Turntable Wars ~ Belt VS Direct Drive

| March 20, 2013

turntable_Micro_Seiki_SX-8000IIAudiophiles are a curious lot …

They will go on and on arguing about turntables.

I am in a kick recently about classic 1970s stereo gear and I’ve been asked to throw down what I think about it … so why not here?

First off, I am always into quality and bullet-proof stuff. Whatever it is. I believe in being the tortoise and not the hare. I am a more VW Bug type than a Porche’ 911 type – so let that work into the mix.

turntable_technics_sl1200mk2So now, a quick crash course in turntables.

I will save the vinyl VS digital argument for another time.

There are two basic turntable types: Direct and Belt

The main difference is the platter is separated from its drive motor by a belt on a belt drive turntable while the direct drive turntable platter is directly connected to the motor.



These are driven by a belt between the motor and the turntable.

They were always used in radio stations because they are “instant on” … which is to say that when the power is applied from being still they jump to speed in a blink.

Jimmy_Reed_1969So a DJ would drop the needle onto the record and cue up” to just a split second of the first note of the song.

When the song on the first turntable would end, the second turntable could be engaged and the song would start immediately.

A top 40 radio station trick would be to fit a belt that was very slightly smaller and thus run a song slightly faster and then it would also be slightly higher in pitch. The idea was that when a listener heard the same song on a competing station it would sound slow and lower in pitch. A psychoacoustic trick that worked for its day.



Direct drive spins up to speed much slower but is much more accurate in speed than a belt drive. There is also no belts to wear out and replace.

turntable_speed_adjustOn the edge of the platters are a series of timing marks and a light so it can be adjusted by sight making the mark seem to hold still.

There is an absolutely wonderful article on choosing a turntable by loudspeaker designer Roy Johnson on the Green Mountain Audio web site.

I prefer direct drive. Plain and simple. I don’t want to fool around with replacing belts and I want rock solid accuracy.

vinyl_vs_cd_discsThe argument about vinyl VS digital audio CDs will have to come at a later time. There are merits to both –

But mainly, there is a reason why the first CD music to come out up until the mid-1980s did not sound very good.

Sorry to tease – but just stay tuned …


Category: Tony Rollo Blog

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