Let's spare you the suspense: there's no one "best" motorized deck because they all have their advantages and disadvantages. The key is to figure out what you need, and then pick the type that will serve your needs best.
For some DJs, having a motorized platter that spins when you hit play is an absolute game-changer. It can make your mixing feel more natural, add an element of “performance” to your set (and give you something to show off on camera!), and even make it easier for some people with smaller or weaker hands to turn the platters (for example).
But it also comes at a cost. Motorized decks are generally more expensive than static ones – sometimes significantly so – and they require maintenance, as well as having high power consumption.
You'll also find that there are now three types of motorized decks on offer: direct drive, belt drive, and direct drive with "reverse torque". So let's take a look at each in turn…
You’re not a real DJ unless you use motorized jog wheels, right? That’s what some DJs will tell you. For some DJs, especially those who have been weaned on turntables, DJing is simply something you do with a motorized turntable set-up, and such DJs hate using static jog wheels, of the type found on most modern DJ controllers and decks.
They’ll tell you they like the feel of inertia as the platter pulls at their fingers when they touch the vinyl, which itself is made light to manipulate thanks to the felt “slip mats” between it and the hard metal of the spinning platter.
For others, it’s an aesthetic or appearance thing – there’s something undeniably hypnotic about spinning platters, getting more respect from crowds, and more likes and eyeballs on social media.
But spinning platters also have their downsides. Devices with (unnecessarily) powerful electric motors in them use more power, weigh more, cost more, and may break more easily. You need to weigh up whether the things you love about motorized platters outweigh these definite downsides.
There are three kinds of motorized technologies for DJs to use.
So you have decided to become a DJ and you are looking for the best options when it comes to the tech. There are three types of technologies you should consider: motorized, non-motorized, and motorized non-motorized.
What's great about the motorized Dj technologies is that they put the power in your hands. It’s like having a Ferrari that drives itself—but can also be driven by a novice with no experience.
Non-motorized technologies are great for those who want to learn how to DJ without all of the bells and whistles that come from motorized technologies.
Now, as you may have guessed, motorized non-motorized technologies offer the best of both worlds: traditional DJing mixed with futuristic features like self-driving technology.
There are three types of motorized DJ technologies — turntable copies, hybrid jog wheels, and motorized jog wheels.
1. Turntable Wannabe.
With the advent of digital DJ software, a lot of people have actually switched back to using turntables. But there are also jog wheels or platters designed to look and feel exactly like turntables. The Rane Twelve is the best example,a Serato control deck that’s the same size as a turntable, with the same sized platter. It feels totally like using a turntable, without the tonearm of course, but apart from that, it’s uncanny. But there are also smaller examples, such as the standalone Denon DJ SC6000M, and the Rane One Serato controller, both of which have smaller platters, that nonetheless have that same feel.
The advantage of this type of system is that it feels very much like turntables – but the disadvantage is that the way they work (they are all actually the same tech because both brands are owned by the same company) means that there is a raised adaptor, about 2″ across, right in the middle of the jog wheel. Doesn’t really make a difference on the big ones, but it might annoy you on the smaller versions.
In this DJ mix, Jamie takes on the Denon DJ SC6000's in a creative 4 channel set.
2. Hybrid jog wheels:
Pioneer DJ has crafted a beautiful, elegant, and amazing piece of kit with the DDJ-REV7 Serato controller, combining the best of the old style of turntable and the new. With its transparent top, it allows you to see all the display features you would expect from a jog wheel-style unit, but also has what could be called "turntable copies" beneath it. It even features a high torque motor for spinning them, although there is no spindle in this unit.
Lawrence James shows of all the features of the incredibly powerful DDJ-REV7
Thus far, there are only a few of these units on the market – supply is severely limited at present. Still, so far it seems that this device has all the benefits of previous Pioneer DJ products while adding some new flair and efficiency.
3. Motorized jog wheels:
A popular feature on some of the most advanced DJ controllers and decks. These are platters that look and work like normal jog wheels, but they have a motor inside that allows them to spin automatically. There are three main types of motorized jog wheels.
The Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk3 is a Native Instruments DJ controller that uses jog wheels instead of turntables. Although this may sound like a strange concept, the jog wheels are actually quite fun to use. They are very light and easy to use, making them great for DJing on the go.
However, there are some drawbacks to using jog wheels instead of turntables. The biggest drawback is that they don't feel like real turntables at all—they don't have any resistance when you spin them, which means it's impossible to scratch or add effects with them. This also means that if you want to do any complex mixing tricks (like beatmatching), then you'll probably want to use turntables instead.
Classic – Classic motorized jog wheels resemble regular jog wheels, but with a motor inside. They usually have markings on their surface to help you beat match by eye, and they spin at different speeds depending on whether you’re in vinyl or CD mode.
Touch-sensitive – Touch-sensitive motorized jog wheels are designed for scratching and performing turntablist techniques. They have brushes underneath their surface which make them feel like actual vinyl records, so you can scratch as you normally would. However, they also have a motor inside so they can spin automatically when you’re beat matching.
Haptic – Haptic motorized jog wheels are another type of touch-sensitive wheel, but with some key differences. The haptic feedback is provided by magnets instead of brushes, which means the force feedback is more consistent (for better scratching) and there’s less wear and tear over time (for longer-lasting performance).
To sum it up...
Ultimately, I think with the above tools you can make a great start for yourself. Depending on where your interests lie and how you develop as a producer through working with these (as well as other materials), it’s possible you may want to look into hardware that covers other aspects of production in which case, good luck, and happy making!