It’s a nostalgic time of year as friends, family and even the television start to gaze longingly at the past with a hankering for old comedy, faces and food. My preferred dose of nostalgia though, comes via music. If you’re going back in time musically, the resurgence of the vinyl record means that the memories can sound better than they have in decades if you have player that’s up to the job.
Unpacking the Clearaudio Concept reveals the brushed steel body and minimalist, stylish looks of the German crafted turntable. Measuring around 10x 100 inches, it’s reassuringly sturdy at 7.5kgs. The slim, ergonomic dimensions mean it’s easy to position on a shelf or you can position it more like furniture and it will no doubt draw admiring looks if positioned in a sitting-room.
The Concept is somewhat unusual amongst its peers, as it really is almost a plug-and-play device. The moving-magnet Concept V2 cartridge is shipped with this player but it is fitted to the tonearm with settings like weight and bias set before the turntable leaves the factory in Neham. That makes the set-up less daunting for hi-fi newcomers and leaves you with little to do except attach the included drive belt, platter and power-supply.
I decided to use the included mini-spirit level to make sure the Concept was sitting perfectly level on my shelf-surface. If it wasn’t, all of the turntable’s feet are threaded allowing them to be easily adjusted to assist with perfect levelling, which is important when playing back your record.
I connected the phono-leads to my amplifier, the same amp I use for TV surround sound and I was ready to go. The Concept plays 33, 45 but also 78rpm records. The record’s speed is controlled by a large, rotary dial and after setting that to 33, I decided on something a little punchy, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album. The magnetically suspended tonearm is a joy to use. It feels almost as if it’s hovering in space and lowers neatly on the record rather than dropping down like record players of the past.
Albums of course are meant to be played sequentially and I’d almost forgotten the joy of listening to an album in the order the artist intended. The sound the Concept produces is warm, and so unlike today’s compressed digital audio that we’ve become accustomed to. It deals with mid and high tones exceptionally well and deep bass is reproduced in an airy, broad way.
The last record player I owned was prone to skipping but three albums later I hadn’t experienced any of the crackle, pop or skip that was present when I owned a 1980s vinyl player. Clearaudio have built in anti-skating technology to this player, and it’s adjustable helping to give you a skip free music experience.
As warm and enjoyable as the audio experience is there is also a sense of satisfaction in using such a wonderfully engineered piece of tech. Being pre-configured and tested at the factory illustrate that despite the modern engineering, this is hand-crafted tech at its best and asking friends around to listen to records seems perfectly fashionable again.