Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO Turntable Page 2

Ah, you're thinking, here come the back-handed compliments because Kessler is working from a negative, nay, apologetic standpoint. Not so. Aside from two immediate impressions on the downside – losses in ultimate refinement and absolute scale of the soundstage – any drop in performance was far from intolerable.

Fleetwood Mac's remastered LPs from the pre-Buckingham/Nicks era box-set, Fleetwood Mac 1973-1974 Reprise R1 596007/603497851294] were handy, so I went straight in with Penguin. As first impressions often deliver 80% of the final judgment, I was delighted to be distracted swiftly from the previously-cited negatives by a rich, solid, extended bass and utterly dazzling percussion. The snap, the solidity and the impact, allied to John McVie's virtuoso bass guitar playing, delivered enough authority to elevate the Debut Carbon EVO above its like-priced rivals and certainly above its progenitors.

Amusingly, it wasn't an original composition which had me sit up and take notice, but the deliriously funky interpretation of '(I'm A) Road Runner', that classic first gifted to us by Jr Walker & The All Stars. It was enough that the rhythm section had this usually sedentary excuse for a three-toed sloth boogieing along, but the harmonica solo was the deal-maker. This little sucker cooks.

Dream Deck
Next was Dire Straits' eponymous debut [Mobile Fidelity MFSL2-466] on two 45rpm LPs. Knopfler's slithery, twangy guitar demands fluidity from a system, while his voice has its own unique rasp. The Debut Carbon EVO handled both with enough élan to exorcise any snobbery. It forced me to listen to the strains of 'Sultans Of Swing' with an open mind. This deck, to use the inexact, irrational parlance of the non-discriminating vinyl worshipper, is truly 'musical' and therefore absolved of any sins such as absolute refinement.


But absolutes there are, as editor PM points out in his Lab Report about the exactness of the Debut Carbon EVO's speed. Armed with a chronograph, I compared assorted 33rpm and 45rpm LPs' and singles' playing times and even dug out a strobe disc and found this turntable to be the budget-constrained perfect-pitch-fanatic's dream deck.

Litmus Test
Vocals, however, remain my final arbiter of everything, so the possibly-too-familiar strains of Carly Simon's album No Secrets [Speakers Corner ELEKTRA75049] served as my initial foray into the deck's midband capabilities. For those who value emotional content above all other aspects of sound reproduction, whether soundstage or bass extension or transient snap, this LP offers the contrasting feelings expressed in the heartbreak of the 'The Carter Family' and the arch contempt in 'You're So Vain'.

A system conveying both with equal grace, finesse and conviction is what many of you strive for in your quest for audio satisfaction. Ms Simon is hardly Aretha Franklin, and could be accused of a certain coolness akin to Sade's aloofness, yet both tracks elicited in this listener the same response as if hearing them with a honeyed Koetsu MC at the front. Which is to say that the Debut Carbon EVO is greater than the sum of its parts.

Here we witness the genius of a company that can do this for a sane price, giving you a made-in-Europe turntable/arm/cartridge with pedigree and performance so far beyond its market category as to embarrass the rest. Recall that the cartridge alone is worth more than 20% of the entire purchase price. Whoever combined and 'voiced' the three elements of turntable, tonearm and cartridge has displayed system-assembly genius.

This raises the subject, which is too often neglected, of synergy and compatibility. We assume too much, imagining that any combination of three high-end components will work together blissfully. We've been lulled into this state, afraid to argue that £20,000 Amp A actually sucks when used with Speaker B, or that Cartridge X simply cannot mate perfectly with Phono Stage Y.

In the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO, the pain of a front-end mismatch has been removed, the sole potential for such a calamity lurking only in the future for those who choose to upset the balance with an arbitrary upgrade. So I picked as the litmus test another 2x45rpm, high-cost LP, Janis Joplin's Pearl [Mobile Fidelity MFSL2-454] and that most revealing of tracks, the a cappella 'Mercedes-Benz'.

Suffice it to say, my reservations about absolute refinement were rendered meaningless, for the resultant sound was in-the-room/in-your-face, as-real-as-you-need presence. And that's magic.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Not only was this sub-£500 analogue package a joy for the money, it also provided a reality check. While the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO is entry-to-mid-level, its performance through a system 200x its price revealed it to be punching wa-a-y above its weight. So while long-term readers may have moved beyond such budget esoterica, if asked by one of the 'new generation' then we can recommend this unreservedly.

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