Built for those with spare cash for good looks, the Classic is a worthy turntable, but those who could care less about design should opt for the sonically similar cheaper brother.
Here’s a deck that looks like a million bucks of retro delight transported straight out of the ‘60s or ‘70s.
Pro-Ject’s latest turntable – the Classic – is a derivative of the company’s highly regarded Xpression range. In fact, it’s uncannily similar to the standard 1-Xpression III, but instead of a painted plinth and acrylic platter, it’s been dolled up with a gloss wooden veneer in mahogany or olive and a bare aluminium platter, complete with cork or felt mat.
Its looks are stunning, and it’s an easy setup, too. The Classic took all of six minutes from the moment I cut the tape on the box till Tracy Chapman’s silky voice was filling the room. Sure, I’m no novice, but unlike some fiddly units, this Pro-Ject was as easy as pie to figure out and get going.
The clear owner’s manual helps, as does the fact that the cartridge has been fitted and aligned by Pro-Ject’s eagle-eyed technicians. Instal the belt, pop on the tonearm and anti-skating weights, drop on the platter and mat, plug in the supplied cables, level the deck and you’re away.
Thanks to a well proven design and the carbon fibre tonearm, the deck sounds about as good as it looks. The Classic’s adjustable feet provide good isolation from external vibration, and the supplied perspex lid looks great and keeps dust off; a much needed touch of practicality in any turntable. The fitted Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet cartridge has been around for ages, and while it isn’t a high end choice, it helps vinyl sound far better than it has any right to at this price. (This can, of course, be swapped at any time for a cartridge that will keep you working overtime).
Run into the MM/MC phono stage of a Yamaha A-S2000 integrated amp, Tracey Chapman’s self titled debut album proved warm and rich, with a surprising amount of detail and a nicely extended treble that was smooth and inoffensive. The bottom end was far tighter than I’d expected from such a humble cartridge. One of my much spun albums this year is Two Dancers by Wild Beasts. The Pro-Ject laid out a wide soundstage, with very impressive bass, which again was tight and well controlled. I noted good dynamics, and a real sense of space/air/atmosphere. ZZ Top’s Afterburner brought out the big bass, big air (and beards), plenty of energy and lots of smiles. Oh, and a whole mess of air guitar and virtual drumming.
Moving the same albums to my modified Technics SL-1210M5 direct drive deck (Rega 300 arm, Dynavector DV-20XL MC cartridge, Origin Live platter mat, Isonoe isolation feet, Dynavector P75 MkII phono stage) showed that there was much more to be had from the grooves in the vinyl. That was to be expected given the lift in performance of each part of the replay chain, but the price tag is substantially higher as well.
The Classic does a fabulous job at this price point. It really is a well sorted and quite lovely entry level deck. Upgrading the cartridge to something like a better Ortofon, Sumiko or Dynavector would make a big difference to the sound, lifting it from its already good level. You sense a ‘but’? You sense right.
The fly in the ointment here is the four hundred dollar price difference between the musically very similar (but plainer looking) standard 1-Xpression III and the Classic. The Classic looks way classier than the standard version, but is that worth the extra cost? I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The sensualist in me loves the way the Classic looks, but the pragmatist tells me that – if I had a spare $1400 for a turntable – I’d grab the standard 1-Xpression II and spend the remaining loot on a better cartridge.
There are, of course, thousands of people who would rather have the delicious looks of the Classic, and it’s true that you always have to pay more for class: just try adding bigger wheels or metallic paint to a new car, and see what happens to the bottom line. ASHLEY KRAMER