Pro-Ject Audio Systems X2 Turntable

hfncommendedThe new big brother to the successful X1 adds a host of improvements in order to justify its £300 price premium. But at this new price, it can be tougher to succeed

Sometimes a product comes along that really hits the spot, delivering a combination of performance and value that shakes up the hi-fi world. Audiophiles of more mature years will be able to reel off a number of these, whether it be the NAD 3020 amplifier of the late '70s [HFN Nov '12], the mid '80s Wharfedale Diamond loudspeakers [HFN May '18], or the Marantz CD63 MkII KI Signature CD player from 1996.

Pro-Ject Audio Systems has, of course, produced several game-changers over its long lifetime too, starting with its very first turntable, the Pro-Ject 1 from 1991. This was a minimalist, bare-bones budget design that sounded far better than it had a right to, given that it cost less than what most people spend on loudspeaker cables.

Earlier this year, the company repeated the trick with its EISA Award-winning X1 turntable [HFN Aug '19] – a 21st century version of the Pro-Ject 1, reimagined with a raft of improvements yet at £699 costing little more than the original in real terms. Now we have its bigger brother, the £999 X2, its purpose being again to redefine the turntable market, only this time the sector above that occupied by the X1.

Heavy Affair
However, the X2 has a real fight on its hands, and not only because of the sheer value offered by the more affordable X1. The real threat to the deck's success is that competition is so much stiffer when you approach the £1000 mark.

While Pro-Ject adopted a 'less is more' approach when developing the X1, the philosophy behind the X2 might well be described as 'more for less than you might expect'. This means you get a beefier, chunkier turntable than the X1.

The 460x150x340mm (whd) plinth is – if you'll pardon the expression – the base of all the improvements. It's a heavier MDF affair sporting an impressive eight layers of paint, polished by hand to give a finish that belies the deck's price. The paintwork comes in a choice of three finishes – gloss black, satin black or satin white – with the deck also available in an eye-catching walnut wood veneer as a fourth option.

The motor has been retained from the X1, but gains a new suspension system which sees it suspended on a free-floating TPE belt – an arrangement Pro-Ject says decouples it from the plinth more effectively. As with the X1, the plinth also houses a DC/AC generator board to supply juice to the motor, and also sports three alloy/polymer sandwich isolating feet, which this time are chunkier. The supplied one-piece tonearm tube is again of carbon and aluminium sandwich construction but at 9in is longer than the 8.6in arm found on the X1. It's wider in diameter too and also claimed to offer greater resonance control. A TPE-damped counterweight is fitted, again to reduce vibrations, while an alloy tonearm base is used instead of a plastic flange, said to make for stiffer mounting to the plinth.

Silver Savings
The arm includes both azimuth and VTA adjustment and the ability to dial-up the tracking force. Our sample came pre-fitted with an (Ortofon) Pick it 2M-Silver MM cartridge though you can buy the deck without this for £100 less. Given that the cartridge costs £175 separately, you make a healthy saving buying it as part of the package, which also includes Pro-Ject's shielded, low-capacitance Connect it E interconnects with RCA terminations.

As with the Pro-Ject X1, electronic speed control is fitted with the choice of 33.3, 45 and 78rpm. Meanwhile, the 30mm-thick main platter is made of acrylic and weighs 2kg. This rests on a sub-platter, which in turn sits atop a stainless steel main bearing equipped with bronze bushings.

Although the new X2 benefits from a good number improvements, thankfully this hasn't made it any more complex to set up, which was another key aspect of the X1's appeal. As before, remove the turntable from its box, place it on a level surface, then begin assembly. This includes fitting the drive belt and platter, the counterweight, balancing the arm, then fitting the 'thread and weight' bias adjuster before attaching the tonearm cables.

The cartridge needs to be tracking at 1.8g if you're using the Pick it 2M-Silver MM cartridge, as we did for this review. Effective tonearm mass is said to be 13.5g – a moderate value that also renders it compatible with a range of moving-coils.

As with the X1, Pro-Ject supplies a choice of round-section or square-section/flat drive belts, and it's up to the user to decide which of these they prefer. Our measurements clearly show that the square-section belt was superior, and this was borne out by what we heard. Subjectively, the round-section belt served up a sound that was less stable, resulting in a slightly looser presentation that was particularly noticeable in the bass. Naturally, the flat belt was used for my listening!

sqnoteSonorous Sounds
There's a lot that's right about the sound of the Pro-Ject X2 – especially if you're comparing it to its more affordable sibling. But it's also a strong performer relative to what else is on the market at the price. It sounds open and detailed, has a wide soundstage and is on the neutral side. There's no big bass overhang to give music a fatter, fruitier sound, yet neither is the presentation bright and forward.

Pro-Ject Audio Systems
Supplied by: Henley Audio Ltd, UK
01235 511166