Pro-Ject Xtension 10 setup and first impressions

It’s been ages since I took delivery of a new turntable; then again, I’ve never had anything this advanced.  One should be a bit impressed when a 50kg crate shows up at the side door.  I felt like I was back to working in a warehouse again!  And it took all I had to maneuver it through the side door and up the landing into the kitchen.

The Pro-Ject Xtension 10 is well packed.  It comes in a wooden crate, with all the major components separated by thick stacks of Styrofoam.  Setup really is not too difficult, as it involves putting the heavy platter on the bearing, attaching the feet, and attaching various bits and pieces.  Lugging the finished unit to a suitable temporary table was a chore in itself, due to its weight.

The hardest part, as always, is getting the cartridge aligned and mounted, and that took awhile mainly due to the finicky setup parameters of the Ortofon 2M Black (the Shibata stylus needing to have exacting setup to perform properly).  Having plenty of adjustability in the tonearm did help–that is one drawback to the Grace tonearm, in that there were a couple of adjustments I could not easily make.  Not to mention the inability to align the cartridge to a Lofgren A alignment.

The alignment still needs some tweaking at this point.  I will have another go at it when my eyes are refreshed, and I can print a couple of different alignment grids to cross-check my work with.  In addition, I need a way to view the stylus rake angle, and that may involve borrowing or buying a USB microscope.

I can say, however, that my first impression is that the music has taken on a clarity and solidity I have never heard from my own vinyl before (outside of the demo rooms, of course).  On a rather new vinyl acquisition, Kevin Eubanks’ Zen Food (on Mack Avenue Records), the sound of the vinyl is so steady and clear that you’d swear you had a digital hi-res file playing back.  The quiet surfaces of this LP help tremendously.

Two things work in its favor for speed stability and clarity.  The platter of this turntable is massive.  Literally.  Its high mass acts as a flywheel.  But what good is a flywheel if it is not fed “pure” energy?  The Xtension 10 also includes Pro-Ject’s Speed Box DS circuitry built in.  It is not a filter (like a couple of other turntable manufacturers use).  Rather, it is a unit that uses DC voltage to regenerate a clean 60Hz sine wave to feed to the AC motor.  (AC motors’ speeds are determined by the input frequency, not the voltage.)  With the motor being free of the “crud” that comes off of our electric grid, the motor rotates without any of the variations or “cogging” that this crud can cause.

The high mass of the turntable also dampens vibrations from the vinyl itself.  You notice this by way of a “blackness” from which the music emanates, along with a revealed strength in the bass performance.  I noticed this when stepping up from my Denon direct-drive to the Walker, and now an even bigger step up from the Walker to this turntable.  Good 180 gram vinyl is almost whisper quiet now, and the bass solidity and strength is “nailed”.

I will get into comparisons with other turntables I auditioned locally, but the short version is that for the types of music I’m listening to as of late, the Pro-Ject offered me the most musical and natural representation of all of them (although the contenders were really close).  With the included dust cover and built-in Speed Box DS, and an incredible Audiogon deal, the whole thing kind of came together somewhat quicker than I’d imagined, being an incredible value.

The coming weeks will feature more tweaking and listening impressions. Stay tuned.


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