Audio Technica AT-PL120 Questions

(Please bear with me, as I am new to vinyl).

How do I know what height to put the tone arm at? What is the correct height? I am not looking to DJ- just to listen to my records.

What is the best brush+fluid to use to clean records? I might not even be using the fluid; it's not heavy, heavy cleaning, although I may be using the fluid sometimes.

Will a cartridge alignment tool come with instructions on how to use it? Or rather, how do I align the cartridge? I just ordered an Ortofon 2M Blue from Needle Doctor, it's on its way.

Generally, you'll want to adjust the height so the tonearm is level when it sits down on the average record. You might want to experiment to fine tune the arm height to your listening preference. Usually level or with the fulcrum a tiny bit lower than the headshell is desirable.

If you don't want to get into a lot of money, Audio Technica's own record cleaning kit is very good. My local needle/turntable guru recommended it over many similar other ones. He said the AT brush has finer filaments and scrubs out the groove better. AT's replacement cleaning fluid is rather expensive, but you can find plenty of excellent, less expensive replacement cleaning fluids here and many other places (Needle Doctor, MusicDirect, Acoustic Sounds, etc.).

I believe the the PL-120 comes with a cartridge alignment jig, which should get it close enough to get you going. Another alternative is to access the alignment protractors at Vinyl Engine here. Since the PL-120 is such a close copy of the Technics SL1200, I suspect you can use the Technics protractor on this page. Otherwise, just use one of the universal protractors. Make sure you set your printing preferences to "full size" or "100%" when printing it out, because accurate scale is everything with alignment protractors. Vinyl Engine includes instructions for many of these.

You should get a lot of enjoyment out of that rig. Not only are the PL-120 and 2M Blue two of the better components at their price points, that turntable and that cart work together particularly well.
When I set the tonearm height to 0, the back part of the arm is still higher in the air than the needle on the record. What I mean is, the lowest setting does not make the arm parallel with the record.
06-04-09: Fond_but_not_in_love
When I set the tonearm height to 0, the back part of the arm is still higher in the air than the needle on the record. What I mean is, the lowest setting does not make the arm parallel with the record.
You need to either get a thicker record mat or put shims or spacers between the cartridge and the headshell.

Some cartridges come with spacers in the form of little sleeves. You slide the sleeves over the mounting bolts between the cartridge and headshell to raise the front of the tonearm when the stylus hits the groove.

You may even be able to find what you need at Home Depot or Ace Hardware.
06-07-09: Fond_but_not_in_love
Where can I buy thick slip mats/record mats online?
You don't want a slipmat; you want something that holds the record still, damps the platter, and isolates the stylus from the sounds of the moving parts underneath.

The PL-120 is a fairly exact copy of the Technics SL1200. The Technics originally came with a 1/4" thick (that's THICK) heavy (17 oz.) rubber mat. I suspect the tonearm height adjustment was set and calibrated with this mat in mind and was never changed after Technics (and the mfrs who copied it) went to thin felt slipmats. Even the stock Technics rubber mat is barely more than half the thickness it once was.

Fortunately you can still get the original 1/4" thick rubber 17 oz. Technics mat from Go here and scroll down to "Turntable Mats." Then select the listing that says:

TECHNICS SL-1200 1/4" SUPERMAT $20.00

The thicker mat will raise the front of your tonearm, damp the ringing out of the platter, and isolate the cartridge from the turntable's mechanical noise. Quite an improvement for $20.

If you want to go even better, go here and scroll down to the listing for "Way Excellent II-6.35mm" at $94.75. Choose the 11.22" diameter version to fit a Technics-type platter best.

Although it's a lot more money than the Technics rubber mat, it's made of more sophisticated damping materials that should dampen and isolate even more effectively than the Supermat. If you're unsure, bear in mind that Herbie offers a 90-day no-risk return policy and lifetime product warranty.

Some time has passed since you got the Audio Technica AT-PL120? what are your thoughts on it? Did you do any mods that Johnnyb53 mentioned? How does it sound with the Ortofon 2M Blue?

Hi Johnnyb53

From previous posts I saw you recommend the PL120 from LPGear. I went on their site and saw they have the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB that they have made improvements too.

"The retail price of the regular AT-LP120-USB turntable system is $429.00. We are providing for FREE, a LP Gear Z Mat (retail value $21.95), and LP Gear AT95SE phono cartridge (retail value $59.95). We also check and align the cartridge as an added service (value $50.00) so you can start playing right away! The combined retail value of the AT-LP120-USB HiFi turntable is $560.90. We offer this entire package for only $299.99.You save over $260.00! "

What is your take on the mods and the table itself? I think the AT-LP120USB is very similar to the AT-PL120 with just the addition of the USB option. If not I found an AT-PL120 for a little over $225. I'm just trying to find the cheapest quality entry point into vinyl where I have to do minimal set-up or maintenance. I find vintage tables by me all the time but all the work to get the up and running and set-up is something I just don't want to do.