I want to get this out of the way right off the bat.
I’m not a fan of modern minimalist turntables.
Don’t get me wrong, they can be great.
But they’re not for me.
I just wanted to mention that, so you know from the start how I feel about the two record players we’re discussing here.
But I will be objective and have no problem saying both are amazing turntables, even though I would personally never buy either one.
Read the rest of this U-Turn Orbit Vs Debut Carbon comparison to find out why they’re not for me, along with everything else you need to know about these two turntables.
U-Turn Orbit Vs Debut Carbon
We’ll begin by looking at each record player individually, before comparing and contrasting them. We’ll finish with the main reasons to get each of these turntables over the other.
What Is The U-Turn Orbit?
The U-Turn Orbit is a minimalist hipster turntable. It sounds great and looks European.
The things that stand out, if you are not familiar with this model, are the clear acrylic platter and the lack of speed buttons. More things appear to be missing on this turntable as well.
There is no light, no pitch control, and no built-in preamp. While this is annoying to me, to some people this is exactly what they want.
Less can be more, they say. I agree in many cases, but in the case of the U-Turn Orbit, I would have appreciated at least a speed switch.
To change the speeds, you need to move the belt to the second rung of the motor. This is silly and reminds me of purposely avoiding something that would make operation better, just to be extra minimalist. As I said, this is for hipsters.
What Is The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon?
This is another minimalist audiophile style turntable marketed to hipsters. It sounds really good, though, so I won’t hold it against them that they are following the unnecessarily minimalist trend here.
In truth the Pro-Ject Debut is not following the trend. It was one of the first to set this trend back in the early 90s, when these kind of minimalist hipster turntables were just reaching their potential.
It is a 2-speed turntable with basically the same features (or lack of features) as the U-Turn. No speed switch, no light, no built-in preamp. It has a belt drive motor, and full European minimalist esthetic.
It comes with a better cartridge though. Pro-ject includes the Ortofon 2M Red, which is surprising to see as a stock cartridge on any turntable.
Differences Between U-Turn Orbit And Pro-Ject Debut Carbon
Most of the differences here are esthetic, though there are some functional or technical differences between the two as well. We’ll begin with the esthetic differences and then move on to the rest.
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon has a wood finish (fake wood don’t get excited) or your choice of a bunch of different colors, while the U-Turn is gloss white (or red, or black, or blue, or green).
On the Orbit, it is right on the top front where you can easily press it. On the Pro-Ject DC, it is underneath.
Yes, it is underneath because why would you want to be able to easily turn it off or on? To be fair it is easy to hit with your finger, but it just annoys me that they chose to design it this way.
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is going to set you back about a hundred bucks more, so that is a big difference here between the two units. I chalk up the extra hundred bucks to the Ortofon red cartridge. I can’t see any other reason this unit would be more expensive other than the better cart.
While they are both annoying, the Debut wins the more annoying award for changing speeds. Instead of just pressing a button (how barbaric!) you have to lift the platter (not kidding) and access where the belt attaches to the motor and move it to the next tier of the pulley.
Just when you thought the U-Turn was unnecessarily difficult, the Debut comes and makes it even harder for no reason.
The Pro-Ject DC has a carbon tonearm to make it more lightweight and less conductive for vibrations. The U-Turn has a metallic tonearm.
Now let’s take a look at the similarities between these two modern record players. As you might expect, there are quite a few.
They both have the same esthetic: minimalist at the expense of convenience. There is nothing to see when you look at it but a tonearm, a platter, and a slab of plastic or fake wood. No lights, no-frills, no buttons.
They are both 2-speed turntables. Neither has an option for 78 speeds. This surprises me because the new generation of beanie-wearing hipsters loves to listen to old shellac swing records. I guess they need to buy a normal turntable for those.
They both have the RCA connections underneath on the back, along with the DC power adapter port. They could have easily been designed by the same person. They are nearly identical in the way they were laid out.
Good Stock Carts
They both come with above-average stock cartridges, though the Debut comes with an Ortofon Red, which is a tier above the Ortofon OM5E.
They are both great sounding units, way above average and great values for the price. They are not in the over $500 tier of turntables, but in this range, you would have to try hard to get a better-sounding unit.
They both have the motor isolated away from the rest of the unit. This avoids the motor noise transferring to the rest of the turntable.
It is good idea that results in a very low-noise listening experience. No need to troubleshoot noise with this record player.
Advantages Of The U-Turn Orbit
The biggest advantage is that it is significantly cheaper. As I said earlier, I chalk this up the stock Ortofon red that the Pro-Ject comes with.
It is a better cart than the one you get with the U-Turn. The Ortofon Red 2m is an excellent cart, but so is the OM5E. It is only around 30 bucks less than the red. Both are excellent cartridges, especially to come stock.
The other big advantage is that it is less annoying. The U-Turn makes it easier to change speeds and turn the thing on or off with a switch you can see and get to. The Pro-Ject Debut goes out of its way to piss you off.
Advantages Of The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon has a longer lineage, which should count for something. It has a more classy look overall, especially the version with the manufactured wood grain appearance.
Getting the Ortofon red is an obvious bonus to buying this one. It will sound slightly better initially than the U-Turn (though this is not a fact, some people prefer the OM5E cartridge to the red).
It has a fancier motor suspension as well, but the U-Turn has its motor separated so this is a minor point.
Reasons To Get The U-Turn Orbit
If you like the look of the U-Turn and you want to be the only kid on your block to have a red or green turntable, the Orbit is for you.
It sounds fantastic and has all the hipster charm you are looking for. It will also cost a bit less than the Pro-Ject Debut. If I had to choose between these two, I would get the U-Turn for sure.
Reasons To Get The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon
If you like the wood grain look and have your heart set on getting an Ortofon red to come stock, this turntable is for you. Plus, you have tons of other color choices and all look great.
If you don’t mind lifting the platter and monkeying with the belt whenever you want to slap on a 7” single, or digging around underneath it to turn it off, this is a great choice for you.
It sounds fantastic. Seriously. I just wish they would chill out on the Portlandia a bit.
Pro-ject Debut Carbon Vs U-Turn Orbit: Final Thoughts
When comparing the U-Turn Orbit vs Pro-ject Debut Carbon, one thing is clear right off the bat. These two turntables are very similar.
Both are modern and minimalist. Both play the same record speeds and both lack any buttons, knobs or switches. That lack oif controls goes a long with a lack of features.
Unfortunately, some of the features that are lacking, most notably the ability to easily switch playing speeds, are ones I sorely miss.
This “minimalism over function” philosophy just rubs me the wrong way and is the reason neither of these record players is the one for me.
But if you want your turntable to be as minimalist as possible, these two models are probably the best values on the market today. Both are excellent.