The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 turntable is a complete front end for your favorite speakers. Even though the amp/pre-amp, phono stage, and Bluetooth connectivity are built-in, the sound this combo produces is very high quality. The Juke Box combo can stand up to comparison with expensive separates.
Pro-Ject Juke Box S2
- Belt Drive Turntable
- Low Mass Tonearm
- High Performance Cartridge
- Built-in 50 Watt Per Channel Amp
- Built-in Phono Stage
- Fixed and variable Audio outputs
- Bluetooth Connectivity
- Auxiliary Input
- Remote Control
- Dust Cover
I first learned about Pro-Ject turntables when I was working at SoundQuest, El Paso’s premier audio dealer in the early 1990’s. I remember Jim Hunter and Sterling Trail of Sumiko proudly offering the original Blue Point cartridge, and soon after the Sonus Faber speakers and Pro-Ject turntables to the store. Today the Juke Box S2 is one of Pro-Ject’s latest offerings. I was excited to review a new turntable from a manufacturer with such a history in audio.
A few weeks ago, I was trying to wrap up a review of the Klipsch Fives and I thought I would need a turntable in an entry level price to match it with. Our good friends at Pro-Ject came through with a wonderful and surprising offering, the Juke Box S2. I consider the Juke Box S2 entry level because it features everything a music lover needs, except for speakers, at a very low price. The Juke Box S2 easily satisfied the turntable requirements and was a good match for the Klipsch Fives sonically. The Juke Box S2 however has more features to offer than just a simple turntable with cartridge.
Unlike most turntables today, the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 comes with a potent amplifier, pre-amplifier, Bluetooth receiver, and phono stage built in. That means you will only need to connect speakers of your choice in order to have a stereo sound system. I have on hand a nice pair of bookshelf speakers, the Rega RX-1’s and the recently reviewed NHT C4 and CS-12 subs/speakers, and a pair of Klipsch Forte III speakers. Confident I could give a good test drive of the Juke Box S2, I proceeded.
2 x 50 Watts (4 Ohm)
Speakers left and right, Line out (fixed), Variable Out, Phono out
Bluetooth, 1x Line (analog)
33, 45 (manual speed change)
33: 0.8% 45: 0.7%
Wow & flutter:
33: 0.29% 45: 0.27%
12” (300 mm acrylic)
Stainless steel in bronze bushing
Effective arm length:
8-5/8” (218.5 mm)
7/8” (22.0 mm)
Effective tonearm mass:
Counterweight for mass:
3 – 5.5 g (pre-mounted)
Tracking force range:
0-2.5g, 1.8g pre-adjusted (0 – 25 mN,18 mN pre-adjusted)
Power supply, dust cover, remote control
150 W max
16.34” X 4.65” X 13.15” (W x H x D) (415 x 118 x 334 mm W x H x D)
11.02 lbs. (5 kg ) net
Turntables Review 2021, turntable, vinyl, Pro-Ject Juke Box S2, Pro-Ject, Juke Box S2, Juke Box
The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 was designed as an all-in-one solution for music lovers. Just add speakers of your choice, and you will have a quality audio system for home or office. To achieve this, Pro-Ject has incorporated many features in a surprisingly compact turntable frame.
The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 is first a turntable, and Pro-Ject has taken many of the design features from their upper tier turntables and used them in the Juke Box S2 (it is primarily a manual, high performance deck). To achieve this, the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 features a stainless-steel main bearing in bronze bushing for lower rotational distortion. The Juke Box S2 also incorporates a thick acrylic platter to help control external vibrations that could color the sound being reproduced. A felt mat is included to help isolate the record from the platter. My source at Sumiko says that they like the sound and look of the platter without the mat. Sumiko does offer an upgrade for the basic mat, the “Cork and Rubber It 1 mm” that my source says is a perfect match for the JukeBox S2. For the drive it incorporates a tried-and-true belt, and low noise motor. A tonearm with a low mass aluminum (8.6”) design with sapphire bearings supports the cartridge.
Included with the turntable is a Pick It 25A cartridge which by appearances alone, looks like a perfect match for the low mass tonearm. The cartridge is pre-mounted, and the calibration is factory set. This takes the critical set-up stage of mounting a cartridge away from the consumer and makes set up easy and helps guarantee top notch performance at home. Included is an Allen key and a stylus pressure gauge for when changes need to be made to the cartridge. The turntable sits on top of four special feet that offer proper support and isolation for the deck. The Juke Box S2 is fitted with a viscous damped cue lever, and a protective dust cover. I have a pet peeve about expensive turntables that do not have a dust cover, some manufacturers do not even consider any kind of cover or casing for their product. Thank you Pro-Ject!
Fitted into the plinth, the Pro-Ject features a built-in moving magnet phono pre-amp for the cartridge, a pre-amp, and an amplifier! When I unboxed the Juke Box S2 I was amazed Pro-Ject could put so much into such a small compartment. Besides that, would it sound good?
The amp is, according to my source at Pro-Ject, “a high efficiency, cool running Class D design.” Looking at the size of the plinth, I could only have assumed such a design. Not much space or size would be needed for a Class D amp rated at 50 watts at 4ohms. For those unfamiliar, Class D amps have been around for a while, but until the last decade, were not considered the equal of other types of amp designs. Previously, Class D amps were found mostly on powered subwoofers because the performance on the mids and highs were not up to par compared with traditional Class A/B or Class A designs. Times have changed, though, and there are some very fine Class D amps on the market now. My curiosity was piqued, how would this built-in Class D amp sound?
The built-in phono preamp is according to my source at Pro-Ject, a “custom module designed and made by Pro-Ject.” My source thinks that the “best equivalence is probably the Phono Box DC.” I know that putting so many amplifying stages together in a small box would be challenging if only to prevent noise and distortion from entering the signal. Again, I wondered how good can it sound?
On the back of the deck there is a pair of phono out jacks that will allow the purchaser to connect the turntable to an out-board phono stage or amplifier with a phono stage. I used this option when I reviewed the Klipsch The Fives speaker since these speakers feature a built-in phono stage. If the purchaser wants to use the Juke Box S2 with a pair of powered speakers that does not have a phono stage, or an amplifier without phono stage, the Juke Box S2 has a pair of fixed out RCAs for connection. The Juke Box also has a pair of variable RCA outputs on the back. I used this option when I connected the NHT CS 12 subs for this review.
Set up of the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 was quick and easy. The speaker terminals on the rear of the turntable will accept bare wire, spades, or banana plugs. I use speaker cable with bananas and during the review period I was able to connect which ever speaker I wanted in seconds. The only other cable to connect if you want to enjoy records is the power cord which is thankfully long enough to accommodate any of my turntable/equipment stands. If the owner of the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 wants to hear a digital source, then the supplied Bluetooth antenna can be connected to the back of the turntable and the owner can link their phone or mobile device for online streaming. In my case I also had CD players and the Bluesound Node 2i streamer to connect. The back of the turntable has RCA line inputs for one component, and this allowed me to use either my CD player to enjoy CD’s or connect the Bluesound Node 2i to enjoy streaming music.
During the review period, I also connected the NHT C4 and matching powered subs, as well as the Golden Ear Super SubX. The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 has both fixed and variable RCA outputs, and the variable outputs easily accepted the subs I had on hand. The fixed outputs I used during the review of the Klipsch Fives speakers I recently completed. The Klipsch Fives are powered and so I could use the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 as a source.
The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 was designed for easy placement in any environment, but I recommend some care and attention be paid to hear the best from the turntable. Although good performance can be had by using a sturdy shelf or cabinet, I know you will get better performance by using an audio rack or stand. All good audio stands offer better isolation for the turntable. A good stand achieves this by using spikes and or other methods to decouple the components in the stand/shelf. If nothing else, make sure you have the turntable leveled. The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 is good enough to warrant such care.
Strunz & Farah Americas
I invited members of the RCAS (River City Audio Society) to a sneak peek audio demonstration of the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 at the listening room located in the back room of my beauty supply shop. One of the members, Matt decided to come over on a weekday for a listen. I had just acquired a pair of Rega RX1 speakers and I thought they might be a good match for the Juke Box S2. I put the Rega RX 1 speakers on a pair of metal Sanus stands and set the speakers approximately two feet from the back wall and about eight feet apart.
The room is large at 20’ by 19’ with a 10’ ceiling. For fine tuning the speaker position, I selected an old favorite demo track from the Strunz and Farah CD Americas (Mesa R2 79041), El Jaguar.
This track, El Jaguar, is great for demonstrating the speed and attack of a system, as well as the sound staging. The track begins with a sprightly guitar flourish before a rhythmic bass riff and throbbing percussion introduce the song told by dueling guitars of a jaguar stalking the jungle floor. What helps evoke the atmosphere of the jungle in this track is the inspired work of guest artist Luis Perez Ixoneztli. I saw Strunz and Farah and company in the early 1990’s and witnessed not only their mastery of guitar work, but the music created by Luis Perez Ixoneztli on a variety of pre-Columbian winds and percussion. During the concert Mr. Perez Ixoneztli had two folding tables which held various seashells, wooden pipes, and animal bones which he would pick up and use to create sounds unique and mostly unheard by modern audiences.
The El Jaguar track would bring looks of amazement and wonder from customers at the high-end audio shop I worked for back in the 1990’s. I would spring this track when I was demonstrating the Mark Levinson No 29 amp and No 23 pre-amp on either Sonus Faber Electas or Amators. The sound never failed to impress.
How would the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 and Rega RX1 speakers fare with the track? It was so much to my liking that I thought I would use it as the intro to the system for my friend Matt. When Matt arrived the old audio salesman in me crept out and I told Matt that all he was going to hear was the turntable playing a track from the CD player into the Rega RX1 speakers. Matt gave me a suspicious look and I started the track. I do not know why, but in my room the bird/jungle effects sounded like they were coming from the sidewalls, and the sound was from the floor to roof. Huge sound emanated from the bookshelf Rega RX1 speakers. The ringing of the guitar strings was so clear that it was as if the players were locked in space right in front of us. Matt looked at me in surprised approval of the sound. At the end of the track Matt got up and looked at the turntable sizing it up and down. Then he lifted it to see just how much this turntable weighs. He looked at me and said, “Frank, this sounds much better than it has any right to sound.” “Yep”, I said. I was just as impressed by the sound of the amp and preamp inside of the Juke Box S2 turntable as he was.
The music went from CD to LP, but the lasting impression made on me was that the amp and pre-amp in the Juke Box S2 was exceptional. Class D amplifiers have made great strides in improvement the past few years due to the ongoing development by designers and engineers. The unit inside the Juke Box S2 is a wonderful testament to the sonic quality of Class D amps when implemented in a musical way.
Nora Jones Day Breaks
Since I had the Klipsch Forte III speakers available to me, I tried them on the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2. The Klipsch Forte III with their great sensitivity do not need much power. Indeed, 50 watts is a lot on the Klipsch Forte speakers. What the Klipsch do need is clean, low noise amplification. I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. Listening to the Norah Jones LP, Day Breaks on Blue Note B002520901, I was struck by the immediacy of the combination. Norah’s voice was reproduced with fullness, and sweetness. The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 provided a tuneful, snappy sound through the Klipsch Forte III’s. Bass was full and extended enough to make you think that there is a sub-woofer in the system.
The 50-watt amp in the Juke Box had good control over the big 12” woofer in the Klipsch. The sound image was huge, life-size. The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 reproduced the attack of the piano and drums superbly, too.
Klipsch Forte III’s can reveal distortion, especially in the highs that masquerade as excessive brightness from components that are upstream. Not so with the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2, the sound presented by the combo on this LP was warm, human sounding. Some may prefer a more soft, romantic sound, but they will not find such coloration here. The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 seems to favor the neutral. The Juke Box S2 presents what is on the recording. It is a truthfulness that I prefer.
Frank Zappa The Grand Wazoo
Switching back to the Rega RX 1speakers, I tried Frank Zappa’s The Grand Wazoo, Reprise LP MS 2093. I have been enjoying this LP since I bought it back in the early 1970’s. This album features Frank Zappa’s compositional abilities for small electric orchestra. Through the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 and the Rega RX1’s the sound was huge, very impressive. I say this because the Rega RX1’s are small 2-way bookshelf speakers, however the Juke Box S2 made them kick-butt. There was nice synergy to the sound, very balanced from top to bottom.
At no point did the speakers or turntable/amp sound stressed in my listening room. I tried turning up the sound as far as I could stand it, but my ears gave up before the system did. In addition, the combo allowed me to hear into the dense orchestration and I could clearly follow each musical line. The modest Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 presented the music in true, complete analog glory.
Eric Clapton Unplugged
Back to the NHT C4 and subs, I listened to an old favorite recording that I used to demonstrate equipment with back in the 1990’s, Eric Clapton’s Unplugged on vinyl (Reprise 468412-1). I recently bought this on vinyl, I had it on CD before and I just had never gotten around to buying it on vinyl. What was I thinking? The combo had superb timing and clean transients, mostly evident on Clapton’s guitar and the bass and the percussion. The back-up voices soared nicely, and along with Clapton’s voice had good presence.
The NHT/Project Juke Box S2 combo created a huge soundstage with good depth and layering of the musicians and singers. Mostly, I was struck by how clean the guitar sounded, it was reproduced with authority and tonal richness. Music was presented with smoothness and tunefulness. The Juke Box also did not seem out of place on the $4000 NHT system. To me it was a joy to hear music on this playback system.
The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 is a complete, plug and play high performance turntable system that includes Bluetooth connectivity at a bargain price.
I have been enjoying my audio hobby for more than fifty years, and in that time, I have had a few surprises. The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 surprised me by the effortless musicality built into such a small, modest package. I was not expecting much from the amp/pre-amp built into the Juke Box plinth, but oh boy was I not prepared for what I heard. I think you could spend what the cost of the Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 is on an amp only and maybe not get as good a sound from a separate amp/receiver.
The Pro-Ject Juke Box S2 can be the basis of a system that gives the listener a gateway to high performance sound. If you consider that it has a very good phono stage, Bluetooth connectivity, and the superb vinyl playback of the turntable and cartridge, and you have what is in my opinion a spectacular bargain. Listen at your own risk, because if you do you might hear me (my old audio salesman self) say, “we take Mastercard, Visa, American Express, etc.” In other words, you will be sold!