The good people at Pro-Ject have sent me a Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier and a Pro-Ject X2 B turntable to review.


Pro-Ject Phono Box S3

The “B” at the end of those model names indicates that they are part of Pro-Ject’s new True Balanced Connection line of components


Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier Higlights

  • The Pro-Ject X2 B turntable is an excellent platform to start an analog playback system with and can be upgraded to improve performance
  • The Pro-Ject X2 B turntable is delivered with a Sumiko Rainier MM cartridge installed and its tonearm, configured properly
  • The Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier can power essentially any kind of cartridge
  • The Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier enables you to adjust cartridge settings on-the-fly with buttons on its face, a relative rarity in phono preamplifiers in its price range
  • The turntable and phono preamplifier can be connected with a balanced XLR connection to improve the signal quality of MC cartridges

These two new components from Pro-Ject enable you to build a truly balanced connection between an MC cartridge and the phono preamp. External sources of noise, such as wireless networks or nearby components, or even power cords, can introduce noise into your analog signal if you’re using RCA cables. Balanced audio connections, which are standard use in recording studios and live concerts, excel at suppressing external noise and interference.

Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 Silver

The Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier can drive both MC and MM carts with its dual mono design and fully symmetrical and discrete gain stage. You can adjust the loading and gain settings simply by pressing buttons on its face. And you get balanced XLR outputs and a five-pin mini-XLR input. That’s quite a lot of functionality for $499 USD.

The Pro-Ject X2 B turntable is the newest member of Pro-Ject’s True Balanced Connection lineup and features a dedicated mini-XLR output in addition to standard RCA and ground connections. It utilizes a massive belt-driven acrylic platter mounted on an MDF plinth on adjustable feet, dampened with a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). For $1799 USD it’s delivered with a Sumiko Rainier MM cartridge installed on its 9-inch carbon/aluminum tonearm.

Pro-Ject Phono Box Turntable

Now let’s get into how these two new components performed and sounded.




Piano Black, Satin Black, Satin Walnut, Satin White


33.3rpm and 45rpm
78rpm possible with included round belt


±0.25% (33rpm), ±0.20% (45rpm)


±0.12% (33rpm), ±0.10% (45rpm)


15V/0.8A DC universal power supply


5W/0.3W standby mode


High-mass (2kg, 30mm thick) resonance-free acrylic record platter


9” one-piece carbon-wrapped aluminum tonearm with TPE-damped counterweight
Azimuth and VTA adjustment




9” (230mm)




Yes, Adjustable




18” wide x 5.9” high x 13.4” deep (460 x 150 x 340mm) with lid closed


22.05 lbs. (10 kg)


$1799 USD


Moving magnet (MM)


0.3 x 0.7mil elliptical


Aluminum pipe


High-purity copper






15Hz to 25kHz




25dB @ 1kHz


1.5dB @ 1kHz


10×10-6 cm/dyn @ 100Hz


15Hz to 25kHz


25dB at 1kHz




1.8g to 2.2g, 2.0g recommended


RS Moonstone, RS Olympia, or RS Rainier (interchangeable)


One pair balanced XLR
One pair RCA
One balanced 5-pin mini-XLR for the Pro-Ject Connect It Phono S cable


One pair balanced XLR
One pair RCA


10, 50, 100, 1k, 47k ohms


50, 150, 300, 400pF


40, 45, 60, 65dB

SNR MM (40dB):

103dBV, 110dBV (‘A’ weighted)

SNR MC (60dB):

85dBV, 90dBV (‘A’ weighted)


<0.001% MM, <0.005% MC

THD (20Hz-20kHz):

<0.008% MM, <0.01% MC


<0.3dB / 20Hz-20kHz


at 20Hz with 18dB/octave




18V/170mA DC, <0.5W in standby


2 lbs. (0.93kg) without the power supply


5.5” wide x 6.8” deep x 1.8” high (16.4 × 20.6 × 5.5 cm)


Black, Silver


$499 USD




PRO-JECT, Sumiko, Rainier, Blue Point, moving magnet, moving coil, MC, MM, cartridge, phono, turntable, analog, XLR, balanced connection, reviews, reviews 2022, turntable reviews


This is a mid-sized component in an aluminum and steel chassis, with an MSRP of $499 USD. It’s available in black or silver finishes. On the rear are one pair each of unbalanced RCA and balanced three-pin XLR inputs and outputs. There is also the balanced single 5-pin mini-XLR input, the port for the DC power cord, and the ground terminal.

On the left of the face is the power button, and on the right are five buttons. Two buttons enable you to switch between RCA and XLR inputs and turn off or on the Subsonic filter. Small blue LEDs indicate the current selection of each parameter.

Pro-Ject Phono Box Rear View

The topmost button enables you to select Loading Ohms (or input impedance), with 10, 50, 100, 1k, and 47k ohms as options. Below that is the Loading pF (or input capacitance) button, with 150, 300, and 400 pF as options. And on the bottom is the Gain dB button, with 40, 45, 60, and 65 dB as options. It is worth noting that using the XLR output adds 6dB of gain.

Under the hood, you’ll find a gain stage in a fully discrete layout. This means the circuit’s electronic components are separate, individual devices. The amplifier section uses no integrated circuits; it’s all built from singular components. This means it costs more for Pro-Ject to assemble it, but it provides better sound quality than integrated circuits.

The Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier utilizes a semi-passive EQ method. After treating the balanced positive and negative signals independently they are added back together and processed by a semi-passive RIAA equalization stage. The balanced gain stage optimizes the signal-to-noise ratio and minimizes signal interference. The output stage generates a balanced signal for the XLR outputs with an additional 6dB of gain. The RCA outputs get their signals direct from the RIAA EQ.

Pro-Ject Phono Box Inside View

You can connect two turntables to the Phono Box S3 B at the same time, one with balanced XLR cables, and one with single-ended RCA cables. Just press the Input button to switch between the two. That means you can have two tonearms with two different cartridges plugged into the Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier at the same time. All you have to do is press the Input button, then use the Loading Ohms and Loading pF buttons to set the output to match the particular cartridge you want to listen to. I particularly like this feature, because I use a Garrard 301 with two tonearms, each mounted with a different cartridge. The Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier could enable me to very quickly switch between two cartridges without having to get behind or even inside its chassis to adjust tiny dip switches. I think that’s a great feature to have on a phono preamplifier at this price point.

As a record collector, I am a purist when it comes to buying albums in mono. Essentially, if I am buying any album recorded before 1958 I will only buy its mono pressing. I usually do not buy “re-processed for stereo” versions of those albums. That means that a sizeable percentage of my collection is mono records, so I like to have a mono switch in a phono preamplifier. As it stands, the only thing I’d like to see added to the Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier is a mono switch. A minor quibble for sure.

Pro-Ject X2 B Turntable Design

The X2 B is the new version of the X2 turntable in Pro-Ject’s X line. Essentially, for $100 USD more you get the “True Balanced Connection” configuration of the X2 turntable. The X2 B is the first turntable in the line to feature a dedicated mini-XLR output in addition to standard ground and RCA connections. MSRP is $1799 USD.

It utilizes an ultra-quiet motor with a specially- designed-suspension to provide additional isolation. This allows the motor to run stably and isolates it from outside influences. Any vibrations that may affect the motor are damped and eliminated, which prevents the vibrations from reaching the cartridge, chassis, or platter.

Playback speeds are electronically controlled by a sophisticated DC/AC generator that guarantees the most accurate and stable rotation. You can change speeds easily with the push of a button. With the supplied flat belt, you can switch speeds between 33pm and 45rpm, and with the supplied round belt you can switch between 45rpm and 78rpm.

Pro-Ject Phono Box Sidecut View

The Pro-Ject X2 B’s chassis is made of heavy MDF to reduce unwanted resonance. It’s available in Piano Black, Satin Black, Satin Walnut, and Satin White finishes. The MDF plinth is coated with eight layers of paint and polished by hand. The unit I reviewed was in the Satin Walnut finish, and I found it quite attractive. The wood had a nice natural and solid feel to it, and I believe its coloring would integrate well with any décor. The new X2 B turntable is entirely handmade in Europe with only premium materials that meet the highest standards in quality, so it is sure to stand as a quality investment and hold up well over time.

The plinth is supported by three height-adjustable aluminum feet which are damped with TPE. There are two feet at the front and one in the center rear. To level the turntable, you simply rotate the feet left or right.

I was impressed with the tonearm on the X2 B. It’s made of a carbon and aluminum combination to maximize rigidity and armtube damping. Its ultra-low-friction four-pinpoint tonearm bearing guarantees precise, stable, and accurate tracking. It’s a one-piece design so there is no break in the signal caused by a detachable headshell. Its counterweight is dampened with TPE to reduce arm and cartridge resonance by as much as 50%.

Pro-Ject Phono Box Tonearm

You can adjust the azimuth and vertical tracking angle (VTA) as well. One particularly nice touch is that there is a tiny magnet in the arm tube cradle, so the tonearm will click into place when it gets close to the cradle.

In Use

I think it’s fair to assume that most people would buy this turntable already assembled in a local HiFi store, but the one I received required assembly. The printed instructions were clear and straightforward and I found it easy to put it all together. Read through the instructions twice, then assemble the parts in order according to the instructions and you’re good to go. What I think are the toughest aspects of assembling a turntable, such as installing the cart and balancing the tonearm, were performed by Pro-Ject at the factory and were correct right out of the box.

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Just to be sure, I double-checked the VTF on the pre-installed Sumiko Rainier MM cartridge, and was set to 1.75g. Good to go. I checked the speeds on the turntable with an app on my iPhone, and the platter rapidly got up to 33rpm and 45rpm and stayed steady from there.

Pro-Ject Phono Box Speed Button

There is a two-position speed button on the lower left side of the plinth, marked “33” and “45/78.” A blue LED indicates which speed setting is selected. To spin the platter at either 33rpm or 45rpm you install the supplied flat belt on the top cog of the motor’s spindle. To spin the platter at either 45rpm or 78rpm you install the supplied round belt on the bottom cog of the motor’s spindle. It’s not possible to install the belts incorrectly, which is a nice touch. You just need to remove the plater and switch out a belt, which takes hardly any time at all. The Sumiko Rainier MM cartridge isn’t suitable for playing 78rpm records, so I did not play any of those on the turntable.

After I had the X2 B turntable assembled, I unboxed the Phono Box SB 3 phono preamplifier and installed them both into my system. Each of these components is powered by a DC brick, so make sure you have space on your outlets or power conditioners for them both. The RCA interconnects supplied with the turntable went into the SB 3 phono preamplifier’s inputs and I attached the ground cable spade to the ground screw terminal. The SB 3’s output went into my Schiit Freya+ preamplifier, which was sending its signals to my Orchard Audio Starkrimson Stereo Ultra GaN power amplifier. Speakers used were the Polk Audio Legend LS600s. I kept the Freya+ in its passive mode to ensure as little coloration as possible out of the Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier’s output.

The final step was to ensure the X2 B was level, which was easy with its adjustable feet.

How did this Pro-Ject phono preamplifier and turntable combination sound? The words that immediately come to mind were airy, fast, and lively. I realize that the Sumiko Rainier MM cart was brand new, but it did a good job of digging musical information out of the grooves, and the Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier let the music through with little blurring or congestion. I think that’s what made the combination sound lively – the music flowed naturally without any congestion or emphasis of frequencies to distract me.

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A turntable is essentially a platform to spin a platter in order to get music out of a vinyl record with a transducer installed on the end of a tonearm. I found the Pro-Ject X2 B turntable to be a solid and sturdy platform. It portrayed music with a believable soundstage and solid imaging. The timing of the music was excellent, thanks to the turntable’s excellent speed stability, so it was easy to hear the attack and decay of individual notes as they emanated from instruments. Singers’ voices were planted solidly in the soundstage. And this was with a MM cartridge and unbalanced RCA cables. I can imagine that the Pro-Ject X2 B turntable would really excel with a higher-quality MC cartridge and a balanced mini-XLR cable attachment to the Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier.

Pro-Ject Phono Box Connection

And if that’s how you want your Pro-Ject X2 B (that’s how I would want it), then buy one from your local authorized dealer in the US. They’ll sell you a “Superpack,” which gets you a Sumiko MC coil cartridge of your choice at a substantial discount, along with the Pro-Ject Connect It Phono S mini-XLR cable to attach it to a Pro-Ject balanced phono stage which you also must buy. So, if you buy the X2 B turntable with a Sumiko Blue Point No. 3 MC cartridge, a Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier, and a Connect It Phono S mini-XLR cable, you will get $200 off the $1100 retail value of those extra parts. That is an excellent price for a bundle of parts that will push the X2 B turntable to the next level.

Hot Butter

Popcorn “Hot Butter”

I use this album as one of my reference recordings. And I think that there’s never a bad time to listen to their Moog pop hit, “Popcorn.” It’s just so happy and fun. This particular recording has a very wide soundstage with the acoustic instruments solidly placed. The sound is a combination of analog drums played and recorded live and analog synthesizers that were most probably fed directly into the recording board. A good cartridge will enable me to hear deep into analog synthesizer notes or the room echo of the drum kit, and the Sumiko Rainier MM cartridge with the Pro-Ject combination did just that. Overall the whimsical fun of the album came through very well.

Iron + Wine

Iron + Wine “Our Endless Numbered Days”

The Pro-Ject turntable and phono stage enabled me to hear the human intent and passion of this excellent recording. The timbres of vocalist Sam Beam’s voice and acoustic guitar were true and warm, and backing vocals and overdubbed tracks were easy to distinguish. This is delicate music that loses its emotional impact on poorly resolving playback systems, but that impact of the recording came through clearly with the Pro-Ject turntable and phono preamplifier.


Riposte “Slovenly”

One of the many sadly underappreciated bands handled by SST records in the mid-1980s, Slovenly’s music stood out from the din of the punk rock so popular at the time. Steve Anderson’s deadpan and hilarious lyrics are backed by heavy drumming and whirlwinds of guitar playing. The band’s music frequently gets busy, with two lead guitarists playing against each at the same time with a bass guitar player holding it all together, but the Pro-Ject combination let me clearly hear the interplay between all the guitars. The music was also fattened up with Lynn Johnston’s horn playing deep in the mix, and all of the music’s components came out coherent and clear through the Pro-Ject combo. Slovenly can be a tough test for an analog system, and the Pro-Ject passed with flying colors.


Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 At a Glance

If you’re looking to invest in an analog system that has a lot of room to grow, then the Pro-Ject X2 B TURNTABLE and Pro-Ject PHONE BOX S3 B PHONO PREAMPLIFIER are well worth looking into

  • The Pro-Ject X2 B turntable plays 33rpm, 45rpm, and 78rpm speeds
  • The Pro-Ject X2 B turntable is delivered with a Sumiko Rainier MM cartridge installed and tonearm balanced
  • The Pro-Ject X2 B turntable has a solid upgrade path with the Pro-Ject Superpack option available in authorized dealers in the US
  • With the Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier you can connect two tonearms at once and switch between them
  • You can adjust cartridge settings by pressing buttons on the face of the Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier
Would Like To See
  • Mono button on the Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier

The Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier and Pro-Ject X2 B turntable combination is an excellent platform to build an analog playback system with. They produce an engaging and lively sound quality from vinyl records and are built to last. And to make them even better, there is a solid upgrade path to get even better sound quality out of both of them. The total combined MSRP price of the Pro-Ject X2 B turntable land Pro-Ject Phono Box S3 B phono preamplifier is $2,298 USD. For that amount, you get an excellent platform for playing records with a Sumiko Rainer MM cartridge pre-installed and the tonearm balanced. You also get a phono preamplifier which does a great job of extracting musical information out of vinyl records but also does it with a sense of energy and liveliness. That phono preamplifier will also let you connect two tonearms at once and adjust cartridge settings by pressing buttons on its face, which is a real rarity in its price range. And if you want to extend the performance of this combo, you can purchase it from an authorized Pro-Ject dealer for a Superpack which gets you an improved Sumiko MC cartridge and a Connect It Phono S mini-XLR cable at reduced pricing.