In 1981, Cliff Richard scored a UK top five hit with the single Wired For Sound and with advances in technology there was always a danger the lyrics would someday become outdated – along with the accompanying roller-skating video.
Sure enough, 40 years on, the idea that music playback might only be possible with the help of wires seems somewhat laughable. Of course, your average audiophile will continue to extol the virtues of cabled listening, but it's no longer a necessity, with everything from headphones to speakers capable of receiving sound sans cables.
Wireless record players are also a thing now, of course, and in this review we'll be examining one such record player – the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT. A cable-free version of the fully automatic, belt-driven AT-LP60X, it features in our guide to the best Bluetooth turntables – which isn't bad considering it costs a mere £179/$149.
- Spin your wax on our pick of the best budget turntables around
- 7 of the best portable record players that’ll fit even the smallest space
Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT review: Design
If you've read our reviews of some of Audio-Technica's other turntables, then you'll know all about the Japanese manufacturer's eye for a unique design. Forget the too-cool-for-school, 'monochromatic slab' look favoured by most audio firms, AT seems to prefer something with a bit more 'personality'. Who could forget the Audio Technica AT-LP120 with its almost-garish gloss plinth, or the Audio Technica AT-LP3 with its Rudolf-esque red-nosed tone arm?
The AT-LP60XBT is another that boasts an interesting aesthetic, marrying a smooth-edged, matt black plinth with a shiny aluminium platter. In all honesty, it doesn't give off a particularly premium vibe (it doesn't help that it's a lightweight 2.6kg), and some might even describe it as old-fashioned.
However, we don't mind it – in fact, we rather like the coloured variants, where the front of the turntable becomes white (AT-LP60XBT-WH) or red (AT-LP60XBT-RD) depending on your preference. We prefer the white version as it's more neutral, but if you fancy adding some vibrance to your home decor, the red model certainly has something about it.
This being a fully automatic record player, there are buttons on the front for starting and stopping the turntable, changing the speed (45 or 33rpm), and lifting/lowering the tonearm – and boy, are those buttons pushable. At one point, our housemate questioned why the music kept jarring to a halt. Musical statues? No, man, we just like hitting those buttons!
Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT turntable review: Features
As previously mentioned, the AT-LP60XBT is a wireless version of the audio firm's esteemed Audio-Technica AT-LP60X (in case you hadn't already guessed, the BT stands for Bluetooth). This means it can be paired to speakers, headphones or other wireless devices without the need for cables trailing along the floor (and we all know that there's nothing worse than tripping over a lead while you're in the middle of an air guitar solo).
The turntable also packs a CSR BT chipset, meaning it can connect to devices that support the higher-quality aptX codec – including Audio-Technica's own ATH-DSR9BT and ATH-DSR5BT headphones. By the way, should Sir Cliff's aforementioned ditty inspire you to reconnect with cabled listening, you can use the AT-LP60XBT with wires, too; the turntable boasts a switchable phono pre-amp, and also comes packaged with a dual RCA output lead.
Of course, the debate about whether you should listen to your music wired or wireless is kind of moot if the turntable's sound quality isn't up to scratch. Audio-Technica has clearly made an effort to tick this all-important box, equipping the AT-LP60XBT with a range of precision audio technology. Notable additions include a revamped tonearm base and headshell, which are designed to improve tracking; a Dual Moving Magnet phono cartridge with a replaceable diamond stylus, and an anti-resonance platter. Does all of this make a blind bit of difference? It's time to find out.
Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT turntable review: Sound
To test this turntable, we picked a 7-inch single from our collection at random. Turn It On Again by Genesis – nothing wrong with that. After pairing the AT-LP60XBT with a set of Sony's excellent WH-1000XM4 Bluetooth headphones (the LED light on the turntable changes to blue once you're connected), we hit the start button (oooh, so good) and lowered the tonearm. Here comes that familiar phased bass... Banks's grandstand chord progression... a stab of brass, and we're off!
It's hard not to get carried away by this classic, and we were soon nodding along like a maniac. However, closer scrutiny of the sound filling our ears revealed a slight lack of crispness at the higher end. A rock'n'roll humdinger like this requires full-on attack, and in that respect the AT-LP60XBT fell a little short.
We suspected that the turntable's warmer soundstage would lend itself nicely to something more subtle, and putting Sade's 1984 LP Diamond Life on the spindle proved as much. In fact, it sounded impeccable, the blend of velvet vox and sexy sax making love to our lugholes. As someone once said on The Fast Show..."nice!"
As for the Bluetooth connection, it didn't falter once – not even when we wandered 30 feet to the front door to let the cat out. Sir Cliff would bloody love this.
Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT turntable review: The alternatives
If the AT-LP60XBT's looks leave you recoiling in horror, maybe try the Pro-Ject Essential III. Boasting a modern, minimalist aesthetic, this Bluetooth turntable sounds absolutely fantastic. At £349/$429, it's a little more expensive than Audio-Technica's record player, but it shouldn't make too much of a dent.
Looking for something even cheaper than the Audio-Technica? (Tut – there's no pleasing some people.) The ION Audio Air LP (£99/$99) is super-stylish – especially in the wood finish – sounds decent and even comes with a USB connection for burning your music to a home computer or laptop.