Pro-Ject must have every possible price point covered in the affordable turntable market, yet it's managed to find space for a new entry-level model in its upmarket RPM range. With its distinctively shaped and beautifully finished plinth, the RPM 5 is one of the best looking sub-$1000 decks around. Cartridges start from $39.
The RPM 5 has a piano lacquered MDF plinth on three pointy aluminium feet. The plinth supports a 'quiet running', rubber-decoupled AC motor that drives a sub platter. A block of metal adds mass to the bearing which uses a Teflon pad in a bronze housing to support the MDF platter. The latter is topped with a cork mat, which makes a change, and you are encouraged to hold your vinyl down with a threaded clamp.
The deck features Project's 9c carbon-fibre tonearm, an impressive component on a turntable at this price. Carbon fibre has the advantage of a high stiffness to weight ratio. So, it's strong and light as well as having high internal damping, which means it copes with spurious energy rather better than the more commonly-used aluminium. The drawback with carbon fibre is that it's hard to form into complex shapes like a headshell, so that part is glued on aluminium, as is the junction with the bearing. That said, it offers adjustability and build quality is well up to the mark.
Connection to the outside world is via phono sockets, using either the supplied cable or virtually any interconnect. This makes for an easy and inexpensive upgrade route.
The RPM 5 has a clarity and solidity that many can only dream of. It's only real limitation is bass depth - there's plenty of energy and shape to low frequency sounds, but the depths are not likely to be plumbed. Against this, it delivers a lovely sense of pace - double bass has great snap and when combined with drums, the rhythmic drive is entirely convincing.
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It does a good job of sorting out stereo imaging, managing to track the variations in left and right channels finely enough to create a good sense of depth and a solid presentation of instruments and voices. There is a security to the soundstage combined with a degree of sonic definition that you just can't get with cheaper turntables.
The supplied cartridge lacks the refinement of more costly needles, and there's no doubt the deck is good enough to show the benefit of an upgrade in this department. But as a complete $850 'plug and play' package, this neat little deck will take some beating.
Pro-Ject RPM 5 Â¦ $849 Â¦ Â¦ www.internationaldynamics.com.au
For: Snappy timing and an attractive design
Against: It'll need regular dusting to keep it shiny as there is no lid; bandwidth extremes limited by cartridge
Verdict: As a package it's excellent value for money.