Turntables

Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Superpack Turntable System

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Introduction to the Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Superpack Turntable System

Pro-Ject Audio Systems' reputation among turntable manufacturers was built largely through their value product lines. But Pro-Ject has been cracking into the higher end with a series of high quality turntables and tonearms in recent years. The Xtension 10 is a recent model in the mid-to-high price category and offers excellent looks, great build quality and amazing performance.

This beautiful turntable from Pro-Ject Audio Systems is dubbed the Xtension 10. This new model is a smaller version of the highly acclaimed Xtension 12. Pro-Ject retained most of the design features of the Xtension 12 to include a built-in precision speed control, a balanced sandwich platter, adjustable magnetic feet and a precision inverted ceramic main bearing. The over-designed Xtension 10 weighs in at a healthy 48-1/2 lbs net! It comes with a heavy record clamp and acrylic dust cover included.

The major difference over the older model is that the Xtension 10's smaller size will fit on standard racks and shelves. The 10 also uses a different tonearm, the 10 cc Evolution which is a extremely lightweight and rigid carbon fiber design.

The Xtension 10 retails for $2,999 USD. My review unit came with a Sumiko Blackbird high output MC cartridge which is available as part of a special package pricing deal. Sumiko has dubbed this the "Superpack" and it includes the table, arm and Blackbird cartridge for $3,699 which reflects a $399 savings if purchased separately.

PRO-JECT XTENSION 10 SUPERPACK TURNTABLE SYSTEM SPECIFICATIONS

Turntable

  • Design: Belt-driven with AC Synchronous Motor
  • Speeds: 33, 45 and 78 (DS Speed Box Built In)
  • Platter: 12.6 Ponds (5.7 kg) Sandwich Construction
  • Tonearm: 10" EVO Carbon Fiber
  • Wow & Flutter: <0.01%
  • S/N: -73 db
  • Dimensions (dust cover closed): 19" (480 mm) w x 9.3" (235mm) h x 15.8" (400mm) d
  • Weight: 44 lbs (20 kg)
  • MSRP: $2,999 USA
  • Pro-Ject

Cartridge

  • Design: High Output MC
  • MFR: 10Hz - 50kHz
  • Output: 2.5 mV/ch
  • Impedance: 47 kOhm
  • Internal Impedance: 135 Ohm
  • Channel Separation: 35 db @ 1kHz
  • Channel Balance: 0.5 db @ 1kHz
  • Tracking Force Range: 1.8 – 2.2 gm
  • Weight: 9.6 gm
  • MSRP: $1,099 USA (Package pricing on table + cartridge purchases)
  • Sumiko
  • SECRETS Tags: Pro-Ject, Sumiko, Turntables, Audio

The Design of the Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Superpack Turntable System

Among his many interests and pursuits, Pro-Ject's founder and President Heinz Lichtenegger enjoys collecting classic turntables. A few years back he went looking to pick up a Micro Seiki table but couldn't find one at a fair price so he decided to make one of his own. That was the genesis of the Pro-Ject Xtension 12, the precursor to the Xtension 10 under review here.

The Xtension 12 came to market in 2009 and grabbed the attention of consumers while garnering a number of very favorable professional reviews throughout the worldwide audio press. It has been heralded for its lovely finish and smooth, non-fatiguing sound. The only real problem with the Xtension 12 was that the plinth was so large that it didn't fit on standard sized equipment shelves and racks. Thus, the Xtension 10 was developed to bring the same level of quality to a unit that would be the right size for a typical turntable shelf.

Despite a reasonably compact footprint, the Xtension 10 is a very heavy turntable with a net weight of nearly 50 pounds. This mass is due in large part to the metal-sand-filled MDF plinth but is also due to the massive sandwich platter which by itself weighs a healthy 12-1/2 pounds.

Let's start with the platter. It is made from an unspecified alloy that is internally damped with Sorbothane. The mat is made from recycled record vinyl which is glued down. The entire assembly gets baked and subsequently precision balanced. This platter system is supported by an inverted ceramic ball bearing with a magnetic suspension.

The aforementioned plinth is supported by four very strong magnetic feet. The entire turntable is therefore magnetically suspended. Since the platter is not centered on the plinth, one of the magnetic feet must carry a bigger load than the other three. This is the front left foot. This one is clearly marked so the user knows where to install it during assembly. All four feet are fully adjustable to fine-tune the table's balance. In any event, the idea behind the design is to offer the best of two design approaches – a floating turntable with mass loading.

The Xtension 10 comes complete with the 10cc Evolution tonearm. This tonearm is fabricated from filament wound carbon fiber and features a fixed headshell, high stiffness and low effective mass. The conical shape of the armtube is said to break up and reduce standing waves that might run along the length of the arm.

This tonearm is fully adjustable without the need to purchase extra shims to raise the Vertical Tracking Angle. The adjustability includes a rotating armtube to correct the azimuth despite having a fixed headshell. The arm is supported by an inverted bearing that is ground to a very high ABEC 7 tolerance. The arm's base is a high-mass design which is decoupled from the base by a sheet of Sorbothane. Four Sorbothane-damped counterweights are included to accommodate cartridges from 4 to 14 grams.

This is a belt drive turntable that runs on an AC synchronous motor with speed control via an installed Speed Box SE. The speed box allows electronic speed switching between 33-1/3 and 45 rpm. The speed can be electronically fine-tuned in 0.1 rpm increments. This table is also 78 rpm capable as delivered.

The fixed interconnects feature pure copper conductors, braided jackets and gold-plated RCA plugs. A high quality acrylic dust cover is included along with a heavy weighted record clamp.

For this review, Sumiko included a Blackbird Cartridge. This is a high output moving coil design in the Sumiko Reference Line of cartridges. The coils are hand-wound and each unit is hand calibrated through a rigorous and labor-intensive process. The Blackbird's rated output is 2.5mV into a standard 47k Ohm input. This cartridge has become my reference cartridge that I have used for numerous turntable reviews over the last few years. I find this cartridge easily drives standard MM phono stages without a step up transformer.

The Blackbird Cartridge does not have an external cartridge body. The omission of an external body eliminates one additional source of possible sympathetic vibrations within the mechanical structure of the cartridge. The cantilever is made of a stiff long-grain Boron. The cantilever and stylus are not user-serviceable, but Sumiko offers a low cost re-tipping service in the event you need to replace the stylus.

Another important advantage with the Blackbird Cartridge is that it attaches to the headshell by way of tapped, threaded screw holes. This simplifies installation and reduces the effective mass even further.

The Xtension 10 table comes in one of three finishes - olive, mahogany and piano. All three are high gloss lacquer coated. The finish covers all sides of the base, including the underneath part; this is a point of amazing attention to detail. My review unit was draped in Olive and this review is another example where the pictures can't portray how incredible this table looks in person. You have to see one firsthand to get the full impact of the look, build quality and the table's very smooth operation.


Setup of the Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Superpack Turntable System

The crate system of the Xtension 10 is probably the most competent packing system of any turntable I have reviewed. The table was safely cradled in a large pressboard crate with cut out handles on the sides. I could have lifted and moved in myself, but the crate was just a little too wide to get a leverage advantage so I needed some help to wrestle the box into the house.

The top of the crate comes right off once you cut the two metal straps that secured the lid in shipping. Removing the lid reveals an unpacking guide. The table is partially assembled and set up was quick and straightforward as outlined in the concise and easy to follow manual.

You start by screwing in the feet. Remember that the front left foot is different from the other three and it is clearly marked. Then you place the platter on the spindle, install the belt and bolt on the pulley cover.

The next step is to install the cartridge, adjust the horizontal tracking angle. You then level the table, set the tracking force and hang the antiskate weight on the back of the arm housing.

The only thing left to do is to adjust the azimuth and vertical tracking angle if necessary. I checked these on my review sample and they were dead on so I didn't need to play with these settings to get really good sound. I did find that the brass fulcrum for the antiskate weight was hard for me to access, even when the table was on an open shelf. So I got help from my 11 year old daughter because she has much smaller fingers.

I finally installed the dust cover once everything was in proper order. The Xtension 10 dust cover is made of very thick and crystal-clear acrylic.

I really can't stress enough the high build quality of this turntable. It is a piece of industrial art and it probably garnered more raves from our guests than any single product I have reviewed. This attention to detail was seen throughout my experience with the turntable and can be heard through its sonic character as well.

And the way this table is packaged just further reinforces the manufacturer's commitment to their customers. The crate is like an archival piece that every owner will keep so they can safely store, move or sell their table without a single worry that it might get damaged in any way.


The Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Superpack Turntable System In Use

You may have figured out by now that I found the Xtension 10 to be a first class product starting with the way it is packaged for shipping right on through to the real wood finish that covers all sides of the plinth. Performance-wise it is a ridiculously amazing value-for-money proposition! So I'm excited to talk about my listening impressions.

I started off with Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears "Scandalous" on clear vinyl. This album is a follow-up to their 2009 debut and is a rowdy, funky romp through fresh material. The instrumentation can be either minimal or dense depending on the tune and the Pro-Ject rig passed it all with great panache. There was no audible mistracking even with some of the complex instrumental and vocal arrangements.

This album has driving bass lines that might trip up lesser tables, but the Xtension 10, with its combination of mass loading and magnetic support has superior isolation. So there was no audible feedback even when played back at uncomfortably loud levels.

I was impressed by the very good staging across the whole width of the speakers and even extending a few feet beyond while maintaining a strong center image with the lead vocal. The transient attacks fell just a bit short of the best I've heard.

I wanted to test this system with an older recording so I pulled out "Bach Organ Favorites" by E. Power Biggs. This album was recorded in the mid 1960's on the Flentop Organ – in the Busch – Reisinger Museum at Harvard University. I find J.S. Bach organ compositions to be very intellectually stimulating. Performance-wise this recording is sort of mechanical, but quite precise technically.

The Xtension 10 put a up big and bold sound on a big and bold stage. Leading edges were tracked without any trace of breakup. On the back end of notes, the decay was natural with no introduced overhang. And again, the mechanical isolation was excellent. The system didn't seem to depict the entire size of the venue, however.

This is an example of an old record that sounded new and clean as a whistle. I have found this to be true with the Blackbird cartridge with many older recordings. I can't put my finger on why this is but I think the very small stylus reaches into the grooves better than others. And when implemented through the Xtension 10 table, the positive effect was magnified.

Truth be told, I picked up this record at a second hand store for $2. The quality of the reproduction I got here greatly surpassed my expectations for a $3,500 table and a $2 record. I call this "Two buck Bach" and it makes a strong case for the Xtension 10/Blackbird combination. Maybe you could get this system, forgo expensive audiophile recordings and raid every estate sale or second hand store you can find. Then you'll be in business!

I like to give our readers a good cross section of different musical styles so I chose REM "Murmur" as the pop/rock recording to evaluate for this review. The Xtension 10 and Blackbird combo let this album's primal energy shine through. It was natural and organic-sounding. Again, I felt this system was tracking the finest and most delicate parts of each passage and not just the bigger dynamic waves. And it had such a silent background.

Other highlights on this album were top notch pacing on the upbeat songs with a tight and deep kick drum. Lastly, the guitar lines stood out and shone in their audible clarity.

In keeping with my plan to mix it up genre-wise, I reached for my MFSL Original Master reissue of Art Pepper "The Way It Was". This heavy virgin vinyl record also presented a dead silent background. This meant that the cymbals and snares could simply sparkle with a lifelike nuance.

Art's horn was recorded to capture every shade of his playing and the Xtension10 brought that all to the party. The system didn't show any obvious shortcomings on the transients and my notes simply said "wow, just wow" on that point! The Xtension 10 doesn't just help with the older recordings in your collection and this was a great example where the Xtension 10/Blackbird set up helped me get maximum performance from my better records too.


Conclusions about the Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Superpack Turntable System

Through the Xtension 10, Pro-Ject has made a very strong case to be considered a serious contender in a more upscale turntable market. This turntable has the build quality and looks to hold its own among turntables costing thousands more. I have heard how form follows function so many times and I just know that was nothing more than an excuse to explain away an ugly product. Not so here. The Xtension 10 hits both points – form and function.

I found this table got the best performance from the Blackbird cartridge that I have heard yet. In pretty much every way, it was the best I've heard out of the Blackbird. I honestly didn't find any serious audible shortcomings with this set-up. As a matter of fact, I got the Beatles box set during the review period and I went from one late night session to the next, each record opening my eyes again to the genius of the Beatles and their sound. That you can get a great deal on the Xtension 10/Blackbird system through the special Superpack Pricing is just icing on the cake.