Updated: October 2017.
If you’re shopping around for a very good quality turntable without ending up broke, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Turntable could be the turntable for you.
This turntable is modeled after the now discontinued and very popular Technics SL-1200, and the craftsmanship is outstanding.
This along with its excellent sound quality, accuracy, reliability and affordable price has made the Audio-Technica AT120 very popular in its own right. It’s a great turntable for the price.
Another benefit of this turntable is that you have a lot of scope to improve the performance and sound quality by upgrading its components. Putting this mid-range priced, good quality turntable on the same level as the more high end turntables.
And if you’re a budding DJ, with the right stylus, like the Shure M44-7 this turntable is a good place to start.
Because it features a high torque direct drive motor and comes with elements the like fast stop and start function, strobe speed indicator light, pitch adjustment options, precision speed and reverse playback – perfect for scratching!
It also offers the added ability to bring your vinyl tracks into the 21st century because it can be connected to your computer via the USB interface.
You should definitely consider this turntable if you want a more than decent turntable that you can upgrade as you go along, at a price that won’t make you lose sleep.
Features of the Audio Technica AT LP-120-USB Turntable
Understanding all of the important features of this precision turntable will help you get the best out of it. So let’s dive in and see what this bad boy has to offer.
The motor has a 3 speed transmission and supports 33 , 45 and 78 RPM and its speed is pretty damn accurate. The quartz-lock function will seamlessly bring the platter rotation to the correct speed instantly and it reaches 33 RPM in 0.7 seconds.
This turntable is one of the few that supports 78 RPM playback but you’ll need the correct cartridge for this since 78 RPM vinyls, which are usually pre 1950 have wider grooves.
Using the cartridge included with this turntable will damage your 78 RPM vinyls. Rather opt for the mono Shure M78S which is excellent quality and will do the job just fine.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB professional turntable is crafted with a direct drive motor. So the platter is mounted directly onto the motor.
In general, direct drive turntables are known to be more noisy than belt driven ones. This is because there’s no belt to protect the platter from the motor’s vibration.
But this is more noticeable in lower quality direct drive turntables. The any rumble from AT LP-120-USB is hardly audible.
Motor and platter
This turntable is built with a high torque motor, this is one of the reasons its a good choice for DJ’s.
The torque is basically the capability of the motor to reach the set speed quickly and accurately from start-up.
The aluminum platter is die cast and light-weight. As I said earlier, it has a strobe light indicator with dots for 33 RPM (small dots).
And 45 RPM (bigger dots), there are no dots for the 78 RPM speed.
Depending on which country and therefore which power source (electrical current) is used the top row indicates the speed for 50Hz and the bottom row for 60Hz.
The turntable also comes with a felt slip mat. Some people are of the opinion that changing this to a rubber slip mat is better and that’s a personal choice, but in my opinion, stick with the standard felt slip mat that comes with the unit.
As to be expected with a high quality turntable, this unit has a solid overall build and a strong plinth or chassis unlike the cheaper, little brother of this bad boy, the Audio Technica AT-LP60-USB Turntable.
You’ll notice this immediately when you handle the unit for the first time. This durability is another feature that makes this turntable so popular.
Tonearm and Cartridge
Audio Technica built this turntable with an S-shaped tonearm, which helps reduce skating (or tracking) errors.
You also have options to better control performance by adjusting the counterweight, anti-skate and tonearm height.
These controls and the balance of the tonearm are essential for upgrading anything and even when playing different weighted vinyls like 78’s or those ‘minted’ 180 or 200 gram vinyls – this way you will get everything ‘just right’!
For your turntable to function at its optimum the tonearm and its parts must be balanced. If working with these kinds of adjustments is uncharted territory for you and you’re nervous – don’t be, it’s actually pretty simple!
The user manual is very detailed and Audio Technica has put out a very useful video to get it right the first time. You can check out the video below…
The tonearm also has a finger lift for easy cueing and it even has hydraulics to help lower the tonearm gently. This is a good feature if you’re a klutz like me.
The Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB is manually operated. So the stylus will keep tracking the vinyl even after the last track has finished.
The downside to this is if you fall asleep while playing your vinyls the could end up damaged. The upside is the tonearm won’t lift a few seconds before the last track is complete like some fully automatic turntables.
It’s really a trade-off, and some casual listeners find the manual operation a drawback.
A Dual Magnet phono cartridge is pre-mounted on a half-inch standard headshell.
This is one of the features that makes the AT-LP120-USB turntable so upgradable since a standard headshell provides endless options to improve sound and precision on this machine.
Changing the cartridge can be fiddly and annoying when you’re frequently jumping between playing 33’s or 45’s to 78’s.
A workaround for this is to buy an extra headshell to mount your 78 RPM cartridge on since it’s super easy to just mount the cartridge with the cartridge already in place.
The stylus is an elliptical diamond stylus, which is the preferred shape because it’s easier on your vinyls and it provides balanced distortion-free playback.
If you’re looking for replacements, you can pick up an AT95E on Amazon.
USB and Connectivity
This turntable comes factory fitted with a USB interface and the free Audacity software for ripping your old vinyls into digital format.
The software version on the disk provided might be an older version but its open source, so you can just head over to their website and download the latest version.
Your turntable will also come with a dual RCA (female) to 3.5 mm (1/8″) mini-plug (male) stereo adapter cable.
And a dual RCA (female) to 3.5 mm (1/8″) mini-plug (female) stereo adapter cable.
You’ll also get an AC line power cable and 45 RPM adapter for spinning 45’s.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
This turntable doesn’t have built-in speakers, so what do I need to hear the sound?
You are right, there are no internal speakers, but what this turntable does have is a built-in preamp. This means you can connect it directly to your speakers and just toggle the switch to ‘line level’.
If you want to make use of an external phono preamp, you’ll need to toggle the switch to ‘phono level’.
Do I need a grounding wire with this turntable?
No, you won’t need a grounding wire because the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB turntable comes with an isolated power cable.
So, the ground between the turntable and your receiver is carried through the outer ring of the RCA connector.
Does the turntable require an amplifier?
If you have active or powered speakers you can plug it directly into the speakers. If you have passive speakers you will need an amplifier to bring the sound signal to line level.
Should You Buy the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB Turntable?
This product has received raving accolades and most negative reports are due to the learning curve needed to use the Audacity software.
I can honestly say it’s one turntable that strikes a perfect balance between value for money and performance.
Audio Technica is a very famous brand and they offer excellent customer service. The sound quality is exceptional.
The price is more than reasonable. And like I mentioned there’s plenty of room to upgrade components as you go along.
And this particular listing comes with a handy anti static brush and an extra cartridge with a stylus. That’s serious value for money right there.
Audio Technica Strobe Light on Flickr