Clearaudio Concept

For open ears and eyes

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Clearaudio’s vision for the Concept: design an elegantly styled turntable package featuring a level of groundbreaking technology usually only found in high-end turntables, combining plug-and-play simplicity with outstanding sound quality and affordability.

Beneath the refined, contemporary exterior lies a level of technical sophistication unique to Clearaudio. The Concept’s chassis comprises a core of natural medium-density wood fibre within an aluminium surround and upper layer incorporating a high tech synthetic compound. This composite of materials eliminates the detrimental effects caused by unwanted vibrations.

The DC motor is fed by an external voltage-stabilized power supply and is completely decoupled from the chassis, isolating the record from any mechanical interference. The Concept tonearm features a magnetic bearing that is friction-free for extremely low distortion and superb performance. The package is completed with the high-quality Clearaudio Concept Cartridge. With the Concept turntable package, Clearaudio offers you an extremely innovative design that is very affordable.

The revolutionary Concept combines the highest quality of music playback with a design that has won several awards worldwide – including the German Design Award and ‘Best Turntable’ award from ‘What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision’ magazine. With the Concept, to find an affordable entry point to the high-end world is a breeze. It reveals the magic of optimum sound reproduction even for those music lovers who could not previously afford this experience. You can buy the Concept in a package with specially developed MOVING MAGNET (MM) or MOVING COIL (MC) cartridges. A frictionless magnetic bearing tonearm is responsible for the optimal performance of the cartridges. All critical parameters from cartridge tracking weight to anti-skating are pre-adjusted in our factory. The Concept represents the ideal of stress-free ‘plug and play’: unpack, connect, put the record on the platter – and just enjoy music. There was never more audiophile technology in this class of turntables.

CONSTRUCTIONResonance-optimized chassis
SPEED RANGES33 ?, 45 and 78 rpm
DRIVE UNITDecoupled DC motor with low noise bearings
BEARINGPolished and tempered steel shaft in a sintered bronze bushing,
runs on a mirror of Teflon
PLATTERPOM, 30 mm thickness
SPEED ACCURACY
(MEASURED)
± 0.04 %
POWER
CONSUMPTION
Max. consumption: 1.5 Watt
Consumption in operation: 0.5 Watt
Off mode: 0.0 Watt
TOTAL WEIGHTApprox. 7.5 kg (incl. motor, tonearm and cartridge)
DIMENSIONSApprox. 16.54w x 13.78d x 4.92h inches (with tonearm)
WARRANTY2 years (if the Manufacturer’s guarantee card is filled out correctly and sent back within 2 weeks to Clearaudio)

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So, if you’re not familiar with the Clearaudio Concept turntable by now, the concept is essentially getting the most exceptional sound you can from your records at this price.

If that, combined with the five stars at the top of this review and this deck’s mantelpiece full of What Hi-Fi? Awards, doesn’t convince you to part with a grand, we suppose our work is cut out with the remaining stretch of this review.

Build and design

Still, we’ll soldier on undaunted because we think anyone who treasures their stack of vinyl deserves to know just what delights the Clearaudio has to offer

Simplicity is a big part of this package’s charm. Unlike some rival designs, which require patience, a steady hand and a passable grasp of mathematics to get working, the Concept is a ‘plug and play’ product straight from the box.

The company’s own moving-magnet Concept cartridge is fitted to the Verify Direct Wire Plus tonearm (though there is also a moving-coil alternative available), and Clearaudio sets everything, including the cartridge weight and bias, before the turntable leaves the factory.

As with all turntables, you’ll need a level, rigid and properly damped support for this deck to sit on if you’re serious about getting the best out of it (at £1000, you should be).

You can fit a platter and a drive belt, can’t you? Of course you can – and then the Concept’s ready to play.

Before dropping a record into place, though, it’s worth taking a moment to admire the Concept’s clean design and chunkily substantial finish. Speed (33.3, 45 and 78rpm) is controlled by a hefty rotary dial, and the whole thing operates with the sort of solidity more readily associated with outside water closets.

Performance

Being so largely redundant during set up, all that’s left for us to do is dig The Pixies’ Doolittle from its sleeve, delight in drawing the Concept’s magnetically-poised tonearm – which has a magnetic bearing – over the edge of the record and let it drop gently into place.

Kim Deal chugs those first four bass notes and guitars yell as we anticipate being hit by the opening track Debaser like a fist to the thorax.

What’s immediately so impressive is that it’s so incredibly taut, matching its blistering pace with extraordinary poise and agility; something like the Rudolf Nureyev of £1000 turntables.

It isn’t the weightiest of sounds in terms of low-end anchor, but the bass guitar feels anything but cumbersome, afforded the same light feet as its six-stringed cousins, and it’s certainly far away from substantially lacking in terms of depth.

As we tear through the opening tracks without pause for breath, we also find it difficult not to be enamoured by the precision of the Concept’s timing. It’s incredibly fast, yet consistently in control, never stumbling or tripping over its laces.

Pixies’ frontman Black Francis’s rhythmic gasping in Tame, for example, has that combination of pace and restraint that builds anticipation to fever pitch ahead of the final capricious chorus.

Afforded a slight reprieve as the intensity is relaxed a touch for tracks such as Wave Of Mutilation and Here Comes Your Man, we now also have time to explore the ample space within the mix. There is air around the instruments; they have room enough to interact without ever colliding with one another, allowing us either to focus on a singular part or let ourselves be immersed in the whole.

If analysis is a chief concern, it is further aided by the Concept’s transparency and level of detail of which JRR Tolkein would be proud. Having expended both sides of Doolittle, we dig out some Django Reinhardt.

Short of seeing the room and smelling the air for ourselves, Clearaudio comes close to transporting us all the way to 1930s France. It’s like the company’s proof of honesty being the best policy, refusing to sand off any edges that would alter or dilute the character of the music, instead digging into the timbre of the instruments to let them tell whatever is their own story.

And what story do they tell here? Reinhardt’s tale is often one of complex dark and shade, rife with slides and trills – a spritely dance with delicate dynamics. By now you’ll be unsurprised to read that the Concept tracks this dynamic journey step for step.

It is this delicate sense of alternating intensity that sets the very best hi-fi apart, and a significant factor in giving Clearaudio such a stranglehold on this portion of the market.

Verdict

Indeed, the company’s glut of What Hi-Fi? Awards should indicate we find no discernable shortcomings at this price, though that isn’t to say this Clearaudio is the perfect option for everyone. Many might, for example, prefer the more vigorous performance offered by the Rega RP6/Exact.

Knocking at the Concept’s door with more urgency though, is the updated (SB) version of Pro-Ject’s 2Xperience, which, as a turn of the page will confirm, perhaps isn’t so widely talented but has a satisfying warmth that also makes listening to it a joy.

But, no, we can’t see anyone turning down the Clearaudio Concept for a lack of talent. It is as clean, rhythmic, detailed and spacious as you’ll find for the money, not to mention engaging and entertaining. A Conceptual masterpiece, you could say.