Clearaudio is offering an update to owners of all their tables, except the Emotion. The upgrade features a ceramic alloy bearing material for the main shaft, that is said to dramatically reduce friction, along with a bearing housing that features magnetic donuts that repel one another.
“… after placing the platter onto the bearing, it actually floats in air just slightly above the bass and is held in place by the ceramic shaft … theoretically eliminating all bearing friction, wear and noise.”
The result is that after placing the platter onto the bearing, it actually floats in air just slightly above the bass and is held in place by the ceramic shaft. This actually creates a slight suspension of the platter. Thus, the ball bearing is no longer required, avoiding any point of load within the bearing and theoretically eliminating all bearing friction, wear and noise.
The ceramic shaft is harder than the stainless steel shaft it replaces, and the new ceramic alloy has a much finer, polished surface than the original bearing. This is said to reduce friction by a factor of 10. The patented design does not let the magnetic field to transfer through the spindle or onto the surface of the record. A special shielding material is used to accomplish this so that it does not affect your cartridge or motor. As an owner of the Clearaudio Ambient table, I made the decision to give it a try.
I really mean it – the installation literally takes less than five minutes, but it is much easier if you have a helper to lift the table instead of having to turn it on its side.
First, you simply remove the belts and the platter. Second, and this is very important, especially if you’re doing this by yourself, be sure you have secured the arm very well. Third, you just lift the existing top half of the bearing assembly off and set it aside. Now, you either have someone lift the table for you or you have to turn it up on its side. Then, all you have to do is loosen the nut on the bottom of the table and unscrew the bottom half of the bearing assembly. Then, you attach the new bottom half of the bearing assembly and sit the table back down. Now you simply place the new magnet bearing on top of it and put the platter back on. Now all you have to do is let it settle for a minute or two and then put the three belts back on. In less than five minutes, I was back in the music.
Sound or “What difference does it make?”
As easy and as impressive as the upgrade is; the real question is what difference does it make to the sound. Well, let me tell you that the differences are easy to hear, but your first reaction isn’t going to be “Wow!” No, the differences are subtle, but don’t mistake that to mean the differences are unimportant or hard to hear. On the contrary, it is the ability to hear the subtleties in a recording that makes or breaks whether or not a component can sound like live music. These subtleties are now much easier to hear and come out of a quieter background, with less noise and more finesse.
And, that’s the first and most important difference I would point out, with the ceramic/magnetic bearing, my system sounded a little more like live music than it did before. I thought it was interesting that one of the improvements was that it carried the tune better than before; a characteristic more often associated with belt-driven suspension table, as their advocates like to point out in their favor. Yet, it also definitely improved both drive and dynamics, a characteristic that the idle-drive aficionados are so proud of.
Second, is the matter of dynamics and micro-dynamics; it is simply amazing how dynamic this table is with the ceramic/magnetic bearing. It’s a little hard to get used to at first. The Benz Ebony TR cartridge combined with the Ambient table, Satisfy arm, and now this bearing, has an incredible combination of delicacies, speed, and dynamics. This combination can be startlingly real sounding on the right recordings.
Third, is the matter of quietness; my system now seems quieter than ever. I kind of expected that. What I had not expected was that I now find it much harder to hear the stylus in the groove and to my amazement even surface noise seems significantly reduced. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s just so easy to hear.
“… but it was still spinning ten minutes later …”
Lastly, I would like to share one amazing observation. Once, with the belts not attached, I reached down and gave the platter a real good spin, and it kept on spinning. I don’t know how long it would spin, but it was still spinning ten minutes later and then I forgot about it. I guess the claims about reduced friction are true.
I don’t know if there is any real significance to the spinning, but I do know that after listening for several weeks, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not want to return to the original bearing. I had to be sure though, so I put it back in. I was right. The difference had become even greater than I realized. The ceramic/magnetic bearing is much quieter, allowing you to hear more delicacies of the music. At the same time it carries the tune better, and without a doubt has much, I repeat, much more drive and greater dynamics and micro-dynamics. Add to this that record noise is also reduced and this becomes a no-brainer for me. It’s a good value, it’s easy to install, and it lets you enjoy music more. What else could you ask for?
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