Having just reviewed and enjoyed the Essential III turntable from Pro-Ject, it only made sense to have a listen to the non-budget models in their lineup. The X-line made sense. My Secrets colleague Glenn Young recently reviewed the X2 and now I’m checking out the X1.
Both, the X1 and X2 sit above the Debut line, which sits above the Essential line of turntables offered by Pro-Ject. The X Series is heavier (a good thing), features an improved aluminum carbon fiber tonearm (another good thing), a better motor with easier speed adjustment (a super good thing), and upgraded styli from Sumiko. Sumiko is the US distributor of Pro-Ject, and they graciously outfit each Pro-Ject model with one of their cartridges. Of the two, the Pro-Ject X2 is quite a step up from the X1. It’s bigger, heavier, and larger in overall dimension and features a thicker plinth. That translates to lower resonances and therefore better sound. The X2’s platter is thicker too and a pound heavier than the X1’s. The X2 outweighs the X1 by a good bit, tipping the scales at 22 versus 15 pounds. To top it off, the X2 ships with the higher end Sumiko Moonstone cartridge. The bodies of the Oyster series cartridges are the same, so you do have the option of switching out the stylus on the X1 for an upgrade in the future. Lastly, the X2 is priced at $1299 where the X1 is priced at $899.
Pro-Ject X1 Turntable With Sumiko Rainier Cartridge
- Gorgeous finishes
- Solid and sturdy build
- Supplied Sumiko Rainier Cartridge is factory fitted
- Stylus can be upgraded
- Electronic Speed Control and Silent Motor
Before you continue, you’d do well to take a gander at two previous reviews of Pro-Ject turntables. First, my review of the premium, yet entry-level Pro-Ject Essential III Turntable.
Glenn Young did a super deep dive on the Pro-Ject X2 turntable fitted with the Sumiko Moonstone cartridge. He went hard in the paint on setting up the X2 as he went all digital years ago and got to see if switching to a higher-end turntable would lure him back into the world of vinyl. It’s worth a read for sure and he covers the setup—which is pretty much identical—with so much detail that it’s not worth me regurgitating it all again in this article.
33, 45, & 78RPM (electronic speed change)
Synchronous motor with belt
20mm thick, Acrylic, 1.5kg weight
33RPM +/- 0.30% / 45RPM +/- 0.25%
Wow & Flutter:
33RPM +/- 0.15% / 45RPM +/- 0.13%
8.6” Composite Carbon / Aluminum
Effective Tonearm Length:
8.6” / 218.5mm
Effective Tonearm Mass:
0-30mN (0-3 grams)
Recommended Tracking Force:
18mN (1.8 grams)
Hinged, removable dust cover, Connect-It E-Phono RCA Cable with grounding wire, Felt Mat (optional)
5W (<0.3W standby)
Dimensions (lid closed):
16.3 x 4.9 x 13.2 inches (415 x 125 x 335mm) (WxHxD)
15.4lbs (7kg) net / 20.9lbs (9.5kg) gross weight
Sumiko Oyster Rainier Cartridge
15Hz – 25kHz
25dB @ 1kHz
1.5dB @ 1kHz
10×10-6 cm/dyn @ 100Hz
Recommended Load Capacitance:
Vertical Tracking Angle:
Tracking Force Range:
1.8g – 2.2g
Recommended Tracking Force:
Pro-Ject X1 Turntable with Sumiko Oyster Rainier Cartridge Price:
Piano Black, Gloss White, Satin Walnut
Turntable, Sumiko, Pro-Ject X1, Rainier Cartridge, Belt Drive, 2020, Review, Turntable Review 2020
- Pro-Ject X2 Turntable with Sumiko Moonstone Cartridge Review
- Technics SL1500C Turntable Review
- Pro-Ject Essential III Turntable Review
The differences between the two X’s are palpable but place the X1 next to the Essential III and it’s a clear step up in build and size. Pro-Ject doesn’t let innovation cloud their vision however and doesn’t stray from their design ethos. They keep it simple; high-quality materials, handcrafted by expert engineers. No frills or fancy, unnecessary features; it’s strictly a manual turntable design, built with modern materials and production methods.
Pro-Ject has succeeded in making all their turntables beautiful. I loved the look of the gloss red on the Essential III that I reviewed and the X1 tops that. It’s gorgeous. The X line is available in three beautiful finishes. Gloss white, piano black, and satin walnut. I’m partial to white for anything HiFi and fortunately for me, that is the finish my review sample arrived in. It is eight layers of paint hand-polished to a high gloss. Man, I wish the world offered hand-polished white amps too. Le sigh…
The X1 is a belt drive system, but it looks like a direct drive turntable as the belt and motor are hidden below the platter and electronically controlled. You can switch the speed from 33 to 45RPM with the press of a button. Personally (bias alert!), coming from a DJ background I hate having to change the belt for speed control as I’m very much used to speed buttons of my Technics 1200mk2’s, so I’m happy to see a speed box integrated. The motor is isolated from the drive mechanism and comes fitted with a new suspension system. On the surface of the deck, the speed indicator on the turntable blinks on startup until the desired speed is stabilized. Only then does the light stop blinking and remains on. The X1 comes up to speed quickly and the motor is silent.
The X1 features an 8.6-inch carbon-aluminum tonearm, which is light and stiff. It’s finished in one piece without a separate headshell. This approach further reduces resonance and leads to better resistance from external interference. The counterweight has also been damped with TPE—Thermoplastic Elastomer, a plastic, and rubber composite, to protect against unwanted vibration. Additionally, the X1 features a stainless-steel platter bearing with a soft brass bushing and Teflon mirrors for the lowest rumble and noise; and a stable, accurate speed transmission. The turntable feet are isolating aluminum/TPE and height-adjustable. They also serve to isolate the turntable from the surface it’s placed on. The platter is resonance-free acrylic and weighs a hefty 3.3 pounds.
Like the Essential III, the X1 ships with a high-quality phono RCA cable. It’s a semi-balanced, low-capacitance part, with superior shielding. The dustcover is the same one you get with the Essential line.
Like the X2, most of the daunting set up was done at the factory and the Sumiko Rainier cartridge came fitted. The belt was fitted as well. So, all I needed to do was unpack it from the box, get the platter in place, and set the anti-skating. The anti-skate weight is the same dental floss loop thingy as on the Essential III, which is difficult to get set up. But with a bit of patience, and tiny hands, you’ll be up and running in no time. If you have large hands and fat fingers, you’ll likely have more trouble. For my listening, I kept the dustcover removed fully. This was to remove any possible resonances and for aesthetics, it’s a seriously beautiful package.
The owner’s manual is better than the one supplied with the Essential III. The photos are a bit clearer and it’s printed on paper rather than newsprint. But as Glenn noted in his review, the units of measurement are not optimized for the North American market. It’s a small thing, but every touchpoint is part of the experience and the supplied documentation doesn’t befit a turntable of this price.
I had the Pro-Ject Phono Box pre-stage on hand from my review of the Essential III, so I used it with the X1. From there, I connected to a Cambridge Audio CXA61 integrated amplifier which in turn powers a pair of B&W 685 S1 speakers and sometimes, Q Acoustics 3020’s.
As much as I wanted to leave the X1 on the sideboard in my living room. I have two little hooligans running around my home 24/7, looking forward to trashing the electronics that I have all over the house. They’ve succeeded in making my worst nightmare a reality by poking the soft-domed tweeters on a pair of budget speakers so that the tweeters are now concave. So, I had to move the X1 to a higher, less enviable shelf position for most of my listening and use a step ladder to change records.
With all the upgrades. How does the X1 sound? Pretty goshdarn spectacular.
There were some notable passings in the world of music this year, two of whom get regular play in our household. So, it was only befitting that they got the center stage for this review.
Bill Withers – Menagerie
This has been on my listening rotation a lot as of late, and not because of Bill’s passing. My daughter Winnie absolutely loves ‘Lovely Day’. Incidentally, Lovely Day would have been the first dance at my wedding too. It could’ve been our song. It only wasn’t because for some reason we couldn’t remember the name of the track. The X1 digs out a fine amount of detail and the overall character is warm and deep. The entire album is special as is Bill Wither’s music in general.
Vaughan Mason – Feel My Love
Another passing in the world of music was Vaughan Mason who was best known for his 1980 single, Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll from the album of the same name. This one, ‘Feel my Love’, is a bit of a guilty pleasure. It’s kind of silly and kind of great at the same time; and super catchy. My terrible dancing skills are on full display whenever this comes on. The X1 powers through it and the groove is on full display for your ears and heart.
DJ Die – The Archives 1995-2000
This is eight remastered drum and bass classics cut onto four plates. Of the tracks, it’s all about ‘Clear Skyz’ and ‘Slide Away’ for me. The X1 again digs up a fair amount of detail. And bass. Oh, the bass! It’s weighty and full. I love this turntable.
An aside here and a bit of a shout-out: I grew up on college radio in Toronto. I was spoiled by great music growing up. One of my favorite shows, ‘HigherGround Radio’ has been on the air for the past two decades on CIUT 89.5 FM. It’s run by my favorite DJ in Toronto, Jason Palma along with Dan Toner. I would have a smaller taste and knowledge base in music if it weren’t for these guys. You can check out a weekly archive of their show or live Thursday nights from 8 to 10 pm if you have access to internet radio. It’s well worth a listen.
I bring this up as it dawned on me that most of the music I’ve been digging up lately is because it’s been played on their recent shows. My crates are nowhere near as deep, but every so often I have a record or two they’ve pulled out for the show. For example:
Gangstarr – Jazz Thing
Jay pulled out this gem a few shows ago and now it’s sitting on my shelf getting regular rotation at home. What a tune. My copy is grimy and badly in need of replacement. But it still sounds great.
MAW feat, Louis Salina “Pienso en ti” (When I Think of You)
Wow, I completely forgot about this. And fortunately, my copy is still in great condition. The percussion hits hard and the sound is full and warm. I played it more times than I care to disclose.
The PRO-JECT X1 TURNTABLE WITH SUMIKO RAINIER CARTRIDGE is beautiful. It’s well-made, sturdy and if you have the budget it’s well worth considering if you’re on the market for a turntable. It’s especially appealing if you’re looking to upgrade from a budget system to something a bit more substantial.
- Beautiful white finish
- Relatively easy set up
- A very high-quality carbon tonearm
- Rainier cartridge is great, I’m curious to hear the Moonstone!
- A better owner’s manual
- Upgraded hinges on the dustcover.
I should say this, and it may come across as snooty. But if you’re going to step into the world of turntables it behooves you to spend a bit more on a good one. If you’re going to spend your savings on vinyl then logic dictates that you invest in the best turntable you can buy, even if that means saving up for longer. Back the day, I had my Technics on layaway, and it took me about a year to pay for them both. I’ve had them now for over 20 years and they’re still solid. $899 for the Pro-Ject X1 Turntable with Sumiko Oyster Rainier Cartridge may seem like a large initial investment, but you will be able to enjoy a greater sound for a long time to come.