A belt drive turntable has a belt connected to the motor, which spins the plate. This design results in better sound quality. A direct drive turntable has its motor directly under the plate, creating less resistance, and is a better option for DJs.
I’m Donovan, and I’ve been a music lover my entire life. I’ve worked in the music industry for over a decade as a musician, producer, and engineer. I’m also a huge fan of vinyl records and have first-hand experience with direct drive and belt drive turntables.
This post will compare and contrast direct drive versus belt drive turntables. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the differences between these two main turntable types to help you understand which could be better for your needs or preferences.
Let’s dive in.
- Key Takeaways
- Belt Drive Turntable vs Direct Drive
- Direct Drive vs Belt Drive: Which is Better?
- Final Thoughts
- Direct drive turntables have a motor located directly under the plate, leading to less resistance and responsive speeds.
- Belt drive turntables have a belt connected to a motor located away from the plate, leading to better audio quality but a slight lag in speeds.
- Direct drive turntables are preferred by DJs because records can be spun in any direction, and faster spins make changing records more consistent.
- Belt drive turntables are preferred by audiophiles and can be a better option for the average listener because the motor located away from the plate results in increased audio characteristics.
Belt Drive Turntable vs Direct Drive
|Direct Drive Turntable||Belt Drive Turntable|
|Design||Motor directly connected to plate||Motor away from plate, connected by a belt|
|Better For||DJs (can work fine for the average listener)||Audiophiles and the average listener|
|Advantages||Can spin records in either direction without wear, no belt to replace, simpler design, often more durable||Increased audio quality because motor noises are not picked up by stylus, can be more affordable|
|Costs||Wide range of cost but more expensive for entry-level units||Wide range of costs with more expensive high-end units. Also need to replace belts, adding a minor expense|
|Availability||Widely available||Widely available|
If you are just beginning your journey into the world of vinyl records and turntables, welcome! It’s a great way to listen to music, and despite seeming somewhat like a throwback, vinyl allows for exceptional audio quality compared to digital music.
Learning the differences between what turntables you can get can be daunting, especially if you don’t know anything about they operate. And a vital design characteristic you’ll likely see early on is direct drive and belt drive turntables.
Understanding how these two styles of turntables differ from one another will give you a good idea of which will work better for your needs or preferences. Ultimately, both can work for the average listener, but you should still know who they are designed for and how they work.
The table above gives you a quick snapshot of the main differences between the two types. I’ll break these considerations down in the sections below and then also highlight which option is better for various situations.
Direct Drive Turntable
A direct drive turntable is designed with the turntable motor directly under the plate. This is a pretty simple design that leads to responsive speeds and allows records to be spun in either direction without much worry about wearing out parts.
This type of turntable functions a lot like a common household appliance you are likely familiar with – a blender. Think of the pitcher of the blender as the record plate and the base as the turntable motor.
All that needs to happen for the plate to be spun is for it to sit on the motor. Then as soon as the motor is turned on, it will spin the plate and play a record.
There are fewer moving parts on a direct drive turntable than on a belt driven one. This means that it’s less likely to wear out or break. You don’t need to worry about a belt stretching out or failing with a direct drive model.
Another advantage of a direct drive turntable over a belt drive is that the plate gets up to speed almost instantly. There is no lag or delay in the transfer of motion between the motor and the plate. A belt drive has a bit of delay, which I’ll explain in more detail below.
These two main characteristics make direct drive turntables the preferred option for DJs. Without a belt, you can spin a record in either direction, and the transitions between records are also more effective since the plate comes up to speed faster.
Direct drive turntables are also more durable. Not having a belt is one reason for this, but they are also just built to be more durable by the manufacturer. Since DJ-specific turntables are often used in live situations, they are built to handle the rigors of the road.
The main disadvantage to direct drive turntables is that they don’t provide as good of audio quality as belt drive models. This is caused by the same factor that’s an advantage for other reasons – the location of the motor.
Even though turntable motors are small, they still create some noise. A direct drive turntable will amplify this noise as the stylus runs over the record. It can generate a bit of distortion or other irregularities in the sound.
To be fair, it’s not like records played on a direct drive turntable sound terrible. They just don’t sound as good as a belt drive setup. Many average listeners won’t be able to detect the distortion the motor sounds cause, but true audiophiles certainly will.
If the best possible audio quality is your top factor for getting a turntable setup in the first place, you probably don’t want to use a direct-drive model.
Direct drive turntables come in a variety of models and styles, and most are relatively affordable. But entry-level models are typically a bit more expensive than entry-level belt-drive turntables because of the added materials used in construction.
Direct drive models are still widely available, and you can find plenty of options online or at a music or DJ store near you.
Belt Drive Turntable
Belt drive turntables have a slightly different design than direct drive. These turntables feature a belt that attaches to the motor and the plate. When the motor is turned on, it spins the belt, which in turn rotates the plate.
This design has more moving parts, meaning more potential issues or problems exist. The main issue is that a belt can slip, wear out, or break entirely. When this happens, you’ll need to get a new belt to operate the turntable.
Replacement belts are cheap, so it’s not a huge added expense. But it can be a little tricky to replace the belt yourself if you’ve never done it before. Many turntable models come with a spare belt when you buy them, but not all do.
Despite the fact that the belt can wear out or break, belt-drive models have a significant advantage over direct-drive options. You’ll get better audio quality with a belt drive turntable, which is important for many vinyl lovers.
This is because the motor is not located directly under the plate. Belt drive turntables give you a more authentic listening experience because of this. The stylus will only pick up the vibrations in the record and not anything from the motor.
Most people setting up a turntable at home will want to go with a belt-driven option because of the improved sound quality. When you have a nice setup, you want to make sure you pay attention to any little detail that can improve your listening experience.
Belt drive turntables are not as durable as direct drive options, mainly because they aren’t designed to be. Belt drive models will typically stay on a shelf at home and aren’t meant for travel like many direct drive options.
You can get an entry-level belt drive turntable for an affordable price. But the high-end models can cost you thousands, which is much more than the average direct drive model is likely to cost.
Belt drive turntables are also widely available and easy to get. You have many options to explore online, at your local music or electronics store, or a specialty or used turntable shop. There are more models available in belt drive turntables than in direct drive.
Direct Drive vs Belt Drive: Which is Better?
Deciding whether a direct drive or belt drive turntable is better comes down to looking at your needs and preferences for getting a turntable in the first place.
If you dream of becoming a DJ or want to spin records like DJs do at home, you’ll want to get a direct drive model. You’ll be able to spin records in either direction and take advantage of faster response times with this style of player.
You also might want to get a direct drive turntable if you hope to travel with your unit because they are more durable. You won’t need to worry about breaking a belt or ruining the turntable if you bounce it around in a car.
If you are focused on getting the best audio quality out of your setup, you’ll want to go with a belt drive turntable. These will give you better sound because the motor isn’t located directly under the plate.
Belt drive options can also be better for a home setup. You have more options to choose from, so you can weigh any other preferences you have when selecting an option. They can also be better for beginners because of lower entry-level prices.
If you are not an audiophile or are just a casual music listener, you might not be able to hear the difference in audio quality between a direct drive and a belt drive turntable. Still, unless you want to be a DJ, going with a belt drive option at first is probably a better option.
Here are a few short answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to direct drive versus belt drive turntables.
What is the advantage of a direct-drive turntable?
The main advantages of a direct-drive turntable are that the plate gets up the speed faster, and there is less resistance with the design. This makes them a better option for DJs, although they can be fine for personal use as well.
Why do DJs use direct drive turntables?
Most DJs use direct drive turntables because this design has less resistance because the motor is located directly under the plate. This means the records come to speed very fast, making the transition between records more in sync.
What is the difference between a belt driven and direct drive motor?
Belt drive motors feature a belt that connects the motor to the plate to spin records. Direct drive motors have the plate directly attached to the plate without a belt. These two designs are the primary turntable designs and each has different characteristics.
Are direct drive turntables noisy?
Direct drive turntables are typically more noisy than belt driven ones. Since the motor on a direct drive turntable is directly under the plate, this can cause the stylus to pick up noise from the motor in addition to everything being played on the record.
Is direct drive more efficient than belt drive?
Direct drive motors are almost always more efficient than belt drive models because there are fewer parts involved in the transfer and energy and motion. This is true of belt drive versus direct drive turntables as well as car engines and other motors.
What are the disadvantages of belt drive?
The main disadvantages of a belt drive turntable are that the belt can wear out or break and that this design has some inherent lag in getting the plate up to speed. However, these disadvantages don’t necessarily outweigh the benefits of improved audio quality.
Direct drive turntables are the option to choose if you are a DJ or want to become one. These turntables don’t have a belt, leading to more responsive speeds and the ability to spin records in either direction without damaging the unit.
Belt drive turntables are for anyone who is more concerned with audio quality than DJing. Since the motor isn’t located directly under the plate, these give you more authentic audio quality and less possible distortion. But you will have to replace a belt at some point.
Do you use a belt drive or direct drive turntable? Why? Let me know in the comments below.