Turntables are inconvenient. That’s the nature of the beasts. They have to be large enough to accommodate and spin a 12″ vinyl disc, along with all the accoutrements. They range from hulking, massive monstrosities that take an entire village to move, down to minimalist cutouts that are barely more than a rotating platter and a tonearm floating on a pedestal. What’s exciting about the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO ($499) is the potential for down-the-rabbit-hole tweaks married to almost absurd simplicity.
That simplicity is a beautiful illusion. The Carbon EVO is Pro-Ject’s upgrade to its popular entry-level deck, and it adds some very interesting features: an improved motor suspension, height-adjustable damped-metal feet, dampening material in the interior of the platter, and speed-swapping at the flip of a switch. Plus, Pro-Ject now bundles the EVO with the Sumiko Rainier cartridge, which is a solid performer. All this augments what was an already attractive, high-quality package, which includes Pro-Ject’s 8.6″ carbon-fiber tonearm with easy-to-use RCA outputs. The Carbon EVO doesn’t come with the built-in phono preamp that many manufacturers shove in there at this price point, but I definitely didn’t mind its absence.
The EVO feels premium. That was the first thing that came to mind. The sleek, glossy finish, the gorgeous tonearm, the solid weight…all made the Carbon EVO seem like a step beyond a standard entry-level deck. I love that it comes in more than one color, and while my review unit was a staid white, I wouldn’t mind checking out the satin-blue, or green, or yellow models. Aesthetics are important, maybe not as important as sound, but we do have to live with these things, after all, and I hate staring at ugly stuff.
But what impressed me the most was the easy setup, something that seems more and more necessary for an entry-level deck. Turntables are tweaky, and yes, very inconvenient, but the best entry models distill that set-up process into something manageable, something that won’t frustrate and completely annoy a first-time future audiophile. It’s an interesting dance of packaging and instructions, but Pro-Ject got it right. The EVO took me under ten minutes to set up, and everything felt dialed-in and ready to go almost immediately. Since I’ve installed more than a few of these entry-level ’tables at this point, I didn’t have to refer back to the manual over and over again; nonetheless, Pro-Ject did a fantastic job of making the steps as simple and straight-forward as possible. Kudos to the designers on that one. I particularly loved the adjustable feet, which made leveling the deck as easy as placing a bubble on the platter. I stuck to using only what Pro-Ject provided for the initial install, then double-checked everything using my own gear, and have to admit that it was really close to perfect from the start. I’d say a total novice could do this without any problems in a half hour or less, provided he was careful.
I’m particularly fussy, though, which shouldn’t be a surprise. So, in the spirit of that fuss, here are two small quibbles. First, Pro-Ject included a felt platter mat. I know, groans and eyerolls, lots of folks like felt, but I find it particularly abhorrent. I’ve just never liked felt, and this was no exception. Very minor thing, and easily remedied. Second, the power cord is strangely short. It barely reached my power receptacle, which was maybe four feet away. Again, this can be remedied with an aftermarket cord, but be aware of this, and reach out to your dealer or Pro-Ject to ensure that whatever cord you choose works fine.
Those gripes out of the way, in almost every other department the EVO really ticked my boxes and then some. The addition of electronic speed-switching, in particular, is a huge bonus, saving folks from having to lift off the platter and touch the belt every time they want to change from 33 to 45rpm. And, let’s be honest, I can’t imagine many people are actually using a belt-switching tool, so they’re grabbing the belt with their dirty, greasy fingers, and getting the whole drive mechanism filthy. With the EVO, you can eat as much fried food as you want and still jump between your favorite formats.
By Drew Kalbach
I have a degree in English from Temple University and a Masters in Fine Arts with a specialty in poetry from the University of Notre Dame. I’m a full-time self-published author with over 100 books in both romance and men’s adventure fiction.More articles from this editor