Although digital controller technology has come a long way over the last few decades, nothing quite matches the magic of scratching using real vinyl.
But you can’t just buy any old turntable and call it a day, the modern musician needs a modern feature set to have it integrate with your other gear.
So today I’ve gathered up the 5 best turntables on the market to help you find the perfect turntable for your needs.
Top 3 - Turntables for Scratching
These are the most feature-complete pieces of gear on the market right now that will hold their own in any professional musical setting.
Best Turntables for Scratching
Table of Contents
- Best Turntables for Scratching
- Is Direct Drive Better Than Belt Drive?
- What’s the Appeal of Scratching on Vinyl over a Digital Controller?
- Vinyl is More Accessible than Ever
1. Pioneer DJ PLX-1000 Professional Turntable
For anyone who’s been using digital turntables and is looking to make the move over to a real professional turntable, the PLX-1000 makes an ideal entry point.
One of the big selling points here is the die-cast aluminum palette. It has no wobble under your fingers and has been built with dampening materials to make it as stable as possible which helps reduce unwanted resonances and vibrations.
There’s also a very aesthetic looking and rugged brushed metal body. I’ve taken this out with me multiple times and never felt like I was worrying about damage or the thing falling apart, it feels solid.
However, as solid as the build quality is, it did start to feel pretty heavy after carrying it around for a while. So unless you're driving I wouldn't consider the PLX-1000 to be particularly portable.
But it can also perform too, with industry-leading platter speeds that reach 33 ⅓ rpm in just 0.3 seconds, it feels super quick and responsive.
One thing that did impress me was how smooth the tempo control was. After a long period of dealing with dead spots and hitching, using this was a joy!
Pioneer hasn’t messed around too much with unnecessary bells and whistles here, but they did manage to squeeze in a few quality of life features that are very much appreciated.
In particular, it has removable RCA and power connectors which makes replacing anything that fails much easier.
Plus the connectors have also been recessed so its footprint on your work area is as small as possible.
2. Reloop RP-8000 MK II
The RP-8000 features the same build quality and all of those great sound-isolating features that were seen on the already popular RP-7000.
But the philosophy behind the Reloop RP-800 is to have something that can better integrate with modern computer setups and DJ software. Which is why they market it as a hybrid turntable.
So it’s still got that heavy-duty aluminum rubber-lined platter that feels incredibly sturdy, and it has the same reinforced chassis with rubber compound to help reduce vibrations.
This is all great, but whether it’s a worthy upgrade to the 7000 will ultimately come down to whether you need the new features it brings to the table.
This includes the 8 midi-controllable drum pads that line the left of the turntable which gives you complete control over loop playback.
Yet, good as all this programmable midi functionality was, as someone who personally doesn't require a huge amount of desktop integration many of the features felt slightly excessive.
So I'd encourage you to think about how these features will benefit your workflow.
Additionally, it has a convenient LCD display above the pitch control to give you some useful information such as pitch, and BPM. I’ve found this immensely helpful for things like beat matching.
It’s also been designed to integrate seamlessly with Serato DJ and other digital vinyl systems. It even comes with pre-baked mappings for things such as the Native Instruments Traktor.
So, if you have a pre-established workflow you’re looking to slot a turntable into, this is one to consider.
3. Numark PT01 Scratch Portable DJ Turntable
There are already a bunch of great portable turntables on the market. But none that give you as much bang for your buck as the Numark PT01.
Let there be no mistake here, this thing is a fully-fledged turntable that I’ve been having a ton of fun with.
The PT01 Scratch is fundamentally based on the original PT01 which conveniently allows you to record your favorite vinyl digitally via USB.
But this time the PT01 scratch steps in to provide its own in-built scratch fader right there on the chassis, meaning you won't need any extra cables or hardware to be able to use this turntable for scratching.
It has all the I/O you’d ever want for a portable setup and it all comes bundled in a nice metal-reinforced plastic carry case.
Now as you’d expect, a product that’s built with portability and budget in mind will be making some concessions in the quality department.
There's no getting around the fact it's built to be cheap. I could really feel this in the wobble of the knobs and the roughness around the component edges gave it this air of cheapness.
Another thing that was less than stellar is the monstrous 6 x D battery requirement. I highly recommend getting a AAA to D battery converter so you're able to use rechargeables!
The plastic frame and palette wobble a bit under heavy use which can make scratching on 10 or 12 inch vinyl feel a bit unwieldy. But for 7” it feels pretty nice.
The PT01 is one of the best turntables for scratching when it comes to pure convenience and portability.
4. Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USBXP
Audio-Technica markets the AT-LP1240 as both a premium home-use instrument, and something that any professional DJ can perform with.
It’s certainly true that Audio Technica has brought the feature set and affordability up to a point where the line between turntables meant for home and professional use has become blurred.
The AT-LP1240 is fantastic if you just want to digitize your vinyl collection, having a very convenient in-built USB audio interface that allows it to integrate seamlessly with your home computer setup.
But it still has more than enough backbone to satisfy the working professional, with a high-torque direct drive motor that felt very stable and reliable to me.
The cast aluminum platter also handles strong deep bass stage rumble exceptionally well.
There’s also some well thought out LED placement that gives you all the vital information you need such as playback speed.
I found the stylus target light to be extremely helpful when playing in low light as it shows you exactly where your needle is going to land. A true lifesave for live performers!
The USB interface was also really helpful when out and about for quickly putting something onto a laptop.
If you need a turntable that you can use in any environment and for a myriad of different tasks, the AP-LP1240 is absolutely worth considering!
5. Technics SL-1200MK7
The SL-1200 series of turntables have been industry leaders for quite a few decades now, and have seen consistent iteration and improvements to where they’re now. With the SL-1200MK7, it’s now an extremely refined product.
While not perfect, and for some users is considered a slight step back over previous versions, there’s no denying the construction and performance of this thing are top-tier.
One such regression in design seems to be the new dust cover which simply lays on the frame with some rubber buffers. The older hinge system felt a bit more premium and will be missed.
But it definitely nails things in the looks department. It's clean and well designed, simply putting it alongside my other gear made my whole setup look better.
Its biggest selling point is the coreless drive motor which delivers incredible accuracy and is known to reduce cogging potential, which is where the motor will be jumpy which can affect the audio, particularly at lower speeds.
It has a dual-layer platter to help further reduce strong resonances and vibrations.
And it has big ol’ feet which, while also helping to reduce vibration, also can allow you to set a slight incline which has made using it on my desk much more comfortable.
While the whole thing is pretty simple overall, and perhaps lacks some of the I/O and integrability of its competitors.
As a pure standalone scratching turntable the MK7 is about as good as it gets and is one of the very best turntables for scratching.
Is Direct Drive Better Than Belt Drive?
If you’ve been shopping around for turntables, you may have stumbled upon a few really cheap ones and asked yourself, why don’t DJs just use these?
Belt driven turntables are pretty useless when it comes to scratching. The main reason for this is because to scratch, you need good torque, responsiveness, and speed.
That is to say, when you make a move with your hands, the platter and vinyl need to respond to exactly what your hand is doing.
So a direct-drive motor, which is mounted straight under the platter with no other components involved, will feel much snappier and like it’s doing what you’re telling it to do.
As soon as you move to a belt-driven turntable you’ll notice that it feels laggy and unresponsive.
Not only that, but the more you use it you can stretch and scratch the belt which will continue to degrade the performance of the turntable.
The long and short of it is, belt driven turntables should only be used for listening purposes or that one emergency scenario when you absolutely must sample something and have nothing else to hand.
If you’re interested in scratching, do yourself a favor and go direct drive. You’ll thank me later!
What’s the Appeal of Scratching on Vinyl over a Digital Controller?
I won't delve into the philosophies of analog vs digital here too deeply as it’s already a very hotly debated topic.
What you do need to consider as a potential buyer is what vinyl offers that digital can’t and whether that’s something that is appropriate for your needs.
The first thing to consider is sound quality, while it is true that digital controllers aren’t going to sound exactly the same as vinyl, the difference is usually much smaller than people realize.
The first thing to consider is that many modern vinyls are actually cut from digital masters, so a lot of the vinyl magic people speak of isn’t quantifiable in reality.
Not only that, but scratching vinyl for long periods can also degrade the quality as you are physically drawing the needle over the vinyl.
You’ll hear many people talk about the warmth of vinyl, whereas digital sample playback sounds too clean and harsh.
There’s certainly validity to the idea that a little bit of the top-end roll-off and a bit of crackle here and there is desirable.
Ultimately it’s your choice, but I think unless someone can physically see the equipment you’re using, they’d have a really hard time telling whether you’re on vinyl or a digital controller.
This is something that can be more of a concern.
Vinyl scratching is a real-time event, which means there is no latency assuming you’re not running that audio through any additional outboard gear.
But digital controllers on the other hand will always have some kind of latency which can be affected by many factors such as the I/O you’re using, the software, and the drivers.
Providing you remain in a dedicated ecosystem such as Traktor it can be incredibly tight. Still, if you’re getting playful with your gear, software and effects you can very easily find yourself having to wrestle with high latency which can make live performances far more challenging.
Beat Juggling is Easier on Vinyl
Beat juggling is a tricky thing to do as it’s not computer controlled, it relies on your hand coordination and internal rhythm to execute properly.
Without any kind of visual cue, you’ll have no idea where your beat lands and it’s extremely tough to pull off. So DJs will often put marks on the record labels to give them some kind of visual cue of where the beat lands.
This is helpful as you can do it on a vinyl-by-vinyl basis.
Unfortunately, digital controllers don’t have this option as there’s no physical vinyl on the platter.
Some digital controllers have tried to make use of led lights that encircle the platter to help you with this. But at least as of now, this kind of feature is only related to expensive high-end units.
Can it be done? Absolutely, and you’ll see some videos of highly skilled DJs pulling this off on digital controllers. But the argument that it’s more difficult, unnecessarily so, is very valid.
So, here vinyl is going to help you out a lot.
Vinyl is More Accessible than Ever
As vinyl fell out of favor through the 90s and CDs and tape cassettes started to dominate, it was assumed vinyl would disappear into the ether, never to return.
But over the last decade, we’ve seen a steady and consistent demand for both vinyl and vinyl equipment. And companies have been more than happy to step up and provide consumers with the gear they’ve asked for.
So there’s no better time than now to get yourself a real turntable as it’s more affordable, and the gear is more feature-complete than ever before.