With the current analog revival showing no signs of slowing down, and the prices of today’s best gear continuing to escalate, it’s only natural for audio companies to expand their offerings upmarket. Indeed, at least two turntable manufacturers traditionally associated with great entry-level designs have recently reached price heights that would give Jimmy Stewart’s “Scotty” Ferguson a serious bout of vertigo.
One is Rega. I wrote a highly enthusiastic review of its $3000 RP8 in Issue 234, which was recently followed by the RP10 ($5500), and a possible ultra-limited-edition, cost-no-object design has been seen and reported on as being in the prototype stage. The other is Pro-Ject, whose upper-end HL Signature sells for $12,000, followed by the $3999 Xtension 12, and the model under review here, the $2999 Xtension 10.
Of course, both companies still produce fine lower-cost models. And as a longtime analog lover familiar with both lines it’s been fun for me to explore the outer limits of both companies’ technologies—which are fundamentally opposite in approach.
Rega, of course, has made its mark with designs that focus on low mass combined with high rigidity. The company’s top models push that thinking to new levels, while seriously upping the ante in the materials used and the refinement of construction. But Pro-Ject’s top models take what is arguably the more widely followed high-mass route. For example, Rega’s RP8 weighs in at a flea-weight 16 pounds. By contrast, the Xtension 10 weighs 48 pounds.
As the name suggests, the Xtension 10 is a slightly scaled-down edition of the Xtension 12 (the model numbers refer to the length of the carbon-fiber Evolution ’arms found on each ’table), with a smaller footprint but similar weight. As U.S. importer Sumiko’s literature says of this model, “The Xtension 10 represents [Pro-Ject’s] latest technological efforts to address mass-decoupling and resonance reduction.”
The foundation of the design is a mass-loaded, magnetically-floated sub-chassis, atop which sits a 3"-tall, 12.6-pound platter fashioned from a sandwich of recycled vinyl and aluminum alloy (a weighted record puck is included). The precision ceramic bearing is friction-free (as a quick flick of the beltless platter showed during the hassle-free assembly process), and the platter is belt-driven via a three-speed AC motor whose speed is regulated by a built-in electronic controller. An LED display flush-mounted to the front right on the plinth’s top surface shows the exact speed, while a trio of buttons selects the speed (33.3, 45, 78), as well as minus and plus in tenths of an rpm. (Some audiophiles may feel inclined to tweak the speed ever so slightly; I am not among them. But to do so simply hold the buttons down for a few seconds.) The ’table rests on magnetic decoupling feet to minimize mechanical and airborne vibrations, and base finishes are the high-gloss black lacquer supplied for review, a reddish mahogany, or blond olive wood.
Continuing the theme of mass and decoupling, the 10cc Evolution tonearm ($1299 when purchased alone) is fitted to a Sorbothane mounting board. The tonearm’s tube and headshell are fabricated from a single piece of carbon-fiber (said to minimize standing-wave reflections), though personally I wish the finger-lift were a tad longer (until I got used to its relative shortness I found it would sometimes slip, potentially dangerously, off my fingertip). Azimuth and VTA are easily adjusted, and I love that the ’arm comes supplied with a handful of different counterweights in order to match various cartridge weights (4-6g, 5-8g, 6-10g, and 8-14g) and therefore maximize proximity to the tonearm’s pivot point.