Rotary vs Coil Tattoo Machine: Reviews & Buyers Guide

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If you’re just getting started in the world of tattooing then you might be wondering what the difference between rotary and coil tattoo machines is.

Both rotary and coil tattoo machines get the same end result which is to move the needle in and out of the dermis (secondary skin layer) with each penetration. The way they do this is very different though.

Because they are very different machines it pays to do your research on both types. That’s why we decided to make this guide to help you learn what sets them apart from each other. That way you can get the best one for your needs.

Differences Between Rotary and Coil Tattoo Machines

Both Rotary and Coil tattoo machines can be used to create amazing tattoos but they accomplish this differently.

Mechanism of Action

The coil tattoo machine uses an electromagnetic current passed through a pair of coils which triggers the machine’s armature bar to draw and release. The effect is almost hammer-like because the release of the springs causing the armature bar to basically tap the attached needle into the skin. This also creates the buzzing sound that people recognize from tattoo shops.

Rotary tattoo machines have a small motor that moves the attached tattoo needle up and down in a smooth motion. This makes for more fluid needle movement than with coil machines. First, the motor rotates clockwise and moves the attached needle bar, driving it up and down so the tattoo needles will move in and out of the skin easily.


Overall, coil tattoo machines are not as versatile as rotary because you can do both shading and lining with rotary.

Noise Output

Noise output is another main difference between the two. Rotary tattoo machines are significantly quieter than coil machines which have a buzzing sound.

The reason for this comes down to the simpler design of the rotary machine. The coil machine gives off a clicking sound because of the armature bar being released.

Needle Range

Needle range is another difference to take into consideration here. Rotary tattoo machines have better needle movement. The coil machines on the other hand have a choppier movement.

Rotary Tattoo Machines vs Coil Tattoo Machines: Which One is Better?

The general consensus is that rotary tattoo machines are better than coil tattoo machines.

The smaller size of the rotary machine and quieter sound makes it not only easier to use but easier on the ears as well. The quieter sound also serves as a placebo effect in that people associate louder noise with pain, so a quieter machine will be perceived as less painful.

Tattoo artists also claim that a rotary tattoo machine is easier to tattoo for longer because of the lighter weight not causing their hand to get sore.

The setup of the rotary tattoo machine is also easier because the needles can be just plugged in and then you’re ready to go. Cleanup is also easier.

Have your own opinion on which one is better? Let us know in the comments below.