Complete with everything you need to get spinning vinyl, apart from a built-in phono stage, the main difference between the Primary E and the outgoing Primary base deck centres around the motor that’s mounted to the MDF plinth. The E model dispenses with the wall-wart and block arrangement of the older design and substitutes a motor that works on a standard 230V AC mains feed and uses a fixed cable and plug, which reduces the cost and makes for a far tidier installation.
The tonearm is 8.6in long, made from aluminium and employs sapphire bearings for smooth travel. Where it differs from many other examples is that Pro-Ject has optimised it to work with the Ortofon OM series moving-magnet cartridge. This means that there’s no anti-skate adjustment and that the tonearm ships with the counterweight already in place, set accurately for the correct tracking weight at the factory and making it straightforward to set up.
Extract the deck from its packaging, plug the interconnects into a phono preamp or integrated amplifier with a built-in MM stage and fit the belt, and you are good to go in just a few minutes. Fitting the rubber belt to the MDF platter is the only part of this process that is remotely involved, as it runs around the outer edge of the platter and can be a little fiddly to get it to sit perfectly in place. It’s also easy to snag when lifting the acrylic lid too, which means some occasional annoyance at having to fit it again, but practice makes perfect.
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The Primary E performs better than you might reasonably expect for the price. There is no audible sign of pitch instability and background noise levels are commendably low, which ensures there is a reasonable and pleasing sense of dynamics to music. Christine And The Queens iT comes across with all the spaciousness and scale of the recording intact. Vocals are well separated from the deep electronic bass and there’s a commendable level of fine detail. The bass extension might not be as deep as with the same material played on more upmarket rivals, but there is sufficient weight and it integrates well with mid-bass frequencies in what feels like an even response. No less importantly, the Pro-Ject defines low notes with a crispness and agility that ensures it never sounds sluggish or overly warm. Coupled with the decent pitch stability, the result is a sense of rhythmic assurance that means even high-tempo material retains a feeling of order and cohesion.
The effortlessly funky nature of Little Feat’s Rock & Roll Doctor is conveyed with a vigour that draws you into the music in such a way that you can forgive any lack of tonal richness or top-end refinement.
Where the Ortofon gives the Primary E an advantage is that it is able to keep poorer pressings listenable in a way that rivals often
PRODUCT Pro-Ject Primary E
TYPE Belt-drive turntable
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 420 x112 x330mm
- 33 & 45rpm
- 6in aluminium tonearm
- Ortofon OM cartridge
DISTRIBUTOR Henley Audio Ltd.
struggle to manage. The rather congested and slightly dull pressing of Chvrches’ Love Is Dead delivers the musical content without concerning itself too much with the limitations of the record. This means top-quality pressings won’t always show the high levels of performance they are really capable of, but the balance is well judged. It also does a decent job of handling well-worn LPs and it takes some fairly significant surface damage to provoke the tonearm into tracking errors. If you seek a turntable to play finds from record fairs and other less than pristine LPs, this is a solid bet.
The Primary E can be relied upon to play records long term without wearing them out – something of an issue with some similarly priced but non-hi-fi rival vinyl spinning designs – and has engineered out some of the flexibility of the older models in the pursuit of hitting a new low entry- level price point. But what is most surprising about the Primary E, is its ability to deliver a genuinely satisfying musical performance at such a very attractive price, making it an ideal turntable for any new or retuning fans to the format.