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    Audio Technica LPW40 - An Impressive New Belt Drive from AT.


    Patrick R

    The AT LPW40 turntable is housed in retro stylings yet paired with forward thinking performance.
    Read on for the highs and the lows of this brand new record player.

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    FEATURES

    Draped in stylish teak exterior with the look and feel like real wood veneer, this new Audio Technica turntable is off to a great and somewhat vintage start. In a move upward from its mostly 'convenience' orientated fellow models though, the '40' does not offer any auto style features. Its a fully manual turntable which is probably where the retro tale ends. Although it is belt driven as the vast majority of turntables in the '70s were. What is definitely modern though is having a built in switchable phono pre amp stage and an included brand new VM95E cartridge as recently listened to by Phil in his affordable Rega P1 upgrade article. Couple these features with the apparent carbon fibre tonearm, the slim profile of the timber clad plinth and the outboard wall wart power supply (so its a DC low voltage motor not 240 volt AC) and really the only retro feature is in fact the wood. 

    To summarise: this record player offers a detachable headshell, a hinged lid, detachable signal leads, the built in amp stage mentioned above, 33 and a third and 45 rpm speeds, a cueing lever on the arm, a rubber mounted DC motor, adjustable tracking and anti skating force adjustments and rubber feet. The platter is made from aluminium and has an appropriate rubber platter mat that is best for dampening the ringy nature of the aluminium. Frankly everything you might be entitled to expect for $649 but don't always get (the Rega P1 has a fixed headshell, fixed anti skating adjustment and more rigid feet). The Rega is cheaper though.


    INTERNALS AND BUILD QUALITY

    I didn't take this unit apart as really there is nothing to take apart as per the Rega P8 review but overall its very nicely crafted for Chinese made turntable of this price. The platter is cast from aluminium as mentioned above so will run true forever, the centre bearing seemed of good quality as does the tonearm and its bearings. Not amazing but good enough. The detachable headshell fitting is a precision piece, the lid and hinges work nicely. The timber plinth, whether real or faux wood certainly looks admirable and overall I would say, considering the price, there is nothing at fault.

    I tested the speed of the unit and it was by the tiniest measure, slightly slow on 33 and a 1/3 and somewhat fast on 45. Close enough but no reference for speed accuracy.

    The earth terminal on the rear came loose when I was trying to attach the supplied signal lead. A bit disappointing but the performance was hum free so clearly it was still connected inside.

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    DESIGN

    Well.. A good old belt drive manual turntable design keeping things simple with little to go wrong now or many years into the future. As I have alluded to its a little olde worlde looking with the teak finish on the plinth but due to its slim height I suspect it will fool few who are looking for a true 1970s style record player. If Audio Technica had made the plinth 3 times the height that it is in the LPW40 it would have satisfied many who want the retro look without the retro hassles of failing technology from the last millennium. From my perspective though I rather like the timber finish so maybe it will attract a few buyers away from Projects and Regas as I'm not sure they or any other brand offers a timber finish for under $1000.

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    SETTING IT UP

    If packing a turntable into as many different pieces as possible was an Olympic sport, Audio Technica just won Gold. The signal lead unplugs, the headshell is separate, the power lead/wall wart is separate, the platter is off, the lid is off the hinges are in their own bag, the counter weight is separate etc. When compared to say the Rega Planar One which only requires the removal of one piece of cardboard, sliding on the counter weight to the fully home position and removing the stylus protector to play a record this is indeed the opposite way of going about packaging a turntable for shipment. This lack of assembly coupled with the confused instructions mentioned below means for the beginner this will be a project of similar proportions to a black belt afternoon of IKEA assembly. 

    Despite this, I had it up and running in minutes though so my suggestion would be to buy the this Audio Technica turntable from a specialist HiFi shop and have them assemble it for you prior to departing their store. The real concern is that you just won't get the best from your purchase unless its properly set up and frankly the hieroglyphic instructions will fail you.

    Once assembled, sit it down on a sturdy level platform as per any other turntable and then plug it in either to a phono input, if your amp has one, and if it does set the internal amp switch on the rear to 'phono'. If your amp is sans phono input use any other analogue input and switch the slide switch on the back to 'line.

    Enjoy the music!


    SOUND QUALITY

    After all the excitement and perhaps stress of assembly, the result is worth it as this turntable sounds very pleasing. I played quite a few familiar pieces and very much enjoyed the music. The bass quality is very surprising and for my money is slightly superior to the benchmark Rega P1. This is of course in part due to the VM95E cartridge being better in the bottom end to the Rega Carbon that comes gratis with the P1, which Phil revealed in an earlier article. It may also be due to the stiffer ali platter? I'm not sure but the bass is very pleasing indeed. The midrange and top end replicates largely my experiences with the much too often mentioned Rega cheapy. More to the point perhaps this Audio Technica trounces any turntable I have heard in this price range outside of Project and Regas offerings.

    This listening was facilitated using an external but inbuilt phono stage in a UK built amp we will be reviewing soon. Like I say, it sounded thoroughly enjoyable, exciting, musical, very neutral, imaging was ok and really I could not fault the performance for the bucks. But then I thought I would give the internal phono stage a twirl....
    Oh dear! Rarely have I heard such an obvious difference between two phono amplification alternatives. The in built phono stage in the LPW40 is indeed very ordinary. Weak, slow and mono sounding bass with no improvement in the upper areas of the frequency spectrum. Lifeless, lacking in detail and generally unmusical. Avoid at all costs. It is strictly an interim solution till you buy a better amp with a phono input or obtain a serious outboard phono stage. Its a shame as those who use the internal stage are hearing perhaps only 50 – 75% of the potential quality of this rather good turntable.

    Speaking of upgrading or at least making the most of what you have, the use of the new VM95E cartridge allows very simple upgrading to another higher level of performance by just swapping the stylus. Read our P1 Rega upgrade article for some thoughts on the differences between these VM95 range options.

    In summary: if you use a quality external phono amp or a good quality stage inbuilt to your amplifier you will be very pleased with the full rich and well focused sound on offer. Not quite in Rega Planar two levels of sophistication but I think slightly better in some ways to the entry level Rega. The minor speed inaccuracies were not audible to me but they were quite small. As mentioned above do not use the inbuilt phono stage unless you really have to, it may actually make your ears cry.


    ACCESSORIES AND WARRANTY

    The instruction manual is lacking, at least the supplied quick start guide. There is a suggested URL where you presumably can download a full manual but I couldn't find one on the Audio Technica website but I did find the warranty term which is 12 months. There is no warranty card in the box or any mention of anything to do with a warranty in fact. All the accessories were well packed and complete. In fact the turntable is very well packed full stop but there are no instructions on how to repack it so you may need to do the degree course first if you are repacking it for a house move as clearly the Audio Technica staff do prior to working on the assembly line. The point is.. It's rather complicated.

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    FINAL THOUGHTS

    I was a bit surprised with just how clean and tight the sound was from this simple and good looking turntable. A very musical performance as long as you avoid the internal phono amp. Fit and finish is very good and its a pleasure to operate. You do pay a little more than its perceived opposition, probably for the walnut (as Audio Technica describe it, I still think it looks like teak) styled plinth. Overall this LPW40 is a serious alternative to the veterans of the class and is well worth an audition.

    SCORE: 60.5/100

    FEATURES: 10.5/15
    INTERNALS AND BUILD QUALITY: 6.5/10
    DESIGN: 6.5/10
    SOUND QUALITY: 18/30
    EASE OF SETUP: 5/10
    MANUAL AND ACCESSORIES: 1.5/5     
    WARRANTY: 1.5/5
    VALUE FOR MONEY: 8/10
    EXCITEMENT FACTOR: 3/5

    PROS: 

    Sound quality is very competitive at the price
    A welcome change of appearance in this class.
    Overall its quite well made.
    Enjoyable to use and listen to.

    CONS: 

    With its slight retro look you might think it would be auto return but it isn't
    Mediocre sound quality from built in phono stage.
    Complicated to assemble for newbies.
    Earth terminal came loose during set up.
    Speed a bit off (only just on 33 but somewhat fast on 45)
    Instructions are probably going to a be a mystery to the uninitiated.
    Only 1 year warranty.

    SPECIFICATIONS – (Courtesy of Audio Technica)

    Type - 2-speed, fully manual operation

    Motor - DC servo motor w/speed stability control

    Drive Method - Belt drive

    Speeds - 33-1/3 RPM, 45 RPM

    Turntable Platter - Die-cast aluminium

    Wow and Flutter - 0.15% (WTD) @ 3 kHz (JIS)

    Signal-to-Noise Ratio - >60dB

    Output Level - 
    Pre-amp “PHONO”: 4 mV nominal at 1 kHz, 5 cm/sec
    Pre-amp “LINE”: 200 mV nominal at 1 kHz, 5 cm/sec

    Phono Pre-Amp Gain - 35 dB nominal, RIAA equalized

    Power Supply Requirements - 100-240V AC, 60 Hz

    Power Consumption - 1 W

    Dimensions -    
    420.0mm W x 340.0mm D x 116.9mm H

    Weight    
    4.7kg

    Accessories Included    
    AT-VM95E phono cartridge; AT-HS4 headshell; dual RCA (male) to dual RCA (male) cable with ground wire; counterweight; rubber mat; dust cover; 45 RPM adapter

    Tonearm type - Balanced straight tonearm with detachable headshell

    Effective arm length - 223.6mm

    Overhang - 18.6mm

    Tracking error angle - <2 degrees

    Applicable cartridge weight - 12-17g

    Anti-skating range - 0-3g

    Imported by TAG Audio

    RRP: $649

    THE TEST SYSTEM

    Included Spendor A6R, and KEF L50 loudspeakers. Exposure 2010S2D integrated amp with built in MM phono stage.


    NOTES ON OUR SCORING SYSTEM

    We do not give away high marks on a whim. Each section is scored separately and without regard to the cost of the equipment. Each product is scored solely relative to other units in the category, no matter their cost. In theory, a more expensive unit should usually outscore a cheaper one, but that's not always the case, and we'll never shy away from calling a spade a spade. Our reviews are conducted by lifelong HiFi enthusiasts who are just as passionate about new equipment as you are, and who are determined to provide you with the best information possible.

     

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