Price (RRP): $540
In a sense the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB turntable isn’t really entry level, because you can buy some turntables for just a couple of hundred dollars. But I wouldn’t play my records on most of them. Let’s just say that this turntable is entry level for those who are getting serious about vinyl.
Review: Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB turntable
- Australian Website: here.
- Manual here. (Check your downloads folder for a PDF.)
- Price: A$540
- From: Legitimate Pro-Ject hifi retailers and direct from Australian distributor here.
- Warranty: Two years
- Country of Manufacture: “Handmade in EC”
- About: Pro-Ject audio is based Austria. It was originally founded in 1991 to make turntables, just as the turntable business hit its nadir. It established its manufacturing in the newly freed (then) Czechoslovakia and has since broadened its offerings to consumer electronics.
Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB turntable features
So, what do you get for your $540? The Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB turntable is a proper two speed, belt drive turntable with a built-in phono pre-amplifier. The platter is 8mm-thick glass. Its mass ensures rotational stability. The paltter is covered by a felt mat. The on-off switch is on the left side near the front, while the selector for 33 1/3 rpm or 45 rpm is on the plinth, not far from the power switch.
The Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB turntable comes fitted with an 8.6-inch (218.4mm) tone arm which has been pre-fitted with an Ortofon OM5e moving magnet cartridge. This has a recommended tracking force of 1.75 grams. That’s rather low for a turntable in this price range. Many use higher than 2 grams of weight. So long as the stylus is tracking the groove properly, lower is better. (But never reduce the force below what the manufacturer recommends, otherwise it won’t track properly and will instead cause damage.)
The phono pre-amplifier can be switched out, allowing the signal to pass straight through from the cartridge to your amplifier, should it have a built-in phono preamp, or to a separate phono preamp.
The turntable comes with a perspex cover. Its hinges were fairly stiff. With the low tracking weight I had to be very careful with raising or lowering it the stylus would skip. A damped cue lever lowers the arm, but it’s winter at the moment and the whole thing had stiffened up. The arm would not lower when I brought down the lever. A gentle press on the arm support managed to get the arm down. I imagine it will loosen up with time.
Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB turntable setup
Pro-Ject promises very easy setup with this turntable. It was right. I put on the stopwatch. It took less than ten minutes to slit open the box, take out the parts, assemble them, plug in the turntable, put on a record and start it spinning. A big part of that is thanks to the pre-fitted cartridge and tone-arm counterweight, which are already set to give the right tracking weight.
According to my digital Rega stylus pressure gauge, the force was 1.78 grams. That is, within measurement tolerances it was spot on for the recommended 1.75 grams.
But it proved to be tricky to accurately adjust the force should you decide to upgrade to a different cartridge. There’s no easy adjustment. You have to just try to slide the counterweight by tiny amounts forwards or backwards to get the right measure. Since the counterweight grips the arm fairly tightly with a rubber bushing (a grub screw ensures it won’t move once adjusted), this was a slow trial-and-error process.
A simple plastic and quite accurate stylus pressure gauge is provided with the turntable, along with a cartridge alignment protractor, to assist. (If those terms mean nothing to you, don’t worry. You probably won’t be changing the cartridge anyway.)
Listening using the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB
The turntable always fires up at 33 1/3 rpm, even if last used at 45 rpm. I noticed this when playing the 12-inch single of “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats. Once I changed it to 45 rpm the music went from slow, dreary and flat to bouncy, engaging and rhythmic.
Like “Safety Dance”, most of my vinyl is pretty old. Until the last three or four years, I don’t think I’d purchased an LP since perhaps 1986. After that it was CDs all the way. Much of it is still of brilliant quality, but I have gotten ahold of a few albums in recent years. So even though we’re more than 21 years past the title year of Prince’s album 1999, and that was 17 years after the date of release, my copy of the album is only a few years old. My goodness, what a fine sounding album it was. The early 1980s wasn’t generally a good time for sound mixing tastes. This album, as delivered by the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB turntable, was an exception. Bass was strong and tight, with a good solid thump from the kick drum.
That included tracks like “Delirious”, the closing one on Side 1. The inner tracks of an LP are typically the poorest sounding. That’s because the track curvature is at its greatest, the track linear velocity is at its lowest and the tracking angle error is at its (equal) greatest.
Laura Marling’s album Short Movies was very nicely presented, with a good intimate view of her close-miked voice. The percussive accompaniment had good bite and body. Stereo imaging was a little flatter than I would have liked, but it was acceptable.
Much better stereo imaging was from one of my old pressings, this one a 1983 release of Symphony No. 1 in E minor by Jean Sibelius, along with his Finlandia, played by the Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Neeme Järvi. This was a BIS release and BIS was a company that concerned itself with the quality of its recordings. In this one the Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB properly layered the elements of the orchestra, with a sweet delivery of the strings. The woodwinds to centre right were remarkably detailed.
And the deep rumble of the tympani in the final movement of the symphony was superb and did not upset proceedings in the higher registers in the slightest.