Best DJ Turntables to Buy in 2021
Although digital media has completely taken over the music industry in the last couple of decades, analog alternatives like vinyl are still extremely prized, especially among artists and audiophiles. As far as modern DJ-ing goes, most people, and especially beginners, prefer to stick to digital. There are plenty of reasons as to why: it’s cheaper, doesn’t require you to have a record library and carry records with you to events all the time, and it is much easier to learn. Traditional turntablism techniques like scratching take a while to master properly, and are much easier to recreate using a digital effect on your software.
On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons why people prefer vinyl instead of digital music. Most of them claim that the sound of vinyl records is superior to that of digital music, and the feeling of manipulating the music with your own hands through turntablist techniques is the only ‘real’ DJ mastery. Arguably, but not too far from the truth, in our opinion – and if you tend to think the same, this article is for you. We introduce you to the best DJ turntables available on the market in 2018 and help you choose the best one for yourself according to your budget and needs.
Table of Contents
1. Stanton T.62
- A sturdy, professional-quality turntable with a high-torque, direct-drive motor
- Two available playback speeds (33 and 45 RPM) and two start/stop switches for mix or battle orientation
- A pitch control fader lets you change the tempo/pitch with a range of plus or minus 10 percent
Let’s start off with something that will not break the bank even for the tightest of budgets. Enter the Stanton T.62, a direct-drive turntable (which, by the way, is the only type of turntable that works for DJ-ing, more on that later) with a straight arm for improved tracking. The unit has two playback speeds, 33 and 45 RPM, as well as a manual pitch control fader that allows +/-10 adjustment. Other features include RCA outputs and two start/stop switches for greater flexibility. The Stanton T.62 comes with a Stanton 300 cartridge, slip mat, and dust cover. Some people might complain about the lack of a 78 RPM speed and whatnot, but it’s hard to ask for more given the price of this turntable.
Overall, the Stanton T.62 is one of the best beginner-friendly turntables available on the market in 2019.
2. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB
- Experience the high-fidelity audio of vinyl
- Direct-drive, DC servo motor with selectable 33/45/78 RPM speeds
- Fully manual operation featuring adjustable dynamic anti-skate control, variable pitch control with quartz speed lock, and balanced S-shaped...
Audio-Technica is a fairly reputable brand when it comes to audio equipment. Their turntables are fairly inexpensive, but they have all the features you need to kickstart your vinyl DJ hobby. Take the AT-LP120XUSB, for instance. Direct drive, excellent torque enabling 33-1/3, 45, and 78 rpm speeds, +/-10 or +/-20% pitch adjust, and quartz-controlled pitch lock. The arm is an S-shaped assembly with several nifty features for a disc jockey: anti-skate adjustment, height adjustment and lock, and more. An AT95E cartridge is included in the package.
Audio-Technica takes it a step further and adds a USB port to the unit, which allows you to connect the turntable to Mac and Windows computers. Great if you’re looking to combine traditional vinyl with DJ software features.
3. Stanton T92USB
- Transform your vinyl collection into computer files—easily, safely, and efficiently
- Features a high-torque direct-drive motor for exceptional stability and an S-shaped tone arm for minimal distortion
- Designed with pitch control fader with DSP Key lock to change tempo without affecting pitch
Yet another Stanton unit, the T92USB has a few neat upgrades compare to the T.62 above. First, it has a USB port in addition to the RCA ones, which allows you to connect it to both Windows and Mac computers. This allows you to transfer music from your vinyl records to the computer, or use DJ software in combination with vinyl to shape the sound to your liking. It even comes with Cakewalk Pyro Audio Creator LE Software, which enables transferring and editing music files. The T92USB is a direct drive turntable and has three standard playback speeds: 33, 45, and 78 RPM, as well as Quartz Lock. The pitch control fader allows you to adjust the tempo (range is +/-12%) without affecting the pitch. Much like any other turntable, it comes with a slip mat, dust cover, and cables included in the package.
4. Roland TT-99
- Motor: Brushless DC motor
- Driving Method: Direct drive
- Speeds: 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, 78 rpm
The Roland TT-99 is a great choice for both beginner and seasoned vinyl DJs. The price is affordable compared to the industry standard, but it has all the cutting-edge features you need to get started as a DJ. The TT-99 is, of course, a direct drive turntable, and has 3 standard playback speeds: 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, 78 rpm. It also comes with a static balanced S-shaped arm and allows +/- 10 pitch adjustment. The starting torque for this model is 1 kgf.cm. An Audio Technica AT3600L cartridge is included in the package.
The only issue you might have with this unit is the weight – at 25.9 pounds, it can be quite a hassle to carry around and set up. However, the design is sleek and the table does feel really sturdy – so if that’s what you’re looking for, definitely consider this model.
5. Pioneer Pro DJ PLX-1000
- The high-torque direct drive ensures stable rotation and exceptional control
- Heavy-mass, die-cast chassis prevents resonance and vibrations
- Multi-tempo control lets you instantly Pick up or slow down the track to +/-8%, +/-16%, while a simple reset button instantly reverts to...
Pioneer is an industry leader, and the quality of their audio equipment is unrivaled. However, the prices are much higher as well – so expect to pay at least double the price of a Roland or Audio-Technica if you’re looking into Pioneer turntables. The PLX-1000 is known to be one of the best DJ-oriented turntables Pioneer has ever put out. The model is a direct-drive, has three playback speeds, and lets you adjust the pitch to +/-8, +/-16%, and back to 0% with a simple press of a button. The torque of this model is pretty impressive as well, speeding up to 33 RPM in just .3 seconds.
Another great advantage of the PLX-1000 is the sturdy build. In addition to the heavy casting, the table features a resin bottom to help reduce vibration and produce even cleaner sound. However, that also means you’ll have to carry around over 28 lbs.
6. Technics SL-1210Mk2
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Technics is the founding father of professional DJ turntables. Produced by Panasonic, the Technics line is most famous for the SL-1200MK2 model, but the SL-1210Mk2 doesn’t stray too far in terms of specs and quality. Here’s the main problem though: most of the original Technics turntables have been discontinued by the manufacturer, and while there are still retailers that carry them, the prices are pretty spicy. However, the SL-1210Mk2 is a worthy investment if you’re serious about perfecting your DJ game.
Spec-wise, the Technics SL-1210Mk2 is a fully manual, direct-drive turntable with an s-shaped low-mass tonearm with gimbal suspension. No USB ports, just RCA outputs. Aluminum diecast cabinet and thick rubber base to prevent excessive vibration.
7. TECHNICS SL-1200MK2
Last but not least, we have the ultimate DJ turntable – the Technics SL-1200MK2. A quick Google search should bring up why this model is legendary for the vinyl DJ community. In short, these machines were first produced in the early 70s, and many of them are still in use 40 years later. However, Panasonic discontinued them when digital media diminished the demand for analog turntables. You can still find some of them on the market, but be prepared to drop quite a bit of money on a pair.
The SL-1200MK2 is unrivaled when it comes to DJ use. With an aluminum diecast body and thick rubber base, it absorbs 99% of vibrations that could interfere with the sound. Granted, the torque isn’t the highest possible (1.5kg/cm), but it does allow for 0.7 start-ups, which is the perfect timing for DJ-ing. It allows pitch adjustments up to 16%. For more details, as well as the latest price, check out the link below:
How to choose the perfect DJ turntable?
Choosing the perfect DJ turntable can be pretty hard, especially for a beginner. While vinyl is not the preferred DJ media anymore, there still is quite a lot of variety to choose from. Here are a couple of things you should consider when choosing one for yourself:
Direct-drive over belt-drive
There are two main types of turntables. Direct-drive means that the motor is placed directly under the platter, allowing for a higher torque and fewer speed fluctuations. Belt-drive turntables have the motor connected to the platter via a rubber belt. While this can work for home use turntables, DJ use is less forgiving when it comes to torque and speed fluctuations. You don’t want the sound of your mix compromised by small interruptions here and there, so always look for direct-drive units over belt-drive ones.
Manual over automatic
Automatic turntables lift the tonearm from the resting position and lower them at the exact right spot to start playing the record, and bring it back once the record is finished playing. Manual ones are, just as the name suggests, fully manual. You have to lift the arm and lower the stylus yourself, as well as lift it up whenever you want it to stop playing. In short, as a DJ, you don’t need that automatic feature, as playing only certain parts of the record is the essence of vinyl mixing.
USB ports are nice additions to have in a turntable. You can use them to convert vinyl tracks into digital files or use DJ software to shape the sound of your vinyl mix. However, many classic models like the Technics line do not have a USB port but offer superior quality sound otherwise. With USB ports, it’s really up to you and your mixing style. If you prefer juggling with both digital and analog media, go for turntables with USB ports. If you prefer to stick to the basics, get a pair of USB-less Technics and you’ll be good to go.
High torque ensures that the platter accelerates to the proper speed fast enough for the listener (or crowd) to not notice the transition. Torque is measured in kg/cm, and you want to look for something with 1.5kg/cm or less. Sometimes, manufacturers will also specify the time it takes for the platter to speed up, and anything less than 0.3 should be good enough for DJ-ing.
The pitch range is probably the most important feature you’re looking for in a turntable, especially if you’re into scratching. Look for a unit that has a wider range to allow more flexibility. Something that goes up to 20% (+/-10) would be ideal for a scratch artist, but the standard 16% (+/-8%) isn’t too bad either.
The construction is the main thing modern manufacturers tend to overlook. In other words, there are a lot of cheaply-built turntables on the market nowadays, which could compromise the sound of your mix. And while it’s not worth spending $500+ for a turntable just because it has a sturdy build, you might want it to have at least some kind of vibration-absorbing bottom to keep the sound clean.
When it comes to price, you can expect to pay $150 and up for one turntable. As you will have to get a pair if you’re serious about DJing, you’re looking at around $400 for it, shipping and taxes included. If you’re on a really tight budget, we suggest you check out second-hand offers – might take a little longer, but it will certainly be worth it in the long run.
It is definitely not as easy to find high quality, DJ-grade turntables as it once was. However, if you’re equipped with knowledge and a bit of patience to find the best offer available, you can definitely score a killer set of turntables to help you start your career as a professional DJ.
Last update on 2021-09-23 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API