Pro-Ject Debut Carbon USB TurnTables

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Pro-Ject Debut Carbon USB TurnTables 


Turntable built-in phono preamp with line-level audio and USB output,Windows, Mac, and Linux compatible (recording software not included)


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[Dec 07, 2014]
Peter Charles
Audio Enthusiast

This review pertains to the Debut Carbon Esprit SB only! (model year 2013).

I was looking for a easy-to-use, easy-to-set turntable for a second room system- outside of my main listening room -which also has a TT setup consisting of a VPI mark III, Origin tonearm, VPI quartz power generator, and high-end moving coil from ZYX , all played through a Musical Surrounding Nova II phono stage.
I have not decided yet on a inexpensive phono preamp/stage to partner with this new turntable and my NAD T748 AV receiver (itself very fine sounding for an AV amp, and also recommended), so I have hooked up my Nova II, which is way overkill, yet which also should bring out finest qualities of the Carbon and the Ortofon Red, which I believe it does!
The turntable sounds terrific, both through my Monitor Audio AV speakers and, even better, through the NAD AV receiver's high quality headphone output. Basically, after careful listening, I would rate the value for this record player through the roof! Please note, I have not tweaked or checked cartridge alignment yet, but everything sounded so good out of the box, that I am delaying this extra step!

However, there are some negative issues to mention:

1. Setup manual has some omissions. (probably can be overcome with online video tutorials though!)
2. Phono connection wires included - although good sounding - had some loose connectors which caused me to loose my right channel a few times! (will tighten or upgrade this phono cable soon, for this reason!)
3. Had to redo and rearrange all my power cords to mitigate initial, terrible hum issues. Most originated from the subwoofer being plugged into the same wall outlet! Some minor residential hum remains, but it is slight at this point. Note, my best, low hum combination so far has been achieved when I plugged both the phono stage and turntable into a separately attached and ancient power-line filtration system I happened to have lying around, and far away from other power cables!
4. Very minor quibble - when I use the tonearm lift, the tonearm lifts up in a diagonal, about 1/3 inch from the former play area.

Things I love about this turntable:

1. Steadiness of play and pitch!. I have a trained ear as a former student sound technician in film school (long time ago!). There is no discernible wow and flutter! The new, built-in and regulated DC motor works like my VPI quartz power supply!
2. 45 and 33.33 speeds at the push of a button. I have several audiophile 12" records I love and I really hate changing belt pulleys! (often difficult and inconvenient!) I will now buy more audiophile 45's for sure.
3. Compact size - fits a much tighter space than my VPI setup!
4. Everything that is important to make great music is included!. Only real tweak that remains is upgrading either the cartridge or needle. To my 50+ year ears though, the sound is already wonderful! Having spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours tweaking systems, replacing and adjusting tonearms, and substituting cartridges, this is not to be underestimated for those individuals who just want to enjoy music and have better than CD and better than regular uncompressed, Itunes sound!!!

To those that are considering this fine component, please read other reviews online about hum problems and channel distortion with the Ortofon Red and other cartridges mounted, factory cartridge misalignment out of the box, and buyer beware! Note, a cartridge alignment protractor is included with the turntable that should be sufficient!

Lastly, I would have preferred to buy the VPI Nomad - and American made, high quality turntable, but the cost is $400 higher, but includes built-in phone amp, which saves about $200 to $300 dollars of additional expense that I will have to eventually come up with. My decision to not pursue this American option was primarily, because one cannot bypass the built in phono stage, something VPI or a third party will likely remedy at some future time! I would assume that a good value, $250 phono stage will better the existing stage that is built in, but may be in error on this one. Further, the Nomad does not come with a dustcover or speed regulation from what I have read...

Next, I will be trying out low-cost phono stages to partner, like the Parasound Zphono USB, Cambride P651, and the Musical Fidelity VPS90, so I can put my Nova II back in the main system.

Probably will upgrade the needle at some point too, with the Blue or Black, but will likely wait until the Red has lived a full life, because I am positively astonished by the detail and performance of the Red! Previous cartridges I have had over the years: Grace 9, Denon 110, Shure V15 , Sumiko Virtuoso Boron, etc.).

Four additional items I would recommend, besides tons of vinyl records, are the following:

1. A stylus cleaning brush and/or solution!

2. A stylus gauge, just to verify the adjustment method by Project, either cheap electronic or a Shure, both found here on Amazon!

3. Record cleaning, dust brush.

4. Optional item four - a Spin-clean, Nitty Gritty or VPI record cleaning machine with plenty of extra, cleaning fluid!

All the above to be had for less than a grand, should you have a clean, hum-free power. If you do not have clean power, either a separate and clean additional power line may be necessary, and/ or a line conditioning and filtration device may become a necessity- which could add hundreds to the purchase equation! Make sure to not have power cords from other components crossing the turntable and phone stage cables. Also, keep humming transformers away from both of these important devices and their cables (the phono stage/preamp and record player!).

Purchased from the Turntable Lab, who threw in a free, unexpected record cleaning brush and a unnecessary, but nice, turntable mat. This was a great and seamless transaction!

The golden age of analog has returned in the very best way!

Cheers and happy listening...


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