There’s never been a better time to start a vinyl collection now that most of us are stuck at home for long stretches. It’s also a great way to support your favorite musical artists, as records offer higher margins than many other forms of music distribution. I recommend a simpler model for outright beginners, but if you’re still rocking that plasticky turntable you got when you first started listening to vinyl a few years ago, maybe now’s the time to think of a new deck like the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo.

This elegant and simple turntable comes with a specially regulated motor, a thick metal platter, and a carbon fiber tonearm for near-perfect playback. It sounds like it costs twice its $500 price tag. No, it’s still not “cheap,” but it sets a new, relatively affordable standard if you’re an audiophile hunting for quality components and the best musical fidelity.

The Simple Box

Photograph: Pro-Ject

Pro-Ject is one of the go-to names when people talk about great-sounding yet affordable turntables, and the Debut Carbon (the predecessor to this new model), was perhaps the company’s crown jewel. It’s now been dethroned.

Just like its predecessor, the thing that impresses me most about the Evo is how simple it looks and operates. There are no bells and whistles. Instead, every aspect of this product has been engineered for near-perfect sound.

There’s no automatic return for the tonearm when a side is done, but the motor that powers the belt-driven deck has an ultra-high-precision chip that makes sure it’s always running at the perfect speed. There’s no fancy acrylic platter, but the nearly 4-pound metal platter has a special thermoplastic elastomer ring that reduces vibrations. Even the motor assembly has been reengineered to be as quiet as possible.

These are all small things, but put together they offer one of the clearest, most live-feeling analog listening experiences you’ll find without spending thousands more. I’d go so far as to say that this is the nicest turntable you’ll ever need, as far as specs are concerned. In the US, it comes with a new Sumiko Ranier cartridge ($150 retail value) and a really nice low-capacitance cable to hook up to your gear.

You can even get the Evo in some flashy colors, like a beautiful navy blue, red, or wood-grain veneer. My review unit was a dapper nonreflective black.

Getting Spinning

Photograph: Pro-Ject

You’ll want to check whether your amp has a phono preamp. That’s what takes the signal from the turntable and makes it line level so a standard amp can send it to your speakers. Many more affordable turntables have phono preamps built-in, but this one does not.

And as with all turntables, you’ll want to make sure you have a level place to put the Evo. Otherwise, setup is minimal. You put on the platter, plug it in, set the tracking weight, make sure the three dampened feet have the table level, and you’re off to the races.