Im going to show you the best 5 turntables you can buy right now. But before that, why does anybody even want a turntable?
In the old days, before CDJ dominated DJ booths, there were turntables. They had a cartridge, a needle, a start stop button and a speed control. And thats all you really need to put a banging set together.
Even though most DJ booths operate mainly on CD’s and MP3, there is still something about a turntable that makes DJ’ing seem so much more natural and fluid. And the sound produced is often thought to be much warmer and more natural.
One major advantage a turntable has over a CD or MP3 player is instant playback from anywhere on the track. You just drop the needle where you want it. This is one of the reasons that scratch DJ’s prefer to use turntables and vinyl, you have far more precise control over where you are on a track and everything can happen just much quicker.
If you want to scratch then your best option is a direct drive turntable.
Lets clear a question up right away.
Whats The Difference Between a Belt Drive and a Direct Drive
A question that comes up all the time “Whats the difference between belt drive and direct drive turntables”. From a construction point of view the differences are that a belt driven turn table has a big belt around the turntable platter and the a small pulley on a motor. The motor spins, the belt moves, grips the platter and the platter spins. A direct drive turntable is slightly different. The platter is directly connected to the motor shaft. The motor spins and so does the platter.
The advantage isn’t obvious unless you have used both versions of a turntable. The belt driven turntable is nowhere near as good for the DJ.
Belt driven turntables suffer from a serious problem. They have very low torque that means the speed pickup is slow. When you hold a record in place on a belt driven turntable, the platter will usually stop. When you let go again, it might take 2 seconds to pick up the speed. And this only gets worse with age as the belts wear out and get slacker. Speed control is also a problem with belt drives. As the belt slackens with age, the speed control becomes less and less accurate. Because of the way the speed of the motor is controlled, there is no feedback to ensure the motor speed is accurate so you often end up with the speed ramping slightly up and down constantly.
On the up side, there is a rumour that they have better sound quality due to the isolation of the motor.
The only real option for the DJ is a direct drive turntable. The pickup is almost instant and you don’t get any warble in the speed. They are usually quartz controlled and very precise, the speed doesn’t stray at all. When you hold the record in place the platter underneath will keep moving due to the torque and speed control. So when you let go, the pickup is almost instant.
These are three of the most popular turntables currently available.
Pioneer PLX-1000 DJ Turntable
Pioneer used to make the iconic technics turntables that used to be the industry standard. So its no surprise to see their turntables on this list.
The PLX 1000 actually looks a lot like the original technics turntables. All the buttons are in a similar position and it just looks the same.
As you would expect, this is a high torque, direct drive model so there is no delays in speed pickup, no warbling on the sound and the needle barely jumps while you hunt around a track.
This is an exceptional professional turntable. It has precise speed control that never sways from where its set and on top of that, its black sleak design offers the classic look that anybody will be immediately familiar with.
If you liked the Technics 1200’s then you will love these, they are simply an enhanced version of them with the same amazing build quality. No plastic chassis here.
Audio-Technica AT-LP120 Direct Drive Turntable
This appears to be entry level direct drive turntable. But don’t let the low price put you off, some people have described these as ‘technics clones’
This is every bit a professional turntable as other models. The amazing sound and great build quality on this audio technica unit have made it one of the most popular options for people who want an affordable direct drive turntable.
It has the speed control and the pop up cuing light that the pioneer models have but it also has a forward and reverse play facility, a USB output for your computer and it also comes with a built in pre-amp so you can plug it straight into your amp.
The construction is great, its made out of plastic but it is well made. I have no idea who would use the backward play facility but hey, this is still a great turntable and can’t be beaten on value for money.
Pioneer PLX-500 DJ Turntable
The Pioneer 500 is VERY similar to its big brother, the PLX-1000. It has the same, sleak, familiar design as the 500 but it is more than half the price!
You still get a direct drive turntable with quartz control and precise sound and speed control. You still get two speed settings and a popup cue light. You still get a strobe light showing you what speed setting you are on.
So whats the difference?
The main difference is the glowing blue lights on the 1000 model….And a massive increase in torque! The PLX 1000 has a lot more torque, but then you are paying for it and do you really need it? If you are a professional scratch DJ and every micro second counts then you will notice the difference. If however, you are a dance music DJ, you won’t notice the difference.
Again it all boils down to what you are going to be doing. If you are going to be working in clubs and bars then you could use any of these turntables and be more than happy with them. If you are scratching and cutting then you will likely need the additional torque of the PLX-1000.