Project Audio makes a number of turntables of which the Essential II model is one that comes with or without a built-in phono stage(moving magnet MM) and or with the addition of a USB port for converting analogue to digital files, via an open source computer program recording software called Audacity.
We received the Essential II Phono USB model that comes with a built in phonostage and USB. There are 3 colors options for the plinth of the Essential II series, namely White, Black and Red. We received the white one for our review.
Inside the Box:
The Project Essential II Phono USB came securely packed in a cardboard box with sufficient amount of cardboard packing materials to support the dust cover, plinth and platter. Adequate amount of packing materials are used and in that order from top to bottom. Everything is well laid out and easy to remove. The User manual, plinth mat, RCA interconnects with ground cable and the belt all come packed in the same plastic bag. The platter is packed separately and held over a cardboard piece, below the dust cover. The tonearm counterweight is held in place in a foam recess which is taped over to avoid its movement. The wall wart power adaptor is packed in a separate white box and placed below the plinth. A small zip lock bag contains the anti-skating weight and a head shell shim for using with another cartridge. The tone arm with a Ortofon OM5E moving magnet phono cartridge come factory fitted to the plinth, along with the motor and pulley also being attached. A 45 rpm record adaptor and an allen key come separately packed in a small plastic zip lock pouch.
The outer box can be re-used a couple of times, though I doubt anyone will do so once the turntable is assembled.
Packing Quality – 4/5
Since the Essential II Phono USB comes, semi disassembled, one needs to put the following in place to get it going. The first thing to attach to the plinth is the platter with the felt mat and with the motor assembly via a silicone rubber belt and plastic pulley with a stainless steel shaft and bronze bushing with Teflon bottom. The main platter bearing is made of stainless steel. The motor has 2 grooves to play either 33 & 1/3 and 45 RPM records. Once that is done, one should put the tone arm weight onto the tone arm shaft at the back end and adjust to balance the tone arm post which dial in the VTA for the pre fitted OM5E cartridge. Next step is to attach the fiddly little anti skating weight which is one of the irritating things of Project Turntables. The last thing to do will be attaching the dust cover and connecting the power socket and RCA interconnects to the turntable at one end and to the amplifier at the other. The Essential II turntable does look very smart especially in white mat coloured plinth that is made of MDF.
Build Quality – 3/5
The synchronous motor of the Essential II is silent, has minimal vibration which results in clear coherent sound being produced via the inclusion of the excellent value for money Ortofon OM5E moving magnet cartridge. The sound reproduction is dynamic and musical across almost all types of genres of music played. The 8.6” aluminium uni pivot bearing tone arm is very light and needs to be balanced optimally to get the balance perfect as well as make the OM5E cartridge perform at its best. The good thing is that it is pre-fitted from the factory which makes the users life that much easier. We did convert a few songs off a record to digital, using audacity, which is quite easy to use and serves the purpose.
The Project Essential II Phono USB model is an ideal model amongst the Project turntables range for people who want to get into the world of vinyl. It is very easy to set up and subsequently plays your music quite well. With the digital option (USB), one is also able to convert their music on vinyl to digital format via Audacity. The playback and conversion quality is decent and just about enough for one to develop their hobby and learn a great deal about vinyl in general. We recommend buyers to start their vinyl journey with the Essential II series turntable and go for one which provides the options as suited to their requirements. One can also upgrade the cartridge to a Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet phono cartridge for better sonic performances and use an outboard phonostage but we personally feel that the Ortofon OM5E and the built in phonostage are more than enough to give the desired sonic results with the Essential II.
At Rs.45000/- ex Mumbai, the Project Essential II USB is a very decent buy for those looking at converting their favourite songs from analogue to digital format. For more information related to Project Turntables, please visit Recordplayer India