Clearaudio Innovation Turntable
In the world of turntable construction the Innovation is the ultimate technological prototype.
An infrared sensor combined with Clearaudio’s optical speed control (OSC) ensures an outstanding level of speed stability – a prerequisite for optimal listening. A high-torque decoupled DC motor effortlessly rotates the precision-machined 70mm-thick platter made of high-density acrylic. The platter rotates in a virtually frictionfree environment atop the 15mm-thick stainless steel sub platter, thanks to Clearaudio’s patented ceramic magnetic bearing (CMB). A convenient choice of three rotational speeds is also at your fingertips, and it is possible to install a second tonearm.
|CONSTRUCTION DETAILS||Resonance optimised chassis’s shape, belt driven with optical, full automatic speed control|
|SPEED RANGES||33 ⅓ rpm, 45 rpm, 78 rpm|
|DRIVE UNIT||Decoupled DC motor in a massive metal-housing.|
This turntable can be connected to 230 V or 110 V AC (50 Hz and 60 Hz).
|BEARING||Inverted and polished ceramic bearing shaft, polished sinter bronze insert, including patented CMB bearing technology|
|PLATTER||VA stainless steel sub-platter, Delrin or acrylic GS-PMMA platter, precision CNC machined surface|
|SPEED ACCURACY (MEASURED)||less than ± 0.05 %|
|DEVIANCE OF THE SET VALUE||± 0.01 %|
|POWER CONSUMPTION||Max. consumption: 9.3 Watt|
Consumption in operation: 2.5 Watt
Standby mode: 2.5 Watt
Off mode: 0.0 Watt
|TOTAL WEIGHT||Approx. 23 kg (without tonearm and power supply)|
|DIMENSIONS (W/D/H in inches)||Approx. 16.85 x 15.35 x 8.19 (without tonearm)|
|DIMENSIONS (W/D/H in mm)||Approx. 428 x 390 x 208 (without tonearm)|
* Only if the Manufacturer’s guarantee card is filled out correctly and sent back within 2 weeks to Clearaudio.
If building a great turntable is all about top-quality design and mechanical excellence, which we think it is, Clearaudio’s Innovation Wood is off to a winning start.
This is an astonishingly well-built turntable that combines rugged build with exceptional quality of fit and finish. And we do mean exceptional. Even by the standards of stratospherically priced kit this package is something special.
The way the table’s separate metal spindle-piece fits so perfectly into the hole in the centre of the elegant acrylic platter, sinking into place as if damped, deftly illustrates the precision with which this equipment has been machined.
Packed with clever thinkingAs befits a product called Innovation, there are plenty of clever ideas incorporated into the design. The fresh thinking starts with a ceramic magnetic main bearing that minimises friction and noise, and extends all the way to a high-quality DC motor and an electronic speed governor that switches from 331/3 to 45 and 78rpm at the push of a backlit button.
As is typical for Clearaudio’s designs, the £6265 Innovation Wood has no suspension, so careful positioning is a must to get maximum performance.
Our general recommendation for turntable placement has always been to place it on a rigid, low-resonance support as far away from the speakers as possible. And that holds as true as ever in this case.
That said, this deck has an extremely well damped structure, no doubt helped by the combination of aluminium and Panzerholz wood used in its chassis.
Panzerholz is used in the armour plating of tanks which, glamorous though it might sound, isn’t something that carries much value in hi-fi. However, it also turns out to be very good at damping vibrations, and that’s far more useful in a turntable.
Strong arm carries weight of expectation If anything, Clearaudio’s new pivoted tone arm, the Universal, feels even better put together than the Innovation.
The company makes a range of parallel-tracking arms but, as suggested by the Universal’s name, this one’s meant for use with a wider range of decks and cartridges. Its detachable headshell makes swapping cartridges a breeze, too.
Normally, arms feel fragile, but not this one. It’s solid and brilliantly engineered, with a stepped carbon fibre arm tube, magnetic bias and an easy-to-adjust tracking weight mechanism.
The version of the arm under test has provision for fine-tuning the vertical tracking angle while playing a record. The improvement in sonic performance is worth every penny of the £390 it adds to the standard Universal’s £3110 price.
A world-class turntable packageCompleting the package is Clearaudio’s £3820 high-end cartridge, the DaVinci V2. It builds on the design principles of Clearaudio’s highly regarded Goldfinger but uses an aluminium body coated with a 30-micron-thick ceramic layer, which aids both rigidity and resonance control.
The cartridge likes to track at a rather high 2.8g, but it does so with security. Its output level is decent, so gain won’t be an issue with most partnering phono stages.
Combine the Innovation Wood, Universal and DaVinci V2 and you have a world-class turntable package.
There’s a real feeling that the three components are digging up every tiny bit of information from the record groove.
All this content is skilfully organised and delivered with breathtaking composure. There’s never a sense that the deck is having to work hard, even when something demanding like Orff’s Carmina Burana really kicks off with its massive dynamic swings and massed instrumentation.Nice work – and plenty of playThere’s no doubting the control and composure on show here, but this is also a record player that knows how to have fun.
The combination of high-quality DC motor and strictly regimented speed control results in sure-footed timing. This aspect isn’t emphasised as it is in some designs, but it’s good enough for Bob Marley’s Catch a Fire set to work a treat. Vocals are nuanced and natural, and overall transparency is absolutely top class.
All in all, this record-playing package sounds as good as you’d hope at this price level. And we hoped for a lot. It’s built superbly and is a joy to use, plus there’s a feeling of precision engineering that few rivals we’ve used can match.
Thirteen thousand pounds is an awful lot of money to spend on a record player. But, if you really want to hear what’s tucked away in those record grooves, this Clearaudio package brings it all out as well as anything we’ve heard.
CLEARAUDIO INNOVATION WOOD TURNTABLE
by Jim Hannon | The Absolute Sound
Clearaudio’s Innovation Wood turntable combines some stunning new innovations along with others that have been applied to much of the Clearaudio line during the past four to five years, like ceramic magnetic bearing (CMB) technology and lightweight yet extremely dense materials to damp resonances and improve isolation. Some of these improvements have not only trickled down from Clearaudio’s breathtaking Statement turntable, but seemingly have trickled up from less ambitious models. I have always admired the engineering, machining, and German-precision of earlier generation Clearaudio ’tables, known for their clarity, accuracy, and resolution. My admiration increased dramatically after I reviewed the Clearaudio Ambient, with its lightweight but incredibly dense Panzerholz plinth. It was as if the bullet-proof wood had helped the sound become more harmonically fleshed out. For me, this was a welcome improvement to Clearaudio’s sonic signature, helping to make instruments and voices sound more natural and lifelike without a loss of clarity.
Next, I reviewed the modestly priced Clearaudio Performance with its ceramic magnetic bearing (CMB), which floated the platter using magnetic repulsion, resulting in increased transparency. The magnetic bearing seemingly lifted veils between the music and listener so that one could almost reach out and touch the orchestra on a fine recording like Prokofiev’s Symphonic Suite of Waltzes [Cisco Music]. Fortunately, CMB magnetic-repulsion technology was subsequently added to the Ambient and most other Clearaudio ’tables. Moving up in class, I used the Clearaudio Anniversary, developed in honor of Clearaudio’s 25th Jubilee anniversary, as my reference for quite some time. This ’table combined a CMB bearing, a synchronous motor housed in a massive stainless-steel case, and a large 70mm (2.8**) platter floating atop a Panzerholz plinth (sandwiched between two aluminum plates) in a star configuration optimized to reduce resonances and accommodate up to three tonearms. When the Anniversary was coupled with the Helius Omega Silver-Ruby tonearm and a Micro Benz Ebony H phono cartridge, the sound of the front end was very good with explosive dynamics without breakup, bass solidity and weight, see-through transparency, fast transients, an incredibly broad and deep soundstage, and stable imaging. I had not heard anything better for less, and it put several more expensive systems to shame.
The Innovation Wood, ostensibly a replacement for the Anniversary, raises the bar still higher on what a $10,000 ’table can do, outdistancing the fine Anniversary in several areas, most notably in pitch stability. Its speed accuracy reminds me of my dearly departed classic Technics SP-10 MkII direct-drive ’table, but without the motor noise. Using the same Helius/Benz combination, I immediately noted the absolute pitch stability on recordings of solo instruments, like Johanna Martzy’s violin on J.S. Bach’s BWV 1001, BWV 1006 [Coup d’Archet] or Arthur Rubinstein’s piano on Chopin’s Nocturnes [RCA] and on vocals ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to James Taylor. For me, even a slight pitch waver on a sustained note caused by minute speed variations destroys the illusion of a live performance. If you are as sensitive to this as I am, the Innovation Wood will be a revelation, and it does not require an additional external speed controller. Save for the direct drive SP-10 MkII, the speed stability of the Innovation Wood surpasses all the ’tables I’ve had in house, even those that I’ve married with the fine VPI SDS, as well as the Sota Star with its speed controller, and the excellent SME 20/12.
A new motor, massive sub-platter, CMB, and optional peripheral ring all contribute to the Innovation Wood’s remarkable speed accuracy. The new high-torque, decoupled DC motor with “real time” optical speed control uses an infrared sensor, a high-precision reflection scale, and a speed circuit that result in less cogging, less variation due to AC fluctuations, less vibration, and more speed stability than the Anniversary’s precision AC synchronous motor. This is one turntable that gets up to speed in a hurry and offers convenient electronic speed change (331/3, 45, 78rpm) at the push of a button. The Innovation Wood also uses a massive, dynamically balanced, stainless sub-platter, derived from the Statement, which when combined with the optional Outer Limit peripheral ring, produces a very nice flywheel effect.
The Innovation Wood also offers other notable advancements over the Anniversary. It sports two stacked yet decoupled Panzerholz plinths, rather than the Anniversary’s one, with more damping in the sandwich construction, superb leveling locking feet, and a new platter machined from POM instead of acrylic. It accommodates two, rather than the Anniversary’s three, tonearms and provides an excellent platform for both linear tracking and pivoted tonearms.
As with the Anniversary, to affix the record firmly to the platter I highly recommend the combination of the Clearaudio “Outer Limit” peripheral ring along with a high-quality record clamp. I had very good results with the modest HRS clamp and even better ones with Clearaudio’s own massive Statement record clamp. This wonderful record-clamping system is on a par with some of the best vacuum-hold-down systems, but without the slightest risk of small dust particles being trapped in the grooves on the underside of the record, producing annoying “pops and ticks” when that side is played. Of course, if you meticulously clean both sides of the record at once and keep the platter free from dust vacuum hold-down is great, but I preferred the ease of use of Clearaudio’s disc clamping approach and quickly became adept at using the stainless-steel peripheral ring and a record clamp.
When coupled with the Helius (see sidebar) and Benz, these advancements in the Innovation Wood lead to a more relaxed, natural, spacious, and detailed sound, with marvelous bass solidity, articulation, and extension. You’ll hear deeper into the performance as more subtle details emerge, like the tasteful caress of Roy Haynes’ brushes across the cymbals or the air fighting to escape Clifford Brown’s muted trumpet on Sarah Vaughan [EmArcy Records/Speakers Corner]. On recordings that call for it, like Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances [Turnabout/Analogue Productions], the sound is big, dynamic, and bold, as you hear it in a concert hall, with precise imaging and a reference-quality soundstage that is completely illuminated with excellent width and depth. The leading edges of transients are preserved so percussion instruments have amazing snap, and tympani strikes are so explosive they’ll send shivers down your spine. PRAT fans will love that it’s hard to keep your toes from tapping on a wide range of recordings. Moreover, the Innovation Wood’s superb pitch stability enables voices and instruments to seem like they’re more clearly focused and transparent recordings like Sam “Mr. Soul” Cook’s Night Beat [RCA/Analogue Productions] sound more like live performances.
Okay, some exotic ’tables get even closer to the sound of a live performance or the mastertape in a couple of specific areas, but at a significant price premium. Music does not emerge from quite the same inky dark black background with the Innovation Wood as it does from the SME 20/12, nor does it achieve the spooky silence of the reference Clearaudio Statement with its magnetic drive. But make no mistake: The Innovation Wood isn’t far behind in each of these areas. For those of you who like tests, the Innovation Wood/Helius/Benz combo sailed through the Telarc Omnidisc torture tests with excellent-to-outstanding results, only tripping up on the highest level of reproducing canon shots (as have all the other turntable systems I’ve tried).
The Clearaudio Innovation Wood is a brilliant achievement and sets new price/performance standards in several areas. Its pitch stability is stunning, and when mated to a first-rate arm like the Helius Omega Silver-Ruby and the surprisingly good Benz Ebony H cartridge, its soundstaging approaches reference quality. I applaud Clearaudio for migrating so much innovative technology from its Statement turntable down to more affordable products like the Innovation Wood. Now how about magnetic drive?