With the arrival of Audio-Technica’s new turntable, its top-of-the-line AT-LP7, I’m back in my comfort zone, happy to have a new record player in my listening room, especially one that looks as nice as the LP7 does.
It may be considered Audio-Technica’s top of the line, but at $799 it’s still well within my entry-level guidelines. There’s a surprising amount of competition right now in the sub-$1000 turntable market, with solid decks from Music Hall, Rega, Pro-Ject, U-Turn, and others. They all more or less have the same basic layout: rigid plinth typically made of MDF or some other non-resonant material, two basic speeds, a non-resonant platter of acrylic or some other type of plastic, and a pre-mounted tonearm with no real ability to easily swap out new tonearms.
That definitely describes the LP7, but it’s not a bad thing. This basic design is more or less universal at this price point for a reason: It’s simple and it’s effective. It allows people who maybe aren’t too into the fiddly-ness that naturally comes with vinyl playback to experience a more advanced turntable. The LP7 even has a built-in phonostage (that can be bypassed) for those who don’t have electronics with a phono preamp. It’s a compromise between form, function, and user ability. The LP7 is a step up from your entry-level turntables, both in cost and in functionality, and I was really interested to find out how it sounded.
The LP7 has a thick black slab for a plinth with a black platter, round black feet, and a black J-shaped tonearm. The dustcover is even tinted blackish gray. It’s a very attractive-looking unit, very modern, with no faux-wood trim. I love that it comes with a lift-off dustcover, which is the best kind; it fits beautifully and is also nice and light. The feet are a little springy, which I think will help with vibration, the bane of any serious deck. Plus, the feet are easily adjusted for perfect leveling.
The LP7 is a fully manual, belt-driven ’table—no auto-lift and shutoff at the end and no fine-tuning of speed, though conveniently there is an electronic switch for 33 or 45rpm. Using a strobe with my Android phone running the RPM Calculator app, I found that the LP7 maintained speed pretty well; it was just a touch fast.
The LP7 is fitted with the VM520EB cartridge that retails for $119 and is one of A-T’s more affordable models. It’s factory mounted, so you won’t have to deal with tiny screws, which is always nice. The tonearm also has a standard headshell mount for easy cartridge swapping, which I love, along with an adjustable tracking-force knob, anti-skate control, and the ability to change ’arm height.
Getting a new turntable up and running can be one of the more frustrating experiences any new audiophile will go through. In my opinion, the best entry-level turntables are not only going to have solid performance; they’re also going to be essentially plug-and-play, at least as far as any turntable can be. You don’t want to scare off any budding audiophiles, after all.
The LP7 doesn’t disappoint in these regards. Once it was out of its packing materials, I installed the platter, leveled the unit using its adjustable feet, attached the belt, screwed in the headshell, slid on the counterweight, set the tracking force, and was listening to music in fifteen minutes. I tried my best to use only what Audio-Technica supplied with the deck, and found that I missed only two things: a tracking-force gauge and a bubble level. Fortunately, I have both, but some beginners might not. I recommend grabbing these two items if you plan on being in the audiophile game for a while; they’ll come in handy, trust me.