Affordable Tunes – The Audio Technica ATLP60BK Turntable

audio technica turntableVinyl is back, and records are selling more briskly than they have in decades.  While most people seem content to listen to music on their phones or tablets these days, a lot of people are embracing the “old school” method of playing vinyl record albums.

For that, of course, you’ll need a turntable, and you can spend a bit or you can spend an absolute fortune, if that’s your thing.  Most people who are just getting into vinyl are looking for something in the entry-level category.

At rock bottom, there are some players from Crosley, but they’re terrible and are made almost entirely of plastic.  They also come with a stylus that’s good for about 50 hours of play, tops, before it will have to be replaced.  Since most people won’t get around to doing that, they’re likely doing a lot of damage to their records after just a few plays.

A nice entry in the lower price range is the Audio Technica ATLP60BK.  This is a fully functional belt-drive turntable with an aluminum platter.  A metal platter helps with speed stability, as more mass is good.  Belt drive turntables are less prone to having problems with vibration, which can adversely affect the sound during playback.

One problem with most turntables is that you’ll have to have a phono preamplifier to connect them to some sort of stereo system.  Phono cartridges have lower outputs than other devices, such as MP3 players, so an additional preamplification device is necessary.  Back in the 1960s through the 1980s, premplifiers were routinely built into stereo receivers, but as vinyl died out and compact discs took over, most manufacturers started removing preamps from receivers as a cost-cutting measure.

The ATLP60BK solves this problem by having a preamplifier built in.  There’s a switch on the back that allows you to enable it or disable it.  That way, you can connect it to a receiver with a built in phono preamp if you have one, or a standalone phono preamplifier.   If you don’t have one, and just want to connect it to an amplifier or some powered speakers, you can use the built-in preamp and you’re good to go.

If there’s a downside to this turntable, it’s the outputs.  While the ATLP60BK includes two sets of output cables, you won’t find traditional cables in the box.  Traditionally, turntables have cables with male RCA connectors on the end, as that’s what most receivers and phono preamps are expecting.  This model includes two cables, but they terminate in either a male 1/8″ miniplug or a female version of the same thing.

If you want to go with the traditional hookup, you’ll have to acquire a set of RCA cables separately.  Aside from that, this turntable will play at 33 1/3 or 45 RPM and a 45 RPM adapter is included.  It’s available in either black or silver, depending on your taste, and a magnetic phono cartridge with a replaceable stylus is included.

It’s not high end audio by any means.  But if you want to get started playing back some vinyl and learning to understand why people like records so much in the first place, the ATLP60BK is an OK place to start.  It’s affordable, at about $99 or so.

If you want to spend about $30 more, there’s another model in the line that also has a USB output, so you can connect it directly to a computer.  From there, you can rip your vinyl to MP3 or some other audio format, and you can play back your records through your desktop computer system, if you’re so inclined.

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