Ever since the 70s, turntables have been the centrepiece of any working DJ’s set up.
The two designs that are in use are the belt drive and the direct drive versions.
Depending on your intended use, each has advantages. Belt drive turntables have the motor located off-centre from the platter where the disc sits. An elastomeric belt spins the platter and also absorbs the motor vibrations that otherwise might be picked up by the stylus. Belt drives have excellent sound quality.
However, the disadvantage of these turntables is that they need to ramp up to tempo, or build up to the correct speed. They are not ideal for DJs who scratch.
A direct drive turntable has the motor located directly under the platter and needs a layer of shock absorbing material between motor and platter to dampen any vibrations. These turntables have a much higher torque than belt drive models so that the platter quickly accelerates to the proper speed. They are the best choice for DJs because they give you more control and a faster start-up time.
Points to think on
Torque speed can have a major impact on your playing style and sound, since it determines how quickly turntables recover their speed after scratching.
The tone arm holds the pickup cartridge over the groove - and these come in two styles.
For DJs who don't scratch, an S-shaped tone arm is the best choice. By comparison, a straight tone arm offers better tracking and less skipping than an S-shaped tone arm even though it puts more wear and tear on the grooves of your records and this can lower the sound quality.
Many turntables now have controls that can affect speed and pitch. In a true analogue table, the pitch control can fine tune the speed of the deck.
Other modern turntables have features that allow you to manipulate the speed without affecting the pitch and vice versa.
Standard turntables output a phono signal, which requires a small pre-amp that is often built into DJ mixers. Some new versions have a built in phono amp that can provide a line out to drive standard mixers.
A digital out to connect to digital recording systems, is a feature of the best turntables.
When looking to buy a turntable, be sure that it includes a cartridge.
You may need to purchase RCA cables, and if you are going to be scratching, you may also need to purchase a slip mat.
Technics, Numar and Stanton are among the best turntable brands. However, the budget priced Audio Technica should not be ruled out.