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Whether you dream of starting the party at your local dive bar or massive stadiums, or you just want to pick up a new playlist-powered hobby, every deejay needs to start somewhere — and that usually begins with a good set of gear. If you’re opting for the tactile, high-quality sound of vinyl DJing, you’ll need a set of the best beginner DJ turntables to get started.
The best beginner DJ turntable setup — also known as a turntable deck — won’t just include the record players. Your equipment should also include headphones, a mixer and speakers. If you’re incorporating software, like most pros, you’ll also want a laptop.
It can get confusing, but fear not: here’s everything you need to know before getting started with some of the best beginner DJ turntables.
What Are the Parts of a Turntable?
Before shopping for a starter turntable, you’ll want to get acquainted with all the parts and elements of a turntable. Here are a few basic things to know while shopping for the best beginner DJ turntables online.
Plinth: The plinth is the base of a turntable. This should be made of out sturdy, high-quality materials to reduce external vibrations.
Stylus: That tiny needle that touches on the record is the stylus. These usually have a diamond or sapphire tip, as the stylus must be extremely hard to avoid scratching the vinyl. Styluses should also be replaced after about 2000 hours or so of use.
Tonearm: The tonearm is the piece that holds the stylus and lowers it down onto the record. More on how these work later.
Cartridge: Vibrations from the stylus need to be turned into sound, which is where the cartridge comes in. This little piece is mounted on the end of the tonearm.
Platter: The platter is the round piece where the record sits. This piece is very important, as it needs to evenly spin the record without creating any extra vibrations that the stylus could pick up.
What Are the Different Types of Turntables?
Not all DJs play the same, which is why you’ll want to buy the right turntable for your needs and style. Here are the different types of turntables that you can find online.
Manual turntable: If you prefer to be as hands-on as possible, a manual turntable is the way to go. This type of record player requires you to manually lower the tonearm onto the vinyl to play music, and then lift and return the tonearm to the resting position when the record is over.
Automatic turntable: DJs who want more automation will want to go with an automatic turntable, which has a button that will put the tonearm in position for you.
Direct drive turntable: The most recommended turntables for DJs 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. Most DJs will tell you that direct-drive turntables are more precise and more durable over the long run.
DJ Turntables vs. DJ Controller Decks: What’s the Difference?
The terminology of DJ equipment can be tricky to get straight. Here’s a basic rundown of the difference between a DJ turntable deck vs. a DJ controller deck.
DJ turntable decks are a setup for spinning and mixing vinyl that usually includes two vinyl record players and a mixer (as well as accessories like headphones, cords and speakers). The benefits of this analog setup are better sound quality, and, for beginner DJs, a good understanding of how DJing really works: With just two records and a mixer, the fundamentals of DJing become clear.
Victoria Rawlins, a Los Angeles-based DJ and producer, suggests that, “For people serious about DJing, you should get two turntables and a starter mixer and take it from there. Real vinyl is such a treat and not only does it sound the best, but helps you to really learn the basics of DJing without 20 shortcuts. It’s easy to switch over to [using] Serato [mixing software] after you master that.”
DJ controllers, on the other hand, are the basic element of digital mixing. They’re the kind of gear you typically see in setups with laptops, consisting of two platters on either side of a mixing section. They’re more portable than vinyl setups.
CDJs are a third type of spinning setup. Originally made for CDs (the acronym stands for compact disc jockey) They’re a special digital music player designed for DJs and require SD cards or USB flash drives loaded with digital music files, and two CDJs are usually plugged into one DJ mixer.
For this roundup, however, we’re sticking with DJ turntable setups and not digital controllers.
How to Choose the Best Turntable
“One thing to consider when buying turntables is torque (which dictates how hard you have to press on the record),” says Rawlins.
“As you practice spinning records, you develop a relationship between your touch and the torque of the turntable, and this gets written into muscle memory,” Rawlins explains. “From personal experience, on the few occasions where I’ve found myself at a gig with some other brand of decks, it takes serious adjustment for me to compensate for the response of those turntables and I’m sure the extra concentration could be better used to focus on other aspects of the set. It’s almost like playing a set with someone else’s records,” she explains.
What Are the Best DJ Turntables for Beginners?
“The best thing for someone who’s getting into vinyl DJing would be just to go for the industry gold standard right off the bat: find a pair of Technics SL-1200s on the used market,” recommends Rawlins.
Rawlins prefers the MK2 and M3D editions, “which seem to be the sweet spot. They don’t make these anymore but they are readily available on eBay, Craigslist, and Reverb if you look for them — and buying used is [a great eco-friendly option]. The 1200s will not lose value so if you eventually decide DJ’ing is not for you, you can easily sell them for as much as you bought them — maybe even more.”
Music producer Daisy O’Dell, co-founder of the events consulting collective woman., says that she and her fellow pro DJs also “endorse investing in a pair of Technics. The fidelity is incredible and the speed accuracy is near perfect. They are extraordinarily durable and reliable and will last you a lifetime with proper maintenance.”
Woman. co-founder and DJ Michelle Pesce adds, “I am absolutely a fan of Technics 1200s and my tech rider includes the SL-1200MK2s model. I’ve had the same pair for 20 years now, and that included a lot of schlepping between gigs when I first started out. That’s a testament to their durability.”
The best beginner DJ turntables aren’t necessarily cheap, but “it’s a wise investment in your craft,” points out Rawlins. “When shopping for turntables of any brand, make sure to consider cartridges (needles) into your budget because many people forget to calculate that.”
Pesce also recommends trying before you buy. “I suggest going into a local electronics store that carries turntables to try them out. They usually have multiple ones set up or ask them if they will. Bring a couple of pieces of vinyl and spend an afternoon [spinning].”
What Are the Best Beginner Turntables to Buy Online?
For those who prefer to shop from home, we’ve rounded up some of the best beginner DJ turntables and controller decks that you can buy online. These starter turntables have already scored seals of approval from our experts, and come with other options and accessories that you might want to consider. Check out the top picks below.
1. Technics SL-1200MK7 Turntable
DJ and woman. collective co-founder Daisy O’Dell points out that the Technics SL-1200MK7 is among “the current go-to DJ favorites. This direct drive model is beloved among professional DJs and audiophiles for its precise motor control, responsiveness to scratching and other styles, ability to easily reverse records, and other high-performance features.”
Customizable for each DJ’s touch, the turntable’s starting torque and brake speed can be adjusted individually to suit the user’s preference.
What’s more, by pressing the Speed Selector button and the Start/Stop simultaneously, the platter will reverse direction, adding a whole new level of performance possibilities The aluminum die-cast platter features a two-layer structure with deadening rubber on the entire back surface to eliminate unwanted resonance, providing high rigidity and outstanding vibration-damping characteristics and preventing harmful vibration from being transmitted to the record. The aluminum die-cast chassis is rigidly integrated with a special material consisting of ABS mixed with glass fiber to achieve a two-layer construction.
The combination of this high-rigidity material and a metal chassis raised the rigidity and vibration-damping performance to higher levels, realizing a robust cabinet for remarkable sound reproduction. The S-shaped tonearm employs a lightweight, yet rigid aluminum pipe, while the gimbal suspension system utilizes high-precision bearings to assure solid tracking performance with minimum stylus jumping, even in harsh playing conditions such as scratching. The tonearm ships with a counterweight for use with a variety of cartridges to match music genre or feeling. The turntable features gold-plated RCA terminals for use with detachable cables, as well as a detachable earth-ground wire and a detachable power cord.
Due to their popularity, SL-1200MK7 turntables are somewhat hard to come by (as of writing, they’re sold out on Amazon). We were able to find some used examples on eBay, however, which is probably your best bet.
2. Technics SL-1210GR Manual Direct Drive Turntable
O’Dell says that “You can’t go wrong with any classic SL-10s.” A manual direct drive turntable, the SL-1210GR pairs a manually-operated tonearm with a coreless direct drive motor. The tonearm uses gimbal-suspension technology with static balance, translating to smooth, consistent sound — even with flawed records. Thanks to the turntable’s high torque motor with rotational stability, sound quality is made even better. Build quality is great too with a two-layer, die-cast aluminum chassis and a dense platter, which is also made of die-cast aluminum.
3. Pioneer DJ PLX-1000 Professional Turntable
If you’re looking to get some DJ turntables on a budget, pick up two of these high-quality yet affordable Pioneer PLX-1000s. The spinner’s high-torque direct drive motor brings smooth audio quality, and its old-school layout ensures approachability for beginners. You also get wide-ranging tempo control for different speeds and pitches, meaning you can even achieve that chipmunk sample sound à la throwback Kanye.
4. Audio-Technica AT-LP140XP-BK Direct-Drive Professional DJ Turntable
Another great record player for beginner DJ setups is this Audio-Technica AT-LP140XP-BK. You get a direct-drive, high-torque servo motor, a hydraulic tonearm and a stable die-cast aluminum platter. All of this works to produce high-quality sound — no matter what kind of music you’re spinning.
5. Pioneer DJM-S9 DJ Mixer
Once you have your turntables, you’ll need a quality mixer to connect the two spinners. This one from Pioneer is an industry favorite. It uses Pioneer’s magnetic crossfader for smooth transitions from one record to the other, and it offers a host of features like customizable FX buttons, style levers and compatibility with different software. It’s great for pros, but beginners can figure out the basics with a bit of practice.
6. Boundless Audio Record Cleaner Brush
Between swapping, spinning and transporting records, they’re bound to get dirty. Pick up this record cleaner brush from Boundless to keep your vinyl records sounding their best. The brush is purpose-built for delicate vinyl with carbon fiber bristles that lift dust and dirt without scratching.