Question: I see that Audio-Technica turntables are available in both belt drive and direct drive types. Which type is right for me? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
Answer: Which type is right for you depends on how you plan to use your turntable and, perhaps, your budget.
For casual listening at home or transferring your vinyl to digital files, a simple belt-driven design, like our AT-LP60 model turntables, may suffice. A belt-driven turntable is one in which the record platter, which supports and turns the record, is driven by a belt made from natural or synthetic rubber. The platter rests on a center spindle supported by a bearing. In addition to going around the record platter, the belt also goes around a pulley attached to a drive motor. The drive motor itself is separate from the platter, often isolated from sharing the same mounting surface as the platter, in an effort to prevent vibration inherent in the motor from being transferred to the rest of the turntable. Vibration of any kind can color the sound and/or create tracking problems if it reaches the stylus (needle) assembly. Due to the relatively simple design of a belt-driven turntable, even a modestly priced model can provide good sonic performance. At some point, the drive belt will require replacement due to wear. Belts are typically very affordable and easily replaced by the user, however.
A direct-drive turntable, such as our AT-LP1240-USB model, is one in which the record platter is attached directly to the drive motor. The center spindle is actually a component of the motor. No belt is required. Direct-drive designs are required for certain applications. For DJ and broadcast applications, for example, the direct-drive design provides the high-torque and speed stability needed for quick starts to bring the next song in the queue online exactly when needed. Likewise, an electronic brake is often incorporated to bring the platter to a quick stop, helping preserve the exact location on the record from which you wish to start your next song. A variable pitch control may be provided to vary the speed. This can be used to help fit program material into an allotted time slot, beat-matching for artistic expression when using two turntables and transitioning from one song to the next, or for help discerning details when listening to educational material. Because a direct-drive design has fewer moving parts and no belt, it is also very durable and there are no “wear” parts in the drive to replace. To minimize the amount of motor vibration that reaches the stylus assembly, good motor design and good dampening of crucial components, such as the platter and tonearm, are required. This added attention to detail can translate to higher cost for the direct-drive model compared to the simpler belt-driven design.
As always, if you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Audio Solutions Department for assistance.