Is the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Right For You?

Born from the best-selling AT-LP120, the Audio-Technica LP120X is a great turntable for vinyl enthusiasts who want a high-quality, affordable turntable. Improved and enhanced in every department, this is a fresh take on a classic that we absolutely love here at SHS.

The Japanese turntable manufacturer Audio-Technica is renowned for delivering impressive value for money, and we’re proud to stock them here at Smart Home Sounds. However, with such a vast range of turntable options available, from the budget-friendly AT-LP60X all the way to the premium AT-LP5XUSB, it can be difficult to know where to begin. 

AT-LP120XUSB vs. AT-LP120

For over a decade, the LP120 was our go-to recommendation for customers looking for a turntable at a mid - entry-level price point. Offering easy connection into your speaker or amplifier, a built-in phono-ready preamp, and USB output to digitise your vinyl collection, the LP120 was a fantastic value proposition for easy plug and play functionality.

The integral components that made the LP120 so great are still very much a part of the AT-LP120XUSB, with improvements and refinements now adding to its appeal. The AT-LP120XUSB boasts a series of upgrades that elevate both its listening experience and user-friendliness.

7 Reasons To Buy The Audio-Technica LP-120XuSB

1. Direct-Drive Motor

Unique at this price point, both the AT-LP120XUSB (and older LP120) feature a strong direct-drive motor, differing from the belt-driven options we typically see on the market. Requiring less maintenance and tweaking, motor-driven turntables are built for convenience and often feature higher motor power than their belt-driven counterparts.

The AT-LP120XUSB features an enhanced motor to provide a smoother playback experience while becoming more energy efficient. The motor has been fine-tuned in the AT-LP120XUSB so that the platter gets up to playback speed at a faster rate while producing fewer fluctuations for a truer playback. The AT-LP120XUSB also sees a reconsideration of torque, the measure of force causing an object to rotate about its axis (in this case, the turntable platter).

2. Upgraded Preamp

The popular internal phono preamp in the LP120 was upgraded on the AT-LP120XUSB, providing you with a stronger signal between the turntable and your end source (either a speaker or amplifier). This offers users a plug-and-play option by simply connecting your turntable to the intended source

Users now have the option to choose between this inbuilt phono stage and a simple line out connection, allowing you to select your own preamp. This is great if you have a tried and tested model at home that you don’t want to sacrifice or are looking to connect your AT-LP120XUSB to a speaker or amplifier that has an inbuilt phono stage itself.

When thinking about hi-fi equipment it’s always great to see built-in flexibility that allows products to grow with their consumer base over time.

3. Cartridge, Tone Arm and Stylus

Known for its innovative moving-coil design and powerful output level (4.0mV), the AT-VM95E cartridge included with the AT-LP120XUSB excels in comparison to the AT-95E version available in the older LP120 model. This is high praise indeed, as the original AT-95E has been considered one of the finest budget-friendly cartridges on the market across its entire 30+ year lifespan. 

For the audiophiles amongst you, the AT-VM95E cartridge will offer a wider frequency response (20-22,000 Hz compared to 20-20,000 Hz), different output impedance (2.8 Ω vs. 3.3 Ω) and lower inductance (400 vs. 500 mV). The wider frequency response is of particular interest, as this will give you a clearer and more well-defined sound at frequency extremes. 

The AT-LP120XUSB is equipped with a 0.3 x 0.7 mil elliptical AT-VMN95E stylus, with the option to customise and upgrade to any stylus model within the VM95 range at a later date. The balanced S-shaped tonearm fitted with detachable AT-HS6 headshell features a lever for ease of control too.

4. Removable Features

There are a lot of delicate, moving parts when it comes to turntables, so it’s great to see that Audio-Technica have made some of these components easier to swap out or replace when required.

This removable power cord brings with it an external AC adaptor, which improves sound quality by reducing sound distortion caused by any reverberation or vibration inside the unit. Like the power cord, a removable RCA cable also has added benefits aside from easy replacement.

The RCA cable can now be swapped out for an RCA-3.5mm jack, making for a simple connection to the trusty Sonos Five or the Sonos Era 300 with the compatible Sonos Line-In adapter. Thanks to the inbuilt preamp, the AT-LP120XUSB can now connect straight into the back of the Sonos Five using a single cable, making for a sleek and stylish end result.

One of the original LP120's most beloved features was its stylus target light, which made it much easier to see the breaks between vinyl tracks. This tried and true feature is still very much a part of the AT-LP120XUSB, but now users can swap out the plug-in LED, making the unit much easier to fix should you have a bulb failure down the line

5. Anti-Skate Control

Pre-2017, anti-skate control was a known issue with some LP120 models, and Audio-Technica has taken this into consideration. 

Turntable tonearms have a tendency to drift towards the centre of the platter due to centripetal force. Anti-skate compensates for this by pushing in the opposite direction to keep the stylus central to the groove.

By pushing the stylus central to the groove, you counteract the tendency for the stylus to drift inwards as you get closer to the centre of the record. This will help to maintain the balance between channels to obtain equal volume from left and right to minimise any distortion.

6. Pitch range

The vari-speed pitch control on the AT-LP120XUSB has been modified and updated to give you an  industry-standard +8/+16% pitch range. This will allow you to deviate from the standard 33⅓, 45 and 78 revolutions per minute, giving you even more control over your listening experience. 

As a handy inbuilt feature, the AT-LP120XUSB also features a quartz override button. A press of this button will reset the speed to 0, allowing you to play your records at their intended speed easily.

7. Design

Taking cues from the Technics SL 1200MK2 of the 1970s club scene, the cool appearance of the LP120 has been revered since it’s inception back in 2009. This has been refreshed in the AT-LP120XUSB, making the most of these beloved features while adding even more.

The original LP120 was made with DJs in mind, whereas the LP120X puts the consumer at the forefront. Available in a choice of black or silver, all the features you loved about the earlier LP120 are elevated in this model. The S-shaped tonearm allows the AT-LP120XUSB to maintain a smaller form factor than its predecessor while still tracking the record perfectly.

The hinged dust cover, heavy cast aluminium platter and USB vinyl digitising output are all still part of the AT-LP120XUSB. Sleek rectangular buttons allow you to control the playback RPM speeds easily without needing to adjust a belt, as in most non-motorized mid-range turntables. 

We love the design of the Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB, mixing a retro feel with modern features that allow you to get the most out of your turntable setup.

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