Should I Buy This Turntable?

I am doing spring cleaning. Yes, it is currently winter. But I live in Florida, and it's too damn hot to do manual labor in the spring. Ergo I am currently cleaning out my storage locker. As a result, I think I have to buy this Audio-Technica turntable. I'll explain.

Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun's tomb, Indiana Jones discovered the Lost Ark, and I have discovered my old LP record collection. Not just any records, and certainly not any recordings of Adult Contemporary Easy Listening music, I am talking about a library of absolutely legendary classical music recordings from various labels, a treasure trove of never-played and unopened Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissues, and assorted other really tasty vinyl.

Back in the day, because of my evangelizing for digital audio, I was widely regarded as the Antichrist by many analogphiles. What they didn't know was that while I knew The Future would be digital, I also enjoyed listening to records. I strongly believed that digital media provided a far more accurate reproduction of the master recording, but I also couldn't deny that there is just something about an analog record.... But at some point, the record collection went into the storage locker time capsule.

And now that The Future is here, those vintage LPs have re-emerged. Yes, a vintage turntable re-emerged as well, but it hasn't aged as well as the records. I need a new turntable. And, this new Audio-Technica AT-LP2022 (finally, a model number that makes sense) has caught my eye.

Just the facts: Released on the 60th anniversary of the founding of Audio-Technica by Hideo Matsushita; manual belt-drive; limited production of 3,000 units; claimed by A-T to be “the finest turntable A-T has ever created;” 30mm-thick acrylic chassis, and acrylic platter; a carbon-fiber tonearm mounted on a metal base, with adjustable vertical tracking angle, tracking force and anti-skating; height-adjustable isolation feet; external power supply; an elliptical AT-VM95E cartridge in black housing pre-mounted on an AT-HS4-SV headshell, as well as an AT-VMN95SH Shibata stylus with clear housing; the VM95 cartridge can be fitted with other stylus geometries; retail price of $1200.

I like this turntable for three reasons. First, although some may eschew the acrylic as a gimmick, I quite like it. The plastic should be reasonably anti-resonant, and I greatly appreciate the see-through aesthetic that shows off the inner workings. I have built of number of DIY audio devices and computers and chose to build them as exoskeletons to show off the workings.

Second, I like its simplicity of design. A turntable should spin records and allow for correct tracking– that's all. No bells and whistles like Bluetooth connectivity (heresy), a changing mechanism (burn it with fire) or any other Baroque stuff.

Third, it's made by Audio-Technica – IMHO they make excellent turntables at fair prices. I have never been interested in turntables that cost more than an Italian handmade steel bicycle frame. Or, to put it another way, if I had several thousands of dollars to spend, I'd rather get an expensive bike than an expensive turntable; I respect the fact that you may choose otherwise, even though you would be wrong.

In any case, here I am. It is currently The Future, and I am shopping for a turntable, a decidedly vintage technology. I never thought I would be doing this. Maybe at some point I slipped into an alternate universe. Maybe that's why I'm shopping for a turntable. Maybe that's why I'm doing spring cleaning in winter.

dommyluc's picture

Buy it! After all, everything sounds so much more "warm" and "natural" when played on acrylic plastic! /s

jcarys's picture

I'm of the opinion that if it makes you happy, it can't be half bad. Start cleaning that vinyl collection, and get it out of the heat.

jagxjr15's picture

Turntables are crude high-noise, high-distortion low-tech garbage from ancient times. If you are into audio nostalgia, that impulse would be better satisfied by an investment in an original gramophone with a pretty acoustic horn that you can polish to your heart's content.

For musical enjoyment, stick to a universal optical disc machine. Mount your precious LPs on the wall or sell them for a killing to naifs who think analog LPs are better than CDs (or any digital audio.) Meanwhile, Mark Waldrep (he of AIX Records fame) has found that native 24/96 is indistinguishable from CD in a rigorous double-blind test of over 400 different listeners. And CD has demonstrably better resolution than any analog recording medium.

It's all about sci-incerizin' and engineer-icizin', son. Don't let them Dark Siders corrupticate yer brane. Grow-up, and Live-up t'yer title, Mister Perfesser Man. Them LP-Lovin' Dark Siders is insane in the Mem-brane (insane in the brane).

John_Werner's picture

I’ve thought about the LP a lot. When I was a kid we had a mono set-up through a black and white Motorola TV that had a RCA audio input. I can’t remember the brand of old record changer we had, but you could play everything, that would be 78’s, 45’s and LPs. You could stack ‘em too, which we did.

My dad had an old “battleship” sized Pentron reel to reel. I wasn’t even 10 and I was already getting the music bug. This was in the sixties. I became obsessed with the Lafayette and Allied Radio catalogs. I began to figure things out when I got a Garrard record changer of my own and soon thereafter a Wollensak 6300 reel to reel tape deck. Sound was about capturing precise variations in air pressure; vibrationally in records and magnetically in tape. Both mediums had to move past a “pick-up” which could turn the fluctuations into electrical energy. There must be enough of this “stored representation of music” extracted for a fair representation of music to be realized using these electrical amplified “sound waves” by the loudspeakers.

I’m over 60 now and I still love audio gear. Sometimes at my age I like to see and touch it more than use it which seems strange indeed. I went through all of the above because I feel the best way to get audio is often the most simple approach. Isolate what matters and do it well, likewise remove everything possible otherwise. I think this A-T turntable has that aesthetic in looks and engineering. It all comes down to the record groove and the needle (uh, stylus). Get everything else out of the way as much as possible save for providing a non-resonant (at audible frequencies) platter ran at exact speed. This set-up shows tremendous potential in this regard, especially with the Shibata shaped diamond as it has more contact over a larger area than other shapes. $1200 is not cheap, and Project, for one, has a compelling tables at about half the price. But, without any high and mighty talking heads comments on the actual performance I simply see something that probably gets that 95% of what is possible out of a recording at a price that many can shell out. The only question, of course, is if my gut is right. That said I still own a AR XA because of these reasons.

jagxjr15's picture

Your gut is wrong.

Your brain, not your gut, is the thing that will get you great sound without wasting money and time on expensive junk.

Read Mark Waldrep's great book "Music and Audio: A User Guide To Better Sound" follow the advice therein. It's the most comprehensive guide to the real-world engineering and use of audio devices I have ever found, and I've been stuck in this hobby for over 40 years. You also should read up on his AES-published paper showing that high res digital is indistinguishable from Redbook CD in a consumer setting.
He devoted most of his life to promoting and selling high res music recordings to audiophiles and now he has to admit CD is just as good for consumer audio. Here are a couple of links: