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26th April, 2017

Turntable Buying Guide: What you need to know

Turntable Buying Guide

Whether you’re buying your first turntable or even want to upgrade, it’s important to know the key features to look out for. 

Don’t be fooled by brand and price. Sometimes less is more when it comes to audio equipment.

Here is a comparison of some of the most sought after turntables and some that are not so well known. Take note of the key factors – these are the main things to look for in a turntable, so you can get started using your vinyl collection in your upcoming sets!

Turntable Comparison Chart

(Scroll across)

Brand  Audio Technica  Audio Technica  Denon DJ Reloop Numark Reloop Stanton  Technics  Pioneer DJ  Pioneer DJ
Model  LP120  LP1240  VL12 RP-7000 NTX1000 RP-8000 ST150 SL1200 MK5  PLX500  PLX1000
Current Price  $449  $649  $999  $549  $599  $799 NA  $1299  $549  $989
Direct Drive  Yes Yes  Yes  Yes Yes Yes  Yes Yes Yes Yes
Torque >1.6kgf / cm >4.5kgf / cm 5.0kgf/cm 1.6 – 4.5kg / cm 4.0kg / cm 1.6 – 4.5kg / cm 4.5kgf / cm   1.5kg / cm  1.6kgf / cm 4.5 kgf / cm
WOW / Flutter <0.2% WRMS < 0.1% WRMS < 0.05% WRMS < 0.02% WRMS  <0.05% WRMS <0.02% WRMS < 0.1% WRMS <0.025% WRMS < 0.15% WRMS < 0.01 %
RPM Speeds  33 / 45 / 78  33 / 45 / 78  33 / 45  33 / 45 / 78  33 / 45  33 / 45 / 78  33 / 45 / 78  33 / 45  33 / 45 / 78  33 / 45
Tone-Arm Shape  S-Shape   S-Shape   S-Shape   S-Shape   S-Shape   S-Shape / Straight   S-Shape / Straight   S-Shape   S-Shape   S-Shape
On-Board Preamp  Yes  Yes  No  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes  No  Yes  No
On-Board USB Interface  Yes  Yes  No  No  Yes  No  No  No  Yes  No
Image  Audio Technica LP120-USB-Black display  audio-technica-at-lp-1240 Denon VL12
RP-7000 Reloop Direct Drive DJ Turntable Top View
 Numark NTX1000 Reloop RP-8000 Hybrid Direct Drive Turntable_top st150hp-large Technics SL-1200mk5 Pioneer PLX-500  Pioneer PLX-1000 Turntable_top


*Measured by obtaining signal from built-in frequency generator of motor assembly.

Intro to Turntables

A turntable, also referred to as a record player, is a device used for playing records. It consists of a circular platter that rotates at various speeds, a tonearm with a cartridge and a stylus (needle) to read the record grooves printed on the vinyl. Lastly, it has a system to amplify the audio signal.

Use of a turntable or record player has been a fundamental part of audio playback since the early 20th century and is particularly associated with the enthusiasm for and appreciation of the use of vinyl.

Using a Turntable Setup and Record Players

DJs utilise turntables or record players as instrumental tools in the art of music creation and live performances.

By manipulating vinyl records on turntables, DJs craft seamless mixes, and employ techniques like beat matching, scratching, and back cueing to create dynamic and rhythmically engaging sets.

Turntables and record players provide tactile control, allowing DJs to interact with the music in real-time, adjust tempo, crossfade between tracks, and apply creative effects through the use of the mixer.

The distinct warmth and analog sound of vinyl on record players adds character to their performances, making turntables an integral component in shaping the sonic landscape during live sets, whether in the realms of electronic dance music, hip-hop, or other genres where the DJs’ artistic touch is a central element of the music-making process.

Ultimately, your choice of record players and your turntable setup needs to meet your needs and preferences and facilitate as good a performance as possible.

While there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating the different turntable options and record players on the market or an all in one option, there are a number of features and key factors that can help you make a more informed decision.

What are the Key Factors to Consider for a Turntable Record Player?

When you look for audio equipment and audio system gear from a reputable stockist such as DJ City, most turntables will be more than capable of doing the job at hand. Nevertheless, here are a few factors you may want to consider.

Drive Type: Belt Driven vs. Direct Drive

The type of motor in a turntable significantly influences its performance. Belt-driven turntables utilise a rubber belt to connect the motor and platter, providing vibration absorption.

However, for DJs and turntablists, direct-drive turntables are the preferred choice. These employ an electromagnetic motor for a more consistent speed and enhanced durability, making them ideal for professional use.

Torque: Powering Your Record Player Experience

Torque, the power of the motor, plays a crucial role in determining the start/stop speed and is essential for back cueing and scratching.

Some turntables offer customisable torque settings, allowing users to tailor the experience to their specific preferences and styles.

WOW & Flutter: Minimising Distortions in your Record Player

WOW & Flutter can impact the pitch of playback, leading to distortions. Modern turntables often feature crystal oscillators, most commonly Quartz, to maintain consistent motor speed.

Some models even include a ‘quartz lock’ function, ensuring optimal playback performance by disabling pitch control and synchronising the motor to crystal timing.

RPM Speeds: Understanding Vinyl Record Player Speeds

Revolutions per minute (RPM) is a key consideration, with three standard speeds for vinyl records: 33¹⁄³, 45, and 78 RPM.

Knowing the appropriate speed for your collection, whether it’s long-play (LP), singles, or rare records, is essential in choosing the right turntable.

Tone-Arm Shape: Record Player Aesthetics and Functionality

Tone-arm shape, either ‘S’ or ‘straight,’ goes beyond aesthetics. While the ‘S’ shape is often preferred for playback, the ‘straight’ arm is more resilient and better suited for scratching DJ styles.

The choice ultimately depends on personal preference, comfort, and the intended use of the turntable.

On-Board Preamp: Enhancing Compatibility for your Record Player

For seamless integration with modern technology lacking a Phono input, consider a turntable with an on-board preamp.

These internal pre-amplifiers convert the turntable’s output from Phono to a line level, offering greater flexibility in connecting to various devices.

On-Board USB Interface: Digitally Preserving Vinyl Classics

Turntables equipped with on-board USB interfaces provide the convenience of digitally recording your vinyl collection directly to your PC or MAC.

With output quality often reaching up to 48kHz at 16-bit (CD quality), this feature simplifies the process of transferring classic and limited pressing songs to more accessible formats.

Cost: Finding the Right Turntable Record Player at the Right Price

While delving into the world of turntables, it’s essential to strike a balance between your budget and desired features. Turntables come in a wide range of price points, and it’s crucial to consider your investment carefully.

Higher-end turntables and record player models often boast advanced features, superior build quality, and enhanced performance, catering to audiophiles and professional DJs. 

However, for those entering the realm of vinyl for casual mixing or beginner DJ setups, there are budget-friendly options that provide excellent sound quality and essential functionalities. There are good quality entry level turntables out there for those of you just starting your DJing journey.

Assess your specific needs and intended usage to determine the right balance between cost, sound quality and features, ensuring that your chosen turntable aligns with both your budget constraints and audio preferences. Remember, the perfect turntable for you is one that meets your needs without breaking the bank.

Bonus: Breaking Down Speaker Compatibility

Turntables typically need powered speakers or an external amplifier and passive speakers to produce quality sound. Unlike digital audio sources, turntables output a phono-level signal, which is a low-level and unamplified signal. To bring this signal to an audible level, it needs to be amplified.

Here are the two common setups: built-in preamp and passive speaker set up.

1.Powered Speakers:
Many modern turntables come with a built-in preamplifier (phono preamp) that can boost the phono-level signal to a line-level signal.


In this case, you can connect the turntable directly to powered speakers, as they have a built-in phono preamp. This setup is convenient for those looking for a simple and compact audio system.

2. External Amplifier and Passive Speakers:
If your turntable doesn’t have a built-in preamp or you prefer a more customisable setup, you can connect the turntable to an external phono preamp and then to a traditional amplifier.

From the amplifier, the signal is sent to passive speakers. This setup allows for more flexibility in choosing different components and can provide a higher level of customisation for audio enthusiasts.

Making Your Choice of DJ System

In conclusion, understanding the key features is crucial when embarking on the journey of purchasing a turntable record player. Ultimately, the right decision for you will depend on your intended turntable setup and use, as well as the other audio equipment you’ll be utilising.

By prioritising factors like drive type, torque, WOW & Flutter reduction, RPM speeds, tone-arm shape, built-in phono preamp, and USB interfaces for digital music, you’ll be equipped to make an informed decision tailored to your specific needs. 

Hopefully this helps when purchasing your first or next turntable! 

Look out for these factors when deciding which record player is best for your needs and if you need any further assistance, feel free to give us a call or visit us in-store.

At DJ City, we’re more than just stockists of audio equipment and record player models, we’re passionate about music mixing and producing quality sound, and are here to help you find everything you need. 

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