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Pro-Ject Elemental Phono USB turntable review

Richard Easton
23 Feb 2015
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Pro-ject Elemental USB Phono turntable front angle
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
219
inc VAT

The Pro-Ject Elemental Phono USB is a wonderful plug-and-play introduction to turntables

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Specifications

Warranty: One year RTB, Details: www.project-audio.com, Part code: Elemental Phono USB

Vinyl has seen something of a resurgence in recent years: record sales hit an 18-year high in 2014, fuelled by interest from a new generation of listeners as well as those who grew up buying records. Picking up a vintage turntable in working condition might be the enthusiasts’ and purists’ choice, but companies like Pro-Ject are now creating new, budget-friendly turntables like the Elemental Phono USB to meet demand.

Buying and setting up a new turntable can be an intimidating experience, as you enter the realm of cartridges, tone arm adjustments and preamps. The Elemental Phono USB helps simplify this with a real plug and play experience. There’s no need to adjust the counterweight or anti-skating mechanism, and the cartridge comes pre-installed. You also don’t need a separate phono preamp, reducing clutter and added expense if your amplifier doesn’t have a dedicated phono input.

This means to get started, essentially all you need to do is remove the Elemental from its box, attach the belt around the platter and detach the transport lock on the arm.

The Elemental is belt-driven, and can play back records at either 33RPM or 45RPM. To change speeds you need to move the drive belt between the two steps on the pulley. This somewhat manual process is common to entry-level turntables. The Elemental will happily play 7in or 12in records, and an adaptor is included if you have any records with the larger jukebox-style centre.

We found attaching the belt to be quite fiddly at first, especially around the platter itself. When removing a record we also found the belt would occasionally detach, which proved frustrating. After a bit of practice, however, re-attaching or moving the belt between the two motor pulley diameters became easier. Pro-Ject advises avoiding getting any grease or dirt on the belt as this can affect playback, but this proved difficult to avoid; we found ourselves having to wipe down the belt regularly as a result.

The Elemental’s platter is made from low-resonance MDF, covered by a felt slipmat included in the box. Stainless steel is used for the bearing and the straight tonearm uses an Ortofon OM 5E moving magnet cartridge. You can replace it with any half-inch mounting hole cartridge, but the included counterweight is optimised for the Ortofon.

Pro-ject Elemental USB Phono turntable side

The only thing the Elemental lacks is a dust cover, but this would have taken away from its simple design. The plinth comes in one of three colours: black, white and red; our review model came in the latter. The Elemental is certainly an attractive turntable that will appeal to those who appreciate clean lines.

Connecting up the Elemental is simply a matter of hooking up a pair of active speakers or an amplifier using the pair of RCA jacks on the back. An RCA cable is included, with integrated grounding cables if you need them. While your speakers will have a determining effect on sound quality, the Elemental produced a warm tone across all the speakers we tried it with. Whether listening to Bob Dylan or Heart or a Mahler symphony, the audio produced was very good. 

As the name implies, the Elemental Phono USB also has a USB type-B connection. This will let you connect the turntable to a computer to then rip your vinyl records to a digital format. No software is included but there are plenty of free options available, such as Audacity (www.audacityteam.org). This even has plugins for vinyl restoration, making ripping and tagging tracks an easy process. If you have any rare vinyl that's not already in a digital format, this option will be a real boon.

While the Elemental is a very reasonably priced turntable, we were never concerned it would damage our records thanks to its quality cartridge and tonearm. Other turntables are available for much less money, but there is often a concern that these can do permanent damage to the records due to cheap cartridges with a poor stylus.

The Pro-Ject Elemental Phono USB is a very capable turntable, either for newcomers to vinyl or those looking to make a return. It simplifies the set-up process and removes the need to invest in expensive additional equipment. Getting everything working is very easy and the components are all of good quality. The experience of listening to a record and the tangibility of music ownership are also nice bonuses.

Even if you're not looking to rip your vinyl to digital formats, the USB version of the Elemental benefits from the built-in phono preamp that is missing from the standard Pro-Ject Elemental. The cost of a Pro-Ject phono preamp is around £50 alone, so the additional £60 cost for the Phono USB version is easy to accept just for the off-chance you might ever want to use the USB output. 

Buying information
Price including VAT£219
WarrantyOne year RTB
Supplierwww.henleydesigns.co.uk
Detailswww.project-audio.com
Part codeElemental Phono USB

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