Audio-Technia – AT-LP5 turntable reviewed

High-fidelity playback and modern bells and whistles are combined in this turntable, aimed at those of us who are rediscovering our passion for some needle time, says Ian Peel..

Additional equipment ALR Jordan Classic 2 speakers & Rega Brio amp
Price £349

If you want to sit back and enjoy new vinyl releases on a strong, audiophile deck, or if you require a reliable, accurate playback system for ripping all your old records to digital files, then this system aims to please on both counts.

The AT-LP5 has a J-shaped tonearm (far more adept than a straight arm at reducing tracking errors, it’s claimed) and outputs either via phono, line stereo or USB. It’s a direct-drive turntable with a cast-aluminium platter and comes ready-fitted with the AT95EX Dual Moving Magnet cartridge (available exclusively on this model) mounted on a lightweight headshell, the AT-HS10, with its very fetching gold-plated connections.

With a reassuringly minimalist design (and a nice, thick 5mm composite rubber mat), 33 1/3 and 45 RPM speeds are selected with a combined power/stop knob on the front left.

To put the LP5 through its paces, we combined it with a tried-and-tested amp, the Brio 3 from Rega. Outweighing the turntable on price (it comes in at £598), the Brio 3 put this deck on the highest sonic pedestal available – clearly a far cry from simply plugging the USB output into your laptop.

Likewise, rather than listening back through computer speakers or headphones, we treated it to some very complementary speakers in the form of a pair of Classic 2s from the team at Essen’s ALR Jordan – and these were given some room to breathe via a pair of very striking RS 203 stands by Custom Design.

We used the Rega amp to test the Planar 3 turntable in Issue 2, but this time, I took a moment to sit back and use a feature I overlooked last time and enjoy the remote control to trigger its powered, motor-driven volume knob.

Torque talk

The first thing that struck me about this deck was the high torque of the drive belt. With a firm twist of the start/stop knob, the turntable was up to speed almost straight away. One thing I did notice, though, was that it is quite a microphonic deck, so it amplified my (rather less than gentle, I have to admit) thudding of the arm lever when I lowered the tonearm down to play my first test disc: though it has to be said that the volume was up very high and it was noticeable only on the intro’s silent grooves. When I tried to replicate the sound when going inland on another of the test discs, it was, of course, entirely absent.

I dispensed with the included-as-standard Perspex cover and instantly found this to be a reassuringly heavy, nicely engineered deck. It’s an interesting stay-at-home dad, compared to the refusing-to-grow-up uncle that is Audio-Technica’s more DJ-focused AT-LP120. They’re very similar price-wise and, for a comparison to other vendors, this deck sits right between Rega’s Planar 1 and Planar 2.

The two test discs we used for this review couldn’t have been more different and were plucked from the Long Live Vinyl office collection, with the LP5’s two main uses in mind. So, for latter-day audiophiles, a brand-new reissue of the 12″ of Prince’s Raspberry Beret; and for archive rippers, a very well-loved (ie, tremendously scratched and crackly) original edition of Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July, aka ‘The One With Happy Birthday’.
Raspberry Beret is one of a whole stack of reissued Prince vinyl that’s come from Warner Music this year. Last month, the label not only gave us this, but also very accurate replicas of the 12″ editions of Let’s Pretend We’re Married, U Got The Look, Cream, If I Was Your Girlfriend and Kiss.

Uncredited, but remixed by Prince himself, the 6:36 New Mix (not 7:25 as stated on the artwork, an error replicated on this reissue) has a lot of space and room to breathe around all the instruments and sections, in what was an intentionally dense and psychedelic original. And the LP5 conveys all this with aplomb.

And how about the Stevie Wonder disc? Very impressive, actually, with strings and snares brought out to the fore. The vinyl was covered in scratches and wear and tear from over the years, but the AT-LP5 dealt with it surprisingly well, letting the crackles sit on top of the music, almost sonically separating it out. My enjoyment of the album’s highlight – Master Blaster from the start of Side Two – wasn’t spoilt one jot and, with the bundled Audacity software that comes with this turntable, you should be able to clean up, de-pop and de-hiss a recording of something such as this very easily before filing it away for iPod use.