Review: Pro-Ject RM-1.3 turntable

Key Features
• Separate motor assembly
• Fully adjustable S-shaped aluminum tonearm
• 3-point support with nylon cone feet
• Factory-installed Sumiko Pearl cartridge
• RCA output jacks with grounding screw
• 15 x 4.5 x 13.8 in; 7.3 lb

When I hear audiophiles say they're into it for the music, I don't buy it any more than I'd believe a watch collector who says he's into it for the time. Sure, audiophiles love music, but we also love gear - and the cooler the gear looks (and feels), the more we love it. That's perfectly okay, because there's no shame in pride of ownership unless you own this.

That's why the new Pro-Ject RM-1.3 turntable caught my eye. I've been using a Pro-Ject One since the early '90s, when it had a reputation as the least-expensive turntable worthy of use in a high-quality audio system - a status its subtly changed successor, the $369 Debut III, still enjoys. While my turntable has served me well, there's nothing sexy about it; it looks like any old record player. But the RM-1.3's exotic looks grab your eyeballs like Megan Fox in a silver bikini. Driving a Ferrari convertible. With a live panda in the passenger seat.

Considering the RM-1.3's ultra-cool design, its ultra-affordable $499 price, and its significant construction improvements over the Debut III, anyone who's owned one of Pro-Ject's lower-priced turntables has to wonder: Should I upgrade?

A key feature of the RM-1.3 (which is referred to as the Genie in Europe) is the completely separate motor assembly. The motor slips inside a red ring integrated into the left side of the turntable, but it doesn't actually touch the ring. It is connected to the turntable only by the drive belt. This arrangement should isolate the platter from the motor's vibration better than the Debut III's O-ring motor suspension system can.

The RM-1.3's 1.125-inch-thick, 3.5-pound MDF platter is more acoustically inert than the Debut III's metal platter. The tonearm is fully adjustable, whereas from reading the Debut III's manual I gather there's no way to adjust vertical tracking angle, the angle at which the tonearm sits when a record is playing. (My old Pro-Ject One does allow VTA adjustment.) The tonearm is an S-shaped design, which could have certain sonic advantages over the Debut III's straight arm. The RM-1.3 comes fitted with a $95 Sumiko Pearl moving-magnet cartridge, an apparent step up from the $55 Ortofon OM 5E included with the Debut III. The RM-1.3 rests on three nylon cones, which may do a better job of isolating the turntable from ground-borne vibration than the Debut III's four rubbery feet can.

The Debut III does have one advantage over the RM-1.3: It's available in six gloss colors in addition to gloss black and matte black. The RM-1.3 is available in "only" three gloss finishes: black, white, and red.