Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Clearaudio Concept Turntable

Write up inspiration: Black Dog Bone -Si Gadis Ayu album - original pressing from 1978 EMI.

It has been 10 days since I bought the TT but this is only the 4th time I get to listen to it due to my work and family commitments. But nevertheless, the experience I am having now while writing this up is out of this world.

So, lets recap the magical day. It must have been the longest 2 days wait for this unit. For everyone's information, I usually will not buy a piece of equipment if a retailer does not have the unit in stock at the point of purchase. Especially if I am to part with a few thousand RM. But nevertheless, past experience with CMY loaning me speakers, cables, etc which cost more than this TT, I only have confidence in them.

But the wait to listen to the sweetness of TT in my own room was still painfull !!!!

So on Monday 19th Sep, I called the retailer late morning to inform him that if the unit is ready earlier than 8 pm, just give me a call as I was ready to leave work early that day hehehe.

But at the end, the unit was only ready by 6 pm due to the heavy rain early in the morning. The retailer waited for the rain to subside before tarnsferring the unit from DU to Sunway Giza.

Two thumbs up for CMY for being punctual. 8 pm - the retailer arrived at my house.

2 boxes came out of his trunk - one with the TT and one with the acryllic dust cover.

Another 2 thumbs up to the retailer for calling me before hand to suggest the Elixir cartridge cleaner. So, there you go. I went out to get the full basic requiement for TT heheheh.

Inventory check:
1. 1 x ClearAudio Concept TT = comes with the Allan key to replace the cartridge, 'level' gauge and various plugs
2. 1 x ClearAudio Dust Cover
3. 1 x Elixir cartridge cleaner
4. 1 x ClearAudio MC cartridge - yes I swapped the MM with an MC
5. 1 x ClearAudio Clamp (CMY brought 2 models - I opted for the heavier Quadro clamp massive SS after comparing the 2)
6. 1 x LP brush
7. 1 x anti static gun

NOTE: Please excuse some of the terms I use if its not the norm for TT lovers.

Out came the TT, belt, sub platter (???) and main platter (???). I can see that the retailer knows exactly what he is doing. Setting up the TT, he also explained to me the parts although as you can see,
I could not really pay attention as I was eager to listen to the LPs I have bought earlier.

Next came out the plug which I opted for the 3 pin plug. But before pluggin it into my PF50 Pure AV, the RCA was first connected to my NAD PP-3 phone pre amp. Yes, this unit somehow does not match the rest of my set up, hence it is actually now hiding behind one of the kit hehehehe.

Then the power kicked in and the retailer switched on the TT to 33 RPM. But then, he further built my anticipation by explaining on how to take care of LPs ...aaaarrrghhhh hehehehe. But thanks for the information.From how to take out the LPs for its sleeve and how to store them. I thought handling CD was delicate. Boy I was wrong.

Then came in the anti static gun. My 1.5 years old daughter was with us throughout the set up. She looked at the gun and wanted to play with it.

First went onto the TT was the brand new Metallica Ride The Lightning album on 45 RPM. Just applied the cleaning brush briefly as this is a brand new LP. So, how did it sound????

Lets recap some info of the TT first:

Built

This unit is actually quite heavy for a 'beginner's TT compared to Rega and ProJect. I particularly like the spike/stud underneath the unit. It made it really stable.
The tone arm however is very light to my shaky hands. I basically did not dare to take off the cartridge protector, let alone sliding the tone arm and dropping it onto the LP. I let the retailer do it for me.
My hands were too shaky hehehehe.

Power Supply

I was actually expecting a sturdier built for this price of TT but nevertheless, it also did not look like an RM10 adaptor. I just hope it will last long.

RCA

The RCA interconnect is built in together with the tone arm, so no way to change interconnects unless you change the tone arm.

Now back to sound....

My set up for the first experience is basicallY:

1. TT to NAD PP3 phone stage using the built in RCA
2. NAD PP3 to Musical Fidelity M6i amp using Cambridge Audio interconnects
3. M6i to ProAc D18 sepakers using QED Silver XT Signature cable

First song to kick in was Fade To Black. The first thing I notice is that I have to crank up the volume knob to at least 10 o'clock to get a decent sound.
The retailer mentioned that this is normal for TT. I grant that anything analogue seems to have a lower volume output. Same like my cassette deck.

But then, the guitar plucking at the beginning of the song did not give me that sensational feeling I was looking for. I had to put on the CD version of the track just to reconfirm this feeling.
True enough, at that point, I felt that CD gave me more sensational feeling. Getting a bit worried here.

So what went wrong? Where is that beautiful sweetness LP sound that I heard in CMY..both Sunway Giza and One Utama??

And then.....the retailer put on the first clamp (notice that above, I did not use any clamp). The first one is lighter (cant recall the model). But I can immediately hear the difference in the sound.

I guess the clamp does provide better levelness onto the LP spinning. Repeated Fade to Balck and this time the TT carried a heavier sound signature with the guitar plucks seems to be alive.

Sat through the whole song wit a smile on my face. And yes, you guess right. I then requested for the heavier Quadro clamp to be put on.

And things just got better. I basically forgot that the CD version is still playing on Repeat 1. Hehehehe.

With the Quadro, the whole song sounded more open, without loosing the grip on low ends and there was no sign of harshness on the high ends.

Ok, that is so called the audiophile grade of LP.

Lets go to the basic of 33 RPM LP.

Off with the Metallica and came in Guns N Roses Spaghetti Incident, courtesy of Mugenfoo generous offer to sell it to me. Its a Venezuelan pressing...rare indeed.

I cant stop smiling listening to the growling guitar of Slash on Since I Dont Have You before the drums kicked in. The sound of every tom and snare of the drums are echoed precisely to my ears liking.

Now, my ProAc can really sing with this TT. For this, I didnt bother to compare to the CD version as I know that the CD version will loose the battle.

Hmmmm... all good for the new LPs. How about the old one?

I bought the Black Dog Bone LP in Amcorp mall for RM41. Physically there was only one slight deep scratch, luckily only on the last track. I was actually worried that it can damage the cartridge but the retailer said that it should be ok.

This is when I was hit with the biggest confusion in my 15 over years hifi venture. This LP sounded so much alive compared to the new LPs I bought.

Literally, it gave me this feelings of being in the 70s and all I wanted was to put on a bell bottom jeans Smile. Sound exagerating right? But thats how I felt.

The raw but genuine guitar chords was simply amazing. And the sound of the drums which I think was set up hollow in the recording, gave me this feeling that the band really enjoyed making the album.

It was completely set up by 9 pm and I was another CMY's happy customer.

I only continued playing the TT at midnight after the kids are asleep. till 3 am hahahaha. And I was late for work the next day.

But then, the TT went on sleep mode from Tuesday night till tonight Monday night.

Back on Black Dog Bone and thats when I deciede to write this review.

But, its a different experience tonight.

What is the different????

I rested the ProAc D18....and listen to the TT using my newly acquired Musical Fidelity M1 HPA headphone amp, feeding music into my Grado Alessandro MS1 Pro.

But thats another review on its own.

NOTE: For all you TT lovers out there, try listening to your beloved TT via headphones. Its another whole new experience.



CONCLUSION



1. Easy to set up with plug and play approach

2. Suitable for beginners who would want a mid entry level TT

3. Well built, you will realise where your money is spent on - build and sound quality

4. Having a decent clamp can do wonders to the sound

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