable. During Into My Arms, the gruffness of Cave’s baritone crooning is well communicated, the staggered delivery of the lyric is clear, and the piano accompaniment carries warmth. But the presentation as a whole isn’t as fleshed out as we would like it to be.
That’s not the end of the world, though, especially as the Audio Technica trades its rival’s instantly gratifying boldness for better precision and organisation. As such, it’s a more articulate listen.
Piano accents are well highlighted, and the flow of the simple percussion and vocal composition sounds more natural. The advantage of the AT-LP60USB’S discipline becomes all the more apparent when Lime Tree Arbour comes into play, too – it doesn’t lose sight of faint cymbal brushes or gentle bass plucks beneath the piano harmony any more than it does the organ notes behind the intimate vocal. KEY FEATURES
“The AT-LP60-USB is an attractive entry-level deck that seeks to be a compromise between the allure of vinyl and convenience of digital music”
33⅓ and 45rpm Vinyl ripping Replaceable stylus
There is enough space between the instruments for the presentation to sound coherent, but not so much that they feel disconnected – and that equilibrium is far from a given at the price.
Elsewhere, the presentation is that much cleaner than its rivals too. A fair amount of detail is dug out from albums’ grooves and, without lacking drive or energy, it commits itself to a pleasingly easy listening balance.
Recording from vinyl is a simple process too. Files can be ripped as 16-bit/44.1khz or 48khz WAVS by connecting your PC or laptop to the turntable’s USB type-b output, then using the supplied Audacity software to process them. These files have a similarly even-handed character, although in terms of quality, expectations should be closer to Spotify streams than Cd-ripped files (which upon comparison prove to be clearer, more detailed and more dynamic).
So what’s the catch? We pondered that too, albeit ultimately in vain. While we’d be grateful for a little more solidity and would still recommend either the pricier Pro-ject Elemental or Rega Planar 1 (for those who aren’t bothered about ripping their record collection) as the most practical starting points for anyone with a curiosity about vinyl, the Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB is an attractive entry-level deck that seeks to be a compromise between the allure of vinyl and convenience of digital music – and largely succeeds in that objective.
“The Audio Technica offers a more understated aesthetic than the Lenco or Crosley. At a glance, it could pass as a model costing twice the price”
A built-in phono stage means it can be plugged into your system or powered speakers
The AT-LP60-USB’S plastic chassis is available in silver or black finishes
stop, start Controls are simple, with at the front and on/off buttons located
The supplied stylus is replaceable, but it’s not really worth upgrading
PC Rip files by connecting your port or laptop to the USB type-b
sample The tracking force on our is set to approximately 3g