Debut Carbon, Esprit, and RPM 3
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC is now in its 3rd revision and continues to be the best-selling turntable in the world above $300. It’s easy to see why with its great feature set. However, the company that makes the Pro-ject turntables has a pretty big selection of other tables. When considering the Debut Carbon, customers frequently ask us what they get by moving up in price.
To answer this question, we thought it would be fun to compare the Carbon DC to a couple of slightly more expensive Pro-Ject models. We chose the Pro-Ject Esprit and the Pro-Ject RPM3. These three tables provide a good selection in the $300 to $1,000 price range. All three models come with a phono cartridge.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon vs. Pro-Ject Espirit
As you can see when you look at the Carbon DC and the Esprit, they look pretty similar, and they are. Pro-Ject is known for providing nice upgrade paths for their tables, which help to improve its performance. The Esprit is essentially a Carbon DC with a few of those upgrades included. If the upgrades we are about to discuss are appealing to you, you’ll save some money by purchasing the Esprit as opposed to buying the Debut Carbon and upgrading it over time.
The first upgrade you will find in the Esprit is the acrylic platter. Compared to the steel platter on the Carbon DC, it is much heavier, which translates into better speed stability. It’s also less resonant, giving you a purer sound. On its own, the acrylic platter costs $129.
The other big upgrade you’ll find in the Esprit is a better speed control system for the motor. Essentially, Pro-ject put their $200 Speed Box into the Esprit. This gives you two advantages. First, the speed is more consistent for better rhythm and pacing to the music. You also get a 33/45 switch, so you don’t have to remove the platter to change speed. Overall, you get about $329 worth of improvements for $200 if you start out with the Esprit!
Stepping up to the Pro-Ject RPM3
The big differences really show up when you compare either of these to the RPM3. We were lucky to get a chance to talk to the designer of the RPM3. He provided some great insights into the goals he had while making this model and everything that went into it.
The primary goal of the RPM3 was to be the best performing turntable you could get for under $1,000.
Any serious turntable needs to keep any external vibrations, specifically from you speakers, from getting to your phono cartridge.
Plinth and Platter
There are a few different ways to achieve this. The most cost effective was to give the RPM3 a super lightweight plinth that is extremely stiff and has a support system that will send energy out of the table. This design resulted in a really cool looking table too! In order for this to be effective, the RPM3 should sit on a solid heavy surface. If you have a solid audio stand or heavy shelf, you are good to go. The Debut Carbon and Espirit are actually much more forgiving in this sense, but on the right stand, your performance will be much better with the RPM3.
When you look at the platter on the RPM3, you’ll notice the top looks like vinyl. Pro-Ject developed this platter for their much more expensive tables and it’s amazing to see it at this price point. It’s made of top-quality, dense MDF, with a recycled vinyl mat glued to the top.
While you can’t really see it at first glance, the Debut Carbon and Esprit both use a good steel bearing. The RPM3 is a big step up, however, featuring an inverted ceramic bearing. Ceramic can be built with more precision than steel and polished to an even flatter surface. What this translates into is far less bearing noise moving through the platter. You’ll notice a much quieter background with the RPM3.
Now let’s move to the tonearm. The Debut Carbon and Esprit both share an 8.6 inch carbon fiber arm, which is outstanding for the money. The RPM3 has a 10” arm that is a combination of carbon fiber with aluminium and resin damping. You’ll find some $1,000-$2,000 tonearms on the market that are not as sophisticated as the one that comes on this table. Simply amazing technology here for the money. Another great feature is the precision magnetic anti-skate compared to the gravity method used on the Debut Carbon and Esprit.
The most noisy part of any turntable is the motor itself. The RPM3 has an outboard motor that greatly reduces the amount of noise that reaches the vinyl. Again, something normally seen on much more expensive units.
While the Debut Carbon and Espirit try to dissipate energy through the plinth, the RPM3 includes spike feet that transmit energy out of the table and away from the stylus.
Lastly, the RPM3 comes with the Sumiko Bluepoint cartridge. This has been one of the best-reviewed phono cartridges ever. As a matter of fact, it sells for by itself for $449. The fact that it is included with this amazing table for a total price of $999 is just unbelievable! While the $100 Ortofon Red cartridge that comes with the Debut Carbon and Espirit is great for the money, the Sumiko Bluepoint is a huge step up.
Which is Right for You?
If you are looking for your first decent turntable, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is a great choice. If you can see yourself making some upgrades from there in the near future, you may want to just consider purchasing the Espirit.
If you’re really looking to get serious about vinyl, however, or you just want one of the most rad looking turntables on the planet, we’d suggest you take a long hard look at the RPM3.
Compared to the Debut Carbon or the Espirit, the RPM3 will provide tons more dynamics, less background noise, and a wider, deeper sense of space to your music.