When it comes to designing affordable turntables with true HiFi sound, Pro-Ject are a formidable force. The Austrian company calls their relatively new E1 series “Entry 1 into the world of analog sound”. Could the Pro-Ject E1 be the ideal first turntable?
Pros: Great sound at this price point | Handy speed switching | Super easy setup | Optional built-In phono & Bluetooth Models available.
Cons: A solid platter would be preferable | Very light-weight
There are three turntables in the E1 range, all designed, as Pro-Ject state, …”to deliver a great sound experience on a limited budget”. The standard E1 has no built-in phono preamp or Bluetooth transmitter, while the E1 Phono has, you guessed it, a built-in phono stage. Lastly, the E1 BT comes equipped with a phono preamp and Bluetooth transmitter.
Each model is available in black (like my demo unit) and white or walnut effect.
Just like Pro-Ject’s other entry-level turntables, including the recently reviewed Primary E, the E1 tonearm comes pre-fitted with a great-sounding Ortofon cartridge; in this case, the OM5E.
The tracking force and anti-skating is also pre-adjusted at the factory to work perfectly with the Ortofon cartridge.
This tonearm design moves away from the traditional counterweight and anti-skate weight that needs to be set up by the customer before you can spin records.
The plug-and-play nature of the E1 tonearm design will please newbie record collectors seeking a hassle-free entry into the hobby. More experienced collectors, however, may lament the limited upgrade path that comes with the territory.
Realistically, though, the number of entry-level turntables that see a cartridge upgrade is very low.
Pro-Ject E1 Built Quality
While the Pro-Ject Primary E and the E1 model both have a machined composite fiber plinth, the gloss finish on the E1 model adds a touch of class that’s missing from the Primary E.
Where the E1 falls down a little is the hollow ABS-Polymer platter, which has a cheap feel to it. Once installed, it looks and performs just fine; something more solid would be preferable, but something has to give at this cost.
What this setup does allow within a limited budget is speed control via a pulley and motor system. The hollow platter sits on a sub-platter that is connected via a belt to the motor.
The motor is then switchable between 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM using a rocker switch on the side.
A switchable speed motor makes the E1 feel more luxurious than the Pro-Ject Primary E, where the speed is controlled manually by moving the drive belt from one pulley to the other.
Besides the core turntable and tonearm functionality, everything else is business as usual, including the standard Pro-Ject dust cover with adjustable hinges and the inclusion of a soft felt platter mat. Both are standard issues with entry-level Pro-Ject turntables.
Pro-Ject E1 Review – Sound Quality
To gain an accurate comparison with the Primary E, I made sure to include two of the same records for testing on the E1.
These included two VMP (Vinyl Me, Please) re-issues in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Texas Flood and Black Nasty’s Talking to the People.
The latter sounded punchy and dynamic, just as it did on the Primary E. In all honesty, both turntables have a very similar sound quality, which is not surprising given they share the same tonearm and Ortofon OM-range cartridge.
The E1 Phono sounds a little restricted when playing through the built-in phono stage, but easily opens up when connecting through an external phono preamp… This is very similar to my feelings with the Primary E Phono, which is no real surprise given they share the same built-in phono stage component.
The low-end on Black Nasty’s Talking to the People, in particular, really came alive when connecting the E1 to an external phono pre. That being said, if you don’t already have a phono preamp in your HiFi signal chain, the integrated option on the E1 is a great space-saving option to get you started.
In essence, the E1 presents an engaging and lively sound that will have any new or returning vinyl lover eager to hear more.
Getting into the groove (pun intended, naturally), I find myself reaching for old favorites, including Radiohead’s Kid A, for a more electronic vibe. The E1 handled the broad pallet of this record with ease, showcasing a rich, deep, and dynamic sound quality that had me gripped.
As is to be expected with an affordable turntable, there’s not quite the same level of depth, finesse, and width of more expensive decks, but at this price I really don’t have any complaints.
Pro-Ject E1 Review Conclusion
Paired with a good quality external phono preamp, I can highly recommend the E1 as an affordable first turntable.
I prefer the solid platter design of the Primary E, but you can’t deny the convenience of switchable motor speed. Manually moving the belt on a regular basis is rather cumbersome and can stretch the belt over time.
The E1 as an entire unit is incredibly light overall, and this can cause some issues with movement when operating the rocker switch to engage playback.
Weighing just 3.5kg (7.7 pounds) it is even lighter than the Primary E at 4kg. The slipping issue could be rectified with rubber caps (in place of the stock felt) on the turntable feet for additional grip. That said, I could operate the turntable just as fine as it was; I just had to steady the plinth with my hand when operating the switch.
Where the E1 really shines is in delivering great vinyl playback at an extremely attractive price. The base model costs just $349 (£229).
Choosing the right turntable for you comes down to priorities, budget, and taste. In that sense, the Pro-Ject line of turntables caters very well to any level of experience and disposable income.
Between the Primary E and E1, there are pros and cons to each model, though, in my experience, the E1 is nicer to use and looks more attractive.
The next level up in Pro-Ject’s line of turntables is the T-Line, which gets you a heavier, sturdier machined wooden plinth and an audiophile resonance-resisting glass platter. As always, these upgrades come at a cost (the base T1 model will set you back $449 (£299).
Is the Pro-Ject E1 a good buy? Absolutely: in the budget turntable category, Pro-Ject have years of experience knowing where they can reduce costs without destroying the sound quality, which after all, is what we’re all here for!
If you’re just getting started with your vinyl hobby, you’re off to a solid start on a journey that can last a lifetime.