Clearaudio Concept turntable review

The German company’s most affordable turntable has been winning plaudits for years, but is it still an immaculate conception?

Clearaudio Concept review
(Image: © Clearaudio)

Louder Verdict

There's no getting away from the fact this is an expensive turntable, but you certainly get what you pay for - as this German gem looks and sounds the absolute business.


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    Looks and sounds fantastic

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    Plug ’n’ play functionality

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    Premium build quality


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    No phono preamp

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This year marks the 30th anniversary of Clearaudio’s very first turntable, the iconic Reference. So, if you’re looking for a new record player, why not celebrate that milestone by purchasing a deck bearing the German manufacturer’s name? Clearaudio’s products don’t come cheap – indeed, the latest incarnation of the now-defunct Reference, named the Reference Jubilee, costs about 30 grand. However, there are a couple in the range that, while not exactly budget turntables, just about squeeze into the affordable category – one of which is the Clearaudio Concept. 

Launched in its original form in 2009, Clearaudio’s cheapest record player is described by its maker as “an elegantly styled package featuring a level of ground-breaking technology usually only found in high-end turntables.” To discover exactly what that means, and to find out if this deck is right for you, read on.

Clearaudio Concept review: Design

In terms of looks, Clearaudio has made some truly extravagant turntables over the years – most notably the Master Innovation and the Statement, both of which look like the record player equivalent of wedding cakes. With the Concept, though, the company has gone for simplicity. There are very few bells and whistles on display here – it’s essentially a plinth with a platter, a tonearm and a speed control. However, while some minimalist decks can look rather mundane, this one is anything but. Thanks to its sleek edges and satin finish, the Concept is a real head-turner.

With a body made from medium-density wood fibre (or, if you’re prepared to pay extra, pressure-formed solid wood), the Concept weighs in at a fairly heavy 7.5kg. Not that it makes much difference in practical terms, as it’s not like you’re going to be carrying it from room to room, but it does help to give the turntable a premium feel.

Finally, the Concept comes with three screw-in feet, along with a bubble level to ensure that you get the turntable sitting at an even keel on your cabinet or table. It’s worth spending a few minutes to get this right, as a bit of balance can make a world of difference to your overall listening enjoyment. 

Clearaudio Concept review: Features

Starting with set-up, the Concept is essentially a plug ‘n’ play turntable, meaning you’ll have to do very little to get it working out of the box. Clearaudio’s own moving magnet Concept V2 cartridge comes factory-fitted to the pre-aligned Verify Wire Plus tonearm, and things like the cartridge weight and bias will have been pre-set long before the deck reaches your living room. 

That just leaves the platter and drive belt to be fitted, and you hardly need a doctorate to do that. It’s convenient and will save you having to fiddle around too much before you start listening. By the way, if you don’t like the moving magnet cartridge that’s fitted to the Concept, it can be replaced with a moving-coil one.

Speaking of fiddly things, you won’t have to change speeds manually with this record player, thanks to the speed control at the front-left of the platter. With a simple rotation of the knob, you can switch between playing singles and albums – and there’s even a 78rpm setting for when you want to wheel out your grandpa’s dusty old discs.

Calling the Concept plug ‘n’ play isn’t entirely accurate, as it doesn’t come with a speaker (what turntable at this price does?) or a built-in phono stage. If you want the latter, you could always spend a little more and go for the Clearaudio Concept Active, which comes with a headphones socket too.

Clearaudio Concept review: Sound

Clearaudio Concept turntable review: A close-up of the Clearaudio Concept's arm

(Image credit: Clearaudio)

With Clearaudio having won a bucketload of awards over the years, we had high expectations for the Concept’s sound quality – even if it is the company’s most "affordable" turntable. We weren’t disappointed. Placing some classic David Bowie on the platter, we dropped the stylus onto the groove and were instantly taken by the clarity delivered by this deck. When listening to an iconic LP like Hunky Dory, you want to hear all of its beautifully orchestrated layers, and the Concept didn’t let us down, giving each one room to breathe. 

The Concept’s overall presentation is one of sophisticated warmth, but there’s no lack of power here. Bass is handled with expertly controlled verve, while the soundstage can be breathtakingly immersive at times. There were a couple of moments where we felt that the vocals could do with a bit more flesh, but we’re probably being pernickety.

Clearaudio Concept review: The alternatives

If you're looking to spend a little less on a turntable, then top of the pile is the Rega Planar 1 - a deck that marries terrific build quality with impressive sonic presentation. As with the Clearaudio Concept, there’s no built-in phono stage, but at least you’ll have plenty of money left over to buy one.

Want a turntable with wireless capability? Then you might wish to take a look at the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT, a deck that ranks highest in our list of the best Bluetooth turntables. This one does have a built-in phono stage, not to mention great quality sound, a super-easy set-up, and a great price.

Paul Dimery

Paul has spent the past eight years testing and writing about gadgets and technology for the likes of Louder, T3 and TechRadar. He might not have the wealth or the looks of Tony Stark, but when it comes to knowing about the latest cool kit, Paul would surely give Iron-Man a run for his money. As for his musical leanings, Paul likes everything from Weyes Blood to Nirvana. If it's got a good melody, he's on board with it.