Pro-Ject – X1 turntable review – “refreshingly engaging…”

Jason Kennedy extols the virtues of a refreshingly engaging turntable from Pro-Ject’s growing range…

The X1 is the latest addition to Pro-Ject’s burgeoning range of turntables; the company appear intent on covering all price points below the excessive in an attempt to corner the market, and they are doing well. The X1 is a bit different to the majority of the company’s models by virtue of having the motor underneath the platter, with a belt driving a sub-platter rather than the platter itself.

This is an approach Rega and others have long preferred, as it reduces the influence that irregularities in the drive system have on the speed of the turntable. By employing a platter with a bit of mass around the outside edge, it uses inertia to maintain an even speed rather than relying on the motor and its electronics.

The plinth or main body of the X1 is a substantial piece of beautifully finished MDF with a well carved out to make space for the sub-platter and motor. This allows the platter to sit close to the top of the deck. The motor itself is decoupled from the woodwork with rubber mountings in an effort to keep its vibrations out of the plinth, and drives the platter with a relatively short, flat belt.

There are two pulleys on the motor, but the larger one is for playing 78rpm shellac rather than vinyl discs, should you have any of those. The platter itself is made of acrylic and is designed to be used without a mat, although one is supplied.

The main bearing consists of a stainless steel shaft with bronze bushings and Teflon at the weight-bearing point, which should be sufficient for the 2kg platter. Speed switching is done electronically via a single switch, the main on/off switch is underneath the plinth and helps keep the X1 looking clean.

 The tonearm is a chunky affair with a carbon/aluminium shaft, a damped counterweight and Pro-Ject’s preferred thread and weight anti-skate system. The latter are a little fiddly to fit but work well once set up. The cartridge fitted to the X1 is an Ortofon 2M Silver badged as a Pro-Ject Pick It, which is a silver coiled version of the popular 2M Red. Setup is a case of putting on the counterweight and adjusting it until downforce hits 1.8g, for which some form of gauge or the services of a dealer is necessary.

Often, Pro-Ject turntables are impressively refined sounding for the money, but lacking in the musical engagement stakes. The X1 is rather different: it has a good sense of timing and makes for compelling listening. I preferred the sound with the felt mat on top of the acrylic platter, the mat allowing for better timing, improved dynamics and more fine detail; the quiet notes are easier to appreciate. The output level of the Pick It cartridge is a bit lower than average for a moving magnet, but that doesn’t stop this record player from kicking out some chewy bass saxophone and distinctly defined tabla on a Sarathy Korwar track.

The X1 is good at separating out the various instruments and voices in a recording where there are several of them present. This makes it easier to enjoy the music as a whole and allows you to focus on a specific person’s contribution to the mix. The sound is more energetic than refined, but it does deliver the excitement of a well-recorded performance in an intelligible and powerful manner. Esperanza Spalding’s Ebony And Ivy has plenty of power in the bass and attack from the drums, the combination with her scathing lyrics making for a kick-ass sound.

The X1 is the most enjoyable Pro-Ject turntable I’ve reviewed. It makes the music interesting and engaging thanks to a good sense of timing and strong bass. There are more subtle turntables available at the price, but not many that deliver the joy of vinyl so effectively. I like the fact you can upgrade the connecting cable easily and appreciate the inclusion of a dust cover. Add to this the deep gloss finish and luxury of electronic speed change and you have an appealing addition to the market’s midrange options.

This is a refreshingly engaging and musically compelling design from Pro-Ject, with a high-quality gloss finish and decent tonearm.

Jason Kennedy