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


Things You Didn’t Know About Direct Drive Turntables

The Direct Drive Turntable was a new technological advancement to the well-established belt drive turntable. The Direct drive system overcomes some of the disadvantages that the users of belt drive systems faced. Soon after the launch, Direct drive turntables became popular between live performers and Disc Jockeys. Due to its new and improved system, it actually overcame the main disadvantage of the belt drive turntables – the ability to handle a dj performance. In this article, we will overview the basics of the direct drive turntables.

Direct Drive. What is it?
In the direct drive system, the motor is housed in the centre directly under the platter. Instead of a belt, the motor directly connects to the platter. It has better torque, which was missing in the older designs. Fewer parts also mean less maintenance and less wear and tear.

Preferred by DJ’s
If you are a DJ, the Direct drive is for you. It reaches the optimal preset playing speeds very quickly with consistent platter acceleration. The high torque allows for a more stability while playing. The technical design allows for better control.

Direct drive is more resilient to external stimuli making it ideal for the tricks and motions of the DJ while scratching or backspins (Dj technique). Touching the platter was once a “no-no” in the early djing days, often causing mechanical issues on the belt drive. All the above factors lead to the direct drive turntables to gain popularity and are the most widely used turntables in DJing.

Sound Quality
Where Direct drive turntables surpass others in performers, they lose out in sound quality. Turntables are precision instruments, the stylus acts like a microphone picking up vibrations. The location of the motor connected to the platter transfers vibrations, which are caught by the needle, creating unwanted noise in the form of a hum or distortion during playback. But this is something which has been identified and corrected to acceptable levels in most professional turntables used for DJ’ing.
To overcome the hum, newer models have shock absorbing material between the platter and the motor, that helps to reduce the noise.

The legs of the turntables sometimes contribute to the hmm as well…

Related Articles.
Read more about the legs/feet of the turntables:  “Turntable Feet”.
Read more about the other different kinds of turntables : Guide to Types of Turntables. 

Audiophiles and DJs, time to rejoice. The legendary Technics 1200 turntable is back!

Panasonic used their official CES 2016 press conference in Las Vegas to give the world the first look at the new models of the direct-drive turntable. The iconic turntable has been a cornerstone of electronic music and DJ culture for decades and today’s launch will no doubt further enhance our industry’s romanticism for the beloved 1200.

+ MoreAudiophiles and DJs, time to rejoice. The legendary Technics 1200 turntable is back!

History of Dots

Improtance of Dots on a turntable

Did you know that the dots on the side of your turntables have a purpose?

Modern record players use electromagnetic devices to convert sound vibrations from a spinning record into electrical signals. These signals are fed to an electronic amplifier that powers loudspeakers or headphones, making the sound much louder. So a record player is a mix of mechanical and electromagnetic technology.

+ MoreHistory of Dots