Au­dio Tech­nica AT-LP60-USB

FOR Clear and ar­tic­u­late listen; easy op­er­a­tion AGAINST Sound could do with more so­lid­ity

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

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).

Ar­tic­u­late listen

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).

Vinyl al­lure

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

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