Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK Review
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|Pros||Good sound quality, fully automatic cueing||Good sound, fully automatic cueing, great vibration resistance||Good sound quality, high quality construction, good vibration resistance||Inexpensive, good sound, fully automatic operation||Inexpensive|
|Cons||Somewhat prone to skipping||Expensive||Expensive, fully manual, some static distortion at higher volumes||Dynamic range is a bit stunted, little adjustability||Poor sound quality, difficult to use, low quality construction|
|Bottom Line||A solid performer that offers the convenience of fully automatic cueing||Automatic cueing and good resistance to skipping offers greater peace of mind when listening to treasured old records||Good sound and construction that is held back by a higher than average price point and less user friendly design||A great and budget-friendly entry point to listening to music on vinyl||A very inexpensive model that sounds like a very inexpensive model|
|Rating Categories||Audio-Technica AT-L...||Fluance RT81||U-Turn Audio Orbit...||Audio-Technica AT-L...||Victrola Vintage 3-...|
|Sound Quality (40%)|
|Component Quality (25%)|
|User Friendliness (25%)|
|Vibration Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Audio-Technica AT-L...||Fluance RT81||U-Turn Audio Orbit...||Audio-Technica AT-L...||Victrola Vintage 3-...|
|Cartridge||Audio Technica AT91R||Audio Technica AT95E||Ortofon OM 5E||Audio Technica ATN3600L||Innovative Technology ITRRS300|
|Operation||Fully Automatic||Fully Automatic||Manual||Fully Automatic||Manual|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK offers beginner-friendly fully automatic operation and great sound, making it a great turntable for almost anyone. However, its slightly more expensive sibling, the Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB, is appreciably better.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK was right in the middle of the pack in terms of overall score, as you can see in the table above. In the sections that follow we describe the Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK's performance in all of our individual tests.
The AT-LP3BK earned a score of 7 out of 10 in our sound quality testing, putting it well above average and just behind the top performers. It produced a bright and clear sound in our testing that matched the clarity of the high-scoring Audio Technica AT-LP120BK-USB. It lost a few points because its dynamic range was a bit stunted in comparison to the top scorers. There was still enough difference between quiet and loud notes that the music had depth and bravado, but the top-scoring models did a better job of making loud notes punchy and quiet notes soft. In terms of dynamic range, the AT-LP3BK was about even with the Fluance RT81 and the U-Turn Orbit Plus, and far superior to the lower budget options like the Sony PSLX300USB.
The AT-LP3BK generally has good components where it counts, but uses some cheap plastic bits in less essential areas. It uses a belt drive and an aluminum platter. The platter is lighter than those of the higher-end models but seems to be effective at keeping and vibration from reaching the record itself. It also uses a rubber mat, which does feel like a slight downgrade from the felt mats of models like the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB. The tonearm is a light and sturdy metal that doesn't feel quite as solid as the tonearms of high-end models but is clearly better built than the tonearms of the budget models we tested. It uses a AT91R Dual Moving Magnet cartridge, which in our testing seemed to create a fairly good signal.
The AT-LP3BK was one of the top scorers in our user friendliness testing, garnering a score of 8 out of 10. This high score was largely due to its fully automatic cueing, which lets you get the needle onto the record at the push of a single button. Some other models that we tested have this feature, namely the Sony PSLX300USB, but we found Audio-Technica's iteration to be the best and most reliable. It also has a cue lever, so if you want to move the needle to a different track (which can't be accomplished with the automatic cueing), you still have the assistance of a cue lever when lowering the needle. It also automatically recognizes whether your record is a 33 of 45 and adjusts the platter speed to match. It lacks pitch control, which fine-tunes the speed in case your record is sounding slightly off. This feature rarely needs to be used, but it can be nice to have. Finally, it uses a screw-on weight to adjust the tracking force, which makes executing minute adjustments quite easy.
Unfortunately the AT-LP3BK isn't the best choice if you're going to have a bunch of people jumping around your house when listening to music. It earned the relatively low score of 5 out of 10 in our vibration resistance testing. It skipped fairly easily in our testing, even with just a slight bump to the table it was resting on. If you want something that can stand up to a lot of commotion and vibration, the Fluance RT81 is probably your best bet.
The AT-LP3BK lists for quite a fair price given its performance. For those that are willing to spend a little more, we think you get an overall better value from the Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB. However, the AT-LP3BK is still a good value in its own right and a great choice if your budget isn't as high.
The AT-LP3BK is a well-designed turntable that provides good sound and the convenience of fully automatic cueing.
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