When you think of a DJ, what do you see in your mind? A laptop carrying teenager with Spotify? Perhaps, but that’s usually the worst-case scenario. Most people imagine a man with a mixer and two turntables, something that used to be the trademark and tradition of professional DJs. That image is fading with the new controllers and CD-players that can play music from USB sticks. The hardest blow on the DJ turntable tradition was when the production of the most legendary DJ turntables ever to be played by professionals worldwide, the Technics SL-1200, was shut down.
However, there’s light at the end of the tunnel for those of us who favour the old legends, because the “Tec 12s” are still strong in the DJ community, with many being used as controllers with the Serato and Native Instruments virtual vinyl technology. The idea is that you put a controller record playing on the turntable that signals to the software, via the audio interface, when the record moves back and forth, stops and the revolutions per minute.
In the last few years when there have been no new Technics SL-1200’s coming out of the factory, the other manufacturers taking part in the DJ industry, such as Pioneer, Denon and Numark, have greatly stepped up the game with their new controllers and CD-players. But they have also proven there is light at the end of the tunnel for the turntable DJs, with new models and variations of DJ turntables hitting the markets as we speak, from the more affordable beginner models to the top-notch professional gear, you can find it all from the current manufacturers as well. And while the legend is not in production anymore, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t find a pair in extremely nice shape from a second-hand source. Technics built their turntables to be rock solid, and that’s why if you want something that has achieved everything in the world of DJs, find yourself a pair of SL-1200s and start mixing!
We’ve now concluded that you in fact can acquire a pair of excellent DJ turntables, be it second´-hand or newly bought, and in this era of digital DJs never the less. But many people who opened their eyes to the dance music scene in the 21st century have absolutely no idea about turntables, how they work and why do they even make a sound. Let’s recap the basic form and functions of turntables and more specifically the direct-drive turntables that DJs all around the world still hold as valuable pieces in their setups. Even though the meaning of owning turntables has turned more into a nostalgic thing, rather than actually lugging them to all your gigs, the turntables are still fantastic fun when it comes to mixing your sets and scratching.
First of all, make sure to purchase direct-drive turntables, not the belt-driven models. The belt cannot handle all the back and forth going, and definitely not scratching. Next thing you want to focus on is the condition of the needle and the cartridge, which are at the record end of the arm. They should both be clean and not bent. The next phase is to make sure all the buttons work, the arm moves normally, the record spins and the turntable actually makes some noise, which means the fun part. Fire it up Mr. DJ! If everything sounds and feels perfectly normal and exciting, it probably means the turntable is in shipshape and you can take her home.
Here ends this quick recap, hope you have learned a lot, and remember: The turntables never die as long as there are real DJs on this Earth.