In this edition of the Beginners Guide to DJing, we will be talking about things you need to know when you decide its time to buy your decks (slang for turntables). There are several features that are a must, and several features that depend on what your style of mixing asks for.
Belt driven v. Direct drive whats the difference?
There are two basic designs for the operation of the platter; belt driven and direct drive.
Belt driven turntables have the actual motor that spins the platter (the part you put the record on) offset from the center of the platter, and a belt (often nothing more than a big rubber band) is looped around a shaft extending from the motor, and connects to the bottom of the platter.
What does this all mean to a DJ? Well, as a DJ, you’re going to want the most accurate equipment you can buy. Belt driven table will not give you this accuracy, no matter how good the manufacturer boasts about it, and how much it costs. These decks are wonderful for a listening station, but please do not purchase a belt driven table, even if you are just starting out.
So, why do some tables cost so much?
Ahh… good question. When you’re digging around on www.pssl.com, or any of the other millions of DJ reseller sites out there, you will find a plethora of brands, models, makes, and variants. This can be very overwhelming for the first time buyer. Some cost $99, some cost up to $799. What’s the deal!?
Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. I am not going to try to push any specific brand or model in this tutorial, but I will give some facts that will be helpful in your purchases. The cheaper decks usually are belt driven, which we have decided we want to try to stay away from. These are the decks that are usually around 100-200 bucks a pop. Next on the price list, you have your mid-level decks. These usually are direct drive, but have a lower power motor (we will get into power specifics a bit later). These run around 200-300 per deck. Last, you have your higher end models. They consist of higher torque motors, more features, and are generally the better decks to purchase. These decks run in price from around 300 dollars and up. Remember though, you don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive deck on the market.
What about torque and a turntable?
Different turntables have different motors, and different torque outputs. The general idea in a turntable for a DJ is the more torque the better. If you plan on doing any scratching or fancy turntablism, high torque is a must. If you are interested in any deck in specific, go hit their website. Most of them list all the technical info regarding their products. On a side note, you may also hear the terms wow and flutter fly around from time to time. Wow and flutter is Instantaneous variations in the rotational speed of the turntable platter. In easier to understand terms, the higher the wow and flutter, the less accurate your turntable is going to be.
What does that big fader on the side of the turntable do?
That is the pitch control. All it really does is speed up and slow down the motor, thus speeding up and slowing down your record. This is used to match your records to the same speed so you can mix. Some turntables have different speeds available. Most all have the standard +/- 8%, and some have an optional +/- 16%.
So why do some turntables come with a straight arm, and some a curved one?
These different tonearms are designed for different applications.
The curved arm (or S-arm) is set up so the grooves in the record will pull the needle across the surface of the record, twords the center of the record. This is the more traditional style, so to say. S shaped arms wear records the least, and have the best sound quality.
The straight arm is used in scratching applications. The nature of the straight arm helps reduce skipping when scratching, but the tradeoff is increased record wear, and lower sound quality.
There are the basics of what you need to know for a turntable. Take all these specs and features into account when you’re making your decision on what to get. A substandard setup can make you think you are not performing at the level you want, and thus you may quit all together.
written by Damon Chambers