At CES 2017 Pro-Ject Introduced Many New Turntables and Phono Pre-Amps

Pro-Ject had two rooms at CES 2017. One included a few prototypes and special "one-off" designs, including one for the band Wilco and one for Best Buy/Magnolia currently available, produced for Ron Howard's Beatles film.

The other room includes new Pro-Ject turntables and electronics to be introduced this year. Your guide in that room is Pro-Ject President and founder Heinz Lichtenegger, who told me that the astonishing number of Pro-Ject turntables sold in 2016 that he gave me for my "state of analog" speech at the L.A. and Orange County Audio Society, was wrong. The number included a fourth quarter estimate that proved to be far lower than the actual sales.

theboogeydown's picture

them fall right into the Linn/Thorens look as opposed to coming up with their own innovations. That said, those are some handsome tables so... what do I know. Does feel a bit like a missed opportunity to "move the needle" though (sorry), especially with, what I would assume is a ton of capital behind them. Thank as always to Michael for saving us a trip to Vegas and giving us a front row.

Buzz Goddard's picture

The look is very much intended as an homage to the designs typified but some of the brands you mention. Look a little deeper and you'll find a lot of innovation in the execution.
Scroll through some of the exploded view diagrams on the product webpage and you'll see what I mean. The table sounds very good. We're impressed!

OldschoolE's picture

Heinz Lichtenegger is no dummy! He is doing amazing things with the company. That is some premium stuff for very affordable prices! I know audiophiles may not think it is good enough because of price, but don't listen to that BS. I'm amazed at what Project is offering at the price points they are. In fact, I'm eyeing one of those phono stages now even though I already have a Phonomena 2, it can't compete though with what Project just did, not even in price! Mickey, you kept saying the price was "good", it's "great" for what one gets.
I'm so glad you did this video Michael! It has served to restore or keep my faith in affordable fine audio and thank you Heinz and Project!
Exciting stuff!

readargos's picture

I agree. Pro-Ject had some growing pains as it began moving more up-market, but their fit'n'finish has caught up with their technological ambition. I overcame the stigma that Pro-Ject was a "budget" brand, and I was shocked at how good the RPM 9.2 EVO was for the money. I eventually upgraded to the 10.1. Where else will you find a partially magnetically levitated platter, a full carbon-fiber tonearm with a chunky bearing yolk, and a fully magnetically levitated isolation platform (Ground It III Deluxe) this side of $10K? The 10.1 (recently replaced by the RPM 10 Carbon) is arguably a $6K-$10K 'table at the $3K price point. Oh, and it sounds good, too!

If you want a more conventional form factor, they have the Xtension models with similar performance, but I believe the RPMs are meant to represent the highest performing 'tables at each price point.

WaltonGoggins's picture

are my favorite things. Such a gracious man, who takes such delight in showing his wares.

Ortofan's picture

... with built-in speed control delivered to the US market, Pro-Ject should ditch the Sumiko Blue Point cartridge and have Ortofon supply an OEM version of an equivalent to the Music Hall Mojo or the VinylMaster Silver.

Suppose Pro-Ject were to make an "Analog Planet" special edition turntable, what specs would MF choose for it? Is there an existing Pro-Ject model on which it could be based?

theboogeydown's picture

is a cool idea! Money to be made from that partnership, for certain.

readargos's picture

Therefore US Pro-Ject turntables are generally featured with Sumiko cartridges. The lower-end Sumiko go more for warmth and musicality, but the Blue Point EVO III and Blackbird are more balanced. Some of the users in Europe complain about the Ortofon 2M Silver that comes on the Classic there. No one cartridge will please all users...

OldschoolE's picture

I'm not a fan of Sumiko Blue Point carts myself, but the solution is too easy. All one has to do is either see if one can order the table without a cart and supply their own of their choosing. Barring that, just order up and swap out the cart.
It's all part of the beauty of the analog front end - you can tweak and choose to get the sound you want. Change the cart get different sound. Change the platter mat, get different sound. Change the load on your preamp if you have one, get different sound and on and on. The beauty is that on tables such as these the tonearms can handle lots of carts, you won't be left wanting for choice.
Now with all the improvements and upgrades on the Project stuff, things are going to get exciting again. It takes a man with passion like Heinz to do stuff like this. Let's not forget that what one does the others follow too.

Ortofan's picture

... it would still be nice have a choice of factory-installed cartridges. My preference is for the Ortofon cartridges with the FG type stylus, such as the original 540 and the later VM version along with the one made for Music Hall - but even a 2M Blue would be fine for a turntable in the price category of 'The Classic'.

readargos's picture

although there are many happy users of Sumiko's Blackbird. I imagine most dealers would offer some kind of 'table-cart' package discount for those inclined toward other cartridges.

StonedBeatles1's picture

I purchased my last turntable (Music Hall) some 12-15 years ago after moronically selling my 70's table for a mere $20 back in the late 80's. Unfortunately, the motor or the Music Hall began having an awful hum after under 2 years of usage, swearing off anything made from that factory again, however, after seeing these new tables I'm considering giving them (the factory) another shot.

Nice video Mikey. Very impressive..

audiof001's picture

My brother got a Project RPM1.3 'Genie' used a few years ago. We both thought the Pear cartridge had a hum. He swopped in anther cartridge and the hum remained. He found that using an original Audioquest Big Foot under the motor and elevating the rest of the turntable to that new height silenced the hum completely. Perhaps damping under your motor will help your issue.

wgb113's picture

Here I sit, my Debut Carbon setup another year older, still trying to decide what $1,500-ish turntable to upgrade to. Is it the P3? The new Classic from Pro-Ject? Or do I wait (and hope) that we'll actually see the MoFi StudioDeck for sale this year?

Jack Gilvey's picture

in that range. All reviews (includes Michael's) are pretty old now so no idea how it compares to more recent fare. Or even if it's enough of an upgrade from my KAB SL-1200 MkII/DL-103r to be worthwhile. I do love the way it looks, though.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

When it comes to turntables I could read reviews and watch videos of them all day long! Does that mean I have a 'fetish'? Who cares. I hope there are more videos to come! Keep up the great work!

James, Dublin, Ireland

Rudy's picture

I saw the Tube Box DS2 on the Pro-Ject site a few weeks back but as of yet, I do not see it available for sale. I am anxious to hear this. I have a Phonomena II+ at the moment, but find the circuitry too noisy (too much amplifier "rush") when the volume is turned up. On quieter vinyl, it actually overpowers the background noise of the LP. I like the front panel controls on the DS2 (as opposed to the DS, which used rear jumpers), along with the ability to roll in different sets of tubes to tailor the sound to my liking.

I just hope they can get their QC in line. I have one of Pro-Ject's up-market turntables and I have a list of about half a dozen issues that just shouldn't happen in a turntable of this price. I'm jumping to a Clearaudio Ovation as soon as it is economically possible. This thing sounds really nice, but I have to say the manufacturing and design shortcuts are unacceptable, and their US support is deplorable.

Garven's picture

I went through 2 Pro-Ject tables and replaced the motor on one. All three motors had the same problem and I tried every hack/tweak, etc., around the web but never completely eliminated the noise. Pro-Ject recently posted a FAQ on their web site that basically says each motor is different and some will make more noise than others. I gave up and bought a Pioneer PLX-1000 that's silent, and sounds much nicer than either Pro-Ject I owned even were the noise problem not there.

Jack Gilvey's picture

and removable headshell? Everyone panic! I bought my nephew an Elemental as well, I feel so smart now.

Anxietyprone's picture

Pro-ject makes great products with strong bones and decent specs. I've also watched the company go through growing pains, such as the motor induced RUMBLE found in the RPM models and below. I owned an RM6SB (RPM) that was plagued by that ubiquitous rumble due to the motor vibration making its way through the plinth and to the stylus.
My system consisted of hi-end components and speakers so the rumble was immediately noticeable. Low level but noticeable. I discovered there was a $2 fix consisting of isolating the screws that connect the motor to the plinth the improvement was night and day. That turntable went from being okay to being great. When it was time for an upgrade it took a VPI Classic to demonstrate a noticeable improvement in sound quality.

OldschoolE's picture

After that video, if I were in market I'd even take a new $300 Project table over a $1k Music Hall no questions asked. I'm sure Music Hall has some good tables in the $1k and up range, but right now Project just has that extra bone strength even in the very low priced range and any tweaking needed is inexpensive and very effective. Doesn't get much better than that.
More importantly it makes it possible for more folks to get into the sport and with decent to better gear for the money. What's not to love?
Like I mentioned earlier, I have a Phonomena 2 phono pre, but I am eyeing the new Project DS phono pre seriously and if it works out, I'm getting one.

SS's picture

This is the main reason I joined today. This video showed me Michale Fremer can smile.

I am now something of a fan of Pro-Ject. Ken Kessler, Heinz Lichetenegger and Buzz Goddard have had much to do with this and now I can add Michael Fremer to that short list. It helps that they make a good product too but it does not hurt to have the help of good people.

I made a return to vinyl a little more than a year ago. Not because I find it sound so much "better" but rather I find it "familiar" and there is comfort, not contempt in familiarity. I still have CDs and downloaded music and enjoy them equally but if I want to feel the moment then vinyl does that for me.

Those who know of me but not necessarily know me, are aware that I am not nor will I ever be an Audiophile. I like music and I like the equipment that brings it to me. If that makes me an Audio Philistine in some eyes, not a problem. I consider such folk to be frAudiophiles, more intent upon impressing like minded people and feeding their ego than to simply enjoy the music. Critical listening is not worth my time. Instead I pursue the memories I have associated with songs over my lifetime. Both pleasure and pain are a part of life and both have a soundtrack worth revisiting again and again.

Thank you to Ken, Buzz, Heinz and now Michael.