Lacking anything in the way of a proper suspension, this deck is never going to sound its best on a structure closely coupled to the floor, so we used our usual isolation table for most of the listening.
Thus configured, the Concept produces some very good sounds, clearly much better than the budget turntables which it (very superficially) resembles and thus vindicating Clearaudio's damping measures and arm.
What's most noticeable about it is the way it largely avoids the midrange blurring that affects so many unsuspended decks. Avoiding that is one of the biggest challenges facing designers and manufacturers, and we'd say Clearaudio's team has done very well in that regard.
Scale, openness and detail
The results are most obvious in large-scale music – symphony orchestra, big rock and so on – where there's a lovely sense of openness and scale, combined with very good detail and also excellent imaging.
By the same token, simple recordings such as solo guitar are very clear and full of the little details that make the character of an instrument or player unique. Where this player does yield a little ground to dearer models is in the bass, which is decent but not astounding.
There's some quite good extension, but control and solidity aren't really up there with the best. All the same, because the upper bass is tight and dynamic, one isn't much aware of anything being amiss in recordings where most of the low-frequency action is in the bass.
High treble is probably just as much a function of the cartridge as of the deck itself, a suspicion strengthened by a brief spell with another cartridge in place, but it's somewhere between basically likeable and very good, with a slight question mark over its sweetness when it gets very busy: the sound can thicken up a little.
But as with the midrange, getting this really spot-on is invariably a costly business and for the asking price this deck does a very good job.
Devotion to the cause
As always, what's more important than the specifics is the overall musical impression and this is really where the Concept scores. It isn't perfect, but the minor technical blemishes are very much in the background and out of one's general awareness.
If the disc is rock, the Concept rocks. If jazz, it swings. If romantic, it smooches. Watching the analogue renaissance over the last few years has been a heartening experience.
Clearaudio's combination of audio and aesthetic design has produced a winning combination here which we feel sure will both win converts and keep them devoted to the analogue cause.
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