Product of the Day, Day 23: Pro-ject Debut III Turntable


Pro-ject Debut III Turntable

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It’s no secret that I am a big fan of vinyl records and believe a turntable belongs in the system of every music lover.  Vinyl records are one of the few mature segments of packaged media that is showing growth; DVDs and CDs are down but vinyl sales have picked up to the point where Best Buy is starting to carry new vinyl again.  Of course, there is a treasure trove of used vinyl out there too.  There are thrift stores, Half Price Books and Music, and for those lucky enough to see it in all its glory, Jerry’s Records.

I am often asked what is the best turntable to get started with.  I always have the same answer: The Pro-ject Debut III.

The Pro-ject Debut III sells for $349 in the USA and comes in a wide variety of colors (Ferrari Red shown.) It comes from a long line of high performance, affordable turntables manufactured in the Czech Republic for Pro-ject of Austria.  The US importer is Sumiko, a  Berkeley-based marketer of high-end audio and something of a legend in analog circles.  The main competitor to the Debut III is the Rega P1.  I compare them in a feature here.


Pre-mounted Ortofon OM-5E cartridge

The Debut III comes ready-to-go with a pre-mounted Ortofon OM-5E cartridge.  All you have to do is mount the counterweight, balance the arm, set the tracking force, and you are ready to go!  Given that proper cartridge installation is usually beyond the capabilities of beginners, getting a turntable that is set properly from the get-go goes a long way to exposing them to the true beauty of analog.

One of the fun parts of analog is you can always make your system sound better with an adjustment or upgrade here or there, and the Pro-ject Debut III also has a nice upgrade path that is easy for most anyone to follow based on their budget.

Suggested upgrades for Pro-ject Debut III vinyl playback system:

This costs about the same as the turntable, but with proper cleaning technique will resurrect even the dirtiest of thrift-shop records.  It will make all of your records, including new ones, sound more delicate and detailed while getting rid of noise.

The Speed Box II is an electronic speed regulator that sends a pure sine wave to the turntable’s motor, adding precise pitch and solidity to the sound as well as giving you 33/45 rpm capability with the press of a button.

The only difference between the entry-level OM-5E and the top-of-the-line OM-40 cartridge (discontinued) is the stylus.  The stylus of the OM-5E can be replaced with the stylus of a more expensive model such as the OM-10, OM-20, OM-30, or OM-40.  All you have to do is pull out the old and plug in the new, and you have a whole new cartridge!  The stylus is the part of the cartridge that touches the record, and a more advanced stylus design will extract more detail from the grooves.  It makes a bug difference!  The sweet spot for this upgrade is the $139 OM-20.

  • Upgraded Phono Preamp

I recommend the $150 Parasound Zphono.  See the link for more info on phono preamps.

So, start with a Debut III.  Add the phono preamp, stylus, Speed Box II, and record cleaner in any order you want.  Each one will make a difference on their own, and then when you add them all up, the difference will be night and day.  The record cleaner and phono preamp can work when you move from the Debut III to bigger and better turntables, if you ever want to. Chances are you will be thrilled with it out of the box and it is all you will ever need.

So, don’t wait… get a turntable, spin some records and see what all the buzz is about!

Stop back Sunday afternoon (I’ll be traveling Saturday) for the Product of the Day!

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