Audio-Technica, please put this turntable back into production! It’s viable, it looks great, and it plays really well. There’s nothing to worry about.
Audio-Technica has only built 3,000 copies of the transparent acrylic turntable. Created for Audio-Technica’s 60th anniversary, it’s completely sold out. Unopened boxes of the AT-LP2022 are already going for double the price on eBay, proving that demand is much higher than Audio-Technica anticipated.
When it was launched, the price was set at 1,200 euros, which is slightly above the price of a Rega Planar 3. For the extra money, you get a relatively compact turntable in transparent acrylic, with a height-adjustable carbon fibre tonearm and a pickup with two different needles.
The Audio-Technica player is unlike any other turntable on the market. The Pro-Ject 6 PerspeX SB is the closest. But it’s made of Corian, has a black platter and costs twice as much.
Here, most of it is made of transparent acrylic. The chassis is made from a single piece of 30 mm thick acrylic. The belt-driven platter in 16 mm acrylic. All the electronics are clearly visible through the acrylic, making the player a real eye-catcher wherever it is placed.
The silicone belt is wrapped around the acrylic platter and the speeds are controlled by a 33 1/3 and 45 button on the left side of the platter. On the other side, Audio-Technica has mounted the height-adjustable carbon fibre arm on a height-adjustable arm base. Since no mat is included with the disc, you are free to experiment with felt, cork or silicone mats and adjust the height of the arm accordingly.
But really, you should use the player without a mat on the disc.
Same pickup, two needles
Since the arm has a removable headshell – the AT-HS4 SV – it’s easy to mount a different cartridge than the one supplied. Which is an Audio-Technica AT-VM95E BK. A very fine MM pickup with a normal output voltage of 4 mV, elliptical cut and removable needle.
It needs a needle pressure weight of 2 grams, 47 kOhm load and 23 degree tracking angle, but since it’s pre-assembled in the headshell, just attach it to the arm and adjust the counterweight at the other end.
The turntable comes with an extra needle that fits the same pickup. It’s called the AT-VMN95SH CL and has a sharper Shibata grind (2.7 x 0.26) on an aluminium needle arm. It has a wider frequency range and better channel separation.
There is no built-in phono stage (RIAA) here. The included cable is of good quality and can be connected directly to a suitable phono stage and you’re ready to play.
The rotation speed was measured at 33.28 and the deviation was -0.15%.
With a deviation of 0.52%, Wow and Flutter was slightly higher than on a Pro-Ject X1. But it’s better than W&F on the direct-drive Thorens TD402DD.
Two cuts with different characteristics
In other words, the measurements show no significant deviations; in practice, they are not noticeable. The piano tones appear as a solid foundation in the soundscape.
The piano on Jan Gunnar Hoff’s Living, recorded by 2L, sounds free and open in space. There is plenty of weight in the lower octaves, and the sound is big and stable. With the sharper Shibata grinding on the VMN95SH CL, focus and detail are clearer, but the bass is also slimmer. Some may prefer the other needle, and on Dire Strait’s Love Over Gold, the sound is warmer, fatter and fuller, at the expense of transparency in the soundstage when the elliptical needle is fitted.
Dynamic contrast is very good, although not quite as vivid as a Technics Sl-1500C, which also delivers bass with greater authority. However, if you apply the Shibata grinding, the soundstage opens up again and there is more detail in the soundstage than both the SL-1500C and Planar 3.
I haven’t tried the turntable with more expensive cartridges, but I’m sure an even better cartridge, such as an MC pickup from Audio-Technica, Ortofon or Sumiko, wouldn’t be wasted here. It is unaffected by vibrations in the room and the carbon fibre arm seems solidly built and well damped.
This was very evident on Living, where the piano is allowed to resonate freely, without the sound or pitch being affected by resonance or distortion.
With the Shibata needle, you get more tonal nuances and I can imagine that the potential for even better sound quality is easily realised with an even better pickup.
Audio-Technica’s anniversary turntable deserves a wider audience than the 3,000 people worldwide who have managed to get their hands on it. Not only does it look spectacularly good, it plays brilliantly straight out of the box with the included pickup, and it easily matches its competitors in a similar price range on the most important parameter: sound quality. It can sound a little too relaxed, and the dynamic contrast, especially in the bass, is not quite on par with the best in this discipline. But it plays with convincing fidelity, openness and balance. What more could you want?