Essential III Sgt. Pepper's Drum turntable review

GeekDad Review: Pro-Ject Has the Ultimate Turntable For Fans Of The Beatles

Audio Gear Products Reviews

Beatles fans are often record fans and vice versa. If you fall under either (or both) of these camps, then you might want to check out the Essential III Sgt. Pepper’s Drum turntable from Pro-Ject. It’s a high-quality turntable from a leading audio brand that’s decked out in iconic Beatles imagery. It even offers an upgrade over the base Essential III.

This turntable isn’t a new release. In fact, it was launched in 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was also a limited run, with only 1,000 units made for the U.S. market. However, if you search, you can still find these collectors’ items in stock.

Setup

I’ve been a fan of Pro-Ject turntables for some time now. The Austrian company has a stellar reputation, a huge range of models going right up to those for audiophiles with pockets far deeper than mine, and Pro-Ject turntables are assembled in European factories.

This one arrived well-packed and largely assembled, including having the cartridge pre-mounted to the tonearm. From a user point of view, getting it ready to spin records is a matter of setting the platter on the spindle, looping the belt over it, putting on the counterweight and balancing the tonearm, attaching the anti-skate weight, and putting on the dust cover. The most challenging part of that is balancing the tonearm. There are plenty of videos online that show the process in detail, and it takes just a few minutes with no tools required.

Many turntables now include a built-in, switchable preamplifier. The Pro-Ject Essential III does not. When connected directly to an amplifier or receiver with a PHONO input, that’s a non-issue. However, if you want to use this turntable with a portable speaker or stereo system with just an AUX input, you’ll need to invest in a pre-amplifier. I use the Pro-Ject Phono Box, which is compact, inexpensive, and does the job quite well.

Essential III Sgt. Pepper's Drum turntable review
When connecting to an AUX input, you’ll need to connect to a pre-amp first. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Hands-On

First of all, I have to acknowledge the paint job on the turntable. If you’re a fan of the Beatles, and especially Sgt. Pepper’s, you’re going to love it. The bass drum from the album cover is the focal point, but how to avoid having that graphic covered up by the platter? Pro-Ject upgraded the Essential III’s standard aluminum platter with an acrylic platter. You can still see the artwork (at least until a record is playing), and the upgrade brings benefits including reduced resonance, improved bass response, and reduced static.

The Essential III is equipped with premium components including an Ortofon OM 10 MM cartridge with an elliptical diamond stylus. I’ve had this same cartridge on several of my turntables. It’s a big improvement over what you get with many turntables—the OM 10 cartridge typically sells for around $79, which is around the total price tag for many record players. That should tell you something about its capabilities. I find this cartridge also performs well with used vinyl that often has scratches and scuffs that can have other cartridges skipping. That cartridge combined with Pro-Ject components like a CNC machined MDF plinth, an aluminum tonearm with sapphire bearings, a synchronous motor, and decoupling feet combine for a high-quality record listening experience.

As with any turntable, what you hear is going to largely be determined by what it’s connected to, but with a decent amplifier and speakers, you can expect good detail from your vinyl, with a wide sound stage, clear high notes, and plenty of bass.

This is a two-speed turntable, but switching speeds is a manual process that requires moving the belt from one stop to another on the pulley. If you primarily listen to either albums or singles, it’s not an issue. However, those who frequently switch between the two may be better served by a turntable with a speed switch.

Essential III Sgt. Pepper's Drum turntable review
With the platter off, you get a better view of the Sgt. Pepper’s bass drum graphic. (Photo by Brad Moon)

Key Specs:

• Two-speed, belt-drive with synchronous motor, manual speed control
• Silicone belt, diamond-cut aluminum drive pulley
• Aluminum tonearm with sapphire bearings
• Pre-mounted Ortofon OM 10 MM cartridge with elliptical diamond stylus
• Acrylic platter
• Three noise decoupling feet
• PHONO output with gold-plated RCA connectors
• MDF plinth with Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s graphics
• Includes plastic dust cover (pre-mounted hinges) and 45 single adapter
• MSRP $499

Pro-Ject Essential III Sgt. Pepper’s Drum Turntable Recommendation

If your existing record player/turntable has seen better days and/or you are a Beatles fan, the Pro-Ject Essential III Sgt. Pepper’s Drum turntable is a great option. It’s a proven, high-quality turntable, with an acrylic platter upgrade, and a unique, eye-catching paint job.

Just keep in mind that the Essential III is not equipped with a built-in PHONO stage, so you may require a pre-amplifier. If you want to go all out with the Beatles theme, maybe consider complementing this turntable with one of the Beatles wooden record crates from Crosley that I reviewed last year.

Disclosure: Pro-Ject provided a turntable for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!