Pro-Ject Xtension – Ortofon 12es high end hangkarral, headshellel
Manual turntable with built in Pro-Ject Speed Box SE
The high-end classic!
We at Pro-Ject aim to bring back a classical analog concept from the eighties, and combine it with our advanced contemporary technologies. After eighteen years of turntable manufacturing for analog lovers on a budget, we’re delighted to announce our first deck not subscribed to budgetary limitations.
Already, the critically acclaimed 6perspeX has proved the fantastic result of using magnets to isolate the subchassis. So consequently, for the Xtension this technology has been re-developed to utilise new magnetic feet, which almost completely decouple the main plinth. With these two magnets located in the feet, the turntable is practically floating. Combine this with the weighty 30 kg total mass of the turntable, and the listener benefits from minimal base resonance. This is a unique combination of ‘mass loaded’ and ‘floating turntable’ design principals.In keeping with these principles, the platter is metal due to its high mass. The old standard adoption of pure metal has been abandoned because of its highly-resonant tendencies. Instead, we’ve found a perfect alloy which we dampened on the inner side with Sorbothane®. Taking this base, we’ve glued recycled Vinyl records to the top (which act as a perfect mat) and bake this ‘sandwich’ before precision balancing it. The final product subsequently benefits from a wonderfully resonance-free, heavy platter. Another consideration was the amount of energy the tonearm base would have to take from arm and cartridge movement. These energies have to be controlled, as do those from the motor and the bearing (they have to be kept away from the tonearm to avoid interference). Consequently, the tonearm base on the Xtension 12 Evolution also benefits from ‘high-mass’ technologies, and is isolated from the main board by a sheet of Sorbothane®. Importantly though, this board is still able to incorporate the adoption of different tonearms. As we originally premised with this turntable, to be in keeping with its ‘classic’ ethos, the Xtension comes with a beautiful dustcover with adjustable hinges.
The Xtension 12 Evolution comes standard with the premium tonearm cable 5pin > RCA cable. For an optimal connection to the Phono Box RS or RS2, the symmetrical premium tonearm cable 5pin > XLR is available separately. Phono Box RS and RS2 offer balanced phono inputs, what guarantees superior results in high-end vinyl reproduction with a balanced signal source.
What Hi-Fi? Verdict
The Xtension isn’t perfect but it proves Project can compete at all price levels
- +A smooth, engaging listen
- +good build
- +offers 33.3/45 and 78rpm speeds
- +easy to set-up and use
- +fully adjustable arm
- -Lacks the resolution and bite of the class leaders
- -large size may make it hard to accommodate on some racks
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
When it comes to budget turntables there is no doubt that Pro-ject is king.
The company’s Debut and Genie models have dominated the sub-£250 sector for more years than we care to remember, picking up plenty of five-star reviews and Awards along the way.
However, leading the budget arena also means Pro-ject has a relatively downmarket image.
The company has never gained the kind of reverence the likes of Clearaudio, Linn and Michell enjoy, despite making a whole range of higher-priced record players.
The Xtension is Pro-ject’s attempt to show the world that it’s a great turntable manufacturer at all price levels, not just budget.
This is a huge deck finished in a high quality wood veneer. Our olive-covered sample is particularly fetching, although it is also available in cherry, apple and black gloss.
You can buy the turntable on its own for three grand, but our review deck came with a £1500 Ortofon RS-309D tonearm, which adds £1000 to the price if bought as part of the Xtension package.
Turntable/arm combos aren’t much use without a decent cartridge, and our sample was supplied with an Ortofon Jubilee: a well proven and talented moving coil design that will set you back £1500.
Use a dedicated support for best results
By high-end turntable standards the Xtension package is easy to set up. The beautifully finished MDF plinth is solid, leaving isolation duties to a quartet of magnetically sprung feet.
These do a good job, but the deck – like any turntable – will still perform best on a dedicated support placed as far away from the speakers as possible.
Mains power is delivered by a plug-mounted adaptor and passed through a high quality internal speed controller: the Xtension has a digital display to show exact speed, and can be adjusted in steps of 0.1rpm to get it exactly right.
Unusually, the deck has provision to play 78rpm disc, too, though this entails moving the belt manually from one pulley to a larger one.
Thankfully, switching from 33 to 45rpm is a more simple affair, done at just the press of a button.
The hefty aluminium platter weighs in at almost 6kg and is topped by a layer of vinyl that acts as the mat for the record.
The whole assembly sits on a magnetically supported inverted bearing, tipped by a ceramic ball. It sounds flash, and it is.
Adjustable, user-friendly arm
Ortofon’s RS-309D arm is a fully adjustable 12in affair with a detachable headshell to make cartridge swapping easy.
The longer than average length (most arms are 9in) means tracking error is reduced, which should lead to cleaner results, although this does come at the expense of rigidity and extra moving mass.
All thoughts of trade-offs disappear, however, when the stylus drops into the record groove. This Pro-ject has a fluid, easy going sound that can’t help but concentrate the listener’s attention on the recording.
It’s a turntable that puts listenability ahead of outright analysis, and as a result don’t be surprised if you end up playing records late into the night. We did.
Nothing intrudes into the musical experience of the Xtension; it just gets on with the job without adding too much of itself into proceedings.
Sure, it isn’t wholly transparent: very low-level detail is slightly rounded and dynamic extremes reined in, but neither of these confuses the musical message.
You get the full dose of sweetness from Bob Marley’s Stir It Up, along with articulate bass and decent timing, and when you switch to Holst’s Jupiter, scale and power are in plentiful supply.
Nevertheless, there is no shortage of talented rivals for this deck. The best at this price can offer more insight and deliver that extra detail with greater force and stability.
That said, the Xtension’s job was to prove that Pro-ject was capable of making competitive high-end products.
Spend any significant length of time with this turntable and you’ll realise that’s exactly what it does.