Audio-Technica AT-LP5x
Audio-Technica AT-LP5x
Audio-Technica AT-LP5x

Audio-Technica AT-LP5x: Pleasent design and high quality workmanship

The Audio-Technica AT-LP5 player has a built-in phono stage on board, which allows you to connect it to any integrated amplifiers or AV receivers via a regular line input. However, if the user has a high-quality external preamplifier-corrector at his disposal, then the AT-LP5 can be connected to it by disabling the built-in turntable circuitry. This model is also equipped with a USB output, which can be used to digitize vinyl records and then record them on a PC, and the AT-LP5 comes with a USB connector and a disk with the necessary software.

The device is equipped with a direct disk drive, which is rarely used today, which has a number of advantages over the much more common belt drive. The AT-LP5 features two electronically selectable LP speeds (33.3 and 45 rpm) and uses an aluminum platter with a thin damping mat. The latter effectively dampens all parasitic vibrations that can degrade sound quality, and at the same time looks very organic on the player, without violating the integrity of its design.

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The tonearm on the Audio-Technica AT-LP5 turntable has a J-shape, which can be seen from the very successful vinyl models of the 1960s and 70s. Today, thanks to the use of new materials and design solutions, it provides very high accuracy in reading information from a vinyl record. Of course, the player is equipped with a proprietary audio cartridge produced by Audio-Technica – the AT95 MM head in an exclusive Ex version, which is mounted on an AT-HS10 holder, also produced by this company.

So, before us is a device clearly aimed at young, progressive and, most likely, completely inexperienced music lovers in terms of analog sound reproduction. And if so, then its indispensable attributes are an affordable price, a complete sound pickup and a built-in phono preamplifier, and in our case also an internal ADC with a USB interface and Audacity software for digitizing records.

By the way, vinyl-maniacal snobbery aside, this thing is not so useless. Having bought an interesting disc for the occasion, you can “cut” it for listening on the same mobile phone. Although I would, of course, just go to the tracker and download the desired release from there without any qualms – since I already paid for it anyway. It would have turned out faster and almost certainly much better. However, we won’t completely discount the chance of obtaining a particularly exotic publication that is not available in torrent communities.

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There is another scenario – saving family values, that is, records stored on shelves for many years (or even decades). Mostly, of course, for children. And often this is done by people who are not familiar with any torrents in principle.

Unlike other inexpensive players from the current Audio-Technica line, the appearance of our turntable does not hint at all about the DJ style. The appearance is the most high-end, and in the classical sense of the word. The table is a black, matte, fairly thick and weighty slab of regular rectangular shape, made of an unknown material. It rests on large, massive-looking legs. In fact, they turned out to be adjustable plastic discs with shock-absorbing rubber washers, and their damping capacity and contact area with the surface are quite large. On the top surface of the table, in addition to the tonearm block and support disk, there was a single drum that starts the motor and switches speeds.

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You can completely turn the power on or off only using a button on the rear panel, the existence of which is almost impossible to guess without studying the instructions. Unless you plugged the power cord into the socket next to it yourself. Yes, yes, the power supply is built-in, which is quite justified in this price segment, if, of course, it is made more or less competently and does not change the sound too noticeably. By the way, the undoubted advantage of the standard IEC electrical cord is full grounding of the chassis, but again, provided that the electrical wiring in the apartment is done properly.

In addition to the power section, on the rear plane there was a pair of RCA sockets, from which you can remove both a linear signal, amplified by the built-in phono preamplifier, and a direct one – directly from the pickup. Again, keeping in mind the goals and tastes of potential owners, the decision is extremely competent and far-sighted. It eliminates unnecessary difficulties for those who don’t even know the word “phono preamplifier”, but, on the other hand, it gives the opportunity for easy progress for those who sooner or later grow out of the standard kit.

The gain selector toggle switch is quite small and puny, but this is not a problem, since the need to switch it will arise extremely rarely. But the grounding terminal located next to the “tulips” looks quite solid and reliable.

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Assembling the kit out of the box presented absolutely no problems. A disc cast from aluminum alloy must be installed on the engine pulley – direct drive eliminates even a short fiddling with the belt. We place a heavy, injection molded rubber mat on top. We screw a counterweight onto the back of the J-shaped tonearm, and in one movement we attach the AT-HS10 bayonet shell with the AT-95EX pickup already installed in it to the front. That’s all, in fact, you can start setting up – just as simple, but, as usual, requiring care and accuracy.

By the way, the markings on the counterweight for setting the downforce did not inspire much confidence in me at first – the marks on it were simply stamped with paint. In fact, the scale is marked quite correctly, but for maximum installation accuracy it is still better to use scales. Anti-skating is adjusted with a small dial next to the tonearm gimbal, and to check the pickup alignment, a template is included with visual explanations for beginners.

But for the accuracy of horizontal installation, you will have to look for a bubble level in the tool cabinet. Although in the model for amateurs it would not hurt to install it directly into the body. Then, at least, they would be less likely to forget that for a turntable, a strictly horizontal position is a critical requirement.

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The standard equipment of the turntable includes an AT95EX MM head with an elliptical sharpening needle, in addition to which I used a much more advanced (and costs almost as much as the entire turntable assembly) new audiophile cartridge VM750SH. The AT-95EX is a variant of the well-known AT-95E cartridge, which is considered a very good option in terms of performance and cost in the price range up to $100. Our version differs from the basic version in the red color of the plastic insert and the upper playback limit expanded from 20 to 22 kHz.

The first thing I wanted to find out in my hands-on testing was how much direct drive can be justified in a $500 turntable (in our stores). It’s no secret that low-quality Direct drive implementations can present much more unpleasant surprises than a simple design with a belt. However, doubts about this were quickly dispelled. The rumble was practically not felt, and the level and spectrum of detonation did not force us to constantly analyze the sound for uninvited modulations and tonal correspondence to the sound from a digital source.

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The standard cartridge demonstrated quite tolerable detail and decent tonal balance with some emphasis in the area from the upper middle to mid-treble. The music scene turned out to be quite detailed, but its spatial characteristics will not be too impressive for a connoisseur accustomed to high-quality digital sources. But not because the turntable is seriously underperforming in this regard, but simply due to the lack of miracles in our lives – in this price category it would be simply naive to expect a filigree channel separation from a pickup.

As for the built-in phono preamplifier, it definitely sounds better than the most inexpensive external devices, so a beginner vinyl recorder will clearly not be at a loss. I was pleased with the fairly correct handling of the bass, which turned out to be surprisingly collected and well structured for a player of this class. The credit for this, of course, goes not only (and perhaps not so much) to the phono preamplifier, but to the entire complex of table – drive – platter – cartridge – tonearm. By the way, the design weighs a total of 10.5 kg – not bad for its level.

Returning to the phono stage, I note that its sound is a little specific. I would say that, despite the bouncy treble delivery, the overall character is a little softer, warmer and more vinyl-like than is due to the operation of the turntable itself. Apparently, so that beginners have no doubts about finding the long-awaited sound. Although there is nothing reprehensible in this – continuing the search for vinyl truth will definitely lead to another corrector and another head.

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Audio-Technica has extensive experience in the manufacture of equipment of this class, which is fully reflected in the AT-LP5 player. The Audio-Technica AT-LP5 turntable has a pleasing design and high quality workmanship and finish. This device will fit seamlessly into any interior and will perfectly complement a modern AV system, allowing its owner to listen to recordings in the increasingly popular analog format.

Characteristics: Audio-Technica AT-LP5

Type direct drive
Motor three speeds 33.1/3, 45, 78 rpm
Starting force more than 1 kg/cm
Detonation less than 0.2%
Signal-to-noise ratio more than 50 dB
Tonearm J-shaped
Anti-skating adjustable, dynamic
AT-VM95E pickup, elliptical stylus, AT-HS6 holder
Outputs Phono (4 mV), Line (250 mV), USB USB
parameters USB 2.0, 16 bit / 44.1 or 48 kHz
Dust cover included
Equipment rubber mat for 5 mm disc, RCA phono cable, USB cable
Dimensions (W x H x D) 450 x 167 x 352 mm
Weight 7.3 kg