June 9, 2018

Direct Drive vs Belt Drive

Direct Drive vs Belt Drive is a great question for a new DJ to be asking. This question is only going to be useful when looking at turntables. In particular, vinyl turntables as they are the only decks where this is a choice. CD/MP3 decks do not have this option. Digital turntables use either a laser for CD’s or memory for MP3’s. So what specifically does it mean?

How turntables work

Turntables spin vinyl records around on a platter which allows the stylus at the end of the tone arm to move its way through the groove picking up the ridges scratched into the vinyl allowing the sound to be sent through the deck to the mixer. The signal is then sent to the amplifier and eventually on to the speakers which produces the sound for you to enjoy.

Direct Drive vs Belt Drive

In direct drive turntables the platter sits directly on the motor which allows the motor to spin the platter. This approach is unsurprisingly called direct drive. The other option is belt drive. Instead of the platter sitting on the motor directly, you have a belt that connects the platter to the motor. When the motor spins the belt rotates which spins the platter. There are pros and cons to each option.

Quartz Lock

Quartz as you may know is a crystal used in watches. When you pass an electric current through the crystal it vibrates at a very consistent rate which makes it great for timing. On turntables with quartz lock like my Gemini PT 2100’s, quartz lock will only work at 33 and 1/3 or 45 RPM, essentially at 0% pitch bend for each speed. This is great for wanting an exact pitch but if you bend the pitch you will of course lose that precision which is exactly what will happen when you beat match two tracks.

Conclusion

With direct drive there is no slipping of the belt which can cause the platter to react slower. When you are beat matching it can be annoying if you are bending the pitch and the result is still slightly behind. What you may experience is essentially a bit of drag as the belt regains its grip on the platter. The higher the torque of the motor the stronger it will feel under your fingers and the quicker it will regain traction.

Quartz lock is a great feature locking the motor at 0% pitch bend but it will mean nothing if you move it slightly off zero.

About the author 

Charles Duance

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