4. Common Terms
This section explains some of the most common terms used in this article and that you may come across when researching the turntable you would like to buy.
- Tone Arm the arm that holds the cartridge. In nearly all cases it is mounted on a universal joint to allow movement in both vertical and horizontal planes. Two types of tone arm exist - straight and curved. Both types are claimed to have advantages for stability and resistance to skipping make your own mind up
- Platter the rotating platform on which the record is placed. Normally made from aluminium, it should be stiff and fairly weighty.
- Cartridge the device that holds the needle and converts its movements into electrical signals.
- Needle the needle makes contact with the grooves on the record and passes the movement to which it is subjected on to the cartridge.
- Pitch Fader the control fader that allows the user to vary the speed of the platter, and therefore the pitch of the sound that is reproduced. For a DJ, this is the most important control on a deck. Look for as long a throw fader as possible, as this will allow you to adjust the speed of the turntable more accurately for better control during long beat matches. Other things to look out for are no click or recess at 0% pitch, which will allow for more accurate adjustments when the pitch is close to 0%, and the inclusion of a pitch lock button.
- Pitch Lock Button sets the speed of the platter to 0% or standard pitch, regardless of the position of the pitch fader.
- Pitch Range Control some turntables include the ability to vary the range over which the pitch fader operates. As standard, most turntables have a pitch range of ±8%, but a turntable with a pitch range control might also be able to switch to ±12% and ±50% for example.
- Platter RPM Selector these switches allow the turntable to play records cut for different base speeds. The three standard speeds are 33, 45 and 78 RPM. 78s are becoming very rare however, and this speed is not always included.
- Pitch Bend some newer designs of turntable may include pitch bend buttons that allow the user to adjust the sync of the two records without touching the vinyl. This can facilitate a much smoother mix as there are no sudden changes in the speed of the record creating undesirable audio effects.
- Startup and Brake Speed Adjustment gives the user control over how long the record takes to spin up to the set platter speed, and how long the record takes to stop when the brake (start/stop button) is applied.
- Slip Mat these mats are not normally included with the turntable, but are essential for DJing purposes nonetheless. They allow the platter to continue spinning although the record is being held still. This enables the record to get up to full speed very quickly when released, minimising unwanted audible effects when doing so.
- 45-RPM Adapter a metal ring that can be placed in the centre of the platter over the spindle to accommodate old 45-RPM records that had a larger centre hole.
- Stylus Light this casts a narrow beam of light over the record at the point where the stylus makes contact. In dark situations such as nightclubs, this can be a very useful aide when cueing up the next tune.
- Strobe allows the user to get a very accurate reading of the speed of the platter if a certain record needs to be played at an exact RPM. The strobe light illuminates dots on the edge of the platter that are spaced equally to correspond to a specific RPM. When the platter is at the right speed, the dots appear to be stationary.
- Battle Mode Start Button hip hop DJs (or Battle DJs) prefer to have their turntables arranged vertically so that the short side is closest to them, thus reducing the distance between the two records and giving a larger area to control the record. This means that the start/stop button on a standard deck is in an awkward position, and so some companies include a secondary button in a more convenient position.