One of the first things most vinyl fans want to know, especially those that are new to the hobby, is what’s the best turntable available for a reasonable amount of money.
And that’s always a tough question to answer, because not only are there so many good record players on the market, but there’s an equal amount of highly affordable turntables that have loads of features any casual (or even veteran) vinyl enthusiast could desire.
But there’s one company that’s been making turntables for decades, and with one of their latest product offerings, might just have found a perfect way to give consumers an audiophile experience on an affordable budget.
Of course, I’m talking about the Project T1. And in this review, not only am I going to help you discover what this turntable offers in terms of features, quality, and price, but I’ll help you understand how you can set it up, how this turntable compares to many of its affordable record player peers in the marketplace, and overall give you my thoughts as to whether the Project T1 is worth your money and time.
To better help you, I’ve also created the interactive guide below, which will allow you to directly compare the Pro-Ject T1 to other notable record players on the market.
|Pro-Ject T1 BT
|Pro-Ject X2 (Walnut)
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB
|Pro-Ject T1 (Black)
Why Consider the Pro-Ject T1?
The Pro-Ject T1 is directly aimed at a very specific consumer. It wants to give you an audiophile experience—that is, no cheap parts inside the turntable, vibration absorbing feet, a quality tonearm, etc—but doesn’t want you to feel the need to have to spend a lot of money.
The T1 can be found for approximately $350, which is a nice price point because it’s a bit cheaper than something like the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon ($400), but requires more money than cheap Crosley turntables that are popular on the market, or even something that’s quite good for the money—like the U-Turn Orbit (at least the version that doesn’t come with a built-in phono preamp).
|Best Selling Turntables
|1) Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB
|2) Sony PS-LX310BT
|3) Audio-Technica AT-LP3
Pro-Ject T1 Features
I’m going to list some of the notable features on the T1 here, and then below that, I’ll go into depth about why some of these features are so important.
The ProJect T1 features (and what comes in the box):
- CNC machined plinth
- Absolutely no plastic parts
- Absolutely no hollow spots
- Glass platter
- Vibration absorbing feet
- Aluminum tonearm
- Belt-drive turntable
- Phono cables soldered into the back of the player
- Pre-adjusted Ortofon OM 5E Moving Magnet cartridge
- Dust cover
- Felt mat
- Adapter for 7” singles
- Power supply
- Allen key
- Stylus pressure gauge
- Available in high gloss black, satin white, and walnut finish
- Handmade in Europe
So, one of the first things that’s important to know about the Pro-Ject T1 is that is contains NO plastic parts. This is key to having the record player not only perform consistently well over time, but the more plastic you have in your record player, the higher likelihood you’re getting a poorly manufactured machine that is prone to not holding up over time (and not sounding all that great, either).
If you’re serious about vinyl, avoid a turntable that has plastic components. A cheaper turntable may cost you less today, but when it eventually breaks down (and it will), you might be a little upset that you didn’t just pay a bit more money upfront for a higher quality player like the T1.
Another key thing here is that the ProJect T1 has no hollow spots inside the turntable. When you have hollow spots inside your record player, you unfortunately foster a ripe environment for vibrations to to happen within the chassis of your player.
So, these are two big things I really like about the this record player, especially since there are some players that cost $100 or $150 and have BOTH plastic parts and hollow spots. So, for just a bit more than double that price, you’re getting a machine that will have longevity as well as better performance.
Now, the ProJect T1 comes also with a heavy glass platter. The platter is 8mm thick, and when you’re trying to avoid unwanted resonance from hurting your record playing experience, you need to know that mass or weight is your best friend. And that weight can often be found in the turntable plinth or platter (or both).
Personally, I’m a fan of acrylic platters (which is something you can find or upgrade to on other turntables), but a glass platter is certainly a nice option here.
ProJect T1 vs T1BT vs T1 Phono SB
Another thing worth noting is that there are three versions of the ProJect T1.
The first is the basic Pro-Ject T1.
The second is the Pro-Ject T1BT. The “BT” stands for “bluetooth.” This means that you can play your favorite vinyl record and listen to the music through your bluetooth speakers. This is the version you should buy if you don’t want to use wired speakers.
And lastly, we have the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB.
So what’s different between the T1 and the T1 Phono SB? Well, a couple of things.
First, the Project T1 features phono cables that come soldered into the back of the turntable. That’s just a fancy way of saying that you cannot remove the phono cables from the back of the turntable—they are permanently attached to the back.
The Pro-Ject T1BT and T1 Phono SB, however, feature phono cables that are removable.
Another difference worth noting is that the basic ProJect T1 does not have a built in phono stage. The ProJect T1BT and T1 Phono SB do indeed have a phono stage.
So, this means that if you purchase the basic T1, you’re going to have to either buy an external phono preamp or simply plug the other end of the phono cables into the PHONO input that’s in the back of an integrated amplifier.
Lastly, the basic T1 is capable of playing both 12” records and 7” records. However, in order to play certain records (like 7” records) properly, you’ll need to play them at 45 Revolutions Per Minute, or 45 RPM.
On the basic T1, to change the speed from 33 1/3 RPM to 45 RPM, you’ll have to lift off the platter and adjust the height of the belt on the motor pulley.
This is very easy to do—it’s just not convenient.
The Pro-Ject Phono SB is all about convenience in this area. The SB stands of “Speed Box,” and one of the notable features of the Speed Box is its easily ability to switch playing speeds.
So, on the T1 Phono SB, the front of the turntable features a switch that allows you to easily toggle between 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM speeds.
How to Set Up the Pro-Ject T1:
Okay, before we go further in this review, I’d like to briefly take some time to show you everything you need to know in terms of the Pro-Ject T1 setup. Think of this as a mini tutorial.
- Let’s first begin with the connection. The T1 will have the phono cables already connected to the back of the machine. Simply take the other end of that cable and plug it into the back of your amplifier (into the PHONO input, since the basic T1 doesn’t have a built in phono stage).
- Next, connect the power supply. Don’t let the wire get close to your phono cables.
- Install the belt around the sub platter and motor pulley.
- Then, place the glass platter on top of the sub platter. Then add felt mat.
- Remove the stylus guard—just pull it straight off. Don’t throw it away though—keep it in a safe spot in case you move or simply want to add it back in the future.
- Install the dust cover onto the two metal rods located on the back of the turntable. The dust cover has slots for these rods that align perfectly.
- And finally, the on and off switch is located on the left side of the turntable. It’s a rocker switch that you essentially just toggle on and off.
ProJect T1 Anti Skate and Vertical Tracking
Let’s quickly talk about anti-skate and vertical tracking. I won’t go too much into depth about it here, partly because you don’t have to worry about either one if you buy the T1. But in general, in order to get optimal sound from your turntable, you often need to adjust anti-skate and vertical tracking.
But with the ProJect T1, both the anti skate settings and vertical tracking force are already preset from the factory. This helps you get up and running very quickly because there are no additional adjustments (like manipulating a counterweight to account for your cartridge, for example) to make.
This is great for convenience and speed of setup, but might be something you feel hinders you as time goes on and your experience (and love of vinyl) increases.
One additional thing I would like to mention here. Although the tonearm height is not adjustable, it is indeed perfectly pre-set for the cartridge you get, which is the OM 5E cartridge.
Pro-Ject T1 vs ProJect Debut Carbon DC
My very first turntable was the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, and although I have upgraded since then, I still have a strong fondness for this record player.
Now, as mentioned before, the ProJect T1 is aimed at vinyl enthusiasts that essentially want a plug and play turntable that’s higher quality than other plug and play record players on the market.
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC, however, is a bit more complex but offers you many more options which can significantly boost the quality of your sound.
The Debut Carbon, which costs about $500, requires you to adjust things like the counterweight (to compensate properly for the cartridge that’s installed on the tonearm so you can set the correct tracking force).
This is important, because too little tracking force will cause the stylus to not sit fully inside the record groove and it won’t track (and play the music) properly. Too much tracking force will cause the stylus to dig too deeply into the groove, which could damage your stylus or record groove (and create an irritating sound through your speakers).
So, on the Debut Carbon DC, you’re going to want to adjust the tracking force (via the counterweight) to whatever the recommended tracking force is for your cartridge.
The Debut Carbon DC comes with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. This is a nice, warm sounding cartridge. Your music, at least in my experience, will sound very lush to the ear.
With that said, I’m a big fan of swapping that cartridge out and getting the Ortofon 2M Blue. Again, this is something you cannot do on the ProJect T1, as that turntable is meant to be an “all in one” convenient experience. If you don’t like something, or think it needs to be tweaked or swapped out, you’re a bit out of luck. Whereas, on the Debut Carbon DC, you’re actually expected to upgrade over time.
What I like about the Ortofon 2M Blue is the clarity you hear coming through your speakers. The lush, warmth sound of the 2M Red is noticeably gone here—I will admit that. The Blue does give off a cooler sound. However, what you now get is much more clarity in the music—more separation in the instruments, and an overall wider soundstage. Music sounds more alive and precise.
And if you want even better sound, you can eventually upgrade the the Ortofon 2M Bronze stylus I’m a fan of this stylus too—it just gives you more of what you like about the Blue, but amplifies the benefits.
You also have the ability to upgrade to the Ortofon 2M Black, which is one of the best cartridges on the market. However, this will require that you swap out the entire 2M Red cartridge body and replace it with the 2M Black cartridge body. So, if you don’t want to break out your tool box to do that, I’d advise just sticking with either a 2M Red, the 2M Blue or the 2M Bronze stylus.
Now, with all that being said, the OM 5E cartridge on the ProJect T1 is not bad—not at all. But, the ProJect Debut Carbon costs $150 more than the T1 for a reason, and a large part of that is due to its better cartridge and its ability to easily allow the consumer to upgrade over time.
Still, if you opt to go with the ProJect T1 because you’d like to save money, you’re getting a very solid turntable. In fact, this turntable features a high quality bearing in the tonearm. It feels very solid to the touch, so you’re not going to get the typical “play” or loose, wiggling feeling you get if you were to purchase a cheaper turntable (which of course would feature a cheaper tonearm bearing).
How to Decide What’s Best?
Well, it’s first important to remember that the Pro-Ject company has been making turntables for decades. They are the model of consistency when it comes to making affordable, high quality record players.
I think the first thing you need to determine is if you already have the necessary equipment to accompany a turntable like the T1. Because remember, the basic T1 has no phono stage built into it. So, you’ll need to plug it into an integrated amplifier that has a PHONO input, or you’ll have to buy an external phono amplifier (like the Schiit Mani or Vincent PHO 8—both of which I’ve used before).
If, for example, you have an amplifier or receiver that has no PHONO input, or you don’t have an external phono preamp, you’ll need to buy the ProJect T1BT or ProJect T1 Phono SB.
If you can get past that hurdle, then the next determining factor should be your upgrade options, and whether that’s important to you.
If you just want a turntable that “is what it is” and doesn’t feature any paths towards upgrading the cartridge, or its ability to tweak anti skate or vertical tracking or tracking force, then the Pro-Ject T1 is the one you want.
I’d like to mention one additional thing. All of the Pro-Ject T1 turntables (T1, T1BT, T1 Phono SB) come with a stylus pressure gauge. The tonearm height cannot be adjusted on these turntables, but if you did ever choose to change cartridges, Pro-Ject does provide you with a stylus pressure gauge so you can set the correct tracking force according to the new cartridge you purchase.
So, while there is some semblance of upgradability with the T1 line, it’s still considered to be relatively entry level as far as turntables go, which is why you cannot adjust additional things like tonearm height or the anti-skate setting.
The ProJect T1 is a great turntable for beginners that are serious about getting into vinyl. It’s quite affordable, but isn’t a cheap feeling record player.
It may not offer tons of bells and whistles, but with its solid construction, glass platter, and ability to play both 12” and 7” records, the Project T1 is a fine addition to one’s entertainment room.
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