Vinyl is back with a vengeance. In 2016 sales hit a 25-year high. The industry predicted the death of physical forms of music, however, the numbers indicate differently. Its also evidenced in sales of DJ Turntables. There are now more offerings than ever and its time we made sense of all the options.
What Makes It For DJs?
First off, let’s talk about why DJ Turntables are different than standard record players. DJ Turntables have an inherent build quality that stands up to abuse. DJs, especially turntablists, use turntables as their instrument. They man-handle the platter and manipulate the pitch-control with a fervor. Gigging DJs have to deal with trips in the car, unstable stages, booming subwoofers, and drunk roadies. Having reliable DJ turntables is paramount to success.
Recreating the Classic Formula
DJing with turntables rose to popularity in the late 70s. Grandmaster Flash is accredited with pioneering modern day mixing skills and manipulating the turntable as an instrument. As DJs furthered the cause, demand rose for quality decks that wouldn’t skip when scratching or cueing. Enter the Technics 1200. 1200 is legendary because of its design, performance, and durability. Unfortunately, production stopped in 2010 and lots of manufacturers have been trying to fill the void.
As I go through my favorite current turntables on the market, I’ll be comparing them to what made the Technics 1200 great. They need to be built to last with minimal maintenance. Most of the parts should
be metal with high quality construction. The pitch control should be responsive and the motor must be direct-drive with the high-torque that made 1200s special. All of these factors lead to high resale value.
All of the major DJ gear manufacturers offer DJ turntables. Some of them are known turntable manufacturers and others are new to the game. Regardless of the brand, one thing is certain. All of them set out to replicate the Technics 1200, albeit some with modern-day enhancements. The following are my favorite choices of DJ turntables.
Denon DJ VL12 Prime Professional Turntable
Denon has been making DJ gear since the 1960s. They pioneered the digital DJ revolution with their rack-mount dual-cd players. The VL12 is their crown jewel. For starters, it’s very visually appealing. You can set the platter light to different colors to match the vibe of the venue. The platter also features a contoured grip/break which is great for subtle adjustments. It has the highest torque in the industry which results in an accurate scratching experience.
Some DJ turntables are designed for vinyl manipulation, and sound quality takes a back seat. On the contrary, the VL12 employees an isolated motor design for optimal signal-to-noise ratio. It has a high price tag but you get what you pay for.
Reloop RP-8000 Hybrid Torque Turntable with MIDI
DJing with vinyl has remained prominent thanks to digital control vinyl that works with software such as Serato DJ and Native Instruments Traktor. Traditionally, a special controller or hardware interface was required to transmit the position of the vinyl to control the digital track on your computer. The RP-8000 communicates with any MIDI-compatible DJ software without additional hardware. Scroll through your playlists and load tracks right from the turntable. It has four different performance modes for optimal creativity. Access cue points (to jump to a specific point in a song), trigger loops, or access sample decks from Serato DJ software. Combine all this with a quartz-driven, high-torque direct drive motor and you have a serious weapon for turntablists and digital DJs.
Pioneer PLX1000 Professional Direct Drive Turntable
Pioneer has exceptional build and sound quality. The PLX1000 doesn’t have fancy bells and whistles but prides itself on design. The heavy-mass zinc die-cast chassis is enforced with vibration-damping material for extremely stable playback. The tone arm uses rubber insulation to minimize howling effects during playback. The RCA jacks are gold-plated for perfected sound quality output. This is your meat and potatoes. An outstanding turntable for DJing or just normal playback when listening to your favorite albums.
Audio-Technica AT-LP 1240USB Direct Drive Professional USB Turntable
For those not savvy with how turntables work, they require a phono preamp to operate. Your DJ mixer or home receiver has a phono preamp, or you can purchase a dedicated one. 1240 has it built-in. The USB output makes it particularly attractive to producers that sample, as well as vinyl enthusiasts looking to convert their collection. Connect directly to your computer and use the included Audacity software to convert your favorite tracks in wav files or MP3s. This turntable also prides itself on high torque.
There are lots of quality choices for DJ turntables. This article has only scratched (no pun intended) the surface. However, I do know that having any of these four turntables will result in a professional performance. I’m a firm believer in buying it once. This means if you’re serious about your craft, buy quality equipment. Consider it an investment and know that it will help you perfect your craft. Whether you DJ or just play records, AMS has an option for you.
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