Clearaudio Factory Tour
Article By Steven R. Rochlin
Clearaudio has been making top quality cartridges and turntable for many years. While other German companies have paid tribute to them by copying many of their turntable designs, Clearaudio stands well above others through strenuous research and development and in having a proper facility to truly design and engineer critical parts for their products. For instance, their phono cartridges are very unique in that they use no normal suspension as seen with other cartridges. Clearaudio feels this is just part of why their cartridges are able to reveal musical nuances within a record's groove. Moving into their new facility only months ago, they now have vastly more space and have added equipment to further their design and engineering efforts.
Peter Suchy wonders why in this millennium people still use pivoted tonearms. It is a well-known f act that pivoted tonearms have distortion while linear tracking arms, such as the Sowther as used within the top-flight Clearaudio turntables, provides the lowest distortion and higher performance achievable. While this may be true, Clearaudio does offer their own custom version of the Rega tonearm (seen below). These Rega tonearms are specially made for Clearaudio and use stainless steel instead of bass. The advantages, according to Clearaudio, is in better vibration control and also it does not tarnish and change as the standard brass version does.
Seen above is the Sowther linear tracking tonearm that, like the Rega, uses Clearaudio custom tonearm wire. In fact Clearaudio now has their new "Superwire" that will be used in top-line tonearms like the above unit. This wire is said to have very high-quality sound, though the really important part is the virtual lack of physical "memory effect" of the wire itself. In a linear tracking tonearm, the wire that connects to the cartridge also affects the tracking ability of the unit. Having a very soft, no memory tonearm wire will allow the linear tracking tonearm to have a consistent and even tracking of a record.
Of course it is always good to see the actual building of various products when visiting a high-end audio manufacturing facility. Above are just a few of the parts awaiting assembly. Everything is carefully laid out for the craftsmen to then begin his duty of building products.
Here in Erlangen, Germany, where the Clearaudio manufacturing plant is, i was able to see the staff hard at work carefully assembling and also testing products. As turntables and cartridges are devices that operate at decoding information within extremely small grooves within a vinyl record, it is no wonder that tight tolerances and precision construction is a must.
Wood and steel cartridge bodies (seen above) have been carefully quality controlled and now await for the critical innards to be inserted and tested.
Of course all these parts need to be manufactured, and here is where Clearaudio takes their German know-how to task. As one would expect, German engineering has been long respected for precision. Above are just a few of the devices used to make their products that are capable of making products down to the thousandth of an inch!
Of course one needs a truly definitive testing facility to ensure products both new and in development meet critical auditory standards. Seen above is Clearaudio's listening laboratory where various turntables, tonearms, amplifiers and many other top-flight products are employed to ensure their products meet proper requirements. One could say Clearaudio has met their goal and surpassed it! seen below are just a few of the many awards they have garnished from the high-end industry,
In Las Vegas during the January 2002 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) Clearaudio will show how pivoting tonearms have distortion over most of the vinyl record's playing surface while linear tracking has minimal over the entire length. Also showing at the CES will be a special test record that has a built-in stroboscope. This way music lovers can have the ability to test for proper rotational speed as a record is playing. This allows one to take into account the cartridge/record contact drag. As for this reporter, i proudly use a Clearaudio Insider cartridge and have enjoyed many hundreds of hours of musical bliss. Clearaudio manufacturers not just turntables and cartridges, they also produce analog accessories, phono stages, amplifiers, preamplifiers, cables and RCA plugs. For now i hope you get a good idea as to what it takes to be among the world's finest manufactures of analog gear. Of course in the end what really matters is that you... Enjoy the Music.