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Price (in Poland): 1590 PLN

Contact: Division of Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH  
Margaretenstrasse 98 | A-1050 Wien


Provided for test by: VOICE

There is no doubt that PRO-JECT is one of the driving forces responsible for the renaissance of the vinyl record. Since 1990, with persistence and commitment, it has introduced the next generation of turntables for both beginner and advanced music lovers. At the top of the lineup one will find well known models from the '9' and '10' series as well as their prestigious Signature versions. However, we have to remember that it was the basic models that renewed an interest in the vinyls records, and they still constitute a core of this manufacturer's lineup.

The 1590 PLN Essential Phono is not the cheapest Pro-Ject model - below in the pricelist one will find two other models - Elemental (890 PLN) and Primary (999 PLN) - but it's the Essential that is marketed as "your first audiophile turntable." It was appreciated by the EISA that awarded its basic version with the Best Product 2017-2018 in the Best Value Turntable category.


It's not a coincidence that I write about the "basic" version - by going to the manufacturer's website, you'll find six different versions of this model. Hence the name of the series is "Essential Flexi Range". The idea was to reach different customers with one turntable. The existence of the "Flexi" series seems natural today, but initially it faced some resistance, because somehow this way of thinking stigmatized in the eyes of "true" audiophiles the idea of "pure" analogue. But Mr. Heinz Lichtenegger, the founder and head of the company, is particularly sensitive to the market's pulse, to the needs of the customers and, as it turns out, he was once again right.

The essence of this series is the modification of output and power supply modules. In its basic version, it is simply a turntable with an analog signal supplied from the MM Ortofon OM 10 cartridge, with manual speed adjustment. The 21st century is, however, a “digital” world. To make life easier for people and give them the ability to rip records to computer memory or to connect it to systems that do not have analogue inputs at all, Essential III can be purchased with an additional (to analogue) digital optical output. This will be the 'Digital' model. It can also be connected to our system wirelessly, via the Bluetooth module, that's the 'Bluetooth' model.

Further improvements concern ease of turntable's operation. The 'SB' model offers built-in power-supply adjustment and electronic speed-control, and the Phono version, the one under review, features a built-in phonostage for MM cartridges. At the output we get a linear signal, which can be sent directly to any amplifier or even to active speakers. And there is yet another model, the top one, bearing the proper name of RecordMaster. It features a built-in speed-box and an analog-to-digital converter with a USB output which makes ripping records to a hard drive very easy.


The Essential III Phono is a simple, non-suspended turntable with an asynchronous motor and an 8.6-inch aluminum arm. Each of these elements alone does not make a big impression. Skillfully combined together they offer something special.

The base is made of plain MDF coated with high-gloss lacquer, in one of three colors: black, red or white. The main bearing is small. The platter is made of the same MDF and covered with high gloss black lacquer. The low tolerance platter bearing features spindle of hardened, polished flat steel, sliding on a small ball place in a brass bush. The plate is covered with a thin felt mat.

The asynchronous motor is mounted on the rear and uses an aluminum drive pulley and rubber belt to drive the platter. The pulley was precisely cut with a "diamond" - meaning diamond cutting tools. The motor voltage is supplied from a small wall power supply. The belt has a round cross section.

The tonearm used for the Essential III turntables is shorter than the standard 9". This means greater distortion outside "zero" points where stylus is perfectly parallel to the groove wall. As always, the producer had to operate within certain limits and compromise accordingly. Here he shortened this arm to make it as light and as rigid as possible. Aluminum tube weighs exactly the same as the carbon one in the high-end 9cc EVO arm. In theory, the same cartridges can be used in both of them. Both arms are lightweight, yet they both work exceptionally well with a heavy, low compliance Denon DL-103. Why? - I have no idea, but I love the sound.

| Setup

The Essential III Phono was originally designed as a Plug-n-Play device, ie it is almost ready to play music immediately after unpacking. This makes it easy for anyone unfamiliar with a turntable setup, also for those who are not interested in turntable because they usually require some knowledge to set up. This time, they have only a few simple steps to do: place a mat on the platter, connect the power supply, put on a belt and anti-skating weight and push the counterweight on the arm. The counterweight can be adjusted even without the scale. But if we want to set VTF precisely, the stylus balance will be necessary - I used the beautiful Rega Atlas. The supplied cartridge is factory mounted and set up.

The set includes nice looking pseudo- balanced cables, with solid, gold-plated plugs, sold by Pro-Ject as the Connect it E. We install them in the RCA jacks located on the back of the turntable. They are closed in a small box with a switch that selects whether the signal in the output will be delivered straight from the cartridge – in that case we need an external phono preamplifier - or it will be a linear signal which allows connection directly with preamplifier or integrated amp.

The time needed to install this turntable should not be longer than 15-30 minutes.

The Pro-Ject turntable was tested as a set, ie with the Ortofon factory installed cartridge, in-build phonostage and the Connect to E interconnect. The Essential III Phono was placed on the Acoustic Revive RAF-48H anti-vibration platform, and on the top of the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack. As a reference I used the RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC phonostage. Additionally I also used the Pathe Wings cork mat.

PRO-JECT in “High Fidelity”
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject RPM-9 CARBON – turntable
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject HEAD BOX RS + POWER BOX RS UNI 1 - headphone amplifier + power supply unit
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject RPM-5.1 CARBON – turntable
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject PRE BOX RS – DAC, read HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject BOX DESIGN MaiA – integrated amplifier, read HERE (Polish)
  • AWARD OF THE YEAR 2014: CD BOX RS + PRE BOX RS DIGITAL – Compact Disc transport + D/A converter/preamplifier, read HERE
  • REVIEW: CD BOX RS + PRE BOX RS DIGITAL – Compact Disc transport + D/A converter/preamplifier, read HERE
  • AWARD: BEST SOUND 2014 | Pro-Ject 1XPRESSION CARBON CLASSIC + Ortofon M SILVER - turntable + cartridge, read HERE
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject 1XPRESSION CARBON CLASSIC + Ortofon M SILVER – turntable + cartridge, read HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject Box CD SE + DAC Box FL - CD player + D/A converter, read HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject ART-1 (+ Denon DL-A100) – turntable (+ cartridge), read HERE
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject RPM6 SB + PRO-JECT PHONO BOX SE – turntable + phonostage, read HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject 2XPERIENCE – turntable, read (Polish)HERE
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject RPM5 SUPERPACK – turntable, read HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: Pro-Ject HEAD BOX MkII – headphone amplifier, read HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: The Π Ject Family Saga vol. 1, read HERE (Polish)
  • REVIEW: The Π Ject Family Saga vol. 2, read HERE (Polish)

  • Records used for the test (a selection)

    • Clannad, Nádúr, ARC Music/Music on Vinyl MOLVP908, 180 g LP (2013)
    • Depeche Mode, Cover Me [Remixes], Columbia Records 5483411, 2 x 180 g LP (2017)
    • Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, Warner Bros./Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL-2-441, „Special Limited Edition | No 3000”, 2 x 180 g, 45 RPM LP (1985/2014)
    • Duke Jordan Trio, So Nice Duke, Master Music MSA-001, „Harmonix Master Sound”, 180 g LP (2017)
    • Johann Sebastian Bach, Suites per Violoncello Solo BWV 1011-1012, wyk. Rocco Filippini, „Club of the 496 | Limited Edition No. 086”, Fonè (2016)
    • Skaldowie, Bajka zimowa, Kameleon Records KAMPL 18, 180 g LP (2017)
    • Sun Ra, The Futuristic Sound Of Sun Ra, BYG Records 529 111, LP (1969)

    Japanese issues available at

    Pro-Ject turntables are an excellent example of this company's ability to reconcile fire with water, low price with good performance. Essential III Phono is an incredibly satisfying product. Everything in its sound is in the right place. If we have the right experience and can compare it to more expensive models of this company or more expensive products of competition, we will be easily able to point out the elements which, in the name of this internal consistency, have been sacrificed. It is actually a confirmation of the class of Czech engineers responsible for this construction. There is no other way but to appreciate their efforts to provide such a pleasant sound for such an affordable price.

    The 'good performance' that I mentioned is in this price range equivalent to 'refined sound'. This is another type of refinement, obviously, than in case of expensive turntables. But not less valuable, perhaps even more desirable and commendable. This way novice vinyl fans get their hands on a product that will pull them into the magical world of black records and encourage further development of their interests, perhaps even force them to buy more and more new vinyls.

    The basic value of this presentation is its completeness. Everything here plays with everything, supports everything and in everything. It's a warm, saturated sound embedded on a strong midbass. It is obvious that the Ortofon cartridge used on this particular arm does its best, because it is responsible for the richness and saturation of the sound. It is complemented with dense midrange and gently rolled off upper treble. It does not matter what record we listen to, because these qualities are the basis of this turntables sound, they define it.

    Therefore, there are no pops&crack with new records, there is almost no noise. Importantly, there is no problem with any hum or hiss or preamplifier noise. When it comes to old releases that have survived many turntables already, let it be the 1969 BYG Records The Futuristic Sound of Sun Ra, the cracks are audible, there is no doubt that it is an older and slightly worn out album. The turntable's class manifests itself in the way it treats these distortions - because cracks and pops are distortion - as something less important than music itself. Warm high tones deepen the impression of fullness and presence of instruments, masking all the stronger "peaks". With new 180g records there is, as I already mentioned, a beautiful silence.

    This is a turntable that will play new releases of older music, with digital remaster as well as new digital recordings, in a very nice, very "analog" way. They are soft, rich and devoid of digital artifacts, which more “true” designs can scare the listeners with. It has a negative influence on differentiation, it's probably clear, but it's a compromise not just acceptable but even needed and expected. Combined with a strong midbass it results in a large scale sound with a wide soundstage. One can't expect particularly high dynamics nor resolution. The fans of precise, neutral sound, will have to look for another deck.

    | How to improve sound quality

    The Essential III Phono is a system composed of many elements, but with an open structure, ie it is possible to replace some of them: cartridge, power supply, phono preamplifier, mat. Moreover - it also reacts to the improvement of the stability of the surface it is placed on. In this case, each change must be well-thought-through and tried. Systems that are so well composed as this one can be easily “spoiled”, even if we use theoretically higher quality components.

    I would start with cartridge. The OM 10 Ortofon is quite good, but it is not particularly resolving and it makes sound “thick”. The higher models of the same brand is where I would start, but it is worth also to try the Music Hall cartridges. This company doesn't make their own pickups but rather modifies Goldring's. They work really good on Music Hall and Pro-Ject turntables. The second improvement may be a phonostage - I strongly urge you to try one of the PJ models because they are voiced to work with PJ decks. You can also check whether the cork mat works better than felt one.

    The last two changes, however, are risky because they lead to the opening of the sound. It gets more tangible, detailed, but it is easy to lose the coherence that is one of the main advantages of this model. Therefore, perhaps, the only change that Essential III Phono really needs is the cartridge and the furniture it is placed on. All others are optional and - ultimately - not necessary.


    This is a great set. The turntable is easy to set up and is characterized by a sound that encourages you to listen to music. Starting from hi-fi you can point out the features that are a result of compromises such as: low dynamics and not so good differentiation. Part of this "proposal" is also the weighty bass and the treble roll off. In this case I would put this type of assessment away, because it makes no sense. Here everything plays together, delivering a dense, warm, pleasant sound. This is a perfect proposition for music lovers who just begin their great adventure with music.

    The Pro-Ject Essential III Phono is a non-suspended turntable with a built-in phonostage. Its base is 17 mm thick MDF board in high gloss finish. The motor, tonearm and platter are installed in the base. The 300mm platter is also made of MDF, lacquered with high gloss finish and balanced. On top of it one applies a thin felt mat. It is much better than the one used previously - it is rigid and does not attract static charges, ie it does not "stick" to the platter. The main bearing is a simple system consisting of a hardened steel spindle, a brass bed and a steel ball; the spindle has a flat bottom.

    The asynchronous motor is mounted in the rear left corner. Together with the electronic voltage stabilizer, it is enclosed in a metal housing. It is powered by an external 15 VDC wall power supply. A precision-made aluminum pulley is mounted on its axis. It has two diameters, because the rotation speed is changed manually by moving the belt from one to the other. The belt is made of silicone rubber and has a round cross section. It is wrapped around the perimeter of the platter./p>

    The 8.6 "arm has an effective length of 218.5 mm and overhang of 22 mm. It is made of aluminum tube, with its end flattened and formed into a headshell. Its bearings consists of steel pins and sapphire beds. A small counterweight moves along the plastic spindle. It features a classic anti-skating solution – a weight on a line. The only adjustment available to user is the VTF. The signal is output using a pair of RCA sockets. They are mounted in a small box also housing the phono preamplifier. On the side there is a switch, which allows user to choose whether he user the in-build phonostage or an external one. The set includes a transparent hinged cover.

    The turntable features three simple rubber and plastic feet. There is no possibility of adjusting their height, so it is important to ensure that the surface on which the turntable is placed is leveled and decoupled from the floor.

    Technical specification (according to manufacturer)

    Essential III Phono
    Speed: 33, 45 (manual speed change)
    Principle: belt drive
    Speed variance: 33: 0.70% 45: 0.60%
    Wow & flatter: 33: 0.21% 45: 0.19%
    Platter: 300mm MDF with felt mat (0.8kg)
    Main bearing: stainless steel
    Effective arm length: 218.5 mm
    Overhang: 22.0 mm
    Effective tonearm mass: 8.0g
    Counterweight for mass: 3 – 5.5 g (included)
    Tracking force range: 0 - 25mn (OM5 18mn recommended)
    Included accessory: power supply, dust cover
    Power consumption: 4.5 W max
    Dimensions: 420 x 112 x 330mm (WxHxD)
    Weight: 5.0 kg (net)

    Ortofon OM 10
    Output (1 kHz, 5 cm/s): 4 mV
    Chanel balance (1 kHz): 1.5 dB
    Chanel separation (1 kHz | 15 kHz): 22 dB | 15 dB
    Frequency response (-3 dB | ± 2 dB): 20 Hz-25 kHz | 20 Hz-20 kHz
    Tracking (315 Hz): 70 µm
    Stylus type: elliptical
    VTF range: 1.25-1.75 g (12.5-17,5 mN)
    Recommended VTF: 1.5 g (15 mN)
    Recommended load resistance: 47 kΩ
    Recommended capacity: 200-400 pF
    Weight: 5 g



    - Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
    - Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
    - Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

    - Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE

    - Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
    - Power amplifier: Soulution 710
    - Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

    - Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
    - Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
    - Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
    - Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
    - Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
    - Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
    - Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

    - Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
    - USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
    - LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
    - Router: Liksys WAG320N
    - NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
    System I
    - Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
    System II
    - Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

    System I
    - Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
    - Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
    System II
    - Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
    - Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
    - Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
    - Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
    - Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
    - Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

    - FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One