Vinyl enthusiasts will appreciate the Pro-Ject X2 turntable and its Sumiko Moonstone cartridge for ease of setup, three speed choices and delicate sound. The X2 is belt-driven with great looks and plenty of heft. The Sumiko Moonstone is a very good sounding moving magnet cartridge with enough output to drive phono stages, integrated amplifiers, or receivers without the need of a step-up transformer or pre-preamplifier. If you’re looking for startling improvements to your vinyl system without having to spend a fortune, the Pro-Ject X2 turntable and Sumiko Moonstone cartridge will definitely fill the bill.
The Pro-Ject X2 turntable with Sumiko Moonstone cartridge is intended for the vinyl enthusiast who has outgrown their starter system, and who wants audible improvements without having to take out a new mortgage. Despite some specific requirements that the turntable be placed on a solid base (the X2’s suspension consists of soft feet only), and that the owner be willing to either do some minor setup or else pay for a professional setup, the X2 is a durable and reliable package that should provide years of enjoyment.
Pro-Ject X2 Turntable With Sumiko Moonstone Cartridge
- The Pro-Ject X2 turntable with Sumiko Moonstone cartridge looks elegant
- The moving magnet cartridge requires no step-up transformer or pre-preamplifier
- Critical setup is mostly done at the factory
- The Moonstone cartridge sounds polished and delicate
- The packaging is exceptionally robust, ensuring delivery without damage
- Multiple finishes are available to match your taste
- The tone-arm lift won’t clear the record and pad without adjustment
- The suspension is conspicuous in its absence
Pro-Ject Audio Systems, a 29-year old manufacturer of turntables and audio electronics, headquartered in Vienna, Austria, produces a wide line of vinyl products including the X2 turntable. Sumiko is the US Distributor of Pro-Ject Audio Systems products, and the manufacturer of the Moonstone cartridge. Other Pro-Ject turntable lines include Debut, Essential, Vertical Turntable, RPM, Classic, Artist Collection, Signature, Elemental, Primary, and Juke Box. As you might expect, the Pro-Ject X2 turntable and Moonstone cartridge are the recipients of a great deal of trickle-down technology from both Pro-Ject and Sumiko’s more expensive products.
I, personally, last used vinyl back in about 1983, when I converted to CD. I was seduced by the better technical specifications of compact disc, but I knew even then that vinyl still sounded better, and by quite a wide margin.
In subsequent decades, the sound of digital has improved significantly, but I’ve been startled by the recent “vinyl renaissance,” that has not only made vinyl popular again but also has also triggered booming sales of turntables, cartridges, and new vinyl records. Vintage turntables are now selling for far more than they cost NEW decades ago, and armies of hipsters are converging on thrift shops, garage sales, and Craigslists across the country seeking pristine turntables and records.
Although a few vintage turntables are worth their current prices, most are easily bested by current models. They offer smoother, more powerful motors with less noise, flutter, and rumble, and often at lower prices.
PRO-JECT X2 TURNTABLE
33, 45, & 78 RPM (78 available by belt change)
Synchronous motor with belt
30mm thick, Acrylic, 2kg weight
33 RPM +/- 0.25% / 45 RPM +/- 0.20%
Wow & Flutter:
33 RPM +/- 0.12% / 45 RPM +/- 0.10%
9” Composite Carbon / Aluminum
Effective Tonearm Length:
9” / 230mm
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)
110-240VAC @ 50-60Hz
4.5W (0.3W standby)
Dimensions (lid closed):
18.1” x 5.9” x 13.4” (W x H x D)
SUMIKO MOONSTONE CARTRIDGE
0.3μM x 0.7μM Elliptical
12Hz – 33kHz
3mV @ 1kHz
30dB @ 1kHz
+/- 0.25dB @ 1kHz
12×10-6 cm/dyn @ 100Hz
Recommended Load Capacitance:
Vertical Tracking Angle:
Tracking Force Range:
1.8g – 2.2g
Recommended Tracking Force:
2.0g (per Sumiko specifications)
Recommended Tracking Force:
1.8g (per the X2 owners’ manual)
Recommended Replacement Styli:
Recommended Replacement Cartridges:
RS Moonstone, Rainier, or Olympia
Piano Black, Satin Black, Satin White, Satin Walnut
Turntable, Sumiko, Pro-Ject X2, Moonstone Cartridge, Belt Drive, 2020, Review, Turntable Review 2020
The Pro-Ject X2 turntable with Sumiko Moonstone cartridge caused me some setup delay. Since I haven’t used vinyl in decades, I had to obtain a few things that were not included before it could be used. I am fortunate in having friends who still use vinyl, and were able to loan me the necessary tools. However, if you’re new to turntables, you’ll need the following additional items:
- A stylus pressure gauge – Although the owner’s manual states that the rotating scale on the threaded counterweight is sufficiently accurate, I found it tedious to use. Furthermore, the X2 owners’ manual contradicts the product specifications by recommending a 1.8-gram stylus pressure rather than the 2.0 grams recommended by Sumiko’s own specs. Fortunately, stylus pressure gauges are readily available via Amazon, although none of my local record stores had one.
- A bubble level – Required to level the turntable, although one could probably get by with a small carpenter’s level used twice at right angles. Of course, it’s better just to level your support rack for the turntable, but if that’s not practical…
- A record cleaning brush – Dirty records (and any used record is likely to be dirty) is anathema to good sound. Some invest in fancy record-cleaning machines, but for most, the cost of a good-quality record cleaning machine is prohibitive. At a minimum, you’ll need a record brush (again, available via Amazon), and don’t plan on using a drafting brush either – one of those horse-tail hairs will wreck your woofers!
- A stylus-cleaning brush – Even clean records tend to accumulate dust on the cartridge stylus. Get a brush to rake off the gunk before and after each record is played (AFTER turning down the volume, thank you very much), and don’t go wild with cleaning fluids either – distilled water works just fine. Yes, distilled. Your tap water will inevitably contain particulates.
- Unless you’re using a receiver, integrated amplifier, or preamplifier with a phono stage, you’ll need a phono preamplifier with RIAA equalization. I tried the Pro-Ject X2 turntable and Moonstone cartridge with two different phono stages since my preamp is a line-stage only without a specific phono input. I used the Chinese Little Bear tube phono stage and an unknown phono preamp loaned to me by generous friends.
Now despite the above items that you’ll need prior to using the Pro-Ject X2 turntable with Sumiko Moonstone cartridge, there is some good news here; not that you’d know it from the manual that comes with the turntable, that implies that you, the owner, need to tend to all of these issues. The tonearm’s overhang, offset-angle, vertical-tracking alignment, and azimuth are already factory pre-set for the Moonstone cartridge. Additionally, the tedious job of attaching the wiring clips to the cartridge itself has already been done at the factory so the user need not risk damage while trying to install them. The ONLY parameters the user need actually set are the tracking force and the anti-skate. But to accomplish this, it is most helpful to have a binocular magnifier with lighting.
Other questions are left unanswered by the owners’ manual:
- Does the main bearing require any type of lubrication? I voted on the side of none since the owners’ manual didn’t mention it and I didn’t know what lubricant would be appropriate.
- The (included) felt mat can be used over the acrylic platter or not, depending on which the user thinks sounds the best. The manual doesn’t go into detail.
- Should you use the acrylic turntable dust cover? The cover and mounting hinges are included, but the owners’ manual states that the cover is prone to vibrate easily and may affect the sound. I opted to just set my dust cover over the turntable when not in use, and remove it when playing records.
- Should a record weight be used to clamp the record to the platter? The manual doesn’t mention this at all, raising the question of “how heavy a weight or clamp can be used before speed-accuracy suffers? I chose not to use a weight at all and just hoped that all the demo records I tried would be flat.
I did find the anti-skate settings recommended for the cartridge were more accurate at Sumiko’s recommended stylus pressure setting of 2.0 grams than they were at the 1.8 grams stated in the owners’ manual. I discovered this by using a disc with no grooves and trying various combinations of stylus force and anti-skate settings. And one other complaint here – the owners’ manual specifies all stylus pressures in mN (millinewtons). The average young person (presumably the target demographic for this rig) seems unlikely to be familiar with Newtons or Millinewtons. Now a conversion is given in the owners’ manual saying that 1mN is equal to 0.1 grams and to 0.1 ponds (sic) of downforce. Ponds are Dutch units, and why they are included in a North American manual is a mystery to me. It seems that the use of the Pond term invites confusion with “pound,” which is not correct. Nevertheless, be aware that 2 grams of stylus pressure is the same as 20mN.
I did like the fact that the speed indicator on the table blinks on startup until the desired speed is reached and stabilized. When the light remains on continuously, the proper speed is locked in.
Little Bear tube phono preamplifier
Unknown phono preamplifier
Roon running on a Windows 10 server with DSP
OPPO UDP-205 used as a Roon endpoint
Auralic Aries Streamer with LDS server software
Apple iPad Mini used as a system controller for both Roon and LDS
Auralic Vega DAC
Audio-gd HE-1 line-level solid-state preamplifier
Dahlquist DQ-LP1 electronic crossover
Emotiva PA-1 power amplifiers
Modified Heathkit 12-watt tube mono-block amplifiers
Emotiva T2 tower loudspeakers
Klipsch RP-600M bookshelf speakers on stands
Emotiva Airmotiv S-15 subwoofers (two in R/L configuration)
Room treatment including absorbers and diffusers
Obviously, the digital components were used only for comparison purposes.
Let’s cut to the chase – How does the Pro-Ject X2 turntable with Sumiko Moonstone cartridge SOUND?
Having sold my vinyl library back in the 1980s, I had to borrow records from friends. The selection on hand for this review included:
Since I have this album digitally, I could easily do A/B comparisons between the CD version and the record. And my conclusion – The record easily won for its delicacy and detail. But the CD easily beat the record in freedom from hiss and noise. The Moonstone cartridge is quite a charmer, not only giving excellent imaging and vocal tone but also highlighting the inner details that the CD, to some extent, seemed to miss.
Now the quality of the digital recording (streamed by Roon from my server) was heavily influenced by the ripping software, by the DAC used, and by the degree of warm-up of the electronics in my system. The vinyl sound stabilized after a minute or two and remained consistently lovely. I noticed the difference, particularly when using the Little Bear vacuum tube phono stage.
This is a special one-sided test record with one side having no grooves at all (used to set anti-skate), and the other side with but two tracks, “Like an Eagle” and “New York by Night.” Both sound ravishing with the Moonstone / T2 combination.
Again, having this music on both vinyl and CD allowed me to make comparisons. The phonograph record sounded lighter and more transparent; the CD fleshed out the voice and instruments better.
This was a record obtained used by my friend, and unfortunately, its surface noise precluded my enjoyment of the music.
This two-disc marvel was a joy to listen to. Instruments appear on a wide and deep stage and the surroundings are apparent from the ambiance. I wish I had this title on CD for comparisons…
I’m a terrible JW fan! I have many of her works, but only one, “The Hunter” strikes my fancy. Although the music and voice sounded great on this album, the content just wasn’t to my taste.
I just LOVE Dave Brubeck, and the music on this album (as played with the wonderful Moonstone cartridge) brings out the best in the album. I also have this on 44.1 digital and find (again) that while the vinyl sounds more transparent and airier, the digital copy seems to do better at making the instruments appear in your room.
I can easily see, however, that different individuals would prefer the record over the CD (or vice versa).
The PRO-JECT X2 TURNTABLE and SUMIKO MOONSTONE CARTRIDGE represent great value at their price point. If your vinyl library is valuable, protect it with this system!
- Beautiful walnut finish
- The most complicated aspects of setup are already performed at the factory
- A very high-quality carbon tonearm
- Moonstone cartridge sounds ravishing
- Bubble level and stylus pressure gauge included
- Sprung suspension to avoid external vibration
- Owners’ manual revised for intended users
The Pro-Ject X2 turntable with Sumiko Moonstone cartridge seems to be a well-made, very attractive, highly reliable and sensibly priced combination that would benefit those wanting to move up from entry-level gear. This would be a major improvement over that vast majority of used legacy turntables from years past due to its better specifications and factory optimized setup. On the other hand, is vinyl for you? Questions that you might ask yourself before investing this much in a turntable include:
Do you have access to a large vinyl library in good condition? Many in the target audience are probably inheriting the vinyl libraries of baby-boomer parents or relatives. If you’re in this group, then yes, getting a good turntable and cartridge that won’t damage your vinyl library is definitely worth investing in.
If you’re not in the above group, then think long and hard about where you plan to get your records. Used vinyl records are often selling for more than their original prices, even at yard sales, and there are FLOCKS of young hipsters showing up in estate sales, yard sales, and thrift shops, hoovering up every record that is in even remotely good shape. Although you might join the herd and eventually score some bargains, it’s becoming more and more difficult to do so.
Keep in mind that a turntable and cartridge combo is not a buy-it-and-forget-it investment. Depending on how much you use your system, it’s quite possible that cartridge stylus replacement may be required as often as annually. Even if you don’t use your system that often, over a few years, the elastomers in cartridge suspensions can often harden and change their compliance, resulting in audible changes. Turntable belts, similarly, can stretch, lose elasticity, and dry rot causing breakage over time.
And the most frequent cause of additional playback expense is stylus damage. The aluminum cantilever of the stylus is VERY delicate, and a single event can damage the stylus irreparably. If your audio amigo tries to clean the stylus by rubbing the brush the wrong way, it’s likely that the cantilever will bend, and you’ll need a new stylus. Manually bumping the stylus into the rotating platter rather than gently setting it on the record is another common cause of stylus damage. Drop the needle onto the felt mat instead of onto the record? New stylus! But none of these maladies are unique to the Pro-Ject X2 and Sumiko Moonstone cartridge. And the (very) good news is that you can replace the Moonstone’s stylus without having to even remove the cartridge from the tonearm. Moving coil cartridges are typically not so easy to service!
For me, the question is “am I going back to vinyl?” The answer, for me, is influenced by several factors:
- I no longer own a vinyl library
- I don’t care to compete with the unwashed herds for used vinyl
- Much of the music I like best is no longer available on vinyl and is unlikely to be re-released
- The cost of new vinyl pressings is far higher than the equivalent music on CD
- My digital system is now good enough that it rivals and, in some cases, exceeds the sound quality of vinyl
- I’ve grown less tolerant of hiss, ticks, pops, and record artifacts
- I have less tolerance for the minutia of turntable and cartridge setup and maintenance
So ultimately, I’m sticking with digital, despite the sometimes sweeter and more delicate vinyl sound. Your mileage may vary…