Listening to vinyl isn’t just the act of listening to music. It is an experience that starts with visiting dozens of small independent stores to dig through 100s of LP’s in the hopes of finding that special record you have been looking for. Whether you listen to Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin or Billy Idol, listening to vinyl is an experience that brings back memories and nostalgia from a simpler time. Your turntable plays a large part in your enjoyment of this experience, and with this Pro-Ject Debut Carbon review my aim is to help you decide whether this is the right TT for you.
The Debut was first introduced in the late 90s by Austrian firm Pro-Ject Audio Systems and was seen as a revolution by many. It was the first analogue product to be mass produced since compact discs had arrived. It was a turntable that any music lover could afford.
The new Pro-Ject Debut Carbon builds on this legacy and aims to create a new chapter in the coming decade. This turntable comes with a carbon tube for the tonearm, which makes for a stiffer tonearm, and means there is less unwanted resonance.
Carbon is typically only used for tonearms in much more expensive turntables and was never before seen in a table at this price level. Paired with the bigger platter size and increase in weight, it means the Carbon turntable rotates so much smoother, increasing the sound quality.
The dimensions of this belt-driven turntable measures in at 4.65 inches x 12.6 inches x 16.34 inches and weighs 12.3 lbs. This might sound heavy for vinyl newbies, but the added weight helps reduce unwanted vibrations that can impact on sound quality.
No-one can argue that Pro-Ject knows their stuff when it comes to turntables. They wouldn’t have such a large number of fans if their products didn’t look and sound good. While the Debut range of tables has been something of a legend in the vinyl industry, the Carbon takes it one step further with its super-light, super-strong tonearm.
Made from carbon fibre, it works exceptionally well with the heavy platter and the Ortofon 2M Red moving-magnet cartridge.
Setup of this table is relatively simple for those familiar with turntables, and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. While the table has an overall solid feel to it, the counter weight and bias weight feel a little precarious.
I do like that this unit is available in 8 different colors. I like the black version, with red coming in a close second. The following are the different Pro-Ject Debut Carbon colors available:
This TT comes standard with the very good Ortofon 2M Red cartridge and delivers a full bass and mids with a punch. I like how bright the treble range is, and the vocals performance is solid. It delivers a dynamic and really pleasurable music experience.
Blindfold your audiophile friends, stick your favourite Miles Brown record on the Carbon, and I guarantee they won’t be able to tell the sound is coming from a turntable that costs less than 500 dollars.
- Setup of this table takes minutes, which cannot be said of others in this price range. The superb cartridge and tonearm deliver vibrant sounds with nuance. The overall simplicity of this table means you can get back to enjoying the music, instead of fiddling with features you don’t really need.
- For this price, you won’t find a TT with less resonance and vibration. This means you are getting a much cleaner and richer sound.
- I just have to give the smart guys and girls at Pro-Ject credit for the easy setup process. When you receive the Carbon, all you need to do is dial in the tracking force and anti-skating, and you are ready to put your favourite Pink Floyd record on.
- The biggest thing most listeners have against this table is the lack of features. Having said that, I have always believed you buy a TT for the sound, and not for the bells and whistles. If you are looking for a table with auto-return, USB output, and other features, you might want to look at some other tables. For those who are serious about their music, the quality of the sound will make you forget about all those features as soon as the needle drops.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Vs Essential II
The Pro-ject Essential II is basically a pared down version of the Debut Carbon. For roughly a 100 bucks less, the Essential II has a lighter platter, and the tone-arm was described as “little more than a plastic straw” by one of my audiophile friends.
The Essential also has a thinner and lighter plinth, and with only three legs it is much less stable. As far as sound goes, it is only slightly warmer than the Debut Carbon, while it lacks in the higher frequency range and lower mids.
For the extra 100 bucks or so, you are really getting much more value than the dollar amount. Just the Ortofon 2m Red cartridge on the Carbon is worth the difference, not to mention the better tone-arm and the removable interconnect cables. You really do get a whole lot for the extra money you spend on the Carbon.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon VS Audio Technica LP120
I previously reviewed the Audio Technica AT LP120 and I was really impressed with the all-round value for money it offers. The Carbon does come at a higher price which is justified when comparing these two turntables head to head.
Firstly, the Audio Technica has a built-in pre-amp. This is great for some, while some of the most discerning audiophiles will see this as a deal-breaker. My opinion, a built-in pre-amp is a good thing for those starting out with vinyl as it cuts down on the cost to get started. For those who like to use their own amplifiers, the LP120 gives you the option of bypassing it with the flick of a switch. Regular users of the LP120 have mentioned that bypassing the pre-amp still detracts from the sound quality, and some users have completely removed the pre-amp from the unit.
Another factor that might come into play with the Audio Technica AT LP120 is the fixed cables. This won’t be a big issue for the casual listener, and those just starting out with vinyl. The more experienced listener might want to replace the cable with their own at some stage, so again this could be a dealbreaker for some.
The 6.6lbs LP120 is direct-driven, while the 12.3lbs Carbon is belt-driven. Enthusiasts will tell you a belt-driven turntable does a much better job with isolating motor vibration. Less motor vibration means a higher quality of sound. If you are just starting out with vinyl, you might not be able to tell the difference in sound between belt-driven and direct-driven turntables.
One area where I prefer the LP120 over the Carbon is with the ease of use when it comes to switching between RPM. The LP120 has a simple switch, while the Pro-Ject Debut turntable requires you to take the platter off, and manually move the belt to a different diameter pulley. Probably not a huge deal for most listeners, but for those with plenty of 33s and 45s in their collection, it could be a factor. The LP120 can also play 78s while the Carbon can’t.
When we start looking at sound quality, the Carbon comes into its own. The LP120 has a WOW\Flutter rating of 0.25%, which is actually quite good considering the price. The Carbon, however, blows the Audio Technica out of the water with its rating of 0.10%. If you haven’t heard of this rating before, it is an indication of the amount of “wobble” in the audio frequencies during playback. This article will explain it in lengthy detail, but all you need to know is that the lower the rating, the better.
The Pro-Ject table has a signal-to-noise ratio of 68db in comparison to the 50db of the AT. This is a measurement of how much noise is introduced into the audio signal through interferences such as the vibration of the motor. A higher number is better.
When I compared these two head-to-head I also found the needle drops to be much better on the Pro-Ject. I also like the tone-arm much better on this table.
Bottom line, if you prefer more features the LP120 is the better buy. It plays 33s, 45s, and 78s, and has USB output and reverse control.
If you are after the best sound for your money, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is the way to go.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon VS Rega RP1
The main differences between these two tables are in the price and the sound. The Rega RP1 with Performance Pack comes at a premium price, and will cost you about 200 dollars more. Those looking for more power, and real authority in the low end, the Rega RP1 Table with Performance Pack is the right choice. If you prefer clarity and detail, the Pro-Ject is the table for you.
Most users of this turntable agree that the sound is exceptional for this price range. Comments were also made about the solid performance of the included Ortofon cartridge.
Users mentioned that switching between 33s and 45s are a bit of a pain, as it involves removing the platter and moving the belt from one reel to another before replacing the platter again. Kind of makes it less likely that you would put that 45 on because of all the hassle, but users mentioned this table played the 45s beautifully when asked to do so.
This table handles any genre, including orchestral, jazz and rock very well according to users.
A few users mentioned a lack of features (such as auto return, USB output, etc.), while others felt that the quality of the sound more than made up for this.
Where to buy at the best price
As with most things I buy, I get my audio equipment from Amazon. Nothing beats their service and the comfort of ordering while still dressed in your pajamas.
On top of this, Amazon offers fantastic prices on turntables.
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon offers exceptional sound at this price. You will struggle to find the same quality in tables nearly twice the price. The table not only sounds great but also looks very nice. The included Ortofon 2M Red cartridge tracks very well and recovers nuances in the vinyl grooves that many others can’t. The carbon tonearm gives this table a real premium feel at a price your better half won’t frown at.
This beautiful minimalist table is easy to setup and has exceptional detail and clarity at this price level. It is available in a range of finishes, and the overall build quality is of the high standard we have come to expect from Pro-Ject.
It is a great option for those looking to upgrade their beginner table, or those who enjoy vinyl, but are not ready to drop thousands on a premium setup.
If you are looking for a plug-and-play turntable that can deliver clean, textured sound at an affordable price, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is the right choice for you.