Let’s just start by saying there are only really three types of turntables.
The three types are:
• Direct drive
• Belt drive
• Idler drive
Each one of them has pros and cons and I can personally offer an honest option on each of them because I have owned each type over the years. My very first turntable was a Duel 1229 duel Idler Drive. It was one of the greatest turntables I ever owned but it also had its share of issues.
The funny thing about owning many turntables over the years is it seems that your favorite is always your current. My current turntable is now a belt driven one. So what one is better than the other one, you may ask? That really comes down to what you really want from your turntable and what you’re looking for. There are so many other things that affect the sound that you hear from your records, more then just your turntable. Your equipment plays a huge factor but that will be covered in another blog.
Let’s compare each type of turntable:
Direct Drive Turntable:
A Direct Drive Turntable platter is connected directly to the motor.
• The motor offers more precise speed accuracy and a faster start up.
• DJ’s like direct drive turntables because they are not affected by using your hands and most can be played backwards.
• Since the platter is connected directly to the motor, there is always a chance that the sound can be affected by vibrations transferred from the motor to the tonearm.
If you know anything about mechanics the Idler Drive is a lot like a snow blower setup. They both use a friction wheel. While on a turntable, when engaged the little rubber wheel pushes up against a motor shaft that pushes the wheel against the inside of the platter.
• They have just as much torque as a direct drive turntable
• A lot of moving parts go into making one work. I took my Duel 1229 to a very reliable company to have it serviced and they quoted me that there was no guarantee on their service for an idler.
• Parts can be very hard to find to replace
• The idler wheel can ether dry out if not used over time or become slippery over time and not grip the inside of the platter.
• They can pick up a lot of motor noise
A belt driven turntable is one that has a motor that is separated from the platter. The belt goes around the motor and platter. With some turntables, the belt is on the outside of the platter while others others can have it on the inside.
• The motor is isolated from the platter. Isolating the motor from the platter is believed to have fewer results in transmitting noise to the tonearm. This is the main positive of a belt driven turntable.
• The belt can start to stretch over time and need to be replaced, leading to less accurate playback speeds. It’s best to always have one on hand as a spare.
• There is lower torque
• Can not be used as a DJ turntable and played backwards
If you’re like me, I use an anti-static brush to clean my records using the turntable with the platter spinning. Over time, on a belt driven this could wear down the belt faster because it causes the belt to slip.
In conclusion, each turntable type has lots of cons. However, it depends on what equipment you plan on using with your turntable and how frequent you will use one. If I was just getting into collecting and not worried about my equipment and was on a small budget I would look for a fully automatic vintage direct drive; They are also believed to be built stronger.
Every person hears their music and sound differently so if your setup sounds good to you, it doesn’t matter what others think. Notably, not many people own Idler Drives anymore and as a result are becoming harder to find. More expensive models of turntables seem to be Belt Driven nowadays while Audiophiles believe they are the best because they isolate the motor from the platter; I believe in this theory as well.