The ‘comfort is king’ mantra is as prevalent in shopper electronics as wherever else. It’s why the audio market is more and more populated by all-in-one-streaming methods, stereo amps with Bluetooth, and voice-controlled wi-fi audio system. It additionally explains why a high-end, plug-and-play turntable with a phono preamp, such because the Clearaudio Idea Energetic MM, exists.
The Idea Energetic MM is a reasonably uncommon idea: turntables with these options aren’t two-a-penny within the inexpensive market and are even rarer on the pricier finish. In spite of everything, when you’re prepared to spend massive bucks on a report participant set-up, you’re prone to worth sound high quality extremely – and does an all-in-one providing actually ship the most effective efficiency for the cash?
That mentioned, if any high-end turntable can do this convincingly, it’s prone to be one derived from a five-star, former What Hello-Fi? Award-winning mannequin.
The Clearaudio Idea Energetic MM is basically the corporate’s Concept turntable with built-in phono and pre-amplifier phases and a headphone output. Again in 2016, we concluded that the Idea was “a totally sorted, easy-to-own bundle with great sound”. So satisfied had been we by its completeness that we requested: “What extra would you like, jam on it?”
We didn’t really feel that, as a straight-up turntable, it wanted any extra mod-cons (or jam, for that matter), however the additional built-in options that justify the existence of the Idea Energetic might properly enchantment to those that are after a extra easy, all-in-one record-playing resolution.
Clearaudio Idea Energetic MM tech specs
Speeds 33⅓, 45 and 78rpm
Cartridge Idea MM (MC optionally available)
Dimensions (hwd) 12.5 x 42 x 35cm
Weight 7.6 kg (black/silver), 8kg (wooden)
These additions imply that the Idea Energetic will be immediately related to an influence amplifier or pair of active speakers with out the necessity for an exterior phono stage or pre-amplifier, and may accommodate a pair of wired headphones. That makes it a handy alternative by way of area and neatness, however the Idea Energetic can also be principally plug-and-play by design. Certainly, for anybody postpone becoming a member of the vinyl revival by the seeming complexities of turntable set-up, the Idea Energetic may very well be the reply.
Like the usual Concept turntable, it doesn’t ask a lot of its new proprietor, who solely has to take away the protecting packaging, connect the drive belt across the sub-platter and motor pulley, and place the platter on the spindle to rise up and operating. Because the Idea MM V2 cartridge is hooked up to the magnetic bearing Idea tonearm on the manufacturing facility, and all the pieces from monitoring power to anti-skating bias is about in the course of the manufacturing course of, you don’t should concern your self with any of the fiddly bits of set-up.
Earlier than you rush to decrease your first report onto its spindle, Clearaudio advises you to do a few fast checks. Firstly, the equipped stage gauge ought to be positioned on the platter to make sure all the pieces is stage. Our assessment pattern, sat upon a devoted assist, exhibits it’s barely off, albeit nothing just a few turns of the deck’s two entrance ft cannot treatment. Secondly, offering you’ve gotten the proper device, you must also examine the cartridge’s monitoring power, which is a advisable 2.4g and, on our pattern, a satisfactory 2.5g. Clearaudio recommends visiting a supplier when you want to change the peak of the tonearm or change the cartridge or monitoring power.
The Idea Energetic will be alternatively fitted with a Idea MC cartridge and/or an upgraded Clearaudio Fulfill Kardan Aluminium tonearm, although neither of these not-insignificantly priced enhancements are on take a look at right here. What we do have at our disposal throughout our testing is Clearaudio’s optionally available Sensible Energy Provide 12v (£700, $1000, AU$1495), a battery-powered unit designed to feed energy to the Idea Energetic (each to its motor and onboard phono stage) that’s cleaner than that delivered by an inherently noisy mains provide. Obtainable in black or silver, this rectangular field is a neat extension to the turntable chassis and proves to be a worthwhile improve.
The turntable itself has some factors of curiosity. On the rear, subsequent to the set of RCA outputs, are flick-switches to regulate acquire (low, medium or excessive), select between MM and MC cartridge modes, and apply a Subsonic filter that goals to scale back any undesirable low-frequency noise. The ultimate one determines whether or not your RCA output is passive (for when bypassing the built-in phono stage and connecting to an outboard one), variable (for utilizing the related built-in or pre-amplifier’s quantity management) or energetic (for adjusting quantity by way of the Idea Energetic’s on-unit dial).
Fortunately for these eager to take heed to their vinyl via headphones, the 6.3mm headphone output does not be part of the switches on the rear, as an alternative taking over a spot on the right-hand aspect panel. Its location does, nevertheless, imply that those that use the sensible energy provide must place it on the left-hand aspect of the deck, or some centimetres away from it altogether, in order to not bodily block the socket.
These rear-panel discreet switches and the right-edge socket apart, the Idea Energetic is an advert for contemporary minimalism, with its business-looking matte black plinth sitting on a alternative of silver or black, or the extra premium-priced gentle wooden or darkish wooden chassis, with properly rounded corners. For the advantage of symmetry, although, we want the small curler quantity wheel on the plinth’s entrance right-hand aspect matched the bigger rotary pace dial on the other aspect.
The Idea Energetic MM wastes no time demonstrating its sonic magnificence and complicated method. We attain for aspect 4 of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and as The Present Should Go On and In The Flesh play, they achieve this with a gratifying readability and cleanliness. This can be a precise-sounding deck, and it doesn’t take greater than a second to work that out.
This precision isn’t offered in an excessively stark manner, although. The Clearaudio is tonally impartial, however not with out a pleasing sense of solidity and heat all through. Its fleshy fullness laps up the backing vocals, which sound rightfully massive and dynamic in our room, whereas its weight duly lends an anthemic sense to the ponderous drumming and electrical guitar duet. Nick Mason’s most impactful strikes punch via the combo, and there’s a sting to Roger Waters’ theatrical storytelling. We’re happy that the Clearaudio Idea’s abilities, together with its tempo, tautness and precision, have carried via into this Energetic mannequin.
Selecting whether or not or to not spend significantly extra for the Sensible Energy Provide 12v isn’t a straightforward determination, however it’s worthwhile in case you have the funds – and even when you don’t, it presents a transparent improve path that may very well be value pursuing additional down the road. Including the facility provide (its built-in cable connects to the Idea Energetic’s energy socket) will get probably the most from the bundle, making issues a lot cleaner, fuller and extra stable and giving it a subtler hand in all the pieces it does. We revisit the Pink Floyd tracks and the presentation extra readily throws itself into the event, lapping up the large dynamic swings and subtler shifts of the energetic instrumentals.
All that being mentioned, in case you are prepared to go down the extra conventional route and sacrifice the Clearaudio’s final comfort, a notably higher efficiency is attainable for much less cash. We hook the Clearaudio as much as the funds Rega Fono MM MK3 phono stage (£200, $395, AU$479), bypassing the deck’s inside one, and although the presentation doesn’t fairly have the identical element or solidity, it’s extra rhythmically cohesive and consequently entertaining. In relation to outright musicality at this stage, the Idea Energetic simply misses the mark.
However the one actual disappointment from a fully-featured bundle akin to this comes from the headphone output, which maintains that heat, solidity and punch however feels comparatively compressed and missing in the identical wonderful readability and cleanliness delivered via the RCA output. It’s a neat characteristic on paper, however in follow it’s in the end affected by a little bit of muddiness.
The Clearaudio Idea Energetic MM might not be the most suitable choice for report participant purists, then, however in case you are tempted by the Idea Energetic’s comfort and are pleased to sacrifice somewhat absolute performance-per-pound worth, there’s little cause to not welcome this bundle into your own home. Should you plan on listening to your vinyl assortment predominantly via headphones, nevertheless, we might advise some warning.
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Learn our Clearaudio Concept review