A few weeks ago I got the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable to replace the U-Turn Audio Orbit I sent back. In spite of lacking some of the customization flexibility on the Orbit, the specs and pricing made them direct competition. While there were some things I wasn’t pleased about with the Orbit, it’s still a formidable turntable and a fairly high bar to clear for any competitor to earn my business. I’ve listened to Debut Carbon for about 3 weeks now, below is a short review.
Review disclaimer: I want to make this super clear: I do not receive compensation of any kind for writing these reviews (other than these reviews being part of Medium’s paywall). There are no kick-backs or discounts, etc. All gear I review is bought from amazon or other e-commerce sites by me with my money. All links I provide in my reviews are referrer-program-free and most permalinks which can be found via google search. I do these reviews because I love writing and I love sharing my thoughts on gear I buy which hopefully are useful to others.
Audition stack: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, Pro-Ject-provided RCA cable, Emotiva TA-100 Integrated Amp, Monoprice OFC hi-fi speaker cable spool, Monoprice gold-plated banana plugs, KEF Q150 bookshelf speakers, Focal Elegia headphones.
Unboxing: compared to the Orbit, unboxing of the Debut is a bit more intricate with more components and pieces. It’s very well thought out and laid out; however, you have to be more attentive than you would with the Orbit.
Assembly: while I wouldn’t characterize as being difficult, assembly certainly is more complex than that of the Orbit. The manual and diagrams therein aren’t super helpful, so there are steps where you have to use your intuition to complete. I would say it took me about 20 minutes to complete whereas the Orbit took a minute perhaps even less.
Aesthetics: while I’m a huge fan of the looks and “organic” minimalism of the Orbit, the Debut holds its own. Very clean design free of nobs, dials or anything visually intrusive. All levers, hinges and mechanism add to the aesthetics. Their piano-black (they offer other colors) glossy finish is super well done and fits with the overall theme.
Build quality: some of my biggest gripes with the Orbit were related to the build quality. in this respect the Debut is definitely much better. All hinges are sturdy, their belt is robust and since it’s on the inside of the platter, there aren’t any accidental belt nudging issues when playing or flipping a record. The wood base looks and feels solid. Their exclusive carbon fiber tone arm is amazing: feather weight, sleek and well finished.
Usage: much like the Orbit usage is utterly no-nonsense. Place the record on the platter, turn on the table, using the lever lower the tone arm on to the record and off you go! To flip sides use the lever to lift the tone arm off the record, pinch the notch by the cartridge, move it out of the way, turn off the TT, flip sides, and rinse, repeat as per above. There aren’t any dials of sliders or any extraneous controls. All bare-bone simple and intuitive.
Audio: I would say that up to this point either the Orbit or the Debut are equivalent and the choice would be purely based on your taste; however, when it comes to audio the Debut is much better than than the Orbit. I think the reason is three-fold:
- Better belt and motor setup
- Better platter (heavier and flatter)
- Better tonearm
All of which contribute to a much more satisfying sonic experience. Let’s flesh out what I mean by this.
- Self-noise: unlike the Orbit, the Debut does come with a really high quality RCA cable with proper grounding. The phono output also comes with a grounding post to hook the grounding cable to. These two things make a dramatic difference as I could not hear a hiss or hum or any static. Fully silent until the needle hits the grooves.
- Tolerance for uneven surfaces: even with records which have less than optimal flat vinyl surfaces, the Debut operates flawlessly. No skipping and no pitch shift to speak of.
- Grit: as I expressed in my Orbit review, I felt it lacked the punch and character. I was a bit concerned this turntable being so similar that would perhaps share that modern less aggressive sonic posture; however, after listening to a few LPs, those fears were completely gone. The Debut delivers the punch I was looking for. No softening, no sugar-coating. Just a gritty, honest-to-the-vinyl experience.
Conclusion: in spite of the aesthetic similarities between the Orbit and the Debut, they are indeed completely different monsters where it matters. The Debut surpassed all my performance expectations and thus far have not found any major nuisances to complain about. Due to its price, its aesthetics and wonderful sonic qualities, it earned a permanent place in my living room. Highly recommend it as an entry-level high fidelity turntable.