Clearaudio Innovation turntable panzerholz wood - less tonearm

CL 30 TT INOV W
NZ$ 14,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Clearaudio

"Take the best and make it better, only then is it just good enough." Peter Suchy

New

 
The Clearaudio Innovation Wood Turntable features a resonance-optimized dual tier chassis based upon proven Clearaudio three-point design - a combination of Panzerholz (bulletproof wood), aluminium skins, and aluminium pods. 

The Clearaudio Innovation Wood Turntable's high-density, dynamically balanced 2.75” POM (Polyoxymethylene) platter is mated to a half inch thick, CNC-machined stainless steel sub-platter and Clearaudio’s patented CMB (ceramic magnetic bearing) technology, where the platter magnetically levitates on an inverted bearing attached to a low-friction ceramic shaft. A high-torque DC motor exclusive to Clearaudio is equipped with an OSC (optical speed control) circuit controlled in real time via an infrared sensor. 

The end result is a highly musical, detailed presentation with very accurate pitch and exceptional rhythm and pace. The Clearaudio Innovation Wood Turntable is also dual tonearm capable and plays 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm and 78 rpm speeds. 

"The Clearaudio Innovation Wood is a brilliant achievement and sets new price/performance standards in several areas. Its pitch stability is stunning, its soundstaging approaches reference quality. I applaud Clearaudio for migrating so much innovative technology down to more affordable products like the Innovation Wood." 
....... Jim Hannon, The Absolute Sound,

With the "Innovation" turntable clearaudio set new standards in High-End turntable manufacturing.

The "Innovation" comes with a new developed optical speed control (OSC). The "OSC" consists of an infrared sensor, high precision reflection scale and corresponding speed circuit.

This outstanding development has already achieved the highest ratings by the German Hifi-magazines - Audio and Stereoplay. By their independent laboratory the clearaudio "Innovation" turntable was measured with the lowest speed variation ever.

An infrared sensor combined with Clearaudio's optical speed control (OSC) ensures an outstanding level of speed stability – a prerequisite for optimal listening. A high-torque decoupled DC motor effortlessly rotates the precision-machined 70mm-thick platter made of high-density acrylic. 

The platter rotates in a virtually friction free environment atop the 15mm-thick stainless steel sub platter, thanks to Clearaudio's patented ceramic magnetic bearing (CMB). 

A convenient choice of three rotational speeds is also at your fingertips, and it is possible to install a second tonearm.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Features

Construction details: 
Resonance optimised chassis's shape, belt driven with self adjusting speed control
Precision CNC machined surface, solid stainless steel sub-platter, dynamically balanced
70 mm / 2,75 inch main platter, made out of POM material with high density and excellent dimension stability, dynamically balanced 

Speed change: Comfortable speed change (33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, 78 rpm) 
Motor drive: High torque DC-motor, exclusively made for clearaudio
Electronic optical speed control ("OSC") in real time through infrared sensor 
Main bearing: clearaudio patented CMB - bearing technology 

Platter material: 
Precision CNC machined surface, solid stainless steel sub-platter, dynamically balanced 70 mm / 2,75 inch main platter, made out of POM material with high density and excellent dimension stability, dynamically balanced 

Platter height: 
70 mm / 2,75 inch main platter, made out of POM material with high density and excellent dimension stability, dynamically balanced15 mm precision CNC machined surface, solid stainless steel sub-platter, dynamically balanced 
Speed accuracy (measured): less than ± 0.05 % 

More special features:
All turntable feet are fine adjustable
Optical speed control (OSC)
Optional thinner centre spindle available to compensate LP`S eccentricity
Playback with two tonearms possible 

Weight: approx: 23 kg (without tonearm and power supply) 
Dimensions (W/D/H in mm): 479 x 485 x 225 

Specifications

•Clearaudio Universal tonearm 
•Construction details: resonance optimized chassis, belt drive 
•Precision machined solid stainless steel sub-platter 
•Speeds: 33, 45 & 78 rpm 
•Motor drive: high torque DC, OSC speed control 
•CMB bearing 
•Platter material: high density POM 
•Platter height: 70mm, dynamically balanced 
•Speed accuracy (measured): ±0.05% 
•Total weight: approximately 23kg 
•Dimensions: 18.86"Wx19.09"D x8.86"H 
•Manufacturer's warranty: 5 years 

Reviews

TAS-The Absolute Sound 2012 Vinyl Buyers Guide recommendations

TAS - The Abosulte Sound includes many of Clearaudio Turntables, Cartridges & Phono stages in their 2012 Vinyl Buyers Guide recommendations

Turntables - US$1000–$2000
Clearaudio Concept with Concept mm cartridge; $2000 with Concept mc cartridge)
The Clearaudio Concept turntable package does everything but unbox itself. Preset at the factory, this spinner features a svelte belt-drive chassis, a stunning friction-free, magneticbearing Verify tonearm, and the Concept moving-magnet cartridge. The build and finish of this Germanmade ’table are superior. For sheer musical engagement and superb speed stability, it’s the one to beat in this price range. WG, 205
 
Turntables - US$2000–$5000
Clearaudio Performance SEP with Verify tonearm)
The Performance’s precision ceramic/magnetic bearing allows its platterto float on a cushion of air, contributing to this
turntable system’s startling transparency, openness, and clarity, very good native speed stability, and low noise floor. Its improved Verify arm is equally at home with high-performance moving coils or modest moving magnets. As with most massloaded designs, a rigid stand is required. JH, 180
 
Turntables - US$5000–$10,000
Clearaudio Ovation/Clarify
Continuing the trend of bundling together ever more sophisticated turntables, arms, and cartridges into fine-sounding but relatively hassle-free combinations, Clearaudio recently released what may be the most ambitious such package yet. With a magnetic-bearing arm and Talisman v2 Gold cartridge, the Ovation is a terrific-sounding combo. It is very well balanced, with excellent detail that emerges from silent backgrounds, exceptional pitch stability, and sweet extended highs—if not the
powerhouse bottom-end found in the highest-end models. WG, 216
 
Turntables - $10,000 and above
Clearaudio Innovation Wood
The dual-plinthed Innovation Wood combines some stunning innovations with Clearaudio’s ceramic/magnetic bearing (CMB) technology and lightweight yet extremely dense Panzerholz to damp resonances. It uses a massive stainlesssteel
subplatter, which, when coupled with a new DC motor with optical speed control, results in superb speed accuracy. JH has not heard any belt-driven ’table best the Innovation Wood in this critical area. Solo instruments and voices have such rock-solid pitch stability that you’ll swear you are listening to a direct-drive ’table without the motor noise. JH, 204
 
Clearaudio Statement
This over-the-top, 4’-tall, 770-pound turntable/arm costs more than an S-Class Mercedes, but delivers a level of LP playback that is unmatched in reviewer Don Saltzman’s experience. The Statement is utterly quiet, stable, and capable of
extracting the finest detail from record grooves. DS, 186 (see also HP’s Workshop in Issue 186 
 
Phono Cartridges US$500–$1000
Clearaudio Maestro Wood
Sharing the solid Boron cantilever and stylus of the esteemed Insider MC cartridge, the Maestro Wood, a moving-magnet design, gushes sweet sonics like squeezing a ripe, red plum. But it’s not a softy in the dynamics department, nor does it
smear inner details. Whether it rounds transient details and rhythms too much will be a question of taste. Rated at 3.6mV, it won’t tax most phonostages, either. NG, 186
 
Phono Cartridges $2000 and above
Clearaudio Concerto v2
This is the entry-level cartridge in Clearaudio’s “super-class” of moving coils, and super it is! The Concerto uses wood to add a touch of warmth and richness, yet retains the superb focus, resolution, transient quickness, and top-end extension that have been hallmarks of Clearaudio’s reference cartridges. JH, 167
 
Clearaudio Stradivari v2
In his recent survey of five moving-coil pickups, PS gave the Stradivari his personal “Golden Mean” award because it ideally mediates warmth and detail, control and relaxation, liveliness and listenability, at virtually no sacrifice in tonal neutrality. There is an organic rightness about this pickup that elevates it to reference-caliber. PS,
 
Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement
Simply the best—which is to say, the most sonically complete—cartridge JV has yet heard. 
Peter Suchy has here managed to combine all of the virtues of past Goldfingers (their phenomenal low-level resolution, their tremendous energy, their vast soundstaging) with a previously unattained natural richness of tone color to produce a
cartridge unlike any other. Like a cross between a Koetsu and a Clearaudio, the Statement will appeal to just about any kind of listener (provided he’s got enough do-re-mi). One of JV’s references. JV, 216
 
Phono Stages -
Clearaudio Basic Plus
The Basic Plus is everything a modestly priced phonostage should be. It’s compact yet elegantly finished. It’s switchable between mm and mc cartridges. A robust outboard power supply is included and yields superb isolation from hum and
RFI. Most significantly, the unit delivers a spacious and delightfully resolved soundstage with heartstopping bass resolution. If you want the last word in isolation, consider adding the Clearaudio Accu+, an outboard NiMH battery supply ($900). NG, 206
I applaud Clearaudio for migrating so much innovative technology from its Statement turntable down to more affordable products like the Innovation Wood.
Jim Hannon

The Clearaudio Innovation Wood is a brilliant achievement and sets new price/performance standards in several areas. Its pitch stability is stunning,

For me, this was a welcome improvement to Clearaudio’s sonic signature, helping to make instruments and voices sound more natural and lifelike without a loss of clarity.

The Innovation Wood (and Black) also offers other notable advancements over the previous Anniversary. It sports two stacked yet decoupled Panzerholz plinths, rather than the Anniversary’s one, with more damping in the sandwich construction, superb leveling locking feet, and a new platter machined from POM instead of acrylic. It accommodates two, rather than the Anniversary’s three, tonearms and provides an excellent platform for both linear tracking and pivoted tonearms.

For me, even a slight pitch waver on a sustained note caused by minute speed variations destroys the illusion of a live performance. If you are as sensitive to this as I am, the Innovation Wood will be a revelation, and it does not require an additional external speed controller. ......, the speed stability of the Innovation Wood surpasses all the ’tables I’ve had in house, even those that I’ve married with the fine VPI SDS, as well as the Sota Star with its speed controller, and the excellent SME 20/12.

Clearaudio’s Innovation Wood turntable combines some stunning new innovations along with others that have been applied to much of the Clearaudio line during the past four to five years, like ceramic magnetic bearing (CMB) technology and lightweight yet extremely dense materials to damp resonances and improve isolation. Some of these improvements have not only trickled down from Clearaudio’s breathtaking Statement turntable, but seemingly have trickled up from less ambitious models. I have always admired the engineering, machining, and German-precision of earlier generation Clearaudio ’tables, known for their clarity, accuracy, and resolution. My admiration increased dramatically after I reviewed the Clearaudio Ambient, with its lightweight but incredibly dense Panzerholz plinth. It was as if the bullet-proof wood had helped the sound become more harmonically fleshed out. For me, this was a welcome improvement to Clearaudio’s sonic signature, helping to make instruments and voices sound more natural and lifelike without a loss of clarity.
 
Next, I reviewed the modestly priced Clearaudio Performance with its ceramic magnetic bearing (CMB), which floated the platter using magnetic repulsion, resulting in increased transparency. The magnetic bearing seemingly lifted veils between the music and listener so that one could almost reach out and touch the orchestra on a fine recording like Prokofiev’s Symphonic Suite of Waltzes [Cisco Music]. Fortunately, CMB magnetic-repulsion technology was subsequently added to the Ambient and most other Clearaudio ’tables. Moving up in class, I used the Clearaudio Anniversary, developed in honor of Clearaudio’s 25th Jubilee anniversary, as my reference for quite some time. This ’table combined a CMB bearing, a synchronous motor housed in a massive stainless-steel case, and a large 70mm (2.8**) platter floating atop a Panzerholz plinth (sandwiched between two aluminum plates) in a star configuration optimized to reduce resonances and accommodate up to three tonearms. When the Anniversary was coupled with the Helius Omega Silver-Ruby tonearm and a Micro Benz Ebony H phono cartridge, the sound of the front end was very good with explosive dynamics without breakup, bass solidity and weight, see-through transparency, fast transients, an incredibly broad and deep soundstage, and stable imaging. I had not heard anything better for less, and it put several more expensive systems to shame.
 
The Innovation Wood, ostensibly a replacement for the Anniversary, raises the bar still higher on what a $10,000 ’table can do, outdistancing the fine Anniversary in several areas, most notably in pitch stability. Its speed accuracy reminds me of my dearly departed classic Technics SP-10 MkII direct-drive ’table, but without the motor noise. Using the same Helius/Benz combination, I immediately noted the absolute pitch stability on recordings of solo instruments, like Johanna Martzy’s violin on J.S. Bach’s BWV 1001, BWV 1006 [Coup d’Archet] or Arthur Rubinstein’s piano on Chopin’s Nocturnes [RCA] and on vocals ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to James Taylor. For me, even a slight pitch waver on a sustained note caused by minute speed variations destroys the illusion of a live performance. If you are as sensitive to this as I am, the Innovation Wood will be a revelation, and it does not require an additional external speed controller.,..... the speed stability of the Innovation Wood surpasses all the ’tables I’ve had in house, even those that I’ve married with the fine VPI SDS, as well as the Sota Star with its speed controller, and the excellent SME 20/12.
 
A new motor, massive sub-platter, CMB, and optional peripheral ring all contribute to the Innovation Wood’s remarkable speed accuracy. The new high-torque, decoupled DC motor with “real time” optical speed control uses an infrared sensor, a high-precision reflection scale, and a speed circuit that result in less cogging, less variation due to AC fluctuations, less vibration, and more speed stability than the Anniversary’s precision AC synchronous motor. This is one turntable that gets up to speed in a hurry and offers convenient electronic speed change (331/3, 45, 78rpm) at the push of a button. The Innovation Wood also uses a massive, dynamically balanced, stainless sub-platter, derived from the Statement, which when combined with the optional Outer Limit peripheral ring, produces a very nice flywheel effect.
 
The Innovation Wood (and Black) also offers other notable advancements over the previous Anniversary. It sports two stacked yet decoupled Panzerholz plinths, rather than the Anniversary’s one, with more damping in the sandwich construction, superb leveling locking feet, and a new platter machined from POM instead of acrylic. It accommodates two, rather than the Anniversary’s three, tonearms and provides an excellent platform for both linear tracking and pivoted tonearms.
 
As with the Anniversary, to affix the record firmly to the platter I highly recommend the combination of the Clearaudio “Outer Limit” peripheral ring along with a high-quality record clamp. ....This wonderful record-clamping system is on a par with some of the best vacuum-hold-down systems, but without the slightest risk of small dust particles being trapped in the grooves on the underside of the record, producing annoying “pops and ticks” when that side is played. Of course, if you meticulously clean both sides of the record at once and keep the platter free from dust vacuum hold-down is great, but I preferred the ease of use of Clearaudio’s disc clamping approach and quickly became adept at using the stainless-steel peripheral ring and a record clamp.
 
When coupled with the Helius (see sidebar) and Benz, these advancements in the Innovation Wood lead to a more relaxed, natural, spacious, and detailed sound, with marvelous bass solidity, articulation, and extension. You’ll hear deeper into the performance as more subtle details emerge, like the tasteful caress of Roy Haynes’ brushes across the cymbals or the air fighting to escape Clifford Brown’s muted trumpet on Sarah Vaughan [EmArcy Records/Speakers Corner]. On recordings that call for it, like Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances [Turnabout/Analogue Productions], the sound is big, dynamic, and bold, as you hear it in a concert hall, with precise imaging and a reference-quality soundstage that is completely illuminated with excellent width and depth. The leading edges of transients are preserved so percussion instruments have amazing snap, and tympani strikes are so explosive they’ll send shivers down your spine. PRAT fans will love that it’s hard to keep your toes from tapping on a wide range of recordings. Moreover, the Innovation Wood’s superb pitch stability enables voices and instruments to seem like they’re more clearly focused and transparent recordings like Sam “Mr. Soul” Cook’s Night Beat [RCA/Analogue Productions] sound more like live performances.
 
Okay, some exotic ’tables get even closer to the sound of a live performance or the mastertape in a couple of specific areas, but at a significant price premium. Music does not emerge from quite the same inky dark black background with the Innovation Wood  nor does it achieve the spooky silence of the reference Clearaudio Statement with its magnetic drive. But make no mistake: The Innovation Wood isn’t far behind in each of these areas. For those of you who like tests, the Innovation Wood/Helius/Benz combo sailed through the Telarc Omnidisc torture tests with excellent-to-outstanding results, only tripping up on the highest level of reproducing canon shots (as have all the other turntable systems I’ve tried).
 
The Clearaudio Innovation Wood is a brilliant achievement and sets new price/performance standards in several areas. Its pitch stability is stunning,.......  its soundstaging approaches reference quality. I applaud Clearaudio for migrating so much innovative technology from its Statement turntable down to more affordable products like the Innovation Wood. 
If you are in market for a turntable in this price range and you value transparency, speed, and drive you should give the Innovation a listen. It is a wonderful turntable.
Dagogo - Jack Roberts

The Clearaudio Innovation seems to be the final step in the changes in design that began with the company’s Statement and Ambient turntables, and then moved into more of their tables. They first started using “Panzerholz” instead of acrylic for the base of the turntable. Then came the incredible Ceramic Magnetic Bearings, and with the Statement table, a real Magnetic Drive. Now with the Innovation, they have moved away from even a “clear” platter; they have moved from acrylic to a combination of a composite durlin platter with a stainless steel sub platter. Then, there is the new high-torque motor. These design changes are great examples of the trickle down theory of engineering.

This is the third Clearaudio turntable I have reviewed. Clearaudio is a German company that has been dedicated to advancing the art of analog playback for the last 32 years. Their cartridges were well received from the start and many considered them to be the absolute state of the art. One of their early turntables, the Master Reference, was The Absolute Sound’s first five-star component in the late 1990s. Almost everyone found them beautiful to look at, too. Most of all their turntables have from the very start set new levels for transparency and speed for playing vinyl. Still, there were others who felt they had sacrificed the natural warmth and tonality of vinyl for speed and transparency. I, for one, commend them for their 32 years’ devotion to vinyl playback and not abandoning it for something more profitable.

If you haven’t noticed, about three years ago Clearaudio started making some major changes with their turntables. It started with making the plinth of some of their turntables out of layers of “Panzerholz”, a solid bulletproof wood that is used in Germany for limousines and some special armored trucks. They flank the top and bottom of this very special wood with solid aluminum sheets. The result was to produce the first turntables I had heard from Clearaudio with real warmth and transparency at the same time. Their newest turntables from the Ambient model on up have “Panzerholz” for their plinths, and all of their tables above the Emotion model have the new “Ceramic Magnetic Bearing” that literally allows the platter to float on a layer of air. In my opinion, these two things have transformed the sound of Clearaudio turntables.

The addition of “Panzerholz” to the plinths seems to breathe life, warmth, and an overall more musical sound into their tables. The magnetic bearing brings a level of transparency and quietness to vinyl that I did not know was possible. Now they have come out with their new turntables that use a high torque DC-motor, a newly developed optical speed control that consists of an infrared sensor, a high precision reflection scale, and a corresponding speed circuit. They also added a stainless steel sub-platter and change the platter from acrylic to a much deader, durlin type of material. I mention all this because in my opinion, the house sound has significantly changed at Clearaudio.

I feel compelled to say that today's Clearaudio is a turntable maker whose products deserve to be revisited if you were one who found the early ones too analytical. If you had written off Clearaudio turntables, then I'm here to tell you they will hold their own with some of the most musical tables being made, and at the same time bring a level of transparency and quietness these other tables I've heard can't match.

Description, Design Goals and Setup

First, let me tell you nothing prepared me for how powerful the magnetic bearing is on this table, or how heavy the stainless steel sub-platter is. This heavy sub-platter mounts to the magnet bearing thus creating a big and powerful magnet. The bottom of the 70mm durlin platter has a metal shield to provide protection from the magnet affecting the cartridge. All of this goes over the tall thin ceramic vertical bearing while the heavy platter and sub-platter float on air above the magnet bearing. Even though the platter and sub-platter of the Innovation is nearly 10 pounds heavier than the platter of my Clearaudio Anniversary, it still floats noticeably higher and has more of a suspension feel.

This is not the only difference between these two turntables from Clearaudio. Both the Anniversary and the Innovation sit on a three-spoke shaped sheets made of Panserholz, sandwiched between heavy aluminum plates. The Anniversary has one thick, three-spoked sheet while the Innovation has two thinner ones like the Clearaudio Master Reference turntable.

At the end of each spoke, there are very large spikes that go down to support the turntables, but the ones on the Innovation are a new design that makes it much easier to level the turntable. Above the end of each of the three spokes are large and very heavy pods. These serve two important design plans. First, they make the table even more resistant to vibration. Second, they serve as a place to attach your tonearm mounting boards.
With the Anniversary, it is possible to mount three tonearms since the isolated motor sits on its own heavy pod and is completely separated from the turntable itself. It has a pulley that allows you to play at different speeds by moving the belt up and down the pulley, or you can purchase Clearaudio’s “Synchro Speed Controller” separately. With the Innovation, you can only use two arms because the motor/speed controller is mounted on one of the pods. This speed controller makes the external “Synchro Speed Controller” unnecessary. This in itself is a savings of $1,500. This new motor is a high torque DC-motor with a newly developed optical speed control that consists of an infrared sensor, a high precision reflection scale, and a corresponding speed circuit. The same peripheral ring system works with either turntable, but so far the stabilizer only comes in clear, but of course you can’t see it with the peripheral ring on, so you can’t tell the difference.

Clearaudio says that with the Innovation they have set their sights on new standards in high-end turntable manufacturing. It comes with a newly developed optical speed control that consists of an infrared sensor, a high precision reflection scale, and a corresponding speed circuit. This results in speed stability that I bet you notice the minute you listen to the Innovation. According to Clearaudio, Independent German laboratories say the Clearaudio Innovation turntable had the lowest measured speed variation they had ever measured.
 
Review System & Listening

I was in the middle of reviewing Clearaudio’s new radial tonearm, the Universal, when the Innovation turntable showed up at my house. I had listened to this arm long enough on my Clearaudio Anniversary to know how my system sounded with that combination. So, I started the review of the Innovation Wood turntable by pairing it with the Universal tonearm and the Miyabi Standard moving coil cartridge. I also used it with the Clearaudio Carbon Fiber Satisfy tonearm, as well as the Benz TR moving coil cartridge.

The rest of my reference system consist of the Shindo Masseto preamp, used with both its internal SUT and the Audio Note AN-S8 SUT, the Wavac EC300B, and the Teresonic Ingenium Silvers. The power cords were the Audience Au24 powerChords and they were all plugged into Audience’s aR-6 T, while speaker cables were the Teresonic Clarison and interconnects were their 24-carat gold cables.

One of the things that continues to surprise me in comparing turntables is what a big difference the table itself makes on the amount of record or surface noise you hear. The Merrill/Scillia MS21 and the Clearaudio Anniversary both raised this to a whole new level. It seems that everybody who listens to either of these tables at my house has asked me how I get my records to sound so quiet. The Innovation manages to slightly raise the bar in this area over the other two great turntables I mentioned.

The Innovation also slightly raises the bar by being even more transparent, quieter, and more dynamic than my Anniversary. Where the Innovation really is innovative and sets a new standard is in regard to speed stability. In my review of the Clearaudio Anniversary, I wrote, “The Anniversary with the Synchro Speed Controller had exceptional pitch control, the best I had ever heard from any belt-drive.” That was certainly true, but the Innovation is even better. I would go so far as to say it keeps the speed more stable than any turntable I have ever heard, including the SP-10, or any rim drive table. The new optical speed control obviously works beautifully without any of the negative effects that the early quartz-locked systems had on direct drive turntables. This ability to keep the speed spot on probably explains how downright stable music sounds on this new turntable from Clearaudio.
 
Silence

Isn’t it amazing how much difference the quality of the silence of music varies from one audio component to the other? When I first heard MS21 I was simply amazed by the quality of its silence. In my favorite TV show of all time, “Northern Exposure”, Maryland said that you couldn't be a great dancer if you didn't have good stillness. It is equally true that in order to reproduce music that's not artificial sounding, you have to have good silence. The Innovation actually betters the MS21 in its quality of silence.
 
Transparency

Transparency is a priority to me when evaluating gear, because to me it is one of the major traits of going to hear live unamplified music. With the CMB bearing technology, I feel this is also an area where Clearaudio is breaking new ground in vinyl playback. The huge magnetic bearing of the Innovation furthers the transparency of my system. I was able to hear plucked strings, fingering work, and bowed strings in a way that made beautiful music. Add to this the visceral and emotionally satisfying way my system sounded, and you have a real winner on your hands with the Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable.

I have met several vinyl aficionados in both the floating-suspension and the rim-drive camps who don' t think a turntable could be this transparent and detailed while still retaining the magic of vinyl. Well, I’m here to say this turntable has all the drive, flow, and power of any of these type of turntables I have heard. What it does not do is add any warmth to recordings. One visitor who listened for a couple of hour to my system commented that it took a little time to get used to how warm my system sounded on certain recordings, how neutral it sounded on others, and then sometimes it even sounded slightly forward. I know that is exactly what we should be looking for, namely the ability to hear what is on the recording, but to be honest: many recordings are more listenable with a little added warmth.

If you have not had a chance to hear one of the new Clearaudio tables with their “Panzerholz” plinths and “Ceramic Magnetic Bearings,” I encourage you to do so. Even if in the end it’s not the table you choose to own, I think you owe it to yourself to hear this level of transparency, speed, and neutrality from vinyl.
 
Drive, Dynamics, PraT, and Scale

These are areas where the new high torque DC-motor is a real improvement. Its ability to give my system the drive of live music along with lifelike pace and rhythm really let me get emotionally involved in the music. I don’t want to belittle the great sound of a good rim drive turntable, because I fall into the group of those who love them. Still, I would encourage those of you who love rim drives to hear a great belt-drive turntable that uses high torque motors. There are three that I’ve heard, the Audio Note, the Clearaudio Innovation, and the Voyd. All three of these tables have incredible drive and dynamics.

The Innovation has world class dynamics and micro-dynamics for any source, including the best digital or tape. The dynamics are great fun and lifelike and the micro-dynamics bring recorded music to life. The Innovation has a big, dynamic, powerful sound. Instruments have a life-like size. You should hear the lifelike scale and power of a well recorded standup bass or the bloom of a full orchestra.
 
Bass

The Bass is the first thing that some listeners commented on about the Innovation, and that includes some pretty well respected ears. It’s not that it necessarily goes deeper than other great tables, but it’s the way the bass comes out of such a quiet and natural environment. The bass breathes, and lets you easily hear the air, and the wood bodies of bass instruments when well recorded. The bass you get is tight and well-defined; but you get to hear more. You can easily hear the nuances, timbre, and rhythm of real instruments.
 
Midrange and Treble

We have already spent a good bit of time discussing these, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how clean, clear, and beautiful they are. Pianos, maybe more than most instruments, benefited from the solidity of the sound you hear when using this turntable. The Innovation plays music that is just so engaging. It is so easy to hear both the attack and the decay of instruments. The Innovation allowed my system to play brushes and sticks as they come in contact with cymbals and drums with such lifelikeness. They sounded so correct and beautiful while having a space all their own in the soundstage. With either the Benz Ebony TR or the Miyabi Standard, it was very satisfying just how pretty the midrange and treble could sound. The treble was delicate and had such natural shimmer.
 
Conclusion

The Clearaudio Innovation seems to be the final step in the changes in design that began with the company’s Statement and Ambient turntables, and then moved into more of their tables. They first started using “Panzerholz” instead of acrylic for the base of the turntable. Then came the incredible Ceramic Magnetic Bearings, and with the Statement table, a real Magnetic Drive. Now with the Innovation, they have moved away from even a “clear” platter; they have moved from acrylic to a combination of a composite durlin platter with a stainless steel sub platter. Then, there is the new high-torque motor. These design changes are great examples of the trickle down theory of engineering.

The Innovation brings significant improvements over early and more expensive turntables. It brings incremental improvement over their Anniversary Wood CMB table and gives you a better motor, it’s own speed control and a substantially deader platter. If you are in market for a turntable in this price range and you value transparency, speed, and drive you should give the Innovation a listen. It is a wonderful turntable.

Every detail of Knopfler’s diction was laid bare, his voice truly characterful and not merely gruff, and his guitar wizardry soaring and effortless.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller

Massively engineered and exquisitely finished, this Innovation/Universal/da Vinci turntable/arm/cartridge combination embodies a host of Clearaudio technologies

Turning to classical music, I found myself swept away again by a favourite from 1967, Barenboim with the English Chamber Orchestra in that most familiar Mozart piano concerto, No.21 [EMI ASD 2465]. For some reason this seemed to come alive in a quite special way on this turntable. 

Next came Jennifer Warnes’ ‘Ballad Of The Runaway Horse’ from the Rob Wasserman Duets album [GRP 97-121]. Here Warnes’ voice was full of subtleties, sinuous, controlled, yet still expressive. More than ever, perhaps,

Unruffled by the conflicting diversity of the turntable world, Clearaudio has carefully evolved its own design precepts with little regard for peer pressure or pseudo-technical fashion trends. The result is a model line-up that offers a convincing hierarchy of performance and price.
   So if you start at the bottom of the Clearaudio Solution range, you can upgrade with a thicker platter, a doubled-up chassis, and so on. You might never reach the top of the line, which is the three-motored, parallel-tracking-armed Master Reference. It’s a bit like the way that as a boy you could upgrade your too-small Meccano outfit, adding a few gears and maybe a clockwork motor, while really dreaming of owning the Set 10.
   But now there’s a new encouragement to go straight to somewhere near the top, if you can. Clearaudio’s Innovation turntable is founded on the proven building-blocks of existing designs, yet launches a fresh concept of what a high-end turntable should be.
   It’s founded on a doubled-up version of Clearaudio’s sandwich construction chassis; the elegant curves are emphasised by the contrast of the polished metal edges and glossy black acrylic. Other surfaces are matt rather than gloss black, giving a pleasing effect. Compared with the Solution models, the Innovation gains a kind of classic simplicity from the fact that the motor is housed in one of the three towers, rather than standing free between two of the chassis lobes.
   Providing a compatible ‘dead’ surface for the disc is the 70mm-thick black Delrin (POM) plastic main platter. This rests on the lower part, a 15mm-thick disc of stainless steel. Hidden beneath that is the Innovation’s special new feature, the Optical Speed Control or OSC, said to give better speed stability than ever before. There’s nothing new about the basic idea, as feedback or servo-based speed control was common on direct-drive decks around 30 years ago, and was also applied to
belt-drives. But I think Clearaudio is the first to make it work in an audiophile context.
   In the centre of the platter is what could be called Clearaudio’s previous big innovation, the patented Ceramic Magnetic Bearing. The platter’s weight is supported, frictionlessly, by the mutual repulsion of two rings of opposing magnets, mounted on the chassis and on the lower platter. The magnetic elements are designed to give a field that is well contained, and the non-magnetic ceramic shaft means no magnetic effects can reach the surface of the platter.
 
PRECISION TONEARM

Clearaudio is an advocate of parallel- or radial-tracking arms, but here we were provided with its top pivoted arm, the Universal. This lives up to its name, coming with no fewer than four different counterweights; so by choosing the right one you can comfortably balance out cartridges weighing as little as three or as much as 22 grams. With its beautiful pearl/matt chrome finish, thumbwheel control and engraved scale, the back end of the arm has the engineering aura of a classic Moore & Wright micrometer.
   While Clearaudio’s other pivoted arms have jewel bearings, the Universal uses miniature ballraces. Fitted below the main bearing housing is Clearaudio’s VTA Lifter, a lever device which allows fine adjustment of arm pivot height while playing. The arm tube is of carbon fibre.
   Completing our package was the da Vinci cartridge, which comes in below the Titanium and Goldfinger models but uses the same Micro HD stylus. For this model, that distinctive amoeba-shaped body is anodised aluminium (rather than titanium or gold). The long boron cantilever looks alarmingly unprotected as it projects from the nose of the generator assembly, but Clearaudio comforts the nervous with a well-designed stylus guard. You can even set the alignment and check the azimuth with the guard on.
   You might think that the cartridge was made that shape just to make it difficult to align with a setup protractor, but in fact, as with so many other design aspects, the aim was control of resonances. I think it must have been successful. Cartridges usually produce some ‘needle talk’, playing faint but recognisable music by mechanical vibration, but with the da Vinci in this arm there was practically none. The arm should take some credit too, because when fitted in another make of arm, the da Vinci was not quite as silent, though still very much quieter than normal.
 
CONTROLLED BASS

If you are inured to the common species of hi-fi bass, as opposed to the natural kind, you will immediately appreciate the controlled and extended bass of the Innovation. I started with Eric Clapton’s 1977 Slowhand [RSO 2479 201] where that lower-end clarity was a real benefit, in fact a necessity. There was a big, fat bass sound when it was needed but the overall effect was never just dragged down to a muddy bottom, as it so easily can be with this album. So the urgent shuffle beat of ‘Lay Down Sally’, with such great drumming by Jamie Oldaker, came over fairly well. With the Harry James band and The King James Version [Sheffield Lab
LAB-3], once again, the bass was both tight-sounding and absolutely free of boom, so that you could always hear the way that bass lines underpinned the music harmonically, as well as keeping time. In the mid and treble, brass sounds were clean and well defined while the saxes were full of character, creating an inviting and engaging effect. There was a great sense of space in terms of both width and depth, so you got an exceptionally good feeling of the layout of the brass and sax sections, the band now realistically spread within the acoustic.
   On the mid-tempo blues, ‘More Splutie Please’ Harry James’ terse and spitty trumpet solo came barking out just as if he was standing in front of you. On this justly-celebrated direct cut, the Clearaudio really did convey a sense of occasion.
   Next came Jennifer Warnes’ ‘Ballad Of The Runaway Horse’ from the Rob Wasserman Duets album [GRP 97-121]. Here Warnes’ voice was full of subtleties, sinuous, controlled, yet still expressive. More than ever, perhaps, I found myself trying to analyse the artful production tricks which went into making this seemingly quite straightforward track – for example, the way Warnes’ voice is placed quite forward at first, then seems to fall back slightly, and the way Wasserman’s bass also gets a little quieter, to fall back a little at key moments.
   Continuing with female vocals, but of a very different kind, Tracy Chapman [Elektra 960 774-1] provided another example of the ability to produce a big, wide image spread with a strong, tangible central vocal image. Here the singer’s unaccompanied ‘Behind The Wall’ was truly gripping, and she was warm and timelessly moving on ‘Baby Can I Hold You’.
   I think the turntable excelled itself with Dire Straits from 1978. On ‘Sultans of Swing’, you could come perhaps almost as close as it’s possible get to unravelling the rhythm guitars, which filled out a wide and solid stereo image, with vocal and lead guitar firmly centred and presented with delightful clarity. Every detail of Knopfler’s diction was laid bare, his voice truly characterful and not merely gruff, and his guitar wizardry soaring and effortless.
   Turning to classical music, I found myself swept away again by a favourite from 1967, Barenboim with the English Chamber Orchestra in that most familiar Mozart piano concerto, No.21 [EMI ASD 2465]. For some reason this seemed to come alive in a quite special way on this turntable. At the bottom end, the foundations seemed solid and firm, with double-basses that could be heard properly. In the lower mid, the bassoon sounded truly fruity, while in the upper mid and treble the strings were bright but presented with tangible detail, and so never sounded unpleasantly coarsened or really harsh. The piano was believable from bottom to top, with a sprightly, intimately tactile quality, keeping its sonic integrity against the orchestra, which surrounded it quite realistically without swamping it or sounding congested.  
   Ultimately, I’m not sure this is really the ultimate turntable for rockers, but on music where the inner space is more important than the edge, it shines every time.
 
VERDICT

This package gave a very stable, controlled sound, perhaps balancing the dynamic punch of the da Vinci cartridge against the well-damped, low-resonance character of the turntable. It also proves that Clearaudio’s turntables look just as good in black as, er, in the clear