Pro-ject De­but III S Au­dio­phile

FOR Solid de­sign, smart fin­ish, clear tre­ble; good dy­nam­ics AGAINST Not much at this price

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Pro-ject’s De­but range of af­ford­able turnta­bles is fast ap­proach­ing its 20th birth­day. Launched in 1999, the orig­i­nal De­but deck filled a gap at the af­ford­able end of the mar­ket at a time when many thought vinyl was dead and buried. As it turned out, the Czech com­pany has found it­self well-po­si­tioned to cap­i­talise on the vinyl re­vival of re­cent years.

The De­but III S Au­dio­phile con­firms the range’s new po­si­tion in (just about) mid-mar­ket ter­ri­tory – Pro-ject now of­fers even cheaper decks aimed at both new and rein­vig­o­rated vinyl en­thu­si­asts. That means we can ex­pect a de­cent level of per­for­mance, which will be nec­es­sary if the De­but III S Au­dio­phile is to com­pete with fine record play­ers such as the Rega Pla­nar 2 (£375) and Au­dio Tech­nica ATŽLP5 (£330).

Up in arms

There are a few up­grades on the De­but for­mat here, which aim to give cre­dence to the ‘au­dio­phile’ moniker. The S refers to the S-shaped ton­earm, the first time such a de­sign has ap­peared on a De­but turntable. This de­sign is of­ten claimed to im­prove track­ing and re­duce dis­tor­tion com­pared with a straight arm, though it’s prob­a­bly more a sim­ple mat­ter of per­sonal pref­er­ence. Avail­able in black or white, the deck is cer­tainly smart, the plinth feels solid and well put to­gether, and the over­all im­pres­sion is of a more pre­mium player com­pared with its com­peti­tors.

Some of that so­lid­ity is down to the user, how­ever. As with any turntable, there is a de­gree of set up re­quired here. The De­but III S Au­dio­phile comes with two (new) alu­minium feet in place at the front but we have to screw in a third at the rear. The steel plat­ter and felt mat must be put in place, along with the belt drive (you need to move the belt be­tween the 33 and 45rpm steps on the mo­tor pulley). Take care to fol­low the ton­earm track­ing in­struc­tions, too.

There’s a new, spe­cially de­signed Orto­fon car­tridge, which comes pre-in­stalled. It’s called the Pick-it 25 A and is a vari­a­tion on the OM Se­ries. Ea­gle-eyed read­ers will also no­tice the new Pro-ject Au­dio logo. Else­where there’s a de­tach­able ca­ble and a lid to keep dust off the deck. Along with the belt-drive mo­tor and power sup­ply, these are the same as found on the De­but Car­bon (£350). You will need a phono stage to get up and run­ning, whether that’s a ded­i­cated unit or part of your am­pli­fier.

Con­fi­dent han­dling

There is no need for Pro-ject to change its sound. Past decks have been good or ex­cel­lent – and we’re happy to re­port that much here is pleas­antly fa­mil­iar. Lis­ten­ing to Four Tet’s Cir­cling, the repet­i­tive rhythms are han­dled con­fi­dently. There’s a good level of de­tail and de­cent dy­nam­ics, as the Pro-ject han­dles the full sonic spec­trum with­out waver­ing. Tre­ble notes are crisp and bass drums are solid.

Pre­vi­ous Pro-ject decks might have given a lit­tle away when it comes to bot­tom-end depth and so­lid­ity, but there’s no sign of that here. Aphex Twin’s Se­lected Am­bi­ent Works 85 92 de­mands a firm grip of lower fre­quen­cies and this turntable proves highly ca­pa­ble. Tim­ing is mostly spot-on, with only the most chal­leng­ing tracks lack­ing a lit­tle mo­men­tum and drive com­pared with the likes of the Rega.

We turn to Nick Cave’s Peo­ple Ain’t No Good to see how the De­but III S Au­dio­phile han­dles vo­cals. It’s an ex­cel­lent record­ing and the deck suc­cess­fully re­lays the ex­pres­sion in Cave’s voice and the at­mos­phere of the record­ing ses­sion.

You can al­most tell how close Cave is to the mic as you get a feel for the size of the record­ing stu­dio. The more ex­pen­sive Pla­nar 2 might dig up more de­tail, but you won’t feel re­motely short-changed by what this De­but can do.

Solid de­sign

Prod­uct ranges don’t hang around for the best part of 20 years with­out rea­son. The S III Au­dio­phile is solidly de­signed and smartly fin­ished, and though there may be a new logo and ton­earm de­sign, it’s a chip off the old block. All in all, this is another ex­cel­lent Pro-ject De­but turntable.

For the first time, the De­but comes equipped with an S-shaped ton­earm

The De­but III S Au­dio­phile is the lat­est model in a 19-year-old range

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