Clearaudio Solution Turntable (Part 2)

5/12/2013 9:23:47 AM


I connected the Clearaudio Solution to my reference system comprised of the Ayre Klxe preamp (with Ayre’s built-in phono preamp) and three Theta Enterprise mono block amplifiers powering a pair of Dunlavy SC-IV/a loudspeakers and one Dunlavy TSW-VI tower subwoofer.

As I watched the turntable spin and listened to the sound, I immediately wanted to revisit all of my albums all over again for the first time in a long time, I had achieved complete system synergy. I felt wonderfully connected to the music as the instruments and voices drew me completely away from this busy world, for extended moments of time. I listened to many recordings, spanning a few genres, but since I’m a part of generation X, I gravitated toward new rock and electronica albums. I first started with the M83 double-album “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.” Anthony Gonzalaz’s eclectic dreamlike atmospheric sound, fused with ambience and dark lyrics, filled my room from wall to wall. I immediately knew I was been taken by the music and couldn’t miss the chance to turn out the lights and close my eyes with this late-night listen. Compared to the loud and compressed CD version of this album, the Solution delivered this vinyl’s wide dynamics, creative use of depth, and punctuated bass.

Clearaudio Solution Turntable

Clearaudio Solution Turntable

Amazed by the bass delivery of this turntable rig, I was interested in exploring it further. I next listened to a recent band-project “How To Destroy Angels” created by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross. The EP “An Omen” has some interesting tracks, but the one that really tested the bass capability of my audio system was “Keep It Together”. Sporting a heavy and deep bass line, the Solution proved to be no slouch by any means. In fact, I was surprised about how good the bass was from my Dunlavy TSW-VI subwoofer tower, which blends seamlessly with the Dunlavy SC-IV/a speakers. The subwoofer is designed to have no overhang or thick, lumpy bass. It was great to hear that the Solution had none as well. I could hear and feel everything, from a slight ripple and change in bass tone to a pant-shaking effect. The Solution/Satisfy combination is quick and firm. If it can do this with well-produced electronic music, it can do the same for rock.

Clearaudio Solution Turntable

The remainder of my listening happened over a period of weeks and consisted of changing many albums. If I had one wish, it would be to make the center pin in the middle of the platter just a bit thinner. Sometimes I found it difficult to pull albums off without bending them a bit. It was even trickier when swapping out 10 inch albums as I was afraid to twist and scratch the vinyl on the platter. But this also seemed to be an issue with the vinyl. Some have larger holes and the album lifted with ease.

I listened to Florence + The Machine, Foster the People, The Black Keys, Bjork, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Tori Amos and Radiohead. A bit of classic rock mixed with the new, the Solution was not biased one way or another. I feel like this turntable was almost a passive device; it just played what was on the record regardless of how good or bad the recording was. In that sense it was very revealing which some people see as both a blessing and a curse. It made my good recordings from Radiohead and Bjork sound great.

Thom Yorke’s voice in the song “Nude” from the 45 rpm edition of In Rainbows never sounded so eerily close to me. I felt the distance between him and I, and the rest of the band convincingly laid out in the room. The 45 also clearly had a lower noise floor when compared to the rest of the records I played, therefore it was always an album I returned to over and over. The Solution was quiet as ever and at no time did I detect the mechanisms of the motor or the table in the audio playback.

The sibilance often found in Bjork’s voice on the CDs was virtually gone (but that’s also a CD mastering issue which makes vinyl the better choice for some recordings). The song Isobel from Bjork’s Post album has always been one of my favorite tracks. Bjork’s voice finally had the silky vocal quality I’ve been wanting every time I listened to the CD. The strings in the orchestra took on a separation I’ve never heard before in this song. I could hear individual players on their string instruments.

The Solution also showed me that not all new rock albums can be saved from bad recordings. Florence + The Machine’s excellent album Ceremonials is loaded with great songs, but sadly the compression in the recording is just too great to sound live, despite this vinyl sounding better than the CD. While I appreciated the Solution being honest with the recording, I was left wishing more care was put into the consistency and quality of mainstream recordings. The same can be said with Foster the People’s Torches album. Songs such as Helena Beat were full of atmosphere and dynamics. I felt like I was ready to dance to the music at a live concert event. It got my foot tapping! But then the second song Pumped Up Kicks sounded over produced, congested, flat and restrained. I commend the Solution to deliver such differences in recordings and being faithful to the source.

The Solution also showed me that not all new rock albums can be saved from bad recordings. Florence + The Machine’s excellent album Ceremonials is loaded with great songs, but sadly the compression in the recording is just too great to sound live, despite this vinyl sounding better than the CD

The Clearaudio Solution has spent more than six months in my 2-channel system now. It continues to perform to my highest expectations and delivers my favorite recordings with precision and pride. The Solution turntable and the Satisfy Carbon tonearm are an amazing combination, and they will gladly work with a wide range of cartridges. If you’d like to challenge your music system with even greater resolution, Clearaudio has numerous higher performance models, each incrementally improving on every design aspect. If the Solution and Satisfy Carbon duo is outside of your budget, I highly recommend looking at Clearaudio’s more affordable models as I find the company’s entire range of turntables to deliver great value at the various price points. I have no doubt that this turntable rig will keep me satisfied for many years to come. Highly recommended!

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