Turntables – the Break down

The Turntables are back. Did they ever go out of style? One of the longest-running technologies in music, still in popular manufacture. There is nothing more comparable to that rich sound when a vinyl record is played. No matter how many technologies attempt to replace it – the 8-track, the cassette tape, the CD or the MP3 – turntables are here to stay. 

Turntable/Record Players: What’s the difference?

The terms turntable and record player can be used interchangeably. Though technically the turntable is the platter. Some people consider a record player to be an all-in-one device while a turntable, a hi-fi component. However, Djs consider a record player as a low-end or consumer devices while turntables as high end or pro audio equipment.

Let’s get down to breaking the Turntables down to all its parts.


Parts of a Turntable:

Tonearm Mechanics :

  • Counterweight: It balances the tonearm horizontally and affects the stylus downward pressure on the record.
  • Anti-skate: The anti-skate adjustment controls the tonearm’s side-to-side tension. The needle rides in a record disc groove, naturally pulling the tonearm toward the centre to the turntable. The anti-skate spring setting acts against that force and provides tension adjustment toward the tonearm’s original position.
  • Cueing lever: It helps to safely raise and lower the tonearm. Intern, it prevents unintentional damage to sensitive surfaces. To ensure smooth function, the cueing lever designs can have hydraulic cylinders or other mechanisms.
  • Tonearm height adjustment: A set of threaded rings helps to adjust the height of the tonearm
  • Tonearm rest: The tonearm rest holds the tonearm securely in the place when not in use.

Cartridge and Stylus :

Cartridge :

The cartridge houses the stylus, magnet, and coils.


The tip of the stylus (or “needle”) is normally made of sapphire or diamond. It is fastened to one end of the metal cantilever which has a flexible support bushing as a pivot, and a magnet at the opposite end. The stylus can have a different tip shape based on needs; common shapes are elliptical or spherical.


Electricity passes through coils of copper wire, and create an electromagnetic field.

Motor and Base :


The motor powers the turntable platter. Based on how it connects to the platter, are of two kinds, direct drive and belt drive. Dj’s prefer the direct drive as it gives them more control.
More information on the Direct drive and belt drive turntables can be seen in the article: Types of Record Players

Read about the types of motors here.

  • Platter Mat: The platter mat material can affect turntable functionality. For example, a rubber mat will grip the record and platter both. This allows the DJ to affect the speed of the actual platter and drive motor when hand pressure is applied to the record surface. A felt mat for cueing allows the record to easily decouple from the platter. It spins independently (or not at all) under hand pressure.
  • Circuit Board (Housed inside): Controls the electrical supply and functionality of the parts of the turntable.
  • Feet: Feet are adjustable for turntable levelling and can help isolate the turntable from external vibration.
    (Check out the adjoining images to better understand)

Other Parts:

  • On/Off Switch: It controls power delivery to the entire unit. Switch on the turntable like you would any electrical device.
  • Speed Calibration Pattern: The dot pattern on the side of the platter will appear to stand still under a strobe light when the platter spins at a certain RPM(revolutions per minute). This allows the Dj to visually evaluate playback (rotation) speed.
  • Speed Calibration Strobe: The speed calibration strobe light is located at the side of the power switch.
  • Start/Stop Button: It controls the platter rotation.
  • Speed Selector: The most common rotation speed (RPM) for a vinyl record is 331/3. Another common but smaller vinyl record rotates at 45 RPM and must be used with an adapter due to its larger centre hole diameter.
  • Platter: The platter is a solid disk-like platform that holds and rotates the record.
  • Cueing Lamp: It illuminates the stylus so the Dj can see where the stylus is in all light conditions.
  • 45/33 Adapter: The centre hole diameter in smaller 7” records are larger. The 45 adapter accommodates these records.
  • Head Shell: It is attached to the end of the tonearm, protecting the cartridge within.
  • Pitch or Tempo Adjustment: A fader knob controls platter rotation speed, which directly affects playback pitch and tempo.
  • Plinth: The plinth is the base of the turntable. It keeps crucial parts stable for better playback and less external disturbance.
  • Tonearm: The tonearm carries the headshell and houses audio wiring. It has varied adjustment capabilities for vertical and lateral behaviour.

Related articles on turntables include:

  1. Types of Record players
  2. Direct Drive
  3. Belt Drive
  4. Turntable Feet