Pro-Ject's Box Series

Pro-Ject’s Media Box S ($359) is “basically a mini-computer,” Sumiko’s Norbert Schmied told me. It accepts a USB thumb drive (as shown), hard drive, or SD card containing MP3, WMA, AAC, or variable-bit-rate files up to 384kbps compression. It uses a 24-bit/96kHz upsampling D/A converter, and album metadata can be displayed and navigated via the front-panel display. Here we see it partnered with Pro-Ject’s Head Box S ($159) and the extremely lightweight and comfortable Hear It Two headphones ($79).

In his entry on Pro-Ject’s impressive DAC Box DS, Jon Iverson noted that the Sumiko suite showed an entire wall of the company’s cute but powerful Box components. Schmied gave me a detailed tour of the offerings. I’ve got three pages of notes on these nearly bite-sized components and every scribble is interesting, but here are the main points:

The Box components are separated into three lines: The S series, ranging in price from around $100 to $400; the DS series, with prices ranging from around $400 to $1000; and the RS series, with prices ranging from around $1000 to $2000. Each series comprises everything you might need to play music, and in whatever way you’d like to listen, from headphone amps and phono stages to stereo and mono amps to CD players and receivers to DACs and streamers.

In look and feel, Pro-Ject’s Boxes sort of resemble miniaturized versions of traditional high-end components—in particular, the chassis and displays of the Box amps recall classic Audio Research designs. Very cute, very cool.

And, while the obvious application for any Box component would be in a secondary or desktop system, in my view, the coolest part of all is that the Pro-Ject Boxes can work as beautiful entry points for anyone just getting starting with hi-fi: The Boxes offer high levels of fit and finish, use high-quality RCA ins and outs, and are made in most every way to function just like traditional hi-fi components. As Norbert Schmied put it, “We like to think of these as products that will train future audiophiles.”

I love that. In general, the high-end audio industry takes for granted a certain basic level of understanding among its customers, a level of understanding that often doesn’t exist—especially among younger listeners and new enthusiasts. Pro-Ject’s Box components address that issue.

How do they sound? Surprisingly big, bold, and thoroughly enjoyable. I suspect Pro-Ject’s Box components offer outstanding value, and I’ll look forward to spending more time with a complete Box system this year.