Drop Audio-Technica Turntable Review AT-LP-DCVTA-EB

Discussion in 'Vinyl Nutjob World: Turntable and Related Gear' started by purr1n, Mar 8, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Drop Audio-Technica Turntable Review Model AT-LP-DCVTA-EB

    Look what the cat dragged in? I knew Drop was working on a turntable collaboration with Audio-Technica, so when this became available, I called Drop to get a sample. I should have kept tabs on it earlier, so I am a bit late to the punch. I know something like this can seem to be too lowly of a table for me; but in all honesty, there is no such thing as a bad turntable. Something like this is light years ahead of what I had when I was a teen in the 80s. At the price point, what I look for is the basics, for everything to work without any oddities. This is something which I feel the Drop Audio-Technica Turntable pulls off. I have yet to listen to it yet (very soon tonight), but from my unpacking, feeling and touching the components, and analysis of the design, my magic ball tells me this will exceed my expectations for $350. (I've dealt with many cheap entry-level tables, and I usually have something to point out, but not so here).

    First some unboxing and assembly photos. This thing was incredibly easy for me to set up. Later on, I will do some analysis of what makes the Drop table different from the standard Audio-Technica offerings and how I think this sizes up to other tables. This will be the main difference of my review compared to the other rando reviews out there - namely of people who obviously are talking heads and have little experience with vinyl playback.
    IMG_20200308_212737.jpg

    I only had one complaint throughout the unboxing and assembly process. Everything was wrapped up with tape, all over the place. Kind of annoying having to cut so much tape!
    IMG_20200308_212815.jpg

    The kit comes with one of those replaceable head-shells. Why is this awesome? It allows us to buy different carts and mount them to the headshells. Any vinyl-head will own multiple carts. It's kind of like owning different headphones.
    IMG_20200308_213428.jpg

    Here is the base of the table with the plinth of the left. The base actually feels heavier than expected and dampened very well. From memory, it feels a lot less resonant than 1Xpression and Rega 3s I had owned in the past. A lightweight resonant plinth can have very deleterious effects on sound. The platter is aluminum and felt a bit light for my tastes. However, the rubber mat (top) is quite substantial. The feel of the platter with the rubber mat on top allayed my concerns. The thing felt right for the price. (I don't expect a 25-30lbs platter for a $350 turntable).
    IMG_20200308_213404.jpg

    I love this. antiskate dial and counterweight with easy VTF. BTW, the manual is horrible and doesn't explain how to use them. The base of the tonearm is metal, as is the cueing level. The base is two piece which allows a VTA adjustment via a hex set screw at the front of the base (more on this later). I do not believe that the Audio-Technica models anywhere near this price point have the metal base, cueing lever, and adjustable VTA.
    IMG_20200308_214026.jpg
     
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Here is the turntable setup. Too me no more than a few minutes. I still need to dial in VTF. The manual is horribad - there is no explanation what model the cartridge is and VTF requirements. All the manual offers is some vague diagram on setting the counterweight so that the arm is in balance, doesn't flip up, and doesn't push down. Lame.
    IMG_20200308_223929.jpg

    Anyway, the body of the cart is green, so I am going to guess that it's the AT-VM95E, so the VTF should be around 2.0g to start. (I do wish Drop had offered the table with the AT-VM95ML or SH as options, both of which is a much better carts). The green is very much an entry level cart and ultimately throw-away IMO.

    Here is the table fully assembled (without the dustguard).
    IMG_20200308_214425.jpg

    The turntable includes a built-in phonostage, that can by bypassed with a switch.
    IMG_20200308_214524.jpg
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    DROP CUSTOMIZATION TO STANDARD AUDIO-TECHNICA MODELS

    I don't know if I will be able to get to listen to any records tonight, but I will note some differences to existing Audio-Technica models. This is what I can tell, so I could be wrong...
    1. The plinth, motor, platter, and carbon fiber tonearm all looks like it is taken from the LPW40WN. The main difference is that the plinth is a dark brown wood veneer (which I much prefer to the ugly baby poop light brown on the Audio-Technica standard model).
    2. The base of the tonearm is metal as is the cueing lever. The tonearm base has a VTA adjustment. I believe that one needs to go up the line quite a bit to get the metal parts and VTA. The VTA is nice when wanting to use with carts other than from Audio-Technica or to tweak the sound. The tonearm base material will have a significant impact on sound.
    3. The kit include a carbon fiber brush! Haha. Everyone playing records absolutely needs one of these. You just saved $30 here.
    Anyway, I'll fire it up in the next 24 hours with the AT95E and an Ortofon 2M Black, or maybe even an MC cart. Will also compare the built-in phonostage with a Mani or Franken TC-750.

    Stay tuned.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Here we go...
    IMG_20200308_232959.jpg
    Center weight not included.

    More tomorrow late morning (Pacific time).
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2020
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    BUILT-IN PHONOSTAGE

    So I didn't want to say anything last night because that set up above sounded like poop. Well, at least staging was good, as can be expected for almost any vinyl playback. But everything else was poop. The sound was flat and dull. The highs seemed rolled. Dynamics were almost non-existent. There was a veil blanketing everything. The lows sounded congested during difficult passages. Now this is not supposed to happen. While vinyl playback is going to be worse than digital in terms of bass quality and noise, the mids and highs should at least be on par if not superior to the best DACs, even on modest turntables. (Yes, this the secret behind vinyl; and Amir can take his SINAD and shove it up his butt).

    IMG_20200309_090929.jpg

    I figured the bad sound was either the AT95E cart or the built-in phonostage. This morning I pulled out one of my spare phonostages, the RSA Nighthawk. It's not the most resolving phonostage around, slightly overpriced these days, and performs better a higher with with MC carts, but I felt its nice zippy transients and clean presentation would be a good match for this turntable. And indeed it was.

    So my assessment has completely changed as a result of this change. Now I feel this table actually has quite a bit of potential. Basically, the built-in phonostage is a colossal piece of shit. Anyone who actually liked the sound of this table from the built-in phonostage is deaf twenty times over. I mean, it's not a bad thing, since it provides convenience for the novice. Think of it as a freebie thrown in. The first thing to do is to run an outboard phonostage for anyone who is serious about sound.

    Note that the latest iteration of the Schiit Mani phonostage is also quite excellent - deeper stage, bolder bass, and more air, but less zippy. The TC-750 with an external LPS is also another excellent option for cheap: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/tc-750-phono-pre-amp-continued.150/

    Some thoughts: I really need to get rid of the AT95E and replace with a decent cart.
     
  7. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    Is this a true bypass or not? I had to open and solder a direct connection to truly bypass on my LP-1240
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I've read about this. Some thoughts:
    • If not a full bypass, at least the RIAA (the worse section with passive reactive components) would still have to be removed form the signal path.
    • Have people actually tried it or are they assuming stuff? Lots of urban legends. Poeple are deaf. They hear or don't hear all sorts of things based on what they assume.
    • I heard that Audio-Technica supposedly fixed this and that it's now a true bypass.

    Nevermind, evidently it's a true bypass. I guess I don't have to take the thing apart to find out.
    https://drop.com/buy/drop-audio-technica-carbon-vta-turntable/talk/2584836
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2020
  9. Jalsar

    Jalsar Almost "Made"

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    I actually didn’t find the preamp that awful at least hooked up to my cheaper 2nd setup. They aren’t the best with imaging and slightly v shaped so they probably did the preamp a favor. It does however sounds way better with a mp-110. I can’t stand the AT95; sound stage sucks and has an overall thinness to the sound. I bought it after hearing how great it was on forums years ago. Instantly hated it.

    I’ve already sent back my Drop table but mine had some issue with the line out. I tried with stock cart and the mp-110 both sounded very dull in the highs. I just figured it was a resister in the path like it was with the ATLP120 but apparently it’s a straight path. I use same mani on my technics table and it sounds great. Was happy to hear that you did not have this issue with yours.

    I really liked the table for a starter setup. Well with a different cart cause the AT95E is garbage. Especially if upgrade the phono preamp later on.
     
  10. vmartell

    vmartell Rando

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    First time I saw this - I was kind of curious - it really looks like a LPW40WN with Pro-Ject tonearm - is that a reasonable assessment? at least in principle, I am not saying that it is a Pro-Ject tonearm, but just from eye-balling, quality looks similar... or am being dumb here?

    v
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    It's an upgraded Audio-Technica arm with features from higher up in the line, VTA adjust, metal base and cueing. The antiskate adjust is very different from the Project arms. The Project arms use a hanging weight for antiskate. The AT arm has a dial, so less fuss and a lot more precision in terms of dialing it in. The AT arm also as a removable headshell for easier cart swapping - the Project arms don't have this.
     
  12. Pogo

    Pogo Friend

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    Curious, never seen the VTF indicator ring facing the rear of the tonearm before?
    Wouldn't work for me as I don't have line of sight access to the backside of my TT for adjustments.
     
  13. bigant

    bigant Acquaintance

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    Don’t think it matters if you use a balance to set VTF. Indicator on the arm is usually a bit shit anyway. Looks like the manual has it the other way. @purr1n is only human after all
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Yeah. It's like fuck it. It's only a weight and I used a balance scale.
     
  15. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    wait, so the pre sucks, the cart sucks, so why would anyone be interested in this table?

    Unless it is still better than what $350 could buy elsewhere?
     
  16. TomB

    TomB MOT: Beezar

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    Maybe because those are components purchased separately by almost every turntable owner, except for the beginners who have almost nothing at the start.

    It's almost a foregone conclusion that an included cart* and phono preamp are going to be given short-shrift. I wish turntable companies wouldn't do it. In the current digital culture, though, new customers to the turntable world are going to be short on resources.

    The question is whether the rest of the turntable - platter, motor, tonearm, etc. are worthy of consideration, despite the inclusion of beginner components.

    Just stating the obvious, I guess, but the question was asked. ;)


    * Maybe Marv can weigh in on this, but the actual cartridge might be pretty good and an upgraded stylus might make a huge difference. (Like a fine-line/Shibata, etc.?) I can only speak about back in the day, but cartridges were often the same for an entire lineup of mfr's offerings, with only the grade of stylus making the difference.
     
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  17. CEE TEE

    CEE TEE Free Agent

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    Correct! Buy an Audio Technica Microlinear stylus upgrade for a big bump in performance. Super easy to replace.

    Ready to go out of the box. Start playing. Highly flexible platform so the stylus & pre-amp can be improved easily and with relatively low cost. Easy pre-amp recommendations are the Schiit Mani and TC-750.

    The VTA adjustability can help with different mat thicknesses as well as using non-Audio Technica carts if you want to keep experimenting.
     
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  18. Phantaminum

    Phantaminum Friend

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    I've been meaning to get into vinyl for a few years now. Always kept telling myself later as my FLAC files were enough. I've always loved vinyls, their covers art, smell (I'm weird like that), and I was thinking of buying
    the Pro-Ject Debut DC for a while. Keep it cheap, simple, and if I like it maybe move up to something better.

    Obviously, this is a new release from MD so I'm hoping to hear more comparisons on other turntables in this price range later. If anyone else has any extra input, I'd love to hear some.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2020
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  19. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    This would be very much my kind of turntable, if I was using one. Basic but entirely usable. Play music without making an engineering hobby out of simply having a turntable.

    Well, actually, I suppose it is the kind of turntable I already own and keep in the cupboard: a not-a-famous-model Dual that I bought in 1990.
     
  20. deniall83

    deniall83 Acquaintance

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    I'm in the market for a good, cheap turntable and this caught my eye. Unfortunately when you add shipping and conversion to AUD it's far too expensive but the poo brown AT-LPW40WN is reasonably priced here so I'm looking forward to further impressions.

    EDIT so what I can tell, this is just a darker version of the AT-LPW40WN? Specs seem the same.

    Double EDIT - Saw the post above regarding VTA and the metal base. Looks like the standard version has neither which makes it a no go for me. Oh well.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020

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