When I bought my first turntable a decade ago, there were not a lot of affordable options readily available for purchase. When I upgraded a couple of years later, that was still the case. Fast forward to 2021 and the options are seemingly endless. No matter your price point or what you are looking for in a turntable, there are bound to be options for you to choose from.
It’s become increasingly important for manufacturers to differentiate their products and provide something truly unique to their customers. The clear leader in this category is Pro-Ject Audio who not only sell the most audiophile-grade turntables in the world – but also make them for other audiophile brands.
With over 40 turntables across eleven different lines, Pro-Ject has options for all budgets and styles; something that I have always admired about the company. One of the company’s newer endeavors is a line of Artist Collection turntables. Pro-Ject is currently producing six limited edition Beatles turntables in conjunction with Universal Music Group.
Over the last few months, I have taken the Pro-Ject 2Xperience SB Sgt. Pepper turntable for a spin and have been thoroughly impressed with its performance, build quality, and style.
A Day in the Life
At first glance, it is impossible to deny the beauty of this turntable. The chassis is made from MDF (medium density fiberboard) with a walnut finish using a non-resonant construction technique for optimized resonance sensitivity. The artwork reflected across the table celebrates The Beatles’ landmark Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
The art is eye-catching but understated enough to not distract from the beautiful finish of the turntable itself. The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper’s logos are featured in opposite corners while additional embellishments frame the plinth.
With only 1,000 pieces produced worldwide, this model is a limited edition version of one of Pro-Ject’s classic models, the 2Xperience SB. For an intermediate turntable user like myself, the setup process was a bit more involved than what I have done in the past, but was quite easy to follow with the included manual and detailed instructions.
An Ortofon 2M Silver cartridge comes pre-mounted, saving time with setup. The 2M Silver is a definite step-up from the 2M Red that comes with a lot of other entry-level turntables.
If you’re familiar with the Ortofon 2M Series cartridges, the Silver sits a lot closer to the 2M Blue which is almost twice the price of the 2M Red.
The turntable is belt-driven with an electronic speed control that offers both 33.3/45 rpm without having to move the belt on the pulley.
The acrylic platter is built using a balanced sandwich configuration; the aluminum core is topped with a thin layer of vinyl to improve clarity and dynamics. The vinyl layer acts as a turntable mat, and Pro-Ject recommends that you do not use an extra mat on the platter.
To improve the degree of contact between your records and the platter surface, a screwable record clamp is included to tighten records to the platter, eliminating unwanted vibrations.
The high-end nature of the turntable continues with its audiophile-grade 9-inch CC Evolution carbon fiber tonearm for the highest quality vinyl playback. The tonearm’s construction is far superior to what I’ve seen on other comparable tables lately and its obvious that Pro-Ject have improved the quality of its bearings and operation.
As previously mentioned, the tonearm is already fitted with the Ortofon 2M Silver moving magnet cartridge. The 2M Silver is an upgrade to Ortofon’s 2M Red, utilizing silver plated copper coils that are also used in the 2M Bronze and Black cartridges but with a reduced number of windings.
Three decoupling feet are mounted underneath the table to isolate the table and reduce vibrations. One point to note – the triangular, pointed feet are pretty sharp and can scratch an underlying surface fairly easily (lesson learned on my part!).
I first connected the turntable to my Insignia NS-R2001 receiver and Bowers & Wilkins 686 speakers. Listening to one of my favorite bands, the Punch Brothers, I was immediately struck by the staging and liveliness of the sound.
The reproduction of the sound was unlike anything I have heard before; the vocals were dead center and so crisp and clear it felt as if they were performing in the room with me.
I found the Pro-Ject 2Xperience SB to possess a very warm tonal balance; the midrange was quite rich sounding and the top end was completely devoid of any hardness.
I listen to a lot of acoustic music and am used to the low end often sounding washed out. I could now hear more pronounced lows on some of my favorite records. On Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, the music simply came alive with prominent, punchy bass alongside vibrant, detailed harmonies and guitar.
I was so impressed with the degree of resolution and refinement that I couldn’t wait to swap out my existing receiver for the Cambridge Audio Alva Duo phono pre-amp and CXA61 integrated amplifier that I reviewed back in July.
The Cambridge Audio combination only helped to elevate the performance of the Pro-Ject 2Xperience SB to another level; greater clarity, better detail retrieval, and a far better sense of pace.
One of the things that I noticed listening through the Pro-Ject/Cambridge system was the dramatic change in regard to the soundstage. Every recording exhibited a shift in soundstage width and depth. If you’re not accustomed to hearing it — it can be quite enthralling to hear that added layer of depth.
The Pro-Ject 2Xperience SB Sgt. Pepper Limited Edition Turntable retails for $1,600. I know that sounds like a daunting number but I must confess that I think it is really worth the expenditure.
The price reflects the high-end quality of its components, performance, as well as the uniqueness of a limited edition piece that won’t be offered again once all 1,000 are gone.
It is perfect for Beatles fans and audiophile collectors, or anyone who is looking for an excellent turntable to make the centerpiece of their setup. I am a massive Beatles fan, and really appreciate the subtle but distinctive way that Pro-Ject has decided to celebrate the most important rock band in music history. It is becoming a permanent part of my audio system.
For more information: pro-jectusa.com/product/2xperience-sb-sgt-pepper/
Where to buy: $1600 at Amazon