Pro-ject has been our budget deck hero for some time now. The Czech specialist has done more than most to keep the vinyl flag flying, but – naturally – it has ambitions above and beyond the entry-level.
The range-topping RPM10 is an impressive and substantial carbon-fibre, acrylic and aluminium affair: £1500 buys you an extravagant carbon-fibre tonearm and headshell combination along with a weighted plinth-cum-equipment base, but no cartridge, alas.
We fitted an Ortofon Rondo Red cartridge (£300) – probably the minimum you should consider on a deck of this price. Sadly, it proved too heavy for the counterweight supplied with the RPM10, so Pro-ject had to send us a heftier one.
That small problem is typical of the anomalies we encountered with the Pro-ject: we had trouble getting the drive belt to run true, and certain components – the motor unit, counterweight, and arm-lift – don't quite have the class of the best at this price level.
Beauty more than skin deep
Still, in action the Pro-ject offers a solid, taut and generously expansive sound, underpinning the likes of The Wailers' Stir It Up with an immovable anchor. The midrange is beautifully realised, granted the sort of humanity and articulation that seems to be the exclusive preserve of top-end turntables.
However, the RPM10 doesn't handle tempos entirely naturally. The laid-back reggae lacks a little snap, and a hard-charging tune like Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road doesn't have the full dose of drive.
It's beautiful, but in an audition you might find this Pro-ject doesn't stand out from the class-leader.