I owe my records an apology. In the 15 or so years that I’ve been collecting, my attention span for them has ranged from hyper-fixated mama bear, making sure every LP is swaddled in a protective sleeve and out of the sunlight, to that of a negligent guardian, ignoring the needs of a collection that is probably my largest financial asset (next to the $23 in my Acorns account). You see, I recently learned that I’ve also been spinning my precious bébés on sub-par record players, slowly killing them over time just like Teri Hatcher’s character did to her neighbor in season seven of Desperate Housewives.
In a recent VICE interview with Kris Byerly of Amoeba Music, I was given all the deets on the best and worst record players on the market, and learned that my dinky portable turntable doesn’t cut the mustard for sound and a steady belt. “The honest answer [is that] maybe that there isn’t a good record player for every budget,” Byerly explained, “but there is a record player for most budgets.” Granted, when I began buying records in my teens, I barely had enough fun money to ball-out at Claire’s—let alone buy a swish turntable set-up. Sometimes, you just have to blast your bops, and for the beginning/casual collector, there’s nothing wrong with buying a novelty, aesthetic record player that makes your heart sing. But now, I’m ready to really start caring for my collection with a record player that spins my LPs with a smooth and steady rotation.
Out of all the record player brands on the web, one kept popping up again (and again) with glowing reviews: Audio-Technica. The brand’s turntables received consistent praise from Amazon reviewers—and from Byerly himself—for the range, quality, and affordability of its line, which includes the Bluetooth-enabled AT-LP60XBT turntable. At just under $200, the AT-LP60XBT promised great sound, a fully automatic wireless belt drive (the little belt that spins your player’s platter), and the ability to connect to my own wireless speakers. I was smitten.
The following are my honest notes on the AT-LP60XBT, from unboxing through assembly and including my sound quality assessment. I’m lazy and pretty tech-inept, so there will be no complicated jargon—just a sincere appraisal on whether or not it slaps.
What was rad
My AT-LP60XBT arrived swiftly, and was very well-packaged. It was so lightweight that, for a moment, I wondered if I had the wrong box or had become magically buff overnight. Sadly, the latter wasn’t the case; Audio-Technica is just really good at making sure their products can survive an ass-whooping in the mail.
When you’re about to have a baby, you buy a crib. When you’re about to get a record player, you make sure you get the right table, so I prepped by ordering this $75 Crosley stand for my living room. It might not be able to hold all of my records, but it does put a solid 25 or so on display. It also took five minutes to assemble, and was the perfect size to serve as a pedestal for my turntable.
There isn’t much to assemble with the AT-LP60XBT, which I consider a blessing. Every part slid into place like butter, and when the moment came to connect to my Alexa speaker, all I had to do was push a button for two seconds, and say, “Alexa, pair.” Within moments, I was enjoying the sounds of John Denver’s Christmas album with The Muppets like a first-time listener. If you’re someone who gets intimidated by the prospect of setting up a turntable, fret not: this one is idiot-proof.
One of the things Byerly praised about Audio-Technica was “the quality of amplification [that] comes into play” that results from solid construction, and a steady belt loop that won’t warp your sound (or records) over time. At some point, I would like to shell-out for some Sonos speakers or a set-up that’s a little more intense, but for the time being, my Alexa’s speaker is pretty powerful and did the trick just fine. The quality of the playback is crystaline, and I think my ears actually perked-up like a cartoon character when I started hearing new layers of the familiar sounds on my favorite albums; all of Mort Garson’s Moog chops were extra sparkly, and The Carter Family’s vibrato, more defined than ever. Not to get too corny, but it reminded me of the first time I got a pair of prescription eyeglasses and thought, Damn, so that’s how the world’s supposed to look.
I started collecting records in high school, so my collection feels like a sonorous scrapbook of all the places, people, and moments I’ve loved over the years. The way I see it, you wouldn’t buy a scrapbook that screws up your photos over time, so why would you settle for a record player that gives you anything less than a steady, sparkling listening experience? Audio-Technica saved my records from the fate of a wonky belt and a scratch-prone needle, but it also reignited my love of collecting in a way that made me feel like a teen again.
What was tricky
Not much. Again, everything is very well-packaged and labeled with this turntable, but I did have to watch this YouTube tutorial to make sure I didn’t screw anything up in the assembly process (which took about 10 minutes, because I’m cautious AF), such as hooking the belt in place on the turntable.
Do you have an emotional connection to your vinyl collection? Have you been spinning your LPs on dinky portable turntables for years, and are in the market for an affordable upgrade? Audio-Technica's LP60XBT is an excellent record player for mid- to serious-level collectors, because it’s easy to put together, connects to your own speakers (either by Bluetooth or a provided cable), and brings a surprising amount of sound definition to your favorite albums.
I used to think that complicated turntable set-ups were a must for a better listening experience, but the LP60XBT made it easier than ever to turn on, tune in, and drop into the sounds of my favorite artists without the hassle (or price tag) of an overly-intricate system. For the love of your first Bowie album, smash that order button to start pampering your ears, and your beloved records.
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