Clearaudio Concept Active/Smart Power 12V ! (English version)
Turntable/Tonearm/Cartridge + Phono/Combo headphone amplifier.
Analog Paradise v2.0
We test Clearaudio’s introductory Concept model in the Active version, a plug-n’-play solution that includes a built-in phono preamplifier and headphone amplifier taking the vinyl ritual to a whole new level of convenience and enjoyment.
We have to admit: There is a new generation of vinyl record lovers who would prefer to maintain the enjoyment of listening to analog media, without its complex technical side. Let’s call them vinylophiles v2.0. They don’t like the idea of matching, settings and special inputs. They want a ready-to-use package. The market has been responding to this request for quite some time. In fact, Clearaudio does nothing more than transfer this already existing, trend, of the “integrated” sets, to its own level of quality, trying to create a solution that will be attractive to the sought-after friend of analog audio. The result is a simple analog system, not simplistic. It includes everything you need and, for the needs of the test, is accompanied by a brand new external power supply of the company.
Clearaudio Concept Active is a choice for vinyl lovers who want to avoid the hassle of complex systems. For this purpose it has built-in headphone amplifier, with the 6.35 mm jack located on the left side of the plinth, as well as a built-in phono stage (which offers 52dB and 72dB gain respectively to support movable magnet and moveable coil cartridges) and a preamble stage which utilizes output level control. So, all you need to do to enjoy your favourite vinyl is the Concept Active, and a pair of active speakers and/or headphone of your choice. Alternatively, you can use the conventional integrated amplifier and passive speakers you already have, as you can select the appropriate operating rate from the settings so that the output is level-adjustable. The same switch (RCA Output) allows the use of the Concept Active as a “pure” concept, so an external phono preamplifier is required.
In general, the Concept Active offers several interesting additional options regarding the gain of the preamplifier (in three levels), the type of input of the built-in phono (MM with resistance 47kΩ, MC with resistance 110Ω) as well as the subsonic filter.
Near all these switches, you will find three small adjusters for the micrometer control of the speeds (33, 45 and 78), which can be used in combination with a strobe. All these, of course, is pre-set in the right places by Clearaudio itself during the delivery of the set. The user does not have to do many things before starting to listen to his favourite music.
It’s Clearaudio and is shows!
The plate plinth (available in black, black and silver or light and dark Baltic birch) has a three-level structure optimized in the form of a “sandwich”. The black acrylic plate promises to leave no fingerprints and is connected to a one-piece MDF core machined to create spaces to accommodate the electronics, engine and bearing. The base is lacquered MDF, with the exception of the “wooden” versions which include a single piece of multi-layer birch plywood.
The platter has a height of 30mm with a surface that has been precision machined (with CNC) and sits on an aluminum subplatter. The bearing has a steel shaft (which has undergone the appropriate polishing and hardening treatments) and a brass well with Teflon friction surface, driven by a rubber-insulated, shock-absorbing DC motor through a flat belt. The speed options are 33, 45 and 78 rpm, via a well-design rotary switch.
The Concept Active is powered by a conventional external rack, but there is also the possibility of upgrading with the new battery power supply, Smart Power 12V, with a significant, as we found during the test. Designed for use with Concept and Performance DC, Smart Power 12V combines smart circuit technology with rechargeable NiMH batteries to deliver clean, consistent power unaffected by variability and inherent mains noise. The unit can be set to automatically switch from battery mode to recharging mode and continue to improve the performance of the platter and protect it from short circuits and surges, even when charging.
The Concept Active model includes the Clearaudio Concept arm, with magnetic bearings designed to eliminate friction and noise problems, and you can choose between the Clearaudio Concept V2 MM or Concept MC heads. Of course everything from reading weight to anti-skating is pre-set as part of the manufacturing process, allowing for a quick, easy and carefree placement and connection to the rack.
Put a record on…
It is a fact that Clearaudio has managed to incorporate in this implementation significant amounts of know-how from its largest series, which are widely accepted by audiophiles and this is clearly demonstrated from the very first hearings with our attention focused on the sense of timing accuracy with the use of Smart Power 12V to be absolutely decisive in this area. The platter offered us exceptional transitional passages both in explosive peaks and in subtle elements that we recognize in the echoes of musical instruments. The stereo image, in all dimensions, is large and the separation of the individual instruments is very high level, while the special performance of the low frequencies, both in volume and in description capabilities underline the degree of success in terms of robustness and harmonious coexistence of well-chosen materials and Concept Active electronics.
As the auditions progressed (with undiminished interest, we have to admit) the overall impression we got was that the system we had in front of us includes all those quality features that create the unique Clearaudio character we know and enjoy, without a moment’s hesitation, draw attention to some lack or exaggeration , leaving us plenty of room to browse through the details of the music scene that he generously shared with us. Clearly, we are dealing with a construction with serious virtues, which although addressed to a relatively restrained price category, managed to win the impressions and justify its creators.
Description: Platter/Tonearm/Cartridge + Phono/Combo headphone amplifier.
Architecture: Platter /Subplatter without suspension.
Driving: DC motor, electronically controlled (33/45/78rpm), belt transmission.
Platter: Synthetic turntable, 30mm, aluminium subplatter
Bearing: Steel shaft, brass well, friction surface made of teflon.
Tonearm: Straight with magnetic bearings.
Preamplifier phono: Accuracy RIAA (+/-0.5dB), noise -74/-64dB (MM/MC).
Other features: Subsonic filter, gain adjustments, input resistance and output speed, headphone output, micrometer speed adjustment (strobe disc required)
Dimensions: 420x350x125 (mm, wxdxh).
Prices: Concept Active € 2.169 , With Concept MM, €2.269, With Concept MC, €2.679, Smart Power 12V (€ 839).
info: Orpheus Audio, tel.: 210-5221.524.
Τhe article was published in the third issue of YELLOWBOX from George Katrakazas._ΥΒ