At the time that I am writing this article, ultra pitch turntables are common place. It is not a stretch to say that you could easily order one right now and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer. Yet, many scratch dj’s have not taken that step and remain on what is essentially outdated gear. This is unfortunate considering all of the expressive scratching options that will open up as a result of acquiring ultra pitch turntables.
Imagine you owned a piano and you were very accustomed to the full pitch range that it has to offer from the first to the 88th key. With such a rich range of pitch your ability to express yourself tonally is very full. Now imagine you get up one day and walk over to your piano only to find that over 70 keys have been removed, leaving you with just one octave in the mid range to play. Most likely you’d be devastated by the drastic decrease of your expressive options.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the piano, you’d be hard pressed not to notice that any great piano music covers a wide range of octaves and would not be nearly as expressive if it were all suddenly reduced to one octave. Unfortunately, that is similar to how popular turntables like the Technics 1200 are designed. Now I’m not out to bash Technics, but if we’re going to be truly honest, we have to admit to ourselves that its pitch range is extremely limited.
Excuses vs. Moving Forward
If you’re hesitant to dump old gear and move on, you could have several reasons. Perhaps you’re sentimental as you might’ve had your current turntables for awhile. You might feel that your current turntable is built like a tank and has proven its reliability. You may even be a pretty advanced scratch dj despite the limitations of the pitch range on your turntable. However, you should recognize that these are all merely excuses and by not moving on you are avoiding a key that will unlock many doors.
The First and Most Obvious Benefit
Let’s say you have a sample you want to scratch over a beat with, but the tempo of the beat doesn’t match the sample. You want to let the sample play all the way out, but it won’t stay on beat. The obvious solution, regardless of what kind of turntable you own, is to adjust the pitch of the sample so it will match. However, in this case the pitch is so far off that using a turntable without ultra pitch will result in the sample still playing off beat. Clearly, if you were using an ultra pitch turntable this would not be an issue whatsoever and you could solve your problem almost instantly.
Let’s look at another example. Say you have a really cool vocal sample to scratch with, but it sounds way too high and nasally. You can already tell that if you only dropped it down 10 percent or so that it would still sound piercingly high. Without an ultra pitch turntable you’d be likely to toss the sample and forgo what could have been a worthy addition to your arsenal of sounds. On an ultra pitch turntable you wouldn’t have to make such a sacrifice because you could continue to drop the pitch down incrementally until you find an ideal setting.
What About Serato?!
With technology like Serato you could actually record your scratch sounds into your DAW, adjust the pitch of each sample to whatever you like and then drop it into serato or use a plug-in for Serato called Pitch ‘N Time and the above problem would be solved. However, while these are workable solutions, they aren’t the most ideal for on the fly situations. Using Serato for pitch issues also negates the advantage of slower platter speeds which I’ll speak more about below.
Record Control on a Whole New Level
When you scratch on a turntable without ultra pitch you are forced to learn to control the record over a platter speed that may be too extreme for your current skill level. However, when you drop the pitch down considerably the platter spins much slower and the amount of resistance that you experienced with scratching before is lessened to a great degree. This makes it much easier to gain the necessary record control it takes to be really expressive when scratching. When you gain control at those speeds, going back up to standard or extreme speeds becomes much easier to tackle because now you only have to deal with the challenge of extra resistance from the platter.
Now that you have a clear picture of why it is so vital to use ultra pitch turntables, I’d like to give some recommendations of turntables that have an ultra pitch option. The main ones I think are most noteworthy are the Vestax PDX 3000 and the Numark TTX. The PDX 3000 being on the higher end and the TTX being somewhat lower. There are other options, but I think you’ll find that those are the most worthwhile. So in closing, take a leap and don’t look back. I wholeheartedly believe you’ll have zero regrets.