Pro-Ject Essential II Tonearm, Cartridge, and Stylus
The tonearm on the Project Essential II is actually very simple. Don’t confuse that with low quality though. The bearing have no slack or back-and-forth play. On the back end there is a small fishing hanging on the end of a thread. This acts as a mechanism to limit skating. It counters the forces that the tonearm encounters that cause it to be pulled toward the record. It might look a bit hanky, but it really works well.
This is the same tonearm that you will find on the basic Debut from Pro-Ject. It’s made of aluminium and is 8.6 inches long. It is a great step up from the single “uni-pivot” bearing arm found on the first Essential turntable. Pro-Ject wisely abandoned that arm and upgraded to this far superior one.
The cartridge included with the Essential II is the Ortofon OM5 MM. It comes out of the box already wired, aligned and ready to play.
This is a very good cartridge, especially compared to the lackluster ones that are usually packaged with turntables. Usually when you buy a new table you expect that you will have to replace the cartridge, not with this one.
This is just another way that Pro-Ject delivers a great product while keeping the costs minimal for you.
Pro-Ject Essential II Platter, Plinth and Motor
The plinth is made of MDF which is a high density heavy wood composite. It’s square and black. It’s not fancy and doesn’t pretend to be. I like the minimalist look it has, but not everyone agrees. Whatever your opinion on looks is you have to admit that it works well. On the bottom are rubber feet that are deceptively simple looking, but do a great job of isolating the turntable from outside vibrations.
The single platter piece is also made of low-resonance MDF. It drops directly onto an inverted stainless steel bearing with a bronze bushing and a Teflon bottom, ensuring very low friction. Since there is no smaller sub platter you will need to install the best on the edge of the large platter piece and motor shaft. The edge does not have a groove on it and it can be somewhat frustrating to install the belt the first time. Though, it is only frustrating compared to the extreme ease the rest of the setup is.
The motor runs very quietly and boasts a new motor control and DC power supply. It turns a silicone belt, which then turns the platter.
The new motor components eliminate any electrical interference, and the belt removes any mechanical interference.
To get the best sound you need your turntable to be completely isolated from the outside world, the motorplatter has to spin at a precise speed with no fluctuations, the stylus mus be accurately placed securely in the grooves, and the tonearm must be free from unwanted vibrations.
All of these concerns are handled very efficiently. Frankly, the efficiency of engineering that the Essential II displays is amazing.
Pro-Ject Essential II Inputs and Outputs
The Pro-Ject Essential 2 has RCA outs. (That’s the red and white leftright plugs) and includes an RCA cable to output sound to your preamp or receiver. There is also an included grounding wire that will need to be connected.
Pro-Ject Essential II Sound Quality
How does the Pro-Ject Essential 2 sound? The TL;DR answer is: great!
When you listen to a good turntable playing a well made record you instantly can tell that this was the way music was meant to be listened to. The sound is just more relaxed and open. You might not automatically think to yourself “the bass is so much fuller” or “the vibrato in his voice is very pronounced”, you just relax and think “that sounds great”.
The mid-range is extremely focused and clear. The sound is full, detailed, and rich. The voices are clear and vibrant and the instruments sound like they are playing in the room.
Everything about this turntable is designed to make this mid-priced table sound like a $1000+ table. They have done an excellent job. If you want to hear what music sounds like on high-end tables but can’t afford it, then this is exactly what you’re looking for.
Pro-Ject Essential II Upgrades and Adjustments
As I mentioned before, the Essential 2 turntable was very tightly engineered around the specific included components to give you better sound than you normally get at this price point. The trade-off of this is that you can’t upgrade or adjust much on this table.
It is possible to upgrade the cartridge, though you might not see much of an improvement. Due to the table being built around the included Ortofon OM 5E cartridge and the lack of adjustments and upgrades elsewhere, it probably isn’t worth it.
This is perfectly fine though. In my opinion, nothing about this record player needs to be upgraded. It should serve you very well for many years.
The only “adjustment” you might need to make is if the dust cover presses against the tonearm during playback. I haven’t had a problem with this, but I have read about some people who have. If this happens you can simply place a little piece of plastic or penny or something to keep it slightly open during playback. Again, I have never had this happen to me, but if you come across it then keep this solution in mind.
I hope I’m not beating this point into the ground too much, but I’m going to say it again. The Pro-Ject Essential II turntable is named very appropriately. It gives you the “essentials” needed to give you a great Hi-Fi sound, but not much else.
The sound is great. You cannot do much better in this price range. Period.
The decision you have to make is if you can do without bells and whistles like an automatic tonearm or a knob to easily change speeds. The look of the Essential 2 is also not for everyone. It is very minimalist.
If sound quality rules and everything else comes second, then you will be very happy with this turntable!