Sitting between Pro-Ject’s new entry-level E1 and the legendary “Debut” line, does Pro-Ject’s T1 turntable offer the best bang for your buck?
The Pro-Ject T1 is said to bring “audiophile design to a new affordable level”, and at first glance, it’s easy to see what they mean…
Stepping up from Pro-Ject’s entry models gets you a machined wood platter (much heavier than the E1’s extremely light composite fiber plinth), a glass platter, and a single-piece aluminum tonearm to name but a few obvious and significant component upgrades.
All three of these features certainly point to a turntable more in line with the term “audiophile”.
The T1 comes in three variations:
- The regular T1 base model.
- The T1 SB. This gains you a built-in phono stage and speed control.
- The T1 BT. This version adds Bluetooth connectivity but drops the speed control.
The weightier, higher-quality materials used across all three models immediately give the T1 a more premium feel and should help control resonance more effectively than the entry-level alternatives.
Just like the E1, the T1 comes with a factory-installed Ortofon OM5E cartridge, which gives (in my experience) an exceptional and balanced sound for the price. In this case, though, it comes fitted to a one-piece aluminum tonearm.
The one-piece assembly brings the T1 closer to its more expensive contemporaries (such as the Debut Carbon Evo) but retains the ease of setup found in Pro-Ject’s more affordable decks.
Just like the E1 and Primary E models, the tracking force and anti-skating are pre-set right out of the box – no setup required!
A one-piece design means greater rigidity and less resonance. The tonearm is also extremely light aluminum and pivots from a completely friction-free bearing.
All in all, these features add up to a tonearm on an affordable turntable that does everything it can to avoid interfering with or hindering the cartridge cantilever movement. In other words: accurate tracking = better-sounding records.
When all is said and done, this is the aim of the game when producing a high-quality turntable; reduce resonance as much as possible to avoid unwanted noise making it into the system and track the information in the groove as precisely as possible.
Each component of the T1 is designed with this end-game in mind while keeping the cost affordable. In actual fact, this is Pro-Ject’s ethos, period (full stop).
With each step up in the Pro-Ject range, you (in theory) get fewer compromises.
Certainly, compared with the E1 and Primary E, this feels higher-end; let’s hope we can hear the benefit sonically too.
Setting Up the Platter
While the tonearm and cartridge are good to go right out of the box, there is some setup required when it comes to the glass platter.
The glass platter, which has a nice weight to it, sits on top of a subplatter, which is connected to the motor via the drive belt. You’ll need to insert the sub-platter into the bearing and attach the drive belt yourself before you can spin records.
Thankfully, this is extremely easy to do, and while doing so, you get a real sense of what Pro-Ject mean when they say the bearing is extremely precise as the sub-platter takes a while to go down when offered up to the bearing. This is good news when aiming for a smooth rotation at a consistent speed.
Comparing Pro-Ject T1 Models
The base Pro-Ject T1 is the most stripped-back offering, with no built-in phono stage, no Bluetooth connectivity, and also, no speed control.
On the base model T1, the speed has to be manually changed by lifting the glass platter and gently moving the drive belt from one pulley to the other.
Removing these features saves you some money, enabling you to benefit from those lovely low-resonance materials and high-quality friction-free playback components that are so critical to audiophile vinyl playback while compromising by removing bells and whistles that don’t affect playback quality.
The Pro-Ject T1 SB introduces convenient speed control via the press of a button on the plinth, which, for me, is always a welcome addition.
The model I am testing today is the T1 BT, which sadly doesn’t have speed control. So if you’re in the market, there are decisions to be made with the T1 depending on your priorities. If you want the convenience of Bluetooth, this comes with the inconvenience of manual speed control from 33 1/3 rpm to 45 rpm. Decisions decision…
Pro-Ject T1 Review: Sound Quality Test
One thing that really becomes evident when you review several turntables in a row, all fitted with the same cartridge, is how much the cartridge carries the overall sound of a turntable.
There’s a strong sense of balance, with a tight, well-rounded bass response without being too overpowering. Each instrument is easy to place within the soundstage and the delivery is confident and dynamic, just like the E1.
With the T1, however, I did get a sense of added focus and depth, likely due to the improved resonance control of the wooden plinth and glass platter.
There was a subtle lift in the mid-range in terms of clarity that made picking out subtle details within the mix easier. This comes as no surprise, as any vibration from the speaker playback that makes its way back into the cartridge will easily muddy and cloud the overall sound.
Pro-Ject T1 BT Review
Connecting via Bluetooth to my Pro-Ject Stereo Box DS2 couldn’t have been easier.
I simply switched on the Bluetooth transmitter on the right-hand side of the plinth and switched my integrated amplifier to the Bluetooth channel; I then pressed the pair light while it was flashing, and voilà – I was ready to spin records wirelessly.
The Stereo Box DS2 amplifier uses the aptX Bluetooth codec, which is less compressed than the older SBC codec models, meaning the playback actually sounded really good.
OK, so it does introduce digital processing, which many argue defeats the object, but for convenience and perhaps more casual living room record listening, I’d be more than happy to use Bluetooth connectivity.
Also worth noting is the T1’s compatibility with aptX HD, which is increasingly becoming standard on new equipment, thus improving the sound of Bluetooth connectivity further.
One feature I did miss on the T1 BT was the speed control; for my money, I would rather have this feature than Bluetooth connectivity. Choosing the best model for you comes down to your priorities and connectivity requirements.
Pro-Ject T1 Review Conclusion
The T1 brings many improvements to the table when stepping up from Pro-Ject’s budget offerings. The sound has the same overall sense of balance that I know and love from the very affordable Ortofon OM5E, but with greater focus and detail.
The turntable definitely feels more solid to operate; the added weight really does make a great deal of difference, and I did find the E1 was on the light side, causing the plinth to slide around easily.
The Pro-Ject T1 is undoubtedly the first deck in the Austrian companies line that starts to feel like a serious piece of kit venturing outside the newbie category.
If you can stretch the T1 SB ($499 or £379), then it’s definitely worth it to add speed control and replaceable phono leads. For some record collectors, Bluetooth connectivity will be a priority (or perhaps a requirement if space is limited), in which case, you can be confident in your purchase as the Bluetooth playback works seamlessly and sounds great.
Another Pro-Ject deck, another triumph of superb quality for the price. Bravo.
VIEW PRO-JECT T1 ($399 or £299)
VIEW PRO-JECT T1 SB ($449 or £379)
VIEW PRO-JECT T1 BT ($499 or £429)