Vinyl records need turntables to bring purpose and give life. I am grateful to Audio-Technica S.E.A. for supporting my vinyl journey from the start. After spending a few weeks tinkering with a cheap portable turntable, AT shipped over three loan units.
The AT-LP60XBT is the entry-level turntable for consumers, priced at S$228. It’s fully automatic, which means you select the vinyl size – 7-inch or 12-inch, select the speed – 33.3 or 45 RPM, then hit “Play”. The tonearm will move in position and start playing. After reaching the end of the vinyl, it will move back to resting position and the platter will stop. The turntable supports aptX Bluetooth audio codec that easily connects to the modern wireless generation. You can also connect it to USB audio and analog RCA, with option to switch between phono pre-amp and line-level amp output.
The AT-LP5X is the entry-level turntable for serious vinyl enthusiasts, retailing at S$548. It’s fully manual, which means you have to move the tonearm by hand to the vinyl. The counterweight is adjustable depending on the cartridge you are using. The headshell is easily swappable, which makes upgrading a lot easier. The turntable supports speeds from 33.3 to 78 RPM and can be output to USB and RCA. Similarly, it supports phono and line outputs, as well as either moving coil or moving magnet cartridges. It weighs 3 times more than the LP60XBT.
The AT-LP7 is the current top-end fully-manual turntable available from Audio-Technica and retails at S$998. It weighs a full kilogram more than the LP5X, and its chassis feels more dense and solid. The dust cover sits on the turntable without hinge at the rear, so you either put it on or remove it completely. Interestingly according to the manual, you do not leave the dust cover when playing vinyl. The anti-resonance platter is made of 20 mm-thick polyoxymethylene and is driven by a sensor-monitored motor that ensures a continuously accurate platter rotation speed of 33.3 or 45 RPM. The wow and flutter is below 0.08%, compared to 0.2% on the LP5X. The belt is looped externally in full view, which makes replacing them an ease, but also increases exposure to mishandling.
Other than the construct, the LP7 uses better cartridge, a VM520EB Dual Moving Magnet Cartridge with a 10g AT-HS10 headshell and 0.3 x 0.7 mil elliptical bonded stylus. That stylus can be replaced with any of the other styli available in the VM line, offering users an easy means of upgrading the sound without buying a new turntable. Of course, you can also use other brands.
Without a doubt, the LP7 is all that a vinyl owner needs without breaking the bank. The tonearm is also height-adjustable up to 6mm to fit various cartridges. The sound quality is clearly the best among the three turntables reviewed, providing even greater extension of treble details. Oddly, it does not come with a platter mat, and I recommend getting one so that the vinyl gets a better grip over the platter. I found that one of my vinyl playback was unstable because somehow it was slipping slightly. The other issue is the dust cover has no hinge, so it might not be practical using it in a normal room environment where dust is everywhere.
Which Audio-Technica Turntable To Get?
It would be easy to simply say get the most expensive one as that would be the best. However, I am a rationale audiophile and it all depends on what stage are you at in the hobby. Given I have had the chance to go hands-on with so many turntables, I am seriously very contented with the LP60XBT, because of the automatic tonearm functionality that makes playing vinyl so hassle-free and fun. The turntable is relatively compact and technically lightweight, that I find it an ease to move it around the house to enjoy analog music. One favourite feature is that the turntable stops after reaching to the end of the vinyl. The ATN3600L is one of the best budget styli in the market so you will get to enjoy respectable sound quality.
Strictly-speaking, the LP60XBT lacks the structural quality that a proper turntable demands, like a tonearm with adjustable counterweight, a stable platter that prevents external vibrations, and the motor that has a low wow and flutter effect. If you understand the importance of quality styli and want to be able to swap the cartridge, then the LP5X would be the absolute entry-level model to get. The LP5X is also more consumer-friendly than the LP7, thanks to the USB output and supporting 78 rpm playback speed.
As for the LP7, I think the only reason over the LP5X would be the adjustable tonearm height. This will be an important feature if you want to swap cartridges and stylus from other brands with different shapes and sizes. The tonearm height must then be calibrated to achieve the best angle for playback. Other minor advantages are a more dense chassis to further minimise operational vibration.
In summary, get the LP7 if you are already an advanced vinyl user who intends to use other cartridges. For a die-hard A-T fan who is likely to keep using A-T cartridges, the LP5X is good enough. At almost half the price of LP7, you save the money to spend on cartridges where it matters more. For vinyl hobbyists who just want to enjoy the analog medium without having to touch the needle, the LP60XBT will provide sonic gratification.