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Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon Turntable, Tube Box DS2 Phono Preamp, Sumiko Starling Cartridge Review

Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon Turntable, Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 Phono Preamplifier, and Sumiko Starling MC Phono Cartridge

Pro-Ject is a producer of turntable, amplifiers, audio system, and equipment, situated in Mistelbach, Austria, with manufacturing crops within the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon Turntable, Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 Phono Preamplifier, and Sumiko Starling MC Phono Cartridge


They vary in worth from a number of hundred dollars as much as a number of thousand. They’re nicely revered, and for good cause. Their merchandise are very top quality.

The Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon turntable is of their center vary, at $2,499, and it features a 9” Evo carbon-fiber tonearm. Because the identify implies, the tonearm is produced from carbon fiber. This minimizes resonance of the tonearm as it’s uncovered to varied frequencies that the cartridge is monitoring.

The Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 phono preamplifier is within the correct worth vary ($799) for the Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon turntable. I feel that one shouldn’t go overboard when choosing the varied elements to go collectively for a turntable and preamp setup. So, for instance, for my part, the phono preamp ought to value about 1/three the price of the turntable, and the cartridge ought to value about ½ to 2/three the price of the turntable. In fact, that is versatile, however basically, a very good approximate.

A Sumiko Starling MC phono cartridge was provided with the RPM 9 Carbon turntable and Tube Box DS2 preamplifier. It’s a low-output (zero.5 mV) design.


Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon Turntable


Turntable with 9” Evo Tonearm


MDF, Carbon, and Metal Pellets


Inverted Ceramic


7.2 kg (16 kilos) Aluminum


Magnetic Air Suspension

Wow & Flutter:

33 RPM: +/- zero.60%; 45 RPM: +/- zero.60%


9” CC EVO Carbon Fiber

Energy Provide:

15 Volts DC


180 mm (7.1”) H x 440 mm (17.three”) W x 325 mm (12.eight”) D


16.5 kg (36.four kilos)

Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 Phono Preamplifier

Tube Praise:

Two 12AX7

Submit-Emphasis Curve:

RIAA – +/- zero.2 dB / 20 Hz – 20 kHz

MC/MM Suitable


Two Units of two RCA Gold-Plated


2 RCA Gold-Plated

Enter Impedance Loading:

47 kOhm Fastened, 10-1000 Ohm Variable

Enter Capacitance Loading:

100, 220, 320 pF


40, 45, 50, 60, 65 dB

Subsonic Filter:

20 Hz, 12 dB/Octave

Energy Provide:

18 Volts DC


93 mm (three.7”) H x 240 mm (9.5”) W x 227 mm (9”) D


1.96 kg (four.three kilos)

Sumiko Starling MC Phono Cartridge

Cantilever (Needle):


Inner Impedance:

28 Ohms

Frequency Response:

12 Hz – 50 kHz

Channel Separation:

35 dB @ 1 kHz

Channel Stability:

zero.5 dB @ 1 kHz


12×10-6 cm/dyn @ 100 Hz

Really helpful Load Capacitance:

100 pF – 200 pF

Vertical Monitoring Angle:


Monitoring Drive:

1.eight gm – 2.2 gm

Really helpful Monitoring Pressure:

2 gm


Pro-Ject, Sumiko, Sumiko Cartridge, Pro-Ject Turntable, Pro-Ject Tube Box, Pro-Ject Preamplifier, Cartridge Review 2018


The platter is heavy (16 kilos), and heavy is sweet. It leads to low resonant response to loud dynamics from the music enjoying from audio system, but in addition, low wow & flutter.

The plinth (base) is a mix of MDF, carbon, and metal pellets. This combination has low resonance, just like the platter, and subsequently, low transmission of vibrations from the music to the cartridge.

The general footprint is sort of compact, so the turntable will match nearly anyplace. For the assessment, I positioned it on a small desk, proven under.

Pro-Ject Tube Box

Pro-Ject Tube Box Turntable

The Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 phono preamplifier is within the correct worth vary ($799) for the Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon turntable. I feel that one shouldn’t go overboard when choosing the varied elements to go collectively for a turntable and preamp setup. So, for instance, for my part, the phono preamp ought to value about 1/three the price of the turntable, and the cartridge ought to value about ½ to 2/three the price of the turntable. In fact, that is versatile, however typically, a great approximate.

Sumiko presents a variety of cartridges that may match any finances. The provided cartridge, the Sumiko Starling, is an MC (Shifting Coil) cartridge. What this implies is that there are two small coils of wire on the prime finish of the cantilever (the “needle”) organized at 900 from each other. When the stylus (the diamond tip on the backside finish of the cantilever) strikes side-to-side (laterally) or top-to-bottom (vertically) within the LP groove, the coils on the prime additionally transfer. They’re located in a everlasting magnet’s magnetic subject, in order that once they (the coils) transfer, an electrical present is generated within the coils, one for the left channel and one for the appropriate. This present is fed to the phono preamplifier, which applies a “Post-Emphasis” (“De-Emphasis”) curve, referred to as the RIAA. Principally, it boosts the low frequencies and attenuates (reduces) the excessive frequencies, earlier than sending the phono preamplified output (about 500 mV to 1 volt) to the primary preamplifier. When the LP was manufactured, a “Pre-Emphasis” RIAA curve was utilized to the musical sign, attenuating the low frequencies and boosting the excessive frequencies. That is accomplished in order that the lateral distance within the groove is identical for all frequencies. If this weren’t carried out, the low frequencies would have a big lateral motion within the groove, and the excessive frequencies would have a really small lateral motion. This, in flip, would trigger the stylus to leap out of the groove when loud bass occurred within the music. Secondly, as a result of the lateral motion within the groove would differ so much, the low frequencies would overlap between grooves. The Publish-Emphasis RIAA curve restores the unique loudness degree of all frequencies. The crossover level for the RIAA curve is 1 kHz, which means that a 1 kHz musical sign just isn’t amplified or attenuated.


The turntable is shipped utterly disassembled, so you’ll want to plan on a whole morning or afternoon for setup.

I unpacked all the elements and positioned them on a big desk.

Then, I assembled the plinth (base), which entails screwing on the ft. They’ve highly effective magnets inside, and when the turntable is positioned on a desk, magnets on the higher finish of the ft sockets repel magnets within the ft, producing an air suspension.

The platter was then positioned on the middle spindle.

I adjusted the ft by screwing or unscrewing them in order that the platter was degree, as indicated by a bubble degree. To do that, I lifted the plinth close to the foot that I needed to regulate, with one hand, after which turned the foot with the opposite.

You might want to regulate the bottom in order that the bubble degree is centered no matter which method the extent is rotated. This could take a while as a result of adjusting every of the ft lifts or lowers the plinth in two dimensions.

Then, I arrange the motor by putting it along side the turntable, including the rubber belt over the motor pulley and the platter, and adjusting the space between the motor and the platter utilizing the included plastic information, proven under. You place the information over the motor, with the middle of the information over the middle of the motor, and the periphery flush towards the platter.

motor alignment

A remaining verify with the bubble degree, and the motor alignment is completed.

tonearm to the tonearm holder

Subsequent, I eliminated the wire that sure the tonearm to the tonearm holder (tonearm relaxation).

Noting the load of the Sumiko Starling cartridge, I chosen the suitable counterweight (4 counterweights are provided). I screwed the counterweight onto the rear of the tonearm.

Sumiko Starling cartridge

I then hooked up the Sumiko Starling cartridge to the entrance finish of the tonearm.

The 4 color-coded conductors are then hooked up to the color-coded pins on the rear of the cartridge.

tonearm floated horizontally

Subsequent, I adjusted the counterweight in order that the tonearm floated horizontally (didn’t go up or down when launched). Then, I turned the counterweight dial in order that it learn “20”, which indicated a monitoring drive of two grams. Utilizing a precision digital monitoring drive gauge, I discovered that it was not precisely 2 grams, so I adjusted the counterweight till it learn 2 grams on the monitoring drive gauge. The digital monitoring pressure gauge doesn’t include the turntable or cartridge. It’s an non-compulsory accent, and one which I extremely advocate, as it is very important have an correct monitoring pressure. You will discover this gauge on the Equipment web page of the Pro-Ject web site. Having a exactly correct monitoring drive will prolong the lifetime of your costly LP assortment (in addition to the stylus).

The Horizontal Monitoring Angle (HTA), additionally referred to as the Lateral Monitoring Angle, is the tangential angle of the stylus because it sits in a groove on the LP. It must be tangential to a line from the middle spindle to the outer fringe of the LP. That is completed utilizing a protractor information. One is out there from Pro-Ject of their Equipment part. I used one which got here with a check LP. Utilizing the protractor, one adjusts the cartridge in order that it’s parallel to the protractor information.

wow & flutter test

The cartridge strikes in an arc throughout the LP, so it is just on the correct tangent at one place. You must select the place that place is. I selected a spot that’s halfway between the outer fringe of the LP and the start of the lead-out groove on the finish of the LP.

The Vertical Monitoring Angle (VTA) is the angle of tilt, nostril down or nostril up, that the cartridge has when the stylus is within the report groove. After mounting the cartridge, the VTA must be adjusted by leveling the tonearm. On the Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon, that is carried out by loosening two hex screws on the rear of the tonearm, then lifting or decreasing the tonearm till it’s degree with respect to an LP on the platter. Hex wrenches of varied sizes, required for assembling and adjusting the turntable, are included. Right here is a photograph of the rear of the tonearm, displaying the 2 sockets the place the hex screws for adjusting the VTA are situated.

Turntable Cloes up

To do that, you insert the hex wrench within the two sockets, loosen the hex screws (maintain on to the tonearm in order that it doesn’t collapse down onto the plinth), after which transfer the tonearm up or down till it’s degree (the area between the tonearm and an LP), as proven within the photograph under.

Turntable Cloes Up Right

The Azimuth refers to having the cartridge not tilted to the left or proper, i.e., when wanting on the entrance of the cartridge, not having the left aspect nearer or farther from the floor of the LP than the best aspect, and extra particularly, the cantilever is vertical.

To do that on the RPM 9 Carbon, you loosen a hex screw on the aspect of the tonearm, as proven under. The screw is simply to the left of the quantity 25 on the monitoring drive dial.

Turntable Cloes Up Dial

When the screw is unfastened, you rotate the tonearm till the cartridge cantilever is vertical when resting on an LP. Notice: increase the tonearm with one hand and rotate it with the opposite hand. Don’t rotate the tonearm whereas the stylus is resting on the LP. As soon as it’s vertical, tighten the hex screw (with the tonearm raised).

Turntable Cloes Up Cartridge

When enjoying an LP, there’s a tendency for the stylus to maneuver in the direction of the middle spindle as a result of the grooves close to the middle are rotating at a decrease linear velocity than grooves close to the periphery (the inside grooves are smaller diameter).

The answer to that is the Anti-Skate management. It consists of a small, mild weight, hooked up to a filament that’s hooked up on the different finish to the tonearm. The filament is suspended over a rod. Relying on the monitoring drive, the filament is suspended on the rod, nearer or farther from the place the rod is hooked up to the tonearm.


You possibly can see the rod on the prime, middle, which is hooked up to the tonearm. The Anti-Skate filament is looped over that rod and in addition the rod on the correct, middle, then the load is suspended.

Right here is one other photograph (under) at an angle that exhibits the filament, weight, and rods in a greater mild.

Anti-Skate Top

The Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 phono preamplifier has two 12AX7 twin triodes. It’s designed with the primary triode because the enter stage and is cascaded with a 2SK170 J-FET transistor. The achieve of this stage is about 70. The second triode is used as a basic achieve stage biased into pure class A.

I set the resistance load to 100 ohms and the capacitive load to 220 pF. I used a achieve setting of 65 dB. The Subsonic Filter was turned on.

Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 phono preamplifier

Listed here are the connections I used on the rear panel. There are two units of inputs, and I used Enter 1. Observe that there’s a floor wire from the turntable that’s related to the phono preamplifier within the higher left nook.

Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 phono preamplifier Back

In Use

The motor is turned on by urgent the middle button on the highest. The 33 1/three rpm mild will illuminate. It’s the one on the left. Urgent the facility button once more will illuminate the 45 rpm mild. Holding the button down will flip the motor off.

Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon turntable

Apart from the Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon turntable, Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 phono preamplifier, and Sumiko Starling phono cartridge beneath evaluation, I used a Balanced Audio Know-how VK-5i Pure Class A Triode Preamplifier (Absolutely Balanced), Balanced Audio Know-how VK-500 Strong State Stereo Energy Amplifier (Absolutely Balanced) (250 Watts per Channel into eight ohms), and Magnepan 20.7 Planar Magnetic Full-Vary Audio system. Cables have been Wireworld and Mogami.

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture

Erich Kunzel with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra “Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture”

I listened to a few of my vinyl assortment that features albums that have been recorded digitally and transferred to vinyl. Certainly one of these is Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, carried out by Erich Kunzel with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (ATEL 00009).

This album is necessary for testing vinyl and audio system, utilizing both the digital model or vinyl model, as a result of it has some very intense bass (cannons) in the course of the climax sequence.

The turntable and cartridge tracked the cannons with none drawback. I say turntable and cartridge as a result of monitoring is a matter that’s affected by each gadgets. If the tonearm suspension (gimbal on this case, as in comparison with pivot) is near frictionless, and the cartridge cantilever is compliant, the stylus will keep effortlessly within the groove, which it did.

Clearaudio Music-Pickup Test Record

Clearaudio “Music-Pickup Test Record”

A second album for difficult music is the Clearaudio Music-Pickup Check Document (LP 43033). Once more, the Pro-Ject turntable and Sumiko Starling cartridge carried out nicely, with none points. A typical monitor is J.S. Bach: Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, with Rune Engso on organ.

The pedal notes are the problem, however the Pro-Ject and Sumiko didn’t blink.

And, although it’s a check LP, I loved the musical alternatives for themselves in comparison with sine waves and noise (and silence too) on typical check LPs.

Piano Concerto no. 3

Sergei Rachmaninoff “Piano Concerto no. 3”

Ah Rachmaninoff! Within the film “Doctor Shivago” (1965), there’s a scene the place some individuals are listening to a musician enjoying the piano. A toddler begins speaking, and his mom says, “Be quiet and listen. This is genius.” The pianist is Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Sadly, this was an extended, very long time in the past, approach earlier than my time, so I by no means acquired the prospect to listen to this genius in individual. However, we will hear his fabulous music. This album (AMER 90283) showcases his Piano Concerto no. three (the “Rach 3”), performed by Byron Janis and the London Symphony Orchestra, carried out by Antal Dorati. It was recorded on 35 mm magnetic tape, in comparison with typical ½’ studio tape. This gave a greater high quality recording.

The efficiency is superb, and it sounds terrific. The standard Rachmaninoff dynamics are in full show.

Symphony no. 5

Tchaikovsky “Symphony no. 5”

You possibly can see that I like Tchaikovsky (one other composer whose music can be round for eternity). On this case, his Symphony no. 5 (AEVC 3039-45). This specific recording, made on 35 mm magnetic tape, was mastered at 45 rpm, so it has two LPs (it’s $55, however is value it).

Tchaikovsky’s music often has loads of violins enjoying wealthy harmonies, and that’s the case right here. It’s troublesome to breed as a result of there are such a lot of frequencies occurring on the similar time, however it introduced no drawback for the Pro-Ject and Sumiko system underneath check.

Lots of my LPs are at 45 rpm. There is a bonus to this, and it does make the gathering fairly costly, however I contemplate this a part of being an audiophile. It’s an costly pastime.

Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2

Franz Liszt “Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2”

Franz Liszt is one other of my favourite composers. His Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 involves thoughts. This recording (Mercury EURO S90235) is an excellent one, with Antal Dorati conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

What strikes me about previous analog recordings, introduced on vinyl, is the “realness” of the sound. Particularly, the brass, and particularly trombones. I can hear particular person vibrations of every notice.

On the Bench

It’s superb to me that, of all of the check LPs on the market, the check tracks on every LP are totally different. There doesn’t appear to be a consensus of what exams ought to be normal, apart from the wow & flutter check. So, I needed to decide and select from every of the check LPs that I’ve available.

Besides the place famous, these exams are system responses, which means they mirror the turntable, the cartridge, and the phono preamplifier.

First, a 1 kHz sine wave, recorded at zero dBu. The first distortion peak is second-ordered. This is likely one of the causes that vinyl sounds so good. Second-ordered harmonics are pleasing. The THD+N numbers aren’t really reflective of the distortion as a result of the RIAA Submit-Emphasis boosts the bass, and this consists of the low frequency noise. The RIAA curve boosts the bass under 1 kHz, with growing quantity because the frequency decreases.

Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon Turntable

Now, a frequency response. The check tracks have been divided into two separate exams, one for the excessive frequencies and one for the low frequencies. The excessive frequency monitor was at – 20 dB, whereas the low frequency monitor was at zero dBU.

Pro-Ject RPM 12 kHz

You’ll be able to see the response is flat as much as about 12 kHz after which begins to rise. This isn’t unusual. The dip at 18 kHz might be an artifact. The response drops quickly under 20 Hz because of the subsonic filter that attenuates starting at 20 Hz and will increase at 12 dB/octave under 20 Hz.

I examined the cross-talk (channel separation) through the use of a 1 kHz sine wave solely within the left channel. There was no groove sign in the appropriate channel.

cross-talk yielded a -41 dBV

The cross-talk yielded a -41 dBV (-39 dBu) distinction, which means that the cross-talk in the proper channel is -41 dBV decrease than the sign within the left channel. This can be a good end result.

For a monitoring functionality check, I used a 300 Hz sine wave at + 12 dB. That may be a very intense monitor and represents a peak degree sign (zero dBu is the traditional higher finish recording degree restrict). The cartridge dealt with it superbly, proven under.

RIAA Post-Emphasis

Let’s look now on the spectrum when enjoying a silent groove (no music, simply silence). Once more, you possibly can see that the low frequency noise is boosted, as per the RIAA Publish-Emphasis (De-Emphasis).

Tube Box DS2 phono preamp

Examine that with simply the Tube Box DS2 phono preamp, and no connection to the turntable.

With a 40 dB achieve setting, the noise degree could be very low. That’s the achieve setting that I might use with a excessive output shifting coil cartridge, e.g., the Sumiko Blackbird. (2.5 mV).

Sumiko Starling low output

With the 65 dB achieve setting that I used with the Sumiko Starling low output (zero.5 mV) shifting coil cartridge, the noise degree is far larger. That is the compromise that needs to be made with a low output cartridge. What you get in return is extra element, as a result of the cantilever is lighter (the variety of activates the coils is decrease, which leads to decrease output). When the stylus contacts the hills and valleys, and lateral displacements within the groove, it strikes with these hills and valleys, and lateral displacements. A lighter weight cantilever is extra simply moved, and thus, will reproduce small particulars higher than a heavier cantilever in a excessive output cartridge. It isn’t essentially an enormous distinction, however one that’s noticeable, however this is dependent upon the remainder of the gear within the sign chain as nicely.

I used the subsonic filter as a result of it reduces the low frequency noise under 20 Hz.

Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon Turntable

The wow & flutter check is proven under. It consists of a three,150 Hz sine wave. The spectrum exhibits a peak at three,150 Hz after which slopes down on both aspect. From the checks I’ve seen elsewhere with different turntables, my conclusion is that, should you draw an imaginary line from the height at three,150 Hz down to three,zero50 Hz and a line from the height at three,150 Hz down to three,250 Hz, any peaks above these diagonal strains would recommend average wow & flutter (typical of cheap turntables, i.e., $499), whereas an excellent wow & flutter response would present no peaks above these diagonal strains. Within the case of the Pro-Ject RPM Carbon 9 turntable, all of the peaks are under the imaginary diagonal strains, which is what I might anticipate from a turntable of this caliber.

3,150 Hz down to 3,125 Hz



Pro-Ject RPM Carbon 9 Turntable:

  • Low background noise.
  • Heavy platter
  • Straightforward setup

Sumiko Starling Phono Cartridge:

  • Wonderful element
  • Euphonic distortion
  • Good monitoring of excessive power alerts

Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 Phono Preamplifier:

  • Plenty of options
  • Euphonic distortion

Would Like To See

Pro-Ject RPM Carbon 9 Turntable:

  • Detachable cartridge head
  • Snap-lock tonearm relaxation

Sumiko Starling Phono Cartridge:

Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 Phono Preamplifier:

  • Balanced output. This may require one other 12AX7 triode, and it will in all probability add $150 to the worth, however it might double the output, which might be good when utilizing the 65 dB achieve with a low output cartridge.

The Pro-Ject RPM Carbon 9 turntable is a high-quality product. It’s silent and clean. The accompanying Sumiko Starling cartridge amazed me with its monitoring functionality and the quantity of element within the music that it gave. The Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 phono preamplifier is an effective selection for this specific turntable. The three-part system delivered very euphonic distortion that analog-lovers will very a lot take pleasure in. If you wish to get this turntable, and also you don’t have already got a cartridge and phono preamplifier, this can be a package deal that basically works nicely.

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