The original Pro-Ject Debut turntable was introduced at the tail end of the 1990s. It was a terrific budget deck that married affordability with performance, and over the years the various generations that followed continued that trend despite a gradual move upmarket. The Pro model we have on test here celebrates Pro-Ject's 30th anniversary and is the most ambitious and sophisticated Debut model yet.
The Pro-Ject Debut Pro is a classy product that’s a world away from the rather basic and austere original. It’s aimed squarely at the mid-market, though still undercuts obvious class leaders such as the Rega Planar 3 and Technics SL-1500C by a good margin. This isn’t just a mild tweak of the long-running Debut formula either. Pro-Ject’s engineers have carefully developed almost every aspect of the design from adding adjustable metal feet to producing a new dedicated cartridge for the job.
Get the Debut Pro out of the box and the feeling of quality is unmistakable. Its MDF plinth is hand-painted and beautifully finished, while the new aluminium platter is precision balanced and damped with a dense ring of TPE (thermoplastic elastomer).
The new tonearm is impressive too, using an armtube that combines an outer skin of carbon fibre reinforced by an aluminium inner layer. It feels like a quality item with smooth movement and no sign of excessive play in the bearings. We particularly like the care taken over the finish of the tonearm bearing housing with its smart Nickel-plated metal parts. That’s not all, this arm design allows adjustment of both arm height and azimuth, so it should be easy to accommodate and optimise for a wide range of cartridges.
As standard, the deck is supplied with the new Pro-Ject Pick It Pro moving magnet cartridge. This is a development of Ortofon’s long-running 2M Red, with the main changes focussed on the suspension with a view to producing a more lively and punchier sound. It is an accomplished performer that tracks well at the recommended 2.0g downforce weight, though there’s no harm in experimenting within the 1.8-2.2g recommended range to fine-tune results in your system.
Type Belt drive
Speed 33⅓, 45 and 78 RPM (with adaptor)
Speed change Electronic
Tonearm Carbon/aluminium construction
Cartridge Pro-Ject Pick It Pro moving magnet
Phono stage? No
Dimensions 11 x 42 x 32cm
We welcome the Debut Pro’s electronic speed change. It feels so much slicker to change speed this way rather than having to manually move the drive belt from one step on the motor pulley to the next. There’s the standard choice of 33⅓ or 45 RPM at the flick of a nice toggle switch on the front of the deck, and if you fit a supplied adaptor, it’ll even play 78 RPM records. Make sure you replace the standard flat rubber belt with the supplied round-section one if you do this.
As with most turntables at this level there isn’t much in the way of suspension, so placing the Debut Pro on a level, rigid and low resonance support is important to get the best results. If you have suspended wooden floors, as many have in the UK, it’s certainly worth thinking about having a dedicated wall shelf.
We use the deck in a range of systems from our reference set-up of Cyrus Phono Signature/PSX-R 2 phono stage, Burmester 088/911 Mk III amplifier and ATC SCM 50 speakers to a more modest pairing of Naim SuperNait 3 and the LS50 Meta speakers from KEF. Regardless, the Debut Pro performs superbly.
Once up and running it delivers an impressively crisp and detailed sound for the money. We start off with The Boatman’s Call from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and the Debut Pro reproduces the album with considerable skill. On the opening track – Into My Arms – it captures the song’s melancholy mood superbly, delivering Cave’s rich and gritty tones with an enviable degree of finesse. The accompanying piano is rendered with precision and a lovely sense of ebb and flow that simply carries us away with the music. It’s a musically convincing presentation, one where each instrument dovetails beautifully to add to the experience.
The tonality of any record player is largely governed by the cartridge, and the Pick It Pro is a crisp, nicely-balanced performer. Its presentation is a little on the lean side, but not so much that the result is thin or forward. The upside of such a balance is agility, with the cartridge digging up plenty of detail on the way. The Pick It Pro, like the Ortofon it’s based on, is also a refined product, one that combines bite at high frequencies with a good amount of finesse.
We switch to FourTet’s There Is Love In You set and the Debut Pro responds with enthusiasm. There isn’t quite the rhythmic drive or dynamic punch we hear from the more expensive Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 combination but it’s still a great deal of fun to listen to. This Pro-Ject is terrific at digging deep into the production and revealing layers of instrumental textures that most at this level ignore. Lows are taut and articulate, even making the aforementioned Rega sound a little soft in this respect. The Debut Pro produces a stable and controlled sound too, one that retains its composure even when the music becomes dense and demanding.
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is a stern test with its wide-ranging dynamic shifts and prodigious sense of energy. The Debut Pro doesn’t flinch, delivering the music’s drama superbly. We’re pleased with the sonic authority on offer and the deck’s ability to organise a mass of information into a cohesive and enjoyable whole. Stereo imaging proves admirable too, the Pro-Ject rendering a suitably spacious and layered soundstage that retains its stability and precision regardless of musical complexity.
The Pro is the most ambitious and sophisticated Debut model we’ve heard. It is a superb sounding package that’s built well and is easy to set-up. If you are looking for a record player at this level, ignore this one at your peril. Highly recommended.
- Sound 5
- Build 5
- Features 4
Read our review of the Rega Planar 3/Elys 2
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