Enjoying a record doesn’t involve just the sound, which is warm and full and makes you feel fuzzy on the inside. It’s also about thumbing through a stack, searching for a tune that fits your mood, flipping the disc after you’re done with side A, and staring at the thing as the music bellows, watching the record spin.
Like a well-designed watch, looks are important when buying a record player. An attractive turntable can liven up a room, and that’s precisely what Pro-Ject Audio’s T1 BT does. After entering my apartment for the first time in more than a year, my friend’s first words were “Wow, that looks pretty.” But the model he was admiring is a redesigned version of the T1 BT from Houseplant, a new company from actor and comedian Seth Rogen and his creative partner Evan Goldberg that sells cannabis and cannabis lifestyle accessories.
Specs-wise, there’s no difference between the T1 BT from Pro-Ject and the Houseplant edition (both have the same $450 price tag too). You’re choosing between looks and vibes, and I daresay the latter is the winner. It’s charming, a little fun, and I can tell anyone who’ll listen that it’s Seth Rogen’s record player.
I’ll admit my experience with turntables is limited. I got into the hobby late last year, after which my collection went from one measly record to more than 25 within the span of seven months. I’ve been enjoying all of them on the $200 Fluance RT80, an excellent entry-level player.
Outside of design, the first difference I noticed between the Fluance and the Pro-Ject is the sheer thinness of the T1 BT. Its medium-density fiberboard chassis is more than one inch slimmer than the RT80. This makes the turntable lower in height, which gave me a lot more breathing room for removing and placing records on the enclosed shelf of my cramped media console. It has a shorter depth as well; the Fluance sticks out the front of the console a little bit, whereas the T1 has room to spare.
I had to do zilch to set it up. The tonearm and cartridge are completely calibrated out of the box. Just hook up the belt drive, plop down the heavy glass platter and felt mat, and plug it in. It took me about five minutes, and most of that time was just cable management. (For the Fluance, you need to calibrate the tonearm’s counterweight yourself.)
The T1 BT features a built-in phono stage, so you don’t need to buy a separate one or hunt down a stereo receiver with the right inputs. All you need are a pair of speakers with red and white RCA inputs and you’re good to go. As a perk, there’s Bluetooth connectivity, which you can toggle on via a switch on the right edge. When I wanted to listen to some records without disturbing my partner’s work, it took a few seconds of holding my wireless headphones near the turntable to pair the two, and voilà! Coldplay’s debut 2000 album Parachutes sounded pretty darn great.
Downsides? If you frequently switch between 33 revolutions per minute and 45 rpm, then the T1 BT might be frustrating. Unlike most turntables, there’s no simple switch that toggles between speeds. Instead, you need to remove the glass platter, hook the belt drive to a different part of the motor pulley, and put the platter back in place. I don’t have any 45 rpm records, so this isn’t an issue for me.
The bigger problem is the lack of an auto-stop feature, something that’s found on many entry-level turntables (like the Fluance) but is somewhat rare on pricier record players. When one side of the record ends and the tonearm heads into the run-out area of a record, my Fluance RT80 stops the platter from spinning. The T1 BT doesn’t stop until you manually toggle the switch off. I’ve come to not mind this as much now, but I initially had to get used to standing up and walking over to it to turn it off. There have been a few occasions where I left it spinning a good deal after the record stopped, which reduces the life span of the stylus ever so slightly. It does mean I listen even more intently, which may be a good thing.
Whenever I use the aluminum tonearm, precision is the word that comes to mind. The locking mechanism that keeps the tonearm resting securely in its cradle is a lot more elegant than the flimsier one on the RT80. Also, moving the Pro-Ject’s tonearm over a record just feels more, well, precise. It doesn’t flail around, which sometimes happens on the Fluance.
Pushing the cueing lever down is satisfying too, as the needle floats gently down into the groove. Better yet, the factory-installed Ortofon OM5e cartridge doesn’t have a huge headshell, so I can actually see the stylus needle. That makes it easier to place it at the correct starting point of a record, which I sometimes had trouble with on the RT80.
From the first record I played (Arcade Fire’s soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Her), I picked up a slightly wider soundstage from the T1 BT over the Fluance. I noticed slightly less surface noise, and while songs overall sounded clearer, bass can occasionally get overwhelming. To be fair, I connected it to Klipsch the Fives speakers, which are very bass-heavy.
The pleasant, warm sound still comes through. But is the overall music fidelity leaps and bounds better than the cheaper RT80 I was previously using? No. It’s a noticeable but very, very small improvement. The problem is, if you spend just $50 more, you can get one of the best-sounding turntables out there at the moment: Pro-Ject’s very own Debut Carbon Evo, which my colleague Parker Hall raves about. It uses higher-quality materials, like a carbon-fiber tonearm, but with no built-in phono preamp, it does require a little more setup (and potentially more cash).
The T1 BT is nicer for newcomers, but there are much cheaper turntables you can buy with more features. Regardless, Pro-Ject Audio has them beat in design and feel. The T1 is just much more pleasant to touch and use, and the satin white and walnut finishes are gorgeous. (If you don’t care for Bluetooth, the standard T1 is a full $100 cheaper.)
That said, there’s something even more special with the Houseplant-styled model. The eggshell-like matte texture of the finish is lovely, and the slightly off-white plinth generates a wave of nostalgia as if it rode a time-traveling rainbow straight from the ’80s. The bit of color gives it some pizzazz and makes the Fluance look positively dreary next to it. It’s a statement piece, and it’s freaking Seth Rogen’s record player.
Houseplant says its record player is a limited run, so if you like the look, you’ll want to grab it fast. The company says it’s deliberating whether or not to produce more once the current stock sells out.