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Audio Technica AT-PL-120

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by action pact, Feb 23, 2008.

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  1. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore Thread Starter

    I don't have the budget for REALLY nice stereo gear, so I picked up an Audio Technica AT-PL-120 a few years ago, and I really like it.

    I never used the supplied ATP-2 cartridge, figuring it is probably the lowest of the low end, and designed for club DJs anyway. (The recommended heavy tracking weight scared me off too.) I immediately installed a Grado.

    I also replaced the dust-attracting felt mat with a generic rubber mat that the local hifi store had in the back room.

    The AT-PL-120 is obviously a knockoff of a 1200, but less rugged. Still, I have been really pleased with its performance and features. The fact that it plays 78s is a major plus for me - it even has a dock for my extra headshell.

    Despite being direct drive, it runs very smoothly.

    I really have nothing bad to say about this table. The price (about $200) is definitely not proportional to its quality. I think its sound performance is superb.

    I'm wondering if any of you hifi experts have any experience with this turntable?
     
  2. AVTechMan

    AVTechMan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Texas, USA
    I bought this table last summer, as I needed one with pitch features on it. I sold the PL-50 I used to have and got this one. And for what its worth, its a very good table, and I haven't had any issues with it. My record collection has expanded quite a bit since I gotten the table, and plan to get more vinyl.

    I used the stock cart for awhile, but then I upgraded and got the ML440a and I really like how it sounds. I have only had a few hours on it so far but will sound even better once its fully broken in.

    I also like that the table is fully manual, as it makes it easier to record from songs that end right before the arm usually would jump up on the auto tables. Much easier and better control being all manual.

    The only thing I do not like about this table is that the RCA cable on the back is too short and can't reach my receiver. I know the table has a built-in preamp but my receiver still has one too, so why not make use of it. Also you can't detach that cord like you can with other tables and substitute it for a longer one.

    Other than that minor thing, I really like this table and is perfect for those of us that can't afford the $5K+ turntables.
     
  3. Tim H.

    Tim H. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cottonwood AZ
    I'm not a hi-fi expert, but I bought the AT-PL120 from a Forum member here a couple years ago and I have no complaints at all, really. I'm using a Grado cart on mine but am going to get the ML440a soon (as soon as LPGear has them back in stock).

    If I had any experience with modding, I would swap out the stock RCA cables with better ones, but I'm too chicken to try.

    I think it's a great intro-level table for someone getting into or back into vinyl.
     
  4. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore Thread Starter

    I once A/B'd the turntable's preamp against the phono preamp in my 1989 Pioneer SX1200, and the Pioneer's was better.
     
  5. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE. In Memoriam

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    Not a bad turntable, but the built-in preamp is nothing to write home about. It's much better with an outboard preamp. If using a heavy cartridge/headshell combination, you have to have the counterweight back so far that it hits the dust cover at the end of the record. One thing that I do when transferring vinyl into the computer is let down the tonearm into the groove, then hit reverse for a few seconds to back it into the lead-in groove, then put it back forward to start recording. That saves the "scooting" of the stylus across the lead-in and into the first song, which the turntable has a tendency to do. It's really a good value, it does a lot for the money.
     
  6. Tone

    Tone Forum Resident

    :righton: ..... I wonder if any 3rd party 'mods' are offered or recommended for this unit.
     
  7. AVTechMan

    AVTechMan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Texas, USA
    Yeah that's what I meant....I use the external preamp for my turntable as well, since it tends to sound more mellow and relaxed to my ears. Built-in can be handy if you want to listen with headsets with no external preamp nearby (like the cable that came with the PL-50)
     
  8. TONEPUB

    TONEPUB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    I've had great luck with mine as well. Using a wood body grado and a Shure M97 with mine with excellent results.

    I wouldn't do a lot of playing it in reverse though, that will take your stylus out eventually....
     
  9. vomitgod

    vomitgod New Member

    Location:
    Boston
    I've had a PL-120 paired with a zPhono for about six months and really like it so far. I upgraded the cart to a ML440a, and although the tracking is great, I think it's too bright for my ears, and I've started to notice sibilance.

    Any suggestions for lower-end (i.e. inexpensive) carts that I might like better than the ML440a?
     
  10. AVTechMan

    AVTechMan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Texas, USA
    The 440a does tend to sound a bit bright when you first buy it and use it. I think that after some playing time, at least about 50 hours or so the sound usually will mellow down and will sound more even.
     
  11. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore Thread Starter

  12. OcdMan

    OcdMan Senior Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    If by sibilance you mean actual high-frequency mistracking distortion (which sounds like the "s" sounds are splattering all over the soundstage) then there might be a problem with your setup or the cartridge itself.

    On the other hand, if the brightness is simply causing sibilant sounds to stand out, I can understand how that would bug you. If you feel up to making a DIY loading kit (Y-connector + RCA plug + resistor) you can really flatten out the response of that cartridge for just a few bucks.
     
  13. That does look like a lot of 'table for the money. The turntable I use for 78's is getting on in years, and if gave out on me today, I think I'd be very interested in the AT.
     
  14. ShawnMcCann

    ShawnMcCann A Still Tongue Makes A Happy Life

    Location:
    The Village
    I am currently enjoying the AT-PL120 TT with ML440a cartridge and Hagerman Bugle Pro preamp.

    At some point I'd like to upgrade to a better rig, but the next item on my list is a record cleaning machine. And a Zerostat...
     
  15. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore Thread Starter

    My 78s sound terrific on it. I have a seperate headshell with a Pickering cart and 3mm stylus, and 78s sound HUGE. The built-in extra headshell receptacle (located in the back on the right side, near the tone arm) is really convenient.

    I really dig this turntable, and I'm glad to see other here giving it the thumbs up.
     
  16. jjgaspard

    jjgaspard Forum Resident

    Location:
    Omaha, NE
    Well, I'm far from a 'hifi expert", but..I too own this TT and almost immediately replaced the stock cartridge with a ml440a and have a Sure MS78 in a second headshell parked in the little slot for occasional 78 listening.

    The built in phono stage is nice to have but not very good quailtiy, even the phonostage in the Onkyo receiver I first used to power my system was MUCH better, I've not even bothered to compare it the the stage in my C220.

    I've been nothing but happy with it, especially for the price...I don't often listen to vinyl much, but when I do I'm never dissapointed. I doubt I will ever feel the need up upgrade this link in my chain...as a casual vinyl listener who appreciates the superiority over most digital media it does it's job well (after the cart. upgrade that is). Great value for money!!!
     
  17. vomitgod

    vomitgod New Member

    Location:
    Boston
    Thanks for the info, Matt - perhaps you can listen to two quick examples? Both are inner-groove (maybe telling of a cart/stylus issue). The first example is Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed" from "In Square Circle" (on the lyric, "The SSSSandman has come") - the second is the end of Frank Zappa's "Cosmik Debris" from "Apostrophe" when he says "SSShanti!"

    16-bit 44khz wave files:

    Overjoyed

    Cosmik Debris

    Am I just being too sensitive? I don't notice as much on loudspeaker, etc. systems, but definitely when monitoring with headphones.
     
  18. OcdMan

    OcdMan Senior Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    I checked them out. I don't think you're being too sensitive, no one hates sibilance more than I do! That's the "splattering" I was talking about. It's definitely coming from the record and not from the original recording itself. But I can't tell if it is your cartridge that is mistracking or if it's old damage cause by a previous mistracking cartridge. Are these second hand LPs? Did your previous cartridge mistrack in these same spots? Definitely clean the stylus, recheck the alignment, tracking force, etc. You might be tracking too light or the arm height is too high. The Zappa sounds a little distorted overall so maybe the alignment is off or it's old groove damage. There are so many variables. Of course, there is also a chance the records are cut at a level beyond the 440MLa's ability.
     
  19. motorcitydave

    motorcitydave Enlightened Rogue In Memoriam

    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    One thing's for sure, A-T makes good products.
     
  20. vomitgod

    vomitgod New Member

    Location:
    Boston
    Yes indeed - although both appear to be in great condition and have been manually cleaned with MoFi's SRW. I have an Onzow for stylus cleaning, and my tracking weight is right around 1.5g. I'll admit that I only eyeballed the cart alignment, and should probably investigate that. Newly-purchased vinyl has sounded very good, so it could very well be previous groove damage.

    On the subject of cart alignment (I will probably get the phone book if I search SHMF, but am asking regardless) - any easy/cheap way to do this?

    I have an AT 311EP on another headshell that I will try tonight to see if I can replicate the same sibilance. I also have two or three copies of Apostrophe I can try - I've also noticed that the the entire LP sounds slightly distorted, but I assumed it was the "brightness" of the ML440a.
     
  21. ShawnMcCann

    ShawnMcCann A Still Tongue Makes A Happy Life

    Location:
    The Village
    I use one of these for cartridge alignment: http://store.acousticsounds.com/browse_detail.cfm?Title_ID=15779

    Takes a while to line up, but the results are worth it. Using this tool I found that the front of the ML440a cartridge body needs to be toed in just a bit towards the spindle.

    Also, I have the tracking force set to 1.8g via the Shure guage.

    YMMV.
     
  22. vomitgod

    vomitgod New Member

    Location:
    Boston
     
  23. OcdMan

    OcdMan Senior Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    If they're used records, then it could very well be old groove damage. Even one play with a sub-par stylus can be enough to cause some damage. :(

    As we've all found out the hard way at one point or another, eye-balling the alignment is a bad idea. I'd also recommend the Turntable Basics protractor that Shawn suggested. If you buy the Hi-Fi News Test record it already comes with a nice protractor...or at least it used to. Don't know for sure at this point. Regarding the test record, if everything is setup properly, the 440MLa should be able to track 3 of the 4 tracking tests. If it doesn't, something is wrong, IMO.

    Pick up the Shure SFG-2 gauge for setting tracking force. My AT440MLa always sounded and tracked best between 1.6g and 1.7g. I think it's safe to say most people prefer it set in the upper range, 1.5g to 1.8g.

    Note that whenever you align a cartridge or set tracking force, make sure you set the anti-skating to zero. Otherwise, the arm might slide off the platter.

    As for tonearm height, as long as the top of the tonearm is nearly parallel to the record surface, the height should be fine. I've used mine a little above and below parallel with no problems.
     
  24. vomitgod

    vomitgod New Member

    Location:
    Boston
    Thanks again for the info. I know I'll be able to get it set approximately with a good test record, but if I remember right, in the PL-120 manual, it says to set the anti-skate to roughly the same as the tracking weight. Is that, generally speaking, a good idea? Mine is currently set to 1.5, the same as my tracking weight.

    I do have a SFG-2 already, too. I guess it's time to complete my collection of accessories with a good test record/protractor! :)
     
  25. Curiosity

    Curiosity Just A Boy

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    I think for aligning yes the Anti-Skate should be at zero but once the cartridge is installed and you have set the down force most manufacturers recommend setting the anti-skate to equal the downforce although there's no harm in a bit of tuning by ear.

    The turntable is interesting because it's one of the few with easy to adjust speed settings that seems to be well made.
     
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