A digital turntable can be one of two different types of product. The first is a kind of equipment used by DJs that lets them combine the analog effects of playing a vinyl record with digital sound effects and features. The second is as a means of converting vinyl records to a digital format to be stored on a computer.
The DJ version of a digital turntable helps bring together both traditional and modern techniques. Traditional techniques involve physically manipulating a record, for example to create a scratch effect, to replay part of a musical track, or to go directly to part of a track. DJs can also use an electronic tool such as a cross-fader to control the way the transition from one track to another occurs. Digital techniques involve similar effects, but with digital recordings of music: in other words, computer sound files. This can allow more elaborate effects without the physical limitations of manipulating records.
The digital turntable usually allows the DJ to simulate the traditional analog effects, but using sound files rather than physical records. Common features include a USB or similar connection to hook up the equipment to a computer. There may be a digital display giving information about timing and rhythm. Often a digital turntable will be physically designed to resemble an analog turntable, sometimes even having a touchpad where the record would be. This allows the DJ access to the digital technology, but lets them maintain control over some elements using the same physical motions as they would use with records.
The second form of digital turntable is a physical record player that has a USB connection rather than an analog audio connection. Rather than being amplified and sent to a hi-fi system, the noises made by the needle running along grooves are converted into a digital signal. The signal can then be transmitted to a computer.
The most common use of this type of digital turntable is to retrieve the music from a record and save it to a digital form such as an MP3 file. The digitized file can then be stored on a computer immediately or put through an editing application to remove crackling and hissing. The record owner can then either put the discs away for safekeeping or dispose of them to free up physical space.
There are several connection options for these devices. Most have a USB lead that can connect to a computer. Some instead have a USB socket so the user can save the data on a USB drive. A few older models will burn the music directly to a CD in real time.