Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB review: Audiophile for Beginners?!

Pro-Ject is in the business of making high quality turntables that have low barriers of entry for the consumer.  While some turntable manufacturers aim to make immensely expensive products that very few vinyl enthusiasts could hope to get their hands on, Pro-Ject has identified that there’s a large consumer base that wants a healthy mix of quality and affordability.

And with the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB, I think they’ve found a terrific way to do just that.

In this review of the T1 Phono SB, I’m going to outline what this turntable has to offer, who best will benefit from purchasing it, how you can set up the turntable properly, and you’ll discover how this record player best compares to the other turntables in this T1 line—namely, the Pro-Ject T1BT and the original or base model Pro-Ject T1.

Below, please use our interactive guide, which will allow you to directly compare the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB to other notable record players on the market:

Pro-Ject T1 BT
Pro-Ject X1
Pro-Ject X2 (Walnut)
Project Debut Carbon DCPro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO
Pro-Ject - Debut Carbon Esprit SBPro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB
Pro-Ject T1 (Black)

Who is the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB For?

So, let’s discuss how you can easily determine if this is the right turntable for you.  And to do that, let’s begin with price.

The T1 Phono SB costs about $400, and it’s considered by Pro-Ject to be an audiophile entry-level turntable.

That means that the record player is made with higher quality parts than cheaper turntables, and yet it’s able to be just as plug and play as many go those cheaper turntables on the market.

And so, the first thing to know is that this turntable is best suited for someone looking for high quality record playing performance of a relatively small budget.  The second thing to be aware of is that this turntable is best suited for someone that wants to put in relatively minimal amount of work in order to get their music to sound the best it can.

I’ll go over both of these points more in depth throughout the article, but know that if you fall into either of these two categories (you want a high quality turntable that prioritizes affordability and convenience; a turntable that’s plug in play and doesn’t complicate the setup of record playing experience), then the T1 Phono SB should definitely be on your radar.

Best Selling Turntables
1) Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB
2) Sony PS-LX310BT
3) Audio-Technica AT-LP3

Big Features of the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB

The first thing I’d like to talk about regarding this turntable, as far as features go, is its built in phono stage and speed box.

You may have been wondering why the T1 Phono SB is named the way it’s named. Well, its name is a reference to two key features in this turntable that are not available in the base T1 turntable model.

The first thing to note here is that the T1 Phono SB comes with a built in phono stage.  Music from turntables cannot simply be heard by hooking it up to a speaker—like a DVD or Blu Ray or video game console operates when you hook it up to your TV.  A turntable’s audio has to be, for lack of a better phrase, amplified.  And to do that, you need a phono stage.

A phono stage can usually be found in one of three locations:

  1. Built inside the turntable
  2. Built inside an integrated amplifier
  3. Built inside an independent/external phono preamplifier

As long as one of these three options exist, you can listen to your records.

In an effort to keep things simple for the consumer, Pro-Ject has built a phono preamp into the T1 Phono SB.  And so, when you’re ready to listen to your favorite record, simply reach into the back of the turntable and toggle the switch to LINE OUT.  Then, connect the other end of the RCA cables to either the CD input or AUX input in the back of your amplifier.

Due note, however, that while built in phono preamps can be more than adequate, the quality of the phono stage you use can indeed change how your music sounds.

Over time, you may want to use either a phono stage inside of a high quality integrated amplifier, or possibly purchase an external phono preamp entirely.

The awesome Vincent PHO-8

I personally use an external phono preamp (the Vincent PHO-8), and I connect it to a Cambridge CXA61 amplifier, which then outputs the music to my PSB Imagine Mini speakers.  The Vincent PHO-8 provides better sound quality (and bass) to the music than I otherwise would get by just using the built in phono stage of the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB.

And so, if you feel this is a route you’d like to go, Pro-Ject gives you the ability to bypass their built in phono stage so you can use the phono preamp of your choice. If you’d like to do something like I do (use the Vincent PHO-8 as your external phono preamp), simply reach behind the T1 Phono SB and toggle the switch from LINE OUT to PHONO OUT.  Then connect your turntable to your preamp, and output the sound from your preamp to an amplifier or receiver.

And lastly, the second change from the base T1 turntable to the T1 Phono SB is the addition of an electronic speed switch on the front left of the turntable plinth.  Now, with the flip of a switch, you can change the speed from 33 1/3 to 45 RPM.  This is key if you want to play 7” records—they’ll need to spin at 45 RPM (even some 12” records spin at 45 RPM—Ed Sheehan is known for putting out vinyl records that spin at 45 Revolutions Per Minute).  

Top 5 Selling Points of the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB

Here are top 5 selling points that the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB offers potential customers.

-The first thing is that this turntable has no plastic parts.  Often, if you’re in the market for a cheap, budget turntable, you’ll find that the record player is comprised a large amount of plastic.  Whether it’s the tonearm or the platter, the more plastic you have in your turntable, the higher likelihood it will break down (and even if it doesn’t break down, the lack of high quality materials will hurt the sound quality of the music.  Remember: There’s a reason all of those suitcase record players are so cheap.  It’s because they are made with cheap materials).

The second big thing is that the T1 Phono SB has no hollow spots inside the turntable.  Cheaper turntables may have hollow spots in the bottom of the plinth or elsewhere in the turntable.  Again, this is something you’ll usually find on cheaper record players. Hollow spots inside your turntable is a recipe for disaster, as it creates a perfect opportunity for vibrations to wreck havoc on the integrity of your record’s sound fidelity.

The third big selling point is that this turntable has a thick glass platter.  The platter is 8mm thick, so it’s fairly heavy.  Glass platters are usually seen on more expensive turntables than this, and what’s great about them is that in comparison to cheaper platters, a thick glass platter will create a flywheel effect, which will improve the speed stability when it comes to playing your records.

In short, when it comes to playing vinyl, you want materials in your turntable that are going to be dense and heavy.  The heavier the better (so long as the weight can be supported, of course) because the density helps prevent your turntable from being negatively affected by vibrations.

On a cheaper turntable made of plastic, you’ll notice that if you walk by it (or have dogs or children running around the room), that the tonearm may wobble back and forth (or up and down) or that the entire turntable itself will move to the around on the table a bit.  That’s because the turntable is made up of lightweight, cheap parts.

When you have something like a 8mm thick glass platter (and/or a thick chassis), that extra weight helps to cancel out the negative effects of unwanted vibrations.

The next great selling point is that this turntable is a manual, belt-driven turntable.  If you’re used to (or enticed by) fully or even semi-automatic turntables, you may find the fact that a record player being fully manual to be a negative thing.

It’s not—at all.  In fact, you should be highly encouraged that this turntable is a manually operated, because most high quality record players are manually operated.

Automatic turntables are great for convenience, but just know that you sacrifice quality for the lack of your required attention.  In order to make all of the automatic mechanisms work correctly in those kind of turntables, they need to be lightweight.  And when things are lightweight, as we’ve covered throughout this review, you’re likely getting a cheaply made product.

Also, belt drive turntables are excellent products.  Yes, there may be times where you need to replace your belt (and when installing the belt, I’d recommend where a pair of gloves so you don’t get any oil on the belt), but belt drive turntables are highly reliable.

You may be wondering the following: Belt drive turntables vs direct drive turntables—which one is better and why?

Well, there’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer here.  People have different preferences.  What I can say is that, while direct drive turntables are indeed quite nice, the one negative you should be aware of is that the platter on these turntables can often sit right on top of the motor.  So, that means that the motor noise can then creep up through into the platter and affect the quality of the sound.

The last big selling point is the convenience of this record player.  The T1 Phono SB offers consumers an aluminum tonearm that’s 8.6” long and and it comes with the Ortofon OM5e Moving Magnet cartridge (which features an elliptical diamond stylus tip for hi-fi playback).

What’s important to note here is that this cartridge is not only pre-mounted, but the tracking force is pre-set to the correct tracking force for the supplied Ortofon OM5e cartridge.

On top of that, when you take the T1 Phono SB out of the box, you don’t have to worry about setting things like the anti-skate setting or the tonearm height.

The T1 Phono SB does indeed come with a stylus pressure gauge if you ever wanted to change out your cartridge for an entirely different one (and needed to properly adjust the tracking force).  But, this turntable doesn’t have all of the options of a more expensive record player, such as adjustable anti-skate and tonearm height).

In short, this is a record player for those that love the ease of a plug and play turntable but want it made of higher quality parts that will help extend its lifespan.

How to Set Up the T1 Phono SB

Here’s a brief guide on how to set up this turntable.  It’s very easy to do, which is one of its major selling points.

Pull out the turntable and place it onto a stable, flat surface.

Attach the belt around the sub platter.  The belt must also go around the motor pulley.

Now, place the glass platter carefully onto the spindle of the sub-platter.

Put the felt mat on top of the platter.  Remove the twist-tie that’s wrapped around the tonearm.  Remove the stylus guard.

Install the dust cover onto the two metal rods that stick up on the back of the turntable.

If you’re planning on using the internal phono preamp of the turntable, turn the switch on the back of the record player to LINE OUT.  Then, connect your phono cables into the AUX or CD input of a receiver or amplifier.

If you want to use your own external phono preamp, then turn that switch from LINE OUT to PHONO OUT.  Then, plug those phono cables into the PHONO INPUT an integrated amplifier or an external phono preamp (like the Schiit Mani or Pro-Ject Phono Box, for example).

Once you’ve turned on the turntable, you can switch speeds at the switch of a button (located at the bottom left of the plinth).  If you want to play records at 33 1/3 speed, click the button and you will see a light illuminate next to the number 33. 

If you want to play records at 45 RPM speed, click the button again and a light will illuminate the number 45.

Pro-Ject T1 vs T1 Phono SB vs T1BT

All three turntables from the T1 line are very, very similar.  But there differences are pretty significant, so I’d like to cover them here.

The big difference between the Pro-Ject T1 and the Pro-Ject T1BT is that the T1BT comes with a built in phono stage.  The baseline T1 doesn’t.  The T1BT also comes with a Bluetooth transmitter.  So now, you can have your turntable on one side of the room and your wireless speaker all the way on the other side of the room.  And, as long as you have a quality bluetooth connection, you’ll be able to hear music coming through your wireless speaker.

This is a really great option for someone that wants a perfect blend of old technology and modern day tech sensibilities.

When it comes to the Pro-Ject T1 vs the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB, not only does the the T1 Phono SB have a built in phono preamp, it also comes with an electronically regulated, precision speed AC motor.  On top of that, if you want to switch from 33 1/3 speed to 45 RPM speed, you’d usually have to lift the platter on the T1 and adjust the position of the belt on the motor pulley.  With the T1 Phono SB, you don’t need to do that—just change the speed electronically at the touch of a button.

Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB vs Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC is superior to the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB.  It features a carbon tonearm, as opposed to an aluminum tonearm found on the T1 Phono SB.  The Debut Carbon DC also has a better cartridge in the Ortofon 2M Red

Ortofon 2M Bronze Cartridge

And if you’d like to upgrade one day, you can easy swap out the 2M Red stylus for either the Ortofon 2M Blue or Ortofon 2M Bronze (upgrading to the Ortofon 2M Black will indeed require swapping out the entire cartridge, however).

I’m a big fan of the Ortofon 2M line.  While I haven’t heard the 2M Black yet, I can personally attest to really liking all three cartridges in the 2M Red, 2M Blue, and 2M Bronze.


The Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB is a great entry-level turntable that’s going to make you feel like you got an audiophile-esque turntable.  And while there are still a few more rungs on the ladder to climb to really possess a true audiophile record player. the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB is an great entryway into the world of hi-fi—especially for those that want to spend less than $500 on a record player.

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