Publisher Profile

Clearaudio Innovation Wood Turntable Review

By: |

One of the things that continues to surprise me in comparing turntables is what a big difference the table itself makes on the amount of record or surface noise you hear. The Merrill/Scillia MS21 and the Clearaudio Anniversary both raised this to a whole new level. It seems that everybody who listens to either of these tables at my house has asked me how I get my records to sound so quiet. The Innovation manages to slightly raise the bar in this area over the other two great turntables I mentioned.

The Innovation also slightly raises the bar by being even more transparent, quieter, and more dynamic than my Anniversary. Where the Innovation really is innovative and sets a new standard is in regard to speed stability. In my review of the Clearaudio Anniversary, I wrote, “The Anniversary with the Synchro Speed Controller had exceptional pitch control, the best I had ever heard from any belt-drive.” That was certainly true, but the Innovation is even better. I would go so far as to say it keeps the speed more stable than any turntable I have ever heard, including the SP-10, or any rim drive table. The new optical speed control obviously works beautifully without any of the negative effects that the early quartz-locked systems had on direct drive turntables. This ability to keep the speed spot on probably explains how downright stable music sounds on this new turntable from Clearaudio.


Isn’t it amazing how much difference the quality of the silence of music varies from one audio component to the other? When I first heard MS21 I was simply amazed by the quality of its silence. In my favorite TV show of all time, “Northern Exposure”, Maryland said that you couldn’t be a great dancer if you didn’t have good stillness. It is equally true that in order to reproduce music that’s not artificial sounding, you have to have good silence. The Innovation actually betters the MS21 in its quality of silence.


Transparency is a priority to me when evaluating gear, because to me it is one of the major traits of going to hear live unamplified music. With the CMB bearing technology, I feel this is also an area where Clearaudio is breaking new ground in vinyl playback. The huge magnetic bearing of the Innovation furthers the transparency of my system. I was able to hear plucked strings, fingering work, and bowed strings in a way that made beautiful music. Add to this the visceral and emotionally satisfying way my system sounded, and you have a real winner on your hands with the Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable.

I have met several vinyl aficionados in both the floating-suspension and the rim-drive camps who don’ t think a turntable could be this transparent and detailed while still retaining the magic of vinyl. Well, I’m here to say this turntable has all the drive, flow, and power of any of these type of turntables I have heard. What it does not do is add any warmth to recordings. One visitor who listened for a couple of hour to my system commented that it took a little time to get used to how warm my system sounded on certain recordings, how neutral it sounded on others, and then sometimes it even sounded slightly forward. I know that is exactly what we should be looking for, namely the ability to hear what is on the recording, but to be honest: many recordings are more listenable with a little added warmth.

If you have not had a chance to hear one of the new Clearaudio tables with their “Panzerholz” plinths and “Ceramic Magnetic Bearings,” I encourage you to do so. Even if in the end it’s not the table you choose to own, I think you owe it to yourself to hear this level of transparency, speed, and neutrality from vinyl.

Drive, Dynamics, PraT, and Scale

These are areas where the new high torque DC-motor is a real improvement. Its ability to give my system the drive of live music along with lifelike pace and rhythm really let me get emotionally involved in the music. I don’t want to belittle the great sound of a good rim drive turntable, because I fall into the group of those who love them. Still, I would encourage those of you who love rim drives to hear a great belt-drive turntable that uses high torque motors. There are three that I’ve heard, the Audio Note, the Clearaudio Innovation, and the Voyd. All three of these tables have incredible drive and dynamics.

The Innovation has world class dynamics and micro-dynamics for any source, including the best digital or tape. The dynamics are great fun and lifelike and the micro-dynamics bring recorded music to life. The Innovation has a big, dynamic, powerful sound. Instruments have a life-like size. You should hear the lifelike scale and power of a well recorded standup bass or the bloom of a full orchestra.


The Bass is the first thing that some listeners commented on about the Innovation, and that includes some pretty well respected ears. It’s not that it necessarily goes deeper than other great tables, but it’s the way the bass comes out of such a quiet and natural environment. The bass breathes, and lets you easily hear the air, and the wood bodies of bass instruments when well recorded. The bass you get is tight and well-defined; but you get to hear more. You can easily hear the nuances, timbre, and rhythm of real instruments.

Midrange and Treble

We have already spent a good bit of time discussing these, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how clean, clear, and beautiful they are. Pianos, maybe more than most instruments, benefited from the solidity of the sound you hear when using this turntable. The Innovation plays music that is just so engaging. It is so easy to hear both the attack and the decay of instruments. The Innovation allowed my system to play brushes and sticks as they come in contact with cymbals and drums with such lifelikeness. They sounded so correct and beautiful while having a space all their own in the soundstage. With either the Benz Ebony TR or the Miyabi Standard, it was very satisfying just how pretty the midrange and treble could sound. The treble was delicate and had such natural shimmer.


The Clearaudio Innovation seems to be the final step in the changes in design that began with the company’s Statement and Ambient turntables, and then moved into more of their tables. They first started using “Panzerholz” instead of acrylic for the base of the turntable. Then came the incredible Ceramic Magnetic Bearings, and with the Statement table, a real Magnetic Drive. Now with the Innovation, they have moved away from even a “clear” platter; they have moved from acrylic to a combination of a composite durlin platter with a stainless steel sub platter. Then, there is the new high-torque motor. These design changes are great examples of the trickle down theory of engineering.

The Innovation brings significant improvements over early and more expensive turntables. It brings incremental improvement over their Anniversary Wood CMB table and gives you a better motor, it’s own speed control and a substantially deader platter. If you are in market for a turntable in this price range and you value transparency, speed, and drive you should give the Innovation a listen. It is a wonderful turntable.

3 Responses to Clearaudio Innovation Wood Turntable Review

  1. pirro says:

    Hi Jack,
    I’m intersted in the innovation wood and I read your enthusiast article today.
    An important detail is not clear for me. How it works the magnetic drive if the motor has a direct belt which drives the platter contrarly to the master innovation which has a double platter with no contact between.
    Thank you.
    Genova, It

    • Jack Roberts says:

      It’s not a magnetic drive it use a magnetic bearing that floats the platter slightly in the air. Both tables use a belt to drive the table, but in the case of this table there is only one platter and the best attaches to it.

  2. Tim Glover says:

    Nice review. I currently own a VPI Classic Signature with an Ortofon Cadenza Blue cart. I like the sound. BUT I feel the bass could be tighter and defined. The VPI has a big sound but I want more 🙂 Considering the Avenger. Thoughts on this vs the Innovation? Thank you, Tim

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popups Powered By :