If you’re just dipping your feet into the world of turntables and vintage music players, your research will have already informed you that turntables come in three types: belt drive, direct drive, and idler wheel. Here, our focus is on the two drives, belt and direct.
Belt drives are pretty self-explanatory. They utilize a belt around or underneath the turntable platter that is used to spin it. On the other hand, we have direct drive turntables in which the movement mechanism is right underneath the platter and induces instantaneous motion.
Both of these systems have their pros and cons. The fact that belt drive turntables consist of an actual, physical belt that turns the platter means it consists of moving parts.
And just like everything in the world that has moving parts, it will wear and tear itself over the course of time. The spinning belt mechanism is going to get old over time, lose its edge and grip, and will need replacement. However, that being said most belt drive turntables are easy to open up, disassemble, and tinker with. The wear and tear are inevitable, but replacement is pretty easy.
At the same time, belt drives are the preferred turntable type for audiophile because of apparent higher sound quality and the fact that belt drives are made for listening experiences. Due to the belt drive and motor present, they take a few seconds to reach their full rotational, slowly building up a mood in the time they get to the set speed.
Direct drive turntables offer an incredible listening experience as well, make no doubt. However, they’re more sought out by the artist/DJ community due to their ability to be spun around in any direction without any obstruction or interference from any belt present underneath or corresponding moving part.
Aside from allowing many options of speed and directional adjustment, direct drive turntables allure DJs for another reason: instantaneous startup.
Without any resistance or startup procedure, direct drive turntables are turned on, and they instantly reach their set speed. No damage can be done to the motor spinning the platter because there are no moving parts underneath. No evident and prominent wear and tear occurs, making it the dream buy for artists who need something durable and efficient.
Here’s a rundown of the best belt drive turntables you can buy versus the best direct drive turntables on the market:
The Clearaudio Concept MM is the first of two belt drive turntables in this buying guide.
The standout feature of the Concept is its 9-inch tonearm, engineered to perfection by its German manufacturers. It follows along the design of Clearaudio’s Verify tonearm and uses the same azimuth adjustment and arm lift. A frictionless magnetic bearing has been incorporated into the design, and through pivots and a magnetic field, the tonearm moves around without any physical contact to the ring of the bearing. The tonearm also comes equipped with the Clearaudio Concept MM V2 cartridge.
Aside from being engineered to perfection, the Concept MM is a masterpiece design-wise. It’s minimalistic, futuristic black and silver frame boasts the feature as if it’s some next level technology. This is coupled with a metallic wraparound on the plinth, threaded feet to help stability, and an optional acrylic dust cover.
The Clearaudio Concept MM allows you to set playback at three different speeds like most turntables. These are 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM. Even though it does not come with a built-in phono stage, it comes with a counterweight to provide a proper tracking force. At an almost automatic level of control, the Concept MM is the closest and most upper tier turntable you can get that is truly plugged and play.
With sharp, modern sound and immersive audio experience that guarantees satisfaction and value for your money, you can pick your own Clearaudio Concept right now for around $1000.
In contrast to the high end, outrageously priced belt drive turntables, the Audio Technica AP LT120 USB offers a new and refreshing take on turntables and is priced at just $300.
Designed for DJs and suited for artistic purposes, this turntable consists of a high-torque, direct-drive motor and operates at three speeds: 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM. There’s a removable dust cover, high-accuracy quartz-controlled pitch lock, and the AT LP120 offers USB connectivity for you to convert your vinyl into digital files and be able to transfer them to your computer without any hassle and any worries.
The functional and pragmatic design of the AT LP120 is what sets it apart from the competition. One look and customers know they are dealing with something cut out for only the best of the best and will last you a lifetime. Aside from this, the appeal of this turntable lies in its extremely affordable price tag.
The AT LP120 comes with a removable dust cover and can be bought in either silver or black, whichever suits your aesthetic vision for your new turntable. The buttons on the platter, made from cast aluminum, and the plinth allow for pitch sliding controls, forward and reverse play capability, and existing phono preamplifiers enable the turntable to be used directly with external components.
While the AT LP120 is fully manual and setting it up will take some work, it just ensures you’re familiar with your device and know where to start to get the best out of it!
- High-torque direct-drive motor for quick start-up and USB output that connects directly to your computer
- Selectable internal stereo phono pre-amplifier allows turntable to plug directly to components with no dedicated turntable input
- Includes a USB cable, adapter cables, and Mac- and PC-compatible Audacity software to digitize your LPs
- Forward and reverse play capability; cast aluminum platter with slip mat and a start/stop button
- Three speeds - 33/45/78 rpm; selectable high-accuracy quartz-controlled pitch lock and pitch change slider control; removable hinged dust cover.Phono Pre-Amp Gain:36 dB nominal, RIAA equalized
The second and final inclusion to our list, as far as belt drive turntables go, is the premium, astronomical Rega Planar 8.
With a brand new super lightweight plinth, the Planar 8 makes use of the innovative RB880 tonearm, and Neo PSU which Rega ensures will “extract as much detail from the vinyl surface as possible.” These components of the Planar 8 ensure anti-vibration control and much more precise control over the functioning of the turntable. Rega has made their new device lighter by introducing a removable, single piece dustcover.
The plinth is made from a Tancast 8 polyurethane foam core, aircraft grade materials. Placing the material between two laminate layers allows for the Planar 8 to be 30% lighter but at the same time, more rigid.
The platter of the Planar 8 is made from three-piece laminated Pilkington glass, and the turntable makes use of a 24V, synchronous, low vibration motor technology that ensures minimal strain on moving parts and allows for higher isolation of sound with lower interference, improving the overall quality of the listening experience.
This unprecedented belt drive turntable uses EBLT belts that utilize a new curing system that spins the platter more consistently, smoothly, and efficiently. Alongside this is the new Neo PSU which maintains a stable power supply and offers an anti-vibration circuit with speed and rotational adjustment. It makes use of crystals and drives amplifiers to improve the stability of the turntable and guarantee the best output possible.
With all these technical features and a premium build to go along with it, it’s no surprise that Rega’s Planar 8 is priced at $5000 and rightly so – there’s nothing better.
Similar to the Audio Technica AT LP120 USB, the Pioneer PLX 1000 maintains a pragmatic and functional design although it is slightly more minimal than its rival. One look at the PLX 1000’s indicates who this turntable is made for and what it offers. However, despite aiming to be a specialized piece of hardware, the $700 price tag allures many.
With controls, buttons, and mechanisms familiar to famous DJs, the PLX 1000 prides itself on usability and a user-friendly experience. You can quickly control the tempo and start and stop as you wish. The direct drive results in a high-torque mechanism that offers a stable and secure rotational speed of 33 1/3 RPM.
A heavy-mass zinc die-cast chassis has been used for the upper part of the Pioneer PLX 1000, and this allows for reinforcements to be made underneath in the form of a 9mm vibration-damping material. Alongside this, the tonearm that’s included uses rubber insulation to mitigate howling during your listening experience and an RCA jack consisting of gold-plated inputs is present for the highest quality output of sound.
Pioneer crafted the PLX 1000 for professionals, and the accessories that come along with it simply proves this. You’ll find yourself with a turntable sheet, slip mat, dust cover, hard shell, balance, sub, and shell weights, and detachable power and audio cords for portability.
So, as you can see, Pioneer makes absolutely no compromises with the PLX 1000 and offers nothing short of a high-end professional music-making and mixing experience alongside an equally decent listening/auditory experience.
Why Do Turntables Have Pitch Control?
According to Wikipedia, the reason is:
“Analog pitch controls vary the voltage being used by the playback device; digital controls use digital signal processing to change the playback speed or pitch. A typical DJ deck allows the pitch to be increased or reduced by up to 8%, which is achieved by increasing or reducing the speed at which the platter rotates.”
Are Turntables the Same As CD Players?
No, while turntables are considered to record players, they are not the same as CD players. They can play vinyl records and create sounds, which is something that can’t be achieved with a CD player.
Do All Turntables Come With A USB Port?
No, not all of them do. This depends on the type of turntable you’re buying. There are analog turntables, Bluetooth turntables, and USB turntables.
Hopefully, this guide helped you get a better understanding of the different types of turntables and which ones you should invest in.