direct drive vs. belt drive?

How would you rate a medium grade turntable as better? belt drive or direct drive?
Search the archives. Most seem to prefer belt drives, a minority prefer direct drives.

If you have specific tables in mind then tell us what they are ... you question as stated is too broad. There are very good and very poor examples of either design.

In some instances (DJ use) direct drive is the only option.
I have one of each.
A Denon DP-59L direct drive.. $800 new I paid $250, no cartridge. Got an Ortofon Super OM20 for it.
A Dual CS7000 Golden One belt drive... $800 new, I paid $370 with a nice MC cartridge
The belt vs direct is not a big issue.
The total package of table and cartridge and how it sounds is more important.
Personally I would say either one can be just fine.
It's a toss up and I'll let the folks who know their physics comment on the technical details. I believe belt is considered the more desirable feature of the two due to "isolation" of a belt helping to remove motor borne noise from being amplified. Belt drives are a little "fussier" and have to have belts changed and an eye kept of speed adjustments and such. Direct drives have qualities such as speed stability and ease of use. I have both and I prefer my Thorens 126 sonically over my JVC QLY5F. (But not a night and day difference) I believe both would be considered "mid range" turntables. The JVC is sweet as it has a tonearm that has servo's and it can track any record I own including the most warped in my collection. I use a Ortofon X5 high output moving coil on the Thorens and a Shure MK V on the JVC. I bought both new, The Thorens in 1979 and the JVC in 83. I still use and enjoy them. Both have been rock solid reliable and I would recommend either. You'll find that a cartridge makes a notable difference in sound. I have owned various Shures and Ortofons and wore out a Fidelity Research low output moving coil. The Fidelity Research was a beautiful cartridge and on the Thorens was wonderful. If your new to vinyl a Shure cartridge is a great place to start.

Have fun!
Direct drive offers the advantage of being able to spin the record by hand to brush it. watching my pal drag a record brush over his thorens while the belt drove the platter always made me shudder.
Steelhead, did you try the Ortofon X5 on the JVC? A friend of mine has one of those servo arm JVCs and was wondering how my Ortofon would perform in his deck. Thanks.
There are at least theoretical and most likely practical advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. But at the level you're shopping for, I'd agree with Elizabeth and Steelhead that the overall construction quality of a turntable will have the most impact - which is to say, how rigid and nonresonant, how good the bearings, how good the motor and speed control, tonearm, platter, etc. I use a Technics SL-1200 direct-drive because I like the convenience and durability and quality at the price, and it sounds good enough to me, but I've made it sound quite a bit better than stock through some modifications, which also have also made it more costly. Whether I could get better sound if I invested around the same total amount in a used high-end belt-driver, maybe fully-suspended, I don't know and can't say, but I'm sure it wouldn't be as compact a package or as easy to use. Pick your poison and try to do it well while leaving enough left over for a decent cartridge is about all I can say, since it's very tough to ever comparitively audition turntables under otherwise-identical circumstances before purchasing. And auditioning affordable BD vs. DD? - I don't know if there's any shop in the country where one could do that.