We have not yet found a bad turntable that is made by Audio-Technica, and the AT-LP3BK is no exception. It offers great sound, fully automatic cueing that quells any fears of scratching your records, and a nice minimalistic aesthetic. Even though we love this turntable, if you're not deterred by its high list price we would strongly recommend spending another just a bit more on the Audio Technica AT-LP120BK-USB. It offers a noticeable bump up in audio quality and features higher quality components that we feel are more than worth the extra money. However, if this represents the maximum for your turntable budget ceiling, or you find the AT-LP3BK on sale, we doubt you'll be disappointed.
Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK Review
Pros: Good sound quality, fully automatic cueing
Cons: Somewhat prone to skipping
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|Pros||Good sound quality, fully automatic cueing||Exceptional sound quality, high quality construction, easy to use||Great sound, high quality construction, easy to use||Good sound, fully automatic cueing, great vibration resistance||Good sound quality, high quality construction, good vibration resistance|
|Cons||Somewhat prone to skipping||Susceptible to skipping if bumped, expensive||Expensive||Expensive||Expensive, fully manual, some static distortion at higher volumes|
|Bottom Line||A solid performer that offers the convenience of fully automatic cueing||Great for audiophiles that want the best possible listening experience||A great all-around package that is a perfect first turntable||Good sound with the added convenience of automatic cueing and top notch vibration resistance||Good sound and construction that is held back by a higher than average price point and less user friendly design|
|Rating Categories||Audio-Technica...||Pro-Ject Debut...||Audio-Technica...||Fluance RT81||U-Turn Audio Orbit...|
|Sound Quality (40%)|
|Component Quality (25%)|
|User Friendliness (25%)|
|Vibration Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Audio-Technica...||Pro-Ject Debut...||Audio-Technica...||Fluance RT81||U-Turn Audio Orbit...|
|Cartridge||Audio Technica AT91R||Ortofon 2M Red||Audio Technica AT95E||Audio Technica AT95E||Ortofon OM 5E|
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-LP120BK-USB, is appreciably better.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK was right in the middle of 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. This combo earned it a fairly average score or 6 out of 10 in this metric. 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-LP120BK-USB. 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 $250, which feels like 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-LP120BK-USB (list price: $300). However, the AT-LP3BK is still a good value in its own right and a great choice if your budget maxes out at $250.
The AT-LP3BK is a well designed turntable that provides good sound and the convenience of fully automatic cueing.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata