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Pro-Ject Primary E with dust cover
Tasting notes by Angus
Our boy Angus is here to take you through the system's base configuration and upgrade options like the audio connoisseur he is (just don't tell him we called him that).
The standard configuration
I fondly recall sitting in an ostentatious Parisian wine bar, long before this pandemic had obliterated international travel. My dining companion and I ordered a nice bottle of Chenin Blanc. The waiter gave a knowing smile as I made my request, surely a sign we’d chosen sagely. She returned to the table a few minutes later with a couple of nuggety tumblers, that looked more suited to being filled with a latte than our wine. I puzzled. The glass felt clunky in my hand. I could've been back in my university dormitory, drinking Sunnybank Fresh Dry White. Where was the decanter? The handblown crystalware? On one hand I didn’t want to come across as some Antipodean lout, whinging about the stems (or lack thereof) that she’d supplied. But surely I was within my bounds to expect something a bit more luxurious, something that would celebrate this presumedly profound booze.
In the end I didn’t say anything out of a desire to avoid confrontation, and also because I don’t feel qualified to tell the French how to drink wine. But the sentiment stands. If I’m opening a bottle of Champagne for which the grapes were hand harvested, fermented in carefully crafted oak barrels, then laid to rest in an underground cellar for four years to the point that it tastes like angel’s tears, then I want the vessel to recognise the profundity of the wine. So then, why should music be any different?
I live and die by my musical obsession, and I’ll posit that if you’re here you probably do too. You might already have a Bluetooth speaker, which has sufficed for a number of years, but you’ve found yourself wanting. The songs are there, but certain frequencies feel hollow. You know what a snare drum sounds like, but what you've been getting sounds like someone hitting a snare with tennis ball in a sock three houses down the street. You can't escape the feeling that just like the Parisian tumblers, it's adequate, but far from immersive.
So what we’re offering with the Starter Turntable System is an entry point into technicolour listening. The first step into taking your favourite albums, pinching them at the seams, and stretching the music wide open into wondrous stereo sound.
We’ve chosen each component here because it represents bloody good value for the dollars you’re dropping. This isn’t an endgame system, and it’s not the last word in vinyl listening. It is an affordable way to get you started massaging your favourite tunes into your tympanic membranes. Where the opening guitar tremolo of Bloc Party’s ‘Like Eating Glass’ once trudged across the room towards your eardrums at a dynamically flat saunter, you’re now immersed in an assault of reverb and delay, the notes cascading towards you with all the glow and attack of a real Fender Telecaster. The music suddenly has a life-force. It’s spacious. When Mitski sighs the final lines of ‘Two Slow Dancers’ and her voice almost cracks, you’re right there with her, ready to shed a tear and be engulfed by the couch.
Music in stereo takes on a different shape, and when you up the ante to listening to vinyl on a turntable in stereo, you're really levitating on an upper plain. There's a warmth and natural character to analog sound that digital sources can't convey. Removing an LP from its sleeve and placing it on the platter of the Pro-Ject Primary E is a satisfyingly tactile experience. Gently lowering the tonearm onto the record and sliding into your armchair as the opening synth beams of Jon Hopkins' 'Singularity' flood the room, the kick drum thwacks gradually increasing in force until the beat momentarily recedes. The Rotel A10's power reserves are humming patiently in the amplifiers' capacitors, and then the beat kicks back in, gloriously bludgeoning you about the head, the Monitor Audio 'Monitor 50s' defying their dimensions to deliver a visceral, captivating musical episode. It's something you didn't know you were missing, but now it's clear as day, and backsliding to your old speaker isn't feasible.
But what we find most remarkable about upgrading your listening experience is the detail and resolution you'd previously been missing. The layers of an arrangement that unfurl in front of you. There's a wobble and flutter after each snare hit in the opening bars of Nine Inch Nails' 'Closer'. The warbling verse synth line is rendered that bit more vivid and is possessed of a slippery texture. When the song finally reaches its peak in the closing sixteen bars, there's so many musical strands billowing around the room that the experience could overwhelm you if it wasn't so much fun. If you've ever found yourself wondering if your music could move you - elicit just a bit more emotion - then we think it could be time to invest in some upgrades, and this system is just the ticket.
Monitor 100 speaker upgrade
The components in our Starter Turntable System have been carefully selected to offer up the absolute best value we can muster. The speakers, amplifier, and turntable are all fully fledged hifi components designed by companies who make products that sell for well into the thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars. When designing the system, we wanted to hit that $999 price point. It felt to us like a good and reasonable ticket price for someone’s first foray into the world of true stereo sound.
Of course, if you have the means and the desire to splash out a little bit, there are optional upgrades. You don’t need these upgrades for great stereo sound, but if you want to eke a bit more performance out of your purchase, it’s certainly worth considering the Monitor 100s.
So what difference will these speakers make to your listening experience? The key differences in design (as opposed to their smaller sibling, the 50s) are a larger mid/bass driver and increased cabinet volume. You can expect the bass to be punchier, a little faster, and if you don’t mind experimenting with the tone (bass/treble) controls on the supplied A10 amplifier, you’ll find you can achieve some trunk-rattling results without the addition of a subwoofer, which can be terrific for watching films, too.
That extra low end comes in handy for tracks like Kendrick Lamar’s ‘King Kunta’. Bass virtuoso Thundercat’s propulsive, driving bassline has feistier edges and sounds better defined. The notes don’t blend into each other as much. I can picture a 50ft version of the man stomping down Rosecrans Avenue with a six string bass slung around his neck, his dreads iced with Chanel clips. And despite the deliberately opaque way his instrument is produced, the larger drivers in the Monitor 100s render the notes a little more vividly, and I can hear individual notes more clearly. It adds a new dimension to the song.
Switching to The Beatles' ‘Get Back’, and that extra low end gives the track a bit more weight and authority than it previously had, and Paul McCartney’s deceptively simple bass work is imbued with more pop and texture. It makes the track just that extra bit more satisfying to listen to, shifting it from the background into the foreground of my focus. Think of it as Snickers vs Mars. A Mars bar (my personal preference) has a little more richness, a bit more generosity of texture. More to chew on. That’s what you’re getting on a track like this where the production isn’t packed with low end.
Of course, straight up electronic bangers are given a boost too. ‘Glue’ by Bicep sounds every bit as anthemic as I’ve come to know it, but it’s the extra thud on the leading 808 kick drum notes that lend the beat some extra surge. It’s a deeply satisfying experience, and a song that really shows off the benefits of two channel sound. The extraterrestrial keyboard melody on this track seems to float around the room like the spectre of an alien abduction many years past, and the way the beat shuffles along underneath the syncopated string pads towards the end of the track makes me thirst for the club.
Now, we’re not in the business of talking people out of spending money with us, but there is something vital about making this decision that we think we ought to divulge. If you’re in a really small space then the upgrade mightn’t be for you. Low frequencies have a funny way of behaving and if they don’t have the room to breathe you might not be getting value from your upgrade. There’s nothing hard and fast about what room dimensions will suit - if you’re in a shoebox then the 50s will likely do you fine. But if you’ve got the space, we reckon this is an upgrade you’ll love.
Monitor 200 speaker upgrade
Obviously we designed this system with music in mind. An affordable and great value way to get into a hobby that’ll last you a lifetime. Vinyl offers the chance to not only build a collection that speaks of your tastes and functions as a mirror for who you are, but also gives you a chance to directly financially support your favourite musicians in a way that streaming doesn’t. If you’re considering this particular upgrade, we’re going to assume you’re pretty serious about music and this hobby. But the added bonus of stretching your budget a little further (you’re getting a LOT of speaker for the extra $) is that you’re investing in a pair of speakers that not only possess terrific musical abilities, but present an absolutely absorbing and enthralling amount of sound for watching TV shows and films too.
You might have noticed in the product images that these speakers have an extra driver compared to the bookshelf models. More sound, right? Sort of. Typically on a bookshelf speaker, you have a smaller driver called the tweeter that handles all the higher frequencies, and a mid/bass driver that takes care of - you guessed it - the midrange and lower end. On the Monitor 200s you have two 5.5” mid/bass drivers. Why is this of importance to you?
Built into the speaker cabinet is a sort of circuit board that tells certain frequencies in the audio signal which driver to head towards. Instead of just splitting them into highs and lows, this crossover tells one of the larger drivers to handle the low end, the other to take the mids and the tweeter takes the highs as it always does. Having dedicated drivers for certain frequencies gives a greater sense of separation in the music, so your money gets you a nice round low end and superior handling of the midrange, which is where human voices sit. It makes the music (especially female vocals) sparkle in a way that isn’t there in smaller models.
One of the other excellent advantages to investing in floor standing speakers like the Monitor 200s is isolation. It’s a fact sometimes overlooked by people just getting into vinyl; vibrations are your enemy. An important rule is that you shouldn't have your speakers on the same surface as your record player (without any damping solutions in place - you'll see some small rubber discs under the speakers in our photos for this very purpose, and you can get them from us at a low price). In the case of a bookshelf speaker, if you want to go for the ideal level of separation, this might mean spending extra to invest in stands. In the case of the 200s, you’re supplied with outrigger feet that simply screw into the base of the speaker. This means that the speakers are properly isolated from the rest of the system. It also allays any issues that come with furry friends or young rascals bolting about the house and leaving a trail of destruction behind them. The feet add a degree of stability that ensures your pressure speakers won’t topple over with a nudge.
As always, the proof of audio nirvana is in the pudding so I put these Monitor 200s to the test in the home laboratory for a couple of weeks before assembling this blurb, and I loved what I heard.
Here at Instant Classic we’re not averse to straying from the golden path of hifi standards to test out how a pair of speakers handle a track. I’ve had a fondness for Helena Hauff’s LP ‘Qualm’ since its release a couple of years back. It’s an abrasive, deformed mass of nervous techno that works infinitely better on speakers than a pair of headphones. It becomes exhausting after a few songs if it’s being stabbed directly into your ear canals from close range, but there’s manifold layers to scrape back on a good pair of speakers. I cue up ‘Fag Butts in the Fire Bucket’. It’s a track that needs an insistent bass response with good clarity, and the Monitor 200s fare superbly. The distorted low end on this track is what carries it, and the 200s communicate it confidently whilst controlling the squealing lighting bolts synths up above and placing the skittering drum track just where it needs to be in the mix.
Of course, with all this deep, rich low end and sparkling mids available, the other department in which these speakers shine is film. If you’re spending the money on a system that’s going to improve your music this much, why not extend the courtesy to movies too?
The opening scenes of Denis Villeneuve’s 2018 sci-fi sequel ‘Blade Runner 2049’ demand to be played at a volume that will shake your house’s foundation. When played through a TV speaker, Hans Zimmer’s synthesised keyboard drones sound tinny and shrill. They lack body or resonance, and whilst it’s obvious enough that they could be mesmerising, the impact isn’t there. Listening through the 200s is a revelatory experience. I cranked the bass on the Rotel A10’s EQ dials, gave the volume knob a generous clockwise twist, and man, I was floored. The sound of Officer K’s ship throttling across the solar fields east of Los Angeles was awe-inspiring. The other thing that was apparent here was the advantages of proper stereo sound. As the ship moved from one side of screen to the other, the sound followed in a way that made me forget the world around me. I left my living room, and was hurtled thirty years forward into the fictional dystopia.
What these speakers afford you in terms of low end is a lake of mercury rather than a Scottish Highland bog. The bass is smooth, svelte, and gives the impression that you could carve it with a sufficiently hot knife. The mids have impressive clarity, as if a veil of murk has been whisked back from the music, revealing vocal strands and subtle production flourishes that simply weren’t there before. And they have the ability to captivate completely when utilised for cinema in a way that no TV speakers do. Given the price of entry, we reckon this is a bit of a no brainer.
Add-on Bluetooth receiver
Having a Bluetooth receiver as an optional upgrade for a system that espouses the virtues of analog playback as a key selling point may seem a little counterintuitive. We understand that, but this upgrade isn’t a matter of superior or inferior formats or which is more authentic or dignified. It’s about convenience.
Vinyl is, as we often posit, a profoundly tactile experience. A hobby in which you as the collector and curator can show off your tastes and build a library that reflects a part of who you are.
Bluetooth on the other hand gives you the ability to get home from work, grab a beer, flop on the couch and throw on the new Taylor Swift album, because you heard the guys from The National have co-writing credits. To your ears it’s fine, with Swift’s abundant gifts for storytelling apparent and a guest spot from Justin Vernon tickling your fancy. But you’re probably not going to drop $60 on the gatefold 2 x LP special edition (I am, because I’m a Swift stan). Whether you’re streaming from Spotify on your iPhone, Apple Music on a laptop, whatever, as long as your device is within ten metres and you can see the unit, you’re going to hear a faithful reproduction of your chosen tunes.
What this box offers is the ability to queue up a track on your phone and beam it to a receiver with a similar footprint to a drinks coaster. The signal is wirelessly transmitted using high definition aptX Bluetooth, which ensures the signal is transmitted crisply. The digital information is then decoded by a converter selected by Pro-Ject for its musical abilities. Now that the signal is audible, it’s amplified by the very same hardware that works its magic with your turntable, and channeled to your speakers and into the room.
As with any product that we recommend here on Instant Classic, we’ve put the Bluetooth Box E through its paces. One of our favourite test tracks is Daft Punk’s ‘Giorgio by Moroder’. When we broadcast the song to the Bluetooth Box all of the complex musical strands are there, all neatly organised as we’d expect. Moroder’s voiceover at the beginning of the track has the svelte, baritone quality that we’re so familiar with. As the track progresses and takes shape, the elastic synth arpeggios bounce around the soundstage. As the song enters its final passage, the strings swell and fall with so much cinematic vividness, and when guitarist Paul Jackson Jr shows up at the track’s conclusion to rip and shred his overdriven finale, the notes have all the ferocity and grandeur we expect from any high quality source. And all this from our smartphone!
There’s an oft-voiced concern from folks considering this upgrade regarding negative effects on your turntable’s sound as a result of having a Bluetooth box set up nearby. It’s a perfectly logical conclusion to jump to, but a Bluetooth signal is harmless to other devices around it. If you were to walk into your local hifi store, you’d see amplifiers available for ten times as much as the Starter System that have Bluetooth inbuilt, so that should be a fair indication that it’s pretty harmless.
You’re investing in this system because you want your music to sound great. For the very same reasons that you want to own and listen to your favourite records in LP form, having a device that can stream music from your phone and play it through this great new system makes sense too. It’s a simple and functional way to take advantages of all of the benefits of streaming services whilst building your physical collection. Think of it as a high quality alternative to your prized record collection, a neat addition to your musical journey.
Shop with your mates
Your 30 day trial
We allow refunds for any reason within 30 days, even after you've used the system. Return policies that expect things to come back 'as new' kinda suck, right?
If you decide you don't like the system after having a play, we'll arrange for a free return postage slip so you can drop it off at the post office. No printer required - just show your phone with the barcode we send to you.
Once we receive the system, you'll get a full refund, and we'll find another home for it as a second hand item.
Just make sure you keep all of your packaging in case you do want to request a return; the products can't travel safely without it.
One-on-one help anytime
The system takes minutes to set-up and doesn't require any technical skills. When it's on the way, we'll send you materials to get you going.
Still, we'll always be on hand to chat (even via video) if you want some extra help when it arrives. We've done this with a bunch of customers and it's always nice to put a face to the name!
Think of us more as buddies here to help with your audio. Whether it be on WhatsApp, livechat, mobile or email - whatever suits.
You'll talk directly to one of our team in Australia. No lousy bots or queues, and you'll usually hear back within an hour during opening hours.
2 year warranty & lifetime love
Each system component comes with a 2 year Australian manufacturer's warranty, honoured by us as an authorised retailer for the brands. That'll protect you against unexpected defects and breakdowns (not caused by physical damage).
If anything happens, just get in touch and we'll get it sorted. Faults are pretty uncommon thanks to the quality of our components, but if something does play up, we want you back up and running!
Realistically though, that kind of warranty is par for the course these days. What's more important is the support you get from your retailer for set-up help, troubleshooting and just general advice as you go.
That's where I like to think we excel. We're here to help you for the lifetime of your product, any day of the week and for any question.
Free shipping or pick-up
No matter where you are in Australia, we'll send your system to you registered and insured with no freight cost.
We ship from Melbourne via Australia Post, and most orders are getting to Australian capital cities in 2-3 working days for everywhere except WA and regional areas (which are more like 5-7 days).
Things are still unpredictable though, so we can't give any guarantees unfortunately.
Alternatively, when you go through checkout, you'll see an option to get your product delivered to one of our partner record stores in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast or Perth.
A convenient way to pick up your new system, and a great chance to visit a local record store. New cities will be added over time.
Plastic packaging neutral
We're really conscious about the footprint of our supply chain at Instant Classic, and are constantly working on ways to shrink it. The nature of the products we choose certainly helps, as do operational considerations like efficient shipping and waste minimisation.
While our products use a small amount of plastic compared to some of the more crude and disposable audio products out there, the packaging still contains plastics and foams for protection during freight.
We're always bugging our suppliers about transitioning to more environmentally-friendly materials, but in the meantime, we're doing what we can ourselves by buying plastic offsets for every product we sell. Find out more about the program →.
Set-up help from Gabi
Chryssie from Melbourne got the Killer Turntable System in May 2020. "The sound quality is beyond what I expected."
"I stumbled across Instant Classic. Drawn to their turntable stereo system subscription, it was the simplest, most cost-effective and impressive way to get set up and start playing some sweet tunes.
Within less than a week (and with some next-level customer service), I had received my dream record player and a stellar set-up to match.
The sound quality is beyond what I expected, the warm crackle of the record is literally music to my ears every time it plays, and the record player stays on pretty much all of my waking hours."
Nezzia from Torquay got the Killer Turntable System in June 2020. "I'm very impressed by the customer service, and feel very well looked after, even long after my purchase."
Older speaker model pictured
"Instant Classic is hands down one of the best record retailers in Australia. They might not be the biggest company out there but, they’ve got a team of people who are knowledgable and passionate about music and actually care about their customers.
First and foremost, I'm very impressed by the customer service, and feel very well looked after, even long after my purchase. I honestly can’t recommend them enough. I know that gears could add up and get a little pricy, especially if you’re only starting up like me, but you are at the right place!
Instant Classic offers quality which I'd say is definitely worthwhile. Hit them up with any inquiries you have and you’ll understand what I am talking about."
Josh from Sydney got the Killer Turntable System in June 2020. "My whole setup arrived within a day and my vinyl has never sounded better."
Older speaker model pictured
"I was looking to dust off the record collection and stumbled across Instant Classic one afternoon.
From the outset, the service provided has been second to none. Angus is knowledgable, helpful and made everything simple.
My whole setup arrived within a day and my vinyl has never sounded better.
If you want to enjoy listening to your vinyl again, these are the guys to set you up."
Gabi's accessory picks
Furniture and acoustics
In the box
The Killer Turntable System comes with everything you need to start playing music. Just add records, and away you go.
For example, with the base $999 option, you get a Pro-Ject Primary E turntable (with dust cover), Rotel A10 amplifier, Monitor Audio 'Monitor 50' speakers (with removable black grilles), and all the cables required to connect it up. The speaker cables specifically are 1.5m long for each speaker.
You also have the option to upsize to bigger speakers, add a Bluetooth receiver to stream music from your phone, and choose your colours.
Does this system come with everything I need?
It sure does! For the base $999 option, You get a Pro-Ject Primary E turntable (with dust cover), Rotel A10 amplifier, Monitor Audio 'Monitor 50' speakers (with removable black grilles), and all the cables required to connect it up. Just add records, and away you go.
What if I don't like the system?
Every audio component sold on Instant Classic is entitled to a 30-day trial. It only excludes records, cleaning products and spare parts, as these can't realistically be resold as seconds by us.
If you get your product set up - say a turntable, amplifier or speaker - and for some reason want to return it, we'll take it back within 50 days of you receiving it. Even if it's opened and used. For more details visit our Shipping and returns page.
Is there a sound difference between the speaker options?
Absolutely! As you move up through the range, each model has an improved feature set which will give your music extra detail and fidelity, as well as punchier and deeper bass response (for those of you who are all about that bass). You can read more about the Monitor 50s, Monitor 100s and Monitor 200s on their respective product pages.
Can I connect my TV to this system?
So long as your TV has an analogue audio output (many do - look for a 3.5mm-style headphone connector or red and white RCA outputs on the TV), you can use a cord to hook it up to one of the Rotel's aux inputs. Hey presto, you're making use of that sweet amplification and the Monitor Audio speakers, and man is it going to sound better!
For those of you planning to connect your TV, our resident speaker-ologist Angus specifically recommends the Monitor 200 speaker upgrade, or as he puts it: "What these speakers afford you in terms of low end is a lake of mercury rather than a Scottish Highland bog. The bass is smooth, svelte, and gives the impression that you could carve it with a sufficiently hot knife. The mids have impressive clarity, as if a veil of murk has been whisked back, and they have the ability to captivate completely when utilised for cinema in a way that no TV speakers do. Given the price of entry, we reckon this is a bit of a no brainer."
Is the turntable 'automatic'?
Short answer, no. You’ll see a lot of talk of ‘automatic’ and ‘semi-automatic’ turntables out there, where the arm can automatically be cued at the start and lifted at the end of a record. It’s handy, but the mechanisms involved introduce extra noise (and cost) into the system. Plus, we think a nice part of the whole thing is dropping the needle and lifting it at the end!
Our in-house audiophile Angus has plenty more to say on the matter - check out his blog post, "What to look for in a good turntable".
Does the system come with a remote?
No, it doesn't. The Rotel A10 amplifier is perfect for vinyl lovers and hi-fi beginners, with timeless style and rich, classic analogue sound. It applies this power cleanly and without adding distortion or colouration to the delicate signal coming from your record, however due to this analogue design it cannot be used with a remote.
How often do I need to replace the turntable stylus?
With proper care, we find that up to 1000 hours of playtime is possible without degradation of performance (which for some of you might be a couple of years, but for others, only a few months!). "Proper care" is the key phrase here, and so it's well worth it to invest in some good cleaning accessories, to maximise the life of your stylus. And when it comes time to replace it, we have a number of upgrade options available too.
Can the turntable sit on top of the amplifier?
While it's not a problem to have the turntable sitting on top of the amplifier, we recommend where possible that you have them side-by-side, to minimise the possibility of interference (which can cause unwanted background) noise through the speakers).
Do you have a store I can visit?
We're an online-only outfit, and that helps us deliver amazing value. But shopping online shouldn't mean bad support. Our favourite brands are the ones that treat their customers like humans, so we do too. With that in mind, we're here for all of your queries, no matter how big, small, smart or silly. You can catch us during normal business hours, and sometimes we'll be available after hours and on weekends too. Aren't you lucky?
Can I connect two sets of speakers to the amplifier?
Yes you can, though it's important to check the impedance of the speakers that you're connecting - Angus has written a blog post that you can read if "impedance matching" is the kind of phrase that gets you all hot and bothered! The manual for the Rotel A10 amplifier also provides further information about minimum speaker impedance if you're planning on connecting multiple sets of speakers
Do you have express shipping?
We use a range of different shipping services and free, registered shipping Australia-wide on all orders of $100 and over. Any orders below that are charged $7. That's still below our actual cost of freight, but helps us cover what we need to.
Delivery time typically takes 2-3 business days in metro areas (excluding WA), even during COVID-19. Expect WA and regional areas to take up to a few days' extra.
Either way we'll send your order out from our Melbourne warehouse by the next day so it gets to you as fast as possible.
Do I need to buy any accessories?
Can I play records from the turntable to my existing Bluetooth speaker?
None of the turntables that we sell have a built-in Bluetooth transmitter, however you can buy a little box called a Phono Box E BT to connect to your turntable, which can transmit the music to a Bluetooth speaker.
That being said, the Killer Turntable System is going to let you hear things you've never heard in your music before - more instruments, deeper bass, and crisp vocals. Coming from a Bluetooth or computer speaker to this system is going to feel like putting your glasses on, drinking a Coke on a hot day and wearing a well-ironed shirt all at once.