Pro-Ject Debut PRO
Stereophile|January 2022
I enjoy few things more than setting up a turntable. Whether it’s for myself or for a friend—whether it’s a budget model with a layered MDF plinth and nonadjustable tonearm, or a megabuck, state-of-the-art behemoth—I relish the ritual.
KEN MICALLEF
RECORD PLAYER

Back in the day, I used to huff and puff, scream and shake, thanks to the heebie-jeebies I’d get when attempting to raise a turntable to ultimate performance. But with experience comes wisdom. My buddy and Sound & Vision contributor Michael Trei makes turntable setup look like child’s play. I’ve learned by watching Mike that, when a turntable setup tries your patience, the thing to do is keep calm and carry on.

Once you’ve dialed in all the setup parameters, including leveling, cartridge alignment, azimuth, tracking force, and VTA, you can savor the beauty of music. It’s that moment I crave. No matter a particular ’table’s position in the audiophile food chain, I always enjoy hearing what it can extract from my beloved vinyl grooves.

Every turntable, like every other audio component, imbues the music with its own personality. I delight in that second when the stylus is gently lowered to the record’s surface and it begins to give up its secrets. A turntable is a time machine that can bring endless years of enjoyment to you, your family, and your friends. Even your descendants.

SPECIFICATIONS

Description Belt-driven turntable with electronic speed control, tonearm, Sumiko Rainier MM cartridge ($149 separately), and dust cover. Speeds: 33 1/3/ 45/78rpm; 78rpm requires a belt change). Platter: 300mm die-cast aluminum platter with TPE damping inlay and felt mat. Platter bearing: stainless steel axle in bronze bushing. Wow and flutter: 33 1/3: ±0.16%; 45: ±0.14%. Speed drift: 33 1/3: ±0.40%; 45: ±0.50%. S/N ratio: 68dB. Tonearm: 8.6 one-piece hybrid carbon-aluminum; effective length, 218.5mm; effective mass, 10gm; overhang, 18.5mm. Included accessories: 15V DC/0.8A power supply, dust cover, 78rpm round belt, 7 single adapter, paper tonearm alignment guide, plastic cartridge weight gauge, interconnects.

Dimensions 16.3 wide (415mm) by 4.4 high (113mm) by 13 deep (320mm). Weight: 13.2lb (6kg).

Serial number of unit reviewed None visible. “Handmade in Europe.”

Price $999. Number of US dealers: 300. Warranty: Two years.

Manufacturer Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH, Pro-Ject Head quarters, Wirtschaftspark A5, Analogweg 1, 2130 Mistelbach, Austria Tel: +43 50443 E-mail: info@project-audio.com. Web: project-audio.com. US distributor: Pro-Ject USA 9464 Hemlock Ln. North, Maple Grove, MN 55369. Tel: (510) 843-4500. Web: pro-jectusa.com.

Turntable as family heirloom? My Thorens TD 124 was originally the property of the aunt and uncle of Stereophile Senior Contributing Editor Kalman Rubinson. Kal gave it to them as part of a dedicated mono system with an Eico integrated amp and single JBL speaker. They returned the turntable to him in 1995 and, not long after Art Dudley became Stereophile’s deputy editor in 2015, Kal gave it to him, knowing he would find a good home for it. He did: It ended up at my Greenwich Village apartment. My Thorens is both a part of my reference system and an enduring audio legacy.

When I was assigned to review the Pro-Ject Debut PRO, I gathered my tools in excited anticipation of its arrival, even knowing that it would be set up by the factory. Priced at $999 including a Sumiko Oyster Rainier moving magnet cartridge, which costs $149 a la carte, the Debut PRO has been issued to celebrate ProJect’s 30-year anniversary as a manufacturer of turntables. Consider the timing: Pro-Ject was formed in the early 1990s, a time when vinyl records were nearing extinction. They’ve survived and thrived since. That’s 30 years during which they’ve delivered hundreds of thousands of turntables to music lovers across the world.

Design

Handmade in a Pro-Ject factory in the Czech Republic, near the Pro-Ject HQ outside Vienna, the Debut PRO has attributes not often seen in turntables at its price, including a heavy, diecast-aluminum platter with internal damping, a steel bearing assembly flange, a nickel-coated aluminum bearing block, a hybrid aluminum–carbon fiber tonearm, adjustable azimuth and VTA, and leveling feet.

Based on Pro-Ject’s best-selling Debut Carbon EVO turntable, which itself replaced the Debut Carbon DC, the Debut PRO improves on earlier Pro-Ject models with CNC-milled aluminum parts, an upgraded tonearm and bearing, and a few more subtle but still beneficial upgrades. Most of its aluminum parts are nickel-plated in-house, which increases wear and corrosion resistance, and may—depending on the specific process—increase rigidity. The brushed-nickel finish of some of the exposed metal parts also complements the plinth’s matte-black paint.

That plinth is compact: 16 3/8 wide, 12 1/2 deep, and 11/4 high. It’s constructed of a solid block of MDF, machined in-house and coated with seven layers of matte-black paint, Pro-Ject Brand Director Buzz Goddard told me in an email. The website says eight coats. During its stay at Ken’s crib, the smooth-to-the-touch surface of the Pro-Ject plinth resisted smudges and fingerprints.

The Debut PRO’s precisely balanced, 3lb, 300mm diameter, 3/4-thick platter is damped by a 1/2-wide strip of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) sunk into the underside near the outer rim, damping resonance. Pro-Ject says this reduces wow and flutter. That platter is attached to a stainless-steel shaft that nestles into a bronze bushing and rides on a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) thrust pad.

The platter is driven via a nylon subplatter connected by a flat silicone belt to an aluminum pulley atop an AC motor that’s decoupled from the turntable’s base with thermoplastic elastomer bushings. A separate, round silicone belt is supplied for dedicated 78rpm playback.

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