The build, the finish, the specification and, most importantly of all, the performance all go to make the Debut Pro one of the very best pound-for-pound turntables around
- Unified, eloquent and welcoming sound
- Good build and finish
- Fine specification
- Not absolutely the last word in rhythmic positivity
- Some equally admirable rivals
- Speed33.3, 45 and 78rpm
- CartridgePick It Pro moving magnet cartridge
- TonearmCarbon fibre and aluminium tonearm
Pro-Ject – one of the authentic heroes of the Second Act of Vinyl, let’s not forget – introduced its first Debut turntable at the very end of the twentieth century.
It was an immediate hit, and birthed numerous variations – this Debut Pro is the most ambitious yet. But does the original Debut’s entry-level magic translate to what is an altogether more serious price-point?
The Pro-Ject Debut Pro turntable is on sale now, and in the United Kingdom it’s yours for around £699. Customers in America, for once, get the wrong end of the deal – they’ll have to hand over $999. In Australia, meanwhile, it’s priced at AU$1099 or thereabouts.
It’s not overstating things to suggest this pricing pits the Debut Pro against some of the very best pound-for-pound turntables around. No pressure, then.
- MDF plinth, aluminium platter
- Electronic speed control (mostly)
There’s not a lot of wriggle-room available when it comes to the design of a record player – and, as you’d expect from a company as level-headed as Pro-Ject, the Debut Pro is as reassuring a design as they come.
The robust MDF plinth sits on three equally sturdy aluminium feet. They’re adjustable, so are very useful when it comes to making sure your record player is level on its shelf, and offer just a little damping too.
The aluminium platter conceals the electronically regulated synchronous drive motor beneath. This is a belt-driven record player, and if you’re only interested in playing 33.3 or 45rpm discs you need only move the little toggle switch at the bottom left of the surface of the plinth to get things moving.
The Debut Pro will turn at 78rpm too – but if you fancy a bit of this antiquated action, you have to replace the flat drive belt with the round alternative Pro-Ject supplies, and slip it onto the wider section of the drive pulley.
And that’s basically your lot where design is concerned. Let’s be honest, it’d be a bit weird if there was any more to it than this, wouldn’t it?
- Pick It Pro moving magnet cartridge
- Carbon fibre and aluminium tonearm
- Analogue interconnects supplied
There’s not a great many elements to a record player, but what there are have been painstakingly specified here. The Debut Pro gives every impression of being completely uncompromised where its feature-set is concerned.
The platter, for example, is die-cast in heftily specified aluminium, and it’s a) anti-magnetic, in case you want to use a moving coil cartridge at some point, and b) has a generous ring of thermoplastic elastomer around its inner underside to provide additional resonance-rejection. On the top, there’s a little indent so your vinyl’s label doesn’t prevent the disc sitting perfectly fat.
The tonearm, meanwhile, is a carbon fibre/aluminium sandwich – at least, that’s how Pro-Ject describes it. The aluminium inner looks after the all-important damping, while carbon fibre is deployed on the outer because of its unbeatable rigidity.
The housing for the tonearm bearing, is CMC-milled aluminium, and it’s nickel-plated for a bit of visual pizazz. Obviously it’s all business, though: the tonearm action is buttery smooth and there’s no discernible play in the bearings.
At the base of the tonearm there’s height adjustment, so not only is adjustment of both vertical tracking angle and azimuth available, but if you favour a heavyweight slipmat or want to experiment with different cartridges you can easily indulge yourself.
It’s by no means a given that you’ll hanker after a cartridge upgrade any time soon, though. The Debut Pro is pre-fitted with the rather daft-sounding Pick It Pro moving magnet cartridge – but don’t be fooled by the name. This is an adaptation of Ortofon’s extremely well-regarded 2M Red cartridge – it’s been breathed on in a search for greater drive and dynamism, and it’s a very tidy match for the overall turntable package indeed.
- Detail and insight to spare
- Focused, beautifully integrated sound
- Punch and delicacy in equal measure
There are solid, and well-documented, sonic reasons why the vinyl format has endured all these many decades. And the good news is: to a lesser or greater extent, the Pro-Ject Debut Pro delivers on all of them.
The low frequencies it generates during a listen to Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus are controlled, expertly shaped and respectably deep, and by record player standards they hit with real purpose.
The work the Debut Pro does at the top of the frequency range is equally enjoyable, with treble sounds biting purposefully but never threatening to become in any way feral. And the midrange, where voices tend to sit and where human hearing is at its sharpest and most unforgiving, the Pro-Ject is an eloquent, articulate communicator – anyone who values insight into a singer’s technique or attitude or character (or all three) will find limitless enjoyment here.
Timing, though, the unity and of-a-piece coherence of the way music is presented is perhaps vinyl’s most obvious USP – and the Debut Pro can deliver a concrete sensation of performance and togetherness. No matter if it’s asked to do so with Flying Lotus or with the extensive personnel of Promises by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, the Pro-Ject can unite numerous and disparate elements of a recording into a single entity.
And where the slightly less ephemeral aspects of music-making are concerned, the Debut Pro gives a similarly robust account of itself. Dynamic headroom is considerable, so when the LSO begins to make its presence properly felt the distance between quiet and loud is significant. The low-level harmonic variations evident in each individual orchestral instrument is identified and reported on confidently, too. There seems little doubt the Pro-Ject is giving the listener the full picture in all circumstances.
Openness, detail retrieval and soundstanging are all equally impressive – and, more importantly, enjoyable. Promises takes place on a big, beautifully defined soundstage, with each performer easily identifiable and secure in their specific position – and from there, the timbre of their instrument and the intensity with which it’s being played is all made absolutely plain.
In fact, it’s only where rhythmic expression is concerned that the Pro-Ject is anything less than utterly assured. The Flying Lotus recording is the work of virtuoso show-offs, no doubt – and the Debut Pro can occasionally betray how hard it’s working to keep on top of the information. It’s no wallflower, of course, and the more common 4/4 stuff presents no problems at all – but when the going gets tricksy it can sound just a little less sinuous than its most obvious rivals. This is a shortcoming so minor that it could almost be described as a trait, though, and when weighed against everything the Pro-Ject does well it’s peripheral.
Should you buy it?
You want to get maximum bang for your buck The Pro-Ject is not without serious competition but it’s more keenly priced than any authentic rival.
You haven’t heard the Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 More expensive than the Pro-Ject, yes, and not necessarily better – but differently excellent.
That Pro-Ject should have delivered a turntable that represents profound value for money both as an object and as a source of sonic gratification is concerned comes as no surprise. But it’s testament to the strength of a couple of its rivals in particular that the Debut Pro is a compulsory audition rather than a default choice.
How we test
We test every turntable we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.
Tested for more than a week
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The Debut Pro can play 33, 45 and 78 playback records
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