Ranking second overall, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB was bested only by the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon in our testing. Though the AT-LP120BK-USB's sound quality is just slightly inferior to that of the Debut Carbon, its additional features, convenient built-in preamp, and lower price point make it a better choice for most people. It offers a great listening experience in a package that is self-contained and simple, making it perfect for pretty much anyone looking to get into the vinyl game. Yes, if you want the best possible sound quality the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon does sound a bit better, but the AT-LP120BK-USB gets 95% of the way there at a lower cost and with a higher convenience factor.
Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB Review
Pros: Great sound, high quality construction, easy to use
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB was one of the best models we tested, and offers the easiest and best overall experience. Unless you're willing to put in a little extra effort for slightly better sound quality the AT-LP120BK-USB is the best turntable available for less than $500.
The AT-LP120BK-USB received one of the top overall scores in our testing. Below we describe its performance in all of our individual testing metrics.
The AT-LP120BK-USB occupied the second step on our sound quality podium with a score of 8 out of 10.
We were quite impressed by the AT-LP120BK-USB's sound quality in our testing. It was able to produce a clear, well defined sound that was also quite full. When compared to a standard mp3 it had noticeably more depth. The only model we tested that sounded better than the AT-LP120BK-USB was the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, which sounded just a bit clearer and had a slightly bigger dynamic range. Those differences were only really apparent in strict, side-by-side listening sessions. In isolation the AT-LP120BK-USB sounded great and we doubt anyone would be disappointed by its sound.
The AT-LP120BK-USB was one of the best built models we tested, lagging behind only the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon.
The AT-LP120BK-USB is the only model we tested that uses a direct drive, but it still seemed capable of dampening any motor vibrations. This may be due to its heavy aluminum platter and felt mat. The only model with a better platter is the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus, which has a heavy acrylic platter, but the AT-LP120BK-USB still sounds better. We liked its AT95E Dual Magnet Cartridge. The metal tonearm is a bit on the heavy side, but with a good balancing job it has a nice supple feel. The carbon tonearm of the Debut Carbon was noticeably better in this capacity, but not so much so that it's worth upgrading for that component alone.
The AT-LP120BK-USB was the most user friendly model we tested, earning the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric.
The AT-LP120BK-USB is incredibly adjustable, sporting pitch control, speed settings for 33's, 45's, and 78's, and an automatic speed change function that detects what type of record you're using and adjusts speed accordingly. All of this adjustability is controlled with a clear and intuitive interface. It does not have automatic cueing, but its tonearm has a cue lever that lowers the needle down slowly, so you don't have to do it by hand. On top of all this the AT-LP120BK-USB offers digital conversion. This process is somewhat time consuming but a nice option to have in case you come across a rare record that you want to digitize.
The only way you could improve upon the AT-LP120BK-USB's user friendliness is to add an automatic tonearm, so you could push a button and have the tonearm move into place and lower the needle automatically. This is a great feature for new vinyl enthusiasts. However, the AT-LP120BK-USB's and its cue lever makes cueing fairly easy, even if it's not fully automated. You just have to swing the tonearm into place and then pull the cue lever as opposed to having a motor swing the cue lever around.
The AT-LP120BK-USB was average in our vibration resistance testing with a score of 6 out of 10.
This score puts it even with the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, the other model that led our sound quality testing. It was fairly easy to get the AT-LP120BK-USB to skip when bumping into the table it was placed on. However, it stood up to most stomping and dancing in its general vicinity. The only model that could really pass the bumping the table test was the Fluance RT81. It still skipped with a strong bump, but was able to play through most moderate bumps.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB offers high quality sound at a mid range price. It's a great value for anyone looking for great sound from their turntable.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120BK-USB's combination of great sound and a reasonable price in an easy to use package make it the perfect first turntable for just about anyone.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata