Hands-on review: Lenco L-92WA turntable
Image credit: Lenco
A handsome vinyl player to celebrate a notable anniversary.
To celebrate its 75th birthday, the Swiss-origin, now Dutch-owned audio brand Lenco released a premium pair of anniversary turntables. The L-92WA is a belt-driven turntable housed in a classy walnut-effect exterior, aimed primarily at the home vinyl enthusiast, while the L-3809 is a direct-drive model designed for DJs and professional users, as well as for those with an industrial decor bent to their domestic environment.
Both players feature a robust full-size aluminium platter for stability during playback, a built-in moving magnet phono preamplifier to make connecting them to any output nice and easy, and a USB connection to hook the turntables up directly to a Mac or PC so users can digitise their records.
We've spent the last couple of months living with the Lenco L-92WA. Strictly in numerological terms, the L-92 follows the L-91 in Lenco's lineage, although the company stressed that the L-92 is a completely new turntable and is considered a superior model to its catalogue predecessor.
It's a nice-looking machine, with subtle retro styling mixed with more modern aesthetics. There's a tasteful amount of chrome hardware sitting on top of that walnut-effect base, such as the DJ-like J-shaped tonearm and other control knobs, while the sloped edging of the aluminium platter that extends beyond a 12" vinyl record is nicely finished and patterned. The smoked-plastic-hinged dust cover keeps everything inside nice and pristine.
Fitted with a decent-sounding, pre-installed Audio Technica cartridge (AT3600), the option of using either the integrated phono preamplifier and connecting directly to powered speakers, or bypassing this stage entirely and connecting to a superior phono preamplifier that you already own gives this deck an unusual degree of flexibility.
Another bonus touch is that the RCA output is not hardwired, as it is on some turntables at this price point (e.g. the Sony we used to A/B this Lenco), so you are free to use a cable with the finest gold-plated connectors if you like. The downside here is that no RCA cable is supplied in the box, not even a bog-standard cheap effort. After rooting through our box of cable spares, we came up with a decent one with which to test the turntable.
Before you can get started, there is a degree of modular assembly required. The platter, belt, tonearm weight and cartridge are all shipped in the box as separate components from the main body, but assembly is straightforward and the manual walks you through the simple steps. The tonearm weight can be calibrated for other cartridges, or for personal preference, if you feel it's riding too heavily or too lightly in the groove.
New features on the L-92WA are pitch control, +/-10 per cent controlled by a rotary knob; a strobe light, which helps to verify the correct rotation speed and also, in low-light conditions (or with particularly dark vinyl), helps to indicate where to place the needle on a record, and an auto-return feature that lifts the tonearm off the turntable when the record ends and returns to the resting position. There is also an anti-skating feature to prevent the tonearm from skipping across vinyl records and making that alarming noise. These little extras are all welcome and help nudge this Lenco ahead of some of its competition.
The only caveat with the auto-return feature, we found, was that it is dependent on the quality of the vinyl pressing. Some recent LPs, where the inner paper label had been poorly positioned even marginally off-centre, affected the ability of the Lenco to recognise that the record had ended. Round and round it went. This is hardly the fault of the Lenco; just an advisory note. Well-made records behaved impeccably, as did the Lenco.
Also included in the box are a 45rpm adapter (for those 'big-hole' 7" singles), a Lenco-branded slip mat, a cleaning cloth (orange, because the Netherlands?), the power adapter and cable (with UK and EU plugs) and a USB cable to hook the turntable up to a computer.
The two standard record speeds are a flick of a switch away: 33 or 45rpm. All of the key controls are top-mounted. The only options at the back of the machine are the switch for the integrated phono pre, a USB socket and the power button.
With the turntable assembled and its four sizeable, cupped rubber feet firmly planted on a level surface, helping to isolate the player from vibrations, listening to your records is a simple matter of moving the tonearm over to the vinyl. The platter automatically starts spinning, then you lower the tonearm with the lever until needle hits groove.
We've played the usual smorgasbord of music styles on this deck, using vinyl pressings ranging from very old to brand new, from 1950 to 2022. Everything sounded good. Perhaps not jaw-droppingly amazing, but undeniably good. This is a turntable that sits in the mid-table league of record players today: not your basic box, but equally not an esoteric audiophile effort. It simply puts across a solid and impressive performance of your wax selection, whatever it may be. We can't imagine the average punter, the newfound vinyl explorer or the old-school returning enthusiast – at all of whom this deck is squarely aimed – being in any way disappointed. We also noticed that the better the vinyl pressing, the better the sound reproduction by the Lenco. Great records sounded great.
Sure, when we listened analytically and hyper-critically, A/B/C-ing the same record between the Lenco, a Sony (a current model PS-LX310BT) and a late-1990s NAD, there were differences and unique charms across all three and the Lenco was no clear winner. However, all three sounded subjectively good. Plugged directly into a pair of decent modern bookshelf speakers (Edifier 1280DB), the L-92WA's sound was strong, clear and detailed. Hooking it up to a mid-2000s Naim separates system, using the Naim amplifier's phono preamp to drive the sound, things got even better.
Trying to describe in words the sonic quality of any device is inherently beset by the unbridgeable gulf between reading and listening. There are also myriad variables between different hi-fi set-ups, not to mention the personal aural proclivities of individuals. There are people who love nothing more than to instantly crank up the treble until everything sizzles, just as there are bassheads for whom there can never be enough low-end throb. The unvarnished sound of the L-92WA comes across as neutral, without being neutered. There's little hype at any point of the audio spectrum: it simply reproduces the sound in the grooves.
With all of this in mind, we've been surprised by some of the dismissive reviews online of this Lenco model, which have typically damned it with faint praise. While it's true that this isn't a high-end deck, and it does have an audio signature of its own – not to mention stiff competition in the £200-300 price bracket (Audio Technica, Pro-Ject, Sony et al) – the simple truth of it is that the Lenco L-92WA does a very good job of playing records.
With all the little extras and features provided, there's enough tweakability to keep a curious owner engaged for a good length of time and to push this offering beyond being just a basic player. It could have been even better if Lenco had added a Bluetooth connection to really push the technological boat out for its 75th birthday, but it was not to be. The built-in phono stage at least lets you connect to almost any powered speaker, given the appropriate connecting cable.
The L-92WA is a good-looking turntable, capable of putting out an enjoyable sound. If you want to step up from some sub-£100 no-brand Chinese pseudo-Dansette suitcase player and enter a more refined world, the L-92WA will serve you well without breaking the bank. If you're coming back to vinyl after years away, the L-92WA has a sound and a style that will seem familiar without being dated. If you're in the market for a decent and well-specified record player at a fair price, there's a lot to like about Lenco's 75th anniversary model.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.