I play music all the time at home, but I couldn't help but notice that my wife was grooving and dancing more when I played tunes on the Pro-Ject Classic SB belt-drive turntable. She didn't have to say it's a great sounding turntable, her actions spoke louder than words.
Before we go any further, the Classic SB is the upgraded version of Pro-Ject's still available Classic turntable, which costs $1,099 in the US and £900 in the UK. The Classic SB is slightly more expensive at $1,499 and £1,350, rocking nearly the same design while adding Electronic Speed Control, a deliciously tactile Leather-It platter mat, Clamp-It record clamp and a Sumiko Blue Point No. 2 high-output moving-coil phono cartridge. When that cartridge is sold separately, it goes for $449/£355. The Classic SB comes in three different finishes: Walnut, Rosenut and Eucalyptus. The look is 1970s retro, and I swear the Classic SB design makes me think about my old Linn LP 12 turntable more than anything else.
The Classic SB's precision machined 5-pound (2.3 kg) aluminum platter definitely feels more substantial than the platters you get with similarly priced Rega or VPI turntables. The Classic SB's hybrid aluminum/carbon fiber tonearm is likewise impressively built. The turntable weighs 22.5 pounds (10.2 kg), but the Classic's isolation from external knocks or footfalls was only average.
Audiophiles seeking to adjust tonearm height and cartridge azimuth can spend hours tweaking their Classic's sound. Everyone else can enjoy the Classic a few minutes after they pop on the belt, and adjust the tonearm's counterweight to apply the proper stylus tracking force for the pre-mounted phono cartridge. All of that should be easily accomplished in 10 minutes, there's not much to it.
I used a Pro-Ject Tube Box DS2 phono preamp with the Classic SB for some of my listening sessions, and this tube preamp infused the sound with plenty of warmth. Maybe a little too much for my taste, so I switched over to a phono preamp and preferred its more neutral sound balance. With turntables everything makes a difference, that's part of the fun of getting into analog sound.
Oldsters remembering the bad old days of crappy turntables, and the new-to-vinyl convert who frets over LP's surface noise, clicks and pops will find newfound quiet spinning LPs with the Classic SB. Of course it can't totally eliminate those noises, but they recede into the background.
Bob Marley's "Natty Dread" LP almost completely disarmed my reviewer brain, I had to force myself to listen critically, but there wasn't much to criticize, the sound was lively and Marley's soulful vocals were beyond reproach. The band's solid support threw a party for my ears.
That led to Prince's "Purple Rain" and the energy level surged a few notches. The Classic isn't the sort of 'table that sounds soft or mellow, Prince's 'classic album sounded fresh as the day it was minted.
For some reason the Classic had me spinning my jazz LPs more than I usually do -- there was just something about the way it brought out the band's interplay, especially among the rhythm section.
The Pro-Ject Classic SB is a real charmer, and if it's just slightly out of your budget consider the standard Classic, it'll get you most of the way there.