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MULTIMEDIA

Clearaudio Solution Turntable (Part 1)

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There’s no doubt that vinyl playback has seen resurgence in recent years. Local Hi-Fi shops have been advertising and stocking more tables as a way to generate interest again. They are supported by the music industry’s constant supply of both classic and new releases on vinyl, spanning all genres or music. For a few reasons important to me, I didn’t want to be left behind in the quest for higher fidelity in physical media. I took the needed time listen to a variety of tables and Clearaudio was one of the companies that offered something unique. The emotional delivery of music is tangible from its product line. Unlike the brand new products we normally evaluate in these pages, this review looks at the Clearaudio Solution turntable which I recently added to my system. The Solution isn’t a brand new product but nevertheless, there is a great deal to be learned from this review if you’re thinking about picking up a high quality turntable. I purchased the Clearaudio Solution, priced at $3,200, equipped with Clearaudio’s Satisfy Carbon Direct-Wire tonearm ($1,400) and fitted with a Benz-Micro Glider S medium output cartridge ($1,050). For a total bill of $5,650, I felt that this combination offered a lasting impression of great design and performance.

Clearaudio Solution Turntable

The Clearaudio name has delivered high-quality analogue products for over thirty years. Mainly a family operation, it is based on the vision and philosophy of those in the company. Its mission is to continue setting new high fidelity standards in the analogue reproduction of music. Clearaudio wants to maintain its business model as company set apart from the rest regarding quality products, manufacturing, and products that are built to last. All Clearaudio products are handcrafted in Erlangen, Germany and nearly every outsourced part is manufactured there too. Clearaudio staffs its own engineers and has its own production and testing methods. This enables the company to perform its own documentation on acoustic and technical tests and measure each item rigorously before moving onto to mass production. Another great benefit is that the company stores original high quality spare parts for 25 years, if a repair or replacement is needed.

Thus, if you’re looking for new analogue gear, this is certainly a company that you should consider. Clearaudio manufactures turntables and tonearms, cartridges, phono preamplifiers, class-A amplifiers, and a variety of audiophile accessories such as racks, cables, and plugs.

Design Features

What first caught my eye about the Solution was its appearance. The transparent, tri-shaped resonance reducing acrylic chassis offers three points of contact to an audio rack. It looks a bit like the capital letter Y with each end being capable of accommodating a tonearm base - yes this turntable is capable of housing three tonearms at the same time. The high-precision turntable platter is made out of solid silicon acrylic and is spun by an inverted bearing with a polished ball bearing. This unit has the upgraded CMB-Bearing, a Clearaudio patent where a high precision ceramic vertical axle fits perfectly in a bronze bearing. After lubrication, the platter floats by itself on an air cushion rather than on a ball bearing, allowing for smoother turns and less drag. Supplied gloves prevent oils from the skin staining the plain translucent platter during assembly. To make this table turn, the supplied drive belt is affixed on the outer edge of the platter and spun by an acrylic pulley from a standalone synchronous motor. The pulley is capable of spinning vinyl at either 33.3 or 45 RPM with a speed variation of +/-0.2%. A 78RPM pulley is available as an option.

What first caught my eye about the Solution was its appearance

While some of the intricate items were already pre-assembled, I found it an art setting this table up when using the supplied levels and pads. For additional vibration elimination, I opted to put the supplied pads under the motor and placed carbon fiber Black Diamond Racing LM Discs under the turntable’s conical feet to reduce micro vibrations. In fact I decided to place the turntable on three large marble slab tiles that sit on the top of my audio rack. Not only did it make the setup look even better through the transparent acrylic, but it improved vibration isolation as well. The table was shipped with all accessories, a manual, and 5-year warranty card in a fairly large box with all pieces separate from each other for safe transport.

The Satisfy tonearm is available in aluminum, carbon fiber, and the much denser ebony and satine wood versions. Each offers its own distinct sound. I thought that the very lightweight carbon fiber version would be a good match for the Benz-Micro Glider SM cartridge. The Satisfy tonearm has high quality Swiss vertical and lateral bearings.

The Satisfy tonearm is available in aluminum, carbon fiber, and the much denser ebony and satine wood versions. Each offers its own distinct sound

Connecting and tweaking the headshell to the tonearm is easy, with an Allen screw that simply slides through a mounting bar. The tonearm has adjustments for weight, azimuth, and anti-skating. The vertical tracking angle (VTA) can also be set but not during playback like with the newly introduced Clarify tonearm. The Satisfy can be optionally fitted with high-quality RCA connectors, although I chose to use what I thought would be the best option and that was to have it directly wired. It is what the name implies: the wiring from the head shell continues within the tonearm directly to the male RCA connectors in a length that totals about a meter. The arm lift is extremely smooth and allows a gentle, controlled needle drop anywhere on the vinyl with very good accuracy. The Satisfy reviewed here was listened to using the Benz-Micro Glider S medium output cartridge. My phono preamplifier is Ayre’s excellent Phono stage built within the Klxe preamplifier. The turntable was professionally and meticulously set up so that I could ensure it delivered the best it could. With my patience wearing thing and wanting to dive right into my music collection, I was finally ready to spin some vinyl.

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