Platter Matters: Three Turntables Page 3

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The Short Form

Price $329 (AS TESTED) / sumikoaudio.net / 510-843-4500
Snapshot
A great-sounding, affordable, yet easy-to-live-with turntable/cartridge combo that will bring your forgotten LP collection back to life.
Plus
•Easy out-of-the-box setup •No-excuses-needed performance •Easily upgradable cartridge
Minus
•Plain industrial design won't make the local audiophiles jealous •Changing speeds requires lifting platter
Key Features
•Installed aluminum arm, Ortofon cartridge •Dust cover •Finish: red, silver, green, yellow, white, blue, piano black •16.5 x 13.3 x 4.5 in; 14 lb
SETUP Setup of a Debut III is straightforward, given its pre-installed arm and cartridge, but there are still a few simple tasks. These include removing some screws that hold down the motor, putting on the platter and felt mat, balancing the arm, and hanging the anti-skating weight. I double-checked the cartridge alignment using my own tools and found it spot-on. Happily, the people at the factory are paying attention!

That done, I ran-in the cartridge for a while using one of the clever continuous (or "locked") grooves on the Sweeper test disc from Cardas Audio. Then I cleaned the stylus and sat down for a listen.

PERFORMANCE When I cued up the Barry Reynolds album I Scare Myself (find that on CD!), it was soon clear that the Debut III was getting all of the basics right. The sound was dynamic and open, and the rhythms bounced along while driving the pace of the music.

Contrary to popular thinking, the better the turntable and cartridge, the lower the surface noise - and the Debut III was a case in point, playing music over an impressively quiet background. The OM-5E stylus was a good tracker, too, sailing through my tough-to-play choral records effortlessly, although a stylus upgrade would likely deliver a little additional refinement.

BOTTOM LINE Perhaps the most important thing I can say about the Pro-Ject Debut III/Ortofon OM-5E combo is that its sound doesn't include any objectionable unpleasantness, and its few shortcomings are pretty much sins of omission. That's a strong recommendation at this price. If you just want to enjoy your old record collection again, the Debut III is a tremendous bargain.

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