More so than the previous two years, Munich High-End 2016 reflected the high street’s re-ignited love affair with vinyl records. Turntables loomed large at the world’s number one hifi show, particularly the muscular-looking, high-mass-loading, chromed-up types, which could be found seemingly at almost every turn.
Mercifully, we saw no such plattenspieler bling at the Pro-Ject stand.
The Austrian turntable manufacturer’s exhibition space is consistently one of the largest at the show. And thanks to their enthusiasm for coloured plinths, the Pro-Ject display is consistently one of the most visually vibrant.
Moreover, Pro-Ject’s strategic floristry and the Halle’s high ceilings remind us that the Munich show isn’t only a long way from the claustrophobic corridors of CES’ high-end audio exhibits, it’s a totally different universe.
Back on planet earth, the 5pm serving of birthday drinks to round off the show’s first day ushered in the official marking of Pro-Ject’s 25th year in the audio business. And to commemorate this milestone on a more permanent level, Pro-Ject is introducing The Classic – a turntable whose aesthetic nod to the past is every bit deliberate.
According to Pro-Ject, The Classic has been designed to ape the look and feel of turntables sold by company founder Heinz Lichtenegger in the years prior to designing his own.
From the accompanying press release: ”In my first year as a hifi dealer out of the petrol station of my mother, using her trade license, I sold 50 Thorens 166 MK 2. In a town of 2,000 people, I made everybody a hifi believer. Later I expanded to some Linns, Aristons, Heybrooks and so on,” says Lichtenegger.
The Classic’s aluminium sub-chassis is spring-loaded using six Thermo Plastic Elastomers (TPE) whilst the platter is machined from a “special” aluminium alloy and also uses TPE.
Platter and sub-platter are wrapped in a stylish wooden sleeve which will be available in three finishes: walnut, rose nut and eucalyptus.
For €950, we also get a “radical, newly-designed” Classic tonearm and, for an additional €50, the option of a factory-fitted Ortofon 2M Silver (MM) cartridge.
The Classic is a turntable for someone who wants the look/feel of a Linn Sondek LP12 but who cannot afford a Linn Sondek LP12.
Munich 2016, Lesson 1: Pro-Ject doesn’t only make turntables for furrowed-brow audio folk.
Y’know the ones: they talk endlessly of VTA and tracking force, of second and third tonearms and of bearing materials. These things matter…but not to everyone.
Attracting even more amateur videographers than The Classic display was another new turntable, the VTE – Vertical Turntable Elemental.
Reportedly built on the company’s entry-level Elemental, the VTE can be run vertically, either via stand or wall-mount. The aluminium tonearm is secured by a clamp during playback. It comes in left- (VTE L) and right-handed (VT R) versions as well as three different colours: black, white and red. Cartridge installation and tracking force are all done at the factory.
Bonkers, yes, but precisely what the audiophile world needs: an ability to not always take itself too seriously. And if the VTE’s novelty positioning seems like a bridge too far, it can still be run horizontally like (pretty much) every other turntable in the world.
The Pro-Ject VTE is for those who just wanna have fun playing records and who care not for even the most basic of high-er end sensitivities like tonearm material and cartridge type.
Inking its base-camp status is the VTE’s optional Bluetooth transmission module, which takes the sticker price from €299 to €399.
Munich 2016, Lesson 2: Pro-Ject doesn’t only make turntables.
The company’s extensive range of ‘Box Design’ electronics is, according to marketing representative Felix Grill, an extension of the company’s broader philosophy: “hifi stereo at a low price”.
The larger, half-width chassis’d range of DS components consists of an integrated amplifier, phono stage, pre-amplifier, power amplifier, headphone amplifier, CD player, streamer and DAC; at Munich High-End 2016 we find the DS range partway through a major overhaul.
The first of the second generation DS (dubbed “DS2”) to come to market will be the DAC Box DS2 which itself comes in two flavours: standard and Ultra.
The latter prepends an Asahi-Kasei AK4137EQ up-sampling chip to the Japanese company’s AK4490 32bit/784kHz DAC chip.
According to Pro-Ject, the up-sampler: “Allows use of the low pass filter, which is needed to filter carrier frequencies and digital distortion at much higher frequencies without any sound degenerating effect. As a result, the sound has more space and better timbre.”
On DAC chip choice they say: “The AK4490 DAC integrates a switched capacitor filter ́OSR Doubler ́ that greatly reduces sound degradation from noise shaping, achieving a flat noise floor of up to 200kHz.”
Connectivity-wise, both versions of the DAC Box DS2 feature XMOS-based asynchronous USB (32bit/768kHz, Quad DSD), two coaxial and three Toslink inputs.
Users of either HQPlayer or Audirvana Plus in DSD-upsampling mode should take note: this Pro-Ject D/A converter offers a switchable “DSD direct path” which bypasses the sigma/delta modulator.
A four-layer PCB (for shorter signal paths) and Class A analogue output stage round out the feature set.
The DAC Box DS2 Ultra will sell for €599 whilst its wooden side cheeks attract a €100 premium. The standard DAC Box DS’s price is TBC.
We’ll be (literally) hearing more from the DS2 range when Pro-Ject ready the MaiA DS2, a super-integrated, for release – hopefully in Q3 of this year.
Further information: Pro-Ject Audio Systems