Best Amplifier/Receiver for AT-LP120
In this article, we’ll pick the best amplifiers/receivers to pair with the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 turntable. A turntable I own and use for vinyl spinning myself.
I will show you the main pitfall to avoid when choosing an amplifier/receiver for vinyl music listening. And we’ll review great amplifiers/receivers to pair with your AT-LP120 that don’t break the bank.
PS! Since amplifier and receiver are more or less used interchangeably, I simply use the word amplifier from now. To make this an easier read.
What makes an amplifier good for AT-LP120?
There are a lot of amplifiers out there to choose from. Some will be great to pair with the AT-LP120 while others won’t really be that great of a match.
Let me show you what I think are the most important selection criteria when picking an amplifier for the AT-LP120.
Just skip this section if you want to jump straight to the recommended amplifiers.
There is one main pitfall to avoid when buying an amplifier for the AT-LP120 in my opinion. And that is to buy a multi-channel AV receiver made for home theaters.
An AV receiver needs to support multiple surround sound formats that force the manufacturer to spend money on costly licenses. It also includes components for multiple amplification channels that we will never use for vinyl music listening.
This means that the manufacturing budget for a multi-channel AV receiver needs to be spread thin on a trillion parts and licenses. With the result that components and circuitry critical for good sound will be of low cost and quality.
A tradition two-channel stereo amplifier, on the other hand, consists of much fewer parts and licenses. So the manufacturer can focus their spending on quality components that are critical for good and powerful sound.
The power supply and amplification circuitry will therefore be of much higher quality in a stereo amplifier compared to a similarly priced multi-channel AV receiver.
And this makes a big difference!
The result will be much better sound quality. Deeper and tighter bass. More punch. More natural mids. More detailed highs. In essence, a much better and more engaging music listening experience.
If you will use the amplifier for vinyl spinning and music listening primarily, I highly recommend that you buy a two-channel stereo amplifier.
If you want the same level of sound quality from a multi-channel AV receiver, you’ll have to put a lot more money on the table.
The AT-LP120 comes with a phono preamp built-in. That means that it can be connected to any standard line-level input on an amplifier. Line-level inputs are those that are labeled AUX, CD, DVD, TAPE, RECORDER, TUNER and what have you.
In other words, you do not need an amplifier with a PHONO input to connect the AT-LP120. An amplifier with a PHONO input has a phono preamp built-in. This is not required for the AT-LP120.
Even vinyl enthusiasts can get tired of spinning vinyl sometimes. So digital inputs and wireless Bluetooth capability for digital music streaming is more or less must-haves when we buy an amplifier today. We’ll look out for those features as well.
When picking the best amplifier for the AT-LP120, we want to pick an amplifier that can power many types of speakers. So we are free to swap speakers without having to look for a new amplifier.
The first thing many home stereo enthusiasts often look for when shopping for an amplifier is its power ratings. How many Watts per channel it can put out.
But these numbers are often miss-leading. The quality of an amplifier should not be measured by its power output ratings at all.
A well designed 65 Watt amplifier can sound much better under demanding conditions than a cheap 125 Watt amplifier. The methodology and quality of the amplifier design has a lot to do with it.
It is therefore key to look behind the numbers and consider the methodology and quality of the amplifier design. And not simply rely on the numbers from the spec sheets.
When I bought my current stereo, I spent $1600 on the amplifier and $300 on the turntable. In retrospect, I see that I spent way too much on the amplifier. The amplifier I bought was totally overkill for the AT-LP120.
So, we don’t need to take it as far as I did. But the AT-LP120 is a good turntable with lots of potential. It sounds good for its price and with a simple cartridge upgrade it can become a very good sounding turntable. So we don’t want to be too cheap when choosing amplifier either.
The most serious stereo amplifier manufacturers have a product line that consists of their best sounding “audiophile” amplifiers. And their most affordable amplifiers from those product lines are usually priced from $300 to $500. These are amplifiers that are very well suited for the AT-LP120.
So, $300 to $500 will be a perfect budget for a quality amplifier for the AT-LP120.
If you don’t want to spend that much money, there are more affordable options as well. I have one for you soon.
The best amplifiers for AT-LP120
Here are the amplifiers I believe are the very best match for the AT-LP120. Amplifiers that I would choose between if I was looking for a great amplifier for my AT-LP120 today.
These will power most speakers with ease. And they are more than good enough to accompany your AT-LP120 in the long term.
Because they are the most affordable amplifiers from Denon’s and Yamaha’s high-end amplifier product line, they benefit from technology developed for their bigger and more expensive brothers.
These amplifiers offer very high value for money.
Denon PMA-600NE (Top pick)
Denon has an audiophile heritage that’s run almost 100 years back. With their high-end PMA amplifier series, they blend traditional amplifier design with state-of-the-art technology in a way that might be unmatched in the industry today.
Their most budget friendly model in their range of Hi-Fi amplifiers is the Denon PMA-600NE. And it is the Amplifier on the market today that is best suited for the AT-LP120 in my opinion.
The sound of the Denon PMA-600NE is warm and muscular. Which has been the character for Denon amplifiers as long as I can remember. It is a sound character that is very well aligned with the sound character of vinyl records that we love so much.
When Hi-Fi legend Steve Guttenberg tested the PMA-600NE, he was impressed. Even though he thought it is much more expensive than it actually is. You can watch his video review below.
I use the PMA-600NE’s bigger brother for my daily vinyl spinning. The PMA-1600NE. It is a fantastic amplifier that I will keep for a long time. When Denon decided to bring this slightly slimmed-down model to the market, for a fraction of the price, we should absolutely pay attention.
The PMA-600NE is a fantastic amplifier for the price. And it has a perfect list of features in my opinion.
|Power||2 x 70W|
– Great value for money
– Great sound
– Elegant look
– Source direct option
– No USB input
The Denon PMA-600NE is my top amplifier recommendation for the AT-LP120. Personally, I would probably go for this one if I was in the market for an amplifier to pair with the AT-LP120.
Yamaha A-S301BL (Runner-up)
To stay true to their audiophile heritage, Yamaha has a line of great sounding stereo Hi-Fi amplifiers too.
The Yamaha A-S301BL is the most affordable model from their high-end amplifier line and is another great option for the AT-LP120.
It essentially has the same specs and features as the Denon PM-600NE, except for built-in wireless Bluetooth. So you will need an optional Bluetooth adapter for this one. Which might be fine as many Hi-Fi enthusiasts like to keep their wireless and digital stuff separate anyway.
The Yamaha A-S301BL has received great reviews and is a highly respected amplifier for those that fancy great powerful sound.
|Power||2 x 60W|
– Great value for money
– Great reviews
– Awesome sound
– Pure Direct mode
– Needs optional adapter for Bluetooth
The Yamaha A-S301BL is my runner-up in this review of great amplifiers for the AT-LP120.
Sony STRDH190 (Budget Option)
If the amplifiers recommended in this guide is are too expensive for your budget, there are cheaper options worth checking out as well.
The Sony STRDH190 seems to be the best and most popular pick in the $100 to $200 price range.
In this article we have reviewed the selection criteria for a great amplifier for the AT-LP120. We have seen that the most important thing (in my opinion) is to choose a two-channel stereo amplifier that is built with high focus on sound quality. And ignore multi-channel AV receivers that are designed with a much broader focus.
We have, furthermore, reviewed two great amplifiers to pair with the AT-LP120. Two amplifiers that belong to the high-end amplifier product lines of respected manufacturers with long Hi-Fi heritages.
The two recommended amplifiers are the PMA-600NE from Denon and the A-S301BL from Yamaha. I have been a Denon fanboy all my life and would probably go for the Denon. (I own a Denon PMA amplifier already….)
But, objectively speaking, there is probably a dead race between the two. They are equally great options. Your choice might come down to current pricing and personal preferences.