As noted in my previous review, the RM-9.1’s performance can be improved with the addition of the optional Ground-It Deluxe, but the RM-10 not only includes this granulate-filled isolation base, but also has granulate (metal shavings) in its plinth to reduce resonances further. But the improved plinth is just one of the “upgrades” here. The carbon-fiber arm on the RM-10 is one inch longer to reduce tracing distortion and has an upgraded carbon-fiber weave. It’s a real honey and only lacks some convenience features, like adjustable VTA during play, compared with some separate arms that cost as much as this arm plus ’table. The RM-10 reduces the friction on the main bearing by using “magnetic repulsion” to take a reported 90% of the platter’s weight off the bearing. It’s very cool and makes the platter, which is about double the mass of the RM-9.1’s, seem as if it is floating. Not surprisingly, music seems to float more, too, through the RM-10.
The addition of VPI’s wonderful SDS improved the RM-10’s performance still further. The sound became even more detailed, relaxed, and natural, the accents in the music were sharper, and pace and rhythmic drive increased. And, yes, pitch stability improved and backgrounds were even blacker. I suspect the Pro- Ject Speed Box SE may produce similar results, but at less cost.
All the refinements to the basic design of the RM-9.1 make the RM-10 one heck of a ’table—competitive with turntable systems costing up to twice as much. No, it’s not as good as the bigger SME ’tables, but it shares many of their fine attributes, only to a lesser degree. One is drawn into the music and there are those moments when it feels as if the performers are in the room. For me, that’s worth the extra price of admission.
These Pro-Ject ’table and Ortofon/Sumiko cartridge combinations are all outstanding values. The Debut III is surprisingly good for less than three Franklins, and offers music lovers a lot of analog virtues, like warmth and naturalness. The RM-5 and Blue Point No. 2 extend those virtues, but will also appeal to audiophiles looking for more resolution, control, and realism, as well as a more flexible platform for tweaking. Lastly, the two larger Pro-Ject ’tables, coupled with the Blackbird, may very well establish performance benchmarks at their respective price points. The choice among these Pro-Ject combinations will likely come down to one’s budget, desire for upgradeability, and, most importantly, how close one wants to come to the sound of the real thing. In the case of these ’table and cartridge combos, you do get what you pay for. TAS