Review: Pro-Ject RPM 3 Carbon turntable with decoupled motor
Pro-Ject’s £599 RPM 3 Carbon is a perfectly fine performer straight out of the box, but here, Paul Rigby investigates the quality of the raft of sonic upgrades the company offers…
The Pro-Ject RPM 3 Carbon (henceforth, the RPM) is an excellent turntable and performs well ‘as is’. That said, it also benefits from a host of Pro-Ject accessories that can be used to upgrade the basic design.
It means that you can buy a new accessory, add it to your RPM and behold! Improved sound quality. I wondered about the capabilities of the RPM and whether these new modifications were worthwhile. So I‘ve decided to test a bunch of them.
The turntable itself arrives with a glossy MDF plinth and platter. A belt runs around the outside of the platter to a decoupled motor that sits in an outer plinth ring, and a rocker power switch sits atop the motor.
Under the platter is an inverted main bearing utilising a ceramic ball. To the right of the plinth is a 10-inch S-shaped tonearm created from carbon fibre and aluminium resin. The package doesn’t feature a dust cover, but one can be bought as an optional extra; I reviewed the turntable with a 2M Red from Ortofon.
Going Through Changes
With music by ELO and Miles Davis, the basic RPM is a top-quality turntable, with a blend of upper and lower frequencies that form a nicely balanced output without exhibiting misbehaving bass bloom or midrange smearing.
My first upgrade is to change the 2M Red cartridge to a 2M Blue (£110). You can do this via a simple stylus change. With the 2M Blue in place, the music offers less veiling noise and greater precision in the upper mids. Guitar strings offer a better twang, while the accompanying cellos feature an enhanced focus.
I then look at the platter and the default felt mat. I have two possible upgrade options here: a leather mat and a cork example. I remove the felt variety and first swap in the Leather It upgrade (£50), which lowers veiling noise, creating a much smoother mid band. It does, however, introduce a slight blanket of warmth over the upper areas of the sound-frequency spectrum, with a slight roll-off at the top edges. So, instead, I turn to the Cork It mat (£20), which is a tad less warm and slightly more dynamic in terms of the upper mids. In fact, the frequency extremities seem to be further apart with the cork mat, offering a wider spectrum of sonic colours to experience.
Getting Better All The Time
Next, I replace the default MDF platter with an acrylic model, the Acryl It (£90). Sound quality really moves along here with a wholly new soundstage installed, giving a solid structure, plus impressive precision and focus that not only adds a measure of pace to the track as a whole, but also improves the tonality throughout. Next up, I reach for the three Absorb It isolation feet (£140), which are placed underneath the chassis’ three pointed feet. The feet enhance bass and provide a stronger range of lower frequencies, but I would prefer more control over these enhanced frequencies. I’m hopeful that a new isolation platform, the Ground It (£250), will provide that.
It does, too. Bass improves with the platform, but the lower frequencies are enhanced in a balanced fashion, along with the midrange and treble. Hence, the platform moves the sonic improvements evenly, to allow for a neutral, yet detailed and clear presentation.
I end with a pair of Connect It Phono RCA-CC cables (£99), which replace the supplied Connect IT E cables. Despite a slight lift in the midrange, which adds a slight stridency to the upper mids, the new cables help create an involving overall soundstage, with more energy and life.
The basic Pro-Ject RPM 3 Carbon turntable is an excellent design to get you underway, and many users will not bother to upgrade from this point. It can easily act as your prime turntable without any further modification. If you do wish to push the envelope further, though, this design offers a host of opportunities and options, which will completely transform the sound of the basic RPM, lifting the sonics several rungs up the sound-quality ladder.