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What Is A Turntable?

Updated on November 30, 2016

What Is A Turntable?

In case you've been living under a rock for close to a century, you know what a turntable is, or at least know what some of the other names it is called: phonograph, gramophone, record player, and so on.

In short: a turntable is a musical device DJ's use to play records, aka vinyl.

A turntable is actually quite a simple musical device. There are only actually a few moving parts on a turntable which includes the platter, tone arm, and the motor which drives the platter. Of course there are other parts to the turntable; however, we'll be focusing on the main parts in this article, and will go into more detail of things like the tone arm in another article.


What are the parts of a turntable?

The platter is what the record sits on, in which the needle touches the vinyl and then produces music. This is the part that actually spins when the power is on. You can generally remove these to access the motor underneath.A slip mat made of felt or rubber sits on top of the platter. The rubber mat is mostly for Hi-Fi systems because they are meant to hold the record in place and not let it move much. DJ's use a felt slip mat because it allows them to place their hands on the record, which stops it and allows them to cue a point, and allows the platter to continue to rotate underneath, this lets the DJ to push the record and have it gain full speed almost instantly.

The tone arm holds the cartridge and stylus (needle) in which there are mainly 2 different variations of a stylus. The first kind is a Half-Inch Mount, which if you were to look at it, it would look like it has exposed wires and is screwed onto the existing part of the tone arm. The second type of stylus is the P-Mount, which has 4 connectors that can just be plugged right into the open part at the end of the tone arm.

The last moving part of a turntable is the motor, in which there are two kinds. The first is a belt-driven turntable, which surprisingly, the platter is turned by a belt attached to a motor. The only drawback of using a belt-driven turntable is that the belt can wear and eventually stretch over time, which could lead to it breaking, and that would suck if you were in the middle of a set. The second type of turntable is a direct drive, which means that the motor is directly connected to platter and doesn't use a belt. Direct drive turntables are the most reliable, and are generally the ones that DJ's go for. A turntable has a few other parts, which includes:

  • A pitch control, which depending on the turntable you have, can range all anywhere from 5-10%. This changes the pitch of the record, which either slows it down or speeds it up. This is important because beat matching requires that you sync up the two records playing.
  • A speed calibration strobe is used to visually see the record spinning at a particular speed. On Hi-Fi systems, many include different settings such as 33 RPM or 45 RPM. Using the strobe, you can see the platters pattern on the side move. When a record is playing at exactly the right speed, the pattern will look like it's completely still. DJ's use this so that they can visually see if the record is playing either too fast or too slow.
  • Turntables often come with dust covers, so that you don't get dust on the player, makes sense to me.

So, in conclusion, a turntable is a musical device that is made of a few moving parts which allows a DJ to play records. Being able to recognize what parts you will need, how they work together, and what features some turntables include will help you in the long run of your DJ dreams.


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    • profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Thanks :)

    • HelpingGuy profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi Ashpool,

      Nice post and welcome to the club.


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