Return of the Record
Clearaudio Concept Arrives
Closer Look At The Concept
Upon examining the Concept, I noticed that the table has a
simple yet elegant design. The turntable included a nice audio cable, a
wall-wart power supply for the motor, a nicely designed tonearm and a Concept
moving coil cartridge. Although the table does not include a dust cover, one is
available from Clearaudio at an additional cost. All the components of the
turntable truly complement each other and I would like to share some of the
features of the unit that makes this possible.
The Concept boasts a chassis that is constructed using MDF coated with a synthetic composite compound to help eliminate any unwanted energy. It is beautifully wrapped in aluminum trim giving it a clean and modern look. The DC motor is completely decoupled from the chassis; which helps to separate the record from any mechanical interference. The platter is made from 30mm of polyoxymethylene (POM) and is spun on a steel and Teflon bearing. My sample came with the Concept moving coil cartridge, a low output cartridge (0.42 mv) that weighs 8 grams and uses a Micro-line stylus and a boron cantilever wrapped in an aluminum-magnesium alloy body with a ceramic surface layer. The most noteworthy part of this well thought out turntable is the unique tonearm that Clearaudio developed for this project.
The Concept turntable comes with Clearaudio's new Verify
tonearm that uses friction free magnetic bearing technology. The tonearm is
magnetically suspended and all parameters are precisely set by factory; a design
that allows for a rather hassle free experience with easy set up. To my eyes,
the workmanship involved in building this tonearm is superior with the added
advantage of knowing that Clearaudio carefully scrutinizes each Verify tonearm
since they are built in-house. All in all, the approach for the turntable is
clear: make it well, make it simple to use and make sure it sounds good.
Heart of the Concept: Good Sound
I began my first listening session with some of the records that I own that are 180g vinyl pressings. The first record to make it into rotation was Al Green's Let's Stay Together, originally pressed on Hi Records and reissued through Fat Possum Records on 180g vinyl. After listening to the title track, one thing was clear to me. The Concept was a very balanced instrument that allowed Mr. Green's smooth voice to fill my listening room with song. The drums sounded punchy and natural while the horns were very realistic. Next, I moved on to Combat Rock, where The Clash brought us such classics as "Should I Stay or Should I Go?", "Rock the Casbah" and "Straight to Hell". The Concept certainly did rock. Joe Strummer was in my face and the band seemed to come alive with superb impact and weight. In "Straight to Hell", the weight of the percussion was present and clear while the other instruments floated in the room exactly where they were supposed to be. Strummer's angry vocals and message were clear, with the Concept MC cartridge easily flowing through all of the demands given to it. It was time to give it a rest for the night.
A few days after the heavy vinyl audiophile pressings event, I began to dig into my collection of standard recordings. I played several hours' worth of records and enjoyed rediscovering my collection. The needle landed on one of my favorite recordings by the QuartettoItaliano. Beethoven string quartets are some of my favorites and their 1973 recording of String Quartet in A, Op.18 No. 5 on Philips is among the best that I have heard. The Concept performed with ease, where the legato line of the strings was liquid and inviting to my ears. The turntable offered a truly refined presentation and provided terrific rhythm with a very lush soundstage.
of the things that many people dislike about LPs is the noise that can be
introduced on a recording. The QuartettoItaliano album I used was in pristine
condition. The true test is when you play a "not so well taken care of... oops,
I scratched it again" record. I have some of those from college years. Ann
Wilson from Heart was one of my favorite women in rock and I remember playing Dreamboat
Annie over and over again. I loved that album! In fact, I loved it so
much that it has stayed with me for the last couple of decades. Naturally, it
has a lot of wear and tear. It was actually very listenable on the Concept
turntable; which is more than I can say about other tables that have come
through here. The Concept handled the slight warp well and stuck to the record
like a good rodeo rider with no effect to the sound. I then played the record
over and over and over…a middle aged man recapturing his youth.
Finally, I reached for one of my favorite well–recorded jazz
albums. If you like jazz, then you most probably like John Coltrane. He recorded
a great album in 1957 with pianist Tadd Dameron called Mating
Call. This was one of the albums mastered by the legendary Rudy Van
Gelder on Prestige Records and the recording has amazing sound. The players in
this session make this recording really tight and feature Tad Dameron on piano,
John Simmons on bass, Philly Joe Jones on drums and of course Coltrane on tenor
sax. I placed the needle on the record and voila, the beautiful sounds of "Soultrane"
filled my listening room. The imaging was right on target with each instrument
perfectly presented clearly and realistically. The freedom of the
performance and the space between the notes filled the air; which was a truly
delightful experience. This was a great performance, all from a turntable that
will not break the bank.
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