Does a better turntable actually sound better?

Comparing audio quality between a new $99 Audio-Technica AT-LP60 turntable and a far superior vintage 1970s Technics SL-1900 turntable equipped with the popular and well-reviewed AT95E phono cartridge.

Pre-emptive FAQ:
Q: How am I supposed to compare audio quality through a YouTube video with compressed audio?
A: You don’t have to. You can download the audio samples in uncompressed WAV format here: https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B_oqlENevINHaEZaZ0dqOUR2c28/edit

Q: I get an error when trying to open that link.
A: Try opening it in private/Incognito mode in your browser. If that still doesn’t work, here are the direct download links:

sitd-technics.wav
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_oqlENevINHZWdwV0g4UDEzRTg

sitd-atlp60.wav
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_oqlENevINHa3VVcTY3OWlXQXM

difference-technics.wav
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_oqlENevINHUC12U2V6MEdELUE

difference-atlp60.wav
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_oqlENevINHWmJfSHZadWlWbFU

Q: The music isn’t good enough to reveal the true difference in audio quality between the turntables.
A: Unfortunately, until someone releases royalty-free music on vinyl, I’m limited by what music I can use that won’t result in YouTube putting copyright restrictions on this video. But here’s the $99 AT-LP60 playing a Linda Ronstadt song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9y9gpJVbE8 You can compare that to the same song being played on a VPI Scout (a $2200 turntable) with an Ortofon 2M Black (a $700 phono cartridge): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeHMgp_TpHI

Q: The AT95E is still only a “budget” phono cartridge. You need to use a much better cartridge to make this a valid comparison.
A: Many reviewers insist that the AT-LP120 and other mid-range turntables equipped with the AT95E cartridge offer “significantly better sound quality” and “will get a finer, more detailed sound out of your records” than the AT-LP60’s AT3600L cartridge. Judge for yourself if you think that’s true.

Q: Regardless of the audio quality, everyone tells me the AT-LP60 is a bad turntable.
A: See my video “Cheap turntables – Are they really THAT bad?”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeZ9liZO-f8

Q: What are the song titles?
A: Shot in the Dark – “Make Up My Mind”; Vic Damone – “It Makes No Difference”; Mr. Fantastic (John LaDuca) – “Bittersweet Samba”

Comments

Chisora says:

I don’t know why people here say there is no difference. For me there is a difference in channel separation which is worse on AT, and very audible high frequency roll off on Technics.
Here is a spectral analysis comparison of SITD song: imgur.com/Z4qBecZ.gif
Also I compared them both to digital version and for sure AT sounds more accurate in highs

Ronnie Smith says:

I actually like the audi-tech sound better,

ppssuuu says:

Really great that you also showed how the video was edited, which I have not seen in all ther comparison videos I have watched. I would like to do the same for the many different audio equipments I have for everyone to objectively judge, as I really hate snake oil stuffs and myths in the market. Thank you.

Riilu says:

Audiophiles need some way to justify buying a $10 000 power cord and taping bags of rocks to their sound cables.

DaveK183 says:

Are you guys serious?? I’m listening on a 20 dollar earbuds and I’m hearing a difference pretty clearly. The Audio-Technica seems to have some midrange-bump, while the Technics sounds more even to me.

frank mcginn says:

Hi found this video very informative, The SL1900 was my first turntable bought new in 1977 it developed a fault around 1985 and placed in storage and I then bought a Thorens TD160 super which has been upgraded several times, better tonearms and cartridges and phono amps also inherited my dads Linn LP 12, I found your video about the repair of the SL1900 and took my technics apart with the help of your video , now its working like new Thank you.Even though my other turntables sound fantastic to me, I constantly find myself using the technics SL1900 more and more probably because of the full auto function I did replace the cartridge with an Audio Technica at120eb a great match for this turntable, What I am pleased about with the Audio Techica AT LP60 is that somebody new to vinyl and with a small budget can buy a good sounding turntable with good looks and full automatic function , and a warranty with factory back u., The Technics was never a budget turntable I remember it cost me 6 weeks wages in 1977 but it was at the lower end of Technics superb turntable range. as regards comparing how they sound , most of it is down to the cartridge and how that cartridge matches the tone arm. I do hear a difference but not as much as I would have expected , well done Audio Technica.

lrenturn says:

Not enough difference to crow about.

Deen Mia says:

I’m happy with my cheap ass audio technica thank you very much

Genysson Fox says:

Westlife, Thank you so much for helping me! But it seems that the resellers in Brazil are only getting it with 220 v factory, in this case I will have to use a converter, right? do not you risk burning the device? Are you a member of Westlife? I have the band’s cd’s, i’m fan.

Genysson Fox says:

audio technica at-lp 60 is 110 or 220 v?

MaxAwesomenessGB says:

What is the best player I can get for around $50?

Tobin Mummert says:

Let’s talk about the limits of the comparisons of these two turntables. First: you’re sending a feed through an uploaded video on YouTube. A lot of limitations right off the bat! Second: While without any doubt as an audiophile myself with over 35 years of experience under my belt, the small “newer” Audio Technica turntable is a fine little piece for someone younger who may be just getting started collecting vinyl, which is superior to any digital format, and just wants to open the box, plug in and play without taking the proper time to align the cartridge properly on the tonearm of a really nice turntable such as the Technics turntable on this video. Or maybe someone who is older and is “getting back into” vinyl and just wants to hear the old records again. The Audio Technica turntable in this video is a fine little “workhorse” and it will nicely get the “basic” job done for a mere $99.99. Third: The Technics is older indeed, BUT a much better turntable! It’s built better and and the tonearm is by far and wide more superior to the Audio Technica piece. Forth: These two turntables have two completely different phono cartridges attached/mounted on the tonearms. The Audio Technica is utilizing a low grade “entry” level Audio Technica cartridge while the Technics is utilizing a cartridge that is an Audio Technica cartridge a few steps up in quality therefor not really being fair to the viewer of this video. NOW, if you would’ve used the same “low grade” cartridge” on both turntables that would’ve been a lot more fair to the average Joe watching this video. BUT, with my years of experience as an audiophile, I can beyond safely say that even if you would’ve used the same “low grade” cartridge on both turntables, the “older” Technics turntable would’ve still out preformed the “newer” turntable, hands down!

cacadodo666 says:

‘$250 difference+whatever that amp cost’ worth of a difference? Hell no.

John Chase says:

Recording engineer tossing in a hat. Anyone hearing a difference on youtube, especially on their inexpensive earbuds, laptop speakers, tablets, and so on, are experiencing Cognitive Bias. It is a very powerful effect, amd you will hear amazing things… I thought there was more depth in the midrange at one point in the AT, which made no sense to me unless there was a problem with the cartridge on the Technics. Kept listening, and as usual, you can’t hear a darn thing on on YT unless there’s more than a dB of EQ change.

Badassvidsz says:

The Technics may have better specs but it uses low badget cartridge ..
why didn’t you put an equally expensive cartridge on Technics and also why not Technics ?

It’s like we compare a corolla to a mercendes but with corolla engine for both
Pointless though !!

But yet again the A.T sounded very very good 🙂

Leesherwood says:

Conical vs elliptical stylus….really? apples to tomatoes?…not even oranges? besides the rumble and and wow and flutter specs, to me at least the most determining factor would be your cartridge and stylus….no?

ghlyall says:

The Technics does sound better, which I suppose it would.

Jeremy Travis says:

I don’t know. I’m 66 and spent my life in music.
I was listening on my Harmon Kardon sound sticks with a sub woofer on my computer and I could not really tell much difference

Favourite Tree says:

i.m very fortunate in that i play with the old 70, type pub jukeboxes [45rpm records], my mate had a $10,000 stereo unit, i got him to bring one of his records over one day and played it on one of my jukeboxes, he was absolutely blown away and couldn,t believe what a big differencesound quality and just plain oomf and power compared to his, worse was that i showed him my records and the scratches and wear on them, cheers for sharing, maybe i,ll clean some of my records

Cole Johnson says:

The LP60 sounded more forward/kinda of compressed, and lacked the detail of the SL-1900. It was most obvious in sudden guitar or horn swells. That said, at least on here, the sound wasn’t *that* different.
For people who just want something cheap and easy and don’t care too much about detail, the LP60 is fine, but other tables are still better. The LP60 will eventually speed up (it’s happened to me and others) and it can’t be upgraded like the SL-1900 or many other turntables (even the LP120). With a better cart, the Technics would probably be an even more clear winner, I imagine. The fact that I heard a marked improvement with an AT95 over YouTube is pretty noteworthy.

Ed F booboo says:

Wow the music is horrible

FrightfulAccountant says:

Blind listening. Cheap HP build in sound card and cheap small Hercules pc speakers… no audiable diffrences. They sound identical. There might be a diffrence, but it will require both descent speakers and a good hearing to notice it.
Mind you that in an actual living room, the noise the turntable mechanism itself make does affect your sound a lot. If the motor of the table is noisy, that will affect your experience a lott more then missing a few hz in the very low or very high end.

Toney Isaiah says:

Take care of your stereo.

Jeremy Holmes says:

Tinnier high end on the AT but not by much. There is more to the story though…

Isaac Temple says:

tbh its more of the preamp and cartridge that makes a record sound better and grain of lp.

William Barber says:

Beogram turntables beats both, and that’s the belt drive models. The magnetic drive models are the best.

NumberNEINLarge says:

To me, they sound exactly the same.

Derek Williams says:

I think I might have made this comment to your first video, but it holds true for this one. The choice of material doesn’t really test the decks, neither has a good wide dynamic range and it’s the quiet sections that would have shown the difference, allowing rumble to be heard, along with critical instruments such as violins playing long sustained notes which would test speed stability (eg the long, quiet violin as featured in Scheherazade). To test tracking ability you can’t beat some good old fashioned techno pressed on a 12 inch 45 rave style music.

That said your method of comparison is very good and it’s very well done.

CRISTIAN DAVID OTALORA PEÑA says:

It makes no difference…

Tony Hutchens says:

The Technics turntable sound’s so much nicer.

Nihal Jackson says:

Why use a cheap D/A converter integrated on a Dell motherboard which is inferior to the Creative sound cards of 15 years ago? I think the comparison would make much more sense if you had a better D/A converter like a Delta 1010lt or a high end USB audio interface.

MR. FUN-DIP says:

sounds to me that the technics has a bit more umph, whereas the audio technica sounds a bit more concealed and not as spacious sounding

JHeino10 says:

Listening to this with a set of ATH-M50X headphones, through an iPad mini. By far not the best setup ever, But saying that it sounds very good. I could definitely tell the difference between the turntables. The sound produced through the technics sounded like I was listening to the singer in the same room, compared to the audio technical turntable which sounded like a recording. Saying that, the audio techniqa did sound good, just not as good as the technics.

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