The Rega Planar 3 has dominated the budget turntable market for over 50 years and the latest iteration is the best performer yet. Although the price of this turntable/cartridge combination has crept up in 2022, this is still a fantastic, worthy turntable.
In front of
- Cohesive, rhythmic, dynamic presentation
- Lots of insight
- Well made and beautifully finished
- Needs care in positioning
Celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary, the Pro-Ject Debut Pro is the most ambitious and advanced Debut model to date. There’s no shortage of rivals at this price, but this is a great sounding deck that’s now the best value option at this price.
In front of
- Clarity and sonic precision
- Tight and controlled bass
- Impressive finesse
- Finely built
Rega’s Planar 3 has been our go-to mid-market turntable recommendation for more years than we care to remember. It was first introduced in the late 1970’s and has since been carefully developed over many generations to remain the defining product in its market sector.
Compare the current deck to the original and the two are remarkably similar, only the different tonearm catches our eye. But take a closer look and you’ll see that just about every aspect of the design has improved over the years. It’s certainly a slicker looking product than before, even if it remains essentially the same.
Pro-Ject’s Debut is also a long-running model, but not that long. It started as the company’s entry-level model in the late 1990s and has remained a firm budget recommendation of ours ever since. The huge commercial success of the design encouraged Pro-Ject to expand the line-up in all directions with a huge range of finishes and options, but it’s fair to say that the Debut Pro is the most ambitious version yet is. Taking the Debut far from its budget roots, the Pro is the first of its family to pose a serious challenge to Rega’s Planar 3.
Pro-Ject Debut Pro Vs Rega Planar 3: At A Glance
- Pro-Ject Debut Pro is the most advanced and most capable Debut deck we’ve reviewed
- Rega Planar 3 comes with the Elys 2 cartridge and is still a strong proposition despite a hefty price hike
- Both need careful placement and a good partner system to shine
- Both turntables sound excellent for the money. The Pro-Ject Debut Pro is more accurate and clearer while the Rega Planar 3 has more elan
Pro-Ject Debut Pro Vs Rega Planar 3: price
Both contenders sit at a solid level above traditional budget offerings when it comes to performance and tech.
The Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 now costs £799/£1395/AU$1449. Price increases now seem an essential part of most things, but compared to the Pro-Ject it weakens the Rega’s long-established position as arguably the best value turntable on the market.
Pro-Ject has been aggressive with the pricing of the Debut Pro. At £699 / $999 / AU$1079 it undercuts the Planar 3 by a solid margin, but that only matters if it can compete on build, ease of use and most importantly sound quality.
**Winner: Pro-Ject Debut Pro**
Pro-Ject Debut Pro Vs Rega Planar 3: Build Quality
Both decks are excellently made for the money. The Rega is a time-tested design and everything about it feels carefully designed and built to last. The plinth is simple but looks good with its glossy acrylic laminate. There are two standard finish options and they both look suitably stylish. The latest series of improvements to this product included a pair of phenolic resin brackets on the top and bottom of the plinth between the arm base and main bearing. These improve stiffness in that vital area thus aiding performance.
The main bearing has tight tolerances so little play can be detected when we rock the 12mm thick glass plate. While the Pro-Ject is good in this regard, certainly better than other Debuts we’ve reviewed in the past, the Planar 3 really excels. It also has a beautifully designed arm. The RB300 series of arms has been an industry staple since its introduction in the early 1980s. It has since become the de facto starter tonearm fitted to some truly exotic third-party turntables, a testament to the excellence of its design. Even in the guise of the RB330, as it is here, the arm remains a great product.
It is a credit to the Pro-Ject arm that it is not overshadowed by the RB330. The arm tube combines a carbon fiber outer layer with an aluminum inner layer used for reinforcement and damping. The claim is of high stiffness and low resonance.
This arm feels like a quality item with smooth movement and no signs of excessive play in the bearings. We particularly like the care that has gone into the finish of the bearing housing with its smart nickel-plated metal parts. That’s not all, this design allows for both arm height and azimuth adjustment, so it should be easy to accommodate and optimize for a wide variety of cartridges. The RB330 doesn’t offer such easy adjustability. It’s very close overall though, but the Rega makes it just that little bit better thanks to its excellent overall engineering.
**Winner: Rega Planar 3**
Pro-Ject Debut Pro Vs Rega Planar 3: Features
Turntables are inherently simple things and these are no different. Both are equipped with decent moving magnet cartridges, with the Pro-Ject coming with the new internal Pick It Pro cartridge. This is a development of Ortofon’s long-running 2M Red, with the main changes focused on the suspension with a view to producing a livelier and more powerful sound. It’s an accomplished performer that performs well at the recommended weight of 2.0g of downforce, though there’s no harm in experimenting within the recommended range of 1.8-2.2g to fine-tune the results in your system.
The Rega comes with the proven Elys 2. This is an energetic and dynamic performer, but is not as refined as the Pick It. The Elys 2 mounts to the RB330 with a three-bolt setup that ensures alignment is perfect and tracks with a conventional 1.75g. Besides finding good support, positioning the dish, setting up tracking and bias, there’s little else to do on one of these decks to get them going.
We welcome the Debut Pro’s electronic speed change. It feels so much slicker to change speeds this way rather than having to manually move the drive belt from one step on the motor pulley to the next as on the Rega. The Pro-Ject offers the standard choice of 33⅓ or 45 RPM at the push of a nice rocker switch on the front of the deck, and if you fit an included adapter it can even play 78 RPM records. The Rega does not have this option. Be sure to replace the Debut Pro’s stock flat rubber strap with the included round strap when doing this.
**Winner: Pro-Ject Debut Pro**
Pro-Ject Debut Pro Vs Rega Planar 3: Sound Quality
This is where these decks are difficult to separate. It’s not that they sound alike, they don’t, but they’re broadly on par when it comes to talent. The Rega is of course excellent. No product could dominate the category as completely as it has over the years if it did not perform to the highest standards.
The Planar 3/Elys 2 is an exciting and musical package that digs up so much detail, but manages to organize all that information in a cohesive and musical way. The Rega ticks all the boxes; it is dynamic enough to deliver Jupiter van Holst with the impact and authority the music deserves, while having the rhythmic drive and energy to rock with Bruce Springsteen’s High expectations set.
Looking at points of differentiation, it’s fair to say that the Debut Pro, while capable, isn’t quite as dynamically expressive as the Rega, falling just short of its rival when it comes to delivering the excitement of a piece of music. However, the shortfall in both areas is small, and you’d need a really transparent setup to think those differences were decisive.
Things move towards the Pro-Ject if you value outright detail resolution. The Pro-Ject package sounds a bit cleaner and brighter, delivering low frequencies with an agility and precision that even the Rega struggles to match. The comparison between the two decks is close enough to suit your taste and system.
Pro-Ject Debut Pro Vs Rega Planar 3: Judgment
We love the combination Rega Planar 3/Elys 2. It has reigned over this particular sleeper for years, and rightly so. While it remains an excellent performer, recent price increases have opened a door for Pro-Ject.
While staying extremely close, the Debut Pro’s price advantage is enough to sway our mood, especially as it matches the more expensive Rega’s performance. If you’re looking for the best turntable at this level, look no further than the Pro-Ject Debut Pro. It’s a great purchase that fully deserves our Turntable Product of Year title for 2022.
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