Turntables

Pro-Ject Xtension 10 Superpack Turntable System

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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.