Audio-Technica AT-LP120 Preamp Removal (Detailed Instructions Video)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by FrankieP, May 20, 2013.

  1. DoF

    DoF Forum Resident

    Now I am gonna toy with different cartridges for better/different sound :agree:
     
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  2. The Slipperman

    The Slipperman Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Boise, Idaho, USA
    I finally finished my preamp removal yesterday and was shocked to find everything worked great, no hum or anything bad despite my circuit board breakage issues. The 2016 The Wall LP sounded great and I will try to do some A/B needledrop comparisons this weekend to see if it was all worthwhile.
     
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  3. marcob1963

    marcob1963 Forum Resident

    I highly recomend the AT440mla.
     
  4. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    This thread totally horrifies me. No way in hell I am trying this. I have owned the At-120 for years and more than pleased with the sound it produces. Most of my listening is with headphones and I never hear any lack of highs at all. I did pick up a second unit for my other system. My question would be if I do not want to do this modification would it make sense to opt for a very bright sounding cartridge? I have a Shure M97xe on my other set up and find that it sounds fantastic. I guess there is always "better" but I think I would have to opt for a different TT for that.
     
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  5. Arvid Audio

    Arvid Audio New Member

    Location:
    Issaquah, WA
    Why are you telling us? You saw the subject before you started reading, and if you read all the way through, I'm thinking you haven't read a single negative comment or experience. We have made the change and made an inexpensive, well-built turntable, into a little world-beater. There is no other TT on the market with as many features, in this price range, that sounds this good after the preamp removal/disable as does the Audio-Technica AT-LP120.

    You could bypass the preamp with not a lot of work: 2 RCA jacks, a binding post, a soldering iron, some thin wire, a 1/4" drill bit and a VOM. That way you could compare AT-LP120 with and without the preamp with the flip of a switch - between AUX and PHONO on your receiver/preamp. Then you could hear the difference that the LP120's preamp makes.

    I stay very far away from very bright sounding cartridges, they hurt my ears.
     
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  6. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    Yeah, I did read through and certainly do not discount the many folks that say it does sound better. For me though, this is nowhere near what I would consider "easy". Internal surgery on the turntable. I guess I could take it to a shop and have it modified but still a huge pain really. The audio clips were not really convincing to me enough to immediately make a change. Like i said I have owned one of these for three plus years and always felt it sounded great if not staggeringly incredible through high quality headphones.
     
  7. bru87tr

    bru87tr Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lowell, MA
    I think it is a very easy surgery.

    Especially with a step by step video. Doesn't get easier than that.
     
  8. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    I would say it's easy if you are proficient in tinkering with and fixing things. Some poeple like me are not. When I watch that video there are many things that could go wrong. LOL! Hey, I'm glad it was a worthwhile upgrade for those that accomplished it. There have been a few that were unsucessful and damaged their turntables. I wish I was more confident to try this myself. I may even consider taking my turntable to a shop to do this at some point but really right now more than pleased with the sound I am getting. The risk/reward ratio does not make the grade for me. Also, I would say speakers are more important in a system than the TT (i know all components are important!)
     
  9. bru87tr

    bru87tr Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lowell, MA
    Nah, not as bad as you might think. Everything one hasn't done looks intimidating the first time.

    Kind of strange, cause I am not sure what one would have done to mess up the TT doing that.
     
  10. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    Ok, so I am doing a complete 180 on this one, my apologies for even doubting the experts on this forum! I have three turntables hooked up in my man cave. I did back and forth A/B testing yesterday of my Pioneer PL-600 (black- with original needle) versus my brand new AT-120 for around 6 hours. I have the Pioneer hooked up through an Azur 551 preamp and the At-120 hooked directly into my stereo phono stage (so I know not an exact true A/B test). The Pioneer is more detailed, brighter, louder, and much better in the high frequencies, sort of like a veil removed. Hmmmmm. More than anything this does frustrate me that I have to modify a brand new TT right out of the box. At this point I see no other alternative. It also levaes me wondering how great my headphone set up will sound with the preamp removed on that as well. I am gonna have a friend help me with this or bring it to a stereo shop. I still don't trust my uncoordinated hands even after watching the instruction video 20 plus times! LOL I thought about returning the new one and getting a vintage table but I do like the build quality overall and the features and looks so I think modification is the best route. These cancerous preamp boards are gettin' clipped!
     
  11. bru87tr

    bru87tr Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lowell, MA
    I have been tempted to buy the 120 or 1240, but can't stand you have to do this to get the best sound.

    One reason I bought the Onkyo CP-1050 as there is no preamp or USB. Bad thing is weak light platter and chatter tonearm.

    I am thinking I should have just bought the Pioneer PLX-1000, but the price is a tad too high for that table.

    If I owned the 120 I would definitely do the surgery. 120 is down to $230 too!
     
  12. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    Yeah, I got a great deal on mine, used $30 worth of Amazon credit points and it was only $230 with tax. I spoke to a stereo shop guy on the phone and they are quoting me around $75-100 per table to do it. After I said it would be a significant sonic improvement he tried to tell me otherwise. LOL then he proceeded to say they were familiar with the surgery and had completed it before. Anyway, these babies will be gettin' boxed up soon!
     
  13. bru87tr

    bru87tr Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lowell, MA
    Make sure he will cover his work, or it will be money wasted and could have done yourself and saved money.

    That guy is nuts. not sure what makes him think a junky built in preamp won't affect the sound path significantly.
     
  14. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    I think overall he was pretty cool on the phone. He may have disagreed when I used the word "significant" improvement. It is a very well regarded shop, highly rated, so I do believe they will do good work.
     
  15. Channel Z

    Channel Z Forum Resident

    Location:
    Illinois
    I removed my preamp from mine today using the excellent instructional video in post #329. This way I feel is better because no cutting and splicing is involved. You do have to use a solder iron though. I reused the RCA Cable that was connected to the preamp and soldered it to the circuit board and added a ground wire.

    I have only played one side of an LP but I did definitely hear an improvement, more detail in the sound. It's not a day and night difference but it was worth it for sure. I am still using the original cartridge that came with the AT-LP120 (AT 95e).

    One more thing, the little gold fittings that come off with the main screws do not have to be taped on before putting the bottom base on. Just slide those on your screws and when you assemble the bottom back (8 of them). Makes it much more easy.
     
  16. navydiver

    navydiver Member

    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    So this is the TT I ended up with - No question, light years ahead of the AT in sound quality - only posting this here as I am highlighting a device I added to it that all you AT-LP120-USB users might think is quite handy:

     
  17. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    Curious how much you payed for the vintage TT? The ones I have seen have not been cheap.
     
  18. DarkAudit

    DarkAudit Well-Known Member

    I didn't use a soldering iron. Just some very small wire nuts. Worked like a charm. The little nuts I dropped into the mounting holes after putting the base back together. Also worked like a charm. :D
     
  19. mooseman

    mooseman Forum Resident

    I have a cork with some rubber mixed in and I still get static on some records. I'm also looking to get all rubber mat..might have to get one from ebay.
     
  20. mooseman

    mooseman Forum Resident

    I've owned the Audio-Technica AT - LP120 since 2003, they didn't even come with the USB option that year. I took very good care of my TT, I never took out the pre-amp, I'm just to clumsy for that. I really wish I could remove the Pre Amp, it's the worst thing about this TT, it's starting to give me hum sounds, the static from some new albums drives it nuts, I have to play with the on and off switch on the pre-amp to keep the hum off. I'm looking to upgrade this year. A few things are starting go on it, like the arm left, I already had to order new hings for the dust cover. I would say the life of these AT-LP TT 120 are about 14 to 15 years. I'm using a Shure M97xe cart. I have a new cork mixed with rubber mat, plan rubber mat is better.
     
  21. navydiver

    navydiver Member

    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    Believe it or not, $90 (and that is Canadian Scooter Bucks) on UsedVictoria.com (our local used site much like craigslist). Then I heavily modded it - good friend neighbour built me the plinth (I rebuilt his computer in trade) etc. The whole rags to riches story is right here at: Embarking on a Thorens TD 165 Restoration »

    Now I wouldn't trade it for anything else because it sounds just amazing.....
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2016
  22. mooseman

    mooseman Forum Resident

    [​IMG]Audio-Technica AT-LP120 - from 2003, no USB option.
    It's on it's way out.
     
  23. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    So I will get my two turntables back tommorow from the shop. The procedure they offer is for an internal ground connection. Hopefully this is adequate, we will see. They assured me that this was the way to do it and that an external ground actually adds noise to the system. I will let you know how they sound tommorow.
     
  24. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    Very sweet, nice work! For the time being I am going to have to be content with the three TT I own. The Pioneer PL-600 I have beat the un-modded AT120's for sound but we'll see once I have the other two hooked up tonight. This shop I'm going to today had an entire room of 100 plus vintage turntables although I did notice many of them were quite expensive upwards of 600-800 or more.
     
  25. Jam757

    Jam757 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle
    The veil is lifted! Oh my!!!! the best $150 I ever spent! Blasting Santana right now and hearing those highs shine through! This is far, far, FAR more of an upgrade than a cartridge upgrade on this machine. Simply incredible!
     
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