Household & Living

Review: Clearaudio Innovation Compact – with Universal 9″ Tonearm

Review: Clearaudio Innovation Compact - A not only beautiful-looking, but also perfectly manufactured while it delivers an inspiring sound

Review: Clearaudio Innovation Compact – The analog specialists at Clearaudio say “The start of the climb” about their Innovation Compact. You can read what we say about this in our review.

If you want to treat yourself to the unpacking experience, it should be said that assembling a Clearaudio is no rocket science. The support provided by exemplary manuals is perfect and all the tools and materials you need are included in the extremely generous scope of delivery.

Anyone who draws the obvious conclusion from this carefully thought-out and lovingly individually packaged delivery that the same care also applies to the actual product is spot on. And puts on the enclosed gloves to protect the noble surfaces of the Innovation Compact.

Its reduced, triangular basic chassis has a deeper meaning: where there is nothing, nothing can vibrate or be excited by sound waves. In practice, the sandwich made of hardwood polished on the outside and thick aluminum plates works perfectly because the three height-adjustable spike feet alone guarantee an absolutely firm stand.

Clearaudio Innovation Compact

The inverted platter bearing is a showpiece of modern drive development: You can only really guess it if you have seen the smoothness of the hollow and polished ceramic bearing axis with your own eyes; Here, too, a drop of oil is used before the sintered bronze bushing, which in turn first carries the plate, is carefully pushed over the axis and halfway through the strong magnetic field of Clearaudio’s CMB magnetic bearing stops floating.

Only the 70 millimeter high, high-density plastic plate, which is dynamically balanced, finally pushes the bearing into its end position, where it can rotate with practically no friction. It is logical that this critical moment during assembly should be carried out with calm and caution. But as I said: none of this is rocket science.

And first of all, of course, the proud owner brought the chassis perfectly into the horizontal and placed the protective plates under the three spikes. What we noticed is the super-stable, finely milled tonearm base plate (the innovation can carry two tonearms), which sits on the chassis with a generously dimensioned Allen screw.

Clearaudio Innovation Compact

These are decent mechanical engineering orders of magnitude, the retaining collar of the tonearm shaft is also solid and the adjustment options should make it possible to mount a wide variety of tonearms.

Incidentally, the supply line from the power supply connection to the DC motor is hidden in the flat chassis, while the drive, equipped with precision plain bearings, acts on a wide flat belt via a bulbous pulley. This works silently and with extreme synchronization accuracy, which has also been confirmed by our laboratory.

This is not least due to an optical sensor at the bottom of the platter bearing, it belongs to Clearaudio’s “Optical Speed ​​Control”, with which the speed is precisely regulated. Changing the speed is as easy as it is convenient to switch at the push of a button. By the way, when you put the plates on, you notice that the plate is slightly smaller in diameter than an LP – this makes it easier to grip the disc by the edge.

Clearaudio Innovation Compact

Minimalistic tonearm

There is more to the latest radial tonearm from Clearaudio than meets the eye. Its inclined tungsten axis with sapphire bearings pays homage to old, nonetheless perfect principles of tonearm construction when it is horizontally positioned.

Ball bearings are used vertically as well as a magnetic anti-skating device directly on the shaft, which sits in a 24.85 millimeter diameter mounting hole with a clamping screw. The counterweight can be sensitively adjusted using a central screw, which enables the tracking force to be adjusted extremely precisely.

With its horizontally adjustable headshell pickup, the Tracer accepts a weight of between three and 17 grams. Our only point of criticism here: The little plugs on the fine internal wiring are very difficult to slide over the connection pins of the pickup, the thick insulation sleeves hardly leave any space for powerful tweezers …

Clearaudio Innovation Compact

Filigree scanner

What at first glance looks like an MC pickup is the MM Maestro V2 pickup in its black ebony case; The boron needle carrier, which is extremely filigree for a magnet system, of this scanner, which has been highly selected in production, has a diamond with a HD cut, the nominal contact force of the scanner, which weighs 8.4 grams, is 2.2 grams.

In terms of needle compliance, the Maestro definitely belongs in medium to heavy tonearms and produces quite a high output voltage, making it predestined for very fine MM phono amplifiers, an area to which far too little attention is paid. Despite its relatively low needle compliance, the Maestro proves itself as a good scanner that can easily cope with a deflection of 90 micrometers and generally works without any distortion.

This complements the character of the Innovation Compact in an almost magical way; Located rather on the fast-light, fast-moving side, the drive inspires with its openness, transparency and, above all, its ability to sound detailed and colorful.

The sometimes too offensive, overlapping low-frequency range of some turntable mountains is surpassed by the Compact with its gripping, precise and also wonderfully resilient playing style in the low-frequency range, which is ultimately much more exciting, yet it always sounds profound enough to be completely convincing. The thought that some metal mountains are a little too simplistic, or better: mill through the work, cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Incidentally, the Maestro V2 impresses even MM-skeptical listeners with an obviously extremely dignified tonearm: It doesn’t have to be an MC, is the clear message that also makes amplifier savings possible. In any case, top marks are due for the entire ensemble, such a jewel of a turntable cannot be enjoyed every day.

Conclusion – Clearaudio Innovation Compact / Tracer

A not only beautiful-looking, but also perfectly manufactured, in all respects clean, practical and well thought-out drive, with which the subject of turntables can confidently be put aside. The scope of delivery, which is complete down to the last detail, enables assembly and adjustment “out of the box” using first-class operating instructions that leave no question unanswered. Sonically beyond any doubt!

Conclusion – Clearaudio Maestro V2

Clearaudio’s MM-Abaster delivers an inspiring sound and doesn’t suggest for a minute that it is a magnet system. A high output voltage makes the Phonoamp’s work easy and improves the signal-to-noise ratio. The sum of all advantages clearly speaks in favor of a technology that leaves nothing to be desired in this skilful execution.

Clearaudio Innovation Compact – Conclusion

For this, as everyone must admit, wonderful occasion, we first want to report on a topic that is almost as important as what is in the packaging, namely the packaging itself.

And the scope of delivery. Because Clearaudio made a big impression on us in both cases: We received two boxes, the precious contents of which were neatly protected in solid molded foam parts and packed so meticulously individually that one should actually have made one of those famous unboxing videos.

You can vividly imagine the joy that comes with unpacking; It’s almost a shame that a dealer will do this in many cases, especially when, as in this case, both the tonearm (we had ordered Clearaudio’s “Tracer”) and the cartridge (the MM system Maestro V2) still had to be mounted on the drive .

Pros of Clearaudio Innovation Compact

  • Enthusiastic sound
  • High output voltage

Cons of Clearaudio Innovation Compact

  • Very little residual rumbling with plate and with coupler