Pro-ject The Classic
“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.
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.
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?
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.
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