A few days ago, a group of members from the Pro-Ject Turntable Owners group on Facebook were invited down to the UK distributors head office to view the range of Pro-Ject turntables, perform a cartridge test of the 2M series, Quintet Series and Cadenza range as well as get our eyes (and hands!) on the brand new Debut Pro turntable.
As part of the demonstrations, we were also teased with an X1 vs Debut Pro shoot out.
The system for the test was reasonably spec'd. It featured the stock cartridges and no upgrades on the table itself (as it comes from the factory), a Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 phono stage, a Synthesis Roma 753 AC 50w class A valve amp and Jamo C95 II loudspeakers.
Music was "You Move Me" by the Robert Cray Band [In My Soul album].
It's worth reminding ourselves of the range of turntables from Pro-Ject:
- Elemental - a fun, beginner range for those new to vinyl
- Primary - entry level audiophile table with a smart tone arm
- Juke Box - all in one turntables with integrated amplifiers
- T Line - fun turntable, glass platter, sub-platter design and 8.6" aluminium tonearm and thicker plinth
- Debut Line - one piece, carbon/aluminium tonearm, sub-platter design with a thicker platter, quality Ortofon 2M series cartridge, steel platter and speed box
- RPM Line - audiophile, displaced / separate motor design, incredible looks - conceptual design features with thick platters
- The Classic - elegantly framed turntables, sub-chassis design with aluminium sub-platters, 9" tonearm - capable of MM and MC playback
- X Line - high end audiophile turntables, designed to extract maximum detail from the groove and more natural in the presentation
- Signature - luxury, high end turntables, no compromise on quality of components, and features.
The Debut Pro is a celebration of 30 years of Pro-Ject Audio making quality turntable for the market. And it's release comes just a year after the Debut Carbon Evo which was a Debut Carbon DC with some brilliant new features and finishes.
The Debut series is everything that playback should be: it's easy, it's incredibly fun and it makes vinyl playback accessible and enjoyable irrespective of it's setting. The new Debut Pro features some significant upgrades over the Debut Evo. Namely:
- New Pick IT Pro cartridge
- New gimbal assembly, allowing VTA and Azimuth adjustment
- Nickel-plated aluminium bearing block
- Aluminium dampened platter
- Upgraded dampened feet
It's priced at £699 vs the £499 of the Debut Pro and comes only in a single finish: satin black.
The X1 is the first turntable in the X series (X1, X2, 6Perspex SB, Xtension line).
In comparison to the Debut Pro, it features:
- a thicker plinth
- thick acrylic platter
- Pick IT 2M cartridge
- VTA and Azimuth adjustment
- Deeper/Wider platform (more overall mass)
In terms of what each turntable range is designed to do:
- DEBUT started life at £109 when it released in the 90's - it's a turntable that's designed to be fun, make music playback easy and accessible to all. Sound is full bodied - it's not shouty or overly "in your face" - it's very forward, incredibly dynamic in the bass and it's engaging. It's the best of the T1 + original Debut series that's evolved to bring audiophile characteristics without requiring a system that's ultra high end. It's a table designed for the everyday system and will still sound great - so if you're running it on an entry level integrated amp or an old CD/tuner/amp unit - this table is designed to grip you and give you a fun, all-rounder experience.
- The X line however is altogether different. The X1 is the entry level table in the range but everything from the big brother (the X2) filters down here proportionally: acrylic platter, large plinth, oversized platform, adjustable VTA and Azimuth and a thicker, more dynamic tonearm. The X series is designed to extract detail. The better the cartridge - the more this table shows it's true potential. The additional mass allows you to explore more in the groove without it becoming too unrefined in terms of details and dynamic range.
So what did we find?
Well - the two tables despite being seperated by only £100 couldn't have been more different....
When it came to the X1: The presentation is more balanced - more natural. You're likely hearing a closer match to how this was mixed. Smaller details are carried through - and the percussion seemed to come alive. You could really sense the "click" and the "punch" on the drum skin - and smaller details like fret adjustment and baby cymbal crashes were more apparent. Certainly the organ playback in the record seemed more prominent - and we all agreed that overall imaging and tonality was more accurate. Most importantly: rhythm and timing felt more accurate too. It's the kind of turntable that makes you really "lean in" to listen to the specific details of the track - but without it being full of high end detail that sometimes makes you turn off after a few minutes.
When it came to the DEBUT: The presentation much like other tables in the DEBUT line was more dynamic, fun and inviting. We described it in the room as being closer to the front of the audience at a rock concert - where it made you want to dance! The Debut Pro did a really good job of bringing out more detail then you'd expect given it's purpose but the new design features really did elevate it's performance over it's older siblings. It was harder to place instruments - though sound wasn't distorted or muffled, it was just generally more focussed dead ahead with imaging having less localisation and smaller details generally being harder to visualise and separate. But none of this really mattered - because the playback had us all smiling and not running to turn it off!
So which sounded better..........?
Well define "better"...! Neither table out performed the other in terms of quality of playback. The playback was just different.
What is important to me, is less important to you perhaps and vice versa! My dad prefers a BIG bottom end sound - loads of bass and something that he can turn right up loud with his KLIPSCH speakers. He's not looking for masses of information and detail - he just wants clear vocals, great guitar and drums.
I on the other hand prefer enjoying quieter playback that's more neutral in the output which focusses on what the artist/mixer produced. If they want you to hear something over something else - I want to experience that!
For us - it was a great example of two products that are similarly priced but couldn't be more different in the playback experience. Both produce a stunning sound, ease of use and plenty of adjustability to allow you to tweak the cartridge, experience moving coils or high quality moving magnets and have a long and enjoyable experience with listening to records.
Depending on where you are on your musical journey (be it your system, the size of your record collection, your budget, your aesthetic requirements) - both tables will not let you down but one may be a slightly better match!
The Debut does come with some upgrades available it's worth noting:
- Aluminium sub platter
- Acrylic platter
- Light weight puck
The X1 however has only:
- Aluminium sub platter
Upgrades won't make the Debut Pro a different turntable - they will however aid the sound quality, depth and range of the sound and compliance (speed, wow and flutter).
We hope you found this article interesting and fun! We're a Top Partner of Pro-Ject Audio and stock both products. The Debut Pro is due in September, with the X1 being an already stocked item.