August 4, 2010

Loving Music. Clearaudio Concept Turntable.

The Clearaudio Concept turn table package spinning in my audio cave.

This is the latest, multi award wining Clearaudio Concept turn table. This budget priced turn table comes completely packaged with the Verify tone arm and a MM Concept cartridge. The Concept also allows electronic speed changes between 33, 45 or 78 rpm at the turn of the front left knob. This allows the turn table to play LP(Long Play)s at 33, Singles at 45 and mono LPs at 78 rpm speeds. The Concept will play all kinds of vinyl available in the market today.

There's quite a few ways to look at this new product from Clearaudio. It could be one's first entry in to the world of vinyl, or Clearaudio. It could be the next upgrade step for all those Rega P1/P2/P3 or Project budget turn table owners. It could be for some one who has been thru the upgrade hoops and now just wants something simple to play music. In fact the Concept turn table can be many things to many people. Best of all, it comes pre set up, and assembled at factory, ready to plug & play.

All one has to do is to carefully pull it out of the well thought out for transport packaging, level the turn table upon placing it on a stable surface/platform, oil the bearing, attach the sub platter belt, then put on the main platter and lastly connect the RCA cables plus hook up the wall wart power supply and you're ready to go!
The Concept package right out of the box! Lot's of shipping tapes and packing foams used to protect the turn table, and the factory set up complete, by the time it reaches your home. Some one has clearly put a lot of thought in to the packaging for transport of this product.

The complete accessories pack, all you need to set up the Concept turn table package is provided.

All the above work took me a little more than 20 minutes. Then finally, it's time for me to adjust my Pass Labs X-Ono phono stage loading and gain setting for the supplied MM cartridge. I followed the recommended settings, which specifies 40db MM gain, 47k resistor loading, and 100pf capacitance loading. I did tried other settings for capacitance loading, but felt that the recommended settings sounded the best. The whole audio review is based on this settings.
After setting up the turn table, I adjusted the setting of my Pass Labs X-Ono phono stage.

I started by playing an ol' favourite of mine, a recently re-issued LP called Ella & Louis. In the track, It's a lovely day, Ella's voice sounded sweet, harmonious and gorgeous. Louis sounded deep, throaty and manly, just as he should. The Concept just kept me transfixed for a few hours on repeat of that same LP. I've never heard this LP played with so much vigour and freshness before. In fact during the Concept's time with me, I just kept playing all the music in my LP collection, irregardless of genre, bet it pop/rock, classical, jazz, Chinese or Hebrew! The Clearaudio Concept just let the music flowed freely and got out of the way. My Marantz CD 7 player was left neglected for the last 6 weeks or so. Knowing that I had a great turn table spinning at home, I also bought some new LPs to expand my new found vinyl joy.

I found the highs of the Concept turn table to be highly refined with a tinge of sweetness, that makes every recording so captivating. However, that said, for an MM cartridge the highs extended well enough and remained transparent, open and fluid all the time. The mids are un coloured, but with vocals remained very present in solid form, which I sometimes describe as excellent mid range density. It is only when I play some well recorded violin tunes, that made me crave for just a little more wood in the rendition of harmonics and texture. The bass is solid, warm and tuneful, just like a turn table should, but like the other end of the frequency spectrum, it just extends low enough and nothing more. I feel that bass guitar lines are especially well reproduced in the most realistic manner. Having said all the above, I was comparing the whole Concept package to analog set ups where the MC cartridge alone, is already far more expensive!

The Concept table is probably the most quiet amongst the budget turn table brigade. Woofer oscillation is very nearly non existent unless playing with my pre amp volume nearly full! But that's a foolish thing to do, unless one is seriously putting the Concept thru it's paces like I am. I also like the fact that external finger taps on the platform which the Concept rest on does not up set it's tracking abilities at all, and with very little "thud" noise coming thru the speakers, something which my ol' Rega P25 and the "suspended" Linn LP12 struggled to better the entry level Clearaudio.

LP surface noise is well isolated, and is seldom transferred to the speakers along with the music. That probably contributes to the quietness of the turn table. I find the Concept throwing an open sound stage and life sized imaging which makes listening to my hifi system so believable, it's a joy every time.

I found one small problem with the Concept turn table though, is that when playing a well recorded solo piano tune, wow & flutter shows, especially when playing towards the end of the inner grooves of the LP. To be fair, I did not witness this wow & flutter issue with other non piano tracked LPs, except the two that I have with solo piano performance. I used both LP's of different piano tracks just to make sure that I am the hearing wow & flutter. However, my previous Rega turn table was just as guilty of this sin. In fact, I think most budget tables will not do well on this test!
The Concept clamp. Designed to match the Concept turn table visually.

John Yew, boss of CMY Audio & Visual suggested I try out the Concept LP clamp too, which is an extra cost option at RM$465.oo a piece. When I add the LP clamp in to the equation, I found that the already quiet Concept just became even quieter. Images just seem to float out of the sound stage back ground that bit more convincingly, yet the tune never suffers from any heaviness or constriction. The wow & flutter issue mentioned earlier also improved some what, it is less notice able but the use of the clamp did not completely eradicate the issue. In all honesty, I previously never liked to clamp my LPs while playing, but with the Concept, I just preferred to use the clamp all the time, every time! In my opinion, the Concept clamp is not an optional but a necessary accessory.
A closer look at the Concept MM cartridge installed and the Verify tone arm.

An even more detailed look of the Verify tone arm's special feature, the magnetic bearing which is nearly contact less with the rest of the turn table. The arm just floats on alnico magnet power! Brilliant design that, I am sure contributed a huge part to the sound performance! Which other turn table at this entry level price range packs so much technical excellence?

The beauty of the Clearaudio Concept package is that the overall sound performance is so very complete and convincing, yet requires the knowledge of a turn table dummy to achieve from the very beginning. Vinyl replay and turn table ownership does not come anymore painless than this! Priced at RM$5,890.00(without clamp), the outlay is not extravagant for a complete start up vinyl system, in today's high end audio land scape.

I also see Clearaudio offering a new Concept MC cartridge for the future up grade route. However, if one is learned later, and wants to be adventurous, one can always up grade to a different level MC cartridge as the Verify tone arm offers nearly full adjust ability. One just needs to refer to the very detailed user manual, which is extremely helpful with full graphics description too.

As for me, I really enjoyed this Concept turn table on a musical level. I bet many will be smitten by it's classy yet simple design, excellent, if light build quality, and just as much for it's overall well balanced sound performance, despite the budget price tag. It has opened my eyes, and ears especially in regards to a turn table's full performance potential, when set up accurately. This turn table truly lives up Clearaudio's Loving Music Concept!

Also stay tune for my 10 Qs with Robert Suchy, of Clearaudio. It's an enlightening and fun session.

Clearaudio products is sold by CMY Audio & Visual, contact John, at 03-21439206.

3 comments:

JC said...

Is the Concept Clamp an actual clamp like the ClearAudio Twistr? It appears to be a weight.

thanks!

Big E said...

JC,

You're right, the Concept clamp is the non screw on type. It's more like a weight on type.(Adding mass in the process?)He! He!

me said...

Come back direct drive - all is forgiven