Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 Review

Posted on 15th December, 2022

Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 Review

James Michael Hughes tunes into this highly affordable vinyl noise reduction module…


Vinyl NRS Box S3


Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 Review

This neat little box of tricks from Pro-Ject Audio Systems is a noise-reduction device designed to reduce background mush from vinyl LPs. It's used in conjunction with an outboard phono stage and connects between this and your amplifier's line input. Output is analogue only – there's no USB.

It's easy to install and simple to operate. Noise reduction is around 6dB, and a variable 'De Crackle' knob lets you fine-tune the device to suit the condition of different LPs. If you dial in very strong NR, then this may introduce audible side effects that affect tonal balance and cause level shifts.


One of the first discs I tried was an early nineteen seventies CBS pressing of Blood, Sweat and Tears' eponymous 1968 album. Despite being over fifty years old, my copy is in very good unmarked condition. It's been wet cleaned using a Degritter ultrasonic cleaner, then suction-dried on a Keith Monks machine. Although almost as good as new, there's a bit of background hiss and rumble between tracks, plus the odd click here and there. I recently heard a Mobile Fidelity copy of this album, and my vintage pressing is not quite as clean sounding nor as silent!

The Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 delivered a noticeable reduction in low-level background noise – especially between tracks. Overall, the sound was cleaner and quieter. The NRS went about its job unobtrusively and actually seemed to enhance spatial depth and clarity. My copy of Blood, Sweat and Tears is very-typical of LPs from the early seventies. It's okay, but the sound is a bit thin and scruffy. Using this box of tricks helped disguise flaws and limitations by lowering background noise and improving clarity and separation.

Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 Review

The quiet opening of side one always suffered from tape hiss and a little vinyl roar, but now it was noticeably quieter and cleaner. The music itself sounded very engaging and lively. Indeed, it was so good I ended up listening to both sides. What a great album BS&T was and is!

Staying with CBS, and my much-played but rather scruffy copy of Santana's Abraxas was definitely helped by the Vinyl NRS Box S3. Again, this LP had been thoroughly cleaned but still had some battle scars. Fortunately, there were no loud ticks/pops, so the NRS did its job very nicely. Impressive!


Yet before we get too excited, this is no miracle worker. It's not going to make old worn noisy LPs sound like smooth, clean Japanese pressings. It can't eliminate heavy ticks, pops, or scratches, but it does reduce low-level, steady-state background noise and mush. Providing you don't use excessive amounts of noise reduction, the Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 has surprisingly little adverse effect on the sound. However, the record's overall liveliness is reduced when the NR is set too high. You start to lose brilliance and dynamics, and the sound becomes damped and compressed.

Next, I tried Proensa on ECM – an album of troubadour songs with Paul Hillier backed by lute, harp, psaltery, and a hurdy-gurdy. ECM's Deutsche Grammophon pressing is about as quiet as it gets, but cutting levels are low. So there's a degree of vinyl roar when you turn up the volume. On the CD, you can play this album at a high level and enjoy the music against an inky-black silent background. My LP is largely free from ticks and pops, but the low cutting level means there's some low-level mush when you raise the volume. The CD sounds much cleaner and quieter…

Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 Review

Playing Proensa using the Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3, background mush was much reduced, giving a result much closer to the CD. But, it helped that the pressing itself was largely free from ticks and pops. Had surface noise been higher, it would not have compared as well.

The Pro-Ject has a clever algorithm that adjusts noise reduction according to the music. If a loud sound stops abruptly, noise reduction doesn't kick in immediately but takes a second or two to adjust. Hence you sometimes notice the noise/hiss being faded down. However, for the most part, the side effects of noise reduction are largely inaudible. The stronger you set NR, the more likely you will hear it operate as the music changes. Pro-Ject suggests you set the Variable control about halfway and have Intensity on the lower of the two settings.

The best modern turntables and cartridges seem kinder to LP surface noise than those made in the seventies or eighties. I remember buying Toyah's 1981 album Anthem forty or so years ago, and finding the pressing disappointingly rough – lots of ticks and pops, especially between tracks. Replacement pressings were similar – all noisy. However, playing this LP today, the surfaces now sound relatively clean and quiet! It's the same forty-year-old cruddy piece of vinyl, but it is no longer as noisy. It's almost as if modern stylus tips have a shape that finds the quiet part of the groove.

Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 Review

The Vinyl NRS Box S3 improved my Canadian pressing of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma. I regret not buying a UK copy of this album, and I always meant to replace it – but I didn't. However, via the Pro-Ject box, it sounded surprisingly crisp and clean, with a nice quiet background. It also cleaned up the quiet intros to albums like Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Both my copies are almost fifty years old, and neither ever sounded as clean and quiet as I'd have liked - especially Ziggy, where the drum beats on Five Years should come from silence. The Vinyl NRS Box S3 helped reduce the defects of vintage LPs like these, making them sound more listenable. As well as reducing background noise and vinyl roar, the NRS also seemed to firm up the sound, making it better focused and more strongly profiled.


Some LPs in my collection have suffered heat damage. The vinyl surface becomes dull-looking, resulting in a constant background swish. I was hoping the Vinyl NRS Box S3 would reduce or even eliminate this swish, but unfortunately, it didn't – even with NR set to maximum.

But aren't younger audio enthusiasts quite tolerant of vinyl's imperfections? Indeed, many even seem to like it. Some albums on CD have LP surface noise added to simulate vinyl – a bit like adding simulated film grain to a smooth/clean noise-free digital image. Except that, back in vinyl's heyday before CD, no one ever compared LP surface noise to film grain. I never met anyone who liked pops and crackles. No one ever expressed a preference for American, UK, French, or German pressings because the surface noise sounded better. Never!

Back then, we all searched for silent surfaces. Some enthusiasts even bought expensive Japanese imports in search of that elusive perfect pressing. So I was shocked and baffled when LP surface noise was added to albums being issued on CD. It seemed crazy. Still does…

Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 Review

Speaking as someone who doesn't like LP surface noise, Pro-Ject's Vinyl NRS Box S3 strikes me as a useful device that's well worth getting. However, before buying one, I'd suggest investing in a good record-cleaning machine first – something that wet-cleans vinyl, then suction-dries it after. Wet-cleaning LPs should reduce surface noise at source, and clean up overall sound. The stylus will have an easier time negotiating clean grooves, which should extend your pickup cartridge's working life.

All the same, Pro-Ject's little box delivers a very nice improvement and is simple and easy to use. However, there's one thing that may put some users off; the NR process involves digitising the analogue signal, which passes through a 24-bit/96kHz A to D, then D to A converter. It's actually very neutral-sounding; any changes in tonality are largely down to the noise reduction process rather than 'digital'. But some vinyl enthusiasts will be unhappy at the thought of their analogue LPs being digitised and may dismiss this device.

However, I shan't be among them! I like the Vinyl NRS Box S3. It's not perfect, nor is it one hundred percent effective – but it's still pretty darn good. Just don't expect miracles. Providing you don't overdo it, any adverse effects on sound quality are quite small and far outweighed by reductions in noise.

Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3 Review


Those who find the noise between LP tracks annoying will appreciate the Pro-Ject Vinyl NRS Box S3. While it doesn't totally eliminate such noise, it reduces it by about 6dB – sufficient to make many iffy LPs sound like high-class pressings. It even has a bypass switch, letting you compare the processed signal with the original. The unit is free from hum and produces no physical noise and virtually no heat. Oh, and it's very nicely priced, too, so what's not to like? I love it, and now realise that I can't live without it. It really is that simple – and really that good!

For more information visit Pro-Ject

    James Michael Hughes's avatar

    James Michael Hughes

    An avid audiophile for many decades, Jimmy has been writing about hi-fi since 1980 in a host of British magazines, from What Hi-Fi to Hi-Fi Choice. Based in London, England, he’s one of the UK’s most prolific record and CD collectors – no streaming service can yet match his amazing music collection!

    Posted in:Hi-Fi Turntables
    Tags: pro-ject  henley audio 


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