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In order to scratch effectively as a DJ, you’ll need the right equipment. In addition to having a collection of vinyl records, you are also going to need a scratch turntable with suitable features. In this guide, we explain more about scratching turntables and the features you need to look out for when purchasing one!
What are the Best Turntables for Scratching?
Scratching Turntables Reviews
Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-SV Direct Drive Turntable
Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-SV Direct Drive Turntable Review
If you are interested in finding a good DJ scratch table that is available at an affordable price, you should take a closer look at the AT-LP120XUSB-SV Direct Drive Turntable from Audio-Technica.
The turntable’s direct drive motor allows for both forwards and reverse playback, while delivering swift start-ups, and the pitch slider allows you to adjust the pitch easily. A removable dust cover helps to keep your turntable free from debris, and the speed selection feature allows you to set playback to either 33, 45 or 78 RPM.
One of the most important features of the table, however, is its USB port and cable, allowing you to easily connect it to a computer. This then enables you to move your vinyl CD collection to the computer too. The table is available in either silver or black color options and represents an excellent budget-friendly purchase.
Pioneer DJ PLX-1000 Professional Turntable
Pioneer DJ PLX-1000 Professional Turntable Review
For those with a reasonable budget to work with and more advanced needs, the Pioneer DJ PLX-1000 Professional Turntable is among the very best DJ scratch table options available. Pioneer is widely recognized as one of the biggest and best names in the DJ table market and this particular table is aimed at professional DJs.
The high torque direct drive motor provides supreme accuracy, while pitch control includes +8%, +16% and +50% options. The s-shaped arm allows for precise tracking and its rubber tubing has been included to help reduce issues with ‘howling’. Moreover, playback speeds of either 33.33 and 45 RPM are available.
One of the key selling points of this particular table is the clear sound quality and low noise. This is perhaps best demonstrated through the complete lack of noise detectable from the start/stop button. Ultimately, the Pioneer DJ PLX-1000 stands out as one of the very best scratch turntable options for even the most committed DJs.
Technics SL-1200MK7 Direct Drive Professional Turntable
Technics SL-1200MK7 Direct Drive Professional Turntable Review
If you have an even bigger budget available and are looking for a DJ scratch turntable that will handle the most professional demands, the SL-1200MK7 Direct Drive table from Technics may just be the ideal option for you.
The table benefits from a coreless direct drive motor, which is capable of delivering great accuracy, while simultaneously eliminating the speed variations or ‘cogging’ that some lesser direct drive motors encounter. Furthermore, four insulated feet help to provide excellent stability, while minimizing vibrations.
An s-shaped tone arm provides excellent precision, and a pitch control feature allows you to easily adjust the pitch by +8% or +16%. The superb build quality ensures the scratch turntable is durable enough for all purposes and helps it to deliver the kind of reliability required for long-term use by the most skilled professionals.
Pioneer DJ PLX-500 Direct Drive Turntable
Pioneer DJ PLX-500 Direct Drive Turntable Review
The Pioneer DJ PLX-500 Direct Drive Turntable is a mid-range turntable for scratching in terms of pricing, yet it is able to produce excellent sound quality and has a lot to offer besides, making it one of the best options on the market.
A direct drive motor helps to provide smooth and reliable playback, while speed selection allows you to adjust the playback speed between 33, 45 and 78 RPM. The s-shaped arm offers precision tracking, a dust cover helps to protect the table from unwanted debris, and pitch control allows for a +8% adjustment to the pitch.
The PLX-500 Direct Drive DJ scratching turntable from Pioneer includes USB output, allowing you to digitize your vinyl collection easily. A USB cable is also included, as is the DJ software ‘rekordbox’. All-in-all, the various features of the turntable make it an excellent purchase for anyone with a modest budget to work with.
Numark PT01 Scratch Portable DJ Turntable
Numark PT01 Scratch Portable DJ Turntable Review
Finally, if you are operating on a very limited budget, if you are simply looking for a turntable to experiment with, or if you are primarily interested in a portable option, which you can easily take anywhere, the Numark PT01 Scratch Portable DJ Turntable may just be the best turntable for scratching on the move, at a low price.
The table can be powered via the 12V DC power supply that is included, or via six D-cell batteries, with these batteries providing enough charge for several hours of use. The belt motor helps to prevent issues with vibrations affecting sound, and the scratch slide switch ensures both left and right-handed turntablists are catered for.
While the table does not offer the same level of features as the other options on this list, the affordability and portability are both huge positives and the table is a great buy for anyone looking to try DJ scratching for the first time.
Buyer’s Guide: Find the Best Turntable for Scratching
For DJs and turntablists, scratching is one of the most important techniques. Essentially, it describes a back-and-forth movement of vinyl discs on a turntable, resulting in a distinctive scratching sound, hence the name. It is widely associated with rap and hip hop music, but also features in other genres too, including nu-metal.
Features to Look For in Scratch Turntables
In terms of the main features to look out for, most scratch DJs opt for a direct drive turntable like the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-SV and Technics SL-1200MK7, due to the superior start-up speeds provided. With that being said, belt motors still have their place, especially with budget-friendly tables, and they can help to reduce the impact of vibrations on the final sound output too.
USB ports and cables allow for vinyl to be transferred to a computer or external device easily, so this is another key feature to look for. Meanwhile, the best turntables for scratching will also include pitch control like Pioneer DJ PLX-1000 and the ability to adjust the speed of playback like the Pioneer DJ PLX-500. The greater the range of options for both pitch and speed control, the better.
Optional extra features can also help to make life easier, including dust covers and slip mats.
Can You Scratch on Any Turntable?
Technically speaking, you can scratch on virtually any DJ turntable with a needle, but many of these turntables are not going to produce the kind of sound you are going to want if you are serious about becoming a DJ. Ideally, you are going to want to invest in a dedicated scratch turntable, as these will be designed with scratching in mind.
Generally, for most scratching needs, you are going to want a pair of direct drive turntables, along with a mixing console. CD-based DJ turntables, sometimes called CDJs, are also available and these allow for the use of CDs instead of vinyl discs. While this can make it more affordable, purists tend to still opt for vinyl instead.
Any scratching is likely to cause damage to vinyl discs over time, but turntables that have been specifically designed for this purpose can limit the damage. This is primarily achieved through the use of rounded needles.
Tips on DJ Scratching
When starting out as a scratch DJ, it is important to have reasonable expectations. As with learning any other musical instrument, learning how to scratch well is going to take time and the various techniques involved will not be mastered in a day. Start with some of the basics, such as the baby scratch technique, and perfect those before moving on.
Aside from building up your vinyl collection, you are also going to want to take good care of both your disc collection and your turntable. Unfortunately, the nature of scratching means that vinyl discs may suffer some wear and tear over time, but if you look after your equipment, you should be good to go for years to come.
One problem that some scratch DJs suffer from is a tendency to try to do too much. There is a time and a place for more advanced scratching techniques, but for the most part, it is better to keep things simple, especially early on.