Pro-Ject is not a shy retiring turntable maker.
It has pretty well transformed the market since the introduction of its first model ten or so years ago and there are plenty of brands that have struggled to compete.
The X-Pack is a good example of how Pro-Ject has achieved this; not only is it a great-looking turntable and arm with a rock-solid Ortofon cartridge, but it also sells for a price that few competitors can make an acrylic turntable for.
The turntable is the acrylic version of the Pro-Ject Experience, which is also available in some attractive wood veneers. It is a solid plinth design with screw-on feet that offer some isolation thanks to a layer of energy-damping Sorbothane above the aluminium cone.
The motor is suspended on a rubber mounting in order to kill any vibration it might emit and it drives the periphery of the platter via an acrylic pulley. There are two drives on this pulley, but as the X-Pack is supplied with a Speed Box for electronic speed change, you only need the smaller one
The Pro-Ject 9c tonearm has a carbon fibre tube and gimble bearings, while the two-kilo platter is made of MDF and mates directly to the vinyl with the aid of a screw-down clamp.
The Ortofon Rondo Red is a pretty useful moving coil cartridge with a body made from "powered hardwood" and an elliptical tip that produces a half-millivolt output.
Blind listening tests have their limitations and the noisy screw-down clamp of the X-Pack meant that the listeners had a pretty good idea that here was a turntable they had not been presented with before.
They did not allow this to undermine their opinion of its capabilities, however, and gave an all round thumbs-up, thanks to its mix of good balance, impressive bass extension and ability to present a coherent, well-proportioned soundstage.
It has wider bandwidth than most other turntables, thanks to the qualities of the Rondo Red cartridge and the panellists appreciated its ability to produce a crisp top end. This factor is a key one if you want well-defined bass and good imaging. In this case it also helped to produce high-quality vocal definition and above average width and depth of image.
The X-Pack can deliver a surprisingly refined result for its price and, while the Rondo Red clearly helps here, it wouldn't be able to do so if the turntable and arm weren't providing the mechanical precision required. This can be heard in the realism of voices and the overall solidity of the sound.
It also manages to be both smooth and unflustered with lively material as well as picking up on the snap of percussive instruments. While it clearly responds positively to good isolation, it is not as sensitive as some of the competition, which suggests that the rubber-mounted feet do manage to provide some decoupling.
Timing is not, perhaps, in the top league, but there is an assurance to the result that helps it stay in control. When the going gets lively, you'd be hard pressed to make the midrange sound hard, for instance.
Pro-Ject has a knack for making competitive turntables and this transparent beauty is no different, it delivers the sonic goods in no uncertain fashion and at a very good price.