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If you want to make original mashups of your favorite songs, or DJ to an audience, your most important tool is the right turntable.
Just take it from Australian DJ Alison Wonderland, who’s remixed tracks by everyone from Justin Bieber to Dua Lipa. “I love creating the set off the crowd’s energy and I love treating the decks like an instrument,” she says. “It’s always fun to experiment with two tracks on top of each other.”
Turntables or record players (the terms are used interchangeably) can do more than spin a disc. “A turntable is what you put your music into and it actually plays the music,” Wonderland says. “You use these to time your songs.”
A DJ setup includes a few pieces of equipment, including a mixer, controller, and speakers, but none of them will perform at their best if you don’t use the right turntable.
“The turntable is the device that plays the song which is then broadcast by the mixer,” explains DJ Mensa, a Toronto-based nightclub, radio and mixtape DJ who’s a three-time winner of RedBull’s 3Style DJ competition. “Two turntables playing songs alternately keeps the music playing at a non-stop pace. That,” he says, “is DJ’ing in a nutshell.”
What Are the Best DJ Turntables?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best DJ turntable for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Direct Drive: The DJ turntables we’re recommending are direct-drive models, which means their platter (the circular piece you place your album onto) is spun by a motor. This differs from “belt” driven record players, which have an elastic band around the side of the platter to spin it. Mensa says, “DJ (direct-drive) turntables are more precise, and more durable over the long run.”
Tempo Controls: One of the hallmarks of a DJ turntable is a fader (a sliding switch) that allows you to increase or decrease the platter’s speed to change a song’s tempo. This fader lets you switch between songs with different BPM (beats per minute) seamlessly.
Speed Shift: All of the DJ turntables we recommend allow you to change between 33/3 and 45 RPM (rotations per minute), so you can play both singles and full-sized albums.
Preamp: Some turntables have a built-in preamp, an audio component that increases its volume output so it can be connected to any input on a stereo receiver (or a pair of powered speakers). Most of our DJ turntable recommendations don’t have a preamp, because that job is handled by other components, like the mixer you use.
Causal Use: Although the turntables we’re recommending in this guide have features meant for DJs, they can still be used for listening to albums for pleasure as a part of your home theater system. Just remember you’ll need to get a preamp if your stereo receiver doesn’t have a phono input.
1. Reloop AMS-RP-4000-MK2
Reloop may not be a name you’re familiar with, but its AMS-RP-4000-MK2 is an excellent entry-level option for aspiring DJs.
The direct drive turntable has a fader on the right side of the platter that lets you shift the tempo between +/- 8% and +/- 16%. You can shift between these two modes by pushing the 8%/16% button below the fader, and automatically reset the speed to 0% (normal) by pushing a button to the left of it. The ability to regulate your DJ turntable’s speed without looking down, or relying on muscle memory is a major win.
The MK2 also has a button that lets you reverse the direction of your record, so you can play it backwards for scratching. The turntable’s start/stop and 33/3 and 45RPM speed selection buttons are located on the left side of the of the platter.
These quality of life features make DJing easier for beginners because you can rely on pressing buttons until you get comfortable controlling the faders, while also focusing on other tasks like song selection, and EQ (equalization). When combined with the physical design choices Reloop made, like building in a motor with higher torque (force used to rotate objects) and reinforced metal housing, you get a well-balanced turntable for home and professional use.
Whether you’re a music fan who wants to start DJing, or a DJ looking to upgrade from an older rig, this is a great place to start.
2. Pioneer PLX1000 Direct Drive DJ Turntable
Pioneer’s PLX1000 Direct Drive DJ Turntable is an excellent choice for more professional DJs.
Its layout is similar to the other DJ turntables we’ve recommended: A fader on the right lets you change the tempo at either +/-8%,+/- 16%, or +/- 50% (the biggest range of any table we’re recommending). You can switch between those modes by pushing a button on top of the fader, or reset the tempo by pushing a button to the left of it.
The PLX1000’s speed controls and start/stop buttons are located to the left of the platter. Pioneer includes a 45 adapter, which fits into the larger hole on a seven-inch single and allows you to place it onto the turntable’s spindle.
Where this turntable pulls ahead is in its overall design. It has a high torque motor that Pioneer says can spin the table to 33/3RPM in .3 seconds. Its chasis is made out of die-cast zinc (that means it was hardened and compressed under extreme pressure, improving its overall stability). Pioneer says this turntable is “club grade,” so it’s made for regular use in a challenging environment.
The only downside to this table is that it doesn’t come with a needle or cartridge, so you have to supply your own. You can attach any cartridge you like, which is nice, but this table won’t be DJ ready out of the box. If you already have a needle you like, but need a new deck to handle anything you can throw at it, this is our recommendation.
3. Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB Direct-Drive Turntable
Audio-Technica has a large line of DJ turntables, but the AT-LP1240 has the widest range of features that cater to serious work, and laid back listening.
This DJ turntable looks similar to the other ones we’re recommending, but it has a few twists. The fader on the right lets you change the tempo +/- 8%, but you can change it to +/- 10% or +/-20% by pushing buttons below the fader. You can reset the speed by pressing a button to the left of the fader. The AT-LP1240 has a reverse button, which you can use for record scratching.
Buttons to the left side of the platter let you start and stop the turnable, or switch between 33/3, 45, and 78RPM. This is the only DJ turntable we’re recommending with a mode for 78s. It’s also the only DJ turntable in this guide with a phono preamp, which allows you to hook it up to any RCA (red and white) input on a stereo receiver. It doesn’t come with a needle, though, so keep that in mind. Finally, this turntable has a USB port, so you can easily digitize your record collection on a PC or Mac.
These extras are nice, but it’s the AT-LP1240’s core functionality that’s earned it a space in this guide. That includes the physical design, which features a die-cast aluminum platter, sensitive anti-skate, and a height-adjustable rest. All of these little touches ensure your records don’t skip, and you can use the turntable comfortably. If you like to DJ, but want a record player with modern conveniences, the AT-LP1240 is your best bet.