Quick listen: Audio Technica's mature, living room-friendly AT-LP5 turntable
Vinyl lovers looking for a quality turntable that doesn't break the bank may have encountered Audio Technica's surprisingly weighty AT-LP120USB turntable on their travels. Close enough in looks to easily be mistaken for a Technics SL-1200 from a distance, the direct drive groove machine continues to attract rave reviews from consumers and industry pundits alike despite being on the market for a few years now, and having a design aesthetic that isn't exactly what you might call "living room-friendly." At IFA this year, Audio Technica was showing off a new and more mature-looking turntable called the AT-LP5 and inviting booth visitors to sit on a comfy couch for a listen. Gizmag had a quick ears on.
The AT-LP5 features a thick chassis with heavy-mass metal inserts designed to minimize resonance issues. A quick tour of the top starts with a good-sized circular power and speed dial to the left. The turntable is reported ready to rock from cold at either 33.3 or 45 RPM in less than 2 seconds, though we're not able to confirm that as the model in the booth had been spinning away for a good while by the time we got to sit down in front of it.
Moving right brings you to a die-cast aluminum platter topped by a 5 mm thick damping mat that's driven by a direct drive technology for stable rotation. Rather than go straight, Audio Technica has installed a j-shaped tonearm to minimize tracking errors, at the end of which an AT-HS10 headshell packing an AT95EX Dual Moving Magnet cartridge can be found. The latter has been created especially for the new turntable and is reported to deliver extended frequency response.
A hydraulically-damped tonearm lifting mechanism (no automatic operation here folks), anti-skate control knob and an adjustable counterweight (with a range of 0 to 5 grams possible for cartridges weighing 7-8 g) round out the tour of the top.
Like the AT-LP120USB, the LP5 sports its own USB port for digitization of albums via a direct connection to a computer running third party audio capture software like Audacity.
Many modern amplifiers no longer come with a phono stage to boost the output from a turntable, meaning that those new to vinyl will have to buy an external phono preamp. Happily, the LP5 includes its own internal preamp so it can be connected straight to a hi-fi system amplifier, or via an external preamp if desired.
The company says that the LP5 has been built to "grace any room in the home while delivering performance features born out of Audio Technica's rich analog heritage," so does it deliver the goods?
Aesthetically, it's a lot less in-your-face and eye-popping than the DJ-oriented LP120USB and that's a good thing. Its matte black with the occasional burst of dark and shiny detailing brings a sense of maturity to the new turntable. Though featuring a similarly chunky chassis to the earlier model, the LP5 is a good deal lighter at 7.4 kg (16.3 lb).
So to the music, which turned out to be a few tracks from virtuoso instrumental band Special Providence. The listening experience was undoubtedly helped by the W1000z headphones, the new Japan-only AT-AH5000 amplifier and the whestTWO phono preamp, but it was a pleasant experience nonetheless.
The LP5 sounds great, with a quiet background, good channel separation and audio clarity. There were no detectable speed shifts and no embarrassing skates. Obviously we'd have to get this new turntable on the review bench before totally committing, but based on our quick listen the LP5 looks set to become another entry-level turntable winner for Audio Technica.
The AT-LP5 is due for release later this month, but the booth representative was only able to offer us GBP pricing of £330 (about US$500).
Source: Audio Technica