Vinyl 101: The Types Of Tables

The vinyl record is getting its second wind in this ever-changing musical landscape. With Consequence of Sound stating that 2017 could be the year that vinyl becomes a billion dollar industry,  I’d like to inform you about some general vinyl maintenance tips and other nougats of information. These concepts explained through our Vinyl 101 series. First up is the turntable itself and the various types.

The Turntable:

Turntables come in all shapes and sizes, but when it comes to a true turntable, not the terrible suitcase turntables that you can find at your local Urban Outfitters or Barnes & Nobles, there are generally two choices: direct drive or belt drive. Both have their benefits as well as their drawbacks. Regardless of which turntable you select, they both rely on a motor to spin the platter that the record sits on top of.

Belt Drive:

These turntables spin the platter through a belt that is attached to the motor. These belts, like most elastic things, can wear down over time, but they tend to be easy to replace and a cheap purchase overall. I’ve bought a replacement belt for my roommate’s Sansui table for $10. Since motors can cause vibrations, the elastic belt is used to negate the vibrations from being transferred to the platter and tonearm. If the platter were to move or vibrate, that could affect how the needle and tonearm track on the record grooves. The same can be said if the tonearm were to be affected by the motor vibrations. The downside of belt drives are that the belt can wear down, and the playback speed may not be 100% accurate due to belt drive tables having lower torque.

Popular Belt Drive tables are the Pro-ject Debut Carbon, U-Turn Audio’s Orbit Plus, and the Technics SL-B3.

Direct Drive:

Like the name suggests, the motor that is in this table connects directly to the platter. Direct drive turntables generally have more torque, resulting in more accurate playback and less sound distortion due to platter spinning at a constant speed faster. As I said before, the motors can affect the platter and tonearm due to vibrations, but this is alleviated in some turntables with rubber feet that absorb the vibration shock. It is also worth noting that since there is no belt, these tables have platters can be spun backward, making it the table of choice for DJ’s who spin records. Popular direct drive turntables are the Technics SL-1200 series, the Audio Technica AT-LP 120, and the Pioneer DJ PLX-500.

Which to get?:

I honestly wish I could say that there is a clear and concise answer for this. For those that want to listen to records and not DJ, many swear by belt driven tables since the belt removes the excess vibrations. I personally do not DJ, but own a Technics SL-1200 MK-II and love it. I have listened to my records on a belt driven record, and although they do sound a bit better on the belt driven table (both tables used the same needle), the difference is minimal. Direct drives tend to be more durable and have better playback speeds, but belt drives have less sound distortion and better sound quality. In the end, you, the listener should decide which table you’d like to get, there is no inherent wrong choice as long as the table is not an all-in-one table with speakers in it. More on that a bit in the next installment.

Feel free to comment below with what you guys thought about this post. What kind of tables do you guys own?

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