Lenco LBT-188 review: A stylish entry-level turntable for sampling and casual listening
New to vinyl? This Bluetooth-enabled record player will set you on the right track.
⊕ Setup process is a valuable introduction to turntables
⊕ Fair sound quality
⊕ Price is competitive and affordable
⊕ Multiple connectivity options, including USB recording
⊖ Fairly unstable and prone to knocks
⊖ Limited to 33 and 45rpm settings
It’s no secret that vinyl is flourishing in its revival. In September, vinyl records overtook PlayStation disc games as the second biggest-selling physical format in the UK. More surprisingly, it’s Gen Z folk that seem to be leading the charge. So, as more young music fans flock to vinyl, where should they look for an affordable, aesthetically- and sonically-pleasing turntable? Lenco’s offering is the LBT-188.
Slim, stylish and simple to use, the belt-driven LBT-188 drops in at around £195 and offers playback via analogue and Bluetooth outputs, making use of an onboard preamp. Plus, with built-in USB connectivity, you can also digitise your favourite vinyl classics and sample without the need for an audio interface. But do all these features and affordability mean Lenco’s compromised on audio quality?
Dropping the needle
Before you start playing your records, you’ll need to install the drive belt, turntable platter, counterweight, anti-skate weight and dust cover. This is far simpler than it sounds and is actually a fun way to become acquainted with turntable concepts.
A handy quick-start illustration guide is included in the box and shows you how to attach the components – which are, of course, also included. A more comprehensive manual is also available if you prefer to follow written instructions.
You’ll encounter tedious moments during the setup, such as tying the small so-called “fishing line” to the anti-skating weight, but it’s ultimately a worthwhile process. For example, applying the counterweight will give you a better understanding of how to calibrate a turntable’s tonearm. This knowledge will come in handy if you want to optimize the performance of your vinyl gear.
Once you’re finished, you’ll be able to drop the tonearm lever and watch as the needle slowly falls to the record – delightful. There are two knobs to play your records with: Start/Stop and 45/33. The former is self-explanatory, but the latter may be unfamiliar if you’re new to vinyl. 45 and 33 correspond to the rotations per minute (rpm) and you’ll need to check your records for which speed to play them. Unfortunately, there’s no option for 78rpm speeds, although this standard is uncommon so may pose no issues to you.
Of course, to hear your music, you’ll need to decide which audio output to use. Along with Bluetooth connectivity is a pair of RCA jacks that double as line and phono outs, plus a USB-A port for ripping or playing vinyl via your computer – ideal for sampling with a DAW. Lenco also provides a guide on how to digitise your vinyl using Audacity.
As Lenco has built the LBT-188 with a preamp, you can use line outputs to output analogue line-level signals directly to a pair of speakers or stereo system. You can output the LBT-188 to a preamp if you have one, but it’s not a necessary purchase – as is the case with some turntables.
USB connectivity is a fantastic touch. For digitising your vinyl or instant sampling, it’s a straightforward solution that doesn’t require an audio interface, preamp, or mixer.
The audio quality from the built-in preamp and Audio Technica AT-3600L cartridge is fair, but certainly not pristine. It’s lacking high-end clarity and a smooth low-end, and we often find ourselves reaching for the three-band EQ on our mixer to open the higher frequencies a little.
When listening to your music using the Bluetooth connection, you’ll hear a slight drop in quality. This is expected, considering that you’re transferring audio data over a limited wireless Bluetooth codec as opposed to a reliable wired connection. It’s not drastic, but you might notice a few more pops and clicks than when hooked up to a sound system.
Likewise, when using the USB connection, you might notice intermittent distortion and clipping. Though, in fairness, this was rare in our testing.
Most frustrating is the build quality of the LBT-188. Yes, it’s a joy to look at and is an ornament in itself. But it’s incredibly prone to slight knocks and jolts, which means that the slightest touch on the frame will result in a wincing skip in playback. This is due to the turntable only having two front feet, with the back of the unit propped up by the casing at the rear. We recommend keeping it situated in a very secure location where you’re minimising the chance of a bump.
Another tedious issue is the anti-skating arm. When dropping the needle, there tends to be a drift that, annoyingly, means your record will seldom start on the position you’re hoping for.
These irritations aside, we’re quite content with the Lenco LBT-188 as a no-fuss means of playing vinyl.
As ever, you’ll always get the best audio quality by using an accomplished system with a dedicated preamp and speakers. However, despite the slight drop in fidelity over USB and Bluetooth, we find these valuable additions for the modern-day music enthusiast. It’s a superb solution for newcomers to vinyl or producers that are hoping to sample records straight into their laptop. You may wish to graduate to a more capable player as your collection grows, but the LBT-188 will certainly set you on the right track early on.
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