Ask any vinyl DJ what their most important piece of gear is, and you’ll almost certainly always get the same response – “my decks”. There are many reasons for this, but it might help if you think of your decks as the interface between you and the music – your decks are your way of controlling what your audience hears, you can touch them and move them and you need to know how they respond in every tiny detail.
Seeing as your decks will be such a crucial part of your DJ setup, you need to be sure that they perform at the right level for you. Different DJs play in different ways, so it’s (unfortunately) not just a case of going out and buying ‘The ideal turntable for DJs ever made’, even if you could afford it. The fact is, every DJ develops their own style, and some decks are more suited to some styles than others.
Ideally, you would want to try out any deck before you actually buy it; a good way of doing this is by making a lot of DJ friends, so you can then pop over to their house or garage, or wherever they practice, and have a go on their gear. This is by far the best way to figure out if a particular brand or model of turntable suits your playing style.
If you’re not sure about how to DJ at all, this is also a good way to learn the ropes – if you can get an expert to show you the basics, you’ll pick up the essentials much more quickly than if you’re just trying to figure it all out on your own.
Whichever record player you end up choosing, make sure you have enough money left over in the budget for security. Whenever you buy an expensive piece of equipment, you need to make sure nothing happened to it. This means insurance, yes, but it also means some kind of security system, perhaps with surveillance cameras.
For very expensive equipment, like in a recording studio you’ll want a full system. That means, in addition to security cameras, motion detectors, door and window sensors and a wireless connection to a smartphone app that allows you to monitor everything in real time. This is the only way to protect expensive equipment from thieves.
DJ Decks – Belt Drive or Direct Drive?
Anyway, if you are looking to get yourself a new set of DJ decks, then there are a couple of big points to look out for. DJ turntables come in two flavors – belt drive and direct drive. If you ask a DJ about this, they will probably say you should never get belt drive decks – and they would probably be right.
Direct drive decks are generally far superior, but they are also generally far more expensive. So, if you’re on a really tight budget and are not sure that you’re going to be doing a lot of DJing and making some money from it, then maybe a belt drive deck might be the better option. A decent belt drive deck will do the trick if you’re just cueing up one record after another and not doing any complex beat matching or scratching, and will save you a few quid to start up.
However, if you know that you want to DJ for the rest of your life and nothing but the best will do (well, as much as your budget can stretch to) then you’ll need to get yourself a good set of direct drive decks. These have much higher torque ratings than belt drive decks, offer better tempo control and are essential if you intend on doing any serious scratching.