Learn about the basic design differences between a Belt Drive and a Direct Drive turntable.
Ah…one of the age old questions, “What’s the difference between a Belt Drive and a Direct Drive Turntable?”. This week, we’ll outline the differences between these two types of turntables, and highlight pros and cons of each.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our first guide, Anatomy of a Turntable, before jumping into this guide.
So you’ve learned the many parts of a turntable. Now what? Well, let’s start with how a turntable works.
A turntable uses a motor to spin the platter at a constant speed. A vinyl record sits on top of the spinning platter as the stylus rides its many grooves and converts the vibrations into sound. Most turntables accomplish this in one of two ways: Belt Drive or Direct Drive.
**There’s also a third turntable design, the Idler Drive. This is not a very common turntable drive nowadays, so we won’t go into detail, but it’s just some good knowledge. **
A belt drive turntable spins the platter using an elastic belt that’s attached to the motor. The platter sits on a bearing (a bearing is a device that is used to enable rotational or linear movement) and is isolated from the motor.
- The elastic belt absorbs shock and prevents vibrations that are generated by the motor from reaching the platter.
- Isolating the motor from the platter also results in less noise transmission to the tonearm.
- It is generally believed that belt drive turntables produce better sound quality due to less noise interference from the motor.
- Belt Drive turntables have much lower torque and can have less accurate playback speed.
- The belt can eventually (a few years) wear down and need to be replaced.
Examples of Belt Drive Turntables:
In a direct drive turntable, the platter is attached to and spins directly via the motor. Direct drive turntables offer more constant and accurate speeds, and generally feature faster start up times and stronger torque.
- Direct Drive turntables have higher torque and offer highly consistent speeds. Higher torque means the platter is less vulnerable to outside forces, such as the stylus or your hand.
- A higher torque also means that the platter accelerates to a constant speed faster, which results in less sound distortion.
- Allows you to spin the platter backwards to create special sound effects, which are preferred by DJ’s.
- The rotation of the motor generates unwanted vibrations that can affect sound quality. This issue can be addressed with the use of shock absorbers between the platter and the motor.
Examples of Direct Drive turntables:
So we hope we’ve shared enough information to help you guys understand the basic differences between Belt Drive and Direct Drive turntables.
Now, I know what you guys are thinking…”Which one is better?” Well, the truth is, it really depends on who you’re asking. Audiophiles have debated this question for decades, and from what we’ve read, there isn’t a clear cut answer. Most high-end turntables are belt driven due to the better sound quality and less noise distortion from the motor. However, Direct Drive turntables offer much more consistent speeds and are generally believed to have sturdier builds.
Like we highlighted above, both formats have their pros and cons. Another thing to keep in mind is that sound can be very subjective. What sounds good to one person may sound completely different to somebody else. Our recommendation? Test out a few and decide for yourself! It’s really all about personal preference!
This guide is by no means a comprehensive guide. Think of it as a “jumping off point” to start you off with your research and learn about turntable basics. We encourage you to do some research on your own and we’ve listed a few resources below with some great information.
We’ll be continuing our ‘Turntable Basics’ series, so stay tuned for our next guide!