|Pro-Ject Pre Box Preamplifier and Head Box II Headphone Amplifier Review|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Monday, 23 May 2011|
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Pro-Ject Audio Systems celebrates its 20th year in 2011. The Austrian based company has been one of my very favorite Hi-Fi entities for a number of reasons. They offer off the charts value, great designs, and components with uniquely small footprints. Pro-Ject products are also known for an elegant simplicity and long term reliability. Pro-Ject may be best known for their affordable turntables and phono accessories, but they also offer a full line of components including amplifiers, preamps, Digital Audio Converters, iPod docks, CD players, speakers, and cables. They have even introduced a digital music streamer.
Pro-Ject was founded by Heinz Lichtenegger, a former Hi-Fi shop owner who was motivated to offer his clients fairly priced, great sounding, and ergonomic audio gear. Pro-Ject has some very specific design and business philosophies that I find impressive. First, they claim “less (features) = more (music)”. They also say “clever circuit layout, short signal paths, the best components and the application of progressive digital technologies make it possible to achieve sonic qualities that you would not expect at such reasonable prices”.
Pro-Ject has declined to move manufacturing to Asia, because they say “to guarantee highest possible standards in workmanship, all of our products are Made in Europe. “Considering the price points, this is rather remarkable. Another one of Pro-Ject’s secrets is allocation of resources. According to Pro-Ject, their products “represent astonishing value [and] to achieve such sensible price levels, we had to overturn current thinking about the cost principles of electronic products. Typically, 70% of an electronic unit (amp, CD player, etc) is paid for its housing and only the remaining 30% is budgeted for the components inside. We think that you should pay for the functionality you need, which is why we produce large quantities of minimalist, common-to-all housings for our equipment. Therefore we are able to reduce expenses drastically and leave 80% for the components that really matter another highly important part of cost reduction is the removal of unnecessary features. Many of today’s electronic products offer functions that you have to pay for and but rarely use. With the modular concept of Box Design, you only buy what you really need.”
Up for evaluation from Pro-Ject are the Pre Box stereo preamplifier and the Head Box II headphone amp. Both these units are part of the Box Design series which adhere to the philosophy above, and are sub compact in size, and stripped of any bloat. Both units are incredibly well made, sturdy, and are housed in very attractive case work available in both silver and black. I received both of mine in silver. Both the Pre Box and Head Box II are housed in enclosures that are, according to Pro-Ject, “made from die-cast metal, with brushed aluminum faceplates – 100 % resonance optimized and stable. No plastic! Interior components were selected for their audiophile properties, especially in the high-end SE series. Computer-optimized circuit boards and SmD-technology (Surface mount Device) are used for best sonic quality and short signal paths. All connectors are gold-plated for the preservation of signal quality and were selected for their superior connectivity.”
Retailing for $349, the Pre Box features a volume knob, two RCA line inputs, one set of line outputs, and a remote control. Yes, a remote that controls input switching and volume, as unreal as it seems at this price. The Head Box II retails for $159, and also features a volume knob, and one set each of line inputs and outputs, and a ¼-inch headphone jack. Both units come with wall wart power supplies, but can be upgraded with a POWER-Box linear power supply. As mentioned above, there is a SE (Special Edition) version available of each unit, with premium power supplies and parts.