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Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO review

Austrian manufacturer Pro-Ject give their most popular turntable a revamp

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO review
(Image: © Pro-Ject)

Our Verdict

The Debut Carbon was already one of the best sub-£500 turntables around, but with Pro-Ject having made some key refinements to the engineering and operation, it's now more appealing than ever. Viva la EVO-lution!

For

  • New satin colour options are stunning
  • Speed change button is easier than doing it by hand
  • Plenty of detail in the sound

Against

  • Barren aesthetic will put some people off
  • Sounds a little laid-back at times

Amazon launched their Vinyl of the Month Club earlier this year – a subscription service where members get sent 'must-have' albums from the '60s and '70s for a monthly fee. 

Some of the records distributed so far include Pink Floyd's The Wall and The Clash's London Calling, with LPs by Led Zeppelin and Miles Davis said to be among the future issues. While the service is currently available in the US only, it could well arrive elsewhere at some point. With that in mind, now might be the perfect time to bin-off that cheap dansette that's cluttering up the corner of the living room and set your sights on something a little more decent. 

All of the products in our guide to the best record players will do justice to the classics, but in this review we're going to be taking a closer look at one in particular – the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO.

Pro-Ject is a relatively young company, the Austrian manufacturer celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. However, in its short life, it's managed to establish itself as one of the world's most admired tech brands, offering a wide range of audiophile turntables, speakers and amplifiers. 

Launched in 2020, the Debut Carbon EVO (£449) is a new take on the Debut Carbon, the company's most popular turntable. Pro-Ject says that its original design has been “refined in every aspect” – but what does that mean for you?

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO review: Design

When the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon launched in 2012, three things initially stood out for us: the turntable's minimalist aesthetic, the range of bright colours variations, and the fact it had a carbon-fibre tonearm (hence the name). Well, all of those attributes are still present and correct in this new version. 

Handmade in the EU, this manual turntable is every bit as spartan as the original, with no buttons or switches blighting its smooth, rectangular MDF plinth. It comes in a choice of eye-catching hues – including five gorgeous new satin options – steel blue, fir green, golden yellow, black and white. And it has a sturdy yet lightweight, carbon-fibre tonearm (again, hence the name).

As with the Debut Carbon, the tonearm is attached to an Ortofon 2M Red moving-magnet cartridge. It's an ubiquitous choice among modern turntable manufacturers, but there's a good reason for that – precise and entertaining, it's a solid all-rounder.

New for this model are a set of three height-adjustable, damped aluminium feet that will ensure the turntable always sits perfectly level on your cabinet or table, while reducing vibration. They look pretty cool, too, especially when contrasted against one of the more funky-coloured variants.

The Debut Carbon EVO also comes with a heavy steel platter whose inner rim is mounted with a TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) dampening ring. Increasing the weight of the platter to 1.7kg, this serves to minimise resonance, and results in a virtually noiseless operation.

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO review: Features

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

One of the key differences between the original Debut Carbon and the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO is in the way you change speeds. While both turntables are belt-driven, the original DC required you to move the belt by hand in order to go from 331/3 to 45rpm, and vice versa. 

No such hassle here – the Debut Carbon EVO is fitted with a speed control button on the underside of the plinth, enabling you to shift through the gears (including 78rpm) with ease and accuracy. The motor driving that belt has also been upgraded, and now features improved suspension to consistently reduce vibrations during playback.

There's no built-in phono preamp with this model, though Pro-Ject goes some way towards compensating for this by including its high-quality Connect It E phono RCA cable in the box, ready for you to connect up your own device.

Setting up the Debut Carbon EVO is ridiculously easy. Simply add the drive belt, platter and weights, and you'll be ready to drop that needle on the groove.

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO review: Sound

While we like the idea of Amazon's latest proposition, we already have a fair few classic LPs in our collection. To test the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO, we reached for one such record – namely, Stevie Wonder's magnificent 1973 opus Innervisions. Lowering the Ortofon stylus at the start of Living For The City, we closed our eyes and waited. As the creeping chords from Wonder's Rhodes piano wafted through the speakers, the sound was warm and clear – almost like the man himself was in the room.

When his vocals kicked in, full of soulful rage, we were taken aback by the detail and texture; here, the Debut Carbon EVO delivered real authenticity, of the kind you just don't get with digital music. Our only real reservation came when this prog-funk masterpiece reached its euphoric crescendo – where the song's howling synths and handclaps usually come at you with unforgiving intensity, the Debut Carbon EVO's delivery was somewhat more laidback. 

We're loath to call it a negative – some would probably welcome the more subtle approach – but it did take a little sheen off our overall experience.

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO review: The alternatives

If you like Pro-Ject's style but don't want to be tethered by cables, then the Juke Box E Bluetooth Turntable (£429) has your name written all over it. Able to communicate wirelessly in both directions (i.e. you can hook it up to speakers and also get it to play music from external sources), this is a classy, belt-driven deck that's simple to use and sounds great.

Prefer something that doesn't bear the Pro-Ject name? Technics' direct-drive SL-1500C turntable is a little more expensive than the Debut Carbon EVO at £899, but it sounds amazing and comes with a built-in phono preamp.