Pro-Ject Audio Systems X8 Turntable

hfnoutstandingInspired by the longstanding Xtension 9 turntable, the new X8 features a 9cc EVO arm with balanced connections to better serve the 'bundled' Ortofon Quintet Blue MC

Launched in 2022, the X8 is the new LP spinner that Austria's Pro-Ject is betting on to entice vinyl lovers onto that next step beyond the entry-level and midrange products that are the brand's bread and butter. To justify its higher price point, this sleek-looking deck borrows features from the company's top-tier Xtension turntables, making it Pro-Ject's most affordable 'mass-loaded' model to date. It's also fitted with a rigid 9cc Evolution carbon tonearm, which is an upgrade on the carbon-aluminium arms found on its lower-range offerings, including the X2 B [HFN Sep '22].

Par for the course, the belt-driven X8 is available in a £2099 'Superpack' which includes a pre-fitted Ortofon Quintet Blue MC cartridge. If you can't decide between Pro-Ject's X2 B, fitted with Ortofon's Quintet Red, and the X8, then the superior Blue is certainly one of the major points of difference to consider. More generally the X8 is a very different design, aside from the single speed control button and Pro-Ject's standard three colour options of gloss black, gloss white and an opulent 'real wood' walnut finish.

Leading The Way
Under the plinth, there's more going on. The X8 is the latest deck in Pro-Ject's charge to convince hi-fi enthusiasts to make the switch to a balanced connection between turntable and phono preamp. The brand posits that the noise rejection offered by balanced connections makes them ideal for channelling very low-level (phono) signals in houses that are now typically filled with numerous CE devices.

Pro-Ject boss Heinz Lichtenegger is leading from the front here by launching multiple products, all supporting balanced connections. Accompanying the X8 are the new balanced 'B' versions of the cheaper X1 and the aforementioned X2, together with a range of phono preamps with balanced inputs. A selection of suitable balanced cables hasn't been forgotten either, underpinned by strident marketing efforts to convince vinylistas that balanced is the way to go.

An AC motor drives the X8's 5.1kg alloy platter via a round-section belt, with electronic speed selection provided [lower left]. The 9cc tonearm has been in service for over a decade

Which brings us neatly back to the X8. Contrary to the X1 B (which has a 'balanced' RCA connection) and the X2 B (fitted with both RCAs and a mini-XLR), the X8 offers a single connection only. And don't bother looking for this on the rear of the unit, as Pro-Ject is using an SME-like 5-pin DIN connection straight into the base of the tonearm.

However, even though the X8 is the poster child for balanced connections, it is delivered with a 'Connect it E 5P' DIN-to-RCA cable. So if you do own an amplifier with balanced inputs suited to a turntable or a capable phono preamp, you'll have to invest in another cable, such as Pro-Ject's own Connect it CC, which is available with mini-XLR or dual full-sized XLR terminations.

Heavy Lifting
As the entry point into Pro-Ject's higher tier, the X8's MDF plinth and 5.1kg machined alloy platter contribute to the 15kg vibration-deadening 'mass loading' that's the hallmark of its £2000+ decks. The heavier, hinged dust cover is also part and parcel of this solution. Moreover, Pro-Ject says the platter is not only precision lathed, but also finely balanced and damped with a soft polymer (TPE) material ring applied on the inside. Also inspired by those costlier Xtension decks, the stress on the X8's inverted ceramic bearing is reduced by partially supporting the massy platter via a powerful magnetic ring that's embedded into the top surface of the plinth around the stainless steel shaft.

This may assist in getting the belt-driven platter up to speed swiftly but it certainly reduces rumble noise through the bearing. PM has also reported that continuous round-section drive belts are usually preferable to ones that are glued into a loop out of cut lengths. The flat rubber belts that Pro-Ject employs on its other decks are one-piece items, so perhaps we'll see uninterrupted round-section belts in the future.

Old Faithful
Some may argue the X8 doesn't incorporate the newest technology, but that's all very relative. Continuous component upgrading is a necessity for mobile devices, for example, but not turntables. The electronic speed control and AC motor employed in the X8 have been around for a while and have proven very effective. So if it's not broken…

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