For an amount between two and three hundred euros, various budget players are available who perform much better and treat your vinyl with respect. But what happens when one of the largest turntable manufacturers, Pro-Ject, enters this market segment?
Pro-ject T1 SB turntable
Not only the playback quality is a thing with extremely cheap turntables, the often limited , or completely missing setting options with such record players cause excessive wear or even damage to your beloved records. For an amount between two and three hundred euros, various budget players are available who perform much better and treat your vinyl with respect. But what happens when one of the largest turntable manufacturers, Pro-Ject, enters this market segment? With the T-series they put three T1 turntables on the market that offer a lot on paper and can be regarded as serious entry-level users.
Plug and play
The T1 base in the basic version costs 279 euros and is great value for the price asked. The T-series turntables are delivered plug and play. An Ortofon OM5E cartridge is pre-mounted and the needle force is set as standard. The players are not provided with any form of adjustable shear force compensation; something that is not very surprising given the price level. The majority of buyers will have few plans to use a much more expensive element or make other upgrades, so the lack of this is not really a problem. Furthermore, the T-series lacks nothing. As standard, the players come with a good loose Connect it E interlink cable, a simple needle pressure scale, an adjustment template for another element, a felt mat and a beautiful transparent dust cover.
Building the T1 is really a piece of cake, even for a layman. The supplied manual is clear and guides you step by step through the installation. You start by placing the thick glass plateau on the spindle and then place the felt mat on it. Then you connect the interlink and power supply at the rear. It is really not more. I think many people have the T1 working faster than any other streamer!
The only point of criticism is the lack of a protective cap for the needle. So be careful with building the turntable and cleaning it. The solid plinth, CNC machined from one piece, is available in the colors white, black and walnut. This offers a good guarantee against unnecessary vibrations. These are further suppressed by the insulating feet, which are very smooth, so that the player can easily move on an equally smooth surface.
The motor drives a newly developed sub-plateau. The bearing is the same as the more expensive Essential III series. The aluminum tonearm is made in one piece. In addition to the standard T1, there are two other types, namely the T1 BT and SB. Both have a built-in switchable phono stage so that the player can be connected directly to a line input. The BT has Bluetooth and the SB has electronic speed control so that you can switch between 45 and 33 rpm at the touch of a button without having to put down the belt. The T1 BT and T1 SB are priced equally, both change hands for 329 euros. The version that I can test is the SB version with built-in phono amplifier (which is easier to connect to more amplifiers or inputs of, say, a Sonos device). The BT version comes with Bluetooth, so you can send your vinyl music wirelessly to a speaker.
Initially the T1 SB is connected to my Devialet 220 Pro amplifier. A completely ridiculous combination, considering the price of both devices. The Pro-Ject takes the place on the top shelf of my Quadraspire rack from my Funk Vector turntable. The Connect it E supplied by the manufacturer is used as an interlink. Speakers are a set of Audiovector R3 Arreté with Atlas Ascent Grun speaker cables connected to the Devialet amplifier. All connected devices receive their power from an Atlas junction box which is connected to a separate power group with an Atlas Superior power cord. To get a more realistic picture, the player will move upstairs at a later stage where a Denon RCD-M41DAB + all-in one receiver with Argon Alto 5 speakers is set up. In terms of price, this set fits much better with the T1 SB. This also gives me the opportunity to listen to the player with or without the built-in phono stage.
After a dive into the record cabinet, it is time to test this T1 SB. The player came out of the box brand new so beforehand I played some LPs without listening while another source was selected on the amplifier. In this way, the Ortofon element was able to loosen up a bit in order to perform optimally. I kick off with the album “The Dream Of The Blue Turtles” by Sting. Although not audiophile, this is certainly an album that is well recorded and sounds like it. Compared to my much more expensive Funk Vector, it all sounds a bit smaller and less nuanced than I’m used to. However, the nice thing about listening to analog is immediately present. It swings and the Ortofon element is completely unaffected and has excellent tracking. Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” is all about emotion. Amy completely exposes her soul on this record. No problem for this T1 SB that goes along with it completely. In the song “Rehab” the bass response is surprisingly strong and even the chimes, although somewhat more in the background, can be heard. The horns sound a bit less sharp and don’t splash that much, but this will be more of a blessing than a disadvantage for a price-appropriate set. However, critical vinyl lovers may still reach for a slightly higher player, such as Project’s excellent X1.
Amy’s voice is slightly pinched but very clearly recognizable. Splashes and taps disappear almost completely into the background. The T1 SB player does its job with great ease. The high is civilized and somewhat reserved, but certainly rich in detail. Just like with Rehab, with Simple Minds’ song “Alive And Kicking”, the bass response is again remarkably solid, something you wouldn’t immediately expect from a budget turntable. The cymbals can be heard well, perhaps a bit oversimplified but certainly not sharp. Jim Kerr’s voice doesn’t get loud either. The player knows exactly how to pass on the ease and pleasure of vinyl, with the result that I just listen to both sides of the album completely. The player is silent and audibly runs smoothly. The Ortofon element undisturbedly makes its way through the grooves of this piece of standard eighties vinyl where taps are only modestly audible and do not disturb at all. In Phil Collins ‘Another Day In Paradise’ the T1 SB shows very well the second voice and in the back of the image very modest mandolin. The horns on this album can be quite sharp and obnoxious, but not with this Pro-Ject, the saxophone solo in ‘All Of My Life’ sounds controlled, without sharpness and even has some body. Truly a great achievement!
To get a more real life picture of the Pro Ject T1 SB, after the above introduction, the player moves to the 1st floor where a Denon RCD-M41DAB + all-in one receiver serves as a connecting hatch. may act. With the Denon CD receiver and using the built-in phono stage of the T1 SB, there is a wonderfully simple set. Listening to Introducing The Hardline According To Terence Trent Darby I get nostalgic feelings. Just listen to music, just like in my teens! Stripped of audiophile aspirations, go back to the basics and feel the emotion of the music. What is again striking is the great ease and imperturbability with which the T1 SB does its job. Simply placed on an Ikea cabinet, level of course, next to the receiver with simple speakers and ditto cabling, it makes music. Nothing more and nothing less. I tap with my foot to the beat and have to suppress the urge to sing along. “Sign Your Name” is full of percussion sounds, solid bass and big punches of the very recognizable voice of Terence. The T1 SB is going through it with verve. A large part of the small sounds can be heard and the bass reproduction is solid and full. This has partly to do with the amplifier and speakers, but the turntable certainly has a significant share in this. Mister Darby’s voice is unmistakable and the swipes remain controlled. When I go back to Phil Collins who I previously listened to on the big set, the somewhat reserved treble turns out to be a victory. Instead of blaring and an edge, which many budget devices have in them, it now continues to sound controlled and pleasant with just enough bite to give the brass that piece of authenticity. During the review period I spent many enjoyable hours with this set and the stack of LPs next to the T1 SB grew steadily. I already knew about excellent performances. But with affordable quality I thought until recently of amounts of around 450 to 500 euros. I would not have thought that it is also possible to market a player that has a (switchable) built-in phono stage, an excellent element and electronic speed control for 329 euros. Add to that the excellent build quality, beautiful dust cover, quality interlink and the real plug and play concept and it is almost unlikely. If the performance can also be called very good, then this is a bargain.
This review is written by René Smit