Pro-Ject Debut PRO record player Page 2

Late in the review period, I replaced the included Oyster Rainier MM cart with Sumiko's new Rainier Wellfleet MM cart. Upon arrival, both cartridges were protected by a hard plastic sheath, which covered its entire surface except the connection pins. This allowed me to get a good grip on the cartridge and not worry about touching the stylus. Brilliant!

In my system, an 8' pair of Auditorium 23 speaker cables linked the Golden Ear BRX (90dB, 8 ohms), Polk Audio Legend L100 (85.5dB, 3–4 ohms), Spendor BC-1 (84dB, 8 ohms), or DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 loudspeakers (96dB, 10 ohms) to the Parasound Hint 6 Halo (160Wpc into 8 ohms, 240Wpc into 4 ohms) or Schiit Ragnarok 2 (60Wpc into 8 ohms, 100Wpc into 4 ohms) integrated amplifiers. In both cases, I used the integrated amplifiers' built-in phono stages.

For comparison, I spun vinyl on my Thorens TD 124 turntable with Jelco 350S tonearm and Clearaudio Concept MC cartridge. Finally, to get a fix on the Sumiko Rainier's sound, I mounted it on the Jelco/Thorens and ran the output into the Parasound integrated amplifier.

When I lowered the stylus onto a record, the Debut PRO greeted me with fast transients, strong dynamics (when present on the recording), and crisp highs, from upper midrange to treble. It reproduced cymbals, snare drums, strings, brass, vocals, and synthesizers with punchy attack and well-defined leading edges. Images of instruments and voices were precise. The Debut PRO is a lively, fun, exhilarating turntable; it makes records—or rather music from records—jump, boogie, and sing.

While the Debut PRO/Rainier combo sparkled on upper midrange to treble reproduction and its midrange was clear, lower frequencies were a little soft compared to my higher-end Thorens and Kuzma turntables; nor did it present the dense tonal palette and sonic weight of my reference 'tables. Nevertheless, it acquitted itself extremely well in its own right. The Debut PRO is designed for the party animal with an audiophile music-lover's heart.


Joined to the Schiit Ragnarok 2 integrated amp and Golden Ear BRX speakers—two clear, crisp-sounding products—the Debut PRO intensified the speedy release and brisk note attacks of Boulez Conducts Varèse: Amériques/Arcana/Ionisation (LP, Columbia Masterworks M 34552), an orchestral-percussion extravaganza reproduced with exacting leading edges, knockdown dynamics, and a wide soundstage. It was almost too much. I noticed surface noise on some LPs that went unnoticed on my other turntables. The Debut PRO hit its stride on Binker & Moses's Journey to the Mountain of Forever (LP, Gearbox Records GB1537OBI). The British duo's 2017, tenor-sax-and-drums release is a modestly avantgarde series of improvisations reproduced with good spatial depth and plenty of air; the Pro-Ject/Schiit/BRX combo got it right and framed Journey to the Mountain of Forever with great energy and midrange bloom. Occasionally the BRX's ribbon tweeter became a little glary.


Switching out the BRX for the Polk Legend L100 speakers emphasized the clarity and focus of the Debut PRO's midrange with some loss of detail and upper-level air and resolution. With the Polks in line with the Debut PRO, music sounded more lucid and natural than through the BRX speakers. The Boulez disc benefitted from the Pro-Ject/Polk pairing, with softer treble and a more coherent, fleshier sound and with improved soundstage width and depth. The Debut PRO didn't confuse or compress the heaving dynamics of the Boulez disc; it consistently reproduced every ppp and fff. It doesn't do scale quite as well as my reference 'tables, but it comes closer than I'd have expected. The Debut PRO is coherent and very communicative, regardless of ancillaries.

The listening party continued with the Pro-Ject/Polk pairing. I spun vinyl by Air, Stravinsky, the Great Jazz Trio, Squarepusher, and Billy Cobham. The Debut PRO heightened surface noise on Air's Talkie Walkie (Virgin V2980) but otherwise rendered the sound of the French duo's honeyed synths and pulsing beats as well as I've heard. The Pro-Ject reproduced 1967's Stravinsky Conducts Firebird Suite/Petrushka Suite (Columbia Masterworks MS 7011) with warmth and body allied to refinement and delicacy; sub-$1000 tables typically do one or the other if they're lucky. The Great Jazz Trio's 1978 release At the Village Vanguard (East Wind EW-8053) was full-bodied, with excellent cymbal and piano note decay and definition and good, if light, reproduction of acoustic bass. I was consistently surprised at the Debut PRO's ability to relay gobs of detail in a natural, compelling manner.


The Debut PRO produced surprises while spinning Billy Cobham's '70s fusion masterpiece Spectrum (Atlantic SD 7268). I know this warhorse like the smell of my Greenwich Village street in summertime; I can sing along (or make songlike noises) to every swirling Jan Hammer synth spew and wailing Tommy Bolin scrawl. I've owned various versions of Spectrum, from the original LP to the early CD (where's the RSD version with extra tracks?!!). Playing Spectrum's "Stratus," powered by a hard-driving 16th-note drum groove propelled by Lee Sklar's electric bass, Cobham's two-and-four snare drum crack! is produced with a long-tailed decay, probably a Maestro Echoplex or Roland Space Echo effect. The Debut PRO wrestled this minor sonic detail out into the open. A $149 moving magnet cart on a $999 turntable (and included in the price!) did this.

Keeping the Polks in line and exchanging the Schiit for the Parasound Hint 6 Halo, including the Hint 6 phono stage, the music went flat. I don't know why. System-matching matters. You can't just throw a dart (or two) at Stereophile's Recommended Components list and put together a system that makes magic.

So then I replaced the Polks with my Spendor BC1s. Synergy restored.

With the Spendors driven by the Parasound, I could hear the Debut PRO's bass more clearly and with greater weight, though it was still soft. I felt that I was now hearing the full breadth of the Pro-Ject's sound, from the clear, tactile treble through the strong midrange to its softer low end. In some ways, the Pro-Ject sounded like a miniaturized version of my much more expensive Kuzma Stabi R. It's a fun 'table, with heart and soul.

The new Sumiko Wellfleet MM cartridge that Buzz Goddard provided ($449) improved the Debut PRO's performance considerably. Clarity and soundstage depth improved. Bass became much more focused, suggesting that the provided cartridge was at least partly responsible for the softness I'd heard.


I put on "Take the 'A' Train," from Shelly Manne's outrageously great 1962 recording 2-3-4 (Impulse! AS-20), with Coleman Hawkins on tenor sax, Hank Jones on piano, Eddie Costa on vibraphone, and George Duvivier on bass. Gone was the annoying surface noise. That slight haziness and soft bass were transformed into clear, tightly delivered notes from Jones's lower piano notes, Manne's toms, and especially Duvivier's bass. The Debut PRO retained its agile, dynamic, energetic demeanor—indeed, that character was amplified with the Wellfleet—while gaining a good bit of heft.

But don't assume that the provided Rainier cart just isn't very good. When I put it on my Thorens/Jelco combo, I heard that same fantastic detail retrieval, upper midrange/treble energy, and sharp focus, but the Thorens/Sumiko combo bettered the Pro-Ject/Sumiko combo with a wider, more spacious soundstage, longer note decays, tighter, cleaner bass—apparently the fault for the soft bass on the Pro-Ject/Rainier combo is shared—improved definition and imaging, and a greater sense of drama, scale, and envelopment. The Sumiko would be an obvious choice to upgrade the ubiquitous Ortofon 2M Red.

I couldn't wait to spin some 78s. So I slipped that 78rpm stylus on the Rainier and hit the bins at Jazz Record Center, which I run most Saturdays. Don't tell JRC owner Fred Cohen, but I borrowed shellac by Billie Holiday, the Charlie Parker All-Stars, Zoot Sims, and one heavy 10" credited to "Miles Davis–Charlie Parker."


In the right system, 78s can produce a powerful, direct blast of sound that can cut through lead. Choosing the cleanest looking shellac of the bunch, "Bird Gets the Worm"/"Cheryl" (Savoy 952) by the Charlie Parker All-Stars, the sound was bracing. The Stars—Charlie Parker (alto), Tommy Potter (bass), Max Roach (drums),

Duke Jordan (piano), and Miles Davis (trumpet)—constitutes perhaps the greatest bebop band of all time. Somehow, via 78, these blazing, high-velocity tunes sounded more natural and real than I've previously heard. Depth was good. Tone was okay. The dynamics were insane. I could easily fall down the 78 rabbit hole with some more good shellac and the Pro-Ject Debut PRO.

This ca $1000, handsome-but-unassuming record player proved to me what a manufacturer with decades of experience and expertise can do when designing an analog machine to a price point. The Debut PRO bowled me over with its dynamics, detail, soundstaging, spatial depth, and scale, especially with the more expensive Wellfleet cartridge. The Debut PRO made the most of every style of music I put to it. One could hope for a better mat, but the white looks cool, and changing it out is easy and cheap.

If you're in the market for a $1000 turntable, the Debut PRO is an easy choice.

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 )