My heart skipped a beat when I saw the press announcement of the AT-LP2022 in early November. Clearly I was not expecting Audio-Technica to release a turntable of such design, even though I was privy of some product information about some exciting anniversary editions since the beginning of this year. The AT-SB2022 “Sound Burger” re-issue is a fan service and is not a difficult decision whether to buy or not. I even told A-T: don’t need review unit, I’m buying one for myself!
Coming back to the LP2022, unboxing it is an experience on its own. It came in a massive box but when I unboxed it, there was another box, then after I opened it, there is yet another white retail box. Watch:
I have unboxed so many turntables and it’s interesting that A-T does not arrange them the same way even though they all have similar parts, like platter, tonearm weight, headshell, cover, power adapter. Besides including an additional limited edition stylus, VMN95SH CL, the package also comes with a pair of white gloves to handle your acrylic turntable and keep it free from fingerprints. The LP2022 does not comes with a platter mat. I reckon the setup would be even more epic if the turntable belt is in white or clear colour instead of black.
The tonearm system is identical to the AT-LPW50BT I reviewed previously – same length and same headshell. The rear power connectors are also in the same layout, except the missing LINE-PHONO switch. The tonearm base is designed differently, like the use of metal for the tonearm lever. As an audiophile collector’s model, the LP2022 does not have a built-in preamp.
Having a see-through turntable offers unique ways to showcase the vinyl records. One, the record sleeve can be slotted underneath the turntable and still be seen. Two, I can add lights beneath the turntable to bling the setup, which looks even more epic when playing coloured transparent records. So, if your tabletop has interesting design features, the LP2022 will not block the view.
Practical experience has shown that every part of the turntable contributes to the sound presentation, from the stylus – especially the stylus – to the plinth. Once again, I made a recording of my beloved reference track, Enya’s Orinoco Flow, on the LP2022. It is a track which I have recorded with all the turntables and cartridges I have ever owned or loaned. I then carefully listened to the recording and compared with all previous recordings.
Previously when I reviewed the LPW50BT, I described that it generates more resonance at the bass section compared to the LP5X. With this LP2022, the bass resonance is further tamed, the cleanest among the three turntables compared. This makes music production less clouded and sounds cleaner. To be honest, the difference between the LP5X and LP2022 is not as obvious as on the LPW50BT. It’s a known fact that the turntable plinth, among other components, have influence over the sound transference. The LPW50BT with a wood plinth presents a warmer tonality, the LP5X uses a metal chassis which is cleaner but still an organic element. The LP2022 is a sold acrylic plinth and platter, which further improves the control of any excess resonance.
AT-VM95SH Shibata Stylus Compared
I also compared the Shibata stylus VMN95SH in special-edition clear colour with VMN95E (elliptical) and VMN95ML (microline). There is definitely a jump in sound quality between the 95E and the 95SH, while the difference between the 95ML and 95E is less noticeable. But yes, there is a difference, and it’s mainly on the L-R channel separation. What I hear is that there is slightly more crossfeed on the 95ML, where there is slightly more haze coming from the centre of the stereo imaging. On the 95SH, the centre sounds clearer, less cloudy.
My observation corresponds to the characteristics of the stylus design. It is a known fact that the Shibata-cut stylus is supposed to achieve better channel separation while the microline delivers better clarity. However, from my comparison, the difference is really not that big and I was comparing with headphones. So if you are playing on speakers, I probably cannot hear a difference.
Having said that, there is another jump in audio difference between the 95SH and 540ML, the latter bringing another notch up in upper frequency clarity. The 540ML is a better stylus to listen to, which can better bring out the full frequency range of the vinyl grooves.
Analogue vinyl records offer real sonic differences when played with different equipment.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP2022 is an iconic piece of vinyl turntable to own, and commemorates a legacy and achievement of a 60-year-old Japanese analogue audio company. 10 years into the future, no one will talk about the AT-LP5X turntable, but audio-tech historians will remember the AT-LP2022. What’s more, the acrylic plinth and platter is much easier to maintain and will retain its shine longer than the wood bodies, nor will it rust like the metal ones. And gosh, yes, I am trying hard to resist getting one as I wrote this article.
The AT-LP2022 retails in Singapore for S$1688, and as far as I know, there are sold out. Some owners have listed them for sale at Carousell at a mark-up. Only 3000 units are made worldwide. For more beautiful press images and technical details, visit the official product page here.