The Audio-Technica AT-LP120 Turntable has been the industry standard direct-drive turntable in the entry...
6 Reasons Why You Should Consider the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable, an In-Depth Review
➳ The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable is consistently the bestselling listening turntable in the $300-500 price range. It's also usually the first audiophile-style turntable buyers consider. Beyond the normal manufacturer selling points, here are 6 in-depth reasons why you should consider the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable.
1) The Price: A Clear Option Above Entry-Level
Starting at $399, the Debut Carbon DC Turntable is a excellent value for someone who wants to get into audiophile-style audio gear. In the audiophile market (where entry-level turntables frequently cost $1000), the Debut Carbon’s price offers a reasonable entry point.
If you’re considering a $100-300 beginner turntable, the choices may all seem similar. However, the Debut Carbon firmly occupies “step up from entry-level” territory with clear upgrades over the competition (which we'll get into in the following points).
↘ Related Reading + What We Mean by "Audiophile": Our Guide To Audiophile / HiFi / Turntable Terminology
2) Product Evolution + Economies of Scale
The Debut Series has gone through several model changes over the last decade while maintaining its price point. Each model has brought meaningful changes aimed at performance. We’ve seen substantial upgrades over the years in the Debut’s tonearm, motor, and cartridge.
For example, the latest model of the Debut Carbon added a newly-designed, stable and efficient DC motor + power supply; plus a new suspension system with elastomer materials (TPE) used in Pro-Ject's higher end turntables.
Pro-Ject is able to continually improve the Debut Series product because of economies of scale, working exclusively with a renowned EU-based factory (conversely, most competitors use the same OEM-style factory in China). They have been continually investing in the manufacturing process, keeping quality high and costs low. In addition, the Debut Series shares features and processes with the manufacture of Pro-Ject's high-end turntables.
To get more specific, here’s a quote from Pro-Ject's Buzz Goddard:
"Pro-Ject is the largest audiophile turntable manufacturer in the world (by a large margin!) and is highly vertically integrated. Almost every component is manufactured in house allowing for significantly lower costs and better QC than other manufacturers. The factory has been producing turntables since the 1950s and has an unequaled breath of knowledge and experience in producing precision instruments. Pro-Ject has also invested heavily in CNC machinery and other advanced hardware to increase precision and productivity. The factory is ISO 9001 certified. Quality is paramount!"
3) That Tonearm
The prime example of “manufacturing evolution” in the Debut Carbon is its carbon fiber tonearm. When Turntable Lab first started carrying the Debut Series, the tonearms were made of an alloy. This design was heavily copied in the market and many competitors actually purchase these tonearms to install on their turntables.
Over the last 5 years, Pro-Ject has developed a carbon fiber tonearm. First it was the tonearm tube, then they introduced a one-piece design that integrated the headshell. This level of manufacturing just doesn’t exist elsewhere at this price range. More rigid and lighter than steel, the Carbon-Fiber tonearm gets the most out of a good cartridge.
Lab Tip: When shopping for a turntable, lift up the tonearm and get a feel. Good tonearms feel like they’re floating with a subtle downward force. Good tonearms feel like they defy natural gravity. Completely loose or too much force is not a good sign.
4) Quality, Modular, Upgradeable Components
The Debut Carbon’s Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge ($99 if purchased separately) is one of Turntable Lab’s most recommended cartridges and one of the top 3 listening cartridges in its price range. On many competitor turntables, the 2M Red is an upgrade, but on the Debut Carbon it’s the stock model. If you want to upgrade the cartridge you can purchase a 2M Blue Stylus and fit it onto the 2M Red body (an easy no-tools upgrade).
The Debut Carbon comes with both removable RCA cables and power cord, as well as Pro-Ject Connect It E Interconnect Cables (picture above, $69) which are a much better quality of cable than you’ll find on competitors' turntables. If you want to upgrade, you can install Pro-Ject’s Connect It ($99) or an upgraded solution from Audioquest.
The Debut Carbon platter is made of steel with a nice weight for speed consistency. If you decide to upgrade, you can get the Pro-Ject Acryl-It Acrylic Platter ($129) which will further improve sound quality (and looks cool as hell).
5) Not Having A Built-In Preamp
While many turntable lines are moving towards having a phono preamp built-in (a convenient feature for sure), we like that the Debut Carbon requires an external preamp. Choosing a preamp to go with your turntable is a basic audiophile exercise / freedom. It allows you to customize and upgrade without swapping out the entire turntable. You can start off with something basic (like our VP29.TTL or Pro-Ject Phono Box DC), or move to a tube-based option (Bellari VP130) or a quality integrated amplifier.
Here’s Goddard's view again:
Since Pro-Ject turntables have excellent tonearms (particularly the 8.6” carbon fiber one on the Debut Carbon), they can benefit from future cartridge upgrades. With an internal phono preamp, the owner would be restricted in choices.”
6) You Should Know: How To Change Speed From 33 to 45 rpm
To change speed between 33 and 45 rpm on the Debut Carbon Turntable, you need to lift the platter and manually shift the turntable belt on the 2-position motor pulley (this is how most audiophile turntables operate). Honestly, this is a bit of an inconvenience, especially if you listen to a good mix of 33s and 45s.
For those users who want speed change automation, the Debut Carbon DC Esprit Turntable (pictured below, $599) adds push button speed control pause the aforementioned Acryl-It Acrylic Platter upgrade.
⇉ IN SUMMATION
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC is a precision turntable with high quality, custom components especially where it counts: tonearm and motor system. Its thoughtfully designed feature set considers both out-of-the-box play and future upgrades. Lastly for its price point, the Debut Carbon DC has little competition.
Bonus: Here's Our Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable Overview + Setup Guide
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