I was lucky during this Labour Day Weekend to play with a couple of inexpensive, audiophile gems. One was the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable. Designed in Austria, but manufactured in the Czech Republic, Pro-Ject is known for producing high quality turntables at very reasonable prices, none more reasonable than the Debut Carbon.
My Debut was lime green (they come in a multitude of high gloss colours and with a dust cover) and came with an Ortofon Red cartridge. This particular Debut setup sells for $499 but was reduced to $399, which makes it one of the greatest bargains in high end audio. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get into vinyl. Good vinyl, at that.
But what about a tonearm and phono cables? No problem. Comes with detachable cables, which makes the ‘table easily adaptable and upgradeable. Many budget turntables come with permanently attached phono cables. But, what blew my mind more than the value and excellent sound, was the all-in-one carbon fibre headshell/tonearm. A real work of art — constructed beautifully.
The sound (through the phono stage of a Bel Canto receiver and entry level Chario floor standers) was detailed, sweet and quite well balanced. Only in instrumental separation and bass performance did the limited budget show in comparison with more expensive systems. ‘Oh, well’, you say, smugly! Weaknesses. Smile.
Not all is lost. We added the Pro-Ject Record Puck, a hefty record weight for $85 (which you can imagine as a free add on if your Debut is discounted) and the sound improved with eye opening significance. Bass? Better/Deeper. Treble? Better, with more accurate instrumental timbre (Monteux/LSO/Bolero — quite something to hear Gervase de Peyer on clarinet and Dennis Wick’s trombone sound so much more lifelike with just some weight on the platter). Separation/Soundstage? Improved, albeit slightly. There’s that smug look again! I mean, what the hell. It’s less than $599 retail with the puck. For that price, the London/Maazel/VPO Rite of Spring never had it so good. I could even tell the horn glissandos were played by Viennese horns, with its unique timbre.
Even though the world economy is improving, the ‘east’ still operates differently than the ‘west’. My buddy just conducted an opera in Bulgaria and the poor players were playing for tuna fish sandwiches, just about. Not good. I guess this is why Pro-Ject can offer such great entry level turntables so reasonably. In any case, the Czech workers produce a lovely looking ‘table that would grace any audiophile’s room. But, if you’re a student looking to get into vinyl or on a restricted budget, Pro-Ject offers you a way in that is a home run. Very highly recommended. If I had the ‘table for a full Audiophilia review, it would have received an Audiophilia Star Component Award. Yes, that good.
Further information: Pro-Ject Audio Systems
I felt compelled to write a brief addition to this mini review that we posted in 2013. My 23 year old nephew has been bitten hard by the audiophile bug. His budget was set and Christmas money was saved, and he asked for a suggestion to jump into the high end. He loves vinyl. It was an easy choice. With his budget, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable immediately came to mind.
Through the kind graces of one of our sponsors, Ian received a good deal on a piano black copy and the very fine Pro-Ject Record Puck.
He’s driving it with a tiny, no name phone stage and through entry level Focal lifestyle speakers. What we heard out of the box was nothing short of remarkable. I cannot emphasize enough that all young people rebuilding the vinyl numbers and shouting its praises should audition one of these turntables. Very highly recommended.