Beautifully built, this deck is a joy to use and hear
sweet, open treble
spacious, detailed soundstage
Not without rivals
you wouldn't want to break a £1400 cartridge
Forget the ambient turntable for a moment: let's talk about Mr Nicholas Edward Cave. Along with his band, the Bad Seeds, he created Nocturama, one of 2003's great albums. Beautifully produced, it's one of our favourite test records. And most testing of all, is the closing track, Babe, I'm On Fire. At more than 15 minutes long, it's both an exhausting and an exhilarating listen. Ambient creates order out of chaosSo what has this all got to do with Clearaudio's Ambient turntable, you ask? Well, played on the majority of hi-fi, Babe, I'm On Fire's rampaging bass, crashing cymbals, lashings of feedback and frantic vocals result in a chaotic soundstage, bass that jumps around like a toddler on a Sunny D diet, and treble that cuts through week-old Stilton. Not good, in other words. But play the same track on the Ambient, complete with the £640 Satisfy Carbon Directwire tonearm, plus a splendid £1400 (yes, we did say £1400!) Concerto cartridge, and the Clearaudio delivers a performance as mighty as the music itself.Cohesive across all frequenciesFrom the mass of drums, guitar, percussion and violin, you can pick out each instrument, note and nuance. However, this space isn't at the expense of integration: while the soundstage is wide and deep, the Clearaudio expertly knits together lower, middle and higher frequencies. Of course, you might not listen to Nick Cave. No matter, this Clearaudio package loves all musical genres: Orff's Carmina Burana gets the dynamic reach and impact it truly deserves, while Christopher and Raphael Just's Popper 12-inch sounds more banging than a child with a hammer and a tin box. Put quite simply, the Clearaudio Ambient is just wonderful, whatever it plays.