There are so many different ways to be a DJ, whether you are into old-school vinyl or new-school digital DJing, or some combination of the two. However, some industry pros maintain that the best way to learn to DJ is to start with the basics – two turntables and a mixer - so you can learn all of the skills you need in a hands-on fashion.
Either way, if you’re just starting out and you’re ready to learn to scratch, you’re going to need a good turntable to get you started. In this article, we’ll talk about the five best beginner DJ turntables. Then, we’ll give you the criteria that we used to choose these turntables and tell you which one we think is best.
Pioneer is well-known in the DJ industry for its high-quality equipment. So it only makes sense that they would have an entry-level turntable that’s great for beginners and professionals with tight budgets.
The build on the PLX-500 is solid and stable. It has natural vibration damping and a warm analog sound. The built-in preamp means you can connect directly to your speakers without the need for a mixer or amplifier. And the USB out gives you the opportunity to record your vinyl collection to your free rekordbox software or use it as is for DJing and scratching. Of course, you can use the sleeve stand inside the dust cover to display your vinyl jackets, too, which just looks cool when you’re paying a gig. This turntable is available in both black and white to suit your style and preference.
If you want a portable turntable at a great price, this is it! You can practice on the go with this battery-powered turntable and a set of headphones. It also includes the cartridge, stylus, and a carry handle at a great price, which means you can pull it out of the box and get to work with no other equipment.
Although this turntable uses a belt drive, the low cost makes it a very effective way to begin your scratching journey. You can get plenty of practice without a large investment, and it works great at home, in the studio, and for gigs.
If you need a high-quality turntable, you’ll love this professional caliber Audio-Technica that comes at a great price. It’s a perfect all-rounder for a new or experienced DJ. It offers a high-torque direct-drive motor with speed stabilization for fast spin up and accurate spin speed and no wobbles. Of course, it comes with a high-quality stylus and cartridge, too. You’ll get great sound with plenty of scratching options without wobbles or noise.
The Gemini Turntable features a classic belt drive motor paired with modern USB capabilities and one-touch variable speed buttons. It helps you bridge the gap between analog and digital music.
The casing with rubber feet is designed to eliminate external vibrations and feedback and features line-level RCA outputs with a built-in preamp, too.
Technics turntables hit the scene in the 1970s with a popular, state-of-the-art turntable. It ended its run in 2010, but Panasonic brought it back with even better features in 2019. These new models have an even more powerful motor and updated look, but that famous style and feel that Technics was known for.
This direct-drive turntable is more powerful than ever, with a maintenance-free design for even more speed accuracy. In addition, it features detachable leads and fewer external vibrations.
Whether you’re a brand new DJ or just new to scratching, you’ll need a solid piece of equipment to learn on. They are pretty simple devices, but they can have a big effect on your mixes if they are used correctly. There are a number of factors that you may want to consider when purchasing a turntable, and we’ll talk about those. But first, let’s take a brief look at the important parts and features of a turntable.
In order for the turntable to spin, it has to have a motor, sometimes called a drive. There are two types of motors in a turntable – either a belt drive or a direct drive. A belt drive uses a belt to spin the turntable indirectly. A direct-drive motor sits directly underneath the turntable and spins it.
The base of the turntable is called a plinth. This needs to be made out of sturdy materials, preferably with rubber feet, in order to dampen external vibrations that might affect the sound quality. The build of the plinth affects the weight of the turntable.
The round plate that holds your vinyl record is known as the platter. The motor makes the platter spin at the speed you choose. Sometimes you’ll find a rubber mat on the platter which protects your record and dampens vibrations.
The arm of the turntable is called the tonearm. It has a cartridge on one end and attaches to the turntable on the opposite end. The arm swivels so that it can read the grooves across your record.
High-quality turntables often have an adjustable counterweight, so you can choose the amount of force you want on the cartridge.
The cartridge is the part of the tonearm that holds the needle. It accepts the vibrations from the needle and turns them into electrical signals, which become the sound that you hear.
You might be surprised to learn there are different types of cartridges to suit different types of music. Look for a turntable that includes the cartridge so you don’t have to purchase one separately when you’re just getting started.
The needle on the end of the tonearm is actually called a stylus. This is the part that runs over the grooves in your record as it spins. When the needle hits the grooves, it vibrates and then sends that signal to the cartridge.
Those are the parts you would find on a very basic turntable. But there are a few other things you need to know, as well.
There is a slide on the side of DJ turntables to adjust the speed at which the turntable spins. You want to do this to adjust the BPM (beats per minute) of your track so you can match it up to the next one.
The pitch range is how much you can change the BPM of your track. Depending on your turntable, you can change it anywhere from 85, 12%, and up to 50%.
RPMS stands for rotations per minute and refers to the speed of your turntable. Turntable speeds run at 33, 45, and even 78 RPMs.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics parts of turntables let’s talk about the features and characteristics you may want for yours.
Turntables come in a wide range of prices, and the more features they have, the more expensive they tend to get. So make sure you know your budget as well as the features you actually need when you start shopping for a turntable.
DJ equipment can get really expensive, fast. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a turntable (unless you want to!). It's okay for beginners to purchase inexpensive ones to learn on, even if you outgrow it quickly. Remember that if you are new to scratching, you might not want to make a big investment until you’re sure this will fit into your gigs and music style.
And if you are just getting started, you might want to factor in what other DJ equipment you need, as well.
As we mentioned before, DJ Turntables come in two types of motor systems:
A belt drive uses a belt connected from the motor to the turntable to make the turntable spin. Belt drives are consistently less expensive than direct drive motors. But they can be prone to some challenges, such as noise, slipping, and lag time getting up to the right spin speed. They also may wear out quickly or need repairs (such as new belts) more often.
On the other hand, a direct drive motor will be a little more expensive than a belt drive. This is because the motor sits directly underneath the platter and spins it directly without a belt. But, as a result, it is more efficient and spins up to speed much faster. In addition, direct drive motors tend to be more durable and need fewer repairs.
Some turntables will automatically return the tonearm to its resting position, while others will not. If you like to be more hands-on, you may want a fully manual turntable.
A lighter turntable isn’t always better. However, a heavier weight will reduce vibrations better, which can reduce any unwanted noise and feedback. You need to balance portability with vibration dampening, depending on how and how often you’ll be transporting your equipment.
Rubber feet on the bottom of your turntable will also help to diminish unwanted vibrations.
Torque is the force that is used to rotate the platter on a turntable. To put it simply, torque is how powerful your turntable motor is. Higher torque means you can reach and maintain the correct spin speed more quickly.
Better spin speed means that you won’t have any lag in the track when you hit play. You also need enough torque to keep the turntable spinning at the appropriate speed, so it doesn’t wobble or make unwanted noise.
A good turntable will be heavy and stable with little to no external vibration. It will use a high-torque, direct-drive motor to spin the turntable. You may also want a tonearm with adjustable counterbalance and 33, 45, and 78 RPM spin speed. Make sure your new turntable also includes a cartridge and stylus because your turntable won’t work without them.
If you are new to scratching or spinning, you really need a good piece of equipment to get started. But that doesn’t mean you have to purchase an expensive piece of equipment, especially if you aren’t sure how and when you are going to incorporate a turntable into your gigs.
So whether you are just doing some analog listening at home or you are taking your practice sessions or gigs on the go, we love the Numark PT01 Scratch for beginner DJs.
Keep in mind that this has a belt-drive motor, so while it helps keep costs low, it may not have the same durability as a direct drive motor. But that’s ok, especially if you’re just getting started because you might quickly outgrow any beginner equipment anyway.
But what we really love about this turntable is that you can truly take it anywhere. Since it can be powered by batteries, you aren’t stuck spinning and scratching where there’s a wall outlet. Instead, you can DJ gigs in greenhouses, gardens, and other places where they may not be electricity (provided you have battery-powered speakers, of course).
This turntable has USB connectivity and 3 RPM speeds, giving you lots of flexibility, and of course, it includes the cartridge and stylus, so you are ready to go right out of the box.
This is an excellent piece of equipment at a great price, especially for the beginner.
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