Pro-ject The Clas­sic

£900

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Turntables -

“You will strug­gle to find a turntable at this price with a fuller body than The Clas­sic, or one as ea­ger to throw a sig­nif­i­cant punch”

FOR Full bod­ied sound; flex­i­ble car­tridge pair­ing AGAINST Lacks de­tail com­pared with class lead­ers If you’re go­ing to take hi-fi de­sign in­spi­ra­tion from any other era, we can think of few bet­ter from which to do so than the 1960s and ’70s. This, quite sim­ply, is how many peo­ple think a turntable should look.

With its brushed-me­tal top plate sub­merged in a wooden plinth, with a thick-cut plat­ter upon which to rest its pur­pose-built ton­earm, Pro-ject’s The Clas­sic is frankly gor­geous. How­ever, there is more to its de­sign than sim­ply to pro­duce drool from the mouths of ogling hi-fi en­thu­si­asts.

Damp­ing balls

Pro-ject claims that the turntable’s two-layer de­sign helps iso­late the sub-chas­sis and re­duce in­ter­fer­ence be­tween dif­fer­ent parts of the deck. Ef­fec­tively, this de­cou­ples the res­o­nances of the al­ready low-noise AC mo­tor and main plinth from the turntable’s main bear­ing and ton­earm.

Iso­la­tion is pro­vided by a se­ries of six TPE (Thermo Plas­tic Elas­tomers) damp­ing balls, a fam­ily of ma­te­ri­als that can be tuned to damp res­o­nances at spe­cific fre­quen­cies. Pro-ject says any TPE it uses is specif­i­cally de­signed for the ma­te­rial and fre­quency range it should dampen.

And the sus­pen­sion af­forded to the up­per plinth isn’t the only place you’ll find TPE. That cast alu­minium main plat­ter also ben­e­fits from such damp­ing. There’s some or­na­ment­ing of the coun­ter­weight, too, which clings to a newly de­signed ton­earm.

The tube is made out of a sand­wich of car­bon and alu­minium. As un­ap­petis­ing as that sounds, Pro-ject says the for­mer aids stiff­ness and speed, and the lat­ter damp­ing. The arm’s bear­ing assem­bly aims to move with ul­tra-low fric­tion, and great care is taken to en­sure the ton­earm lead doesn’t spoil the arm’s free­dom of move­ment.

Mo­ral sup­port

We would, of course, al­ways urge you to in­vest in ad­e­quate sup­port for your turntable, es­pe­cially if, once hav­ing added a suit­able phono stage to The Clas­sic, you’re spend­ing up­wards of a grand. Pro-ject has tried its best to help those will­ing to com­pro­mise in that re­spect by in­clud­ing a trio of damped, height-ad­justable feet.

If we were to have any par­tic­u­lar crit­i­cism of Pro-ject’s de­sign, it cer­tainly wouldn’t be about a lack of dili­gence with re­gards to sus­pen­sion or damp­ing.

That does mean an ex­tra pro­ce­dure or two when it comes to set­ting up The Clas­sic. As well as fit­ting the belt and plat­ter, you need to re­move a few bolts from the up­per plinth and ap­ply, then set, those feet to your pre­ferred height – though who, in re­al­ity, could protest at be­ing asked to han­dle so hand­some a deck?

Sig­na­ture sound

The Clas­sic comes ready-fit­ted with an Orto­fon 2M Sil­ver mov­ing-mag­net car­tridge, a ver­sion of the 2M with sil­ver coils de­signed ex­clu­sively for Pro-ject.

It is also avail­able car­tridge-free, and as such, the com­pany of­fers coun­ter­weights upon re­quest for car­tridges up to 25g – so there’s some lee­way should you de­cide to up­grade or just fancy some­thing dif­fer­ent.

Our re­view sam­ple, how­ever, has the 2M Sil­ver ready fit­ted, so there’s no fid­dly in­stal­la­tion re­quired be­fore we can flick the switch and be­gin play­ing Ra­dio­head’s In Rain­bows.

The deck it­self is de­void of brand­ing but for a mod­est logo when the dust cover is fit­ted. How­ever, any pos­si­ble am­bi­gu­ity con­cern­ing its her­itage is dis­pelled as soon as we hear those open­ing pro­cessed rhythms of

15 Step, de­liv­ered with Pro-ject’s by-now fa­mil­iar sig­na­ture sound.

Ea­ger to throw a punch

You’d strug­gle to find a turntable at this price with a fuller body, or one as ea­ger as The Clas­sic to throw a sig­nif­i­cant punch. It seem­ingly re­quires no warm-up to de­liver these beats with pomp, but this en­thu­si­asm and body aren’t at the ex­pense of sub­tlety, or Pro-ject’s abil­ity to or­gan­ise even the most ob­scure ar­range­ment. By the time tex­tures have grown to full five-piece band and we’re prop­erly into the al­bum, we are en­joy­ing the per­for­mance, rather than just be­ing fleet­ingly ex­cited by it.

That body and typ­i­cal Pro-ject warmth pro­vide sta­bil­ity and an ami­able glow to Thom Yorke’s vo­cal. It has sounded thin on some of the more anaemic-sound­ing prod­ucts we’ve tested, but is in no danger of do­ing so here.

Cold anal­y­sis

There is cer­tainly a favourable amount of low end in the mix, and el­e­ments such as the keyed bass mo­tif to All I Need are enough to form rip­ples in your teacup. But The Clas­sic still man­ages to keep an even bal­ance. It is a softer sound over­all than that of the al­most dig­i­tal-sound­ing Clea­r­au­dio Con­cept, the one to beat in this sec­tor, but it doesn’t over­weigh the bal­ance in any fre­quency’s favour.

Where ground is lost on the class leader, though, is in terms of fine de­tail – the kind of space and in­sight that, as well as the en­ter­tain­ment fac­tor The Clas­sic un­de­ni­ably aces, al­lows for much deeper lis­ten­ing. We wouldn’t want Pro-ject to dis­pense with its own sonic char­ac­ter in favour of cold anal­y­sis.

Though you could say the char­ac­ter of a piece is more im­por­tant than the in­tri­cate de­tail, es­pe­cially when there’s a ri­val in the Con­cept that adeptly de­liv­ers both, we crave a bit more for the money.

There’s no such thing as a hi-fi com­po­nent with­out com­pro­mise – only ones that force the lis­tener into more than others – but the ques­tion is how many of those com­pro­mises you are will­ing to make. For many, a mod­est short­com­ing in terms of de­tail and pre­ci­sion will mean lit­tle once set against The Clas­sic’s glo­ri­ously full and warm sound.

It’s per­haps not quite a modern clas­sic. But we cer­tainly wouldn’t tire of see­ing it in our lis­ten­ing room.

With its me­tal top plate sub­merged in a wooden plinth, The Clas­sic looks sim­ply gor­geous

De­spite re­quir­ing some assem­bly, The Clas­sic is sim­ple to both set-up and use

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