Not long after Technics announced the demise of its famous SL-1200 turntable, Audio Technica has surfaced with a deck that is surely an homage to that evergreen Japanese direct drive. The new AT-LP1240USB sports a direct-drive 16-pole, three phase motor running at 33-1/3, 45 or 78 RPM. There’s an S-shaped tone arm with adjustable tracking force and anti-skate and detachable headshell. As per the Technics, the arm has locking height adjustment to dial in the vertical tracking angle, but the new deck also sports a built-in switchable phono preamp with USB output, for archiving vinyl records to digital music files that can be played back on portable MP3 players.
Although the AT-LP1240USB looks and feels very similar to the Technics in use, it isn’t quite as well built. Yes, you get the cast aluminium platter with strobe markings and slip mat, illuminated speed indicator, adjustable pitch, start/stop button, removable stylus target light, and the base is also rubberised, just like the SL. But the top plate doesn’t seem as well made, and the tonearm – although nicely finished – feels like there’s more play in the bearing housing than the SL-1200. The deck is made for Audio Technica by a Chinese OEM to the company’s specifications. It looks like it shares a lot in common with Hanpin’s DJ-5500 design. There are a range of other DJ decks that follow this blueprint pretty closely, such as Reloop’s RP-6000 and Stanton’s STR8-150.
Spin it up with a half-decent cartridge such as a Goldring 2500 moving magnet, and it actually sounds rather good, with a nice tight bass, an open, detailed midband and a crisp treble – but again it’s not quite up to the stellar standards of the Technics. It still looks really rather good value at £500 though, and should respond well to some gentle tweaking – such as a better platter mat, record weight, and Litz headshell wires. For more info, see www.audiotechnicashop.com.