"Tour" Pro-Ject's CES Room With Heinz Lichtenegger

As usual Pro-Ject introduced many new analog products at The Consumer Electronics Show, including the wall-mountable turntables shown in the photo. There's one for right handed vinyl fans and one of "lefties".

Those can also be stood up on a shelf picture frame like. Among the phono preamps introduced was a series for under $1000, one of which includes a headphone amplifier, a high resolution A/D converter with multiple output including USB and TosLink as well as Bluetooth compatibility so you can stream vinyl "live" to a Bluetooth enables speaker, receiver of what have you. It also includes front panel loading and other configurable options.

But rather than read about it take the tour with Pro-Ject's founder and CEO Heinz Lichtenegger who at the end of the video points to an object across the room and says it's finally shipping and that is the company's moderately priced vacuum record cleaning machine, that judging by the YouTube hits on Michael Fremer's Youtube channel has a great deal of interest within the vinyl community. And now, here's Heinz!

Rudy's picture

If he wants to "please the customer," they could get their US distributor to answer my freakin' emails and resolve all those problems with the Xtension 10 I've had. I just wished it worked as good as it sounded, especially for the price. I am looking at trading it in (at a substantial loss) for a Clearaudio Performance DC.

Cool looking products though! Especially that new RPM Carbon series. I wonder how soon those will make it to the US. The Debut Carbon DC only started appearing recently, despite being on Pro-Ject's site for months prior.

malosuerte's picture

Just curious, what problems are you having with the xtension 10? I have one, and there are a couple of things I am not happy with too.

Rudy's picture

I think I posted them under Mikey's review here, and also listed them in a comment on a review at "that other site" (*cough* Absolute Sound *cough*) but to name a few...

1) Wonky speed controller. a) It ramps up to 33.3 RPM at two different speeds--slower from a cold start, but faster if you switch from 45 to 33.3. b) It takes forever to ramp up to 45 RPM from a cold start. Like, 30 seconds. c) It stops at 45.1 RPM, not 45. Pathetic.

2) Lifter has leaked and barely lifts. Disassembled once, vs. paying them $50+. I have lifters on 30-40 year old turntables that still work.

3) Anti-skate weight nowhere near adequate. Although I bet they'll gladly sell me a heavier one for $50 (if they even made it).

4) Counterweights look dumpy and the adjustment dials fall off easily. Seriously? Not only that, my manual gives no clue as to which ones are heavier or lighter; each is labelled with some vague, random number. I use a digital scale so it's sort of a moot point but still.

4) Dust cover clips the edge of the record if lowered with a record on the platter.

5) A few minor cosmetic issues aren't worth fussing over, but the factory grime (from machining) I still cannot get completely off the platter. I've tried multilple cleaners and solvents, and while I still get off some of that grey crud, it's still splotchy. And, who wants to try that hard with a Dynavector mounted up?

A few other minor things but still...I hate to say it, but the Realistic LAB-400 I bought in the late 70s as a demo has been more reliable and not full of quirks that should not be present on a $3000+ turntable.

Sumiko's basically "eff you" attitude towards me tells me all I need to know. I've politely asked three or four times what is up with the speed control--silence. I ask about the lifter? I have to purchase a new one through a dealer; warranty doesn't apply. At this point it's useless to bring up the other issues.

Thing is, it is a very good looking turntable with the mahogany finish (gives it an organic touch), and with the cartridge dialed in and everything set up properly, this contraption is bringing out details in my records I've never heard before. There might be better at higher prices, but this is the end of the line for me...or at least, I thought it was, until I lived with it for a year and dealt with the shortcomings.

It's the details. At the price, they are inexcusable. As is the attitude of Pro-Ject and Sumiko: they have their money. Look at all the complaints about the humming motors in thousands of Debut Carbons out there--that is another unresolved complaint both Pro-Ject and Sumiko turned a blind eye toward. If they would get their house in order and start supporting their products after the sale, I would feel better about this. At this price level, supposedly close to a "flagship" model, I expected (and deserve) far better.

That's why I'm looking at Clearaudio. I like the sound of those also. (Don't care for the "mechanical" sound, or looks, of some of the other brands like VPI, etc.) I can't even call this "upgradeitis" either. It's not an upgrade when you're having to replace something that is poorly designed, and poorly supported.

Don't mean to puke this up on Fremer's site but with nobody listening elsewhere, at least this might gain some legs and do all of us Pro-Ject owners some good...

Michael Fremer's picture
I can only address 3 and 4. I have no idea why you find the anti-skate weight "inadequate" UNLESS YOU ARE USING THE FINAL TRACKS ON THAT STUPID HI-FI NEWS TEST DISC OR USING A 'BLANK" GROOVELESS DISC TO SET ANTISKATING. please explain your methodology. I don't even understand 4. What is a "dumpy" counterweight? And why are the adjustment dials 'falling off'???? i have never seen that on a Pro-ject TT... if you weigh the counterweights then you know which is heavier? Admittedly their manual needs improving... Sumiko was purchased by Fine Sounds now "World of MacIntosh" and they admitted today to me they are in the midst of "organizational disrepair"---they are working on it... 3) Anti-skate weight nowhere near adequate. Although I bet they'll gladly sell me a heavier one for $50 (if they even made it). 4) Counterweights look dumpy and the adjustment dials fall off easily. Seriously? Not only that, my manual gives no clue as to which ones are heavier or lighter; each is labelled with some vague, random number. I use a digital scale so it's sort of a moot point but still.
padreken's picture

My Xtension 10 also stops at 45.1, but it really doesn't bother me-one click of the minus button and you're at 45. I can certainly see how that would be annoying to users that play a lot of 45's, although truth be told, I can't hear a perceptible difference between 45 & 45.1 on the few (mostly rock) 45 reissues I have. It does take a while to get that heavy platter up to speed, but for me, the musical flow and solidity of the 10's sound are well worth the wait.

Rudy's picture

Sadly, I'm one who can hear that slight difference between 45.0 and 45.1; I'm also one who could hear my old Denon direct-drive if the speed was ever so slightly off, and in which direction. That is part of the curse of having perfect/absolute pitch. And, that's why I needed a turntable with adjustable speed, when the pitch is so far off that it is distracting (such as, when a note is a quarter tone off or IOW, halfway between an A and a B-flat for example).

My point is that an oversight like that should not be happening on a $3k+ turntable. And the same with taking way too long to get up to 45RPM. My only reasoning is that they did this to accommodate the 78RPM pulley but still, that begs two questions. First, how many people actually play 78s nowadays? Many who do, have separate turntables for them (as I do). Second, why the need for a stepped pulley anyway? 78RPM could easily have been done with this controller. (And really, they could have offered three speed buttons, like Clearaudio's turntables, for speed changes.)

Instead, I would liked to have seen a dual-grooved pulley, so it could run two belts vs. one. (VPI has this option, if I recall.) That is one upgrade I'd pay for in a heartbeat. With my industrial contacts, I bet I could easily have one machined out of aluminum or any other material. It's very tempting!

ravenacustic's picture

I know. "Perfect pitch." That's the name given to the ability to hear a note played or sung and to be able to identify it. That's the theory. In practice it's more complex and less exact. I don't know anyone who plays or sings exactly at the scientifically specific number of vibrations required to play or sing a given note. Orchestras are known to tune to a slightly high or slightly low "A" giving them a slightly brighter or darker sound. A singer adjusts to a piano or instrumental accompaniment which has been tuned to something probably other than A 440. I can't imagine that the difference between 45.0 or 45.1 revs per minute on a turntable playing an already inexact pitch on a turntable no less could really be driving you nuts.

mrl1957's picture

As bad a reputation as anything with a "Realistic" badge used to get, their Japanese-made LAB 400 Series turntables were not bad at all. I'm still using a near-mint LAB 440 (bought new in 1983) with the original Shure R1000/M75ED2 cartridge (plus a couple of higher-end Shures)...still tracks easily down to 1.25 grams, no speed/pitch issues, perfectly-flat & wobble-free platter, and no residual racket beyond the vinyl itself. So long as it works, it's a keeper (but I am looking...)

Rudy's picture

I wonder if they fixed the speed stability on later models like the LAB 440. On mine, since day one, you could see the strobe "moving" (the speed nudging up) as the platter turned. Others I witnessed in the stores (we had a few near the house) did the same. Play something with steady piano tones and it is clear as day. I lived with that for six years until I got out of school and started working full time.

Aside from that speed instability, it's built like a tank. It is here as my "beater" turntable, on which I'll play older record and even 78s. (I electrically modified it once I got a turntable upgrade.) I realize that removable headshells isn't popular in high-end arms these days, but I really miss that. I could swap over to my M44-7 with the 78 RPM stylus to play shellac, drop in an old Grado to check out a dollar bin find, or hook up the Dynavector 10X3 (when I still had it) to spin a better album all the way through. It was on this TT that I first installed my V15 Type V-HE (later MR) right after it was first released in the early 80s, and it dealt with the cart just fine.

Knowing it as well as I do, I have no hesitation getting another if I want to get someone a sturdy, reliable turntable (provided the speed issue doesn't irritate them). I know the LAB 400 has no quartz speed lock, nor does it have any type of servo feedback loop, but this was also not an expensive unit to begin with. It does what it does well enough, and over 35 years later it is still working fine.

Rudy's picture

Oh, incidentally...the wall mount turntables reminded me of something. Didn't Bang & Olufsen have a Beogram that mounted on the wall?

my new username's picture

Here's a quick sampling: http://www.thevinylfactory.com/vinyl-factory-releases/8-vertical-turntab...

The Mitsubishi and the Technics are probably the best well known. I also saw a picture of a Sharp boombox with vertical player. And Mitsu made an all-in-one version (receiver, cassette etc.)

I wanna check out that made in Chicago Gramovox. $400 with AT95E. Looks like fun!

Steelhead's picture

If you want organic with good looks I would recommend SOTA.

They stay under the radar but as one who owned (and loved) Thorens decks for decades, I just could not believe how much better the SOTA sapphire was in my system. I moved up to the vac hold down Cosmos IV and I am DONE. Tubes and vinyl, Hell Yes!

Sgood@verizon.net's picture

on the wall mount table please. No info on project website. Looks like a fun "art piece" and conversation starter for casual / background music for th family room. Thanks.

Rudy's picture

I'm not the only one having the problem with anti-skate (and not just on Pro-Ject TTs). Dynavector's literature for the 17D3 mentioned it might need more anti-skate than normal. And I find it's also not enough for the XX2 Mk.II.

Anyway. Even at its highest setting, before I added additional weight (which looks ghetto, by the way), the stylus slid so hard past the lead-in that it left a nice little scratch on the first half minute of the first track of a brand new record. You could still visually see the stylus being pulled to one side when it rested in the groove. And yes, I'm perfectly level. So is the turntable.

I should mention that the anti-skate weight did work properly with a MM cartridge I had, which used a 1.5g tracking force. But I feel that if they included four counterweights, they easily could have included at least one extra antiskating weight. I use a digital scale for tracking force, and a pair of USB microscopes for setup. (I found one I like better than the Dino-Lite.) So I'm not going about this sloppy. If anything, I'm OCD about setup. The Dynavector is tracking at 2.05g, by the way.

The whole idea behind anti-skate is to equalize the inward/outward pressure in the groove at an average modulation. I use the method Peter posts at Soundsmith, which to my ears seems to get me near where I need to be.

Question: What do you use to set your antiskate? I didn't see anything under "tips" here and haven't had a chance to grab your setup DVD yet. (And I missed your visit to Paragon in Ann Arbor...dang it.)

For the counterweights, the side with the Sorbothane (or whatever it is) looks very uneven, certainly not finished nicely. Granted it's not usually visible and is only a minor thing, but it's hardly the fit and finish I expect at the price level. But on all of the counterweights, the dials easily come off if given slight pressure, even if I carefully rotate them. That alone makes them seem cheap. I'd post a video but can't embed it here, far as I know.

I hope they do get things sorted at WoM, for everyone's sake. I didn't exactly expect (nor appreciate) the brush-off I received from Sumiko US. Pro-Ject only sent my queries straight back to Sumiko (who took weeks to reply). With Pro-Ject upping their game, they need WoM's better support system in place.

Thanks for reading.

tube dog's picture

I don't know if you've seen this or not but you can go to the Project website and download the user instructions for the 9cc, 10cc and 12cc arms (it's one document). They explain anti-skating in more detail there. I have a 9cc evolution arm with an Ortofon Windfeld and I'm not having any problems.

Rudy's picture

Thanks, I'll check that manual. Hoping it has more information than the turntable manual.

Michael Fremer's picture
Skating is caused by friction in the groove. Were there no offset angle, the friction would (or drag) would pull in a line with the pivot and there would be no skating. Skating is produced because of the offset angle forces the result of the friction to produce an inward pull towards the record label. The amount of skating changes with different vinyl formulations, of course the intensity of the groove modulations, the stylus profile and tracking force as well as where across the record surface you measure it. In other words setting it "correctly" is IMPOSSIBLE. Why Dynavector claims its cartridges require 'more" anti-skating than other brands is a mystery to me. But another mystery is why a MM cartridge requires more anti-skating than is provided by Pro-Ject's system. I use a Wally device and corroborate that with a test track on the Telarc Omnidisc.
Rudy's picture

Thanks for the information. Trust me, it puzzles me just as much. I sit here wondering what I've done wrong, as I've been mounting cartridges for over 30 years now on numerous arms and never had this issue.

Yet when I use these two Dynavectors (especially the 17D3), as I mentioned in my other comment, even at the highest anti-skate setting the skating pulled hard enough to skip a few grooves on the lead-in and leave a nice gouge on the vinyl as a reminder. Normally, the stylus would settle nicely into a groove and be on its way.

Not sure if I was clear enough but with the MM cart on this arm, I never had an issue with it. It set up exactly as I expected it to.

Totally agree on the impossibility "correctly" setting anti-skate. Any alignment we do on a turntable is never an exact science and is often a compromise. We only can use the tools we are equipped with (including our ears) to get it as close as we humanly can. But when something seems grossly off then yes, I am going to question it.

Which part of the Omnidisc do you use to check our anti-skate, Side A (blank side)? Or one of the test tones?

Overheateurope's picture

I assume this is probably Mr Fremer's sensor of humour here - You'd need a tangential tracking arm to be able to play a turntable upright I believe. I used to want the "portable" turntable by Sony - the flamingo I think it was called - that would look cool wall mounted hehe :)

thomoz's picture

I am one of the victims who 10 years back bought a Debut only to have the motor periodically buzz exactly like a Norelco razor. It's quiet for about 45-50 minutes, and when it eventually starts I have to let it rest for about 20. Surely this should have been a warranty repair / recall, simply out of ethics!

Old news, I know. I hope that Project irons out the small issues people have found with their new design.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I am so glad that I have not invested in a new TT in a while as I have been looking hard at a Carbon, but glad I've held off with all the complaints I'm reading about.

as for the pitch question a great read is from the Head Piano Technician of steinway, Franz Mohr and his book which is a great read and how some pianists knowing the symphony was tuned to A-440 would want their piano tuned to 441 or 442 to be higher than the orchestra and "walk on top of them" as it is often called. This may have happened more than many of us classical music lovers know about in our recordings.

When I sing at church I have all our instruments tune to whatever the piano is as that is what I am singing to as we will all be the same, collectively off. I know the piano is not right as we hardly ever have it tuned more than once per year, which is not enough with a sanctuary that has temp swings of + or - 20 degree continually, or more. Electronic keyboards have made this pitch issue less in the pop world, but as good as they now sound they are still not a Steinway D or B properly tuned.

Rudy's picture

I once had considered getting into piano tuning; it is actually a fascinating subject, as pianos have what is called a "stretch" tuning, where the center is based on middle C; the upper octaves drift towards the sharp side, and the lower octaves slightly towards the flat. (It's a gross simplification, but pianos are not perfect intervals from octave to octave.) In addition, each note has three strings that must be tuned. I know I have the ears for it, but the patience? Maybe, not so much anymore. ;)

Very true about electronic keyboards or digital pianos; thing is, digital pianos based on true piano tones attempt to reproduce the same overtones and harmonics. That is why pianos are "stretch" tuned. (And that's grossly oversimplifying the process!) With a synthesizer, though, the tuning would be at equal intervals.

I do know that modern woodwind instruments in particular are built around A-440 tuning. I fought with intonation on an old Selmer soprano sax until we discovered a "432" or "436" (don't recall which) stamped on the body, meaning the horn was slightly longer and the tone holes stretched apart further. Just jamming a mouthpiece on further doesn't work, as you get one end of the horn in tune and the other end goes way off. I did manage to play that thing in tune after a while but it was a constant struggle compared to my other horns.

grking's picture

I'm curious if they mentioned anything about a new speedbox for the Carbon Debut DC? I was a a dealer a few weeks ago and he said that Pro-Ject teased that they may come out with something.