Hands-On Review:Dangerously dope battle-ready, big-torque turntables



By DJ Flipside

 

Stanton Magnetics has been around since before I was born. Growing up, my old man—a hardcore audiophile—swore by their cartridges. Since I started DJing in the late ’80s I’ve laid hands on a few Stanton turntables and never had any complaints. But I’m a bit of a traditionalist. After years of repairs, I was still with my first turntables—the same ones the guys I hung with in the Village used to play. The ST-100 and STR8-100 have definitely changed all that.


Dig the digital
When MF told me these new turntables had a ton of advanced features, curiosity got the best of me and I agreed to check them out. The first thing that struck me was their seriously fly looks. My old tables look like third-world junk next to these sleek machines. The brushed aluminum finish, sculpted edges, and very substantial-looking mechanics really gave me the feeling I was in for a treat. I was most certainly not to be disappointed.


The fabulous features started showing up as soon as I went to plug these things into my board. The first was line level outputs. As a working club DJ, I cover a broad musical spectrum from rap to electronica to top 40. So I run a couple of CD players, a sampler, and a synth with my system. The line outs gave me a lot more options for setting things up. I could use non-dedicated ins on my mixer or I could run directly into a cassette deck. But the best use for the line outs was to run directly into my sampler.

At home I do a lot of archiving and sampling on my computer. The Stantons’ S/PDIF digital outputs let me keep the signal in the digital domain and run directly into my CD burner. Running a digital signal reduces cable clutter and eliminates cable noise that comes from running analog outs. When I’m working with layering and extensive loops, this can provide a noticeable advantage.

Another I/O feature that could come in handy for scratchers with two-channel mixers is a line in that allows you to plug external gear, like a groove machine or CD player, into the turntable. The signal then runs through and comes out the turntable outs.



It’s all about torque
The feel of these turntables took some getting used to. Like all turntablists, I have an idiosyncratic playing style. But after about five minutes I realized that much of my scratch technique was just compensating for my underpowered old turntables. The Stantons felt like a big hit of energy. With just a little adjustment I could still do all my old licks but now a lot of new possibilities began to emerge. ‘Instant start’ means something altogether different when you’ve got torque enough to really be up to speed instantly. More torque gave me the ability to do much snappier, more intense beat juggling and drumming.


The reverse play was a lot more fun than I anticipated. It was like getting into a whole different universe. In the middle of one of my favorite pieces, I just reversed both tables and was suddenly in an entirely different groove. All my standard moves had the opposite effect. It was very refreshing. I played one forward and one backward for some seriously weird beat mixing, then dropped right back into my original piece. The same trick worked on a bunch of different songs, adding a whole new feel.


Arm yourself
MF sent me both the ST-100 and the STR8-100, which are identical except for the tone arm. I played them together battle style. The straight arm of the STR8-100 provided somewhat more solid tracking, and it can save wear on your LPs by letting you ease up on the tracking weight a bit. But the ST-100 tracked just fine for my purposes, and I’m more used to a curved tone arm. Both tone arms are height adjustable, so I could set them to precisely the height I was used to.


A tune in time
The key adjust feature was instantly useful. Suddenly I was able to do beat mixes and new combinations on the fly with a pair of turntables that had required a synth and sampler before. With the Stantons I could match beats and keys effortlessly, whether changing the time while staying on pitch, or getting the time in sync first and then adjusting the pitch. There are three range settings on the pitch control (±8%, ±16%, ±25%) so I could make radical or subtle adjustments. The manual pitch bend (up to 6%) is a great tool for adding flavor and fine tuning without interrupting the time. I quickly incorporated it into my bag of tricks.


Converted
The upshot is that I’ve seen the light. I may be traditionally minded, but I’m committed to my art. And with these new turntables Stanton has definitely convinced me that more power, digital connectivity, and advanced tone/speed features can make me a better turntablist. That’s all I need to make the change.

Features & Specs
STR8-100 and ST-100

  • Height-adjustable tone arm—straight on the STR8-100 and curved on the ST-100 (all other features are the same)
  • Key adjust
  • S/PDIF digital out
  • Selectable phono or line output
  • 3.5mm line input
  • Manual pitch bend
  • Blue LEDs and indicators
  • Reverse function
  • 3 speeds (33, 44, and 78)
  • Quartz lock
  • Motor-off feature
  • Retractable target light
  • Adjustable feet
  • Includes headshell, slipmat, and all cables
  • 8 pole, 3 phase, brushless DC motor
  • More than 2.2 Kgf/cm starting torque
  • 13" aluminum die-cast platter
  • Less than 0.2% WRMS with 33-1/3 RPM
  • More than 50dB S/N ratio
  • ±8%, ±12%, and ±25% pitch control width settings
  • Electronic brake
  • 16dB channel separation
  • 115V/230V, 50/60Hz power supply
  • 15W power consumptio
  • 18"W x 5"H x 15"D
  • 21 lbs.