Pro-Ject has a long history of making excellent turntables and we are big fans of the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon and Debut Carbon Evo. Both turntables are excellent values at the $500/£500 mark but competitors have been eating up the entry-level hi-fi bracket in the $300/£300 mark.
That’s where the new Pro-Ject T1 comes in.
Responding to increasing demand in the area, the T1 series of turntables offers a simple setup and good build quality, but just can’t compete with some of the other platters in that price range like the Fluance RT81 and RT82.
Unforutnately for Pro-Ject, the RT81 is much cheaper and comes with an built-in phono preamp, easy speed selection, and an easy to swap cartridge head, while the RT82 sounds noticeably better than the T1 thanks to its superior cartridge (Ortofon OM 10) and motor. Both are cheaper than the $349/£259 (about AU$463) Pro-Ject T1, making the Fluance tables the better overall value.
Still, the Pro-Ject T1 is a well-built, visually attractive, and easy-to-setup turntable and is worth at least considering when shopping around in this price point.
Price and availability
The Pro-Ject T1 is available now for $349/£259 (about AU$460). The T1 line of turntables also includes a version that includes a built-in phono pre-amp and one with a built-in phono pre-amp and Bluetooth capability.
That said, we are reviewing the base model T1, which means it doesn’t come with a phono pre-amp nor Bluetooth.
The Pro-Ject T1 is classic Pro-Ject design with clean lines and no frills. The turntable houses a built-in belt drive motor and spindle, which should help with isolating some vibration from the motor.
There is no speed selection on the T1, so switching from 33 ⅓ rpm to 45 RPM will require removing the platter and moving the belt to the appropriate pulley on the motor. This is a bit cumbersome, especially when lower-priced turntables like the Fluance RT81 include a speed selection/power knob.
To start the turntable, there is a switch on the bottom left. The switch itself is big and easy to use, but requires a bit more force than expected for such a light turntable.
The platter is made from medium density fiberboard and a wood-look veneer finish. While nicely built, the turntable is extremely light and doesn’t damp vibration as well as other turntables in the price range.
While the Pro-Ject T1 does feature vibration damping feet, they are not adjustable so you have to shim the feet of the turntable with paper or note cards in order to get it level. It’s a bit disappointing not to see adjustable feet to help level the turntable.
It’s also worth pointing out that the T1 features an aluminum tonearm with an Ortofon OM5e cartridge attached that often goes for $70 on its own. That’s some cost saved there, however, there is no built-in phono preamp so you’ll need to provide your own, so that’s worth factoring into the final cost if you don’t have one.
Pro-Ject designed the T1 to be as easy to set up as possible and we found that to hold true: we were up and running within five minutes. We checked the cartridge alignment with our Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs Geo-Disc and it was spot on. Vertical tracking force is also set out of the box so there’s nothing for the user to do.
We noticed that the tonearm of the T1 did not feature Pro-Ject’s iconic weight for anti-skate control. When asked, a representative from Pro-Ject told us that anti-skating is built into the tonearm and this was a design decision to make set up as easy as possible.
One nice feature that the Pro-Ject T1 has that sets it apart from the competition is the glass platter. The platter is extremely well-made with a nice frosted finish on one side and a glossy finish on the other side. In the box is a felt turntable mat.
In terms of using the Pro-Ject T1, everything was simple but there were no nice-to-have features that we loved from the Fluance turntables. Speed changes are a hassle as you need to remove the platter and move the belt to the correct pulley and there’s no auto-stop feature that protects your needle from excessive wear either like you do on the Fluance tables.
The biggest feature lacking from Pro-Ject’s entry-level T1 is the omission of a phono preamp. This means buyers will have to factor in additional budget to buy one. Since the T1 was designed to be as easy as possible to set up and start playing records, it’s an odd decision not to include one.
Listening to the Pro-Ject T1, sound quality was completely adequate but failed to capture the magic of recordings.
Dynamics, the contrast between loud and soft sounds, was lacking which made music feel flat and one dimensional. However, that’s to be expected with the entry-level Ortofon OM 5e. The Ortofon OM 10 included on the Fluance RT82 was a noticeable upgrade over the OM 5e, even though the cartridges look identical.
Overall tonal balance is warm with gobs of bass and mid-bass making for an easy-to-listen-to turntable. Highs lack extension and sparkle so you’ll need to step up to a better cartridge if you want more resolution and neutrality. However, the T1 lacks any vertical tracking angle adjustment so users looking for a replacement cartridge will have to look for a cartridge that’s similar in height as the included Ortofon cartridge, limiting a user’s upgrade path.
The biggest problem with the Pro-Ject T1’s sound is the noisy bearing. In our testing, we heard the motor hum and the platter chatter when listening via headphones. The motor hum and platter chatter was less apparent when listening over speakers but it’s in the background if you know what to listen for. Unfortunately, both the motor and platter are audible in a quiet room from about a foot away.
The Pro-Ject T1 is a well-built, visually attractive, and easy-to-setup turntable. It takes just a few minutes to start spinning your favorite records. However, it’s a poor value compared to our budget turntable recommendations: the Fluance RT81 and RT82.
This is a shame as we love Pro-Ject’s Debut and Essential line of turntables, which are still outstanding values in their price range. Hopefully Pro-Ject will one day revisit the T1 line and make it more competitive in terms of features and sound quality, but until then it’s a merely average turntable for the sticker price.