Originally Posted by nathantw
I don't know if this will help any, but the newer turntables seem to be belt drive.
They are actually a mixture of belt and direct drive. What seems to (happily) disappeared are the idler wheel drive products that had a number of inherent problems.
The problem with belt drives is that the belt wears down after a while and needs replacement.
I don't think I've ever seen a worn TT belt in the 58 or so years that I've been involved with vinyl playback. What I have seen is stretched and brittle belts, but since the 70s it usually takes several decades for any of that to happen to a well-made belt. Being used heavily may even help ****** that sort of thing.
The advantage was that they were quiet.
The noise in turntable does not come from the belt. It comes from the drive motor and the main bearing of the turntable. The drive motor's rotational speed, the quality of its bearings and the balancing of its parts are the main issues. For the longest time turntables had motors that rotated at either 3600 or 1800 rpm. The frequency of noise due to primary imbalance is then 60 or 30 Hz, both of which (especially 60 Hz) are reproduced well by good audio systems. Bad news. In the 60s relatively inexpensive motors with other desirable characteristics that rotated at 600 or less rpm became readily available. The frequency of noise due to primary imbalance of a 300 rpm motor is 5 Hz which few audio systems respond to with appreciable vigor.
Some of the ones from the 80's were direct drive turntables. They operated without belts and had one motor turning the platter. Those had the advantage of not having a belt to wear down and were accurate but audio buffs didn't like them because they could be noisy (motor noise I guess).
Turntables that spin slowly do so partially because whatever motor system they may have, the motor has to have a large number of poles or internal electromagnets. In a direct drive turntable the motor is directly coupled to the turntable with no isolation at all. A drive belt functions as a mechanical isolator, and a pretty effective one.
One last type was the linear turntable where the arm that holds the needle was parallel to the record thus having zero error. It could play a record while the player was vertical. B&O had a record player like that.
Now you are switching horses without telling us. Linear tracking relates to the tone arm, not the turntable platter. You can have a wide variety of types of tone arms that you mix and match with any of the dffferent kinds of turntables we've been talking about. You can have a linear tracking tone arm with either a belt, direct or even idler drive.
Playing a record when the turntable is in an arbitrary orientation is a matter of tone arm balancing methodology, not whether it is a linear tracking turntable. There have long been traditional bent-arm turntables that could track a record well in any orientation including upside down or on its side. There are linear trackers that can't do this. The difference relates to some internal details of tone arm balancing and how the tracking force is applied.
I personally use a Sony semi-automatic (needle lifts only at the end of the record) direct drive turntable I purchased in the 80's for $129. It has a variable speed knob with a strobe that tells if the record is running fast, slow, or just right (just like Technics DJ turntables today). It still works today many, many decades later and is still accurate and sounds great.
If you're in the market for a turntable I would get a direct drive semi-automatic with a strobe to check the speed. The only turntables made today that I've seen are belt driven USB types unless you're an audiophile, then they're the mega-thousand dollar pieces of art where the arm alone costs more than some people's entire stereo system.
Naah, some of the modern belt drive turntables with far better quality than the ca. $100 cheapies can be had for just a few $100 more. Rega and Music Hall have good options in this price range, but so do others like Audio Technica and Technics. IMO just about every actually useful technical refinement to the turntable art can be implemented for well under $1,000. After that, its all about audio jewelry.