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Please, Remember the Turntables Too…

While I too am a digital DJ and love controllers like the next guy, it pains me when I see controllerists set up their gear directly atop my turntables. Although the word ‘turntable’ contains the word ‘table,’ it is not one and shouldn’t be treated as such. Many old-school DJs, like myself, consider the turntable an instrument. Putting even a humble mini controller atop one then pressing away is akin to using a guitar as a coat hanger or a trumpet as a vase. So to keep everyone in DJ land on good terms,  here are a few alternatives that will help save a turntable or two.


Turntables are one of the most delicate control surfaces out there and can easily be damaged when anything disturbs the tone arm or drive system. DJ turntables are operated by a system called “direct drive”, which is achieved with an electric motor  in the body of the turntable surrounded by magnets. Since the outside edge of the platter floats in the turntable body, all pressure is leveraged on a small bearing and brass collar at the post.  These components are designed to bear relatively little weight, and will get damaged if treated poorly. Those giant magnets under the platter have been known to damage hard drives, so you might want to think twice about storing your laptop there.

As a DJ who first used Final Scratch many years ago and now Scratch Live, I can remember when there was no place for laptops in the club. While laptop stands are now commonplace, I understand that as a burgeoning digital art there is little support, literally, for your platform.  Until the clubs catch up, here are a few tips that can help provide you with a safe and stable surface for your gear, while protecting the gear that other DJs rely on work properly.

Move the Turntable


Moving a turntable to a safe place in the DJ booth is the best option. This is the optimum set up, because it provides you with the most stable surface possible. It also places your controller laptop and the club’s mixer in best ergonomic position possible with the mixer and controller at the same level. This may seem like an extreme measure that would piss off the turntablists, but to be honest, you will be much more respected for taking the time to get things set up properly. Make sure you attempt this during sound check and not in the middle of a set if at all possible.

Plastic Turntable Covers


Technics 1200’s come with nifty plastic covers that can be placed over the turntable and provide a somewhat flat surface on which to place your gear. Unfortunately, the plastic covers are usually missing, broken or without hinges. When there are no hinges, they tend to fall off the edge of the turntable quite easily, so use this option with caution.

Foam Rubber Pad


I’ve seen Ean pull this trick from way back. Carry a piece of foam rubber that can be set over the turntable on which you can place your controller. This will provide you with a cushy surface and dampen the “lazy susan” effect of your controller rotating on the deck. Its still does not not solve the core problem of weight, but it more effectively distributes the pressure across the entire surface, making this choice fairly safe and a lot easier to look at.

Keyboard/Laptop Stand


Not every one wants to carry a laptop stand to their gigs, but this might be the best solution of all provided there is space in the booth. They are after all designed specifically for the job! If space is a concern, there are many compact laptop stands that can be used to float your gear above the turntable without moving anything. We did a review of the best options here.

Be Prepared

However you choose to set up, make sure that you allow for a smooth transition between you and the DJ before and/or after you. Communicate clearly and early with your fellow DJs to formulate strategies for the changeovers. Bring at least one long piece of music on cd or vinyl that you can use to set up and possibly another for the transition to the next DJ. Take care when replacing turntables and CDJs and make sure you leave the DJ booth in as good or better shape than you when entered it. Remember, it’s good gear karma to treat other people’s gear with the respect you would give your own. Everyone should also read the epic post on DJ Etiquette, which covers these and many other scenarios.

About the Author: DJ Mei-lwun is based in San Francisco, California and has held numerous residencies in the past 15 years. An early adopter of DJ technology,  Mei-Lwun was one of the founding members of Soulstice and popularized the mash-up movement in San Francisco.

  • arkhan

     Thanks for the review. It would be nice to compare with Spacetek, Zomo, Sefour…

  • sean

    Does anyone know the type of controller shown in the photos?

    • it’s Vestax’s VCI-100 digital controller and it’s available at the DJ Tech Tools Store

  • licks

    DJ Me-mo that sounds rad. I might try find the time to build something like that for myself.

    Another trick I’ve found that works for me. A lot of clubs have a stand straight in front for serato/traktor djs to place their laptop. I’ve found it works quite well for me to place the controller in this spot (prime position) and then a grab a bar stool and put it over to the side for the laptop/soundcard/hdd. Makes the laptop screen less of a focus too which to my mind is ideal for crowd interaction.

  • Frank

    No problem.Hinges are on it´s way, at the weekend i´ll take some measurements.End of next week should be some results…

  • Mudo

    Frank I posted at same time of you, sorry!

    I will very glad to see your develops!

    Go for it!


  • VeinMelter

    will always remember that.

    PS: I’m a big fan of Soulstice! Too bad that project was short-lived.

  • You always have to work with the venue to eliminate the unnecessary junk they keep in their booths. I say junk because I have showed up to clubs and literally found junk (half working equipment, shotty wires, etc) in the booth, usually due to the house DJ also being the bartender, bouncer, wait staff, or the owners brother in law. I did a regular stint at a club that had a copy of Candy Girl on vinyl in their booth, along with some junk Gemini CD players, a straight armed SL-1200 that looked bootleg and a really crappy mixer. Those were the days, spinnin for the beer and the love. And maybe $20.

  • Frank, although not all 1200’s have hinge slots, your idea with the hinges and custom cover/table is brilliant. i’d love to see that when you are done with it.

  • B33SON

    I have to admit. I’ve been caught with no room plenty of times and end up using my hoodie as in place of a foam pad. Don’t know if I’m really adequately protecting the turntable, but it works from my end.

  • paddiosf

    Im one of those old-school dj’s who has converted over to digital mixing or djing and I still use my 1200’s as my tool or mixing with my Serato, I was recently down in Brazil back in May of 2009 and all the local guys never ever use Turntables and most of them have no idea on how to use turntables and some ask me the proper way of using turntables , I understand why they dont have the experience with turntables based on the inablity of not have vinyl in the Latin America Market place..

  • Mudo

    Use turntables as a controllers and maybe people will get some interest on them more than “table”.

    Another solution is make custom covers for turntables to make suitable controllers over them. Less space.

  • Frank Tourette

    Ok, after I´ve read the article I bought two of the plastic cover hinges of the 1210.The are about 20€.Now I´ll take some measures of the turntable a get me a bent piece of aluminum so I get a table which is inserted in the turntable.A layer of thin cellular rubber(moosgummi/zellkautschuk)will prevent the controller from slipping.Maybe its possible to make with an angle so it´s a little bit more ergonomic to play on.
    I´ll make a post in the forum when I get the parts together with some pictures…

  • T.M

    Some great ideas here.
    How about some photos of your setup guys and gals?
    DJ ME-MO…I would love to see a photo of yours.

  • DJ ME-MO

    Sorry,that should read bothering.

  • DJ ME-MO

    I’ve solved that problem by building a shelf,out of a piece of plywood two piano hinges and two of the wire sheet music holders from Casio keyboards.The feet(made from the heavy wire sheet music holders)fold doen 90 degrees and go on the outside of the 1200’s or CDJ’s,and the 3/4″ plywood shelf spans across to the other side.Giving me a shelf the same size as both the turntables and mixer.I painted it flat black,once set in place it virtually disappears.I now have room for my lap top,mixer,and controler without boyhering any of the clubs set up,and none of my set up is piled on their gear.I just plug my mixer into theirs and it’s show time.The DJ on next can even put a recorg on the platter and cue it up with my set up in place.I had to come up with something,I was following and playing in front of a bunch of crybabies.I can also just unplug from their mixer and move my whole set up out of the way all at once so I’m out of the booth very quickly.

  • Orologeria

    by the way it is true that panasonic gonna dicontiue to build the technics turntable? im a contrlerist but thats so bad


    Just a note to mention that the new X1 has a hole it it on the underside to fit on a turntable spindle.
    big rubber feet stop the platter from moving also.
    makes setting up without moving anything a breeze.

    Moving equipment in clubs is almost impossible.
    the sound guys hate it unless your paul van dyk or sasha.

    one of the reasons i did not go for the VCI 100 despite it’s great custom mapping by Ean.

    Just to much of a pain to find space for it.
    Midifighter and X1 no worries.

    just my thoughts!!!

  • Or, even better, learn how to use a turntable and “keep it real”.

    The hurdles we have to jump over because the club / venue people…

  • Last.Comes.First

    What i found works really well is usising one of two of the rubber ice cube makers. They go right over the turntable or any other surface, and are super stable or non slip! Definately work giving a try!

  • midifidler

    Commenting “First” is so freakin lame…

    Why not wait for 30 seconds and think of something constructive to say.

    Anyways I cant believe there is not all ready a turntable cover designed to act as a controller surface allready.

    Designed correctly they could fold up to the size of a large laptop. I would pick two up in a flash as finding covers is allways a challenge!

  • Strangely I’ve never had to put anything on Vinyl turntables, simply because every club seems to now have CDJ’s only! That said, the big 1000’s are probably even more tricky to place things on due to the jog wheel being more prominent than say on a 1200 (2000’s are prob even worse with that screen haha!). Like most above, stands are really the only way to go. Moving shit about will get you grief no end, it looks tacky from in front of the booth too (seen it a few times while on the other side haha) doesn’t look pretty when the next guy comes on and starts playing tetris with expensive gear!

  • Jimbob5000

    As an Otus user, I’m wondering how traditional DJs would react when I put it on top of a turntable. After all, it is designed to be placed on top of a 1210. The feet distribute the weight and pressure to the turntable housing,the platter isn’t being touched and there even is a hole on the bottom of the otus so there’s no pressure on the spindle. Problem is, I know that, and some people here do as well. Others, especially old-school DJs, probably don’t.

    The typical setup I come across in clubs here is a DJM500/600/700, two 1210s next to that and two CDJ800/1000 next to those. Even if there was still enough space for a midi controller, You’d have to run miles between that and the mixer (and to be honest, I still prefer using the analog mixer to any controller, wchich I mapped accordingly). I was even thinking about bringing a compact 2 channel mixer to avoid that, but that also needs extra space and an extra power plug.

  • do for love

    i sometimes use an old record with 4 foam blocks glued to it to set my controllers up on turns.

    make sure the blocks are high enough to clear the tonearm and spindle. it should be nice & stable and doesn’t damage any bits!

  • Patch

    Right on! Show some respect to your turntables.

  • AO

    Regarding using turntables as controller stands, this is a case where Tech12’s reputation as being tanks doesn’t help the matter 😉

    Good point about the magnet vs. the harddrive!

  • Abyrne7

    I always thought TechTools would someday sell or create some sort of padding to absorb vibrations/add height to small depth controllers, or foam type material to fit over CDJ’s or Turntables. I personally don’t feel comfortable putting my midi equipment on any sort of stand, I tend to bang away on my controllers too much. I made a device from pink styrofoam and spray painted it black, but its kind of guetto looking with pink scrapes shown beneath the paint and just looks unprofessional…

  • Bodega Brad

    Nice article. Ean, you should design/sell a portable device that fits over a turntable and steadies a controller. While Techs have a dustcover, there is the bump on it for the tone arm. A totally flat dust cover with a foam top that could fold up flat would be ideal. I won’t charge much for the idea…lol

  • Anonymous

    Nice article. Ean, you should design/sell a portable device that fits over a turntable and steadies a controller. While Techs have a dustcover, there is the bump on it for the tone arm. A totally flat dust cover with a foam top that could fold up flat would be ideal. I won’t charge much for the idea…lol.

  • ToS

    In the light of article beeing half-informative (“don’t put anyting on the platters but we dont have a solution”) why not creating a follow-up DIY controller stand.
    Measure the sizes of cjd and 1020 and give ppl the specs, get someone to create a small table that would go over the whole turntable/cdj.
    Ow and don’t forget the mini-size for korg/akai mini controllers, to be put ontop of mixers 😀 .

  • DJ transientOne

    [quote comment=”27110″]Great article. I use the Stanton Uberstand … and it works a treat. Great for keeping your equipment off the platters.[/quote]


  • Another top quality article! : )

    Yeah, all these options are definitely worth considering, I tend to have that piece of foam with me just in case. (it fits nicely inside the laptop bag too)

  • charo

    a tip on foam: hardware stores sell a piece of foam roughly the same size as the one in the picture above with vci-100 on tt for use in insulating wall/window AC units.

    or call your local electronics store and nicely explain the size of the foam you need and see if perhaps they have any from electronics packaging.

  • dj ally

    The drive home message of this? Have a plan. . . and a backup! When I opened for Aoki he used the sampler on the DJM-800 and rocked a loop for a couple of minutes while he set up. I don’t know if that will work if you’re NOT a superstar though. . .

  • Double DutchDj

    Unless you’ve got the whole night, In my 13 years experience I find it more time’s than not unrealistic to move around anything in a dj box without some one crying. I’m a scratch dj and it make’s my sh*t itch when digital dj’s rest there kit on top of turntable’s, More often than not these guys ignorance is down to the fact there pretty new to the game. Plus as a turntableist I rely on having at least half a proper scratch setup (one 1210 + one scratch mixer). So I’ve always had to drag a fair bit of heavy kit with me from venue to venue, I even keep a pint size table in the car just in case there is know other option. Then throw in all the dvs cable’s and power supply, all this amounts to is a massive pain in the ass, which is why I’m desperate for a decent moving platter controller for traktor, which doesn’t exist yet! Something like the ns7 but more practical or a mini HID Qfo please NI!

    I’m waiting for the day when some one puts a G clamp like carpenters use either side of stand, whoala a decent sturdy solution that clamps on to the side of any table edge.

  • Abyrne7

    DJ Techtools should just by a whack of foam and sell it! I use the foam that came with my midifighter and just plop it on top of CDJ’s, it works great. But believe it or not it’s somewhat difficult to find some for my VCI 100 SE adn Akai LPD 8???

  • N.M.

    You should also mention that turntables are always connected to the mixer with a ground-cable. these cables tend to be very short. therefore your moving-the-turntable method might cause a lot of distortion if the cables are accidently removed.

  • Great article. I use the Stanton Uberstand … and it works a treat. Great for keeping your equipment off the platters.

  • dj farmerJAmes

    I always take a plank with me. This works great where the booth has an edge running around the front. The plank goes on top over all the other gear (assuming the edge is high enough). It is also great for extending a tight setup (using beer crates or any other handy support)

  • N.B

    In the UK a company called HTFR supply covers for CDJs, not sure how strong they are though…

  • Lo.Definition

    Hah! I’ve been trying to find foam and it might as well be like searching for El Dorado. Great tips, I’ve always wondered what turntablists think when their precious 1200’s get used as a stand(and a bad one at that!). Any recommendations on CDJs? besides just unplugging them?

  • In San Francisco, DJ booth real estate is at a prime in our tiny bars/nightclubs; however, I still think club owners really need to start considering making extra room for controllers when designing future DJ booths.

    Honestly, there’s enough room for 2 CDJs, 2 Technics 1200s, a mixer, and usually a laptop stand. If they can fit all that it certainly can’t be that difficult to add an extra little cubby for a APC40 or VCI-100.

    We’ve gotten to the point where we try to always bring our own plastic Technics 1200 covers. Don’t even own turntables, just the covers. Clubs can never find theirs, an odd trend considering how expensive a piece of equipment a turntable is. But when I use my VCI-100 with Traktor and often DJ with friends using an APC40 & Live, moving turntables or CDJs is waaaay too much of a headache.

    Good post though, I just hope the ultimate solution is a little extra surface area in DJ booth layouts as opposed to stacking fancy control surfaces on top of each other.

  • Last.Comes.First

    nicejob! really good article… and First?

  • first!!!

    cool read