I would have known that when I bought the Gadhouse Brad portable turntable, it would not be my last. It was a conscious decision to get a budget turntable to “test water” on my interest in vinyl listening. I just did not know how long I would hold on to it before I decide to upgrade.
Thanks to Audio-Technica S.E.A. for loaning me some of their latest turntables, my vinyl upgrade journey looks to be fast-tracked. They passed me the AT-LP60XBT, the AT-LP5X, and the AT-LP7.
Once I listened to the AT-LP60XBT, I realised how inferior the Gadhouse Brad (and generally the rest of the Crosley suitcase turntables) sounded. I was hoping to find a premium portable turntable, and put my hope on the Gadhouse Brad, which despite using a “generic” red ceramic cartridge, appeared to be made of some quality components. I was even prepared to upgrade the styli so that they can sound decent enough. Unfortunately, the product has several deficiencies which discouraged any additional funding (read my post here).
The LP60XBT isn’t really a “good enough” turntable for the critical vinyl community, but it is a major step up from the suitcase turntables. At least the audio quality is capable of bringing out details, with better sonic precision, instrumentation sounds cleaner, and a whole lot of friendly features to help beginners. The turntable has the AT3600L magnetic phono cartridge pre-installed, which many online reviewers concluded to be one of the most underrated styli. And after auditioning it on the LP60XBT, I have to agree: it is good enough to enjoy real music.
The tonearm operation is fully automated: just select the size of the vinyl, press “Play”, and it will move to the start position of the vinyl. Press “Stop” and the tonearm will move back to the resting position. If you want, you could also manually operate the tonearm: once you move the tonearm towards the vinyl, the platter will start to spin.
There is some assembly required when taken out from the retail unit, but it adds a connection to the vinyl experience. Pressing the the buttons and knob triggers some internal mechanism and levers. The counterweight is just a plastic shell and non-adjustable, but the tracking force is around 3.7 grams, which is adequate.
The AT-LP60XBT also supports Bluetooth audio connectivity over aptX codec, one of the better audio codecs around. Pairing with headphones is a breeze, and sound quality is rather faithful. It also supports output to LINE or PHONO stage.
Watch the unboxing, assembly, and operations of the AT-LP60XBT below.
I think portable turntables are great fun to own, and makes vinyl playing accessible and affordable. Those with battery-operated units and built-in speakers can be brought anywhere and to be enjoyed. But indeed, they are meant as such: a fun music machine. Anyone who is serious enough to want to listen to quality vinyl should not get a portable turntable. And seriously, if you are spending money to buy vinyl instead of streaming free music, the suitcase turntables won’t do justice to your collection.
At S$228, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT actually falls in the “budget” category: the body is made of lightweight plastic, the tonearm design is no better than the portable turntables. It also does not have built-in speakers nor run on batteries. But the sound quality is a lot better and more acceptable to critical listeners. It feels more well-built, and it’s relatively compact and lightweight too.
If you are also starting out on vinyl, my recommendation is to skip the portable turntables and minimally get the AT-LP60XBT, as it offers a lot of features that help beginners appreciate vinyl sounds – a fully-automated tonearm operation, Bluetooth audio to connect to the modern techies, and a lightweight design that makes moving them around a breeze.
But if you are just treating vinyl as a “toy” to have cheap fun, the portable turntables deliver a credible “wow” factor as an inexpensive demonstration of an old audio technology that hasn’t changed much for almost a century. And when you are ready to go to the next level of vinyl experience, you could invest in a better turntable.