If ever you’ve tried navigating a turntable spec sheet, sooner or later you’ll seemingly have been overwhelmed by a swathe of seemingly arbitrary info. A hi-fi spec sheet is usually a pageant of measurements and inventory phrases seemingly designed solely to wow and confuse.
To an extent it’s true to say the one side you really want think about when selecting any hi-fi part – assuming it suits your price range and has all of the options you need – is sonic efficiency.
Nonetheless, it’s helpful to know what these arcane phrases imply. So should you’ve been pondering the distinction between belt and direct drive specifically, allow us to at the least clarify a couple of of the fundamentals.
What is the distinction?
Anybody with even a passing curiosity within the workings of a turntable can in all probability work this one out merely from the names: as descriptors go, they’re fairly first rate.
Direct drive turntables merely have the motor positioned beneath the platter, rotating it, properly, immediately.
Belt drive ‘tables, alternatively, have the motor offset – and wrapped across the spindle is a skinny belt, nearly at all times comprised of rubber, which hugs the principle platter and rotates it like a pulley.
All very easy, no?
Why would an organization favour one over the opposite?
In fact, if both technique of driving a turntable had been with out caveat, there’d be no want for the opposite – however every is compromised as a lot because it has its strengths. In a way it’s a few producer deciding which methodology’s shortcomings it’s simpler to fight whereas benefiting from its inherent abilities.
Direct drive turntables’ primary fortes are linked largely to their greater torque. It means a quicker start-up velocity and fewer vulnerability to extraneous drive (reminiscent of the load of the stylus because it tracks the groove).
As a result of it reaches the right velocity so quickly it’s largely the area of DJs (as quickly turned clear following its invention by Matsushita engineer Shuichi Obata in 1969) – it permits them to cease and, successfully, manually rewind vinyl as they try and align the beats coming from two decks.
Nevertheless, as a result of the platter is hooked up to the motor, vibrations are fed immediately from the latter to the previous – that are in fact then transmitted to the cartridge. So there’s inevitably a level of distortion added to the ultimate efficiency.
Isolating the motor in a belt drive configuration sidesteps that challenge considerably – any vibrations are partially damped by the presence of the rubber belt. That lessening of motor interference, in a properly manufactured belt-drive turntable at the least, will feed into most features of the eventual sound – as a result of the cartridge is extra simply capable of monitor the knowledge etched into the groove of your file.
However as a result of the belt can solely be so taut (and factoring within the needed give for it to maneuver freely around the platter and pulley spindle), in principle rotation velocity isn’t fairly as persistently correct, attributable to stretch and potential slipping.
That may be exacerbated if both the belt isn’t of the identical thickness all the best way spherical, or the spindle or platter isn’t machined to be completely cylindrical. That’s the place lots of further price on your deck accrues – producers spend the mandatory time machining parts as exactly as attainable.
Equally essential is the machining of the principle bearing. A free bearing could have differing unfavourable results for every drive setup.
For direct, the spindle could possibly be all at sea, successfully making the file right into a transferring goal on your stylus and resulting in much less correct monitoring. The drive of a belt, in the meantime, might pull the principle bearing to 1 aspect, producing extra noise.
It isn’t unusual for higher-end belt drive decks to have a number of motors, thus balancing the pull on the platter in addition to enhancing drive.
What about changing or upgrading the belt?
Belts ought to final a very long time, however will want changing in the event that they change into too free, cracked or stretched to depart them uneven in sure areas. We wouldn’t count on that to occur to a brand new belt for at the least a couple of years, although.
Some producers do supply belt upgrades. Whereas these may be comprised of totally different supplies for higher damping or longer life, it’s as seemingly the improve is in how a lot care has been taken within the belt’s manufacture – ensuring there aren’t any, or at the least fewer, irregularities in kind.
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Does it have an effect on us, the listener?
Definitely not within the sense you ought go for one turntable over one other merely attributable to it being both belt or direct drive. Sound is king and, should you’re happy with the efficiency of a deck, the way it’s pushed oughtn’t be an element when testing one out.
All however certainly one of our 2020 Award-winning record players – that one being the Technics SL-1500C – simply so occur to be belt pushed. However that is actually solely a matter of their efficiency, maybe mixed with the present development in direction of belt drives in home-use turntables.
That mentioned, a bit of understanding of how your turntable is working can solely be a very good factor, particularly if – dare we are saying it – one thing had been ever to go improper.