Direct Drive

I am firmly in the digital camp, but I’ve dabbled in vinyl.  Back in the day I was fascinated by Technics Direct Drive tt, but couldn’t afford them.  I was stuck with my entry level Gerrard.  I have been sans turntable for about 5 years now but the new gear bug is biting.  I am interested in the Technics 1500 which comes with an Ortofon Red and included pre amp.  I have owned Rega P5 which I hated for its speed instability and a Clearaudio Concept which was boring as hell.

  Direct Drive was an anathema to audiophiles in the nineties but every time I heard  one it knocked my socks off.  What do the analogers here think of Direct Drive?  I listen to Classical Music exclusively 


There are some incredible direct drives, but their notoriety was largely due to motor noise and vibration. If you are open to user gear, you might want to do a search for an older Technics SP10 with a custom plinth. Other marketplaces have some good options for around $1K that then you can fit a better tonearm with, and it will get you much farther than a Technics 1500. Given your passion for classical, you’ll want as good a tonearm as you can let yourself allow so you have the best clarity and separation in imaging. This will also force you to invest in a decent phono stage, as the one built into the Technics will not perform as well as say even a $300-500 phono stage would. If you can stretch your budget a bit more, you might be much happier. 

Another vintage suggestion could be the Kenwood KD-500 direct drive with a Shure 3009 tonearm. You might be able to find this combo for $800 or less if you are really lucky, but even at $1000-1200 I think they would be a steal for the combo. The Kenwood has a great motor and the plinth is made of stone composite.

I still have a couple of phono stages in my bag of tricks but just thought I might make it easy.  What do you make of the Ortofon Red Cartridge?

Do yourself a favor and look at the Denon DL-103 carts, your gonna need a step up transformer like a used Denon AU-320 to use it with a MM phono stage. Like speakers, carts are transducers. Those DL-103 just make music!

Lots of good vintage DD units out there. Denon DP-75 or DP-80 are very good from what I understand. I’m partial to the Victor (JVC) line of motor drives, anything from the TT71 up to the TT101 will give you excellent results.

At this age any of those old DD motor drives need a good maintenance done to them. When done right there is another generation or two of keeping perfect speed before it needs attention again.

Bottom line is there will never be motor units built like these again. Technics has done it, but see the price? What do you think any of these old DD motor units would cost if built today? To get an idea, look at the price of the Technics, the top of the line model.

Look at the turntable in  my profile, yea, I need better pics. Anyway, this is a Victor 2 armboard plinth, model CL-2P. It's a heavy wood structure made with alternating layers of different material. I made my own armboards with quick change inserts so I can play with different arms. Currently sporting a Audio Technica ATP-12T in the rear with a stock DL-103 and the right side arm is a Victor UA-7045, perfect for my DL-103S.

All in I spent just a little more than the price of a Technics 1500



What about the idler drive tables like the Lenco, Thorens or Garrard? The motors have to be modified to run silent but they are legendary and the arm boards are easy to change out.

If you want to buy a direct drive turntable you might as well buy a digital front end - its the same sound.


You probably didn’t mean it that way, but that sounds like an endorsement to me


I get ur gripe with analogue and why u like DD.

1. The silence of digital backgrounds

2. stop start bass

3. Better timing - not in the musical sense but in terms of slowing down in complex passages

4. The cleaner sound

I appreciate as I am much the same and I like DD decks and the Townshend Rock as they both display those digital qualities I like plus the musical tone you get with analogue which has that ability to keep you listening.

I agree with posts relating to the JVC and Technics. The Denons are supposed to be excellent but many an idiot has ruined the magnetic tape on the platter. Contact @pbnaudio as he is an authority on denons


"If you want to buy a direct drive turntable you might as well buy a digital front end - its the same sound."


That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Just because a TT maintains perfect speed as the better DD tables are prone to due doesn’t make it sound digital. By that logic the worse a TT maintains speed the more it sounds like analog produced music, totally absurd. The decks used for cutting the master disc are designed with perfect unwavering speed in mind.



If you have a good digital front end you may be disappointed with analog at your budget.  I have no experience with the Technics table you mentioned, but I would avoid anything with a "built in" phono stage.

Consider purchasing used.  You might be surprised at how good a $500 vintage direct drive can sound.  You can still find SL 1200 MK2 tables that weren't used by DJs and there are a lot of accessories available that can improve sound quality.  I have one and enjoy it a lot.  It's not the same as my Sota Sapphire, but it was about 1/10 of the cost.

I have a JVC QL-Y66F from the 80s that's really nice.  It does have a couple of week spots - the base is hollow and flimsy and it will howl at high volumes.  The feet are junk.  I put a few pounds of plasticlay inside the base and replaced the feet with MNPCTECH feet and now it sings and no feedback issues at high volumes.  I'm using a Denon DL-301 MK 2 cartridge on it and currently running it with my Manley Chinook.  You could pick up a table like this for around $500, around $500 for the cartridge, and get a Parks Puffin phono stage for less than $500 and have a nice setup.  The feet and plasticlay were another $150 I think.  Not much more than you're planning to spend, but a much better setup. 

We all have different budgets and ideas of what's "good enough", and we don't know what your digital setup looks like, so it's hard to say how far you would need to go to get enjoyment comparable to your digital front end, but for a lot of us, the "sweet spot" budget wise usually starts around $5K and then goes up from there.

I'm totally unimpressed with 2M red. It sounds muffled. It seemed to me that if I use it on my rig, I won't be able to appreciate my record collection.

I've owned Rega and VPI belt drives, much prefer my Technics SP10MKII with custom plinth. Much more slam, impact, pace than the belt drives.


Perhaps my situation unique in that I mostly concentrated on digital side for years,  resulting in superior digital sound quality vs my analog setups. Part of what spurred me to migrate from belt to direct drive was intention to replicate certain aspects of digital sound quality to the analog side, the SP provided exactly what I was seeking.

I love my Direct Drive JVC TT81. I encourage DD, certainly Technics knows how to do it superbly.

Auto-Lift is a TERRIFIC feature!

Built-In Phono EQ to Line Level (can be turned off to use an existing or future external phono stage) is easy, and may sound darn good. I actually preferred my AT120’s built-in to my McIntosh C28’s phono. Later I turned it off and used my McIntosh mx110z’s phono stage which sounds wonderful.

Included pre-aligned Cartridge is an excellent feature for a beginner. I would encourage acquiring a few tools and skills to mount and align cartridges, so other cartridges could be pre-mounted on headshells, waiting to play: MC; MM; Mono ....

The arm base looks like it adjusts height easily, important if cartridge heights vary.

So what was boring about the Clearaudio Concept Turntable and what cartridge, tonearm and phono stage did you have paired up with it? 


Ortofon Red is a decent easy start, but nothing special.

You will get superior results from advanced Stylus Shapes, however they MUST be properly aligned.

You can move up to an excellent advanced stylus shape for $300.

After that, if you get deep into Vinyl you will want to move into the world of Moving Coil cartridges.

Later! Get Started!



"If you want to buy a direct drive turntable you might as well buy a digital front end - its the same sound."

Bill, I totally agree with you, ABSURD. what a lack of understanding displayed by that statement.

I say: Analog does overtones, time and volume delay better than digital. Getting the speed PERFECT for the fundamental yields perfectly timed overtones.

Perfect speed, highly desirable (look at all the belt drive speed controllers) has nothing to do with platter weight, bearing design, isolation techniques, arm design, cartridge, phono stage, all the things that vary the audible results in the TT world.


@dover wrote "If you want to buy a direct drive turntable you might as well buy a digital front end - its the same sound

I believe that dover takes issue with how DD achieve speed stability by using a feedback loop system that makes a speed adjustment after the error has been detected.

Direct drive's "rumble", which is almost unmeasureable, always trumps belt drive's speed instability and having to replace the damn belts.


My turntable is rim what.....its the resultant sound that is the result.

You guys are worse than the motorcycle forums.

Pasta burner vs kraut burner vs rice burner. Chain vs belt, vs shaft. 

WHO CARES DD or Belt it's about the music. 


I’ve got idler drives, belt drives, and DD tables.

Motor noise from DD??? Must be a cheap Fisher or BSR.

The only thing that can possibly make noise in a DD is the spindle bearing. But guess what?? ALL belt drives and idler drives have a nearly identical spindle bearing as a DD. In reality, DD tables are 10-20 dB quieter than most all belt and idler drives. Just a fact!

But I do enjoy a belt drive or idler drive for a change of pace. 

I do stream music and have CDs and SACDs. But nothing brings me more satisfaction than playing records. 

A few of the DDs are the Denon DP52F and 45F, Technics SL1350, JVC QL Y5F, Hitachi HT-460 and -463, and some Linear Trackers; Idler Drive Garrard Z100, Model 50, Lab 80; Belt Drive Garrard GT55, NIVICO 5240B, Hitachi SP-10. Linear trackers are both belt and DD.


WHO CARES DD or Belt it's about the music. 

Of course it's about the music, but naturally the sound quality is critical.

@billwojo ...and the master is cut with a tangential arm, but that will only trigger another fusillsade from the trenches that surround you... ;) 

...but, Yes, It Is all about the music, and how you hear it There. *G*

Enjoy where you go in the TT trials.

Your time...starts...already. *L*

Happy Hun-ting, J

You can also check out the Technics SL-100C, brand new in the US market, save a couple hundred bucks. No phono stage, but don't really want a built-in one anyway. Cheap cartridge but the stylus is upgradeable to something decent. It intrigues me and looks like good value, but I'm satisfied with my belt drive tables. 

audiophiles have a deep respect and luv for technics SL-1200 variants and the big denons. theres a new technics model/variant out. i forget the number.

the worst rumble ive had was from belt drive tables. 

...and the master is cut with a tangential arm, but that will only trigger another fusillsade from the trenches that surround you... ;)

Do tangential playback arms sound any better?

A search found Clearaudio CAU-TP062 but the Clearaudio site doesn't even mention it. In fact it doesn't seem to be anywhere else. Is it a custom hybrid or something?

Yes, tangential tonearms sound better. But they are a higher end thing, and you probably won't hear the benefits until you're spending a fair bit.

How handy are you? It's not hard to make a DIY belt drive table that will be far better than anything you can buy for the same price. I had a pretty hefty budget for a TT and used the money to DIY - and the result is quite phenomenal. And the journey was a treat not to be missed.

DIY forever!

I haven't heard it yet but Stereophile raved about the Pioneer PLX-1000. Add an Ortofon 2m Blue (the Red has terrible inner groove distortion) and you've got change from $1000. Although you'll need a phono stage as well. The Yaqin MS-12b (~$300) can sound really good with a bit of tube rolling. So yeah, about $1500 all up. This is probably as cheap as you can go and still get a half-decent result.

Incidentally I sometimes record my vinyl using Audacity and play it back digitally using Audirvana Origin to Dac to Power Amp. Sounds phenomenal

"If you want to buy a direct drive turntable you might as well buy a digital front end - its the same sound."

That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Just because a TT maintains perfect speed as the better DD tables are prone to due doesn’t make it sound digital. 

Bill, I totally agree with you, ABSURD. what a lack of understanding displayed by that statement.

Not really.

Direct drive turntables use error correction, which includes jitter, they do not maintain perfect speed.

One could argue that digital format development has vastly outpaced the antediluvian error correction systems used in old direct drive turntables, and for this reason you might well be better off with a digital source.

My system:  

Amplification—Cary SLP-3 Pre, Parasound JC Curl Amp

DAC- Bryston DAC-3

Oppo 105 

Melco N 100, Cambridge CXN 60 NAS/Streamers

B&W 803 D speakers, REL Sub, Mini DSP R/P

All Cabling Nordstrom Valhalla


My Clearaudio Concept had a Concept MC Cartridge and the standard Satisfy Arm.  Phono pre amps by Musical Surroundings (battery) and PS Audio.  The former was chosen when I couldn’t extinguish a hum in the latter.

 THE Clearaudio sounded neat,tidy, orderly with bloated bass, and generally dull.  It was also one heck of a dust magnet.  The Rega moved me more but the pitch instability drove me nuts.  I had Wilhelm Kempff playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata where the famous triplets in the First Movement were distorted  to point that I had thought someone slipped acid in my coffee.

  I love my digital set up.  However I always lusted after a Technics Direct Drive.I won’t get the DJ table but I might get 1500 .  I am put off getting a used one due to potential motor noise.  This is kind of a bucket list thing.  Retirement looms and then I won’t be able to spend my shekels on whims like this without feeling overly guilty.

The Rega moved me more but the pitch instability drove me nuts.  I had Wilhelm Kempff playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata where the famous triplets in the First Movement were distorted  to point that I had thought someone slipped acid in my coffee.

I assume on Deutch Gramophone - one of my favourite performances of the Beethoven Sonatas, other than Horowitz. Beautifully balanced top and bottom hand and the piano is nicely miked not too close. The playing is wonderful.

Piano lays bare any pitch instability - rubber belt drives are very susceptible. Some are worse than others.

My 2 TT's use silk thread drive and idler drive - the thread drive being the most pitch stable.

If you must have direct drive why not push the boat out to a new Technics 1200.

A classic that will be reliable and serviceable for years. Having said that there have been wobbly platter issues with the new generation, so beware,



I couldn't agree more. I modded just about everything in one way or another and I'm mighty impressed with the final results.

One piece of equipment I haven't considered is the turntable.  Details of your components would be a terrific starting point to get me started.


I don’t have anything against Technics or DD. Both, the brand and technology is great and have their pluses, but I like the BD better. According to Mechanic rules (mechanic as part of physics) it is much harder to maintain balance and isolation of shaft with motor attached to it towards surface than shaft separated from the motor. 

I’m a big fan of the Technics Direct Drive tables. Still have one that I purchased new in 1978 for $150 and while I didn’t use it much for many years I recently set it up in my office system and it sounds great and is quiet and keeps perfect speed.

You have a nice system and it would be worth the extra $500 to jump up to the 1200GR. I would do the same myself if my old table would ever break down but that is probably unlikely.  

Yes, the Ortofon red is quite good as a first cartridge. I tried it and was pleasantly surprised. I’ve since moved on to MC carts and am loving the detail they provide.

Hard to go wrong with DD turntables. I had a Technics SL1200mk2 for 20 trouble free years and finally moved up to a 1200G. Technics makes outstanding TTs. Can’t go wrong. They have such a strong grip on the sound. The new technics tonearms run better gimbal bearings than the older mk2 can feel the difference, which is kind of incredible if you know that handling the old tonearm felt like handling ’air’.

Lot’s of other great designs out there. But it’s really easy setup-wise having a Technics.

Good luck!


@pedroeb....Well, I'm a fan mostly due the logic of 'method in +/- = method out' v. the function of an arc. Cart selection will vary per taste, as usual.

Obviously, you'd be back to the best table you can strive for....

Actually I went to the Clearaudio site, products tonearms scroll down and they're all there....although there's more of them about...

I've been curious about diy'g a tang, as that's about as well.

If you've the chance to hear one regardless of the cart....won't hurt, 'cept the price. *L*


+1 on the 1200G - not certain about the other models but I hear they have nearly the same motor. Set aside funds for a phono pre-amp and a cartridge. The 2M is muffled like others have said and should be avoided. A 1000 or 100 with a Denon 103 would be a good match, but a good SUT would cost you as much if not more than the rest of the rig. I’ve heard good things about the Nagaoka MP 500 for a MM cart, but I have no real world experience. I listen to a like of big band which I expect requires the same characteristics as classical, and a fast cart is a must. If there is a weakness with the technics it’s the arm. I’ve compared a belt drive with a Groovemaster arm and the Technics with a stock arm, both running a Miyajima Zero on 78rpm’s, and the Technics still beats the BD, despite the arm.  

The Technics 1500's phono stage and Ortofon cartridge are really just "get you started" inclusions.

Compared to the Clearaudio concept, the Technics will sound like it has more "get up and go" but it is a bit ragged tonally in the midrange and treble - not really what you want for Classical music, particularly.

Unless OP has a large stock of vinyl albums, it's questionable as to whether getting an entry level (ish) turntable makes sense.



I have no vinyl at present. There are about a dozen Lps that I am eyeing because they are not available digitally. Are you viewing the 1500 as entry level? And given that analog will always be a secondary source, I don’t really wants to spend into the stratosphere

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My turntable is built around a New Way thrust bearing, an air bearing in all three dimensions. This right away puts you in rarified (6 figure) company.

Next is inspiration from the late Tom Fletcher, who reasoned that a tiny motor couldn’t do much to influence a large rotating mass. I use a Premotec 1.8W precision synchronous motor, which does not catch up using feedback, but instead produces a constant rotational speed. Of course, with this setup, you have to bring the platter up to speed by hand, which is a bit quirky, but not at all inconvenient.

Motor resides on its own massive board made of Panzerholz, a wonderfully dead and dense and strong plywood from Germany, which is isolated from the main chassis and the platter.

Motor controller can be as simple as a capacitor or two, or you can build one with (electric) quadrature, which is better. Maybe better left as a project to get around to someday.

Platter is cast iron base covered with a 1" graphite top, both located precisely on an air bearing spindle. (Inspiration Tom Fletcher again) While each rings a little when separated, the assembly is dead as a tomb. If I were doing it again, I would bite the bullet and get New Way to machine the spindle.

Suspension is something which I did not need, so I did not build, because my listening room has a concrete floor built on bedrock, and miles from a highway.

Air supply depends on your situation. If you use an oil-free compressor you don’t need to do much in the way of filtration, but if you need to use oil (quieter, cheaper) you need to go with heroical air filtration to protect that $1K thrust bearing.

There you have the basics. Let us know how you get along! Good luck!

PS: There is a thread on DIY Audio about this. Very long, very detailed.


How does it sound? Well, I can HEAR the noise from the plastic sleeve bearings on that 1/500 HP motor! Only faintly audible as a slight grainy brightness, but audible nevertheless.

Paired with my DIY air bearing tonearm and higher end Koetsu (diamond), it’s a pretty stunning combination. Makes my Nottingham Analogue Mentor upgraded to Dais standard (Fletcher again!) sound highly coloured and even a bit nasty by comparison. And the stock Mentor was a DD killer, IMO.

Oh - and use a short belt.

I have to take issue with Bliss, who wrote, "There are some incredible direct drives, but their notoriety was largely due to motor noise and vibration."  I don't mean to pick on Bliss, but his statement is often the mantra for those who don't care for DD turntables.  It's just plain wrong. There is no mechanical noise or vibration added by virtue of the DD technology.  In DD turntables, the platter either is the rotor or is firmly attached to the rotor of the drive motor.  The drive force is electromagnetic between the rotor and the stator.  Nothing touches the spindle or the bearing or the platter that does not also touch the spindle/bearing/platter of any other type of turntable.  What CAN be an issue with DD turntables is EMI or electrical noise generated due to radiation from the motor.  In 99% of decent DD turntables, EMI is shielded from the cartridge by the platter itself, which is usually made of stainless steel or aluminum or some alloy of copper. In fact, of course, both BD and idler type turntables have a greater potential to transmit mechanical noise from the motor to the bearing or platter, because both require a mechanical interface between the platter and the driver.

Dover, With respect I must also disagree with your persisting claim that the servo systems of "vintage" DD turntables, designed usually in the late 70s or early 80s are so primitive as to cause audible`distortions due to speed corrections mandated by those circuits.  First, most modern BD turntables wouldn't be caught dead without a motor controller of some sort, with or without feedback, to maintain constant speed.  And I for one have consistently heard the benefit of those devices if designed well, on the performance of one or another BD turntable.  Second, a skilled engineer, JP Jones, has graphed the speed stability of a brand new Technics SP10R, which I think we can agree would incorporate the most modern devices and moreover uses a coreless motor, vs a fully tweaked SP10 Mk3.  JP found no detectable difference in the speed constancy of these two turntables when he monitored them over time in a way that would reveal momentary peaks and troughs in speed, if such were present in the Mk3.

I am not saying anything is perfect, and I certainly have heard BD and idler turntables that I much admire, but if you categorically dislike DD turntables, find other reasons.  Most likely, it's EMI, in which case that reflects poor design or construction of the platter.


I don't doubt that the average speed of a modern turntable is right on the money. But, according to accepted statistical theory, there is more to a phenomenon than just the mean.

Consider the platter speed to be a random variable whose distribution of values is some distribution D. Since a normal or Gaussian distribution is completely determined by two parameters, mean and standard deviation, if D ~ N(m,s) the situation is more complex than the mean. In general, the utility of mean as a unique determinant of a quantity is obvious when you consider wealth, like B Gates and one of us, etc. etc.

And a normal distribution is very well behaved at two parameters. Most distributions are described by more. These are the higher level moments, standard deviation (actually its square, the Variance; second), skewness (third), kurtosis (fourth), and the rest of the infinity of central moments have no common name. It is a theorem that any distribution can be uniquely described by its moments.

What this is all getting to, is that the higher order moments of the speed distribution are all noise, noise which is not much considered and not much measured. Our ears measure it though - it comes through as an almost sibilant brightness, a nasty sound. The best DD don't have much of this, but the big new Technics with its associated system seemed to produce way too much of that for me, when I heard a factory audition.

And what can we measure? Mean speed over a window of some duration.

To measure these higher order moments requires very many, very short window measures of mean speed, and applying the correct estimation algorithms. Shorter is better, and 14 bit resolution should be the absolute minimum. The fact that 'speed stability' is reported while standard deviation, skewness, and kurtosis is not, is revealing. It seems to be a matter of the engineering not keeping pace with either theory or perception, IMO.

What do you think?

@pedroeb  Make that the Premotec 9904 111 31813 (as it was then designated), then available from Element 14, IIRC.

Terry, amidst all the verbiage and math, are you saying you heard an SP10R and it was noisy even compared to older Technics DD turntables? Or what are you saying?

By the way, JP Jones analysis took into account and measured speed changes over very short time intervals.

I've owned AR, Thorens, Lenco, Gerrard, Philips, Dual and ProJect Debut Carbon turntables, most of them manual (that old classic AR is just a platter, tonearm and on-off switch). The ProJect was the last to be replaced—by a Denon DP-37F (so, a lower-end Denon direct drive). The Denon, with an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, blows all the others away in every relevant category: speed constancy, lack of wow or flutter, lack of rumble, transparency of sound...and, of course, convenience of use. It performs its various automatic functions like a ballet dancer, and the very easy to use cue button is extremely precise in where it picks the arm up and puts it down. The only reservations I have about this table are theoretical. The arm's parameters are mostly controlled by a chip; when you turn the power off, the arm floats. So, both tracking force and anti-skate are somehow provided by computer. But I've owned the table for three years now, and had no problems at all with it. And the tracking force settings are accurate, as confirmed by a scale. So are the anti-skate settings. The whole rig (minus the 2M Blue, which I bought new) cost me about $200. It sounds as good as Red Book CDs (I've got several recordings on vinyl and CD of the same thing—e.g., the famous Kleiber performances of Beethoven's Fifth and Seventh), but SACDs (again, of the same recordings) sound marginally better.

ProJect Debut Carbon Total entry level TT.

My Thorens TD145 is fantastic. Built in the 1975 and I had it professional restored with a custom plinth. Rewired the TP-16 tone arm with Cardas Clear Phono. Has MP110 MM Cart (love it).


@dover , you always make this claim about DD tables. Please provide your documentation to back up these claims. You do know that "jitter" is something that happens at a fairly high rate. I'm sure a steady test tone would reveal this pretty easy, and be easy to document with numbers. Rather funny that I haven't seen these reports.