Are you looking for a direct drive record player? This type of turntable has some advantages over the belt drive. If you are buying a record player for the first time, you may not even know what the difference is. So in this article, we will explain briefly what you need to know about the most important drive types and what our absolute favorite models are.
As usual, we have taken a close look at numerous popular turntables with direct drive. And they are the most popular models for a good reason. They provide decent sound and build quality compared to their price. The list below is what we consider to be the best turntables that are direct drive. To be clear, this list does not include all available models with direct drive on the market, we have ranked it based on different turntables tests: In addition to our own experience, we also looked into expert test reports and customer opinions.
Direct drive is a pretty specific feature, so if you just stumbled upon this article and are looking for more general advice on what turntable can suit you, then our buying guides such as the Best Beginner Turntables or the Best Valued Record Players can help you further.
If you would like to more about direct-drive turntables, its advantages & disadvantages and a comparison with belt drive turntables scroll to the bottom of this article. We have added useful information that can help you make the right decision.
We think these are the best direct-drive turntables:
Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB
A solid turntable with great features for beginners.
Audio-Technica’s AT-LP120-USB is a great solid direct drive turntable. It is perfect for the entry-level vinyl enthusiast as it offers some amazing features and quality sound without breaking the bank.
The turntable has a motor directly beneath its turning platter which gives the turntable great performance and less maintenance care over the years. While many audiophiles prefer Belt Drive turntables over Direct Drive like this Audio Technica because of the vibrations it might give to the spinning record, the advantages of less maintenance and easier usage make it more suitable for the average vinyl enthusiast.
The record player is plug and play because it features a built-in phono preamp. This means you don’t have to connect it to an amplifier but you can just use the line output and connect it to just about any speaker on the market that has its own power supply. There is however a switch on the back of the turntable to turn off the inbuilt preamp so you can connect your own favorite amplifier. Do keep in mind that the RCA output cables are hard-wired on this turntable and can not easily be replaced when damaged.
The design is mostly made out of aluminum and some parts are made of plastic giving it an overall solid feel. As the turntable is able to play 33 and 45 rpm records an indicator shows the playing speed. The package also comes with a 45 rpm adaptor to fit these records as they have a bigger whole. It even is possible to play 78 rpm records whoever a third-party stylus must be bought to do so. As with all great record players, it has a slip mat, dust cover and easily adjustable arm height and weight.
Some extra features on this turn turntable make it a great hobby turntable. For example for DJ’s as it has the option to play records backward and adjust the pitch. But also for people that want to digitize records. Maybe to have that warm vinyl sound on any device able to listen to it on the go. That is possible with the AT-LP120-USB as the name already suggests, it features a USB output that can be connected to your computer. Setting it up is rather easy as you need Audacity as the recording software and there is a dedicated recording button the front of the turntable.
Overall, the Audio-Technica’s AT-LP120-USB delivers an amazing set of features for its price. Keep in mind that it lacks luxury materials and cartridges of the higher-end turntables. But it is perfect for entry-level vinyl enthusiasts or people that want to digitalize their records. It is a complete package for a very good price.
» USB output gives the option to digitize records.
» A plug and play turntable that is easy to use.
» Decent build quality with almost all modern features such as an anti slipmat and speed switch.
» The RCA cables are hardwired.
Dual DTJ 301.1 Turntable
A great low-priced record player.
The Dual DTJ 301.1 is a good direct drive turntable. It is one of the best record players under 200 dollar which offers great features and a silent direct drive motor.
It features an arm of which the weight is adjustable, a great feature that is normally only supported in the higher-end models. This will help in solving any stuttering issues, prevents the damaging of vinyl and improves the overall sound quality. The turntable, however, lacks an automatic stop which means the record will keep spinning even though it has ended. It does feature a build-in preamp with a switch that gives the possibility to also use your own external amplifier.
In terms of design, it is a nice looking black color. It features an Audio Technica ATN3652 cartridge which is of great quality for the price. The turntable supports 33 and 45 rpm records, which is manually adjustable. It also has a USB output port that can be used to digitize vinyl records, a great extra even though the Audio Technica turntable mentioned above is more specialized towards this feature. Lastly, the speed and tone control are great for simple adjustments and light DJ’ing.
» Has basic features for DJ’ing.
» Good audio quality for its price.
» USB output to digitize your records.
» Manual control of the tonearm
Pioneer Pro DJ - PLX-500-K
A classic DJ turntable with solid construction.
Often people are looking for a relatively inexpensive turntable for home use and for DJ’ing. Now these are two different fields. The turntable for home use actually has to meet completely different requirements than a DJ turntable. Nevertheless, many manufacturers – in order to reach as many potential buyers as possible – try to deliver a device with all these requirements.
The PIONEER PLX 1000 has been on the market for some time, it now has a little brother with the PLX 500, this way PIONEER is introducing a cheaper PLX model. On the one hand, of course – compared to the PLX 1000 – it is a slimmed-down version, on the other hand, it features new things such as a USB output. The PLX 500 is, of course, qualified for digitizing records. The output signal with line-level is also aimed at home users who do not have a phono preamp and just want it to work plug and play (standalone, in an amplifier or in a mixer).
The PIONEER PLX 500 is available in a white and a black version. The design comes with a foldable cover (dust cover), for which pioneer says it can also feature as a ” record sleeve stand “.
In summary, the PLX 500 is a great turntable for aspiring DJs that also want to play some casual vinyl from time to time. Just like any other turntable with similar features, as the features that are in line with the overall market trend. Pioneer is known for always making quality turntables and the PLX500K is no exception, it is not the highest end turntable for the Hifi expert but it does pack an insane amount of features for a decent price.
» Really decent beginner DJ turntable.
» Plug and play with a nice built-in preamp.
» USB output to digitize your records.
» Not the highest quality of build materials.
A premium looking turntable with a lot of features.
Because Audio-Technica makes great turntables that are relatively affordable, it wasn’t hard for us to feature two turntables in our list of this great brand. And while they produce a big collection of models, the ones that are direct drive are not that many. The Audio-Technica AT-LP-5 is an interesting direct-drive record player for a couple of reasons.
To start with it is beautifully designed and has a matt black finish giving the record player a premium feel. The record player can play both 33 and 45 RPM records. The platter turns by direct drive instead of belt drive that used within other models, meaning that the motor is directly under the spinning platter. A big problem with these direct-drive turntables is that there can be vibrations from the motor causing your stylus to skip while playing, this is not the case for the AT-LP- 5.
Other features must be mentioned are the USB functionality giving the option to digitize your records via your computer. Via software such as audacity, it is really easy to transfer your records to digital audio and enjoy that warm and crispy vinyl sound on all your devices. What helps is that the tonearm and its cartridge is of great quality and that it is manually adjustable in its weight.
» Beautiful matt black design.
» The standard cartridge gives a detailing and warm sound.
» Option to digitize your records via USB.
» The power on/off using the button is hidden.
Stanton T.62 MKII
A premium looking turntable with a lot of features.
This direct-drive turntable is perfect for DJs as it holds a lot of features but is also very easy to operate. We have been a fan since we did an in-depth review of the Stanton T.62. The design has tonearm that can be used by DJs to scratch and skip, but at the same time is also perfect for the casual listener. The best part of this record player is its price, for an entry-level price you get a turntable that is very versatile and offers advanced control.
The record player comes with a Stanton 300 Cartridge that is regarded by vinyl lovers as a high-quality needle. As with most turntables that offer DJ like capabilities it is not possible to play 78 RPM records. On the other hand, it does feature start and stop switches making it really easy to start or add it to your DJ setup. And while we are at it, it also features a pitch control that offers a 10% adjustment.
There is a possibility to connect the turntable to your computer and synchronize the music playing. A feature that is not very common and mostly reserved for higher-end DJ turntables. As the turntable comes with a slipmat, dust cover and RCA cable nothing is holding you back to start DJ’ing in no time. Simply hook them up to your speakers via the RCA stereo output and start scratching.
» DJ features such as pitch control for a budget price.
» Possibility to connect your computer and synchronize music.
» Plug and play, making it perfect for the beginning DJ.
» Does not play 78RPM records.
Direct Drive: Info & Tips
Nowadays, direct drive is one of the main drive types produced for turntables. In addition to this modern drive, there is also the belt drive and the friction wheel drive. Most of the newest models in the entry-level range rely on the direct drive.
What distinguishes a turntable with direct drive?
As the name already implies, the turntable is directly driven. Meaning, the platter is directly connected to the motor. However, vibrations of the motor can be transferred more easily to the platter and thus to the record.
As with all other types of drives, the quality and value of the individual parts are the most important factors.
Advantages & disadvantages of direct drive
The turntable motor drives the turntable axis directly. In the majority of cases it is also located directly under the turntable. It is therefore installed in the turntable’s bearing.
This also allows complications such as rumbling or other types of vibration to occur. Over the years all sorts of things have been tried out to eliminate these disadvantages. For example, shock-absorbing materials were placed between the plate and the motor.
- Less abrasion than belt drive.
- Turntables with direct drive are therefore particularly durable.
- Vibrations of the engine can affect the sound quality as rumble or distortion.
Direct Drive or Belt Drive?
For belt drive turntables the functionality is exactly as the name implies. Belt drives transfer the rotation of the motor axis to the turntable via a rubber belt. On the other hand, a gear wheel is responsible for the transmission of power in the friction wheel drive.
Incidentally, DJs prefer turntables with direct drive, as this is the only way they can effectively manipulate the playback. Here it is possible to manually adjust the movement of the motor, with a belt drive mechanism this would not work. In addition, the turntable is more synchronized as the movement of the motor is directly moving the record, making it faster.