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How to upgrade your AT-LP120 Turntable

1) Replace the felt slip mat with a rubber mat. This shouldn’t be too hard, even though rubber mats aren’t something you can just find at a local shop anymore. They seem ridiculously expensive online, but check your local thrift shops for used turntables. Here in Phoenix, turntables seem to go for about $10 at Goodwill. Find one with a decent thickness rubber mat, and you’re all set.

2) Change your cartridge and stylus.  I highly recommend the Ortofron 2M Red for the starter audiophile.  Alternatively getting a microline stylus such as a Shure M97xE with a Jico SAS stylus upgrade, or the fantastic bargain that is the AT440MLa. At the very least, go with a Nagaoka MP-110. It’s not a microline, but it sounds great for its price bracket.

3) Audio-Technica manufactures an official, heavier replacement counterweight which will increase stability and improve tracking. It’s an easy and official way to improve your table.

4) When replacing a cartridge, use a Stevenson protractor, not Baerwald. The AT-LP120 has Technics arm geometry, and Stevenson alignment works best for clean sound from the beginning to the end of an LP. Here’s the way to get a custom protractor which will give you perfect alignment:

Download the following zipped program, which is a custom protractor generator: Go ahead and unzip it and run it.

Now, you’ll want to enter the following values:

Pivot to spindle distance = 214.500
Inner groove radius = 57.50
Outer groove radius = 146.050

Finally, choose Stevenson A alignment, and print your protractor.

You’ll wind up with the most accurate protractor possible for the AT-LP120.

5) Remove the built-in preamp.  There are many tutorials on YouTube on how to do this  the built in preamp is cheap and a proper one will greatly increase your audio quality.
Yes, you heard right. Open up the bottom of your TT and yank that sucker out and then utilize an external phono stage, either a dedicated pre-amp (for those of you on a budget, the ART DJ PRE II is a little wonder for only $50) or a receiver/amplifier with phono input. The built-in preamp is absolutely lousy. If you’re using it, it adds an unpleasant digital tone to the playback, almost a graininess. Believe it or not, it also accentuates surface noise and sibilance. If you bypass it using the switch on the back of your turntable, there are still capacitors in the signal path which will make it sound dark and closed-in when their capacitance is added to that of your external pre-amp.

You’ll be amazed by the difference.

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