i] details product
Essential || Digital
ne of the things most likely
to put off newcomers to
vinyl is the additional
expense of needing to
purchase a dedicated phono stage as
many amplifiers are not fitted with
one. Pro-Ject's Essential II Digital
neatly sidesteps this problem by
having one built in and ready to
connect to any spare line-level input.
It features a built-in moving magnet
phono stage based on Pro-Ject's
Phono Box design.
The 8.6in aluminium tonearm has
a damped cueing lever and is factory
fitted with an Ortofon OM5e moving
magnet cartridge. The turntable is
supported on three adjustable feet. It
is fitted with a heavy MDF black
platter and a black felt platter mat is
also supplied.
Sound quality
To kick off the listening test I select
Handel's Organ Concerto No.1 in G
minor. The orchestra is full, without
being overblown. The bass is well
extended, yet tight and this is
particularly evident in the organ
passages. The top end is clear and
crisp, without sounding harsh. The
strings are rounded and flowing, but
the brass is strident as it should be.
Not bad for a deck and phono stage
costing just over £300.
Next up is a bit of Tchaikovsky's
Capriccio Italien played by the
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. This
is an exuberant presentation, and the
kettle drums in the closing section
give my speaker drivers plenty of
exercise. I feel the Essential II Digital
is in total control at all times. The
soundstage does have a little less
front-to-back depth at times and I get
the impression that the musicians
have moved their chairs a bit closer
together than I am used to hearing.
A recording of Thelma Houston's To
Know You Is To Love You is sparkling
clear and open. The Pro-Ject delivers
a perfectly balanced performance
with the energetic enthusiasm of the
singing combined with the laid-back
orchestral accompaniment on
Pressure Cooker.
Jazz meets baroque with Raymond
Fol's jazz version of a Vivaldi classic
— The Four Seasons In Jazz. The
trumpet solos are clear and strident,
without being abrasive and the
performance is conveyed with great
energy and gusto, especially during
the allegros. The guitar playing in the
second movement of Spring is very
moving and captivating.
So much for the analogue line
output, but how about the digital
out? Although the Essential II Digital
sports a respectable 24-bit/96kHz
ADC, this is only available via an
optical output. In order to test this
facility, I connect a Toslink cable to
the optical input of a Cambridge
Audio Stream Magic V2 (HFC 393)
streamer and the optical output of
the turntable and repeat all of the
previous tests. I must confess that I
anticipate a slight degradation in
sound quality due to the additional
Pro-Ject Essential
Il Digital
Belt-drive turntable
with MM phono
stage & ADC
420 x 112x 330mm
e 33 E 45rpm
e 8.6in aluminium
e Ortofon OM5e
moving magnet
Henley Designs
HFC 401
signal processing required, but I can’t
detect any discernible difference in
quality compared with the line out.
The Essential II Digital punches well
above its price point. Its modern
styling, clever design and the
combination of a line-level analogue
output and a digital output means
that this turntable is about as ‘plug
and play’ as you could ever hope for
from a record deck. The combination
of Ortofon ОМ5е cartridge and
Pro-Ject aluminium tonearm works
really well together.
On the down side, it's a shame not
to see a coaxial and/or USB digital
output included, as this would
considerably enhance the versatility
of the deck. Also, the omission of a
bypass switch to allow it to be used
with an external phono stage seems
a bit of an oversight.
Ultimately, the Essential II Digital
lives up to its billing, and is equipped
with all the essentials to enable it to
be easily added to an existing music
system. It allows new or returning
vinyl fans to discover and experience
the format without the need to
fundamentally change their existing
setup, and so makes a great starter
deck for budding vinylistas. NR
SOUND QUALITY LIKE: Sound quality;
* * * * 7 easy set up; excellent
value for money
* * de * * DISLIKE: Lack of
digital coax or USB
outputs; can't bypass
internal phono stage
* x * x у WESAY: Smart and
re modern-looking
turntable that performs
* * x * well above its price
YEARBOOK 2015 HifiChoice 45
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