Sunday, November 30, 2008
Pro-Ject 2 Xperience
This weekend, I visited Hi Fi Sound in Minneapolis, which had moved some weeks ago to some secret location. Turns out, they're across the street from the new Twins stadium, which is seriously starting to take shape and looks poised to rock the baseball world in 2010. This upper side of downtown Minneapolis is a vast wasteland, strangely enough. Hopefully, the new stadium (right next door to Target Center, too) will shake things up. In that event, the folks at Hi Fi Sound will be very, very happy.
Anyway, I paid a visit to see what's new, and discovered to my joy that they had a Pro-Ject turntable on display. The 2 Xperience, in fact. I saw one before at Stereoland in Eden Prairie, a lost suburb that's impossible to traverse without a car - you're better off travelling by canoe than a city bus - where it was shyly tucked into a bottom shelf. I wasn't very impressed at all.
Saturday at Hi Fi, now, that's a different story. The 2 Xperience looked just fantastic.
You can see a photo of the Xperience above. It's a bit tough to find a good photo, since all I could find online were the company's stock photos. I don't think this was a big seller. Pro-Ject recently discontinued this model a few weeks ago. I didn't pay too much attention. I think that's because many of these tables are difficult to judge without seeing them in person. In online photos, the Xperience doesn't really look like much. In person, it's an entirely different game.
Pro-Ject's 2 Xperience retailed for $999, the same level where the RM5-SE now sits. Having seen both, I don't think there's really any competition. The Xperience is far and away the better looking turntable. The plinth (ugh, what a lousy name, just call it the board) is clear acrylic, as is the cover. The feet are shiny aluminum cones, and this gives the table an almost invisible presence. It also gives it a real "hi-fi" look. This fits in nicely with your big-screen HDTV and your state-of-the-art sound system. This baby just glows with style.
The tonearm is the very impressive carbon-fibre arm, and it's very big and beefy, moves nicely, carries itself nicely. Immediately, I knew this was a great leap from my humble Debut. You can see how Pro-Ject's tonearms become better designs the higher up the ladder you climb. At this point, between the entry-level Debut, and the high-end RM9, it's really starting to show its style.
The platter is a blackened mass of fiberboard (MDF) and vinyl on top. This is similar to what's used on the RM5, but it looks more polished, more coherent. This doesn't look like a slab of plywood; nothing about it looks cheap. It looks like a very solid, very stylish platter. I'm still greatly smitten by the acrylic platters, ever since I bought one for my Debut, so it's hard for me to move on to anything else. But I think this design works best for the Xperience.
The motor is located away from the platter and tonearm, on the back left corner. This is a feature for the higher-end turntables, when you know you've stepped into the next realm of hi-fi audio. The point is to reduce or eliminate the motor vibrations, and keep them away from that tonearm needle. This is the curse of all turntables, and most high-end models simply move the motor away from the rest of the board entirely. This mid-price range is where you begin to see this evolution. Music Hall's MMF5 and MMF7 tables also place their motors away in this fashion.
The Xperience just looks fantastic. I mean, it's really, really fantastic. This is the point in the story where I'm kicking myself for not getting one earlier, or saving up more money this year. Money has been a curse for me in 2008, mostly through my own incompent bungling. Living paycheck to paycheck is a highly risky game, like speeding your chopper down the highway withoug a helmet. One false move, one unexpected bump in the road, and you're finished. Once the swerving begins, you are officially digging yourself out of your own grave.
Hopefully, the new year will prove better. Hi Fi Sound was selling their 2 Xperience, alongside a pricey phono cart (I forget the brand), and a Speed Box SE, a giant, deluxe version of the Speed Box 2 that offers ten times the speed stability and comes with a digital readout. All in all, this is a $2,000 system, easily. Hi Fi is selling the package for just under half that. In layman's terms, this is a steal.
It will be gone long before I have the money saved. There's really no question to it. Ah, well. It's probably better this way. I have my mind set on a Rega turntable these days - one of the new P3-24's with the color boards, a vintage P25, a new P5 - so I really can't afford to suffer these dilemmas. Should I stick with the Pro-Ject brand, or jump to the other side? What happens if and when I get the tinkering bug again? Do I want to bother with upgrades? Who will best deliver to me the Led Zeppelin and Miles Davis I demand? Questions, questions.
Heaven help you if you find yourself in front of a Pro-Ject 2 Xperience.