$10,300 (with Clearaudio Unify 9” Unipivot Tonearm and Concerto MC cartridge)
Serious about vinyl? Clearaudio may have the perfect solution with the exquisite Solution AMG Wood turntable
Perhaps unsurprisingly, audio products of German origin have a reputation for excellence in both design and construction. With this fact in mind, it was no surprise to me that the Clearaudio Solution AMG Wood turntable did absolutely anything to debunk this preconception.
Clearaudio practically sit atop Everest in terms of the quality of their turntables and analogue replay electronics and accessories.
What I encountered upon unboxing the Solution was a statement of design and peerless construction. The plinth comprises of 72 layers of a highly compressed wood known as ‘Panzerholz’, which is in turn sandwiched between top and bottom alloy plates. The plinth in turn rests on three solid steel cones, and no less than three tonearms can be accommodated – one on each of the Solution AMG Wood’s three legs. Once located on the motor shaft the heavy acrylic platter practically ‘floats’ on Clearaudio’s CMB (ceramic magnetic bearing) for almost frictionless and decoupled rotation.
The tonearm on the review sample was the Unify unipivot with a carbon fibre armtube, the tonearm alone being a work of art – build quality here was also flawless. Rounding off the turntable was the Concerto MC cartridge, a low output moving coil device that sits about mid-table among Clearaudio’s extensive MC cartridge range. The outboard motor assembly is enclosed in a billet of solid stainless steel: further decoupling is provided by a separate motor base; this rests on a number of vibration-resistant soft synthetic ‘blobs’.
Accompanying the Solution was Clearaudio’s Symphony phono stage ($3100) and the Accu+ battery psu ($1550), elevating an already special vinyl rig into another league.
As fabulous as this Clearaudio turntable system is, it is still virtually an entry level one – the flagship Statement has a US price of $150K without a tonearm or cartridge, which would make a fine centrepiece for your Bel Air mansion. The modular design of the Solution means there is an upgrade path with dual plinths, thicker platters and better motors.
A variety of equipment was used for listening including my Korsun/Wharfedale Opus 1/Voigt system, while additional equipment in the shape of the Radiance R200i from Perreaux and a pair of fine Castle Howard S3’s provided valuable back up.
I decided to begin my listening session with an early 1960’s East German pressing of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. This record, although being almost 50 years old, is in fantastic condition having been played only once or twice before it came into my possession. Sensing the arrival of a piece of historic German vinyl the Solution AMG delved deep into the recording with an insightful and detailed presentation. Particularly engrossing was the sensuous violin sound during the first movement; the emotion of the lead violin was captured beautifully and the sound literally danced its way around my listening room.
Moving right along, Marvin Gaye took residence on the beautiful platter and soon ‘What’s Going On’ rang out through the house. This was terrific, Marvin’s plaintive voice taking centre stage among the instruments around him. The detail extracted by the Clearaudio was very good, but not quite as spectacular as the delicacy with which it was reproduced which was fabulous. It was easy to pick out the individual performers on the album and although recorded in a studio, the Solution provided a cohesive sound while at the same time separating the musicians from each other in the soundstage. It was a fine result, and seizing the moment I decided to test the Solution’s rock credentials by replacing Marvin with U2’s Achtung Baby. Once again bass lines were taut and rhythmic, and the mid/treble frequencies had plenty of ‘air’ around them. Bono’s voice on ‘Ultraviolet’ was a particular high point. I’d always thought this track one of the better ones (and there’s plenty of better ones on the album) and the clarity of the Clearaudio system was particularly enjoyable. My only slight nitpick was that the Solution just missed out on a smidgeon of attack and clout on hard-edged rock tracks such as Disturbed’s excellent Indestructible album.
Other vinyl from Steely Dan, Ernest Ranglin’s excellent Memories Of Barber Mack, Ryuichi Sakamoto/David Byrne’s evocative soundtrack of The Last Emperor and many others took a spin on the Clearaudio and with similarly impressive results.
I was left in no doubt that the Clearaudio is a fine plattenspieler indeed: it may not be quite so suitable for those with a penchant for speed metal, but play anything else and the Solution Wood AMG will delight.
Add fantastic sound quality, superlative build quality, styling and a definite upgrade path and all the ingredients add up to a sure thing in terms of a turntable. Those ingredients come at a pretty price, but those with the means and desire must definitely investigate the Clearaudio Solution AMG Wood. GARY PEARCE