Pro-Ject X1 review: High End Audiophile Bliss?
The Pro-Ject X1 is a beautiful looking and sounding turntable, but the big question is this: Is it worth roughly $899, especially when compared to its competition (both in house—the X2, Debut Carbon, Essentiall III— and its peers from other manufacturers, like the Rega Planar 3).
Well, that’s going to be exactly what we determine in this article. In this Pro-Ject X1 turntable review, I’ll cover the following:
1) Pro-Ject X1 features
2) Pro-Ject X1 setup
3) What Makes the Pro-Ject X1 Impressive
4) How It Compares to the Competition
5) If the Pro-Ject X1 is Worth the Money
And to better help you, please take a look at the interactive guide below, where you can directly compare the Pro-Ject X1 to other notable turntables on the market:
|Pro-Ject T1 BT||Built-in Bluetooth (Walnut Finish)|
|Pro-Ject X1||Great entry level high-end turntable|
|Pro-Ject X2 (Walnut)||Plays 78 RPM Records|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO||Black Gloss Finish|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO||Yellow Finish; Sumiko Ranier cartridge|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB||Pro-Ject Speed Box Built-in|
|Pro-Ject T1 (Black)||Features Ortofon OM5e Cartridge|
Pro-Ject X1 Price and Comparisons
The Pro-Ject X1 can be found for about $899. That’s about $500 more than the very popular Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC, which will cost about $400.
Another popular record player is the Pro-Ject Essential III, which is actually about $50 less at around $350.
The Rega RP3 can cost close to $1,000 without a cartridge, so to that end, the Pro-Ject has this high end record player beat on cost. If you wanted to add something like the Rega Elys Moving Magnet cartridge to it, you’re looking at a record player that’s over $1,100.
And if you really wanted to splurge on a higher end cartridge like the Rega Exact 2, you’d have to be prepared to pay in excess of $1,500 (although the cartridge by itself can be purchased separately for about $600).
Along with the X1, Pro-Ject has also released the Pro-Ject X2. I’ll cover the major differences between the X1 and X2 throughout this article, but when it comes to price, the X1 costs about $900, while the X2 costs approximately $1,300.
Top 5 Features of the Pro-Ject X1
Let’s cover some of the top notch features you’ll get if you purchase the Pro-Ject X1.
The first is the fact that the X1 has a motor that is decoupled from the main plinth. This is done using a new motor suspension system.
A decoupled motor is very important because the motor can always be a major pain point for turntable fans. The motor is where you can have distortion problems, as vibrations can come up through your platter and eventually affect your cartridge/stylus.
To put it simply—you really, really don’t want that to occur.
This is why, on higher end turntables like the Pro-ject X1, you really need a record player that’s going to feature an isolated motor. Turntables that feature isolated motors can often run you thousands of dollars.
For example, when I reviewed the Marantz TT-15S1 (pictured below), I discussed the fact that this turntable had an isolated motor, and the benefits of that. But, this turntable costs about $1,500.
The Pro-Ject X1, by contrast, also has an isolated motor but will run you about $900.
The next feature that’s impressive with the X1 is that it comes with an acrylic platter. Previously, I had reviewed the Pro-Ject T1 line, and I talked about how on turntables like the Pro-Ject T1 and Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB, that they featured glass platters (you can read my Pro-Ject T1 review here, as well as my Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB review).
I had mentioned that I’m a fan of acrylic platters, and so it’s great to see the X1 go that route.
What’s nice about acrylic platters is that, in order to play a vinyl record, all you need to do is place the record directly onto the platter. There’s no need for a felt mat. You can certainly add a record clamp to tighten and flatten your records onto the platter, but a felt mat is not necessary.
The Pro-Ject X1 also comes with a carbon and aluminum sandwich construction for the tonearm. On cheaper turntables, you’re likely to find tonearms made solely out of aluminum. It’s important to know, too, that the X1 can come with or without the Pro-Ject Pick It S2 MM cartridge (always great to be given options as a consumer).
The X1 also provides you the ability to set azimuth and VTA (Vertical Tracking Adjustment). Adjusting the azimuth allows for you to adjust the tonearm horizontally (think of it as twisting the tonearm a little bit to the left or a little bit to the right). VTA, on the other hands, is about adjusting the tonearm either up or down. These are important options to have if you want to be able to tweak your tonearm just right so that it sits at just the right height and angle to allow the stylus to properly track the groove of a record so that you can get the absolute best sound as possible coming through your speakers.
On the X1, you’ll also be able to enjoy a TPE or Thermo Plastic Elastomer damped counterweight. Yes, that’s a bit of a mouthful, but just know that this counterweight helps to further reduce cartridge and tonearm resonances.
Additional Features to Remember
Here is a quick rundown of a handful of other noteworthy X1 features:
The phono cables are detachable from the back of the turntable. In the Pro-Ject T1, for example, those same cables were soldered into the back of the plinth.
The X1 comes with height adjustable feet that are made with an aluminum/TPE sandwich construction.
Like the T1 Phono SB, the X1 turntable comes with button on the front chasis that allows you to electronically change the speed from 33 RPM to 45 RPM. By comparison, if you were using the Pro-Ject T1 turntable, you’d have to lift off the glass platter and manually move the belt position from the small motor pulley ring to the bigger motor pulley ring.
Speaking of playing speed, the Pro-Ject X1 comes with an adaptor that you can place onto the spindle and allows you to play 7” records.
Finally, the Pro-Ject X1 comes in high gloss black, high gloss white, and a walnut finish.
The Pro-Ject X1 Setup Guide
When you’re ready to set up your Pro-Ject X1, here are the steps you need to take.
1) Unpack all of your accessories that are inside the box and place them to the side. You should have a counterweight, a drive belt, a single adapter and an Allen key, an anti-skating weight, an RCA cable, and a pair of white gloves.
2) Next, remove the dust cover from the box, which sits on top of the turntable.
3) Then, lift the turntable (and its wrapping) out of the box.
4) Take out the power supply, which will be sitting in a small white box.
5) Take out the acrylic platter, which will be sitting at the very bottom of the box.
6) Now, we want to install the drive belt. First, put on the pair of white gloves. Next, grab the drive belt and simply wrap it around the small motor pulley. Wrap the rest of the best around the edge of the sub platter.
You’ll probably notice that there is also a larger motor pulley that the belt can go around. If you ever were to purchase 78’s and planned to play records at 78 RPM, you would wrap the belt around that bigger motor pulley.
-Next, place the acrylic platter on top of the sub platter.
-Now it’s time to tend to the tonearm. So first, remove the twist tie. Then, place the counterweight onto the back of the tonearm (the numbers on the weight should be facing the same direction as the tonearm).
-Remove the stylus guard.
-Now, it’s time to set the tracking force. To do so, lower the tonearm lift and place the tonearm between the platter and the armrest.
-Balance the tonearm by turning the counterweight until the tonearm itself is level. You want it to be about even with the platter—not too high, not too low. Be careful to not damage your stylus since you have removed the stylus guard.
-Next, turn the front scale or front ring of the counterweight to zero—but don’t move the actual weight itself.
-Next, turn the counterweight counterclockwise until the scale reads roughly 18. The tracking force is now set. If you were to purchase a different cartridge, you would have to set the tracking force to the recommended setting of that cartridge. But, for the cartridge that comes pre-installed on the X1, the recommended tracking force is 18mN.
-Put the needle protection cover back onto the cartridge.
-Now, we need to install the anti-skate weight, which is simply a small weight suspended by a piece of string. So to install it properly, simply put the loop of the anti-skating weight into the second groove on the tonearm.
-Next, unpack the dust cover and put it onto the turntable. To do this, just place the cover onto the two metal rods that stand vertically on the back of the turntable’s chassis.
-Next, plug in both your power supply and RCA cables in the back of your turntable.
-This turntable does not have a built in phono preamp, so you will need a phono stage of some sort to be able to listen to your music. If you have an integrated amplifier that has a PHONO input in the back, simply connect the other end of the RCA cables to the PHONO input. If you do NOT have an amplifier with a PHONO input, then you’ll need to connect the RCA cables to an external phone preamp. There are many to choose from, but a couple I’ve used and enjoyed are the Vincent PHO-8 and Schiit Mani.
Using the Pro-Ject X1
A turntable’s sound is often going to be directly tied to the quality of the cartridge and stylus. The Pro-Ject X1 comes with a Pro-Ject Pick It S2 MM cartridge, which was launched in early 2019 along with the Pick It DS2. The S2 is aimed at more of an upper end entry-level market, while the DS2 is more for those that are willing to spend a bit more money to get higher quality.
The S2 uses Ortofon’s Concorde cartridge body, and the cartridge itself is actually made by Ortofon.
I’m a big fan of Ortofon—I really like their Ortofon 2M Red, Ortofon 2M Blue and especially their Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge.
I think the S2 cartridge is a nice entry point into getting a fairly affordable glimpse at what hi fi can be. But, I think if you want to take your X1 to the next level in terms of sound clarity and precision, I’d recommend upgrading to the Ortofon 2M Bronze or the Pro-Ject Pick It 2M Silver.
Pro-Ject X1 vs Pro-Ject X2
For those that have even more disposable income, you may want to consider getting the Pro-Ject X2 (which will cost about $1,300).
What do you get for that money? Well, a few things.
The first thing you’ll be able to enjoy is a chassis and a platter that are considerably thicker than the X1. This helps to keep unwanted vibrations to a minimum, so you now don’t really have to fear that footfalls will interrupt your record playing experience.
Another thing you get here is a better cartridge. I just talked about cartridges in the previous section, but it’s worth noting that the Pro-Ject X2 comes with the Pro-Ject Pick It 2M Silver—which is a definite upgrade over the S2 cartridge that comes with the X1.
One addition thing you get with the Pro-Ject X2? A longer tonearm. The longer tonearm helps to prevent mistakes in the position of the cartridge from happening. In short, you’re going to get far less distortion.
If you only have enough money for the Pro-Ject X1—get it. But if you have money to spare for the Pro-Ject X2, I wouldn’t hesitate to get it.
Pro-Ject X1 vs Rega Planar 3
The Rega Planar 3 is now a few years old, but it continues to be one of the best turntables available on the market for those looking for a good entry point into the hi-fi experience.
The cost of the Rega Planar 3 varies a little bit. For example, if you wanted to get it without a cartridge, it’ll probably run you about $950. Not cheap. If you did want it with a Rega Elys cartridge installed, the turntable price jumps to over $1,100.
And, if you want the superior Rega Exact 2 cartridge installed, be prepared to pay about $1,500 for the entire turntable. And for those that prefer something like the Soundsmith Carmen cartridge installed—you’re looking at close to $2,000.
But there’a reason the cost is so high—because there’s quality to match it.
Pro-Ject X1 vs Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC
For those interested in a potential cheaper option, there is the always popular Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC turntable. This record player is the most affordable record player that we’ll discuss in this article, costing consumers about $500.
And it’s a very solid turntable overall. It comes with with the Ortofon 2M Red, a very solid cartridge that’s going to give you warm, lush sound. It also features a carbon fiber tonearm.
Where the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon falls a bit short is in the overall size and heft of the table itself. The Debut Carbon only weighs about 12 pounds, while the X1 clocks in at about 20 pounds.
The plinth and platter is where most of the additional weight of the X1 comes from—and that’s a good thing. A heavy, denser machine is going to help lessen the potential impact of unwanted vibrations ruining your musical experience.
The Debut Carbon is definitely a solid turntable, but the X1 is superior.
The X1 also provides a little extra convenience that the Debut Carbon can’t match. If you want to change speeds on the X1, just push a button. If you want to change speeds on the Debut Carbon, you’re going to need to lift the platter off the sub-platter and adjust the belt position on the motor pulley.
The Pro-Ject X1 is great turntable, especially those looking to get their first taste of the hi-fi world. While it’s not as good as the Pro-Ject X2, it’s also not as expensive. And while we can have a good debate as to whether it’s better than the Rega Planar 3, it’s definitely a better table than the already very solid Debut Carbon.
If you’re looking for a sub $1,000 turntable that will provide you with a high quality construction and record playing experience, definitely consider the Pro-Ject X1.
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