Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviewers' ChoiceParts Express’s Dayton Audio operation is a major supplier of speaker components as well as audio testing and measurement tools, and has recently expanded its offerings of home audio products, many of them at exceptional prices. Their latest offering is the TT-1 manual turntable, which comes with a factory-mounted Audio-Technica AT-VM95E cartridge.

However, the TT-1 is more than just a simple manual turntable. Yes, it has an onboard phono preamp stage so you can use it with amplifiers lacking that circuitry. But it also has an analog-to-digital converter and USB port, so you can output digital audio and record it onto a personal computer. And the TT-1 has a Bluetooth transmitter, so you can transmit audio to a pair of Bluetooth headphones or other paired device. Given the TT-1’s price of $249.98 (all prices in USD), this is an impressive array of features.

Dayton Audio

Unpacking and setup

The box for the TT-1 opens more like a laptop computer than a standard box, so unpacking is easy. The first thing you come upon is the dust cover, enclosed in a plastic bag. Internal packaging is not quite as fancy as many other brands. The turntable is held firmly by polystyrene forms that have nooks for the power supply and counterweight. But the platter is placed underneath without any additional packing or box to hold it in position, which I found mildly disconcerting. Also, the supplied RCA and USB cables, contained in individual bags, are just loose in the front of the plinth. None of this should cause significant harm, but I’ve become so accustomed to turntables arriving recently with “a place for every part and every part in its place” that the TT-1’s packaging seemed something of a throwback.

The removeable headshell with pre-installed cartridge comes already mounted on the straight aluminum tonearm. I checked cartridge alignment and it was accurate. The arm’s effective length is a bit over 8.5″. The platter is cast aluminum with resonance-damping material around its inside, as the platter is relatively light. A thin felt platter mat emblazoned with Dayton Audio’s logo is also included. A red ribbon shows through a hole in the platter as an aid to slipping the flat drive belt over the pulley. This part of the assembly went very smoothly.

Dayton Audio

Dayton Audio has chosen to use the weight-on-an-infinitesimally-thin-nylon-thread method of antiskating compensation. As I am not especially steady of hand nor keen of sight, after a half hour of attempting to loop the nylon thread over the small post above the arm’s pivot, I gave up and called in my wife; she had it set up in about a minute and a half.


The TT-1 measures 4.9″H × 16.6″W × 13.6″D with its dust cover attached, and weighs 13.7 pounds. It sits on four non-adjustable, vibration-damping feet and is available with a gloss-black or high-gloss-walnut plinth. Dayton Audio supplied the walnut version for this review.

Dayton Audio

On the top surface of the plinth are two knobs: one for start/stop and the other for speed selection—45 or 33⅓ rpm. There’s also a tonearm-lift lever that doesn’t appear to be damped for raising the arm but is very well damped going down, with a slow descent.

Around back, from left to right, are the stereo pair of color-coded RCA output jacks, a ground/earth connector, the switch that engages and disengages the onboard phono preamplifier, the Type-B USB port, the port for the outboard power supply, a Bluetooth indicator, and, all the way to the right, the power on/off switch. The dust cover fits onto two hinges that are already mounted on the plinth.

Connections are relatively simple: To use the TT-1 with an analog amplifier, connect the audio cables with their attached ground/earth wire from turntable to amp. To connect it to a computer, just run the supplied USB-B to USB-A cable between the two units. Transmitting of the turntable signal to a Bluetooth-enabled, paired device, such as powered speakers or wireless headphones, can be activated anytime power is applied to the turntable.

Dayton Audio

The USB port outputs 16-bit PCM audio at either 44.1kHz or 48kHz. You choose the sample rate with the computer software that you’re using to record audio. The Bluetooth is version 5.0 and supports Qualcomm’s premium aptX codec.

The TT-1 comes with a five-year limited warranty against material defects and workmanship. And you have 60 days to decide whether you want to keep it.

Specifications and measurements

Dayton Audio claims the TT-1’s speed variance is ±1.0% and wow and flutter is less than 0.15%. The recommended tracking force for the Audio-Technica AT-VM95E cartridge is 2.0gm (20mN).

Dayton Audio

As estimated by the RPM phone app, the actual speeds while the turntable was playing a record were 33.51 rpm (+0.52%) and 45.23 rpm (+0.51%); estimated wow at 33⅓ rpm was only ±0.05%, while at 45, it was still well below the specification at ±0.11%. That 33⅓ rpm wow estimate is as good as those of turntables costing twice as much as the TT-1, and the speed variances are far better than spec. Measured tracking force was virtually spot-on at 2.015gm (20.15mN).


For most of my listening, I connected the TT-1 to the Phono 2 input of my Apt Holman preamplifier, and my reference ’table, the Music Hall Stealth, to Phono 1. The Apt preamp was connected to the NAD C 275BEE power amp that drove my Acoustic Energy Radiance 3 floorstanding speakers. A new pair of longer Morrow Audio MA1 interconnects ran between the Apt and the NAD. For this part of my listening, I was using the phono stage inside the Apt Holman preamp rather than the one built into the Dayton Audio turntable.

Dayton Audio

As usual, I started with a classical piece: the first movement, marked Adagio–Allegro spiritoso, of Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 86 in D Major, performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Max Rudolf (Decca Gold Label DL 10107). This 1965 release was recorded in the outstanding acoustics of Cincinnati’s Music Hall. In those days, the hall’s acoustics favored the violins, violas, and woodwinds, and these instruments came through well via the TT-1. I was pleasantly surprised with the strength of the high-frequency output from the AT-VM95E. On several other turntables, I’ve found the sound of this cart a little masked, but not here. Granted, there was a slight edge to the higher notes of the violins, but nothing that grated on my nerves. The bass section had excellent heft against the other orchestra sections, but didn’t overpower them. Overall, a very nice performance.

I hadn’t listened to Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album for a while, so next I played “All Blues” (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 2-45011, 45 rpm). Davis is centered, as befits the leader of the date, and the soundstage is fabulous, with John Coltrane’s tenor sax and Bill Evans’s piano on the left, and Cannonball Adderley’s alto, Paul Chambers’s double bass, and James Cobb’s drums on the right. I can’t say the group was “virtually in my room,” as that would have meant Coltrane was standing on Evans’s piano and Adderley would have been on Chambers’s shoulders. But those staging peculiarities aside, I found the TT-1 delivered a very cogent presentation. The saxes sounded particularly good (and that’s from someone for whom the sax is not a favored instrument). Evans’s piano solo sounded like a real piano; it had all the right overtones. And Davis’s trumpet couldn’t have sounded any better—tight and very natural.

During my ill-spent youth, I had a thing for San Francisco–based jazz-rock-blues groups fronted by diminutive female singers. One such band was Cold Blood. Another was Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan—think Blood, Sweat & Tears meets Janis Joplin and you have a good idea of the Drive’s sound. The first cut on their 1969 album Construction #1 (Polydor 24-4408) is “Tightrope,” which I like a lot. Ravan sings with a very bluesy voice, and is backed by a band consisting of guitar, percussion, organ, bass, drums, tenor and baritone sax, trombone, and three trumpets. The song starts with just a bass line, followed by Ravan’s entry, which continues for four bars. Then come the drums, followed by the brass, sax, and piano. By the middle of the song, the band is wailing away behind Ravan. I was impressed at the depth produced by the TT-1. Ravan was out front; slightly behind her were the drums and bass. The trombone and saxes were next, with the trumpeters farthest back and high up, as if they were on risers. The guitar has a blazing solo on the left with the organ playing backing chords on the right. Through the TT-1, Ravan just killed the vocals, her gritty voice projecting forth as it should. I had forgotten how hot the band was in its heyday. Spinning this great record on the TT-1 reminded me why I liked them so much.

Dayton Audio

On their 1977 reunion album CSN (Atlantic SD 19104), Crosby, Stills & Nash covered one of their previous tunes, “Just a Song Before I Go.” Like the original, this remake features flawless harmonies and a touching interplay between Stills’s electric and Crosby’s acoustic guitars. The soundstage is broad, with greater-than-average depth. And, of course, the vocals are impeccable, which the TT-1 handled deftly. The acoustic guitar, especially, was delicate but not overpowered by the electric. The instruments showed up quite nicely just behind the singers except during the bridge when the guitars moved up front. On this track, the TT-1 delivered one of the nicer performances I’ve heard from a turntable of any price.

Comparing turntables

At $1649, my Musical Hall Stealth is several times more expensive than the TT-1. In fact, the list price of the Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge ($239) supplied with the Stealth is just a touch less than that of the TT-1. So, I was prepared to cut the Dayton ’table a lot of slack if it didn’t measure up to my reference.

For this comparison, I played the title track of Steve Winwood’s 1988 album Roll With It (Virgin 1-90946). This number has a driving hard-blues beat with a lot going on in the background: two synthesizers, Hammond B3 organ, piano, drums, and guitar—all played by Winwood. There’s also another keyboard player, plus a trumpet, trombone, and tenor sax, as well as two backup singers. Winwood’s voice can generously be described as “reedy”—it strains some systems to the point of distortion.

The TT-1 did not portray Winwood’s voice very well. I heard some distortion, though it never became intolerable. The bass line and bass drum sounded a bit mushy; they were not precise. However, the insistent snare beats sounded very good, as did all the keyboards. The AT-VM95E again surprised me, as it had very noticeable highs that were well reproduced. The rhythm and pace were so good, I had to tap my feet vigorously. The Stealth also showed some roughness on Winwood’s voice, but not as much as the TT-1. The electric bass and kick drum were tighter on the Stealth, and so were the keyboards. In all, the Stealth gave a more coherent performance, which, given the price differential, is pretty much what you’d expect.

Comparing phono stages

Many audio nerds, myself included, believe that the phono stage in the Apt Holman preamp is one of the best ever. It’s incredibly quiet. It has a very broad frequency range and very low distortion, resulting in very natural sound. Let’s cut to the chase: the phono stage built into the TT-1 sounded closer to the Holman than I would have thought possible. I used a record with four voices—two men, two women—singing in close harmony, by the Washington, DC–area group of yesteryear, Mad Romance, doing “I Concentrate on You” from their eponymous album (Zanzibar Records, ZBR-101). They set the song to a Mambo beat, so there’s nice percussion in the background, with a backing group of piano, bass, and drums.

Dayton Audio

With the TT-1 connected to one of the Holman preamp’s phono inputs and the turntable’s phono stage disengaged, the voices were spread nearly across the soundstage while the instrumentalists were mostly huddled on the right. During the long piano solo, that instrument’s sound stretched from the middle of the stage all the way to the right (lower notes toward the middle) and the singers arrayed well above them. The sound was very natural and full. It sounded great.

When I engaged the TT-1’s phono stage and connected it to one of the Holman’s line-level inputs, this track sounded nearly as good as it did when I played it through the Apt Holman’s phono stage. The sound was a little more bass-heavy and the midrange was a little too forward for my taste—this was especially noticeable with vocals. The instruments were more prominent, but not objectionably so. Very much in its favor, the preamp was quiet but full-sounding. The Apt Holman still sounded better—but not by as much as I had expected.

Digitizing and recording

Now it was time to examine some of the TT-1’s enhanced features, starting with the USB output. To record from the TT-1, I used Audacity software (; free), which I find a great recording and editing tool. The song I recorded was “To Cry You a Song” from the Jethro Tull album Benefit (Reprise RS 6400). Even with assistance from a very helpful Parts Express tech-support rep, I couldn’t get my ancient desktop computer to recognize the TT-1. Eventually, we determined that my old PC’s USB drivers were out of date. So I connected the TT-1 to my HP ProBook 650 G1 laptop, and it recognized the TT-1 immediately. I used controls in Audacity to record “To Cry You a Song” as a 16/44.1 WAV file. The resulting recording sounded virtually identical to the LP from which it was made.


Full disclosure: I’m not really a headphone guy—I don’t like the “music in the middle of my head” sensation. And I generally steer clear of Bluetooth, because of its use of lossy compression. But I wanted to try the TT-1’s Bluetooth feature, so I paired the TT-1 with my JVC HA-S36 on-ear headphones. It was pretty straightforward: I put the ’phones in search mode, then turned on the TT-1 and waited until the blue LED on the rear glowed steadily, indicating that it had paired successfully with the JVCs. I played an old but pristine stereo demonstration LP I had on hand. I wouldn’t say the resulting sound was good enough for critical listening, but it was fine for casual, background listening. There was plenty of bass, but the main range of the instruments sounded a bit hollow and the highs were not as crisp. Something worth noting: my JVC ’phones don’t support the aptX codec. To send audio to the HA-S36s, the TT-1 turntable was using the base SBC codec, which has lower bandwidth and uses heavier compression. The Bluetooth carried well more than 20 feet. This short test confirmed for me that the TT-1 would be a good source for feeding small Bluetooth speakers for casual listening.


Frankly, I wasn’t expecting too much when I first received the TT-1, as it seemed to be awfully inexpensive for such a “Swiss Army knife” piece of gear. After I set it up, my attitude changed—dramatically. It performed its primary function—extracting music from the groove—very creditably. The built-in phono stage also did a very decent job. Its USB output allowed me to make a virtually perfect digital copy on my PC. And I thought its Bluetooth capability fit today’s lifestyles nicely.

Dayton Audio

This is a heck of a turntable for an amazingly low price. It also comes with an impressive five-year warranty and a 60-day home trial. If I were advising someone who wanted to add a capable but economical turntable to their system, the TT-1 would be at the top of my suggestions list. Its performance-to-price ratio is simply astounding.

. . . Thom Moon

Associated Equipment

  • Turntable: Music Hall Stealth with Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge.
  • Preamplifier: Apt Holman.
  • Power Amplifier: NAD C 275BEE.
  • Speakers: Acoustic Energy Radiance 3.
  • Interconnects: Manufacturer-supplied on the Stealth and TT-1; Morrow Audio MA1 (preamp to amplifier).
  • Speaker cables: Audtek 14-gauge OFC copper, terminated in banana plugs.
  • Headphones: JVC HA-S36.
  • Personal computer: HP ProBook 650 G1 laptop.

Dayton Audio TT-1 turntable with Audio-Technica AT-VM95E cartridge

Price: $249.98

Warranty: Five years, parts and labor.

Dayton Audio
705 Pleasant Valley Drive
Springboro, OH 45066
Phone: (937) 743-8248