Something of a controversial list given the number of DJs that bleed 1200’s, Paul Rigby goes in search of the 8 best DJ turntables on offer and finds 7 options at a wide variety of prices that prove there is life after Technics.
Words: Paul Rigby
Having recently tackled the 8 best budget turntables that won’t ruin your records, it’s now time to turn to the DJ-flavoured variety, the more robust cousin of the often fragile audiophile variant. For DJ-oriented decks, the demands are more targeted. Yes, sound quality is an issue but there are also turntablist features along with varying extraordinary technical demands such as control priorities for digital media and more. Most good DJ decks are built with features that are easy to access combined with solid build quality. DJ turntables tend to receive more punishment than a typical hi-fi unit, so the latter is important too.
Any tool – be it something to insert a nail into a piece of wood or to transfer ink onto a piece of paper – works best without fancy gimmicks. Gimmicks are fine, don’t get me wrong, but you’ve got to ask yourself, does this deck to the job well without them? For DJ decks, you are looking for good pitch adjustment, high torque and true tracking. All of the turntables on this list do that job well.
The problem with cheap DJ decks is that the build quality is necessarily reduced while lower quality motors start to resemble a blancmange on Speed. The PT2000 manages to dodge these nasty bullets. While there are better turntables around, if you can pick up a second-hand direct drive model of the Gemini (avoid the low torque and functionally disabled belt driven TT-2000) then you will have the basis for a decent starter DJ system. Check out auction sites and you may find yourself a pair of Geminis priced at next to nothing.
The SL-1200 Mk.II is the classic DJ turntable. The industry standard, you might say, so I won’t go into detail. Many DJs swear by them. It’s true that it is no longer made so only second hand machines are available to buy but, despite the perception that there is a mad rush to grab the things, there are plenty out there to purchase, often at reasonable prices. For example, I took a quick eBay scan and found 81 of the blighters available with prices ranging from £140 to £420 via auction or Buy It Now. This little beauty has everything that any DJ will ever need in a turntable.
In general terms, the T.92 is basically similar to the more expensive ST.150 which means that the T.92 is durable with high quality components including a high torque motor and a free Stanton cartridge to get you underway immediately. You also get three speeds (33 1/3, 45 and 78) plus RCA sockets and a S-shaped tonearm, a tonarm lock and a dust cover. OK, it might not have all latest bells and whistles and, aesthetically, it may look a little functional but add the USB and S/PDIF digital outputs and you have a flexible turntable for not too much money.
With obvious designs nods to the SL-1200 Mk.II, the LP1240 features not only 33 1/3rpm and 45rpm but also 78rpm, for those lively, George Formby-themed, drum’n’bass gigs at the British Legion. Featuring a built-in pre-amp and USB port, the included software also allows you to convert vinyl to digital which increases the flexibility of your sources. Featuring two sets of start/stop buttons with varying speeds, pitch width changer and a centre lit pitch fader, you’ll be glad to hear that all cables can be disconnected. This is a bit of a Swiss Army knife of a turntable.
I think the technical term for this design is ‘a big bugger’. Mind your back because it weighs in at a whopping 16kg but that does include a rock solid motor with enough torque to keep a typical Ferrara hugging S-bends all day long. It comes with quartz lock, dual start/stop buttons, yada, yada but also a nifty read-out showing you RPM, pitch, torque and BPM. The deck also arrives with an interchangeable arm: S-shaped or straight and that useful USB port for a digital connection.
If you thought that the Numark was heavy then the indestructible Stanton might prompt a quick refresher down the gym. This 20kg hulk not only has that Technics DNA ‘feel’, it arrives with high-end essentials such as a S-shaped arm, digital connection, detachable leads, a nifty slip mat plus a free cartridge which means that you are up and running straight from the box. As for the motor? It’s strong enough to beat you up if you don’t talk nicely to it.
OK, that arm might look rather familiar – it’s an OEM arm used on other decks – but Reloop has put a lot of itself into this design. A Technics SL-1200 Mk.II with go-faster stripes, it’s ideal for those who like to give eBay a wide berth. A relatively light weight model (at 9.5kg), it features a solid plastic chassis with a metal upper. Coming with MIDI, a digital read-out and a single bank of effects pads (which may take a little bit of getting used to), it ain’t cheap but it is laden with features.
Pricey it might be but it arrives with Vestax’s Anti Skipping Tonearm, which does what it says on the tin: a spring balanced, straight arm it is tough to skip. If this feature is a priority, take a careful look at the Vestax. The deck does suffer – or benefit, depending on your point of view – from being built purely of plastic. So innate strength might be an issue. That said, it does arrive with a host of nice features such as adjustable break/start time and a wide adjustable pitch range.