Pro-ject Debut III Turntable Review

The Pro-ject Debut III is one of the leaders in the entry level audiophile market. Contrary to the notion that vinyl is for old people, the Pro-ject Debut III is obviously aimed at the younger market. Like its competitor the Rega P1, the Pro-ject Debut III comes in a variety of funky colours that will appeal to those who love sleek looking audio equipment. Vintage turntables mounted on wooden plinths could probably be accused of looking a little clunky at times. There is none of that with the Pro-ject Debut III: this turntable looks absolutely fantastic.

The build quality of the Pro-ject Debut III is excellent for the price. The shoddy, plastic feel of slightly cheaper turntables from Audio Technica and others is definitely not apparent here. It is a delicate piece of machinery though, and isn’t some Technics SL-1200 that you can use as a doorstop should you feel the need. The glossy blue, red, green and yellow finished look stunning and will certainly catch the eye.The more conservative among us will appreciate the option of matte black, glossy black, silver and gloosy white finishes. The power and input/outputs are hidden underneath the plinth, which adds to the sleek look since there’s nothing worse than excessive cordage in ruining the feng-shui of your lounge room. The turntable also has USB functionality for converting vinyls to mp3s. It’s in fact one of the best turntables around that has USB functionality, and can provide at least somewhat decent quality mp3 recordings.

Perplexing to newcomers to the vinyl scene is the notion that as you go up through the price ranges of turntables, you end up getting fewer components. Above the $1000 dollar mark, cartridges are left out of the turntable package, and in the multiple thousands of dollars range most turntables don’t even come with tonearms. The quality of components is obviously much higher, but the added cost and/or technical know-how required to put everything together can be off-putting to beginners. The Pro-ject Debut III will alleviate all fears of the inexperienced or technophobic. It comes with a decent quality tonearm and cartridge pre-installed. What’s more is that the Pro-ject Debut III also includes a phono pre-amp, so it can be plugged straight in to an amplifier. This is a turntable clearly aimed at making things easy for the buyer. Pro-ject apparently know their market and have written a clear instruction manual that will make set-up easy.

The belt drive motor sits upon a rubber ring to help to isolate the motor noise from the turntable, and it does a great job of staying at a consistent speed. It plays at 33 and 45 RPM speeds, and can optionally also play 78s. Changing speeds will require the platter to be removed and the belt to be adjusted, which sounds arduous but is easy enough. The sound of the Pro-ject Debut III has a nice balance across all frequencies, if a little weak through the upper treble. Through the midrange the Pro-ject Debut III is excellent, producing an honest, natural sound. Occasionally the bass can be a little fluffy, particularly with acoustic bass sounds. The Pro-ject Debut III does not embellish; at least not with its stock cartridge, and can lack depth compared to more expensive equipment. It is a clear sounding turntable that is miles ahead of its marginally cheaper competitors, and its clarity is often surprising to new listeners expecting less considering the price range in which the Pro-ject Debut III falls.

Unfortunately, for a relatively cheap product, the Pro-ject Debut III can have some complications. Some users have experienced some rumble, which whilst minimal, is evident during silence (such as between tracks). Certainly not game breaking, but enough to affect the listener’s immersion in to the music. For this reason, the Pro-ject Debut III seems less well suited to playing more subtle, dynamic pieces of music such as classic, minimalist or . Listening to the Keith Jarret’s The Kohln Concert was less pleasing compared to more upbeat records. With rumble listed at 65 dB, even non-audiophile ears will pick up some noise at louder volumes. If the Pro-ject Debut III is used at low to medium volumes however, it should sound perfectly fine. Getting back to the target market of this turntable, the minor rumble probably won’t matter, or be noticeable, to casual listeners. Experienced listeners and audiophiles considering the Pro-ject Debut III for a second turntable will probably want to look towards some retuned second hand turntables instead.

In terms of bang for buck, we firmly believe the Pro-ject Debut III is the best option under $1000. Available nearly worldwide, Pro-ject have made a good quality, accessible turntable that will do a solid job of playing vinyl with warmth and clarity.

Pro-ject Debut III Specifications

  • Stock cartridge: Ortofon OM 5E
  • Tonearm: straight, 8.6 inches long weighing 9.5 grams
  • Wow & Flutter: +/- 0.12%
  • Signal to noise: -65dB
  • Weight: 5.5kg, platter 1.3kg
  • Dimensions (lid closed): 415 x 118 x 320mm

Pro-ject Debut III Upgrades

The easiest way to upgrade the Pro-ject Debut III is to upgrade the stylus in the Ortofon cartridge. The OM5E can be conveniently upgraded to an Ortofon 10, 20 or 30 for much improved sound. The higher numbers for the Ortofon styli correspond to better sound and of course, higher expense. In terms of upgrading the turntable, the stock steel platter should be upgraded to an acrylic platter to reduce rumble. These relatively inexpensive changes should really upgrade the sound of the Pro-ject Debut III and leave you satisfied for quite some time.



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