Direct Drive vs Belt Drive Turntable: Determining the best one

Before buying their first turntable, many of my friends asked me the same question: direct drive vs belt drive, and which is better?

As they are my friends and I know they are just getting into the hobby of collecting vinyl and listening to them. Belt drives are good for them. 

But this is only the case with some and could be different in your case. You may want to experiment with music, or by profession, you are a DJ and want something with much more advanced features. Then I recommend a direct drive for you.

To simplify it, here is a quick video and a difference between the two:

Direct driveBelt drive
Motor positioningUnder the platterOutside the platter
Torque HigherLower
Noise and vibrationMore noise and vibrations as the motor is placed under the platter.Less noise and vibrations due to the belt mechanism.
Sound experienceGoodExcellent
CostExpensiveMore Affordable
Now, let us go deeper to understand what mechanism they both use to function.

What is a Direct drive turntable?

The direct drive turntable is the one in which the motor is directly placed beneath the platter and does not require any belt to rotate it. Because the motor is now under the platter, it gets more accessible for the platter to reach full speed in just a few seconds and much easier to maintain the pace. 

Another advantage of these turntables is their consistent speed and more substantial torque.

A good example of Direct drive turntable is an Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB.

Direct Drive vs Belt Drive Turntable Determining the best one

Pros of a Direct drive turntable

Consistent speed: Due to the placement of the motor directly under the platter, direct-drive turntables can maintain a constant speed. They also have a proper circuit that is responsible for maintaining speed consistency.

Reverse play: Due to the absence of a belt, direct-drive turntables can play records in reverse. It makes them ideal for DJs who perform back-cueing (playing records backwards or to a particular spot) and experimental music enthusiasts. 

Higher Torque: It offers a higher level of torque that reduces the distortion in sound when the vinyl record is played.

What is a Belt drive turntable?

As the name suggests, a belt drive is a mechanism in which a belt is used to spin the turntable platter.

The motor can be found at the side of the turntable. Sometimes, it could be next to the entire platter or just at the edge of the inner platter on which the outside platter rests. The motor and the turntable platter are wrapped around with a belt, so once the motor starts spinning the belt, it also rotates the platter with it.

Because a belt powers the turntable, it takes a few seconds for the platter to reach its full potential. Still, the user hardly notices this as the platter achieves its full speed before the cueing mechanism drops the stylus on the vinyl record.

The belt may need replacement over time, depending upon the number of hours the turntable is used. But it’s not a problem because replacing it is simple and inexpensive. To know more about replacing a turntable belt visit here.

Audio-Technica AT-LP60XUSB is a good example of a belt drive turntable.

Belt drive turntable

Pros of a Belt drive turntable

Less vibrations: As the motor is placed outside the platter, the vibrations are less. This mechanism improves the overall sound experience.

Reduction in motor sound: Another significant advantage of a belt-driven turntable is its belt ensures the motor sound doesn’t reach the turntable and mixes with the music. This results in a much more transparent sound.

Gentle on vinyl records: The belt-driven mechanism protects your records against unnecessary wear and tear as it exerts less force on the vinyl surface than the direct-drive ones. It also means that it increases the longevity of your vinyl collection along with your turntable stylus.

More detailed differences between the two types

Here is a more detailed difference between the two of them:

Placement of motor: The motor is placed away from the platter in belt drive, while in direct drive, the motor is directly coupled to the platter.

Noise and vibration: Belt-driven are famous among audiophiles because they produce less noise and vibration while playing a record. Direct drive, on the other hand, creates much more noise and vibration due to the placement of the motor directly under the platter.

Torque: Belt-driven produces less torque due to their mechanism, while Direct drives are capable of producing higher torque and speed.

Wear and tear: The belt-driven causes less wear and tear to your precious vinyl collection because it applies much less force on the record surface than the direct drive.

Cost: Direct-drive turntables are more expensive than belt-drive turntables because of their advanced technology, features and capabilities.

Which one is better for you?

Direct drive vs belt drive is a question of debate, but it depends on your motive behind purchasing the turntable.

Direct drives are your best bet if you are a passionate DJ who wants to perform scratching or reverse cueing and wants some additional features.

And if you have a huge vinyl collection and want a gentle turntable that produces excellent sound, go for a belt drive one.

Russel Hawkins - About the author

About the author

Russ Hawkins is a passionate audiophile who loves to collect vinyl records. In his leisure time, you will find him either listening to his favorite music albums or playing with his dog Max. He loves writing about vinyl, turntables, record players, and everything music!

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