Clearaudio Performance DC turntable system

Clearaudio Performance DC

Once suitably positioned, I admired the open sounding midrange, but felt slightly uneasy about the treble. It was not coarse or harsh, but felt slightly dominant. This suspicion was confirmed by a test record and spectrum analyser, which showed a treble lift from the cartridge of about 4dB on one channel and 3dB on the other. This results in an overall balance that on the plus side can bring life to dull‑sounding speakers or systems, but bear in mind that the cartridge could also sound a bit thin and wearing, especially with brighter sounding auxiliaries.

I deliberately chose something with a firm, driving bass line, so I spun George Benson’s track ‘Off Broadway’ from his LP Give Me the Night [WB 56 823]. The Performance DC combo presented George’s vocals in a clear and open way, with lots of reverberation, which was impressive, but seemed just a bit lispy. Bass lines were crisp and well timed, but with a marginal lack of ultimate power in the deeper, fundamentals. Lee Ritenour’s contrasting guitar style was reproduced with an amazingly rich and complex tonal quality that was a delight to hear. I loved the open clarity and fast‑paced character, even though the deep bass did not quite have the grunt and warmth of some heftier (and costlier) turntables. However, the turntable, arm, and cartridge were clearly extracting substantial levels of information and detail, so that Bert Swedian’s microphone wizardry and Quincy Jones’ legendary production were laid bare for all to hear.

I moved on to Miles Davis with John Coltrane  [CBS 88029]. Again, the sound was beautifully clear, but with a thinning to Miles’ horn and Jimmy Cobb’s brushed drums. Bass quality was enjoyable and easy to follow – just slightly less deep and solid than I have heard it.

Playing a few classical records reinforced my impression that a more neutrally balanced cartridge would be ideal, and so I requested an alternative. This turned out to be the Clearaudio MC Concept, with boron cantilever and micro‑line stylus. Taken separately, the MC Concept is slightly cheaper than the Virtuoso V2 Ebony, but as the latter is part of a package deal, the turntable combination with the moving coil cartridge ends up costing £100 more.

My first impression after the change over was that the MC Concept was clearer, cleaner, and smoother. For instance, Frank Sinatra’s voice on ‘Strangers in the Night’ from The most beautiful songs of Frank Sinatra [Reprise REP 64011] sat better with its reverberation; his vocals were now rich and smooth – and the music had swing.

With the Piano Concerto No 2 from Svjatoslav Richter: Rachmaninov [DGG 138 076], the orchestra was rich and sonorous, with more natural string tone, while the piano had much more power and presence. The instruments in the orchestra had a more tangible presence and simply sounded more realistic. Likewise, when playing the LP Delibes Coppelia Ballet Suite [DGG 2535 189], the orchestra was simply more tangible with the Concept MC cartridge.

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