Pro-Ject Debut III S Audiophile turntable Page 2

Having encountered this problem with other designs, I found myself pointing a finger straight at the mat and platter. With the supplied felt mat in place, the platter responded to the fingernail flick test with a firm bell-like tone. In short, there was little difference in the platter’s ringing with or without this thin felt mat.

After rummaging in my vinyl toolbox for a Pro-Ject ‘Leather it’ (leather) mat, and swapping the supplied felt item for this, the platter now responded with a dead ‘thunk’ when tapped with a fingernail. The result was that bass lines now sounded much tighter and better defined and the low-end overall gained greater solidity and confidence. What’s more, upper bass now enjoyed plenty of detail and tautness, ensuring nothing sounded lightweight.

Jessie Ware’s ‘Your Domino’ from her Glasshouse LP [PMR/Island Records 602557947137 PMR 114] bounded along with verve and enthusiasm and the deck kept all the key bass details under firm control. Even better, the bass guitar on the title track of Donald Fagen’s Morph The Cat LP [Reprise Records 9362-49975-1] sounded beautifully deep while boasting bags of warmth and no blunting of perceived ‘timing’.

Across the midband, the deck also did a very fine job of capturing instruments and singers vividly. Budget designs can often blur the finer aspects of the soundstage somewhat, but the Debut III S Audiophile separated individual singers and performers surprisingly well. Imaging was good and presented a plausible depth perspective, giving a fair sense of atmosphere to recordings.

True, in absolute terms the lateral perspective of the soundstage was somewhat curtailed and central image stability could have been stronger, but at no point did I feel short-changed by the deck’s presentation. More than once I had to remind myself that this turntable carries a three-figure price tag, and well below £500 at that.

Silver Sparkle
Special mention must be made of the new tonearm, which is also a well thought-out design. The more mechanically lively arms used on some older budget Pro-Ject decks had a tendency to impart a sense of imprecision to the treble. The effect was a blurring of top-end detail and a slight splashiness to sibilants.

I detected rather less of either when listening to this ‘Audiophile’ version of the Debut deck [see PM's Lab Report]. ‘Uncertain Smile’ from The The’s Soul Mining album [Epic EPC 25525] highlighted this perfectly, its rather messy production values brought well into line by the Pro-Ject package.

In combination with the arm, the newly developed moving-magnet Pick it 25A cartridge also appeared to be working its magic. I’m very fond of the old Ortofon OM series but am well aware that these pick-ups can sound a little soft around the edges. Not so the Pick it 25A. Those silver coils bring just the right amount of sparkle to proceedings, without ever straying into harshness. As a result, violin strings were vivid but without screech, while the cymbals backing The Eagles’ ‘Outlaw Man’ on their Desperado album [Asylum Records SYL-9011] rang out strongly before shimmering delicately off into the distance.

Out of curiosity, and as a way to compare the sort of cartridges previously used on Pro-Ject’s more affordable designs, I went back into my vinyl toolbox and retrieved an Ortofon OM10 cartridge. While the rich, smooth tones of the OM10 pick-up were like an old friend, with this fitted to the Debut III S Audiophile, the sound became a little soporific and lost its sense of keen musicality.

As a result, I’d definitely stick with the supplied Pick it 25A moving-magnet. Once again, Pro-Ject has shown itself to be a master when it comes to balancing its packages as this new cartridge gels with the tonearm and deck superbly.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
While the scope of Pro-Ject’s Debut range is already daunting, the Debut III S Audiophile is still a welcome addition to the series. It takes the best of the existing models and adds a dash of extra sophistication and poise, the result being a convincing package that has clearly been properly thought through. The whole is already greater than the sum of Pro-Ject’s parts, but be sure to budget for a better mat.

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