What is the best DJ turntable for me?
For many vinyl-lovers, there is really only one series at the top of the DJ turntable heap, namely the Technics SL1200. We can assure you that there are plenty of other good alternatives available on the market however. In this Buyer's Guide, we'll help you find the best DJ turntable to suit your needs. If your question is not listed below, don't hesitate to contact us!
A DJ turntable is a record player that's equipped with the necessary functions that enable you to easily mix two tracks together. You can use a DJ turntable to adjust the tempo of a track, a technique known as beatmatching. The most important features of a good DJ turntable are a pitch fader, a direct-drive motor, a custom stylus and enough dampening to prevent vibrations that may cause the needle to skip. Of course, audiophiles can also use a DJ turntable to play their valuable collection of vinyl records at home.
These numbers refer to the number of rotations the record makes per minute (Revolutions Per Minute); in other words, it's how fast the turntable's platter rotates and the needle moves over the record. Not all vinyl records require the same rotation speed, which is why many turntables have a switch so you can select 33, 45 or sometimes even 78 RPM. Nowadays, most vinyl records are made to be played at 33 RPM to make room for more music. That being said, there are also plenty of 45 and even 78-RPM records on the market, which are usually preferred by vinyl aficionados. A higher number of rotations per minute means that the grooves contain more detailed information, which results in a higher frequency response (dynamics) and therefore better audio.
A standard turntable usually has phono outputs with RCA connectors that connect to the phono inputs of equipment such as a mixer or an amplifier. If your equipment does not have phono inputs, then you'll need a turntable with a line output or a switch that enables you to select either phono or line. Another option is to connect a phono preamplifier between the turntable and the equipment.
A digital output enables you to digitise your vinyl collection easily and effectively, especially if you want to listen to your favourite records on your smartphone or iPod, or if you're a DJ and you don't have access to a standard record player. The most common digital output is a USB port, which connects the turntable directly to a computer. The signal is transferred from the turntable to the computer by means of a separately-available USB cable (type A to B). You can record your records with the help of a suitable software program such as Audacity, Rekordbox, or a program that comes with the turntable itself.
With the pitch control, you can either increase or decrease the tempo of your music. Unlike the RPM, the pitch control is adjusted in percentages, not in fixed amounts. You can use the pitch fader to control exactly how much slower or faster you want the record to play, which is essential for beatmatching different tracks. Most turntables offer you a choice between mid-high (16 to 20%) or a smaller pitch range (6 to 10%). Some brands also offer what's known as a 'wide' option for a pitch control of up to 50% or more.
Tip: use the filter 'Pitch range' while browsing our DJ Turntables category to find a DJ turntable with the pitch range you're after.
When it comes to DJ turntables, a direct-drive model is hands-down the better choice. This type of turntable is more capable of maintaining a constant speed while belt-drive players tend to be more susceptible to fluctuations. The direct-drive model's motor is located directly under the platter so it reacts much faster and more accurately to speed changes than a belt-drive, whose side-mounted motor drives the platter by means of a belt. In short, belt-drive turntables are commonly used to play records in the home and are less suitable for DJ'ing.
A high torque is the smartest choice for a DJ turntable because it means that the motor is more powerful and will therefore react to the desired speed faster than turntables with a lower torque. While DJ'ing, the torque is especially important when starting a new track or while scratching. The well-known Technics SL-1200 MK2 DJ turntable has a torque of 1.5 kgf/cm. We recommend a DJ turntable with a torque that is either equal to or higher than that number.
The reverse function on a turntable makes it possible to spin the record in the opposite direction. Sometimes, scratch DJs will play a track backwards to create unique sound effects. If you're a DJ who's predominately interested in mixing tracks, you are probably less likely to use this functionality, so it's therefore not necessary to have a reverse function.
How well a turntable is built determines how long it will last. The Technics SL1200 turntables were known to be virtually indestructible, and many of them that are in use today are decades old and still work perfectly. If you want to invest in a long-lasting, well-built turntable, make sure it's made of durable materials such as stainless-steel, aluminium or metal.
For DJ'ing, it's a good idea to choose a stylus with a wide frequency range as this will provide clear, defined audio. It may also generate powerful bass tones, which may cause vibrations in your DJ booth, so make sure your stylus is designed to handle that. A good needle should not wear out the grooves in your records and ensures your vinyl lasts as long as possible. Most DJ turntables come complete with a stylus mounted inside a compatible cartridge. The differences in quality really depends on the brand and model.
Whether you're better off with a straight or an S-shaped tonearm really depends on your own personal preference. A straight tonearm is less likely to skip than an S-shaped one; however, straight tonearms are known to cause more wear to the record grooves over time. Generally speaking, scratch DJs tend to prefer straight tonearms and regular DJs tend to prefer S-shaped ones.