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How to Choose USB Turntables

Wednesday Jun 8, 2011

How to Choose USB TurntablesUSB turntables are the primary devices used by DJs in their craft. The most common USB turntable is the Technics SL 1200/1210 and this is a good choice. Turntables are basically made the same way in terms of the function of each part. However, the difference between turntables becomes apparent with the mechanics of each part.

One of the important things to think about when choosing your turntable is the preference between features. One feature is the mechanism which rotates the disk or platter; the Belt Drive or a Direct Drive. A belt drive turntable’s platter rests on top of a bearing as it rotates, with the motor mounted off to the side. The platter connects to the motor that spins it by a rubber belt, which is also a shock absorber that prevents noise and vibration from the motor. Direct drive models place the platter directly on the shaft of the motor and they require no belt to spin records. This design offers highly consistent speed for accurate sound with reduced “wow and flutter” (speed variation). Direct drive turntables let you spin the platter backwards to create special sound effects and the design is relatively simple and offers greater speed. The latter also gives greater control to DJs.

Another thing to consider is the Tone Arm, a device which connects the phono cartridge to turntable’s circuitry. A phono cartridge is a small bundle of magnets and wires enclosed in a housing with a stylus that traces the grooves in records. The stylus should be replaced every 500-1000 hours of play time. At the base of the tone arm is the height adjustment. The operation of the tone arm could either be manual or automatic. Automatic turntables play records at the push of a button. The machine does the work for you; therefore, it is convenient for novices. Manual turntables require you to lift the tone arm and position the disks yourself. This offers a lot of control, which is why it is preferred by many DJs.

Internal and external phono preamps, the circuitry necessary to amplify the voltages generated while the needle travels along the grooves, are also integral in turntables. Many offer built-in preamps, though some require the addition of external preamps which offer better sound quality. Some also offer USB output ports which link your computer directly to the turntable, making archiving a lot easier.

Wow and flutter, Signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio, and playback speed should also be studied if a DJ really wants to be in depth. Wow and flutter shows variation in spinning speed, S/N show how much background noise is to be expected, and playback speed measures how fast the a record is played. These all affect the overall sound output.


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