This week we reviewed the Pro-Ject T1 turntable, sold for 275 euros. This manual belt-driven model is the brand’s new entry-level model and was revealed at the 2019 Bristol Hi-Fi Show. With its attractive price and sleek design, does this new model live up to the brand’s reputation?
Pro-Ject T1: the brand
Is there really any need to introduce Pro-Ject? Since its creation in 1991 by Heinz Lichtenegger, the Austrian company made a name for itself with its turntables and hi-fi electronics. Consequently, you will find a selection of power amplifiers, DAC amplifiers, audio streamers and Bluetooth receivers, along with a large collection of turntable accessories in Pro-Ject’s catalog. One of Pro-Ject’s main strengths is its ability to provide solid turntables designed to get the very best out of your vinyl collection for a broad range of prices. From entry-level products to the brand’s flagship model, Pro-Ject’s turntables guarantee excellent value for money and boast a first-rate build. To this day, Pro-Ject is the leader in turntable sales thanks to the quality and affordability of its models.
Pro-Ject T1: packaging and presentation
The Pro-Ject T1 turntable is made to meet the needs of both vinyl enthusiasts and those new to the game. It’s anti-vibration chassis sits on three feet designed to absorb vibrations. The light, aluminum one-piece tonearm eliminates standing waves. The low-friction bearings guarantee smooth and precise playback. This no-frills turntable isn’t packed with added features and is therefore easy and quick to set up.
In the box you’ll find:
- The turntable’s chassis
- The glass platter
- The dust cover
- A felt mat
- A belt
- A turntable weight
- An Allen key
- A ruler to adjust the alignment
The platter and chassis are both wrapped in a pouch. One is protected by a cardboard box, the other by two blocks of polystyrene. Once everything is out of the box, the installation takes no time at all, which will please novices and vinyl enthusiasts who can’t stand adjusting the cartridge!
You simply have to carefully slip the belt around the wheel which is held in place by the spindle and the motor pulley, and then place the platter over the spindle. It is important to note, however, that the motor pulley is split into two parts. If you fit the belt around the upper part, the rotation speed will be 33 RPM. The lower part allows you to listen to 45 RPM records. It’s a shame that the platter must be removed and the belt moved from one part of the pulley to the other in order to change the rotation speed. Adding a selector to the turntable would have made it even easier to use. The turntable doesn’t come with a user manual, but it is possible to download one from Pro-Ject’s website.
The Pro-Ject T1 turntable is pre-set, meaning that the cartridge is already mounted and that the counterweight and tonearm are already calibrated. Just to be sure, we checked these settings using the ruler provided and our Elipson digital gauge, a tool that we highly recommend to have at hand when changing a cartridge. Sure enough, everything was properly calibrated and the Project T1 is ready for action as soon as the belt and platter are in place! The cartridge pre-mounted onto the 20cm aluminum tonearm is an Ortofon OM5E, the brand’s entry-level model, that you can replace with a higher quality cartridge such as the Ortofon 2M Red. The glass platter is quite heavy and provides satisfactory stability. The felt mat that comes with the turntable provides better adherence for the records, although a cork platter mat such as the Pro-Ject Cork It would do an even better job.
Pro-Ject T1: setup
As a reminder, the Pro-Ject T1 turntable doesn’t have a built-in phono preamp. Therefore, it is necessary to pair it with an RIAA preamp or to connect it to the phono input of an amplifier with a preamp. We connected the Pro-Ject turntable to a Pro-Ject Record Box E phono preamplifier using the turntable’s low-capacitance shielded cable, then connected the preamp to the Marantz M-CR612 network receiver’s auxiliary analog input. We listened to this system with the Focal Chorus 706 V speakers, which were placed on NorStone Stylum 2 speaker stands for optimal decoupling and connected to the amplifier using NorStone W250 Classic speaker cables.
One of the Pro-Ject T1 turntable’s charms is its simplicity. If you are looking for a turntable that will enable you to discover or rediscover the simple pleasure of listening to LPs, then the Pro-Ject T1 is for you. To begin playback, simply press the button on the left side of the turntable to start the platter’s rotation, place the tonearm at the beginning of the record, and lower the cueing lever and the dust cover. Now all you need to do is sit in your favorite armchair or sofa record sleeve in hand in order to enjoy your album.
The belt drive is smooth and the motor is relatively quiet. Although it is audible when the diamond stylus is still in the air, it is no longer an issue once the record is playing. The tonearm is light and easy to position correctly, which is really convenient when looking for a specific track. The tonearm lowers gently and the low-friction bearings allow precise and consistent tracking.
Pro-Ject T1: listening impressions
We started our listening session with an original pressing of Black Sabbath’s Sabotage, released in 1975. The Pro-Ject T1 turntable restituted the album’s organic production pretty nicely, although we did notice a slight lack of intensity, especially in the lows. We also would have liked a wider and deeper soundstage, but simply changing the cartridge would solve this problem. All of the instruments were accurately positioned and Ozzy’s voice stood out from the rest. On “Symptom of the Universe”, the iconic guitar riff in the intro was vigorous and detailed. We could hear the unique texture of Tommy Iommi’s guitar sound. The only bone we had to pick was with the lack of bass and energy, which are essential elements to fully enjoy the music of the Birmingham band. However, the soft restitution of calmer passages featuring acoustic guitars and drums was pleasant.
We had a similar experience with an original pressing of Blue Öyster Cult’s first album, released in 1972. By taking care to increase the distance between our Focal Chorus 706 speakers, we were able to enjoy a slightly wider soundstage. The excellent “Then Came the Last Days of May” was reproduced with beautiful clarity and the original pressing of our album took us back to the early 70s with its slight crackling and entirely analog production. One of the best surprises came from the guitar solos, particularly those of the song “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll”. The bursts from the guitar were perfectly assimilated and the high notes were never aggressive. The restitution, albeit somewhat rigid, retained a pleasant sense of balance throughout.
We then switched to more recent albums so that we could test the Pro-Ject T1 turntable’s performance with more modern productions. We started with a reedition of the album Ballbreaker by the Australian band AC/DC. Due to the lack of bass and rigidness encountered with the first two records, we were worried that the restitution of this particular album would be harsh and dry, but we were pleasantly surprised. Although the lows and the energy were still lacking, we enjoyed the clarity and detailed restitution that the Pro-Ject T1 had previously demonstrated. Brian Johnson’s unique voice accompanied by Angus Young’s frenzied solos, and supported by the unrelenting rhythm section composed of Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd, yielded a uniform result that was enjoyable to listen to. To fully honor AC/DC’s high-powered hard rock, we connected the REL Acoustics T-9i subwoofer that was in our room to the LFE output on the Marantz network receiver. The kick drum and the basslines came to life and the soundstage gained depth. There is no doubt about it, the restitution benefits greatly from the addition of a subwoofer.
We wrapped up our review with a record released in 2018: Eternal Return by the American band Windhand. The quatuor’s style includes heavily saturated guitars and a warm, full sound which emphasizes the lower end of the sound spectrum. At the helm of this album is producer Jack Endino, who is well-known for his minimalist and organic style, typical of the Seattle grunge scene of the 90s. Once again, the transparency of the restitution provided by the entry-level turntable was impressive. The very low tuned guitars were challenging for the Pro-Ject T1, but it still managed to reproduce everything competently. The addition of a subwoofer was a definite improvement and when we deactivated it, it was clear that fans of bass-rich music would find the restitution too narrow to their liking.
Pro-Ject T1: compared to…
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Reference: a similar design but disparate performance. The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable comes with an Ortofon 2M-Red cartridge already mounted onto the carbon tonearm. Once the calibration is done, the Debut Carbon provides a restitution that is much more lively and open than that of the Pro-Ject T1 turntable. Although the Debut Carbon is the better of the two when it comes to musical performance, the Pro-Ject T1 turntable is more affordable and has the advantage of being calibrated at the factory.
Audio-Technica AT-LP3 : the Audio-Technica AT-LP3 turntable is an automatic model which has the advantage of featuring a speed selector and an integrated phono preamp, meaning it can be directly connected to the auxiliary input of a hi-fi amplifier. However, the Pro-Ject T1’s build quality is clearly superior and it provides a more transparent and natural listening experience. The Audio-Technica comes out on top for features, but the Pro-Ject T1 is the winner when it comes to build quality and musical performance.
Pro-Ject T1: conclusion
First and foremost, the Pro-Ject T1 turntable is designed for those who wish to take their first steps into the world of vinyl without spending a fortune or purchasing an “all-plastic” device. The Austrian brand knows its stuff and clearly wants to provide a convincing, simple and affordable introductory turntable with the potential for enhancement. The Pro-Ject T1 doesn’t pretend to be on the same level as the brand’s leading models and provides a more than satisfactory performance in this price range.
Easy to set up and use, the Pro-Ject T1 provides a solid base that can be easily improved. By replacing the felt mat with a cork one, swapping the cartridge with a superior model in due course and improving the phono preamp for example, you will be able to enjoy a more effective system with each step. Ideal for discovering or rediscovering the feeling of really listening to a record, the Pro-Ject T1 turntable guarantees many hours of musical enjoyment. We particularly recommend this model if you want to discover vinyl for the first time without investing a significant amount of money.
What we liked:
- The easy setup
- The fact that the cartridge and tonearm were pre-calibrated
- The ease of use
- The clarity of the restitution
What we would have liked:
- A speed selector
- More energy in the lows