For anyone who has done the rounds looking for a new turntable, two brands that you likely would have come across are Pro-Ject and Music Hall.
Pro-Ject is very well known, having had loads of critic reviews in many different publications, Music Hall on the other hand haven’t.
Did you know though that both Music Hall and Pro-Ject are manufactured in the same factory?
Take for example two key models in each brands line up, the Debut Carbon and the mmf 2.2
Both models retail for a similar price locally ($549 and $599 respectively), both have a similar appearance with only minor cosmetic differences.
So why would you buy one over the other?
Let’s take a look first at the Debut Carbon’s features:
Now, let’s take a look at what the mmf 2.2 offers:
Now lets compare what these key features mean for you and what each offers.
Carbon Fibre vs. Alloy – There isn’t anything new about the idea of using carbon fibre as a tonearm material, nor alloy. Carbon fibre is very rigid and light, but in our experience has been slightly more prone to earth noise and earthing related issues. In their higher models, Pro-Ject have started using tonearms that have an internal alloy tube with carbon fibre sandwiched around it to combat this.
Alloy tonearms tend to be heavier, but also more solid and tend to offer better shielding to sensitive tonearm cables.
Tonearm Bearing – The more points in the bearing, the better the tonearm tracks along the surface of the record. In this regard, the Music Hall would outperform the Pro-Ject.
Feet – The quality of the feet on the turntable directly relates to how much vibration is passed on from where the turntable is situated. For example, if you had your turntable on a lowline unit positioned in between your speakers, it may be susceptible to vibration particularly from any bass waves being produced by the speakers. The better the feet, the less likely the turntable is affected.
There are of course ways around this such as isolated wall mounts or heavy mass isolation platforms.
Platter – Both of these models use the same alloy platter. Platter material can make some difference. Other offerings are glass (such as in Rega Planar 2 and 3), acrylic and even chipboard (usually reserved for cheaper turntables).
Alloy is a decent starting point for a turntable at this price range, with the option to upgrade either with an acrylic platter. I would suggest if sticking with the standard platter to instead upgrade from the standard felt mat to a cork one. This will help to reduce static.
Connectors – On this stage, we have to give it to the Debut Carbon. The option to use something better than the supplied cable with a turntable is something that is often overlooked. With the delicate nature of the signal being carried from the turntable to your amplifier, a better shielded cable will often minimise any additional noise being picked up and passed on.
Cartridge – Both of these turntables feature similar looking cartridges which isn’t surprising as they are both made by Ortofon. Both use the elliptical stylus profile, though the Magic 2 has a slightly higher recommended tracking force. The OM10 on the Pro-Ject offers a slightly larger frequency range/response.
Colours – Both models are available in a variety of colours, with Music Hall charging marginally more for their non-black offerings. There are a wider range of finishes in the Pro-Ject and they are all available for the same price.
We have good experience with both of these models and while there isn’t an obviously superior deck, we do feel as though the Music Hall edges ahead just a touch due to its superior tonearm setup (a key element in performance) and better vibration damping.
They are both good models however and offer a great starting point into the world of record collecting.