Vinyl will never fade away. You can always count on a few DJ’s spinning on classic turntables. That’s because nothing can replace vinyl’s vibrant sound. Digital players that try to replicate its epic tonality miss the mark.
If you dig what I’m saying but aren’t hip to the jive or need a little refresher on turntables – read on to learn about their mechanics and which model may be the best DJ turntables for you. It is always a little daunting heading out to buy your first DJ turntable and mixer set up! Don’t panic, we have been there!
What To Look for in a DJ Turntable Set
How much Scratch Should I Spend on a DJ Vinyl Turntable?
Budget will play the deciding factor for most DJs when purchasing a turntable. If you don’t have to skimp, you should spend more cash than the baseline. Always spend some time researching DJ turntables online, you may end up with a good deal…but be careful and think clearly before committing.
DJ Turntables range in price, with low-end models starting at $100 and high-end models reaching into the 1,000’s. Cheap models will get the job done, but they’ll wear out fast. Throwing a little extra dough down will get you a model that takes a better beating and won’t break down as quickly.
Direct Drive: Good, Belt Drive: Bad
DJ Turntables come in two types of motor systems:
A Direct drive unit has a motor under the platter (the plate that the vinyl sits on), which powers the turntable’s spin directly. Direct drive makes the player more efficient, reaching maximum spin speeds almost instantly. DJs who power up a track don’t have to wait to start playback.
Belt drive units have a motor outside the platter radius, with a belt that wraps around the platter to make it spin. A belt system takes a few seconds to reach maximum spin speed. It can also cause audio disturbances from mix slips, which are instances of insufficient grip between the pulley and belt. Belt drive units tend to be the more cheap DJ turntables available.
The bottom line is belt drives are inferior with slower mechanical components that can wear and break easier. A direct-drive turntable is the wiser choice.
The Heavier, The Better
Pretty simple idea here, but fundamental. The heavier the DJ turntable, the better sound you’ll get from your vinyl. A hefty turntable dampens more vibrations from the environment and reduces feedback that creeps into the signal.
Torque It Up
Torque is the amount of force used to rotate the platter. It’s how powerful the motor is. The more torque, the quicker the platter reaches maximum velocity.
With an ample amount of torque, the track begins immediately once you hit the play button. The platter will also maintain speed and resistance through scratching and beat shuffling. Reputable turntables will have about 4 Kg of torque.
What’s in a DJ Turntable?
A turntables DJ motor, AKA a turntable drive, is what makes the turntable’s plate move. There are two types of turntable motors – direct and belt drive. We cover the difference between the two above.
Arm: The tonearm is the long arm of the record player that holsters the cartridge on one end, which swivels down to rest upon the grooves of the vinyl. Tonearms have a calibrated amount of weight applied, so the cartridge tracks the record’s groove adequately. Most tonearms have adjustable counterweights to dial in the right amount of force applied down on the cartridge.
The cartridge connects to the tonearm and houses the stylus or ‘needle.’ The cartridge is responsible for converting the vibrations picked up from the stylus into electrical signals. Those electrical signals become the sound you hear.
There are a huge number of different types of cartridges available, from moving magnet through to moving coil. We could write a whole article on selecting the right cartridge, but check out some more info here!
The stylus is the needle at the end of the cartridge that runs along the vinyl’s grooves to track the sound. As the record moves, the stylus vibrates along the grooves sending the electrical signal needed to create the sound. A stylus contains diamond, which makes the needle ultra-durable.
The platter is the plate that the vinyl record sits on. A motor underneath powers the plate at variable speeds. A mat made of rubber or cork usually sits in between the platter and vinyl record to protect your vinyl and to block resonances from entering the sound.
The Dials & Buttons
Short for rotations per minute, RPM is the speed at which your turntable turns. Most turntables have preset RPM buttons or a switch for 33 RPM and 45 RPM, but some vintage models will have 78 RPM too.
The rate of rotation will need to vary depending on the size of the vinyl you are playing. If you think your turntable RPM is off, you can check it with a smartphone app!
A fader to the side of the vinyl platter moved up or down to adjust the music’s beats per minute (BPM). The pitch fader comes in handy while you beat match two vinyl sources together. Moving the fader up speeds the music’s tempo, and moving the fader down reduces the music’s tempo.
Typical pitch faders adjust tempo up or down within increments of 8 & 12%, while some support 50%.
The 10 Best DJ Turntables of 2020
1. Reloop RP-2000 MK2 Direct Drive DJ Turntable – Best Budget Turntables
The Reloop RP-2000 MK2 may be an entry-level turntable, but you might not know that from its construction. With an attractive black metallic finish, it looks completely pro. We dub it the best entry-level turntable because of its excellent build and reliable performance.
There’s no bells or whistles on this unit, but you get the most bang for your buck. The good ole’ reliable does the trick most times anyway. The controls work exceptionally well and get the job done without any fuss. It will aid any DJ in the pursuit of spinning flawless vinyl sets.
The name Pioneer quickly perks many DJ’s ears. The company has been dominating the DJ sphere for many years. It produces some of the finest mixers, controllers, and players out on the market. You get excellent quality and superb features no matter what level of Pioneer products you pick.
The Pioneer PLX-500-K targets beginner DJs with a competitive price and fantastic options. The sound quality is sheer brilliance, producing warm, vivacious analogue sound. It’s a high-torque deck ideal for scratching that comes with all the essentials to begin playing vinyl right out the box. The USB function allows you to record vinyl or integrate a DVS device to mix digital files off vinyl. So, could these be the Best DJ Turntables for beginners?
If you are looking to save as much cash as you possibly can, the Stanton T.62 MK2 is probably your best DJ turntable option. The T.62 is hard to beat for the price and what you get. The turntable is made for aspiring DJs just getting some skin into the game or people that want a decent turntable without spending a lot.
It sports a powerful direct-drive motor that handles mixing and beat juggling well. Despite being on the cheaper side of turntables, it doesn’t have a minimalist design and comes with a healthy amount of performance elements. It could be used for casual vinyl listening but is explicitly honed for DJ use. The turntable’s setup is the epitome of simple, and the sound quality is commendable.
4. Audio-Technica AT-LP140XP Direct Drive Professional DJ Turntable
Your hunt for a pro-quality DJ turntable may just end at the Audio-Technica AT-LP140XP. This is our best turntable under $500 and is perfect for DJs that are ready to step up their playing level. You might recognise the turntable’s layout from the traditional 1200-style. The turntable has tons of design features, like the mass-damped platter to expunge vibrations, built for high-fidelity sound.
The LP140XP feels right at home in a DJ booth. You might find a useful tool to add to your arsenal, like the forward and reverse feature, to liven up your mix. Audio Technica claims the turntable has a near-bulletproof chassis. We don’t recommend firing a round at the turntable to test it, but it should withstand hours of vigorous playback.
DJ turntables by nature are analogue devices, but that doesn’t mean you have to depart from the digital domain completely. The Stanton T.92 M2 has a USB port to record and transfer vinyl music into your computer. The classical and contemporary mesh together nicely here. The DJ turntable comes with audio editing software Cakewalk Pyro Audio Creator LE, to expound musical boundaries.
As an actual DJ turntable, it has reputable performance and a durable build. It offers similar construction as Stanton’s higher-end models, along with the company’s trademark performance features. The T92 will alter tempo without changing pitch, output less distortion, and create an authentic analogue experience.
6. Numark NTX1000 DJ Turntable
Nothing will seem unfamiliar with the Numark NTX1000, but don’t let that discredit the turntable. The NTX1000 produces stable, accurate, and noise-free music. It’s a reliable turntable that performs well in many environments. Its isolation design eliminates feedback and external vibrations, even in loud, bass-heavy clubs.
Setting up the tonearm is straightforward, with an adjustable counterweight that’s easy to operate. Appropriately balancing the tonearm is an essential process for any DJ or vinyl listener. The NTX1000 features a high-torque driver that engages playback in under .7 seconds. The full-sized 2.5 Ibs. Platter helps a DJ scratch any mix without any irritating distortion.
The SL-1200 has been the symbol of stellar DJ performance for decades. Some may say the DJ turntable is exclusively responsible for crafting the club DJ culture. Many people know and trust its beautiful design, innovative features, and amazing performance.
The turntable’s direct-drive motor is probably its most famous component. First unveiled in 1970, the SL-1200’s direct-drive system set a benchmark for reliability and durability. It stayed ever since and keeps performing the same way year after year.
The design hasn’t changed a whole lot for more than 40 years, except for a few tweaks to the cabinet and insulator feet to block out more vibrations. Buyer beware, this turntable costs a pretty penny. If you are short on cash, you may want to look someplace else. The Technics SL-1210 MK7 is for DJs that mean serious business.
Pioneer is at it again, creating flawless products that astound. The Pioneer PLX-1000 is no different. You may find what you are looking for in this turntable, thanks to its flexible connectivity, multi-tempo controls, staggering high-torque drive, and intelligent sound design. For the PLX1000’s quality, the price is extremely sensible.
Pioneer builds on top of 50 years of experience crafting high-end turntables, infusing all their audio expertise into this unit. The company integrated a few key advancements that make a huge difference.
Pioneer should market the Pioneer DJ turntable’s direct-drive capability as the ‘ultra-mega-outrageously-powerful-torque drive.’ It’s got a whopping 4.5kg of torque power that reaches 33 RPM in .3 seconds. This is just one example demonstrating why the PLX1000 stands above many other models.
The Reloop RP-8000 may just be the most advanced turntable we’ve seen yet and certainly our best turntable under $1000. It’s a hybrid device that artfully fuses digital and analogue features. For starters, the motor allows adjustable torque amount and break speed. This level of control is a first for turntables.
Another ‘new-new’ for turntables is the pad section that integrates into Serato DJ Pro. You get to control 7 different performance modes with them. Layering the effects is where the fun is really at.
The creative platter pitch control opens the doorway to 22 scales and 34 notes. You’d be operating both a vinyl player and a musical instrument with the RP-8000. The turntable’s substantial creative tools and herculean design places it as a leader on this list.
Denon’s prime product series is something out of science fiction. Just like we used to consider travelling to the moon as far out, Denon pulls technology from the imagination and integrates it into their products.
The Denon VL12 Prime has some of that cutting-edge, outlandish componentry I’m talking about. Like engineering a direct drive with the highest level of torque in the industry. 5kgf/cm of torque is enough to impress Einstein or Tesla (if they were still around.)
Denon decked the DJ turntable out with their most optimal acoustic isolation design. No matter how loud your surrounding environment gets, The VL12 should be able to dampen and mitigate any vibrations or feedback.
The RGB lighting that illuminates the platter’s edge puts the ascetical finishing touches on the turntable and makes you wonder if the turntable is an alien spacecraft.
That’s a Wrap
DJ vinyl turntables aren’t the easiest thing to understand and use. Vinyl’s flair is in its high-quality sound AND the pursuit of learning and mastering the craft. Whether you are a DJing pro or just starting on the path, we hope you found some information or product that will better guide your vinyl experience.
For us, the turntable that reigns as king is the Technics SL1210/1200 MK7. It will remain at the top until a model steps up and marks a monumental influence on the industry. Mixing and scratching on the 1200 infuses a DJ with musical energy passed down from DJing greats. It’s a near metaphysical experience. Don’t take our word for it. Find the model that you like and keep honing your craft. Everybody has a different style and taste. One thing is unanimously true; purchasing a vinyl turntable is just the start. Proper maintenance is the next crucial part of the process. It’s all worth it, though, to get the blissful sound waves that digital sources can’t recreate.