Spinning vinyl is a disappearing art, but if you want to have a go, you need the right gear. There are many turntables on the market, and choosing the right ones for you can be tough – so here are our top picks for best DJ turntable to help you find the perfect match.
If you’re getting ready to invest in a pair of turntables, you’ll be wanting to know what to look for when you choose – so let’s think some of the most important factors now.
Direct or belt drive
Until the early 1970s, all turntables were belt driven. This means the platter was turned by a belt – essentially a large elastic band – that was connected to the motor.
Then, in 1972, Technics launched the direct-drive SL1200, a machine that changed DJ culture forever – and iterations of which were destined to remain the worldwide club standard to this day.
To find out more about the Technics 1200’s exalted and revered place in DJ culture, click here for a quick history lesson.
In a direct-drive turntable, the platter is connected directly to the motor, and this allowed the development and growth of scratching and other similar techniques.
Direct-drive turntables also hold their speed much more consistently, making it easier to beat match accurately. For an introduction to beatmatching, check out this video.
For these reasons, a DJ should always choose a direct-drive turntable when possible – and you will never find anything else used in a club.
However, direct-drive machines are usually much more expensive, and if you are looking for a more affordable way into vinyl DJing, a belt-drive machine can offer a cheaper alternative – just don’t expect to use it for scratching.
Torque is essentially the power generated by the motor spinning the platter. It needs to be high enough to allow you to scratch, spin back records or manipulate them in other ways.
If the torque is not high enough, the response will be much slower, and it will be harder to do everything a DJ usually wants to do.
This is another reason why direct-drive is always preferable – because, since they are driven by an elastic belt, belt-drive turntables simple don’t have the sharp response of a direct-drive version.
Another basic element of a turntable is the tempo adjust. This allows you to adjust the speed of records to get the music playing in time – and without this feature, a turntable can’t be used for proper DJing.
Most give you the possibility of speeding up or slowing down the record by 8% (+/-8). However, some go to +/-10, and some have even wider ranges.
You should also choose a deck with a long tempo slider. This will allow you to make finer adjustments, so you can beat match more accurately.
Sound quality is an important feature, but this depends on what you need your turntables for. If you are only going to be practicing in your bedroom, you won’t need world-beating sound quality, so you don’t need to spend as much.
However, if you are going to be performing in front of people over a large sound system, sound quality becomes much more important and you will need to spend a bit more.
The very best turntables prevent any feedback from making its way up through the needle and out of the DJ speakers. You can test this by placing the needle on a record that isn’t playing and then tapping the table or surface of the turntable.
Sometimes, you will hear a noise through the speakers, but you don’t want this because if you can hear a noise, the same will happen when you play music with lots of bass, and it will distort the sound quality.
Back in the days before digital, when vinyl was all there was, the undisputed king of turntables was the Technics SL-1200 – along with the almost identical SL-1210 model.
And to this day, little has changed.
Since then, Pioneer has cornered the market when it comes to digital players, but the PLX1000 is their effort at challenging Technics’ dominance of the turntable market – and there’s a lot to like about it.
The most important basic features are all there. It has high torque giving you a great deal of control over the record, and it runs at a very stable speed, something that’s absolutely fundamental to beatmatching.
It’s a heavy unit, so it won’t suffer from vibration, and the sound quality is good enough for any venue in the world.
Something else we like is the adjustable tempo range. You can run it at +/-8, +/-16 or +/-50 – something that the old Technics decks never offered. There’s also a tempo reset button, something else we like a lot.
Are there any downsides? We could complain that the tonearm seems poorly adjusted out of the box, although this is something you can deal with. Another minor gripe would be that there is no hinged dust cover, although most DJs won’t mind that too much.
Apart from that, the major issue is the price since, like all Pioneer equipment, these turntables don’t come cheap.
However, a new pair of Technics would cost considerably more, and if you are looking for something top-end but still less expensive than the fabled industry-standard, this could be an excellent pick.
Adjustable tempo range – as well as tempo reset button
Heavy unit – resists vibrations and movement
High torque – for superior levels of control and response
Top-end sound quality – good enough for any venue in the world
Stable speed – vital for beatmatching
Pricey option for DJ turntables – but all Pioneer gear costs a lot
With their Prime range, Denon is trying to muscle its way into the top-end DJ equipment market in general just as Pioneer is trying to dethrone Technics when it comes to turntables.
Denon’s flagship DJ mixer is designed to challenge Pioneer’s DJM-900NXS2, their players are the company’s answer to Pioneers industry-standard CDJ-2000NXS2 – and this Prime turntable is a challenge to Pioneer, Technics – or anyone else making vinyl decks.
Before we even get into the specs and performance, just to look at it, you can tell it’s a fantastic piece of equipment. It appears stylish and carefully designed, and you just know that playing on it is going to be a pleasure.
It has plenty of adjustable features – you can choose between high and low torque and even change the color of the platter light.
Featuring optimal acoustic isolation, it’s a turntable that produces the highest quality of sound, and the isolation feet are designed to effectively minimize any vibrations or movement while you play. Finally, the S-shaped arm allows for the most accurate tracking possible.
However, it shares certain weaknesses with the Pioneer model. This turntable costs a lot – while it’s still not quite as much as a Technics, it’s more expensive than Pioneer’s product, so you’ll need to be willing to put your hand in your pocket to purchase one.
Also, like the Pioneer model, there’s no lid or dustcover. While this might not be a problem for a DJ who carries their decks around in flight cases, it might be more of an issue for home users.
All in all, a beautifully crafted turntable that any vinyl DJ will love playing on. It’s not a Technics, but if you want a high-end turntable and can’t justify spending the money that a pair of Technics now cost, this could be a worthy alternative.
Adjustable torque – choose between high and low according to your needs
Effective isolation feet – minimize vibrations and movement
Optimal acoustic isolation – for superior sound quality
S-shaped arm – allows for more accurate tracking
Adjustable platter color – for even more customization
Expensive deck – costs even more than the Pioneer PLX1000
No lid – not a problem for DJs but not great for home users
For anyone looking for something that costs a bit less than a Pioneer or a Denon but that still approaches the kind of quality you would need for a club – and certainly for a mobile events DJ – this model from Audio-Technica could be worth considering.
What we like most about it is how it’s highly adjustable and customizable, and it also has plenty of useful features.
For example, it gives you the option of playing your record in reverse, which, for more creative DJs and turntablists, opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
Also, it has two start/stop buttons – this makes it more practical to use if you have it oriented in “battle mode”.
Something else we like is the long tempo adjust slider that allows you to change the speed of a record with great accuracy. This makes it easier to beat match more consistently and have to records playing together for longer.
One feature that makes this turntable stand out is the USB ports that allows you to connect it to a laptop and convert your vinyl music to digital. For some people, the ability to digitize their old vinyl music collection alone is enough to warrant buying one of these.
However, there are a couple of negatives we need to mention too. First, the strobe light on the platter seems to be a little off. It isn’t as accurate as on some of the more top-end models, meaning it isn’t always an accurate way to judge the speed of the platter.
Also, this turntable does allow a certain amount of sound from vibrations to make its way into the system – this is probably due to this turntable having plastic parts where a Technics uses rubber. However, for the most part, it’s hardly noticeable.
To summarize, a great option for anyone who can’t afford the most expensive equipment but who still wants a high-quality turntable. If you’re opening a nightclub, you’ll want to install Technics decks, but if you’re a bedroom or events DJ, this turntable will do nicely.
More affordable option – but still a high-quality deck
Long tempo adjust – allows for accurate beatmatching
Reverse play feature – play records backwards for extra creativity
Two start/stop buttons – makes it more practical in different configurations
USB port – connect to your laptop and convert vinyl to digital
Strobe light not completely accurate – makes it more difficult to judge speed
Can allow feedback into the music – perhaps due to plastic components
Direct-drive turntables have always cost more than belt-drive versions. However, if you want to save yourself some money but still insist on direct drive, you have a few options – and an entry-level turntable like this one from Reloop could be a smart choice.
The main selling point of this turntable is that it is a direct-drive machine, but it also has plenty of other features that make it an interesting option.
This deck has a reverse play mode that allows you to play records backwards, something that even the old Technics decks never allowed you to do.
You can also choose between three different speeds – 33 1/3, 45 and 78 – so you can play any records on this player. It also has an anti-skating mechanism that prevents the needle from slipping across the record as it plays.
Finally, it boasts shock-absorbing feet that help prevent vibration from the music or any other movement.
However, as a more affordable machine, you can’t expect it to perform to the same standards as turntables that cost twice as much, and there are a few drawbacks to mention.
These decks are more prone to bass feedback than more expensive models – this is not ideal in a club, but for home DJs, it’s not such a big deal.
Also, there is the possibility of some static feedback – but check here for info about how to reduce this problem.
In sum, this is a solid option for anyone who insists having a direct-drive turntable – perhaps a budding turntablist who wants to learn how to scratch – but who doesn’t have the cash for a more expensive model. For anyone in that situation, this could be an ideal solution.
Entry-level direct drive turntable – won’t cost you a fortune
Reverse mode – allows you to play records backwards
3 speeds to play any record – 33 1/3, 45 and 78
Anti-skating mechanism – to keep the needle on the record
Shock-absorbing feet – to reduce vibration
Can suffer from some bass feedback – more noticeable than more expensive options
Some static build-up – but there are steps you can take to reduce it
Most people who want to get into DJing nowadays opt for a controller – this allows you to play around with digital music and represents the most practical and affordable way of doing it. Click here to learn more about how to get started as a DJ.
Generally speaking, the only people who go for vinyl instead are turntablists who want to be able to scratch and pull off other similar tricks, and in that case, you need a direct-drive turntable.
However, for anyone who wants to learn the craft the old-fashioned way and who wants to master the art of beatmatching on vinyl – but who only has a very limited budget, a belt-drive turntable like this one could be the answer.
This unit has everything the novice needs. It has a tempo adjust that goes to +/-10, it includes two-speed playback (33 1/3 and 45) and even two start/stop buttons, making it convenient if you want to set it up “battle style”.
It also includes all the accessories you need to get started, like a slip mat and a cartridge – and everything is super-easy to understand, so you can just jump in and start practicing.
However, you need to understand that this is a belt-drive turntable, so the speed will not be as accurate as on a direct-drive turntable, making beatmatching more challenging.
Also, if you want to learn to scratch, this deck is not for you. Scratching was only invented with the advent of direct-drive machines, and if you want to scratch, that’s what you need.
This is a fun machine if you want to play around and learn the fundamentals of DJing the way it was done before digital music came along. If that’s where your interests lie, this turntable represents a very affordable way of giving it a go.
Affordable option for someone who wants to learn – great way into DJing
All the basic features – including 2 playback speeds, 33 1/3 and 45
2 start/stop buttons – convenient for use in “battle” configuration
Easy layout – everything is intuitive and easy to understand
Comes with necessary accessories – including dust cover, slip mat and cartridge
Speed not constant – but this is normal on belt-drive units
Don’t be expect to scratch on this – for that, you need direct drive
As an alternative to the belt-drive turntable by Stanton we just looked at, this super-affordable option from Crosley could also be another possibility.
We like the basic, uncluttered layout – this is an ideal tool for novices to learn on since it won’t confuse them with unnecessary functions.
It still has all the essentials, though. There’s a pitch adjust for changing the speed and getting records in time, and it has an anti-skate capability that keeps the needle in place and protects your records from being damaged.
Another plus is the dust cover – it’s not essential for DJs, but it’s good to have all the same.
The main downside is the instructions since they’re not clear, well-written or particularly helpful. You’ll need to work out how to set it up by yourself.
The other issue is that this is not really a dedicated DJ’s turntable, although you can certainly use it as one if you want to learn – and if that’s what you are looking to do, this could be the inexpensive piece of kit you choose do it on.
Simple and easy to use – great if you don’t know your way about a turntable
Anti-skate system – keeps the needle in place and protects your records
Pitch adjust – a basic requirement for DJing
Dust cover – important if you don’t use it all the time
Budget-friendly – affordable way into DJing
Instructions not helpful – need to know how to set it up yourself
Not a dedicated DJ turntable – although can be used to learn
This turntable, also from Crosley, proves you can have a direct-drive machine for an extremely low price – this costs less than many belt-drive turntables.
It features all the tools you’ll need to practice the basics of DJing, including a pitch adjust that goes to +/-10 and two playback speeds (33 1/3 and 45). It also has two on/off switches, making it suitable for using “battle style”.
Another big positive is the fact that it has a vinyl conversion capability. You can connect it to your laptop via USB and digitize all your old vinyl records. This is great if you have some old tunes you want to mix using digital DJ equipment.
However, it might seem that finding a direct-drive turntable at this price is too good to be true – and in some ways, unfortunately, that’s the case.
While it holds its speed better than a belt-drive model, it doesn’t have enough torque to make it a good machine for scratching – so if you’re a budding turntablist looking to enhance your skills, this might not be the machine you’re looking for.
Also, a more minor grumble is that the power switch is awkwardly located at the back, making it difficult to reach. This is not a deal-breaker, but it is a bit annoying.
Overall, this is a nice little machine to own if you want a direct-drive turntable and don’t have the money for a more expensive one – it will let you learn the basics of DJing like beatmatching, so for that, it could be a smart choice.
However, if you want to learn how to scratch, you’re going to need something a bit more expensive for this – so the best advice is to wait and save up for something better.
Direct-drive at extremely low price – costs less than some belt-drive models
Pitch adjust – goes to +/-10
2-speed playback – suitable for 33 1/3 records and 45s
Vinyl conversion capability – via USB port
2 on/off buttons – if you want to use it in “battle mode”
Doesn’t have the torque or power for scratching – but ok for beatmatching
Power button awkward to reach – located at the back of the unit
As you can see, there are many great turntables available to suit all skill levels and budgets. If you have decided you want to buy a pair of DJ turntables but are having difficulty find the perfect ones for you, any of the options in our review would be a great place to start looking.