We've long been fans of Clearaudio's Concept turntable package. It's always been well made and easy to use, but a recent price drop puts it back on the front line as far as £1000 turntables are concerned. Clearaudio has also taken the chance to improve the arm recently too.
Simplicity is a big part of this package's charm. Unlike some rival designs, which require patience, a steady hand and a passable grasp of mathematics to get working, the Concept is a ‘plug and play' product straight from the box.
The company's own MM Concept cartridge is fitted to the Verify Direct Wire Plus tonearm, and Clearaudio sets everything, up to and including cartridge weight and bias, before the turntable leaves the factory. You can fit a platter and a drive belt, can't you? Of course you can – and then the Clearaudio's ready to play.
Before dropping a record into place, though, it's worth taking a moment to admire the Concept's clean design and chunkily substantial finish. Speed (33.3, 45 and 78rpm) is controlled by a hefty rotary dial, and the whole thing operates with the sort of solidity more readily associated with outside water closets.
More after the break
With a copy of Michael Jackson's Thriller in place, the Clearaudio is little short of thrilling. It thunders through the plentiful low-frequency action with poise and pace to spare, combining punch, extension and tonal variance in equal measure.
The livid, hectoring rapping is detailed and insistent, front-and-centre of the coherent, roomy soundstage but neatly integrated into the whole. At the top of the frequency range there's nicely judged attack, and the Concept maintains a stance part-way between red-toothed aggression and unflappable poise throughout.
Dynamic potency is never in doubt, and the Concept's timing is crisp enough to grant momentum and drive to the trickiest of recordings without losing composure or focus.
In fact, this Clearaudio has the speed and manoeuvrability to give the lie to those who believe vinyl reproduction can only be warm and wallowing – it's got the sort of alacrity digital formats offer without sacrificing their mastery of tempo.
If you feel the need for an outstanding turntable, don't think twice.