November 18, 2016
PRO-JECT ESSENTIAL III
Pros: Build, detail extraction, midrange precision, bass impact
Cons: Narrow soundstage, slight midrange stridency
Verdict: A well built turntable system that, despite a spotlight forming directly over the midrange, offers focus and precision and a sense of detail.
An upgrade to the popular Essential II turntable that had been on sale for many years, the ‘III’ arrives on the scene, exhibiting a number of enhancements. For example, the plinth is made from MDF, as before, but is now wrapped in a high-gloss paint finish (which is available in red, white or black). Underneath the plinth, you’ll find three anti-vibration feet, fitted to lower or reject outside noise sources.
One of the main features of the new design is the inclusion of the upgraded Acryl-IT E platter, an inert platform whose intension is to lower resonance, using a stainless steel bearing in a bronze bushing with Teflon-lined bottom.
Those familiar with the ‘II’ will notice that the ‘III’ uses the same 9V motor but that there is a change in approach here too, namely the new integrated grounding link which is another method of reducing electrical interference.
A synchronous AC design with a built-in signal generator, this motor also includes brand new aluminium pulley.
The deck is pre-fitted with an straight 8.6” aluminium arm plus an Ortofon OM10 cartridge, which has also been pre-installed. The cartridge’s stylus uses an elliptical profile.
I sound tested the turntable with both jazz and rock albums. Despite a relatively narrow soundstage that pushed the music towards the centre, I was impressed with the Essential’s ability to separate the background music, the guitar, drums and brass, behind the vocal, giving the vocalist enough space to take a starring centre stage. There was a touch more noise present in the upper midrange than some of this turntable’s immediate competitors (the Rega RP1 comes to mind) resulting in a slightly more strident suite of upper frequencies that were most noticeable during vocal and guitar crescendos. That said, the Essential was able to dig deep into the mix and extract even the most subtle of details such as a minor guitar strum here, a trumpet solo there and low in the mix strings and secondary percussion. Such detail extraction could be best heard on jazz outings while, in terms of more high energy rock, bass was highlighted by being big, meaty and full of impact.
In addition, the Essential III offered a sense of precision. You felt that the music had benefitted by a focus that gave the presentation a definite emphasis, adding weight to lead vocals and greater accentuation to the treble-infused cymbals, for example.
Beautifully put together for the price and quick to install and get up and running, this turntable will make the most of low cost peripherals (i.e. amplifier and speakers), emphasising highlights and providing a meticulous and thorough examination of your music.
Reviewed by Paul Rigby, creator of the music and hi-fi magazine, The Audiophile Man.