Pro-Ject Audio Systems X1 Turntable Page 2

We're no longer at the stage when you have to qualify it with 'for the price' or 'considering its cost'. Rather, this little turntable sounds good full stop. It means that for a whisker under £700, vinyl junkies can enjoy their black plastic without wishing they had chosen differently.

The most striking thing about this deck is its expansive, open presentation. This is the first requirement of any decent turntable, but normally you would have to pay more to find it. For example, cue up some classic easy listening in the form of John Cameron's 'Half Forgotten Daydream' [The Sound Gallery; Studio 2 Stereo TWO2001], and you're suddenly swathed in a sea of strings. And not only is the music wide in scale but it's surprisingly deep too, giving the track a really immersive feel.

Of course, it's possible to quibble with the accuracy of the image location, pointing out that instruments aren't locked down with quite the pin-point precision that you'd get from a more expensive vinyl front-end – but still it really is rather good.

The same goes for its tonal accuracy too. Affordable turntables have a tendency to sound thin and weedy, but not the Pro-Ject X1. Indeed, it's reasonably neutral, just a slight bloom in the upper bass – allied to a subtle softness low down – to remind you you're not listening to a more expensive design. Actually, the overall effect with the fitted cartridge is quite euphonic – it's what most hi-fi civilians mean when they talk about 'the sweet sound of vinyl'. There's something of a soft sepia tint to the presentation that makes modern electronic pop, such as the title track to Empire Of The Sun's album Walking On A Dream [Astralwerks 2547371447] sound more palatable than it actually is. In truth it's a bright, forward, heavily compressed mix yet the X1 soothes and balms it slightly, so things are softer-sounding and more cordial to the ear. It does something here that digital audio just cannot do, which is to add charm – regardless of whether it was there or not in the first place.

Being so much better than its ancestor, the Pro-Ject X1's sins are largely those of omission. It adds little that is bad to the end result, but falls down trying to convey all of what is good on a recording. You can hear this on fast, propulsive dance music such as Chic's 'My Forbidden Lover' [Risqué, Atlantic P-10701A], where it simply doesn't quite have the grip to keep up with that wonderfully sinewy bass line.

Pastoral Pleasure
The X1 is still enjoyable though, delivering a bouncy rendition of this classic disco track that's never wanting for musical engagement. The deck slurs the leading edges of instruments ever so slightly, so snare drum strikes aren't quite as punchy as when heard via a high-end turntable, but still it strings the musical picture together well.

I found myself enjoying the phrasing of the lead vocal line, and how it played off against the bass guitar. It was really easy to get into the musical groove, the deck showing a decent amount of control and impressive dynamic shading. This is only possible because it has far better speed stability than the original, and a capable tonearm too.

Classical music sounds best to me on vinyl, and the X1 reminded me why. The first movement of Beethoven's 'Pastoral' Symphony [Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic; Deutsche Grammophon 2531106] was a joy. All the aforementioned attributes of the deck came together with surprisingly good midband detail retrieval to create a vivid and engaging performance. Instrumental timbre was impressive, with violins having a lustre that showed off both the basic rightness of the motor unit, and the tonearm's fine tracking ability. Overall the deck delivered a tangible sense of a real orchestra playing in a concert hall, rather than it sounding like a facsimile. Dynamics were convincing, and the music rolled along with gusto.

There's an inherent correctness to the way this turntable plays music. Those same attributes of a stable motor, good isolation and decent tonearm make themselves known whichever genre of music you choose. REM's 'Maps And Legends' [from Fables Of The Reconstruction; IRS Records IRLC 19016] showcased this so well. It's a murky early '80s indie rock track with an almost impenetrable production, yet this wee turntable scythed through it, giving a detailed, well ordered and musically coherent sound.

Yes, there is inevitably some coloration brought to bear by the X1, yet you would be hard pressed to beat its performance at the price. For a budget turntable, that is surely the mark of success.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The Pro-Ject X1 may be a long way from being the best turntable money can buy, but it's pretty much there in terms of being the best value. Highly capable at the price, it gives its rivals a seriously hard time and for the true turntable enthusiast there's plenty of tweaking potential on offer too. More than just a worthy successor to the original, it's an accomplished design in its own right.

Pro-Ject Audio Systema
Supplied by: Henley Audio Ltd, UK
01235 511166