Direct Drive vs Belt Drive Turntables

If you’re thinking about buying your first turntable, there’s a lot to get your head around.

A lot of tech spec’s.

A ton of industry jargon.

So if you want to make the absolute best decision for your needs, and budget…

…you’ll be well served by learning a few of the key features of good turntables.

With that in mind, let’s start with one of the most important parts of any turntable…

…the part that actually makes your turntable’s platter spin.

Let’s look into direct-drive vs belt-drive turntables, and figure out which is best suited to your needs.

green and yellow diagonally split image with direct drive vs belt drive turntables in black text

Direct Drive vs Belt Drive Turntables – What’s the Difference & Which is Best for You?

What is a Direct Drive Turntable?

Direct-drive turntables have a motor sat directly beneath the platter.

Because of this, they tend to reach their optimal speed the instant they are powered up.

And, also because of this, when you turn-off a direct-drive turntable, the platter will spin freely with zero  resistance.

DJ’s, both amateur and pro, always choose direct-drive turntables, because for the two reasons above, they deliver full and instant control.

It is this directly positioned motor, driving the platter and delivering easy manipulation of the record, that is the defining feature of a direct-drive turntable.

Here’s a remarkably dull photo of a direct-drive turntable with it’s platter removed so that you can see the motor in the centre:

technics direct drive turntable with platter removed

You will notice that direct-drives have a range of control functions not often found on belt-drives, but also  tend to have a sleek, clutter-free look.

This is all part of making direct-drives as easy as possible for DJ’s to use.

What is a Belt Drive Turntable?

Belt-drive turntables have a belt and motor-pulley system that spins the platter.

The belt wraps around both the turntable platter, and the motor, which is usually position somewhere beneath and to the side of the platter.

The image below of a beautifully stripped back belt-drive turntable by LISTEN audio development gives a great visual on how simply the belt drive mechanism is put together.

Image: LISTEN audio development

Belt-drive turntables do take a few seconds to get up to the correct speed, but rest assured, they will always be spinning at the right speed by the time the stylus makes contact with the record…

…providing you use the cueing mechanism, rather than plonk the needle on the record by hand.

Likewise, if you power-off a belt-drive turntable, the belt will remain driving the platter for quite a few seconds.  

Okay, now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at the merits of each one.

Direct Drive Advantages

Due to the platter being directly driven by the motor, it is extremely easy to manipulate both speed and direction with a direct-drive turntable.

Direct-drives also tend to have greater speed accuracy and consistency.

It’s not always the case, but mostly, you will find that direct-drives are designed with the ability to manipulate the record as a key priority.

If you’re looking at getting into DJing with vinyl, you simply have to go with a direct-drive turntable.

Belt Drive Advantages

Well, if you were to run a sound quality test, direct-drive vs belt-drive turntables of similar quality, you would likely find that your vinyl sounds a little clearer and smoother on the belt-drive.

And I say this without bias, because I DJ and for that I’m using direct-drives.

The reason for this is that the motor on a belt-drive is positioned further away from the platter, and therefore there is less mechanical resonance being transferred from the motor to the platter.

It’s also because the belt itself helps in smoothing out mechanical disturbance which all turntables experience due to motor cogging.

High-end belt-drive turntable manufacturers go to great lengths to drive this advantage home, through better positioning and isolating of the motor for better noise-reduction and therefore enhanced sound-quality.

Direct Drive vs Belt Drive for Listening

If you’re buying a turntable for pure vinyl listening enjoyment…

…and you want the music to be as pure, well-rounded and warm as possible, then a good-quality belt-drive is what you should be looking at getting. 

And when the listening experience is your primary concern, you simply won’t have any need for the increased control functions offered by a direct-drive.  

Direct Drive vs Belt Drive for DJing

Just as clearly as a good-quality belt-drive wins the day for audiophiles looking for the most immersive listing experience possible…

…direct-drives take the win when it comes to DJing.

All of a vinyl DJs skills require turntables that deliver speed consistency and precision.

All vinyl DJ’s need to manipulate the platter at some point, each time you do that will negatively impact the sound output if your turntables can’t react to rapid speed corrections.

Direct Drive vs Belt Drive for Price

This one is really difficult to give a definitive answer.

It’s probably fair to say that you can get a good belt-drive for less money than you can get a good direct- drive.

But it’s kind of a moot point.

Because the problem is this…you need what you need.

You can’t go out and but a belt-drive (a couple of belt-drives) if you want to start DJing.

And if you are looking for pure listening experience you aren’t going to be looking to buy yourself a direct-drive.

So, with that said, there’e very little value in comparing them on price.

Who Should Get a Direct Drive?

If you are getting into DJing, there really is no argument…

…you need to hook yourself up with direct-drives.

You need to be able to start, stop, change the speed…and that’s just a tiny handful of the many ways you’re going to need to manipulate your vinyl.

You simply won’t be able to work with the same level of control if using a belt-drive.

You need direct-drive!

Who Should Get a Belt Drive Turntable?

If you’re buying a new turntable for the love of music and vinyl, with no interest in DJing…

…get yourself a belt-drive turntable.

I’ve been DJing for over twenty years now.

I have direct-drives for Djing…

….and I have a beautiful, high-end belt-drive turntable for when I just want to listen to music.

Wrapping It Up!

It’s always a steep learning curve when you start looking into any kind of technical equipment that you’ve not used before.

I hope this article has cleared up the area of direct-drive vs belt-drive turntables for you.

Feel free to drop a comment below if you want to ask a question.

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