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American Audio HTD 4.5
The Next DJ Turntable Contender Steps Up
By Robin Smith

American Audio is one of the brands under which the American DJ group of companies sells professional audio/DJ equipment and lighting. While American DJ has been a key player in the club DJ and lighting market for many years, it has never made inroads into the selective vinyl-turntablist market; this is a market niche where only a few key brands dominate. With the release of the HTD 4.5 turntable, American Audio has stepped up with a full-featured, high-torque turntable that will compete with the like of Technics, Vestax, Numark and Stanton for the turntablist’s dollar.

As a die-hard Technics 1200 Mk II jock, I always approach a new turntable with eager anticipation and some trepidation. I have tried many different turntables during the years, and while many of them incorporate new and tempting features, I always seem to return to my tried-and-true Technics 1200s, primarily for its build-quality and reliability.
After using the American Audio HTD 4.5s for a number of weeks, I am impressed by its build-quality and features. I feel confident that it would stand up to regular abuse on the road. The base is made of a dense rubber that is excellent at absorbing unwanted vibrations. The top is made of a high-quality metal, with a nifty metallic-enamel black finish that almost sparkles. At 29 pounds, it is a solid beast, which bodes well for its robustness during transportation and repeated setup. Surprisingly, for a new scratch DJ turntable, the HTD 4.5 features a “traditional” S-shaped tonearm; almost every other turntable in this market niche now comes with a straight tonearm, which is the newest “fad” in the turntablist world.

The HTD 4.5’s cable hookups are located in a recessed channel at the back of the turntable. While they are hard to access, once hooked up, the cables are neatly tucked out of the way. As is common with most new turntable models, the RCA and ground cables are no longer hard-wired into the turntable. Instead, there is a pair of external RCA connectors and a ground connector to which you can attach the included audio cable. The cable is of high quality and neatly integrates the ground wire into the RCA cable; one less cable to lose or damage. This is a testament to American Audio’s attention to detail. Anyone who frequently transports a pair of Technics knows how easy it is to cut the skinny ground cable while closing the lid of a turntable flight case.

The HTD 4.5 gets its name from the 4.5 kg/cm of rotational torque its direct-drive motor boasts. This is three times that of the Technics 1200 and the highest torque I have seen on any DJ turntable! The result is a super-fast pickup time. If you hold the platter still with your hand, you can feel the strength of the motor pulling. The HTD 4.5 features separate Stop and Start control knobs that let you change the pickup and braking speed of the platter. At its fastest setting, the Start control causes the turntable to start almost instantly. Set it to the slowest setting and it takes a full one-and-a-half platter rotations to get up to speed.

The Stop control, aka brake adjust, probably has the greatest value as you can create varied skid-like sound effects by stopping the platter while it plays a sound. At its highest setting, the platter stops immediately; no wind-down sound is even heard. This setting is almost too abrupt, so I had it backed off a little as I like the little “skid” sound. When set to its slowest setting, the platter would consistently stop one-and-a-half rotations after the button was pressed. The braking mechanism is electronically controlled, and the platter would almost push itself the full one-and-a-half rotations, even if you tried to stop it sooner. This took a little getting used to.

To test the HTD 4.5s “real-world” pickup and brake times, I played a locked tone from a battle-break album and experimented with various settings. With the startup time at its quickest, the platter was up to full speed in roughly 1/16th to 1/8th of a turn; impressive when compared to the full turn my Technics 1200s requires. Braking was equally impressive: It essentially stopped on a dime, within 1/16th of a turn or less when set to the quickest setting! Adjustments such as these allow you greater control over your DJ performances, because you can tweak the settings to better meet your needs. They are a great feature of the HTD 4.5!

The HTD 4.5 also features two Stop/Start buttons: one in the traditional position and one in the top-left corner. This is becoming a standard on many turntables as battle-style DJs invariably rotate the turntable 90° counterclockwise to move the tonearm away from their hands. With this additional button, there is now a Start/Stop button nearest the crossfader, whether the turntable is on the left- or right-hand side of the mixer.

The pitch fader felt a bit cheaper than on some other high-end turntables. Both the pitch fader and the platter sit completely above the turntable surface unlike the Technics (which has the pitch fader and platter located in slightly recessed areas). While this is unusual visually, it makes it easier to grab the pitch fader during scratches that involve a great deal of pitch manipulation.
The pitch control has three range settings: ±10%, ±20% and ±50%. The fader resolution seems very precise, and having this range of pitch control is definitely a bonus for DJs who are familiar with the traditional ±8% of other turntables. One problem that plagues other turntables is a lag in the pitch controls responsiveness, where changing the pitch setting results in a slight delay before the turntable responds. This is quite frustrating for turntablists and severely limits their ability to perform advanced pitch-fader scratches. Thankfully, this was not the case with the HTD 4.5, which had a very quick response during pitch adjustments, probably due to the high-torque motor.

To engage the 50% setting, you have to press both the 10% and 20% buttons simultaneously. While I understand that manufacturing and real estate constraints can limit the number of buttons placed on a turntable, it would have been nice if there was a separate button for the 50% setting. Quick adjustments while scratching are considerably harder when you have two buttons to press instead of one.

The turntable also features 33, 45 and 78 rpm settings. Similar to the pitch-range setting, the 78 rpm setting is engaged by pressing both the 33 and 45 rpm button simultaneously. This is less of a concern, as 78 rpm is an infrequently used setting. I do appreciate its inclusion though, as more options can only lead to more creativity.

To test the turntable’s responsiveness, I performed the following extreme test of the high-torque motor. I played a locked tone set to 33 rpm and -50% pitch (the slowest the turntable will spin). I then simultaneously pressed the Quartz-Lock button and the 33 rpm and 45 rpm buttons, with the goal being to instantly change the turntable to 78 rpm with a 0% pitch adjust. The turntable spun up to speed within roughly 1/8th of a turn! Disengaging the Quartz-Lock and pressing just the 33 rpm button (thus setting it back to 33 rpm, -50%) resulted in a speed adjustment again within 1/8th of a turn. This is impressive and further attests to the motors strength and the turntables build quality.

All of the buttons are a nice size and easy enough for anyone to press. The buttons are coated in a dense rubber that feels slip-resistant when compared to a regular metal button. The turntable also includes a removable light that plugs into a single RCA jack-style connector and is quite bright. The HTD 4.5 also features a Reverse button that allows the turntable to play in reverse with the same range of controls. The speed with which it change

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