Pro-Ject Audio Systems X8 Turntable Page 2

The turntable's trio of adjustable feet are not the magnetic supports found underneath both Pro-Ject's Xtension 9 [HFN Jul '14] and Xtension 10 [HFN Aug '12], but they still feature polymer damping and are equally easy to adjust for levelling. In contrast with the Xtension 9's integral vinyl top surface, the X8's 'naked' alloy platter does, however, leave the door wide open for experimentation with different mats. The deck comes supplied with a lightweight felt mat, but trying out thicker alternatives, rubber mats and/or clamps might well prove fruitful.

sqnote A Cut Above
The X8 was a strong performer straight out of the box, matching well with the Quintet Blue MC to deliver music in a grand and rousing manner. A silent background and clean, detailed presentation were a boon, but on top of that the scale of the performance was a bit of an eye-opener.

Pro-Ject's deck offers tangible stereo separation and lots of microdetail, outclassing the lower-tier X2 B on these fronts. This will partly be due to the progression from the Quintet Red cartridge of the X2 B to the far more capable Blue, but the deck itself introduces a more solid, confident feeling to the music.

To give it a chance to strut its stuff, I used the X8 with B&W 703 S3s, and Primare's PRE35 [HFN Dec '19], multichannel A35.8 power amp [HFN May '22], and R15 phono stage. With a high-end deck like this, it's worth thinking about a capable phono stage to ensure you reap the benefits of your vinyl investment. Of course, Pro-Ject will be eager to point you in the direction of its 'True Balanced' models, including the EISA Award-winning Phono Box S3 B [HFN Sep '22].

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last six decades or so, you only need to hear a few notes of the first track to know it's John Coltrane's 'Blue Train' spinning away. Heard it enough to last your whole lifetime? Well, you should give it another chance, as the jazz masterpiece was released in a superb 'Complete Masters' edition on Blue Note's Tone Poet Series last autumn [Blue Note BST 1577], celebrating the landmark album's 65th birthday.

All That Jazz
The first disc features the original tracks, albeit remastered and in stereo. The mixes are very effective, retaining an intimate, late-at-night club vibe while giving each instrumentalist a distinct position, and they sounded lovely via the X8, Pro-Ject's turntable doing an excellent job of showcasing each of these jazz legends. Philly Joe Jones' drum solo on 'Locomotion' (or the one on 'Lazy Bird') arrived with bundles of energy and sounded like a real kit, including a lively bass drum thudding away.


A separate DIN-terminated audio cable is supplied that plugs into the base of the tonearm (not shown here, but this balanced output would serve Pro-Ject's Phono Box S3 B [HFN Sep '22], for example). Note outboard PSU input [lower right]

This release also ups the presence of Paul Chambers' bass playing, particularly on 'Moment's Notice', although the combination of the X8 and Quintet Blue MC did put the midrange performance of the piano and trumpet more in the limelight. Yet this was without any annoying glare or harshness, even on the 'Alternate Take 8' of 'Blue Train', which sees the trumpet sounding a bit rawer and less polished than the final version on the album.

A Star Is Born Strand Of Oaks' 2021 release In Heaven [Galacticana Records GAL 01] might not be the best pressing around (or I've fallen unlucky with my copy), which means playing it comes with risks attached. A lesser deck will often obfuscate the harsher points, but the X8 proved more revealing. That said, the performance was not over-critical either, and it still served up these dreamlike indie rock tracks in an engrossing way, with an organic touch and clear low extension.

Black Star [Sony Music/Columbia 88875173871] was David Bowie's final release, forming the conclusion to a diverse career encompassing 26 studio albums. Unavoidably it's a bit gloomy, but the record is equally a celebration of a distinctive life, a nuance which the X8 managed to convey by way of reproducing Bowie's tired voice with considerable panache. It all follows on from the deck's combination of good clarity and separation, while pacing is outstanding. The X8 deck also handled 'Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)' near-perfectly – not the last word in tightness and control, but ensuring this frenzied, chaotic track didn't become muddy.

Degrees Of Separation
Album opener 'Black Star' is a wild ride too, but it's track three, 'Lazarus', that really made for a compelling listening on this system. The languid saxophone and horns, and reverberant guitar, formed a complex backdrop above which Bowie's voice floated. The deep background was remarkably quiet, leaving no distractions to take you out of the musical moment.

And at the end of the day, that's the star quality of this latest Pro-Ject deck. The X8 offers you more than a glimpse of high-end performance in a ready-to-enjoy package, avoiding the very high price, and potential complexity, that an uber-upgrade might entail.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
By distilling key features from the X9 and X10 models into the X8, Pro-Ject has built a sleek turntable that appears minimalistic but offers a sizeable step up in performance compared to its budget decks. The Quintet Blue MC plays an important part in this, but the match is entirely fortuitous. As a result, the X8 spins your vinyl with minimal distraction and maximum detail, immersing you in the music.

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