Clearaudio Emotion Turntable, Satisfy Tonearm, Aurum Classiscs Cartridge

      Date posted: November 15, 2004

Clearaudio Emotion Turntable and Satisfy Tonearm

Sugg. Retail: $1195 (CAN)
Distributor: Tri-Cell Enterprises,
176 Monsheen Dr, Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada L4L 2E9
(905) 265-7870 FAX 265-7868

(Reprinted from the Fall 2004 Audio Ideas Guide)

      I suppose this, the least expensive Clearaudio phono reproduction package, could be said to epitomize the company’s approach. Everything is acrylic except for tonearm, cartridge, and platter bearing. If not completely clear, the turntable is definitely translucent, and mechanically very simple for a record reproducer.

      The motor is fitted on one rear corner, the arm on the other, the former’s housing decoupled from the plinth by a circumferential rubber belt and resting on its own feet, and the latter firmly fixed by an Allen key to the acrylic base after height adjustment. The cone feet are also acrylic, as is the platter, which is driven by a white rubber belt via a 2-step pulley.

     Putting the platter on involved squirting a little oil into the bearing hole, fitting the platter into it, and waiting for it to settle down onto the virtually air-tight sintered bronze bearing. There is no mat, and a plastic pressure-fit clamp secures LPs so there is no slippage and potential scratching of record surfaces. The only really tricky part of assembly was getting the belt around the platter and the 33 1/3 rpm pulley, which I found somewhat frustrating until I learned to slowly rotate the platter while holding the belt steady for a revolution or so.

      The Satisfy tonearm uses ruby bearings in a dual pivot design inside a stainless steel ring, allowing a magnet at right to provide simple and elegant anti-skate. The RCA outputs and attached ground wire are at the bottom of the arm pillar under the plinth; the arm came with the Clearaudio Aurum Classics Wood moving magnet cartridge installed and perfectly adjusted for overhang. An overhang gauge is supplied as part of the package, which I simply used to confirm cartridge position. Not having any owner�s manual or cartridge information (the review sample was a dealer re-pack, and came with the accessories already noted, 2 belts, a spirit level, white cloth gloves, and a stylus protector, which was not on the cartridge; luckily it survived, the arm firmly fitted into the foam pack-aging), I arbitrarily set tracking weight to 2.5 grams, and the anti-skate, which has no calibration marks, to its highest setting. As the tracking and listening tests will demonstrate, this worked out very well.

      The motor is a high quality AC synchronous type, with the pulley at top having grooved positions for 33 and 45 rpm operation of the belt. The grooving, subtle though it is, keeps the belt secured to the pulley, even at the top 45 rpm position, which surprised me. The drive system is specified to have speed accuracy of better than +/-.1%.

     The system is a minimal suspension design, with little protection from outside vibration, and mechanical grounding of internal vibration through the acrylic plinth and feet, as well as the decoupling of the motor and platter. My reference Heybrook TT2 is a spring-suspended design, the platter and armboard floated, their only connection to the overall structure the soft rubber belt to the motor. This type of suspension isolates the playing mechanism from outside vibration, especially in my case, where Isobearings are placed under each of the 3 plinth feet. Only airborne vibration can disturb such a system, as was proven when the Paradigm Servo 15 subwoofer am-plified the 12-14-Hz arm/cartridge resonance, causing the cartridge to go crazy in the groove. Luckily, my current Sunfire subwoofer pair roll off steeply below 16 Hz, eliminating such acoustic feedback.

      That said, the mechanically grounded, minimum isolation system (also seen in Most Rega models;) can deliver excellent performance, provided a stable, level and solid surface is used; granite shelves come to mind. The Emotion/ Satisfy/Aurum Classics Wood LP system is made in Germany, and has the expected precision and clean design, in addition to its carefully engineered simplicity. Once set up, it should operate flawlessly for years, and I will admit to being immediately seduced by its exceptionally handsome look.

Clearaudio Aurum Classics Wood Cartridge

      Operationally, it’s a two-step process: turn on the motor switch, and lower the arm onto the LP. Since I have quite a large number of 180- 200-gram records, I view the clamp as optional, for use with thinner records, especially those with some warpage.

      After several days of very satisfactory listening (more on this below), I got out my regular test records, the Shure Era IV and Telarc Omnidisc, both of which have a variety of torture tracking tests at increasing modulation levels over 4 or 5 otherwise identical musical passages, which have allowed me to determine numerical values for tracking ability.

      The Era IV uses flutes and harps for high and low frequency tracking, playing Greensleeves (I�m glad I don’t review as many cartridges in this new century, because I was getting to hate the song, and my wife would make veiled threats until I moved my office out of the house in the late 80s).

      On this disc, the Aurum Classics Wood scored 12 1/2 out of a possible 25, with its particular strength bass tracking, and some limitations in the extremes of high-frequency disc cutting. Since bass tracking was so good, I did not increase tracking weight beyond 2.5 grams.

      This was partially because the cartridge fared so well on the Omnidisc, which is excerpts from various Telarc releases, including the infamous 1812 Overture with the howitzers in the finale. Here the score was 16 1/2 out of 20, the only failing on the last two 1812s, which mistracked (most cartridges do). The combined score was 32 1/2 of 45, quite good, and certainly enough to ensure very little trouble with real-world records. Anyone still concerned could add another quarter gram as insurance.

      Records auditioned over a couple of weeks through our professional Bryston BP-1 phono preamp included many favourites, including audiophile reissues of Ellington�s Blues In Orbit and Anatomy Of A Murder, direct-to-disc Sonic Fireworks, Vols. 1 and 2 (Crystal Clear CCS-7010, 7011), MFSL Jim Croce, You Don�t Mess Around With Jim (MFSL 1-079), a few Telarc classics (not the 1812), and other LPs I’ve forgotten. One I do remember well was a 45 RPM Reference LP of Respighi’s Church Windows that required putting the belt over the top exposed pulley, which I managed, and the belt stayed nicely on it. The sound was quite amazing, showing what this table will do with a true premium pressing.

     In every case, I enjoyed the clear, open sound of this turntable system. They say acrylic platters have a certain sound: clean, dynamic, and solid in the bass, with a touch of brightness at the top. I�d say this characterizes the Emotion, with the addition of very low noise and a total absence of hum. It does very well in terms of depth of image and ambient field, though not in the same league as my reference with any of my 3 cartridges (Ortofon MC-3000 II, Ortofon Kontrapunkt b, Stanton 681eee).

      It’s worth pointing out that you could hardly buy a tonearm of the quality of the Satisfy for the price of this table system, let alone a separate turntable or cartridge. It’s a beautifully machined arm that does its job with very low friction and excellent stability. The lift mechanism works well, having a smoothly damped descent.

      One concern I’m left with is the lack of isolation, since the whole assembly is mildly microphonic; a rap on the mounting shelf can be heard through the speakers, though I did not hear any acoustic feedback even at very high audio levels. Hell, what�s a slab of granite cost, anyway? You can put Isobearings, Navcoms, or other isolation feet under the slab (I refer you to Aaron’s explorations in Vol. 22, #1). A second is a propensity to store static electricity, and here my Milty Zerostat came in handy to zap the crackling cartridge.

     To sum up, this turntable system is a remarkable value in true high fidelity LP play. One could say that it provokes Emotion to Satisfy the critical listener, even those inclined to the Classics. It also has a remarkable aesthetic appeal, which can be an asset when making certain spousal purchase agreements.

Andrew Marshall

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