We're used to fast-food companies and supermarkets reducing the amount of plastic they produce, but an audio manufacturer? Yes, you'd better believe it – Pro-Ject's T1 turntable is virtually plastic-free. OK, so the idea here is to improve sound quality rather than save the planet, but even so – cool or what?
Pro-Ject is no stranger to making great turntables. Founded in 1991, the Austrian firm has numerous models to its name, from the minimalist majesty of debut launch the Pro-Ject 1, to this rather more flamboyant Sgt Pepper's-themed deck.
Whereas many of these have been aimed at music connoisseurs with a big budget, 2019's manual, belt-driven Pro-Ject T1 (from £259/$365) is described by the manufacturer as an 'audiophile entry-level turntable'. The question is, will it appeal to genuine audiophiles?
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Pro-Ject T1 review: Design
The Pro-Ject T1 actually comes in three different guises, costing three different prices. There's the standard model (£259/$365), which doesn't have a built-in phono preamp, meaning you'll need an external one; there's the T1 Phono SB (£299/$422), which does come with a built-in phono stage, and also an electronic speed control; and finally there's the T1BT (£349/$492), which also has a phono stage – as well as the ability to stream your record-playing over Bluetooth – but no speed control.
With the two models that don't have a speed control, you'll need to lift off the platter and adjust the height of the belt if you want to change from 33 1/3 to 45rpm, which is a tad inconvenient, though you do get used to it after a while.
All three versions are based around an entirely plastic-free, CNC-machined one-piece plinth that, according to the manufacturer, contains no hollow spaces. This helps to minimise unwanted vibrations within the chassis. Pro-Ject is clearly quite big on this particular topic, as the T1 also features purpose-chosen turntable feet designed to isolate the system from ambient vibrations, plus a heavy, zero-resonance glass platter. Whatever you do, don't mistake it for a microwave plate.
As for the tonearm, it's a sturdy, aluminium number with an integrated headshell and low-friction bearings for accurate positioning. It's not height-adjustable, meaning you're more or less stuck with the ready-fitted Ortofon OM 5E moving magnet cartridge – but that's not a bad thing at all, seeing as Ortofon cartridges are very highly regarded.
All three of the T1 turntables are handmade, and come in a choice of High-Gloss Black, Satin White or Walnut finishes. We particularly like the Walnut, as it adds a bit of extra character to what is a very minimalist, if solidly built, deck.
Pro-Ject T1 review: Features
Pro-Ject hasn't exactly gone to town with the T1's features. There's no Bluetooth compatibility (apart from on the pricier T1BT model), no AD converter for creating digital versions of your music, no pitch-change slider control and no hydraulically damped lift control. We can only assume that the lack of features is a result of Pro-Ject wanting customers to concentrate on the sound quality – we'll comment on how good that is in the next section.
One thing we will say about the T1: it's not possible to adjust the tonearm's anti-skate settings, since they're factory-fixed. It's not a major catastrophe – we trust
Pro-Ject to have done the job properly - but there's potential for it to go awry at some point.
Setting up this turntable is a cinch; once you've fitted the belt and applied the glass platter and felt mat, you're good to go. Note that the T1 is packaged with Pro-Ject's own super-shielded, semi-symmetrical, low-capacitance phono cables, meaning there's no need to supply your own.
Pro-Ject T1 review: Sound
To put the T1 through its paces, we reached for our (remarkably clean considering how often we've played it) vinyl copy of Aerosmith's 1989 album Pump. In between preening and strutting around the room like some Poundland version of Steven Tyler, we were impressed by the turntable's full-bodied sound and bone-shattering bass, both of which lend themselves to raucous rock music.
We would've liked a bit more detail at the bottom end, as louder songs such as F.I.N.E. and Don't Get Mad, Get Even had a tendency to sound a little cluttered at times. However, the T1 excelled in the mid-ranges, with some of Joe Perry's fretwork sounding smoother than a cashmere codpiece; and the treble, while not always entirely crisp, was more than acceptable.
Pro-Ject T1 review: The competition
If the T1's minimalist look works for you but the price doesn't, you could try the Sony PS-LX310BT (£199/$280). In our guide to the best budget turntables, we described this sparse spinner as “the best budget Bluetooth turntable you can buy”. It looks sophisticated, it sounds great (especially through a quality pair of wireless cans) and it's cheap as chips.
If you've got a large wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket, consider the Technics SL-1500C (£899/$1,270) – a turntable that our pals at What Hi-Fi? magazine described as “one of the best we've heard under a grand”. It looks pretty swanky, too, combining a stout, raised plinth with an eye-catching two-tone platter.