A DJ deck, or turntable, is an essential part of the equipment that a DJ needs when starting out. There are so many decks on the market today, that a beginner may not know which features are necessary or which ones are going to be needed down the road. Making an informed decision is crucial so that the deck is still useful to the owner in a few years, hopefully when the owner's skills have improved. For example, while pitch control may not be used often by someone who is just starting out, it is absolutely necessary for beatmaking or other advanced techniques.
Those who want a digital deck have to look for a completely different set of features and settings. Anyone aspiring to be a DJ should know the different drive types, speed settings, and other controls and features that come along with DJ decks. DJ decks can be found wherever musical equipment can be found, in brick and mortar stores as well as online at eBay.
The drive type refers to the way the platter is turned by the motor. There are two kinds of drives: belt drives and direct drives. The choice between a belt drive and a direct drive is the first decision to make when choosing a deck.
Belt Drive DJ Decks
Belt drive decks have a belt that connects the motor to the spindle of the platter. This means they take longer to get up to speed or to slow down, which is a problem for DJs who scratch. Belt-drive decks are far more economical, however, which makes them a good choice for anyone on a tight budget who is just starting out. They also work for DJs who do not scratch.
Without exception, high-end decks are of the direct-drive variety. Direct drive decks have magnets which connect the motor to the platter, so there is a more efficient and quick energy conversion between the two. This gives them a more constant speed of revolution. Direct-drive decks are available in a range of prices, and should be chosen by anyone who expects to advance in their DJing skills.
Speed Settings and Pitch Control
The next basic function of a DJ deck is its speed settings. Most decks have settings for 33 RPM and 45 RPM. Some also have a setting for 78 RPM. While records that are meant to be played at 78 RPM, they are fairly rare today. The need for this setting depends on the DJ's record collection. Records with a 78 RPM speed were phased around the year 1950.
Pitch control is closely related to speed settings because this control also changes the speed at which the record turns on the platter. However, pitch control speeds up or slows down the record very minutely. This is used for DJ techniques like beat matching. A typical deck can change the pitch, or speed, up to 8 per cent in either direction. However, pitch ranges of 10, 12, 16, 20, and even 50 per cent can also be found. Anything more than a 15 per cent pitch range makes it possible to switch between 33 RPM and 45 RPM records, but many DJs avoid doing this, since it is the pushing the pitch that much makes the music sound unnatural.
Deck motors have different torques, and this is an important specification when choosing a deck. Turntables with higher torques have faster startup speeds, which means the platter starts moving faster when the start button is pressed. Some turntables have adjustable start and stop times, so the DJ can decide how quickly the music should start up or wind down. They may also have power settings so the motor can operate at different torque settings. This is called a variable torque motor, and is important for anyone who wants maximum versatility. Torque is measured in kilogramme force centimetres, or kgfcm.
Straight or Curved Tone Arms
The tone arm is the part of the deck that holds the cartridge over the record. It has to hold the needle in place firmly so that the needle can not easily skip off the correct groove. On the other hand, if it constantly pushes the needle deep into the record's groove, the needle wears out faster and can potentially damage the record. The tone arm should also be conveniently positioned for the DJ so that it does not get hit during scratching or other techniques.
The two main types of tone arms are straight and S-shaped. Straight tone arms are slightly better at tracking (staying in a single groove) and are sometimes preferred by scratch DJs. However, they can also wear out a record sooner because of the higher tracking force they apply. S-shaped tone arms were developed first, and are still used in many high-end decks. There are also many decks that come with both types of tone arms.
The shape of the needle on the cartridge also changes the way a record plays. Since the needle (also known as the stylus) is replaceable, needle shape is not one of the deciding factors when choosing a turntable. However, it is a specification to look at.
There are spherical and elliptical needles available for DJs. Since the groove in a record is V-shaped, the elliptical stylus makes more contact with the surface of the record compared to the spherical stylus. This is great for general-purpose use because it increases the frequency response, and reduces the wear on the record by spreading out the tracking force. However, it is not ideal for scratching. In general, spherical styli are preferred by scratch DJs.
Digital DJ Decks
While traditional turntables are still popular, many DJs are starting to go digital. This means they use decks with CD players and USB slots, instead of record players. This means a whole new set of features and functions, since CDs cannot be "scratched" or spun like vinyl records.
Any digital deck that accepts CDs should also read MP3 CDs. However, check for an simple file navigation system that can make it easy to search through files or folders for a certain song. Also check if the deck can read ID3, and BPM tags, on MP3 files. These tags provide additional information like song name and artist name.
Jog wheels allow a DJ to scratch and beat-juggle on digital decks the same way they do on regular decks. These are found on tabletop digital decks, which are the most common kind. The other kind of deck is a rack-mounted deck. This has a 2-CD loader on one unit, and all the controls on a second unit which can be stacked.
Shockproof memory is absolutely necessary to avoid the CD skipping when the dance floor shakes or there is other vibration. This is a standard feature on quality DJ equipment.
USB and SD slots
The number and type of slots available for different digital media like USB flash memory, and SD cards is important as well. A USB port can obviate the need to take a laptop when performing. Many digital decks also allow one to store data, such as cue and loop, points to a removable memory card.
How to Buy a DJ Deck on eBay
Buying a DJ deck is easily done online with a trusted site like eBay. Shopping online offers the convenience of a huge selection from the comfort of your home. With eBay, it is easy to find reputable and professional sellers who gladly help you find the right deck for your needs.
To find DJ decks on eBay, enter the search term 'DJ deck' in the search box on any eBay page. Choose the appropriate subcategories from the categories provided, and then remove the search term to see all the listings for DJ decks. You can use the other search criteria, like price, condition, and brand, to quickly narrow down the search. Alternatively, use other keywords in the search box to achieve the same thing. Click on 'Include Description' to widen the search in case the keyword is in the description of the item but not in the title of the listing.
As when buying any electronic equipment, it is important to know about the warranty and the return policy. Any highly rated eBay seller can gladly provide this information in the case that it is not clearly stated in the listing. Make sure to read the entire listing carefully and look at all the pictures that are provided. Checking the seller's feedback rating is also an important step. Sellers with a history of fast professional service, are marked with an award icon that reads: 'Top-rated eBay seller'.
A DJ deck is possibly the most important piece of equipment that a DJ uses besides the mixer. The number of features a deck has, is directly related to its price and its usefulness to a DJ with advanced skills. Beginners who expect to advance in DJing, either as a hobby or a profession, should buy a deck that can keep up with their growing skill set. This means choosing a turntable with a direct-drive system, and pitch control, and at least two speed settings.
A variable torque motor is also useful, although not absolutely necessary. Many DJs today are joining the digital revolution as CD technology matches and surpasses the audio quality possible with traditional turntables. Digital decks have a whole set of features that include shockproof memory, jog wheels, and USB compatibility. Regardless of which type of deck one wants, DJ decks are readily available on eBay. eBay's advanced search options and public feedback system, ensure that it is easy and safe to buy online. This allows any aspiring DJ to choose from the widest selection available, and get started spinning and scratching in record time.