Shown here:  the AT-LP120 in silver.  We'll also talk about the newer AT-LP120X.


    Audio   


Introduction


The Audio Technica AT-LP120 is a direct-drive turntable that plays 33, 45, and 78 rpm records.

How good is it?  You'll find all kinds of different opinions, some of them from people who wouldn't even use one because it's not vintage.

Whether you're looking for your first turntable or you've been into vinyl for a while, we're going to find out if the LP-120 (and LP-120X) is any good.




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In This Article


Some Specs

Basic Use

Cartridge / Stylus

Headphones

Playing 78's?

USB Output

Versus AT-LP120X

What Are The Dots For?

Wow & Flutter

Overall Experience

Conclusion






Some Specs


Auto-Return:  No
Auto-Stop:  No
Dimensions:  17.7" W x 13.9" D x 6.1" H Drive Type:  Direct
Headshell:  4-pin universal
Made In:  China
Motor Type:  DC servo
Pitch Control:  +/-10% or +/-20%
Phono Pre-Amp?:  Yes, selectable on/off
RPM's:  33, 45, and 78
Signal to Noise Ratio:  >50 dB
Stylus:  0.3 x 0.7 elliptical
Tracking Force Adjustment?:  Yes
USB Output:  Yes ("USB" models)
Weight::  23.5 lbs (10.7 kg)
Wow and Flutter::  <0.2% WRMS



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Table of Contents





Basic Use


Once you've got your AT-LP120 hooked up to some powered speakers or a stereo system, use of this turntable is fairly straightforward.  It has a big "START / STOP" button to get the turntable motor spinning.  From there, you use the cueing lever to lift up the tonearm.  Manually lift the tonearm over to the song you want.  Lower it with the cueing lever, let the song play, then press STOP when the song (or side) has played through.

Obviously, make sure there's an LP on the platter... running the stylus into the mat is not good for it.




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Playing 78's?


This turntable can do it, but don't forget to buy the special monophonic cartridge made for wider grooves.  This could easily cost more than the turntable itself, but if you have 78's that you care about, I'd advise not using the standard stylus on them. 

This is not a drawback of the record player;  it's a drawback of 78 rpm records.  Any turntable that can play 33, 45, and 78 really should have two different styli or cartridges:  one for 33/45's, and another for 78's.  Yes you can play 78's with a standard stylus, but it's not good for them.  I don't know how fast it will wreck the audio details, but I have a feeling that a lot of sketchy 78's got that way by playing them on multi-speed turntables without using the proper stylus.


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Table of Contents



Cartridge / Stylus


The headshell on the AT-LP120 is #AT-HS1.  The AT-LP120X ships with an AT-HS6 headshell.  The headshell is easier to replace than the cartridge;  some people buy an extra headshell, then fit it with a different cartridge so they can swap them easily.  This is a good idea if you listen to scratchy thrift-store vinyl.

It's also quite easy to replace a stylus.  In fact it's much easier than replacing a cartridge.  (And it's more likely that you'd have to replace this, rather than the whole cartridge.)  The original AT-LP120 takes this replacement stylus.  The newer AT-LP120X requires this one instead. 


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Table of Contents





Using Headphones


The ability to choose between "Line Level" and "Phono" output gives a couple different options for headphone listening.

If you have a traditional stereo amp, that probably already has a headphone jack.  Simply add a halfway decent pair of headphones.  Whether you need to set the turntable to PHONO or LINE output depends on what kind of stereo amp you have.  Many amps don't have their own phono stage, so you'd set the AT-LP120 to LINE.  Then, plug the RCA cables into the LINE IN or AUX IN jacks on the stereo amp. 

A more compact solution is to use a small headphone amp such as this one.  For this, you would set the AT-LP120's PHONO / LINE switch to LINE.

Or, you could use a combination phono stage / headphone amp such as this.  You would set the AT-LP120 to PHONO.


Get Your AT-LP120 Here or your AT-LP120X Here


Table of Contents




USB Output


This is for connecting the turntable directly to your computer.  The USB output is a digital signal, so it's unaffected by the PHONO / LINE switch. 

To record LP's to your computer, you will need audio recording software such as Audacity.  See this article for details on how to record vinyl to a computer.


Get Your AT-LP120 Here or your AT-LP120X Here


Table of Contents




Wow & Flutter


Many vintage-turntable enthusiasts won't even consider one with 0.2% wow and flutter.  Actually, though, most of us cannot distinguish 0.2% pitch variation.  At 0.2% or slightly under, it will sound just as good as a vintage unit with 0.05%.

I did not notice any wow and flutter from the AT-LP120. 

I even tried some classical music, which should make wow and flutter most readily apparent.  Still didn't notice any.  Your mileage may vary;  you could be one of those people who immediately notices anything over 0.1%.  That's not common, though.  The majority of listeners are very happy with this unit;  the biggest sound upgrade you'll probably get is simply by putting an upgraded cartridge on it.


Get Your AT-LP120 Here or your AT-LP120X Here


Table of Contents




What Are The Dots For?


You might notice there are rows of silver dots around the edge of the platter.  These give the turntable a distinctive look... but why are the dots there?

They are actually a speed and frequency indicator. 



In the picture, you can see definite dots of light in the third row from the top (not counting the continuous bands at top and bottom).  Now, you see where it says "50 Hz" and it has two black dots (one "33" and one "45")?  Those represent the first two rows of dots around the edge of the platter.  The third one down is 60Hz and 33 rpm.  Since that's the row that shows recognizable dots when the platter is spinning, that's the actual frequency and speed at which it's playing.

What a simple yet clever idea:  no fancy digital readouts necessary.


Get Your AT-LP120 Here or your AT-LP120X Here


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Overall Experience


Using this turntable is quite satisfying.  It's fun to use.  It has a nice design;  it's very substantial.  Press the big Start button, and the motor spins up quickly.  It's a pleasant surprise to see something this well-made in the $200 to $300 price range.  For turntables made today, at today's prices, that's rather impressive.

The lack of auto-return is actually a welcome feature on a unit like this.  There are so many turntables where you'll accidentally press the button, then you have to stand there and wait for it to go through the whole routine before you can do anything else.  This manual turntable lets you put the stylus wherever you want on the LP, whenever you want.

To me, records sound just as good on this as they do on a 1980's vintage turntable.  The vintage one has better specs on paper, but I don't notice any difference.  One advantage of a brand-new AT-LP120 / LP120X is that you know it will arrive in the proper packaging... unlike the vintage one (which a seller might not know how to pack correctly.)

It also helps to know that you can get parts and support for your AT-LP120 / AT-LP120X if needed. 


Get Your AT-LP120 Here or your AT-LP120X Here


Table of Contents




AT-LP120 vs. AT-LP120X


They are almost the same turntable;  the AT-LP120X has some worthwhile improvements.

It uses a lower-wattage motor that's supposed to reduce rumble and distortion.  It doesn't change the spec for wow and flutter, though (still less than or equal to 0.2% WRMS).



They also made the RCA cables removable on the AT-LP120X,  a huge improvement over the original AT-LP120 (shown above).  The short, built-in cables were very limiting.  With the AT-LP120X you can use a high-grade set of cables if you want, or a longer set, if you prefer to place the turntable some distance away from other components. 

Anti-skate adjustment is much improved on the AT-LP120X.  The tonearm is far less likely to skate toward the center of the record.  (I haven't noticed any skating on the AT-LP120, but some of the early-production ones had issues with this.)

The AT-LP120X has an external "wall wart" power supply, which might seem like a downgrade.  However, it allows you to use an even lower-noise power supply (such as this one) if you know what you're doing. 

Having the power supply outside the unit also makes it easy to replace, if needed.


Get Your AT-LP120 Here or your AT-LP120X Here


Table of Contents




Conclusion


The AT-LP120 is still a great choice for listening to LP's;  in 2020, there's the updated AT-LP120X.  While there's a chance you're one of those people who can detect 0.2% wow and flutter, most listeners should find this turntable very enjoyable. 

The fact that Audio Technica has sold so many of these, and now they're making an upgraded version of the same unit, shows they're doing something right with this turntable.


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