Thursday, November 15, 2007

Project III USB Turntable

It's about time someone made a product like this. Though there have long been similar products on the market from manufacturers like Ion, Numark and TEAC, the Pro-Ject Debut III USB Turntable (with pre-mounted Ortofon cartridge, a built in phono preamp, analog to digital converter and USB output) is the first all-in-one LP-to-computer transfer product that approaches audiophile quality.

Without going into too much detail on this, trust me when I tell you that it is not possible to construct a decent sounding turntable out of highly resonant, lightweight materials like plastic. Unlike competing products on the market, the Debut USB is constructed of high-quality materials like MDF and stainless steel. While the Pro-Ject table costs between 2 to 4 times as much as some of the cheap plastic wonders on the market, I'm willing to bet it sounds 20 to 40 times better.

Pro-Ject has long been known for manufacturing some of the best entry-level audiophile turntables on the market. The Pro-Ject Debut (upon which this model is based) is one of the easiest to recommend turntables in its price range, and a great choice for someone looking to dip their toes into the world of high-quality vinyl playback. The addition of a good quality built in phono preamp, plus A-to-D converter and USB output, makes the Debut III USB Turntable a compelling choice for anyone looking for a relatively inexpensive and hassle free way to transfer their LP collection to digital files.

If you are considering purchase of another (cheaper) USB turntable, stop and buy this instead. Certainly there are far more expensive routes you could take if you crave the ultimate in fidelity, but the Pro-Ject Debut III USB is the cheapest all-in-one product on the market that will deliver good sound quality. If I hadn't already set myself up with a more expensive solution, this would be on top of my Christmas wish list.


Peter Hennig said...

Nice post Pete.

My first entry into Hi-Fi was the Pro-ject 1.2 which is basically the same table as this, of course without the A/D converter an USB out. Should be a great solution.

I have looked at the budget model USB turntables out there and they reminded me of toys. As a matter of fact I think my first portable 'suitcase' turntable when I was 4 or 5 years old had a better tonearm!

Any idea what format is sent from the A/D? I'd like to see a demo of this -

Pete Bilderback said...

I've owned two Music Hall turntables (which are made to spec in Pro-Ject's factory) and been very happy with them.

As to what kind of digital signal the table outputs, that is a good question. I will give Sumiko a call and see if I can find out. There are a few other details I'm curious about.

I agree that most of the other products I've seen like this have very low build quality and design standards.

Pete Bilderback said...


Per Music Direct (who sell the table), the USB outputs a data bit stream signal. You then use your audio capture software (Audacity or the like) to choose the format (WAV, AIFF, MP3, etc.) and resolution (44.1/16, 96/24, etc.) of the digital file. Your options would depend mostly on what software you chose to use. Sumiko recommends Audacity because it is free, but obviously, there are many other options on the market.

On the whole, I think it is a good thing that you are not forced into using some proprietary software that might not work very well. This gives you a tremendous amount of flexibility, and the ability to use the machine across multiple platforms (Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, etc.).

This might not be the best solution for someone who already owns a high performance turntable, but it is a compelling choice for anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Am buying the normally-aspirated ProJect III for $329 (in my choice of groovy colors), and a stand-alone USB phono preamp, the ART USB Phono plus, USB , which retails in the area of $90.

Both the USB Debut III and the ART preamp convert to 16-bit audio, and feature the same sampling rates, 44 and 48 khz.

ProJect also make a USB preamp, which bumps up the price to approx $20 more than the Debut III USB. But specs-wise, it's indistinguishable from the ART, which has more features

The preamp/phono package might be the way to go if you plan to upgrade turntables. I don't; I just want to reclaim my vinyl from when I was a kid.

Pete Bilderback said...

I know the ART pre-amp is highly regarded for the price. There are obviously a lot of options, starting with the plastic crap you see at Target all the way up to options in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I think this unit is a very good bet for anyone who wants an "all-in-one" type deal--ridiculously better than most similar units. But obviously, there are many options, and I encourage people to do their research.

Alex said...

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keep writing more

usb turntable said...

the new denon turntable is the best one ever made in my opinion. you can record directly to a memory stick :D