Pro-Ject Debut PRO record player

I enjoy few things more than setting up a turntable. Whether it's for myself or for a friend—whether it's a budget model with a layered MDF plinth and nonadjustable tonearm, or a megabuck, state-of-the-art behemoth—I relish the ritual.

Back in the day, I used to huff and puff, scream and shake, thanks to the heebie-jeebies I'd get when attempting to raise a turntable to ultimate performance. But with experience comes wisdom. My buddy and Sound & Vision contributor Michael Trei makes turntable setup look like child's play. I've learned by watching Mike that, when a turntable setup tries your patience, the thing to do is keep calm and carry on.

Once you've dialed in all the setup parameters, including leveling, cartridge alignment, azimuth, tracking force, and VTA, you can savor the beauty of music. It's that moment I crave. No matter a particular 'table's position in the audiophile food chain, I always enjoy hearing what it can extract from my beloved vinyl grooves. Every turntable, like every other audio component, imbues the music with its own personality. I delight in that second when the stylus is gently lowered to the record's surface and it begins to give up its secrets. A turntable is a time machine that can bring endless years of enjoyment to you, your family, and your friends. Even your descendants.

Turntable as family heirloom? My Thorens TD 124 was originally the property of the aunt and uncle of Stereophile Senior Contributing Editor Kalman Rubinson. Kal gave it to them as part of a dedicated mono system with an EICO integrated amp and single JBL speaker. They returned the turntable to him in 1995 and, not long after Art Dudley became Stereophile's deputy editor in 2015, Kal gave it to him, knowing he would find a good home for it. He did: It ended up at my Greenwich Village apartment. My Thorens is both a part of my reference system and an enduring audio legacy.


When I was assigned to review the Pro-Ject Debut PRO, I gathered my tools in excited anticipation of its arrival, even knowing that it would be set up by the factory. Priced at $999 including a Sumiko Oyster Rainier moving magnet cartridge, which costs $149 a la carte, the Debut PRO has been issued to celebrate Pro-Ject's 30-year anniversary as a manufacturer of turntables. Consider the timing: Pro-Ject was formed in the early 1990s, a time when vinyl records were nearing extinction. They've survived and thrived since. That's 30 years during which they've delivered hundreds of thousands of turntables to music lovers across the world.

Handmade in a Pro-Ject factory in the Czech Republic, near the Pro-Ject HQ outside Vienna, the Debut PRO has at tributes not often seen in turntables at its price, including a heavy, diecast-aluminum platter with internal damping, a steel bearing assembly flange, a nickel-coated aluminum bearing block, a hybrid aluminum–carbon fiber tonearm, adjustable azimuth and VTA, and leveling feet.

Based on Pro-Ject's best-selling Debut Carbon EVO turntable, which itself replaced the Debut Carbon DC, the Debut PRO improves on earlier Pro-Ject models with CNC-milled aluminum parts, an upgraded tonearm and bearing, and a few more subtle but still beneficial upgrades. Most of its aluminum parts are nickel-plated in-house, which increases wear and corrosion resistance, and may—depending on the specific process—increase rigidity. The brushed-nickel finish of some of the exposed metal parts also complements the plinth's matte-black paint.


That plinth is compact: 16 3/8" wide, 12½" deep, and 1¼" high. It's constructed of a solid block of MDF, machined in-house and coated with seven layers of matte-black paint, Pro-Ject Brand Director Buzz Goddard told me in an email. The website says eight coats. During its stay at Ken's crib, the smooth-to-the-touch surface of the Pro-Ject plinth resisted smudges and fingerprints.

The Debut PRO's precisely balanced, 3lb, 300mm diameter, ¾"-thick platter is damped by a ½"-wide strip of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) sunk into the underside near the outer rim, damping resonance. Pro-Ject says this reduces wow and flutter. That platter is attached to a stainless-steel shaft that nestles into a bronze bushing and rides on a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) thrust pad.

The platter is driven via a nylon subplatter connected by a flat silicone belt to an aluminum pulley atop an AC motor that's decoupled from the turntable's base with thermoplastic elastomer bushings. A separate, round silicone belt is supplied for dedicated 78rpm playback.

That motor is AC, driven by "an advanced version of the original Speedbox, which was an upgrade for turntables that provided additional speed stability and electronic speed change," according to Goddard. "The motor is affixed to a steel plate, which serves as an excellent shielding."

A felt mat is included, as is an acrylic dustcover, which I didn't use because plastic dustcovers, whether pitched up or down, can become devilish resonance chambers! (footnote 1)


The Debut PRO is supplied with an 8.6", carbon-aluminum hybrid tonearm. "The carbon layer gives the tonearm a high degree of rigidity, while the inner aluminum tube is responsible for the damping of the tonearm," says the website. The gimbal-styled arm's counterweight and cueing lever are made of aluminum; the bearing block is of nickel-plated aluminum. Along with an antiskate weight shaped like a tiny buoy, the tonearm has a steel-flange base, a surprising inclusion at this price. A small, threaded hole is set into the base for setting VTA with a supplied Allen key. Another small hole allows azimuth to be adjusted; both VTA and azimuth are set at the factory.

The Pro-Ject Debut PRO looks classy, minimalist, unassuming. It's available in just one color: black. An aluminum toggle switch on its front left corner turns it on and off and selects the rotation speed: left for 33 1/3 rpm; right for 45 or 78rpm, depending on the belt fitted and the pulley used. On the back panel, there's a grounding screw, a pair of gold-plated RCA jacks—a 1m pair of Pro-Ject manufactured copper interconnects is supplied—and a power receptacle. By default, that receptacle connects to a "universal" (multivoltage, multifrequency) power supply. The Power Box DS2 is available as an upgrade. Support is provided by those height-adjustable feet, which are PTE-damped, nickel-coated aluminum.

Pro-Ject offers the best quick-start, step-by-step turntable setup guide I've ever seen, with excellent photographs featuring small green arrows signifying this goes there. It's available at their website. Pro-Ject gets analog hi-fi, which helps explain their longstanding significance in the market. An in-depth manual, which provides a deep dive into setting VTA, VTF, azimuth, and antiskate, is also available on the Pro-Ject website.


With the benefit of two setup guides—a quick-start version and the in-depth manual—it was easy to get up and running with the Debut PRO. Removing the turntable and its various parts from the box, I positioned it atop an IKEA Aptitlig bamboo board on three stacks of small mahogany squares—three to a stack. I leveled the 'table using its three leveling feet and a carpenter's level and connected the interconnects and power cord.

Using my Dr. Feickert Analogue Universal Protractor, I found that the Rainier cartridge was aligned correctly at the factory. But when I measured the tracking force using a Riverstone Audio Precision Record-Level VTF gauge, I found it tracked too heavy. When I measured VTF again using the Pro-Ject–provided gauge, I measured the specified 2.0gm. However, as set at the factory—and with the Pro-Ject gauge—the music sounded too heavy and mildly bombastic. Setting it with the Riverstone gauge—a bit lighter—produced a cleaner, more spatial, more coherent sound. Azimuth and VTA were spot on.

Footnote 1: On the other hand, if used as intended when the 'table is idle, then removed during play, they're very good at reducing dust—so, best to remove them completely and set them aside during use.—Jim Austin
Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH
US distributor: Pro-Ject USA
9464 Hemlock Ln. North
Maple Grove, MN 55369
(510) 843-4500

Jack L's picture


Yes, noooo dust cover should be allowed on any spinning TT.

I tested with an oscilloscope hooked up to the output cables of a TT spinning with no record on it. The screen showed vibrations whenever my finger slightly touching the dust cover open up.

Yes, I always play my vinlys on my 2 TTs (one belt-driven & one direct-driven) with their lids taken out. Of course I always put the lids back immediately after finish.

Jack L

Timbo in Oz's picture

IF the lid has a squarish hole where the arm lifter can be reached there shouldn't be an issue.

Turntables whose platter, bearing, mat, LP and arm are suspended and are adjustable are resistant to these issues. A clamp that ties the LP to the mat is a good idea. One that has a very shallow hill (a washer will do) under the LP is even better. A mineral loaded mats which are also a good idea. I've been setting up TT's here in Canberra, Australia since the 1980s. I've gone t o a fair bit of trouble isolating the TT from the music.
Our listening room is an L-shaped Lounge-dining room, so the spherical speakers are around the corner in the larger section.
They are well away from the source. The TT, the pre-amp, tuners and CD player - all mounted on a concrete door-step shelf. Thick soft foam-rubber between the welded iron frame that it all sits on.

The TT is a Thorens TD150 - the Linn LP12's predecessor - three conical springs - the little conical bits of foam are not a good idea and are gone.

The mat is a mineral-loaded DISK-SE22, and there's a GB clamp for the spindle - with a washer under it. This lets us press the LP down onto the pretty dead mat. Felt mats let the LP vibrate, even WITH a clamp.

The arm is a SME 3009/II with two STAX slotted head shells. FD-200 damper with a cut-down paddle and STP/SME mixture in the curved pot.

I've set up three Oracle TTS and its as resistant to feed-back as they were once done. I still do TT set ups for folks.

The set up sounds as good as an Oracle.

Giving a Linn LP12 a dead mat, and a clamp, and resetting the suspension (essential) but sans foam - just will startle the owner!

I do charge for this work, but I may have set up most of Canberra's sprungies by now.

I call Oracles 'hungies' all such are more stable over time than sprungies like Linns and Thorens. But they do benefit from a careful going over.

The cartridge is a Garrotted Denon 103D with a boron cantilever, and a fine line tip.

Tim Bailey

rschryer's picture

.. and great middle and end. Hey, great review, period!

partain's picture

Compared to the over-engineered , heart-transplant priced , Rube Goldberg designed crap I've become accustomed to , and nauseated by , in your magazine .
It's a shame there's no need fror such a device .

rschryer's picture

...anything about need?

johnnythunder1's picture

The non-stop, cynical snark exhibited in the comments section of this website has me avoiding it often. With so much negativity in the world, I started taking my mother's advice, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it."

tonykaz's picture

Is your comment about saying only nice things an "only nice thing" ?

Isn't Comments a valid place to share personal opinions?, like yours?

Of course, Comments is an important Feedback loop to help Stereophiles decision makers make informed decisions about their product. ( which is primarily an opinion based Journal )

Mr. Atkinson's careful analysis based on deliberate measurements is Analytical and serves as our foundational reference.

You not commenting defeats the utility of everyone's personal experience and findings.

Everyone's critical voice is important, thanks for writing !

Tony in Florida

johnnythunder1's picture

like comments. Disagree or dislike? Produce a well written argument (like you do often whether I agree with you or not.) The prior commenter: It's a shame there's no need fror [sic] such a device." That comment incorrectly assumes a lot and ends up saying more about the negative viewpoint of the commenter than about the audio equipment and the magazine's editorial policy that he/she is criticizing.

tonykaz's picture

I suppose that I'm pleased that the person you mention has the ability to speak his mind, un-hindered and un-fettered.

This freeness of speech is a dream like goodness that most people on our Planet will never enjoy.

I usually discover unpleasant comments can be reasoned-on and discussed fruitfully. Often times, people don't quite have the Verbose ability to articulate, their opinions are still valuable and important.

Now-a-days, we are having exciting reviewers like Cheapaudioman on YouTube, developing an audience base to compete with traditional Print Journals like Stereophile. The YouTube Audio Reviewers focus on BlueCollar priced gear, as does this reviewer :Mr.KenM, the Audiophiliac and a good many others.

I suspect that the commenter you refer to is still on the same side of the Velvet Rope as you and I.

Nice hearing from y'all,

Tony in Florida

MatthewT's picture


tonykaz's picture

Phono cartridge are the transducers that produce the music.

I gather that you approve of the structural integrity of this Player and were happy to upgrade it's little transducer.

How much of a better Phono Cartridge can this turntable/arm support ? , can you offer an opinion on the improvement this player supports with significantly better transducers?


If this Arm had detachable SME type head shells, could a reviewer easily do full product line reviews of Cartridges like all the 15 Grado Phono Cartridges ?, which would be one hell-of-blockbuster Review Achievement. ( wouldn't it ?)

I wonder if Pro-Ject would or could support a reviewer doing comprehensive Phono Cartridge Reviews on one of their products?

Mr.RS in lockdown Canada speaks well, this is nice work.

Tony in Florida ( no restrictions here )