Audio Technica’s AT-LPW50BT audiophile turntable at $499 (buy at Amazon) is feature rich, with a built-in phono stage and Bluetooth transmitter. Its model number may not easily roll off your tongue, but it’s one of the newest turntables from a legendary brand. Audio-Technica has been making turntables, cartridges, and styli since 1962. This newest turntable combines classic design with modern features with a focus on performance and flexibility. There is a lot to like here at a price that a new-to-the-hobby audiophile can really dig.
What Makes the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT Turntable Special?
- The AT-LPW-50BT is a fully manual, belt-driven turntable that comes with a tonearm and cartridge partially assembled. Many listeners who are sticking their toes into the world of turntables get overwhelmed by the need to select a table, arm, and cartridge that will complement each other. Thankfully, several manufacturers have opted to package these components together. Audio-Technica goes a step further by pre-installing the straight carbon-fiber tonearm. The AT-VM95E moving magnet phono cartridge is not pre-mounted, but it only took my 15-year-old son a moment to get the job done. The cartridge has an output voltage of 4mV and recommended load impedance of 47kohms.
- The AT-LPW50BT allows for easy experimentation with other styli. The included VM95-series cartridge can accommodate any of Audio-Technica’s six VM95 series replacement styli. This allows for easy and relatively inexpensive experimentation. The replacement is easily accomplished with just two screws. Think of this as the turntable version of tube rolling.
- The AT-LPW50BT is the Swiss Army Knife of turntables. It has the standard phono output, but also includes not only a built-in phono stage for line level output but also a Bluetooth 5.2 transmitter so that you can listen on your wireless headphones or speakers.
- The die-cast aluminum platter is mounted on a solid, 30-millimeter thick MDF wooden plinth, which itself rests on height-adjustable feet. The platter comes with a rubber mat and is belt driven by a motor mounted under the plinth, which is accessed by a hole under the platter. The motor utilizes an Active Speed Stabilization circuit to keep the speed steady.
- It can accommodate 33 or 45 RPM. Changing speed is as simple as rotating a knob to the desired setting.
- The turntable weighs in at 12 pounds and measures 16.54 inches wide by 4.96 inches high and 13.39 inches deep. Audio-Technica specifies the wow and flutter at +/- .15 percent, speed drift is not specified. The signal to noise ratio is a stated 60 dB.
Why Should You Care About the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT Turntable?
While it may be difficult to get the name Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT to roll of your tongue, as I said above, Audio-Technica makes it incredibly easy to get the music off your vinyl and into just about any system, be it a pair of wireless in-ear monitors or a large-scale audiophile system with a standalone phono stage and everything in between. The pre-configured combination provides strong performance only minutes after opening the box and provides an upgrade path with stylus options or replacing the cartridge in its entirety.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT Turntable
- The Bluetooth transmitter needs to be re-paired each time it is used. The transmitter provided a solid connection but would not automatically connect to previously paired devices. Thankfully, connection is made by pressing the Bluetooth button next to the tonearm and placing the receiving device into pairing mode.
- There’s no USB output. As the turntable is already digitizing the music for Bluetooth transmission, it would be nice to be able to also have a way to get that digital signal into your computer and build your musical library. As most music is readily available on a variety of streaming services, this is not a big deal, but it would come in handy for those lesser-known tracks you only have on vinyl.
Listening to the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT Turntable…
The AT-LPW50BT was the second in a series of turntables my son and I installed recently. There was nothing particularly finnicky or difficult regarding the setup. The included RCA cable was a one-meter utility-grade cable that I replaced with a better two-meter cable. I used two different integrated amplifiers with built-in phono stages: the Margules Arch-3 and the Marantz Model 30 (buy at Amazon) and stayed with the same musical selections I used with the other turntable reviews for the sake of fair and direct comparison.
We listened to “Eleanor Rigby” from The Beatles:1 album (buy at Amazon) I on both the Pro-Ject Carbon Debut EVO (buy at Amazon) and Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT, and I did my best to match levels due to the different output levels of the cartridges. The strings sounded more forward through the AT-LPW50BT than with the Carbon Debut EVO. There was a touch of a strident edge through the Audio-Technica, whereas the Pro-Ject had a slight roll off on the top. McCartney’s vocals were natural and clean through both rigs. As anticipated, “Yesterday” retained its different, more seductive vibe in comparison to “Eleanor Rigby.” The Audio-Technica seemed a half-step behind the Pro-Ject, but the more forward upper-end partially masked this differential.
With “We Will Rock You” from Queen’s Greatest Hits (buy at Amazon), the drums were not as full-bodied and lacked some of the impact as compared to the Pro-Ject table but the guitars had more energy and I found myself getting caught up in the guitar riffs more so with the Audio-Technica.
I also listened to the above tracks along with many others through the Audio-Technica’s built-in phono stage and the Bluetooth transmitter. The built-in phono stage was OK—not great, but absolutely listenable. Moving to the phono stages in the integrated amplifiers, they both had improved dynamics and detail.
Does the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT Turntable Have Any Resale Value?
Yes. The inclusion of the built-in Bluetooth transmitter gave me some pause on this question, as the Bluetooth standard will continue to evolve at a faster pace than the rest of the system. Even considering that, I do not see that as a limiting factor due to backward compatibility of Bluetooth versions, and the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT being a solid turntable even without the wireless capabilities. Unlike digital sources, analog sources are not rendered obsolete as soon as a new standard comes into audiophile vogue. The main wear item for this table, the belt, is easily and inexpensively replaced when needed. The ability to quickly and inexpensively change styli will also make it easy for the listener to both experiment and maintain the table.
Who Is the Competition for the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT?
In addition to the AT-LPW50BT, we are in the process of reviewing the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO ($499) (buy at Amazon), Music Hall Classic ($599) (buy at Amazon), and Rekkord F300 ($549). All these models come with tonearms and cartridges included in the retail price. The Debut Carbon EVO is another fully manual belt-driven turntable with great aesthetics and many factory upgrade options available, but no built-in phono stage or wireless capabilities. The Music Hall is a semi-automatic belt-driven turntable that also features a built-in phono stage but no Bluetooth. The Rekkord is belt-driven and sets itself apart as being the only fully automatic turntable in this group. Lastly, while not currently in for review, we would be remiss not to mention Rega, whose Planar P1 turntable ($595) (buy at Amazon) is its entry level, direct-drive turntable. It can be had with or without a built-in phono stage and there are plenty of factory upgrade paths available.
Final Thoughts on the Audio-Technica AT-LPW50BT Audiophile Turntable
The combination of flexibility and solid sound quality make the AT-LPW50BT a winner. For the future audiophile that is just sticking their toe into vinyl listening, it’s a great option, as it will work with just about any system, from your Bluetooth ear buds to a reference grade stack of separate audiophile-grade amp and preamp, although if you already have high-end gear with a good phono stage, I would suggest not buying a table with a built-in phono stage as you can either save a few bucks by buying the same or similar table without the phono stage or spend the same dollars and get higher quality.
The ability to inexpensively try out different styli (most are under $100) to tune the sound to your preference is an attractive feature that is best explored at your local Audio-Technica dealer and is another way the company shows its dedication to supplying the right sound for each listener at a fair price.
I had a reader comment by email that he thought that it was unclear in this review on how to change the stylus or that it was hard to do. It is not. Very simply to do in fact.