Drop + Audio Technica Carbon VTA Turntable
Drop + Audio Technica Carbon VTA Turntable
bookmark_border
Where's the price?
To negotiate the best possible price for our customers, we agree to hide prices prior to logging in.
147 Sold
Free shipping to USA
Free returns in USA
help
Product Description
We teamed up with Audio Technica to build a turntable that delivers superb vinyl playback with premium components. Precision-crafted, upgradeable, and easy-to-use, our Carbon VTA is the turntable you want in your corner.
Here's what our community has to say
All of our reviews are from verified customers.
4.8
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
9
search
Fayne
1097
Mar 10, 2020
bookmark_border
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
search

search
Initial review after 1.5 days with the table: This is an easy to setup and excellent sounding starter audiophile turntable. Packaging was superb, with every part being very protected. It'd take some seriously bad dropkicking of the box to hurt the turntable. Setup was super easy, being just a bit of plugging the parts in, threading the belt, doing the basic anti-skate settings, and setting the tone-arm weight. Easy enough that I didn't need the assembly instructions. No missing parts. No extra parts. No damaged parts. Perfect. I've been on a bit of a Moody Blues kick, so onto the table went `In Search of the Lost Chord`, `Seventh Sojourn`, and `A Question of Balance`. I played a few hours with everything stock so i could see if the unit was a good starter. The stock cartridge is ok, not bad, just a plain ok. The stock RIAA stage is also ok, not horrible, not amazing. It does the job it is supposed to, which is more than I can say about some other products. Anti-Skate works like a champ. The stock stylus tracks well enough, even. No big surprises there. When I switched over to using my Yaqin MS23B tube RIAA and swapped the stylus out with a Microlinear it was a night and day difference. The new stylus provides more sound detail (or so it seems), and using a dedicated tube RIAA totally adds that happy tube harmonic. Getting pretty close to what I get out of my Denon DJ VL12 Prime and Ortofon Concorde Club MK2 and the same RIAA. I do not regret buying it. For the price, it is a fantastic entry model audiophile table and I totally see myself buying 'em as gifts for friends who need some vinyl in their life (but are too vanilla to go for whips and body suits). Edit: Nearly a month in. Zero real complaints. It still sounds great, possibly a smidgin better now that the cartridge has broken in and loosened up. Totally worth the money.
check
Would recommend to a friend.
(Edited)
Mar 10, 2020
Fayne
1097
Mar 11, 2020
bookmark_border
Yeah, I wanted to get my initial review up. I figure I can update my review as everything breaks in. Definitely digging the table. Great work on the collaboration. The Moody Blues are great for testing new audio toys. Lots of dynamic range and various instruments which show off tracking and amplification flaws. Plus I’ve been a big fan of their music since I found a cassette of their stuff in the mid 80s. Used to listen to their stuff so much that I ended up putting it on an old reel to reel I rescued in the early 90s. Was a better solution than destroying the LPs by constant replay. :)
(Edited)
Mar 11, 2020
ChocoVanil
0
Mar 24, 2020
bookmark_border
I need a friend like you 🧐
Mar 24, 2020
badasstronaut_solutions
18
Mar 9, 2020
bookmark_border
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
Shut up and take my money! If you're wanting a new hobby, this is a great entrypoint
I like the product, but I was not going to write a review. Then I thought about it a little more, and I felt like I owed the community. Why? Because all of the other reviews are written by audiophiles with so much knowledge and passion that I felt stupid. This is my first turntable. I would not have been able to point to the "cartridge" before I started learning about my new hobby. I didn't have 8 custom preamps and every cartridge and stylus combination at hand when my package arrived; I had a handful of vinyls & a decent receiver and speaker system, but no vinyl-specific equipment. It took me only a few minutes to get the system set up, connected to my receiver, and then I was blown away. Listening to Bowie's "Let's Dance" blew my mind. I've heard most of the tracks off this album, but this was my first listen on vinyl. I won't go into detail about analog and digital signals, and I certainly don't want to weigh into any debates, but I thought that the "sounds better on vinyl" mentality was exaggerated. I was completely wrong. The sound of vinyl through the Carbon VTA has been a joy to experience. I feel like a whole new world of music and listening has been unlocked, and I can tell that my new hobby is about to become a full-blown addiction. If you're on the fence about getting into vinyl, or just feel overwhelmed by the technicality of the field, I strongly recommend the Carbon VTA for great sounding music with a navigable learning curve.
check
Would recommend to a friend.
Mar 9, 2020
SpencerL
1152
keeb weeb
Mar 10, 2020
bookmark_border
Short, simple and sweet review. I received mine today as well and am by no means an audiophile but I felt like using the turntable made me really enjoy the vinyl experience :)
Mar 10, 2020
T.Fernandez
192
Collabs
Mar 11, 2020
bookmark_border
Glad you took the plunge and are providing the prospective from someone just getting into the hobby. Its fun to watch your LP collection grow over time and hopefully there are some good record shops in your area where you can find some gently used LPs for reasonable prices.
Mar 11, 2020
rhpot1991
27
Mar 9, 2020
bookmark_border
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
Copying over my review from Reddit. Many of us know Drop for their headphone collaborations, they won me over by finally making JVC IEMs available outside of Japan. Their latest product is a collaboration with Audio Technica for their first turntable. I was sent an advanced unit to review, here are my thoughts and impressions. Drop hasn’t mentioned a model on their site, but the box identifies it as AT-LP-DCVTA-EB. My stack prior to receiving this unit was Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Espirit SB > Pro-Ject Tube Box S > Onkyo TX-NR838 > ELAC Uni-fi UB5 and HSU VTF-1 MK3 I added a Pro-Ject Clamp It and upgraded the stylus to an Ortofon Blue along the way. For the purposes of my testing I swapped out turntables and kept everything else the same. In the process I ignored any included accessories as the ones I had installed seemed to be better quality, but I’ll include some thoughts on them along the way. Overall this turntable seems very similar to the AT-LPW40WN with a bunch of upgrades added. The Great
  • Easily upgradeable cartridge/stylus - The turntable comes with an AT-VM95E mounted on an AT-HS4 headshell. Any stylus in the AT-VM95 line can be added on in a matter of seconds, and this can be even easier if you get a new headshell. Ultimately I couldn’t resist adding a Shibata instead, which can be done for $179. Note that most pre-mounted cartridges use the straight headshell where this needs the curved one.
  • Upgraded tonearm - Drop normally picks something to improve in their collaborations. This time they concentrated heavily on the tonearm, replacing the plastic base with metal while adding Vertical Tracking Alignment. To the best of my knowledge VTA is not typically available in entry level audiophile turntables. The tonearm lift was also upgraded to solid metal.
  • True anti skate - This is a step up over the weighted mechanism that other turntables utilize.
  • Built in phono - This appears in my great list not because the unit has it, but because Drop took the community bypass mods and built a true bypass right into the unit. Available for those who need it, while not introducing issues for those who do not.
The Good
  • Comes with everything you need - In the box are a set of interconnects, a 45 spacer, and a carbon fiber brush. As mentioned above I didn’t need or use any of these, but nice to have. The interconnects don’t seem as high quality as the ones that came with my Pro-Ject.
  • Built quality - Steady here. The knob is better than the button on my Pro-ject, and the motor seems to hit speed much quicker without a warm up needed. The MFD base could be easily confused with a solid chunk of wood.
The OK
  • The included Green (AT-VM95E) stylus - Sure it is competent, but many other audiophile turntables ship with an Ortofon 2M Red. Granted the Ortofon line isn’t as easy to upgrade without replacing the cartridge. I didn't bother switching back to the Ortofon Red for comparison, but the styluses land as expected Audio Technica Green < Ortofon Red < Ortofon Blue < Audio Technica Shibata.
The Bad
  • Non upgradeable platter - This is my only real complaint. My Pro-Ject has a nice acrylic platter, which unfortunately won’t work with this Audio Technica turntable. The VTA support means you can utilize a variety of different mats, mitigating any issues here. Let me be clear the platter itself is a nice solid metal with no wobble whatsoever, and it comes with a nice rubber mat; it is just disappointing that you can upgrade on other brands and not here. Everyone can let me know if I should try a leather or acrylic mat next.
  • No 78 support - Might not matter for most people.
As far as sound, the turntable sounds fantastic. I couldn't find any noticeable differences between the Drop Audio Technica and my Pro-Ject that wasn't simply listening to a different stylus/cartridge. I spent the earlier part of the week comparing albums between both turntables and then finished the week listening exclusively on the Drop Audio Technica turntable with the upgraded Shibata stylus. The Shibata was the clear standout as expected. The Ortofon Blue with acrylic platter had a deeper bass than the Shibata, but I wonder if some of that was from the upgraded platter. With this turntable being more expandable than most and including everything needed, it should easily find a place among the recommended turntables here. It will be interesting to see if Drop carries this long term like their HD-6XX headphones or if it comes and goes like other products.
Mar 9, 2020
Daaaabear
2
Apr 6, 2020
bookmark_border
What's your full set up like? Pre-amp/speakers
Apr 6, 2020
rhpot1991
27
Apr 6, 2020
bookmark_border
Pre-amp: Pro-Ject Tube Box S Speakers: ELAC Uni-fi UB5
Apr 6, 2020
Mightygrey
17
Mar 6, 2020
bookmark_border
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
I had the chance to review the Drop + Audio Technica Carbon VTA Turntable ahead of launch, my full review has been published over at headfonia.com – here’s a more concise version of my impressions. Being a headphone reviewer for a headphone website, I’ve naturally skewed my review towards headphone listening with the Carbon VTA. Other things being equal, I’ll normally choose speakers over headphones – life, family, and neighbours permitting. But, vinyl can also be more than *just* a two-channel/stereo format proposition - vinyl playback over headphones can be a highly enjoyable and viable way to enjoy music, plus you get all the intrinsic benefits of headphones: it becomes even more intimate; it’s relatively far less expensive; plus there are no pesky room reflections and sonic gremlins to contend with when you have the transducers strapped to your ears.
search

Development background: Analogue inception Creating a turntable from scratch is no mean feat, especially when it’s designed to be a complete entry-level turntable - the benchmark that Drop was aiming for. But, it had to be much more than that. See, the other thing about the vinyl community is that we are insufferable perfectionists, and so any turntable would need to heed exacting audiophile standards. So, anything that the Drop team undertook would need to be good enough to potentially be “the only turntable you’ll ever need”. So with this in mind, Drop turned to a manufacturer with decades of experience in the vinyl domain - Japan’s Audio Technica, which is a name that audiophiles will certainly love, respect, or at least recognise when it comes to headphones. Will explained that Drop has been keen to collaborate with Audio Technica for the best part of a decade and so when they were looking for a partner to collaborate with for their first turntable, they were a no-brainer. Audio Technica is particularly famous for their know-how with phono cartridges and their current flagship cartridge, the AT1000, can be all yours for the paltry sum of $6,999 if you're feeling spicy. 
search

The Drop + Audio Technica Carbon VTA Turntable It’s a bit of a mouthful, but this is the moniker of the resulting turntable from Drop and Audio Technica’s first-ever collaboration, and Drop's first-ever turntable. Nominally based on the AT-LPW40WN, the Carbon VTA (the name we’ll go with from here) dips into the Audio Technica parts bin and boasts some premium features from more expensive models in the line-up exclusively for Drop customers.    To describe the Carbon VTA in a tweet: It’s a fully manual belt-driven turntable with selectable 33/45 speeds, a replaceable AT-VMN95E cartridge and a built-in phono stage.
search
Headphone listeners should take careful note of that last feature: the built-in phono stage. The uninitiated might not realize that you can’t just take the RCA-leads out of any old turntable, plug them into any old amp and expect to make music happen. You see, the voltage that’s generated in the headshell of the cartridge is tiny. Whereas the standard ‘line-level’ voltage of a CD player or DAC is 2V, moving magnet (the more common type of cartridge, as opposed to moving coil) cartridges only output somewhere around the 5mV mark. So this means you need to pre-amplify the signal before it goes to an amplifier, with the help of a phono pre-amplifier circuit. Many old stereo amplifiers have a ‘PHONO’ input alongside their standard line-level inputs to take care of this conundrum, and it’s becoming increasingly common to see this in modern amplifiers as well. There are some dedicated headphone amplifiers that include the option for an in-built phono stage, including the Schiit Lyr 3, the Cambridge Audio Duo, and the Mytek Brooklyn Dac+. The Carbon VTA’s built-in phono stage alleviates the need for a dedicated amp with a phono stage, or a separate phono preamplifier requiring yet another box, set of RCA cables and wall-wart into your system. This means that you’re free to plug it directly into any headphone amplifier’s RCA-in, and off you go.  The turntable in my current hifi set-up - a 1980’s vintage Rega Planar 2 - doesn’t have a phono stage. This requires me to either use a Schiit Mani phono preamp, or to run it through my vintage NAD 3020 receiver, and use the ‘tape-out’ RCAs to feed a separate headphone amplifier. Slightly clumsy, I know.  Other features + additional Drop custom modifications  The Drop team have added a few little pieces of somethin’ somethin’ to the Carbon VTA to set it apart from its Audio Technica donor model and make it a more compelling value and performance contender for prospective customers. Firstly, and hence the acronym in the turntable’s name, the Carbon VTA has Vertical Tracking Angle adjustment built into its tonearm base, allowing for users to set the angle at which the stylus hits the record. This is a handy feature for owners who will be interested in trying out different tonearm and cartridge assemblies down the track, and it’s a feature that’s only available in higher trim models in the Audio Technica lineup. Also borrowed from more expensive models at Audio Technica is the all-metal tonearm base components. Will and Thomas explained that they were keen to make sure that the most tactile elements of the turntable - the ones you interact with when you use it - are as premium and ‘nice’-feeling as possible.  The most tactile and obvious part of the turntable is the, erm, table itself – a.k.a the plinth. The Carbon VTA features a fairly sturdy and nice-looking Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF) base, with a simulated wood-grain adorned with the 'Drop + Audio Technica' logo on the front. It’s ‘stained’ a darker colour that the standard Audio Technica model, and I have to say that it’s actually rather nice looking in the flesh. It wouldn’t look out of place atop a nice piece of wooden furniture and has a nice mix of purposefulness and minimal premium-ness. 
search
The final feature of the Carbon VTA is its removable dust cover, a hinged plastic affair that simply slots in and out. To attach. If you’re planning on a longer listening session you might prefer to keep it off, but if you’re a cat owner (me, x2) or simply want to avoid dust you’ll probably just keep it on. Thankfully, it ‘stays’ in the open position, rather than slamming shut...which is what my current turntable does. 
search
I mustn’t forget to mention there was a nice ‘Easter Egg’ included with the Carbon VTA - a carbon fibre record brush. This is both a thoughtful and enormously handy inclusion and one that owners will use All The Time. I brush each side of a record before playback to remove superficial dust, and they genuinely work.  Set-up and installation
Admission: I’ve never set-up a turntable from scratch before. I had the good fortune to find my old Rega from an enthusiast second-hand dealer who installed a new-old-stock Shure cartridge and set-up the tonearm counter-weight for me. So I was a genuine guinea pig for with regards to getting the Carbon VTA up and running. A visual quickstart guide is supplied, which will be familiar to anyone who’s assembled IKEA furniture before: it’s pretty basic stuff. 
search
Once you’ve taken the parts out of the (thoroughly substantial) cardboard packaging, your first task is to attach the belt and the platter. The platter is made from die-cast aluminium, but it reassuringly hefty and solid. Loop the belt around the pulley, drop on the rubber slipmat, and you’re done with that part. Next, the cartridge headshell requires connecting to the tonearm. It’s a simple case of pushing it in and screwing a plastic sheath to fasten it tight. Easy. 
search
 The next part took a little more dexterity and patience: adjusting the weight and tracking force of the tonearm. It’s important to have the tracking force - the weight with which your stylus rests against the record - just right. Too much, and it can wear out your records too quickly; too light, and you won’t get proper sound from them, and it will be likely to skip. The instruction guide outlines how to set-up the tracking force for the weight of the supplied cartridge, advising to have the tonearm balancing horizontally by itself, before setting it to the increment marked as ‘2’ on the counterweight. Users who will be looking to replace or upgrade their cartridge will need to use the gross and fine adjustments to find a perfect balance.  The final manual adjustment required is the anti-skate function. When a record is played, the decreasing diameter of the grooves causes the stylus and tonearm to move inwards, which can cause two things to happen. Firstly, this can cause channel imbalance - on a stereo record, the left and right channel signals are determined by the left and right side of the record grooves. Too much force on one side, and you’ll get one side louder correspondingly. The other problem you can encounter is that as you encounter the end of a record, the tonearm can tend to want to ‘skate’ and skip towards the centre of the record - the aptly-named anti-skate prevents this, and the Carbon VTA’s manual advises a preset setting to correspond with the tracking force setting for the supplied cartridge.
search

Playback All that was left to do was to plug the supplied RCA’s into my nearest headphone amplifier, select ‘line level’ out, plug in the 12V wall-wart, and I was ready to rock. I treated myself to Beck’s latest record ‘Hyperspace’ to test out the new Carbon VTA, and so I fired-up the Hagerman Tuba with my Sennheiser HD650’s, and away I went. The instructions supplied with the Carbon VTA worked a charm, because voila - it sounded bloody magical from the get-go. 
search
Headphone listening is different on vinyl, and I tend to choose different pairings to what I might go for when listening to digital. The HD650’s famously smooth, dark voicing is a perfect match for vinyl playback - it tends to smooth out some of the subtle (and occasionally un-subtle) crackles that can be caused by dust or surface-noise from the record itself. Another headphone I often reach for when dropping the needle is the Aeon Flow Open from Dan Clark Audio (or, as they were known at the time, MrSpeakers). The Aeons have an intimate, warm mid-bass and midrange which is super-relaxing and decadent sounding - they also happen to be just about the most comfortable pair of headphones I’ve ever tried, making them perfect for relaxing with a nice album and a drink of something interesting.  One other feature might seem like a bit of a non-story, but the fact that the Carbon VTA’s speed can be switched between 33 and 45 at the twist of a dial is a bit of a novelty to me. If I want to change speeds on my Rega, I need to take the platter right off and hook the belt onto a different rung on the pulley - it’s a bit of a hassle, and it means that my 45’s of Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘Like Clockwork’ and Atoms for Peace’s ‘AMOK’ don’t tend to get the love they deserve. Not so with the Carbon VTA.
search
It’s kinda hard to assess the sonic characteristics of a turntable because there are so many elements included between the record and your ears - the cartridge, the tonearm, the pre-amp, and of course your amplifier and the transducers themselves. This being the case, trying to empirically understand which component is making which part of your music sound the way it does can be frustrating. But, being a vinyl review, it's more important to understand two things: 1. will it get you reliably up and playing quickly, and consistently? And 2. are you having a Good Time? One thing I am happy to report about the Carbon VTA is that it’s a fairly solid platform and offer a stable playing surface. While it’s not the heaviest plinth, didn’t have any problems with instability nor skipping - the four adjustable rubber feet seem to plant it pretty well.  I found that the Carbon VTA felt a little bass-shy when playing Hiatus Kaiyote’s ‘Choose Your Weapon’, an absolutely superb-sounding album on vinyl. After some minor tinkering on the tonearm’s tracking force, I found it to sound as organic and finessed as ever, with great vocal and instrumental tone.  I used Radiohead’s ‘OKNOTOK’ 20th-anniversary re-issue of ‘OK COMPUTER’ to test-out the on-board phono stage versus the one on my NAD. It’s not an easy A/B test given that you need to switch and replace RCA cables, but the NAD’s phono stage felt a bit more enveloping and dynamic compared to the NAD’s playing over my KEF LS50 speakers. I’m nit-picking here, but I have to remember that the Carbon VTA is aimed at first-time vinyl users. Also, the fact that it’s even available (and able to be defeated and used with on off-board phono stage) is to be commended, and the convenience will honestly trump the minor performance edge for most listeners.  Being a turntable review, there was no way I was going to miss the chance to spin my favourite album of all time (depending on which day you ask me, that is): Smashing Pumpkin's 'Siamese Dream'. Side-note: I'm on the hunt to find a mint-edition first press of this record, the version I have is the 2011 re-master which features the red-tinted cover artwork. I sat back in my listening armchair, put on my Grado GH1s (my go-to 'rock' cans) and dropped the AT-VM95E onto the opening track 'Cherub Rock' after I gave it a good clean. That familiar wall of guitar around the 25-second mark sounded rich, weighty and generally pretty awesome. I had a Good Time.   Drop + Audio Technica Carbon VTA Turntable. Conclusions So how did Drop mange to go with their first-ever turntable? Honestly, I’m pretty bloody impressed. I feel that for the price, Drop has managed to hit a sweet spot for usability, upgradability, and liveability. At the end of the day, vinyl is about making you want to make time to dedicate to listening in a conscious sort of way, and this is the sort of turntable that makes it easy to get enjoyable, great-sounding vinyl into your life. But, the Drop + Audio Technica Carbon VTA feels more than a ‘budget’ turntable, it’s a genuinely great end-to-end experience and I’d be proud to have it in my hifi/head-fi rig. 
search
If you’ve been on the fence about getting into vinyl, then the Carbon VTA is a bullet-proof recommendation for your first (and possibly last) turntable. Vinyl is an altogether different kind of way to experience the music you love, and if you’re keen to make the commitment, then this gets my ‘nod’ as a gateway to get you on your way. 
(Edited)
Mar 6, 2020
Evshrug
1600
Mar 9, 2020
bookmark_border
Wonderful write-up!
Mar 9, 2020
Interceptor69
38
Apr 2, 2020
bookmark_border
Great review. I have a ProJect table as well. How do they compare?
Apr 2, 2020
Multiplex
18
Mar 4, 2020
bookmark_border
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
My super long-winded DROP+Audio Technica Carbon VTA review...
search
Let me start by saying I am almost exclusively a user of vintage gear. This is not necessarily because I think it’s always better. It’s because around the time I got into two-channel, both two-channel and analog audio were at their most recessed point. Turntables for home use were but a distant memory, and speakers were meant to be used with your TV. New two-channel equipment was nearly impossible to find outside the “megabuck” realm. Yet, vintage gear was cheap and plentiful. I could build a very respectable system for very little money, using now-legendary components. It’s a habit I’ve just kind of stuck with. But things have started to change. As we all know, both two channel and analog audio have made a huge comeback. Now, affordable vintage gear gets snapped up quickly and prices are ever-increasing. Reliability is becoming more of a concern as old gear continues to age. As a result, I find I’m becoming increasingly interested in new gear. It’s a great time for such an interest, as dozens of new turntables, cartridges, preamps, integrated amps and speakers are surging onto the scene. I often wonder how some of this new stuff compares to my old stuff. Needless to say, when I was given the unique opportunity to try a brand new piece of gear for the purpose of reviewing it here, I jumped at it! By the way, let me say I am not an employee of DROP or Audio Technica, and this is not a paid review. I’m just an Audiophool that likes to play with toys! So, what is it? It is the DROP+Audio Technica Carbon VTA fully manual turntable. It is a budget belt-drive hi-fi turntable with a carbon fiber tonearm, built in phono preamp, electronic speed control, and a pre-mounted Audio Technica VM95E moving magnet cartridge. It looks quite similar to Audio Technica’s AT-LPW40WN turntable. The dark finish and DROP logo are the most readily apparent differences between the two. The “VTA” in Carbon VTA refers to the adjustable height tonearm- a feature that it’s Audio Technica counterpart does not share. Not having seen specs for the DROP version yet, I’m uncertain if there are other differences under the hood. The packing job was excellent. Each part was separately wrapped, and everything fit like puzzle pieces. In the box, I found a quick start guide, platter with belt, platter mat, plinth with tonearm pre-mounted, acrylic lid, power supply, and interconnect cable.
search
Hidden at the ends of the styrofoam padding were the headshell, counterweight, 45 adaptor, and lid hinges. A tiny Allen wrench was added, presumably for adjusting tonearm height. Also included was a carbon fiber record brush, which is a nice touch. 
search
Things that were not included, which I felt would have been a good addition, were a printed manual and stylus brush. During my quick glance through the quick start guide, I noticed an instructional diagram for using a stylus brush, yet no brush was present. The plinth is thin and minimalist in style, supported by rubber isolating feet. It feels solid, but not terribly heavy. The dark colored, flat-finished wood veneer has a warm, earthy aesthetic. Operation is controlled by a simple three-position knob labeled 33-STOP-45. The rear panel features a master power switch, DC power input jack, “phono/line” switch, RCA output jacks and a ground lug. The straight tonearm features a metal arm-lift and variable spring anti-skate. The non-magnetic metal platter and rubber mat are fairly thin and light, though perhaps not inappropriately so for a budget price point. The belt was already wrapped on the interior ring of the platter. The Audio Technica VM95E cartridge came pre-mounted and aligned to it’s angled alloy headshell. Assembly was fairly easy and straightforward. As I followed the quick-start guide, I couldn’t help but think that the section on balancing the tonearm and setting tracking force might be a bit confusing for a newb. There are no written instructions, just a fairly ambiguous diagram. The good news is, helpful instructions and videos are very easy to find online. As recommended, I set the tonearm weight to 2g and anti-skate dial to 2. The acrylic lid hinges pressed right into place, and it was ready to go in minutes, no tools required. 
search
Post-assembly, the Carbon VTA has a handsome, modern appearance. The understated dark wood finish almost adds a classic sort of vibe, though I feel that the silk screened lettering on the front face is a bit gaudy. It’s level of quality has an intermediate feel, with it’s mix of plastic and metal components. 
search
search
I used the provided Interconnect cables, which also have a ground conductor for using an external preamp. The turntable is factory set to it’s internal preamp, which is how I tested it initially.
search
I dropped my test record, Toto’s ‘Fahrenheit,’ on the platter, and set the speed knob to 33. Handling the tonearm for the first time, it felt like there was a little more play in the bearings than I’m used to. (Maybe that is intended as part of the design, I’m not sure.) The arm was easy to position at the lead-in, and the nicely damped lift lowered the arm gently. After a few soft clicks and ticks, there it was. Music! My initial reaction was that of pleasant surprise. I didn’t hear rumble. It’s didn’t strike me in any way as hollow, muddy, tinny, or bloated. It actually sounded fairly balanced. Separation and channel balance were quite good. I found it somewhat thinner in the bass that I’m used to, likewise soft in the highs. Maybe a little reserved in dynamics, overall. But keep in mind, this was with zero time for break-in. It could only get better. As it was, not bad. I did, however, notice an issue. The pitch sounded ever so slightly low compared to what I am used to. Was it running slow? I put the record on my daily driver Technics SL-1800, and made sure the strobe dots were perfectly stationary. On it, the pitch was back to normal. Back to the Carbon VTA, and the pitch was low again. My RPM Speed and Wow smartphone app confirmed that it was running about .25% slow compared to my Technics. Not much, but enough of a difference to be slightly audible. Looking over both the turntable and the quick-start guide, I couldn’t quickly find an obvious way to fine-adjust speed. However, since the instruction manual download is not yet available from DROP at the time I’m writing this, I will refrain from further judgement until I know for sure that an easy adjustment can’t be made. And truthfully, I’m probably more sensitive to pitch than most.  It would be unfair to judge a turntable with no break-in time, so I played it in the background while cooking and doing household chores over a few days. All the while, I could hear the bass warming and the top end becoming more relaxed. After about 8 hours of background playback, I figured it was time for some serious listening. I started out with Hozier, ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ As expected, sound quality had improved with break-in. Bass had newfound depth and texture. It propelled the music with pulse and drive that had previously lacked. The thick vocals were presented fully. Reverb decayed smoothly, and the swell of the Hammond organ’s growl filled in subtly behind sparse passages. Background vocals were perhaps a bit homogenized at times, but no frequencies seem to “stick out” and none were really missing. The background during low passages was fairly black. I couldn’t hear any bearing rumble, even with my subwoofer up. I could, however, hear a bit of handling noise when touching the plinth, and a thump when closing the lid. Decent isolation, but not quite as good as heavier built or suspended turntables. Placement on a solid surface is important for getting the best performance. I tested this in my “turntable spot,” which is on a heavy marble stone. It had no issues with feedback or woofer pumping, even at very high volumes. Many users won’t have quite as solid of a platform as this, so mileage may vary... Next up, The Civil Wars, ‘Barton Hollow.’ Acoustic instruments sounded harmonically rich and natural. I could easily hear separation in the harmonies of Joy Williams and John Paul White. Poorer quality turntables or cartridges might tend to muddy them, or blur them together. With the Carbon VTA, they were discrete, yet balanced. The plucks of mandolin and strumming of guitars were percussive. Bass notes were thick, without bloat. When it comes to speed stability, the Carbon VTA doesn’t quite seem to have the confidence I’m used to from my Technics. On the track ‘The Violet Hour,’ I could hear a slight waver in pitch on sustained notes. Though the Carbon VTA isn’t quite rock-steady in pitch, it is still quite acceptable.  Next on deck, Donald Fagen, ‘Nightfly.’ This is a record that can be bright and fatiguing in the wrong setup. With the DROP+Audio Technica it is mellow. The widely arrayed synths were quite alluring. But, this is where I could really notice that the soundstage wasn’t quite as wide or deep as I’m used to. Texture fell a little flat to me. Though highs had improved after some break-in, they didn’t quite soar. It sounded very good, don’t get me wrong. But I guess it wasn’t quite what I was used to. The story doesn’t have to end here, though.  The built-in preamp offers true bypass, so I can use my own phono preamp. After switching to “Phono” on the turntable, I swapped audio cables to the phono input on my vintage Soundcraftsman Pro-Control Three preamp. Better! Some of that soundstage I had been missing was back. Imaging was suddenly wider, and deeper from front to back. Not to mention, I was hearing punchier dynamics and more texture overall. So while the internal preamp is good, you can get far better performance with a high-quality external preamp.  The interconnect cable that comes with the turntable is fairly thin and inexpensive looking. So what if I were to change that out? I dug up an old set of Wireworld Solstice cables and swapped them in. An improvement, yet again! This time a more subtle difference, but it made for a noticeably warmer, more relaxed bottom end. 
search
I’ve read reviews critical of the AT VM95E cartridge and it’s tracking ability. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to try one through my personal system. While I certainly wouldn’t call it perfect, I would say it performs better than I had initially anticipated. It’s sound is balanced and warm, without the forward and fatiguing sound that some legacy AT’s were known for. On tough inner-groove tracks it can soften or become hazy, but I’ve yet to really hear it “break up.” It can tend to lose it’s composure a little during passages of tough sibilants, yet it handles most sibilance distortion with a subtle “shhh” rather than an obnoxious “SSSSS.” I truly have to give it kudos for it’s performance at it’s street price. The true beauty of this cartridge is it’s affordable upgrade path. Replacing the E stylus with an ML would be a massive improvement in both tracking ability and top end detail.  Another consideration for an upgrade might be the platter mat. The included mat is light and thin. Unfortunately, I don’t have another mat of similar thickness to try, and I’d prefer not to change the arm height from stock to try a thicker one. It is good, however, that this turntable offers adjustable arm height, so it can be flexible for use with different platter mats and cartridges of varying height. I’ve listened to several more albums in my latest configuration, (using my Soundcraftsman preamp and my upgrade cables,) and I’ve quite enjoyed myself. Though perhaps not as precise as with my Technics, the complex horn parts of “Slick” from the Ramsey Lewis album ‘Salongo’ were quick, controlled and musical. The layering of arrangements was not muddied or obscured. With ‘Kind of Blue,’ Miles Davis, the relaxed, soulful grooves I enjoy about the album were conveyed nicely. I can hear rich harmonics and ambience that are often lost in compressed digital formats.  As far as an overall sonic signature is concerned, I would say the Carbon VTA is more mellow than aggressive. It’s more warm in tone than forward. Highs are clear, but fall short of brilliant. Perhaps it’s greatest tonal attribute would be it’s thick, smooth midrange. The soundstage is bit more withdrawn than expansive, yet channel separation is excellent. Instrument placement from left to right is where it should be. (There still might be further improvement in this regard after more break-in time. At the time I’m writing this, I’m just over 12 hours in.) Overall, it’s very easy to listen to. I’m not feeling fatigued, even after a few hours of continuous playback. I’m not getting that irritated feeling like something is bothering me as I listen. That certainly tells me something. Something that I should mention, is during the course of use, speed accuracy has seemed to be improving a bit. In fact, I let it run overnight to see if a little more strenuous break-in would make a difference. It seemed to help a little bit. I’ve made no other adjustments, but the speed has been testing at around .10% higher than when I initially received it. It’s close in speed now to other turntables in my arsenal.
search
In conclusion, I’d have to say this is a pretty solid budget turntable. In it’s stock form, it is a good performer. Where it truly shines, is that it has some serious upgrade potential for the audiophile on a budget. A top-shelf stylus, external phono preamp, and high quality audio cables will yield a real boost in performance.  Will this perform with top end vintage gear? No. Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to compare a budget piece like this to turntables that cost far more than it. (Also gotta consider what some of these prices would look like after calculating decades of inflation...) I would go so far as to say, if the DROP+Audio Technica Carbon VTA were to be compared to the bulk of the mid-fi mass-market vintage turntables of the 70’s and 80’s, I believe it would hang right in there with most, and outperform many.  For:  ●Good sound quality ●Easy to setup ●Ease to use ●Ability to change out audio cables ●Bypassable built-in phono preamp ●High quality, upgradeable cartridge ●Low rumble ●Adjustable anti-skate and arm lift ●Record brush included Against: ●Runs slightly slow out of the box, but is improving ●Minor, but slightly audible wow and flutter ●Could be a bit better isolated from vibration ●No printed instruction manual or stylus brush ●Tonearm bearings seem a hair loose (though I didn’t really notice an audible effect from this) Initially, I was going to rate this 4 out of 5 stars because of it’s slow-ish speed out of the box. Since the Carbon VTA’s speed has shown improvement with break-in, I will upgrade this rating to 4.5 out of 5. The speed is still ever so slightly slow, but really, the difference is small enough that it is coming down to hair splitting. How I break my rating down: Performance: 4.5/5 Aesthetics: 5/5 Value: 4/5 Tested with Soundcraftsman Pro-Control Three preamp, Scott 390R receiver, JBL L-71 Verona speakers, EV 15TRXb speakers, M&K MX-80 sub. 
search


(Edited)
Mar 4, 2020
NTTD
67
Mar 30, 2020
bookmark_border
You have any familiarity with the Fluance TTs? I'm wondering how this compares to the RT83 which is the same price and has an Ortofon Red? I know the Fluance TTs are said to soon have the option to upgrade the platter to the acrylic one that comes with the RT85.
Mar 30, 2020
Multiplex
18
Apr 4, 2020
bookmark_border
Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to compare them. For me, the RT-85 would be the obvious choice if I were to go with Fluance. The Ortofon 2M Red is “meh” at best. Though the RT-85 costs quite a bit more, it is still a good bang-for-the-buck upgrade over the RT-83 with the addition of the 2M Blue. The Blue is a top shelf nude elliptical cartridge. However, the Carbon VTA’s AT VM95E cartridge is the king of affordable upgrades... An upgrade to the ML (microline) stylus would put it into a class well beyond the 2M Blue. (And it’s worthy of mention that the 2M Red/Blue body tops out at the Blue. If you wanted a better tip than an elliptical with the Ortofon, you’d have have to go with a Bronze/Black stylus, which requires replacing the entire cartridge. The internals are different between lower and upper-end classes. That’s big $$$.) I expect that the RT-85 will be more “speed-stable” and possibly more a little more immune to external resonances with it’s acrylic platter, but I would still love to compare it to the Carbon VTA with an AT VM95ML cartridge. Without hearing them side by side, I honestly can’t say which I would prefer.
Apr 4, 2020
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
search


Overview The Drop + Audio Technica Carbon VTA ( referred to as the Drop AT Carbon from here on out) is a strong entry in Drop's fairly impressive custom audio department, providing some unique and higher end features at an entry level price. Included in the box:
  • Turntable (Aluminum Platter, Rubber Desk Mat, Dust Cover)
  • AT-HS4 Headshell with AT-VM95E Cartridge
  • 45 Adapter
  • Record Brush
  • RCA cable w/ Ground Cable

The Testing Now, before I go any further I'd also like to point out that this is an entry level turntable, but a good one at that. I mainly compared this to my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit as it has a closer resemblance of features and price than any of my other turntables (Clearaudio Concept, SOL, Technics SL-1200). The Rega RP-1 and U-Turn Audio Plus are also fairly good tables to compare to the Drop AT Carbon.
search
With the knowledge that this is an entry level turntable, I think it is important to know the target audience as well. For an entry level I think a strong mix of quality and convenience is key, and this turntable finds a great balance. So where features like a built in phono preamp will never be on a true reference turntable Features The first thing you'll probably notice about the Drop AT Carbon are it's damn fine looks. The black hardware and dark wood body give the turntable the looks of an updated classic. The front branding may be a bit loud for some (I'd prefer some minimal logo only branding on top) but it isn't the end of the world. The big feature here is the VTA, or vertical tracking angle. VTA is a rather big feature as many entry level turntables don't have adjustable VTA (Including the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon). This essentially allows you to make adjustments when swapping cartridges and/or headshells, changing the mat or platter to one of a different thickness, and for perfectionists even when listening to different weight vinyl.
search
Beyond just VTA adjustment, the tonearm itself is also quite nice. The carbon fiber body makes it lightweight. Lightweight = better tracking, thus better sound. Other adjustments like anti-skate and weight were also extremely simple to make on the fly, and when setup correctly don't really need to be bothered with again. The built in Phono Preamp has its usefulness, but will mainly be used by folks without complete setups. While I do see the benefit of having a built in phono preamp, they also have their limitations. For example, you're stuck with just MM (moving magnet) cartridges as it won't be able to handle MC (moving coil) cartridges. Chances are if you have an MC cart you already have a nice dedicated phono preamp so this won't be an issue for most people. Also, if you are just starting out with a system and don't have any components, I'm a huge fan of getting a turntable with a built in phono preamp. I know many people (such as my father) that value simplicity and don't want to have to shell out on a bunch of new components. This allows you to get a turntable and a pair of powered speakers and be on your way, and for many people this is a stellar option. The removable headshell is also a feature I'm rather fond of, especially on entry/mid level turntables. This makes changing cartridges a breeze, and allows for easily hot swapping out different ones in a matter of seconds. You will need to align a cartridge the first time you install it on a headshell, but after that you shouldn't have to again (the included cartridge comes aligned). On higher end turntables you often will pair a high end cartridge to the table itself and thus won't want or need any swapping.
search
The feet are also rather good as well. I know what you're thinking, the feet, really? But in all honestly bad feet can ruin a turntable. My system now is subject to more than a few vibrations in my current living situation, as I'm sure many people can relate, but the included feet actually ate quite a bit of that vibration up. The performance was easily as good, if not better, than the stock Pro-Ject feet.
search
When talking about sound quality, the main part I want to concentrate on is background noise and interference. Anyone that has had a turntable for long enough, or had a few over the years will know the hum that I am talking about. Poor grounding, loose wires, cheap cables, oxidized connections, etc, all can have disastrous effects on a listening experience. For me, I didn't experience any of these issues. The included preamp only adds a very slight bit of noise to the signal that I could really even pickup on when using CIEMs. I even used the turntable plugged directly into my powered speakers via the included RCA cable with the ground on the speaker end left to dangle and didn't experience any hum or interference. In the case of this being an entry level turntable, and not wanting to get into a very subjective debate on what sounds good, I think the key part to test when testing sound is to make sure there isn't anything that will detract from the listening experience. And there were none in the case of the Drop AT Carbon.
search


The Verdict Although the Drop AT Carbon isn't the cheapest option out there, I'm glad they didn't set out to make the most budget turntable possible in this collaboration. Instead of trying to shave off every penny they could (as they do in some collaborations), they seemed to manage price and features in a way that resulted in a rather unique offering in this price range. So while there may be some people looking for a more purist entry into the world of turntables (of which there some dominating options already available in that dept.), there are those that will value the convenience and flexibility the Drop AT Carbon offers along with quality that should get a lot of great use out of this turntable. As someone with a masters in audio engineering and hundreds of hours logged in full analog studios, plenty of time spent cutting masters on a lathe, a former record store owner, and avid record/turntable collector, I approve of this deck. I asked for this back in 2016 even haha....
search


(Edited)
Mar 4, 2020
NTTD
67
Mar 30, 2020
bookmark_border
Do you mean the Fluance RT85? I think the better question is this Drop vs the Fluance RT83 which match in price. Though for $150 more for the RT85 you get a heavy acrylic platter and an Ortofon Blue cartridge. It would cost you about $200 just to upgrade to that stylus. I think one could argue that the RT85 is a "better" deal, but the difference between $350 and $500 is not insignificant. Another question is could anyone in the "entry level quality turntable" market tell the difference between the above options. I believe that is the market these TTs are shooting for. I'm leaning towards the RT82 as it's $50 cheaper still but is from the same family as the RT83-85 and can be upgraded should I ever feel the need. At this stage I honestly doubt I'd be able to tell the difference between an Ortophon OM 10 and 2M Blue.
Mar 30, 2020
NTTD
67
Mar 30, 2020
bookmark_border
Do you mean the Fluance RT85? I think the better question is this Drop vs the Fluance RT83 which match in price. Though for $150 more for the RT85 you get a heavy acrylic platter and an Ortofon Blue cartridge. It would cost you about $200 just to upgrade to that stylus. I think one could argue that the RT85 is a "better" deal, but the difference between $350 and $500 is not insignificant. Another question is could anyone in the "entry level quality turntable" market tell the difference between the above options. I believe that is the market these TTs are shooting for. I'm leaning towards the RT82 as it's $50 cheaper still but is from the same family as the RT83-85 and can be upgraded should I ever feel the need. At this stage I honestly doubt I'd be able to tell the difference between an Ortophon OM 10 and 2M Blue.
Mar 30, 2020
metafrolic
13
Mar 3, 2020
bookmark_border
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
This is hands down a fantastic turntable with a multitude of thoughtful details. The price point is really great, and its performance went far beyond what I expected. Also it's well detailed and just plain looks good! I was a bit skeptical - having loved my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon over the years. Aesthetically, I think they are both pretty nice - but there are some subtle details that make this more enjoyable to use. One, the ability to shift between 33 and 45 rpm without lifting up the entire platter and manually changing the belt has gotten me to actually play my 45's again (call me lazy!). The built in phono preamp actually sounds better than my external pro-ject preamp too - I was surprised. I should mention I'm playing through a Peachtree Nova 150 amp. I was able to hook both up at the same time and do a side-by-side test using the auxiliary input as well. It just had more clarity and punch at higher volumes than my Pro-ject. The setup was also a bit more straight forward and the leveling feet and anti-skate were easy to adjust. I noticed a lot of reviews pointed out the lack of an auto-stop function. I don't get this. I've only had this function in my first turntable - the AT-LP60 - which I loved, but it always felt cheap. This is a far more sophisticated machine in look and feel. That function can be easily added later if wanted - but I like it how it is, personally. Overall - I recommend this turntable for the price-point and feel it raised the bar of design for Audio-Technica in general (understanding they make some solid turntables at all price points).
Mar 3, 2020
NickJ43
0
Apr 5, 2020
bookmark_border
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
check
Would recommend to a friend.
Apr 5, 2020
SpencerL
1152
keeb weeb
Mar 23, 2020
bookmark_border
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
star_borderstar
Mar 23, 2020
Recent Activity
Placed an order
Placed an order
Placed an order