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Clearaudio Concept Signature

Clearaudio Concept Signature

The Successor

Clearaudio Concept Signature

It bears a familiar name. Also, it looks familiar on the outside. But the impression is deceiving, because – as the innocuous addition of “Signature” on the nameplate subtly signifies – almost no stone has been left unturned underneath the oiled wood plinth of Clearaudio’s mid-range “Concept”: This is one of the hottest new releases in the turntable sector.

Clearaudio Concept Signature

A Clearaudio Concept – we’ve known it for what feels like an eternity. Well, the “Profiler” tonearm with its distinctive bell covering the bearings, which is intended to dampen resonance, is new. The speed selector knob, too, is visibly new. But are we really going to do a full-on review because of such a little model refresh? At least, the new Clearaudio Concept Signature is designed to be a “plug-and-play” device. As I take a look at the drive unit during the very simple assembly, I raise my right eyebrow for the first time: This downright tiny motor unit, which is revealed when the solid but not overly heavy platter made of the POM material that’s typical of Clearaudio is lifted off, is all-new. And the S-shaped curve that the rubber drive belt makes on its way from the drive shaft to the sub-platter – the ground rubber part is guided past an additional shaft and sets it in rotation – is also something I’ve never seen on the Concept before.

Clearaudio Concept Signature

A good reason to pick up the phone and contact the manufacturer. Product specialist Stefan Kmuch is happy to provide information: “The drive unit is new. A comparatively small but high-precision electric motor is suspended in a circular array of O-rings to keep out harmful vibrations and impact sound. This second shaft, around which the rubber belt passes on its way to the sub-platter, is called a “tachometer” by Kmuch. A tiny circuit board completes the new design, which the developers hope will provide significantly more precise synchronization control compared to the original concept model. This much can be said in advance: The new approach works, the Clearaudio Concept Signature is fully suitable for piano music, which often poses problems even for more expensive turntables.

Clearaudio Concept Signature

As part of the redesign, the old speed control knob also had to go and was replaced by a knob and digital speed display. If you turn the knob, you can feel fine detents, which actually has no function on my test device. In the final version, which will be available in the near future, the Clearaudio Concept Signature will be equipped with a built-in phono amplifier that can simply be connected to any free high-level input. And its output can be controlled using the multifunction control – for purist direct connection to a power amplifier, for example.

Other than that, work on the plug-and-play turntable is limited to looping the rubber belt around the “speedometer” and sub-platter and screwing on the counterweight of the “Profiler” tonearm. To adjust the tracking force, you can use the supplied, amazingly precise “rocker” or, like me, use an electronic tonearm scale to adjust the tracking force with microgram precision for the pre-installed Clearaudio “Wood V2” MM system, which has already been carefully adjusted in terms of VTA and other parameters. This can play to its strengths in the new Concept Signature: This moving magnet pickup already comes close to moving coil systems in terms of fine detail, pleasing with a warm timbre and a cleanly contoured bass range. The counter-test with a high-quality MC such as the Jubilee from the Clearaudio portfolio (admittedly somewhat overkill for the Concept) clearly reveals the differences in imaging and detail reproduction – which speaks in favor of the newly developed turntable.

Clearaudio Concept Signature

How did the Clearaudio Concept Signature perform in my home system? The layer of dust on my SACD player probably provides the clearest indication. After only a quarter of an hour to set up, the Clearaudio Concept Signature went into continuous use and was “fed” with a large number of old LPs plus some exciting new releases.

The brand new Hackney Diamonds by the indestructible Rolling Stones were spinning on the turntable, to name one example. Powerful, driving, boldly arranged blues and rock, which, given the advanced age of the protagonists, is probably something like the final opus. However, this is not a record that sounds old-fashioned by any stretch of the imagination, but has comes across as a pleasantly straightforward, almost cheerful rock album with a large line-up of illustrious guest stars. The fact that Mick Jagger and co. have discovered the blessings of modern recording technology in their old age is a pleasant side effect. And the pure fun factor quickly makes me forget that I was actually planning to review the record player from Erlangen’s Meilwald, which stood there in front of me in a discreet light zebrano.

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The pleasure is even greater when I put on Bedřich Smetana’s Mein Vaterland with Rafael Kubelik conducting. Deutsche Grammophon has re-released a few recording greats from the 1970s under the series title “The Original Source”. The new editions, which are only available on vinyl, were not based on the well-known stereo tapes, but on Quadro recordings that were recorded in parallel for no particular purpose at the time and pressed onto almost crackle-free 180 gram vinyl with great care and attention to detail. The Clearaudio Concept Signature opens up an almost gigantic soundstage, pushing the lower registers with almost regal sovereignty. Any doubts that the expensive double LP might have been some cleverly staged media hype – quite a few charlatans are surfing the vinyl wave with productions that don’t always sound good on black discs – are pulverized.

Also and precisely because the Clearaudio Concept Signature is not a “me too” up-and-coming record player for Generation Z, who want to enjoy a slice of hip vinyl, only to then turn to MP3 and streaming services again a moment later. It’s a music machine that should be taken seriously and comes surprisingly close to its larger corporate brethren. When I replace the adequate but not very powerful power supply with the external professional power supply that I have come to appreciate with the large Clearaudios, the Concept Signature gains audibly, builds its cavernous sound structures on an even more stable, “blacker” foundation and separates voices more clearly from the instrumental accompaniment. I verify this, among others, with the vocal acrobatics on Efrat Alony’s new jazz album Händel Fast Forward: The intelligently experimental work of an exceptional artist, whose voice is projected into my listening room in holographic three-dimensionality by the Clearaudio Concept Signature.

Clearaudio Concept Signature

This record player, which opens the door to high-end sound spheres in no time at all thanks to its plug-and-play concept, without any tedious adjustment work, without the sweat that once had to be shed for the proper installation of a high-quality turntable – it only has one problem: it’s too good. Coming in at around 2500 euros fully equipped, it comes very close to machines in the Clearaudio portfolio that cost several times as much.

My Clearaudio Innovation Basic, which serves as a contrasting foil in this case, can only distance itself from the new Concept Signature with a little more space, a little more definition, a little more emphasis and clarity in complex musical passages. Whether you are willing to pay two or three times the price of the new mid-range for this is not an easy decision to make.

In the medium term, however, the gaps will be restored: According to Stefan Kmuch, the new drives, the new, clever control concepts will gradually move into the higher classes at Clearaudio and raise the entire range to a new level. Exciting prospects for analog fans, for whom access to the highest sound consecrations has never been so easy.

Clearaudio Concept Signature

Accompanying Equipment

Network player/DAC: Esoteric N-01XD | CD player: Mark Levinson No. 390S | SACD player: Pioneer PD-D6-J | Turntable: Clearaudio Innovation Compact, Artkustik Seismograph | Cartridges: Clearaudio Da Vinci and Jubilee MC, Denon DL-103R | Phono amplifier: Clearaudio Balance V2 | Preamplifier: Mark Levinson No. 38S, Trigon Snowwhite | Integrated amplifier: Unison Simply Italy | Power amplifier: Mark Levinson No. 27 | Loudspeakers: Infinity Kappa 7.2 Series II, Audio Note AX One/II and AX Two/II | Cables: Sommer Cable, in-akustik, Audio Quest and Morrow Audio, among others

Turntable Clearaudio Concept Signature

Concept: board player for analogue records, pre-equipped and adjusted with tonearm Profiler and MM cartridge Clearaudio Wood V2 | Speed range: 331/3 and 45 rpm | Special features: resonance-optimized chassis construction, turntable body made of medium-density wood fibre (silver/black) or solid wood layers compacted under high pressure (Wood/Dark Wood), height-adjustable feet | Drive: decoupled, smooth-running 12 V DC motor; counter-rotating motor suspension using O-rings; “TSC” (Tacho Speed Control) speed monitoring: automatic compensation of friction and temperature changes on disk bearings and belts | Bearings: polished and hardened steel axle in a bronze bushing, runs on a Teflon mirror | Platter: 30 mm platter made of high-density engineering plastics (POM), CNC precision-turned aluminum sub-platter | Synchronization fluctuations (rated): less than ±0.05 % | Power consumption (max. (max./idle/standby): 3.6/1.92/0.74 W | Weight: approx. 7.5 kg (including Profiler tonearm and Clearaudio Wood V2 MM cartridge) | Dimensions (W/D/H): 42/35/13 cm (with tonearm) | Warranty period: 2 years | Price: from 2500 € (incl. Concept tonearm and Concept MM cartridge; Wood version 2750 €), test version around 4500 € (Signature Wood incl. Profiler tonearm and Maestro V2 cartridge)


Spardorfer Straße 150
91054 Erlangen
Phone +49 9131 40300100


The stated retail price of the reviewed device is valid as of the time of the review and is subject to change.