Turntable Terminology: What Does it All Mean?

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If you’re new to DJing in general, then it’s likely you’re going to want a bit of a crash course in the most common equipment you’ll come across. While we’ve already run a few bits and pieces on common DJ equipment such as speakers, this time around, we’re going to be focusing on that staple of every DJ’s repertoire – the turntable.

Sure – much of the DJ scene revolves around digital music and EQ these days, but the good old turntable still has its uses. It’s this record-spinning behemoth that helped to make scratching and mixing what they were back in the day. However, if you really want to get into turntables as a completely new DJ, you’re going to need to get a grasp of the lingo.

The Ultimate Guide To Turntable Terminology

In this guide, we’ll break down all the crucial turntable terminology you’ll need to know before setting one up for the first time. It’s always a good idea to get acquainted with your turntable tech before you start using it, so let’s dive straight in. Whether you’ve bought a turntable or even if you’re looking to do some reading before you purchase, we’re here to help make the experience that little more straightforward for you.

Platters

Let’s keep it nice and simple, to begin with. Your platter is the main base of your turntable, the circular plate where you’re going to spin your vinyl.

Plinths

Sometimes called chassis, your plinth is what holds everything together – it’s what your platter and all other components are built into.

High-Fidelity

You’ve probably heard the term ‘Hi-Fi’ used to describe music centres and players. However, it actually stands for ‘High Fidelity’, and it refers to the quality of the sound experience you get from a unit. For example, a turntable with Hi-Fi standards should play clear, high quality audio from a source that’s also put an emphasis on sound standards. A true Hi-Fi experience comes from music or sounds which have been recorded via studio, and which have been carefully mastered for a specific format.

For example, high fidelity vinyl should offer music which has been specifically pressed for vinyl, not for digital streaming or otherwise. Hi-Fi, overall, refers to top-quality sound engineering, which demands top-quality playback. For this reason, you’ll be able to buy plenty of turntables offering Hi-Fi playback as standard. If you’re going to be DJing in public and for a living, it makes sense to invest in the sharpest, clearest sounds around,  Without question!

Resonance

In absence of high fidelity, there is resonance. Resonance, or reverb, can be used to some good effect, but it’s mostly worth avoiding. This rattle and grumble can really impact the way your vinyl plays, as it can disrupt the way your needle works. However, resonance is something which takes many forms, and can be difficult to remedy. You’re going to need to look carefully at your setup to work out where that pesky noise is coming from. Or, you could just invest in a Hi-Fi system.

Dampening

Vibration is something which can really rattle and ruin good quality sound. Tying back in with the Hi-Fi experience, you should look for turntables which offer dampening control as standard.  This means that vibrations and rattling are kept to a minimum through shock absorption, or through clamping. Generally, the best way to absorb or dampen vibration is to look for rubber – a turntable built with rubber design is going to be great at dampening those shudders.

Pulleys

Pulleys, or belt drives, work as the middlemen between your platter and your motor. Belt drives are pretty useful at dampening rattle, too, which can rumble out as a result of the motor working overtime. In some cases, pulleys and motors can be decoupled – a little more on that a bit further down.

Direct Drives

What is a direct drive?  Basically, it’s the internal motor of specialised turntables. It’s a system which is perfect for DJing, as it means there is no manual pulley, and it’ll allow you to pause the turntable mid-play without any internal motor damage coming your way. Scratching on a traditional turntable is going to risk some wear and tear over time, so be careful.

Decoupling

Still with the ‘D’s, let’s talk about decoupling. Some turntables have the option available for you to ‘decouple’ specific parts for ease of access and use. For example, you might need to move the tone arm away from the main platter. The whole point of decoupling is to ensure that no two elements cause each other detriment. It’s a great way to fine-tune your sound control, though it’s often a mark of more expensive turntable systems.

Needles

Sometimes called stylus needles are used to pinpoint where you want to start playing music from. Pin the needle to where you want to play, and it will travel along with the platter.

Cartridges

Turntable cartridges house the needle or the stylus and are therefore very important when it comes to actually playing and mixing music. Needles and styluses come in a variety of forms and styles, with many serious DJs choosing nude diamond or diamond tip needles for optimum playback. That’s perhaps getting a little too deep into things for this guide – perhaps for another time!

Bearings

Bearings can have a pretty broad effect on the way your music plays. You’ll find one in the tone arm and another in your motor spindle, and they work seamlessly to keep the turntable moving without the need for rattle or unnecessary friction. It’s another element of the turntable system that DJs look for when trying to get a hold of that perfect sound.

Interconnects

Your interconnect is where things get linked up. Simply put, it’s where you’ll find your turntable connecting to your amp.

All Clear?

If this all still seems a bit confusing, don’t worry. Turntables are surprisingly easy to adapt to, which doesn’t mean you have to know them inside and out right away. Take your time to get used to the system and see how you get on! If you’d like guides on turntables, check out our reviews of the latest DJ Turntables

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