Pro-Ject Primary E review

What Hi-Fi? Awards 2023 winner. A great first turntable Tested at £150

Pro-Ject Primary E

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Pro-Ject has revised a budget deck to nail the entry-level market, and has succeeded on every front


  • +

    An enjoyable temperament

  • +

    Nails the sonic basics


  • -

    Chassis edges a little sharp

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You don’t need to set eyes on Pro-Ject’s Primary E turntable to know it has a lot going for it.

It’s the most affordable traditionally designed Pro-Ject turntable – the brand’s similarly priced Elemental deck has a platter that sits over a long and thin, plank-like chassis (imagine a pizza draped over a wooden serving board). And the E is also more or less a twin of the Pro-Ject Primary, another great turntable.

Like most twins, there are a few key differences that set the two apart. The Primary E’s power supply is built into the deck rather than the plug; it is only available in black rather than the Primary’s red or white options; and it costs a little less than the original model.

So, how does its successor measure up?


Pro-Ject Primary E

The Primary E has a familiar look, from the 22cm tonearm and Ortofon MM cartridge to the effortless set-up of the near-plug-and-play design.

As you might expect from a similarly specified machine, the Primary E has an entertainingly musical performance akin to the Primary’s, too.

While our sonic expectations are rightfully tempered for a turntable at this price, the Primary E’s priority seems to be entertainment.

MORE: How to get the best sound from your turntable

Pro-Ject Primary E

Sure, there are glimpses of dynamic insight and subtlety to its presentation, but it doesn’t try to walk before it can run.

The Primary E confidently nails the basics, from an even tonal balance to a delivery that’s clear and clean and spacious enough to keep things coherent.

Decent body and substance cling reliably to every frequency, and that’s made all the more enjoyable by a spirited sense of drive and momentum.

Pro-Ject Primary E

We lay down The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, and the Pro-Ject wilfully promotes the LP’s warmth and sweetness, communicating Berninger’s vocals as well as the contrasting sense of effort behind the track’s drum beats.

It is sensitive to the sullenness of the band’s instrumentals, demonstrating levels of detail and precision that are more than passable in the company of budget amplification and speakers. And though it’s not capable of huge scale or reach, it sounds far away from being small or confined, too.

By the time we reach the final track, Hard To Find, we’re asking ourselves what more we could want from a budget deck. Realistically, very little.

Build and features

Pro-Ject Primary E

You don’t have to set aside an hour of your time, nor dust off the toolbox before you can benefit from the Primary E’s performance.

With the anti-skate weight and the 1.7g tracking force pre-set (there’s a stylus pressure gauge in the box for checking the latter), all you’re required to do is attach the belt to one of the two motor pulleys, depending on whether you’re playing a 33.3rpm or 45rpm record.

Turn on the power switch underneath the chassis; and connect the attached RCA cable to either an external phono stage, or the phono input of an amplifier with one built in.

Pro-Ject Primary E

A standard cover is supplied for keeping the Primary E’s chassis dust-free when not in use, but as you’d expect at this price, there’s no lavish aesthetic or hipster chic here.

The all-black design is fairly plain – this is no turntable-in-a-suitcase Crosley or bright-coloured Lenco.

We find the chassis’s edges and corners a little on the sharp side when we run our fingers along them, but, given that’s our only grumble, it speaks volumes of Pro-Ject’s budget offering.


With the likes of Lenco, Audio Technica and Crosley budget turntables knocking about, you can spend a bit less to get your first turntable.

But sometimes it’s worth remembering what Victorian art critic John Ruskin once said: “it's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little”.

For purists at the head of the beginner’s vinyl revival path who have this kind of budget and aren’t fussed about features such as record ripping and automatic operation, the Pro-Ject Primary E could be just the ticket.


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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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