Pro-Ject’s Debut Carbon turntable reviewed

If vinyl ripping is a big part of your analogue experience, then take a close look at this design. Paul Rigby reviews the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon RecordMaster HiRes…

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon RecordMasterHiRes turntable Pro-Ject Debut review
Fully featured vinyl-ripping turntable
Price £549
Call 01235 511 166

The notion of ‘ripping’ your vinyl to a digital file is becoming increasingly popular. Unless you’re in the habit of playing original master tapes via reel-to-reel, the vinyl disc offers the best quality sound you can currently find… in the world… bar none – no matter what digital file you wish to offer as a challenger. Analogue play is, though, horribly static in its form. Mobile, it ain’t. If you want to listen to your favourite album on your DAP or via CD/USB/Bluetooth in your car or some such, then a ripped vinyl disc is not only a possibility, but also a desirable option, because you can control the process and, in comparison to the range of download and streaming facilities out there, you can produce a far higher-quality file.

Well, actually, that last point has always been decidedly moot, because home-brew vinyl ripping has been hampered by two issues. Either the quality of the final vinyl-ripped file has either been reasonable at best (that is, the resolution has been relatively low), or the quality of the source doing the rip has been average at best (via a turntable of a decidedly budget aroma).

Rip it up

Pro-Ject has recognised this problem and has designed a ripping package that not only offers high-resolution file options, but also provides a top-quality analogue source to do the actual ripping. The latter is very important, incidentally. The better the turntable source, the better will be the quality of the final ripped file. To ram the point home, in very general terms, a vinyl-ripped source will sound better from a £500 turntable than a £250 turntable.

The Debut Carbon RecordMaster HiRes deck that forms the heart of this package is a three-speed (33.33, 45 and 78rpm) turntable, based on the Debut Carbon platform with an enhanced acrylic platter and an 8.6″ carbon tonearm, fitted with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. It’s more akin to the Debut Esprit, in fact.
Pro-Ject turntable arm
It includes an ADC (Analogue-Digital Converter) which can output digitally via USB or optical. The ADC is a high-quality 32-bit Asahi Kasei Microdevices AK5552VN, supporting up to 24-bit/192kHz or DSD 128. As the turntable is known, I won’t go into detail regarding its facilities, but it does feature two pairs of RCA sockets (Line In for cassette/reel-to-reel tape machines and Line Out to an amplifier). A push-button switch toggles between them. You’ll also find a USB socket and S/PDIF optical connector, with a Record Level knob and earth connector.
Debut Carbon turntable arm
The phono amp was specially designed for the RecordMaster HiRes and has been optimised for use with moving-magnet cartridges. VinylStudio software is bundled, too. A third-party Windows/Mac software program, it converts your records and tapes to digital format and offers a range of cleaning filters for the files, if required. Fully featured, it is very easy to use.
In terms of sound quality, on its own, the turntable doesn’t quite match a standalone Debut turntable for sonic finesse – but it remains superior to all standard budget models out there, in terms of its midrange insight and bass precision.
I tested the recording option at DSD 128 and 24-bit/192kHz over several music genres and discovered, at this price point, a full and open sound and the aforementioned very detailed midrange. The bass was musical in nature, characterful and powerful, while often previously subtle and shy instruments were teased from the mix without any associated compressive brightness. The sound quality was always balanced and neutral.
It could have been so easy for Pro-Ject to grab a budget turntable and bundle it with software, but I admire the company for plumping for a superior and technically more complex turntable as the source instead. To allow you to hear the highest capable ripped resolutions, such a quality source is a necessity; and the sonic results are certainly worth it.