Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Evolution: where vinyl can better digital


Renaissance. Back in the early noughties, at the dawn of the iPod and iTunes, vinyl’s comeback could’ve been foreseen by almost nobody. The mainstream consumer was busy embracing a digital audio word, albeit a lossy one. Audiophiles were ripping their CDs to lossless formats.

Diehards kept the vinyl faith and a decade later the big black disk almost inexplicably returned from its status as a marginal interest in an already marginal audiophile world. Those diehards now sip nightly from the chalice of vindication; so sweet the taste of saying “We told you so” out loud.

For more humble folk it’s largely an unspoken message. A few make with the face of smug satisfaction whilst others just get on with enjoying vinyl’s most cherished qualities: its tangibility, the cover art, the act of tipping the record from its sleeve without touching the surface before dropping it onto the platter and lowering the tonearm lever. The needle hitting the record’s surface and finding its groove is a delicious moment. Vinyl is the slow food of music playback.

As much as I enjoy spinning records, I enjoy buying them. Dropping into various records stores is all part and parcel of the black stuff’s charm. Doing so overseas doubles the appeal; walking straight past a record store without going in isn’t an option. A record store’s allure goes deeper than its stock of used items. It’s the possibility of turning up a long forgotten or long sought after gem that maintains ongoing custom. For yours truly, it’s FOMO (fear of missing out).

For this primarily digital dude, thumbing through racks of records is more enjoyable than mouse-clicking digital download sites like Boomkat or Bleep. Even purchases from virtual stores like Amazon and CC Music cause the postman to deliver 12” squared treats to my door weekly. Readers wanting to continue travelling on this train of thought are directed to “The Loneliness of the digital audiophile”.


Many of my non-audiophile pals talk about the thrill of the chase, the artwork, the nostalgia, the pride of ownership, its associated bragging rights and vinyl’s tangibility with similar fervour. And yet nearly of all them own turntables that would make Powel Crosley wince. The electronics and loudspeakers into which they are plugged would give lie to the received wisdom that these same mates like to pay forward: that vinyl sounds “rich/er” and “warm/er”. In the context of their systems at least I’m calling bullshit.

When we buy a turntable, attach a cartridge to its arm and plug the output into a phono-preamplifier we are introducing layers of colour to the playback chain, just as we would with a DAC and its computer or streamer feed. These filters can range from from cool to warm. They can make music sound dark or bright, thin or chunky.

Everything placed in the chain brings colour but with mechanical transduction fundamental to vinyl playback I’d contend that these colours are broader in nature and magnitude than that found with digital. Please do not mistake this assertion for an inherent assumption that digital is superior to vinyl.

Many modern records are pressed direct from hi-res files that sold by digital download stores like Qobuz and HDTracks. With a PCM/DSD file landed directly hard drive it is then fired from computer to D/A converter.

The vinyl record however takes the long way round: an acetate is cut from the master before being electro-plated with nickel and converted to a stamper that is used to press each record. This short video from the Discovery Channel (Part 1 then Part 2) shows the process in more detail. The narrator concludes by saying that records are enjoyed by those who refuse to buy into the digital revolution and who (also) believe that vinyl is “a cut above”.

Heinz Lichtenegger at The Munich High End Show 2015

That’s a sentiment we hear loud and often when the mainstream press covers vinyl’s resurgence in popularity. Less so that vinyl is the choice of digital refuseniks. “Nothing sounds better than vinyl – not even digital”. Repeat it often enough and we have a meme that embeds itself into the broader conversation about sound quality. Perhaps this is how my (and your!) non-audiophiles pals pick up and pay forward the notion of the black stuff’s superiority? Perhaps it’s a self-justifying mechanism for a buying into tangibility and artwork even when one’s turntable setup doesn’t cut the mustard?

Earlier this year I investigated how a record, presumably cut from a 24bit studio master file and played back on an entry-level turntable, compared to a CD rip of the same. I then extended this experiment: comparing a mid-80s record to two subsequent 90s and 00s remasters on CD, again ripped to FLAC.

The vinyl playback in both cases was digitised with the PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter and snippets were made available for download to readers who were asked to vote according to audible preference – CD rip or digitised vinyl? The latter came up short on both occasions. Vinyl sounded tepid compared the CD. It lacked dynamic punch and resolution. The vote count from each poll supported these findings.

The turntable deployed for this experimental investigation was the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC – arguably one of the best available for less than $500. It was fitted with an Ortofon OM10 cartridge. One could argue that a better cart might have narrowed the differential with digital but I doubt it would have significantly improved the turntable’s fundamental personality. New shoes help a little but they don’t make you a better runner.

The question then presented: would a more deluxe Pro-Ject turntable close the gap previously heard between Debut Carbon and digital? Not wanting to spend dance the middle ground represented by Pro-Ject’s RPM line, I opted for the Xtension 10 Evolution; not quite Pro-Ject’s range summit, but not far off. Only the Xtension 12, Signature 10 and Signature 12 take us further north on price and (presumably) fit, finish and sound quality.


The Xtension 10 Evolution is stickered at 3300Euros in Europe, US$3499 in the USA and AU$5499 in Australia.

Those eyeing the possibility of a grey import should take notice of this turntable’s weight and its shipping cost implications. The Xtension 10 Evolution tips the scales at a not insignificant 22kg. The MDF shipping ‘crate’ piles on a few more. At ten times the price of the Debut Carbon, the Xtension 10 Evolution’s high mass design means you literally feel like you get a lot of turntable for your money. You could lift a Debut Carbon with one arm tied behind your back. Not so the Xtension 10 Evolution.

The high mass vs. low mass turntable debate is a long and twisted road. High mass plinths are designed to absorb vibrations whilst light/rigid turntables – like those favoured by Rega’s Roy Gandy – are designed to transfer vibrations away and out of the turntable as quickly as possible. One isn’t necessarily better than the other – it’s the implementation that matters most – but a turntable’s ability to repel vibrations, no matter how small, influences its performance.

Pro-Ject Audio founder Heinz Lichtenegger was exceedingly complementary of Gandy’s designs when I chatted with him briefly at this year’s Munich High End Show. It’s amazing to think that Lichtenegger started Pro-Ject in 1990, just as the vinyl market began contracting. Respect goes to Lichtenegger for keeping the faith and riding out the leaner years with diversification. Pro-Ject also offers a range of wallet-sensitive electronics and loudspeakers.

Back in Sydney, lifting the Xtension 10 Evolution’s plinth from the box takes strength and care. Care because the high-gloss finish is fundamental to its aesthetic appeal – the Xtension 10 Evolution looks like a gorgeous piece of furniture – and strength because concealed within its “acoustically neutral” MDF structure is a mixture of metallic granules and sand. Visually at least, this Pro-Ject splits the difference between VPI’s more traditional looking (and hence named) Classic and the more ‘out there’ industrial design of Rega’s RP8.

Supporting the Xtension 10 Evolution’s plinth are adjustable isolation feet. When mounted on a high-mass surface such as sandstone, the plinth acts as a magnetically floated sub-chassis. Any lateral (side-to-side) vibrations are transferred through the feet, which also sport some degree of vertical vibration isolation so that damping takes place when mounted on lower-mass hi-fi racks. My review unit sat atop an IKEA Expedit rack chock full of vinyl; the shelving unit’s measured depth is coincidentally identical to that of the turntable itself – 40cm.


The notion of isolation from negative external influences extends to the Xtension 10 Evolution’s power supply. The plinth internalises the circuitry found in Pro-Ject’s Speedbox accessory: it regenerates AC current from a DC source for electrical isolation. The LCD readout and associated trio of push buttons sit directly below the needle with the arm cradled at its resting point.

One quick push to the middle of the three buttons gets the table turning. Push again at it changes speed. A long push brings it to a standstill.

The platter’s 5.6kg weight means it is slow to pick up speed – it takes full twenty seconds to go from 0 – 33.3rpm. I used that time to ready the heavyweight puck, run a brush across the record’s surface and give the anti-static gun a few squeezes.

What cause the platter to be so heavy? Alternate layers of alloy and Sorbothane are sandwiched together and topped with a layer of recycled vinyl, sourced from GZ’s record pressing plant that sits three-hours’ drive from Pro-Ject factory in the Czech Republic.

With no mat required (or recommended), a vinyl record sits directly on a vinyl-topped platter, the thinking behind this being that with ‘acoustic impedance’ matched, vibrations are more speedily transferred away from the record itself. Tasked with a similar resonance-eradicating job underneath the platter is a magnetically suspended ceramic bearing, inverted and embedded in the plinth to ensure freedom from moving parts.


Then there’s the ‘10cc’ arm. 10”, ‘continuous carbon’ fibre and a low mass design, it demands a little more care with cartridge compliance matching than does the ultra-low mass arm seen on the Debut Carbon; 8.6”, effective 6g.

The 10cc’s higher effective tonearm mass of 8.5g requires a lower compliance cartridge to put the pair in the resonant frequency sweet spot. Think of the suspension system of a car. A compromise must be found between the smoothness of the ride and the driver’s ability to feel the road. A heavier car (arm) necessitates stiffer suspension (lower cartridge compliance) whilst a lighter car can play it a little looser (with higher compliance).

The Debut Carbon ships with an Ortofon 2M Red in the USA, reflecting Pro-Ject’s implied preference for Ortofon cartridges.

The initial pairing of an Ortofon 2M Black with the Xtension 10 Evolution brought decidedly underwhelming results. My turntable setup (guru) buddy and I agreed that resulting sound was thin and a little ragged and lacking in dynamics.

Following the Australian Distributor’s advice to try a moving coil (MC) with an elliptical stylus, I switched the 2M Black over to the less expensive Dynavector 10×5 whose previous tour of duty was on a VPI Scout 1.1. Bingo! This cartridge stayed put for the duration of the review period.

The final piece of the setup puzzle would be to select a phono pre-amplifier. Schiit Audio’s entry-level Mani retails for US$129 but gets found out within thirty seconds of playback. Despite it sounded murky with this high/er end table, the Mani’s prowess at the entry level remains un-blunted.

Next up, the PS Audio NuWave Phono Converter. Whilst netting better overall results than the Schiit, the Colorado-built unit sounded a little dry here and a little strained in the throat there. Its tendency towards the more analytical end of the spectrum is fine in isolation but – reminding ourselves of this assignment’s context and intent – couldn’t quite match the acoustic mass, dynamic avidity and (most critically) all-round easefulness of equivalent CD rips played via an Antipodes DX music server feeding a Resonessence Labs INVICTA DAC over USB with a LightHarmonic LightSpeed Cable. Amplification came from Vinnie Rossi’s LIO (review here) driving either Zu Soul MKII or KEF LS50 loudspeakers.


The hallelujah moment arrived with the move to the LIO’s internal phono board. Hard to know whether the LIO’s off-grid power supply or the phono stage’s circuit design (or both) is what makes it such an over-achiever. Even at the module’s new price of US$895 it easily bests the two units that preceded it.

Most importantly, the LIO board proved to be the final piece of the puzzle that would allow the Xtension 10 Evolution’s audible talents to shine through unimpeded. Either that or it adds its own layer of most enjoyable colour.

The Xtension 10 Evolution is a big table with a mighty sound. The low end isn’t so much bombastic or fat as it is weighty. I wrote this in my notepad: “music sounds like its tied to the core of the earth”. Read literally it sounds silly but you can probably understand what I was driving at. I know not of a better way to connote how well this turntable creates the illusion of a presentation that seems anchored as opposed to one that’s freefloating.

To say that the Xtension 10 Evolution sounds better than the Debut Carbon is to do it a gross disservice. It’s not only better but – with the right phono pre-amplifier – an altogether different listening experience. Looking back down the price line the Debut Carbon lacks heft and resolution. And we already know of its stifled dynamics and muted top end when compared to digital. What about the pricier Pro-Ject? How would it compare to a digital source?

For the staunch digiphile, I have some good news and some bad news. From the Sugarcubes to Grant Lee Buffalo to Monolake, the Antipodes + Light Harmonic + Resonessence Labs combination offers superior separation with an generally cleaner sound. The Pro-Ject + Dynavector + Vinni Rossi is a shade more congealed. Or is that cohesive? Qualities such as cymbal shimmer (and its attendant decay) and guitar tone aren’t necessarily un-coloured but they are more satisfying when sourced from the vinyl rig. Cripes.

Transient keenness is a core talent of the Xtension 10 Evolution – something that I found a little lacking in less expensive models from VPI and Clearaudio. What sets the Pro-Ject apart from digital delivery is the manner in which transient attack is delivered. Once again, a car analogy assists. Pressure applied to the foot brake isn’t continuous. An easing up is required just prior to the car coming to a complete standstill; otherwise the halting of forward motion jars necks. Learner drivers often discover this the hard way.

Now mentally invert that analogy and apply it to acceleration: an initial burst of energy precedes an easing up before the transient’s tail end. I hear this when I listen to the big Pro-Ject. Is that why it sounds so elegant in its conveyance of micro-dynamic drama? The digital rig sounds more matter of fact and comparatively stunted with the minutest levels of vapour trail decay. Being truer to the source doesn’t necessarily translate to aural satisfaction.


Is this why vinyl heads complain that digital playback sounds uptight, stiff in the joints, and that vinyl is just easier to listen to for longer? Maybe. The Pro-Ject/Dynavector pairing doesn’t eradicate surface noise, something that’s (obviously) wholly absent from the server/DAC combo.

The qualitative differences between digital and vinyl rigs narrows when the INVITCA DAC is swapped out for PS Audio’s DirectStream running the Yale operating system. This underscores my comments in the DirectStream review (here) that is the DAC most likely to offer the best of both worlds. Note that I refuse to say that the PS Audio converter ‘sounds like analogue’. Analogue is a broad church with many different facets (types of sound) and obfuscates the modern practice of pressing vinyl from digital (master) files.

Having a DAC decode those hi-res files directly is one route to happiness. Having them pressed to vinyl and rotated as a needle rides the grooves is another. At the entry-level, I’d take digital every time if optimising sound quality were the ultimate goal. And that’s before we enter into a discussion about vinyl’s software pricing, beyond the scope of this review. All I’ll say is that it isn’t cheap, particularly (and ironically) if you’re a Neil Young fan.

Focusing on hardware, not all vinyl front-ends are the same. Just as digital’s audible performance is a function of streamer/server and D/A converter, a vinyl system is built around the triumvirate of turntable, cartridge and phono stage. One could subdivide the picture further once interchangeable tonearms are possible..

At the higher-end, our digital vs. vinyl story brings a plot twist. The Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Evolution sees this fella’s preference for digital lose its grip. More dollars dropped on a Pro-Ject project evens the playing field between digital and vinyl. Asked to choose only one rig I’d probably give the nod to the turntable-centric solution. How’s that for unsettling? Did you feel the earth move as digital audio diehards across world over did their best Rumplestiltskin?

DAR-KO award? How on earth could I not?


Further information: Pro-Ject Audio Systems | Pro-Ject Australia

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


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  1. Whatever….it depends on your setup and your taste. There are those who just prefer digital and those who just prefer vinyl, regardless.

    There are also those with very good ADC’s who say their digital rips of vinyl sound literally identical to the vinyl when played back on the same system.

    So I’m not sure any of these comparisons really teach us anything that can be generally applicable to “vinyl vs. digital”.

    • Yes, not saying you’re suggesting it is, but we have to be careful with our choice of words lest it sounds like either/or? And besides: *which* vinyl and *which* digital? As I’ve witnessed first hand, the Pro-Ject DC is kinda lacking next to even a modest digital rig. The Xtension 10 however is not. Pragmatism, not idealism!

      On another note, I just don’t get the adversarial nature of digital vs. vinyl.

      • “On another note, I just don’t get the adversarial nature of digital vs. vinyl.”
        Yes, which is why I hate all these audiophile debates that take on the tone of a religious debate between fanatical sect members.
        If you prefer analog and I prefer digital, can’t we just discuss it like adults? Same for transistor vs. tubes, etc (pick your fight).

        • But where does that leave listeners like me who enjoy both formats but for different reasons? Nowheresville?

      • I also don’t get the people who spend $25 or $50 on an LP pressed from a digital master, and say it sounds superior. To my way of thinking, by definition it is inferior. But if you just like that sound, well I have no argument with that.

        Another aspect that favors digital these days is the many very good sounding digital transcriptions being made from original master tapes. I’ve bought quite a few of these and many (not all) sound noticeably better than my classic LP versions. How? Simply much better equipment and knowledge these days that squeezes everything out of those tapes.

        • On LPs sourced from digital masters we need to separate technical superiority from enjoyability. The CD version might technically be the better of the two but if someone prefers the colour added by the TT, the cart, tone arm and phono stage as well as the pressing itself – as opposed to the colour brought by the DAC – then that’s fine by me.

  2. Wow John you said the words, ‘I’d probably give the nod to the turntable-centric solution’. I’ve long waited for a review like this and with a Brucey bonus it’s from someone with the balls to nail his flag to the mast. I wonder how many people will pick elements from your article and miss quote them. I’ll stick with digital on a performance, convenience, value for money and practicality standpoint.

    I had vinyl but moved over to CD when the Virgin mega store had a single rack of Dire Straights CD’s so I no longer have any of the black stuff after moving out from various girlfriends’ gaffs only to leave them behind, boy do I regret that now! Sure I would love a good vinyl system but I bet it would cost shed loads more and I’d have to call all my ex’s to ask for my LP’s back which probably isn’t a good idea.

    I’ve never been happier with my system since I moved over to streaming from CD, it yields shed loads more information and emotion of the performance, good quality file, streamer and DAC is an obvious pre requisite.

    My NAS, streamer & DAC combo cost less than two and a half grand and it sounds bloody fantastic. Unless someone can tell me Vinyl can do it for me at this price I’m sticking with digital.
    Oh and one last thing, I bet you can find a digital combo that will sound better than the Xtension at similar cost.

  3. An existential crisis over a $3300 piece of kit? Maybe “DAR” now stands for “Digital and Analogue Review.” You might just turn into one of those audio curmudgeons if you experience that $30k beauty from VPI or similar. Vinyl endures for good reason, despite its litany of shortcomings.

    • Crisis. What crisis? Nah, it’s called pragmatism. Something that many old curmudgeons left behind years ago. 😉

  4. I will be curious to see you revisit the analog – digital question when you have a Yggdrasil running in your system after a one month “burn in.”

  5. This turntable alone costs more than the total cost of every piece of gear I own. It could literally sound ten times better than it does (I know that’s not possible in audio), and it would be out of reach for someone of my means. Since we know that the multiple is 1.? instead of 10 at best, even if I could afford a tt-based setup, it is just not a good value proposition. That is based on sound alone, with no consideration of convenience, wear, getting up every twenty minutes, etc. And I grew up listening to vinyl. My turntable will never come out of mothballs. To each his own though.

    • Sure – but what I draw from months of listening to this TT and months listening to the DC is that the pursuit of better (than digital) sound through vinyl doesn’t start in the hundreds of dollars but the thousands. Frustrating but kinda true.

  6. Plot twist is right. On a related note, good news for you, John—the domain appears to be available.

  7. Hi John, I have enjoyed your journey into better vinyl play back. There is something “special” that vinyl has on a good table. Defining “special” precisely is difficult, but I enjoyed your thoughts on it. I have been using my Yggdrasil long enough now since my last post to say that if I had to choose between it and my VPI Classic 3 with Miyajima Shilabe and Graham Slee phono preamps I would choose the Yggdrasil. It does everything my vinyl play back does only better. Like I got an even better table and cartridge. I do not have experience with the DACs you do so I can only read reviews and yours are very much appreciated. I am keeping my VPI of course because it’s a hobby. And because the VPI lends itself so easily to swapping out tone arms, at some point I want to get another tone arm and mono cartridge and try that when the time and funds are available. As a side note about my best sound into my Yggy via SD card playback through a Logitech Touch via the enhanced usb output, well for fun I added a Schiit Wyrd. While the folks at Schiit are remaining “Swiss” as they say on sonic benefits, it most definitely made a noticeable improvement. Maybe its the very precise clean voltage, maybe it’s a shorter and different usb cable. The important thing is it’s a hobby and when the wife says “Wow, that sounds good , what did you do?” you’re on to something! Thank you for another fine review.

  8. and you haven’t even started on the endless possibilities of fine-tuning 🙂 want more dynamics? Attach what is probably the most dynamic cart around – London Decca. But then don’t forget to fit the arm with the silicon damping device designed for Pro-Ject arms by Oracle Audio. And then fine-tune the sound to your heart’s desire (or to the best fit with your room). Want more resolution and less surface-noise? Get an inexpensive cleaning kit from Kuzma, buy an ultrasonic bath on eBay, take your dog for a walk and turn all those second-hand gems into brand new records again… And so it goes 🙂
    (BTW, the jury is still out on the comparative merits of Xtension 10 and modified PRM 10.1)

    • Probably won’t be going there either. Phew! Besides, this was an exercise in seeing how this TT stacked up against digital and not other TTs.

  9. Interesting post John. For me, vinyl’s advantage over digital pretty much begins and ends with how much advantage the vinyl pressing (or a particular vinyl pressing among many) compares to the best available digital version.

    If the vinyl pressing has a huge sonic advantage, then I’ll take the vinyl all day long. If the vinyl was sourced straight from CD, or straight from an identical master as used for the CD, then I have no interest in it. Why should I pay double the money, or more, for something that *at best* can only ever sound just as good as the far cheaper CD, but will almost surely be worse due to surface noise, the possibility of a bad or off centered pressing, far worse channel separation, etc?

    I totally understand people that love collecting vinyl and having something that’s 1 of 500 or 1 of 1000 and the artwork etc and have $50 plastic tables, I know some of those folks personally. That aspect just doesn’t interest me, I’m after the sound, and if the vinyl version of a particular album has the best sound, then that’s what I’ll get.

    The one thing I would caution is that you definitely don’t need to spend $4000+ to get a good sounding vinyl rig. You could for example put together a very capable vinyl rig using a restored vintage direct drive, Shure cart with the Jico SAS or A-T 440MLa, and a relatively affordable Phono pre like the Blackcube for around $1K all in, that I think would be pretty competitive with a $1K digital rig, and in situations where the vinyl version of a particular album is far superior to the digital version, would mop the floor with it. I’ve experienced that with my own ears.

    How often those situations come up I think is the determining factor on whether or not the endeavor is worthwhile. If you primarily listen to music recorded prior to 1990 for example, vinyl is where it’s at, those first pressings are likely unbeatable. Nowadays of course it’s much trickier. I recommend contacting the label and asking them whether or not a particular album has a dedicated vinyl master. Simple DR scores have proven to be too unreliable when it comes to vinyl.

    • Yes great sound can be had from buying second hand for sure but comparing a *used* vinyl rig to a store bought digital rig isn’t a fair ‘fight’ (not that it’s a fight but you know what I mean). Besides, availability and pricing of used goods varies HUGELY across the world.

      • Sure, but at the same time, I could argue that I can build a “CAPS” style computer that can rival the performance of a standalone music server costing thousands for a few hundred dollars. Would that be unfair to compare to vinyl, since it isn’t technically a store bought, “audio product?” I don’t think so. If the question is, what’s the best you can do on a relatively tight budget, for an analog source it’s buying an old school table, and for a digital source it’s some sort of DIY server/streamer.

        Most vinyl fans agree that part of the enjoyment of listening to vinyl comes from going to record stores and browsing for hidden gems. The same applies to these old decks I think. Hunting for deals is part of the fun. I’m not sure what the situation is like down under, but at least here in the states, there are loads of these old tables floating around, including many that are full resto-mods.

        Some companies have even sprouted up specializing in certain designs, such as Vinyl Nirvana that sells restored and modernized classic Thorens tables, which starts to blur the line on what is a “store bought” product.

        Also, there’s a major difference between analog and digital in that digital sources have only gotten better with the march of time. There are some legendary DACs that can still bring a good fight to any modern DAC – the Spectral SDR-2000 Pro, Mark Levinson No. 30.6, and Theta Gen Va to name a few, but for the most part, digital is better now than it ever has been.

        For analog, that’s not really true, at least not at moderate price levels. Classic tables are going to have a really hard time taking on something like a Spiral Groove, Amazon, or Dr. Feickert, but today’s sub $1K designs are just not that spectacular, as you’ve noted. They don’t build them like they used to, because they can’t. Pro-Ject sells a lot of tables, but they still have nowhere *near* the kind of economies of scale that companies like Pioneer, Kenwood, Yamaha, Denon, and JVC had during the days when the only options were vinyl and 8-track. That kind of sales volume allowed them to put in engineering resources and spend on materials that you just couldn’t do today will trying to stay profitable. So it’s not just that buying a used table can get you the same performance for less money, it’s that it can get you *better* performance for less money.

        • Comparing CAPS servers to more expensive servers and/or vinyl is totally because those computer parts are available right now to everyone. I could order mobo, RAM, CPU, case, power supply and SoTM (?) soundcard right now and I would pay (pretty much) the same as you. Like you, I could have a CAPS up and running inside a week, maybe less. It’s a level playing field of availability, condition, specification and price.

          Used turntables (like used anything) are different. They are MUCH more prone to availability and price variations. Want a Lenco L75 right now? You can’t just go out and buy one or order one direct from a website. By their vary nature, each is DIFFERENT due to age, wear and tear etc. But not only must I locate one on the used market but living down under I might pay a much higher price than I would in the UK or USA. Just as someone looking for a used pair of Aussie-made Lenehan ML1 standmounts would pay more in the USA or UK.

  10. Given sufficient time digital will win over analogue so long as recording studios continue to use computing power to record and master sound, it makes sense to keep the path continuous avoiding noise during the DA conversion which again is a digital representation of analogue. Current analogue technology is pretty much state of the art having had decades of development, digital on the other hand is in it’s infancy. Stick with it and it will eventually trounce Thomas Edison’s great invention. Till then we will enjoy the battle between camps during the transitional phase, lovely!

  11. Why such a hassling with all of these…. it’s just fun and ultimately it’s all about music that you like.
    Enjoy the music

    • Hassling, what hassling. It’s an investigation to see if a high end TT + phono stage can best a digital rig. It can. Job done, no hassle.

  12. Yep, its a crap shoot combining components to get the right sound, whether digital or analogue . Thanks for the insight on the mix and match – very useful as is Reichert’s substitution of 6 different amps to see how they drove Magnepans .7’s in the current issue of Stereophile. This is the kind of info we need and I find more comparisons here than anywhere else. Thanks. P.S any chance you could substitute a Schiit Wyred with inexpensive USB cables for the $1,000 USB cable you use and report on the sound difference?

    • “P.S any chance you could substitute a Schiit Wyred with inexpensive USB cables for the $1,000 USB cable you use and report on the sound difference?”.

      Yes, that’s a comin’.

  13. It s one of the best Pro-Ject designs to date, and given the company s history of making record players, that s saying a lot. If you re shopping for a complete turntable setup between $3500 and $4000, be sure to listen to the Pro-Ject s SuperPack combo of Classic Xtension 10 Evolution and Sumiko BlackBird.

  14. This concurs with an extended listening session I had at a mate’s place two months ago. The sources were:
    – PS Audio DirectStream ( with the latest firmware)
    -Dr Feickert Woodpecker Turntabe (

    The Woodpecker won hands down, although it costs around $7000. I’m not really fussed with the whole vinyl vs digital debate but artifacts and tonal colouring aside, the turntable was more musical across a range of genres.
    I thinking testing turntables vs DACs in the same price bracket is appropriate and fair.

  15. Great reading. I’d just like to add one point: the dynamic compression during the mastering phase is typically much higher on digital than on vinyl (including with HDtracks’). This is very noticeable on albums from the mid-90’s onwards. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication and Stadium Arcadium are the most obvious, but also the lasted from the War on Drugs and Arcade Fire.
    The Dynamic Range Database ( is a great place to verify this.
    Hence, if dynamic range is something you value this would be a big +1 to vinyl, IMO.

    • Yup, I’m fully across the issue of dynamic range compression and am a regular over at the DR db site. Whilst I’m sure some releases see different masters cut for vinyl and digital releases, is that the case for the majority or minority?

  16. Hi,

    Thanks for the good read… Another thing I may suggest you try is a dedicated TT stand/platform in place of the mdf Ikea, even if the high mass and overall design of the Pro-ject adressess external vibration isolation and dissipation.. Plus, it doesn’t have to be a store bought high end platform.. A DIY solution or a custom furnituire maker can get you there.. Real wood, solid steel, lead shot, sand, granite, CLD, etc.. Or just try a massive high quality buthcher’s block for starters on your Ikea.. I also find High output MC carts lacking IMHO.. I would rather go with a low output MC in that price range.. If the LIO has MC inputs try the next step up low output MC from Dynavector.. Or better yet a less expensive, and less hi-fi’ish DenonDL-301II (to my ears at least..)

    These may just let you enjoy the vinyl experience more…

    • Funny you should mention that – got a dedicated rack coming next week. Mind you, the IKEA Expedit full of records is reasonably inert and – perhaps more importantly – non-specialised and easy to relate to. Anyone maxing out their budget on a new TT will likely keep the rack for another day. Besides, my focus with this review was to see if a larger dollar drop on vinyl rig could best a financially comparable digital rig. Adding isolation platforms and the like distorts the simplicity of the approach taken here.

      • Hi John,

        It’s cool you’re getting a new rack..

        All your points were well taken. My thiughts were merely a ‘moving onwards’ thing, not a critique of the review.. I just shared my experience with MDF shelving, no matter how heavy or inert. It imparts something that detracts from the experience. Unless it’s like the Pro-ject plinth that is a mix of MDF and other materials.. That’s why trying out a quality wood butcher’s block in top of the Ikea might be something relevatory without much monetary outlay.. And I guess if you still used the Debut, it wouldn’t matter much if that was mounted on the Ikea alone… Anyway, it’s a moot point now. Enjoy the new upcoming audio rack.

  17. Hi John,
    Great review and insight. Totally agree that vinyl rig under say $2K can be underwhelming. As with everything it is about system matching. Most memorable system was few years back at RMAF – 1940’s RCA fridge size speaks with 3Watt single ended amps and a massive 120 lbs turntable – the resulting music was so palpable and so live sounding that it made the equipment stage for the performance. Both vinyl and digital have its own merits but the ultimate playback for the ultimate experience requires a lot’s of listening, investigation, endurance and passion. Thank you for shedding the light on some of the paths that can be safely taken without going into the darkness of the uncertainty…

  18. Mike Middleton, You are like the guy who always buys a chevy and has no clue what its like to drive a BMW. People who LOVE music as I do WILL spend whatever it takes to be happy in their own listening rooms. BTW Digital is never going to win anything, its been lying to us ever since the 1980’s, even the kidz today know it, are you serious?? And nowadays they don’t want you to own anything its all in the cloud! This is the same thing they did back in the eighties (throw away your records) go light and digital sounds superior to vinyl …Bullshit.

  19. I thought you were being to easy on him. I really like your review of the Xtension 10. I use the Clear Audio Maestro V2 on this table and it is very nice indeed …way better than any Phillips, MSB, OPPO, Theta, McIntosh, Saber Dac, Wolfson Dac, What ever dac. Digital is what I play to warm my system up to play Vinyl. My system is : Dynaudio Contour 3.0 speakers, REL B2 sub, Pro-Ject Xtension 10 w/CA Maestro v2 ebony, Manley Labs Chinook phono pre, Manley Labs Jumbo Shrimp line stage, McIntosh MC352 power amp. Regards,

    Matt M

    • I don’t go hard on anyone unless they’re being an out-and-out dickwad. However, the Pro-Ject review illustrates one specific example of where, to these ears, vinyl betters digital…but even writing that sounds too generalised. Is it always the case? Absolutely not – and certainly not at the entry-level. Mind you, the Pioneer PLX-1000 loaded with the same Dyn 10×5 cart is keeping some of my DACs honest.