The turntable range from Pro-Ject now extends to 23 models, so it’s no wonder that when a new one comes along, it can wind up with a rather unwieldy name. The Debut Carbon Esprit SB is so-called because it is has a ‘Debut’ plinth and is top of that parituclar range, ‘Carbon’ becaue of the carbon fibre tonearm and ‘Esprit’ because that’s an old Pro-Ject appellation for acrylic platter models. Which leaves ‘SB’ and that stands for Speed Box, which is not a separate box but denotes electronic speed switching. So there is a logic to the nomenclature, albeit not one that extends to the name appearing on the turntable itself; in fact, there is no visible branding at all. In an effort not to fill the review by repeating this deck’s full title, I’ll call it Debut from now on.
This attractive turntable is supplied with an Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge installed in the headshell of the one-piece carbon-fibre tonearm. All you have to do to set the arm up is twist on the counterweight until the arm is balanced then attempt to align the zero point on the dial with the peg sticking out the back of the bearing. It would be easier if there were a mark along the top of the arm stub to align the downforce dial, but you can get pretty close to the desired 1.8 gram tracking force by eye from the cartridge end. Anti-skate bias is provided by a weight and thread as has always been the case with Pro-Ject arms, and while it’s a slightly fiddly business to put on you only have to do it once. It’s interesting to note that Rega has abandoned bias adjustment on its entry level arms because moving magnet cartridges tend to have similar downforce and anti-skate requirements. This saves them money and us fiddling around, and so is a welcome – if perhaps controversial – move.
The Debut is a nicely executed piece of equipment with the advantage of electronic speed switching, the latter being an intuitive system; press once and the 33.3rpm light flashes until speed is stabilized, press twice for 45 or one long press will turn it off. You can even have the platter spin at 78rpm if you move the belt to the larger pulley, but a cartridge change is required. Dust is kept at bay with a plastic lid, an underrated accessory that few ‘serious’ turntables offer to their detriment, and power is provided by a wall-wart supply. The arm base has a pair of RCA phono output sockets and an earth point, so it’s easy to upgrade the arm cable. However, the Connect-IT E cable supplied is quite a smart example with a clear casing and twisted pair wires inside. The inclusion of an acrylic platter on this Debut is described as “an excellent playback platform” by its maker, but it’s notable that there are only three models equipped with this type of platter in the range and these are found at the top of the budget turntables. Most of the ‘bigger’ models use aluminium sandwich platters with a mat.
The Debut has a smooth and easy to enjoy presentation. It is particularly good at rendering the flow of the music regardless of style and this, combined with a high degree of finesse for the price, makes it the perfect partner if you want to chill. But given that the affordable end of the turntable market caters to a younger audience these days chilling is more appropriate. In truth, this Debut is probably still a little bit pricey for teenagers or students and it doesn’t have facilities like an onboard phono stage, USB output, or Bluetooth connectivity – all of which potentially bodes well for sound quality, if not necessarily ‘youf’ appeal.