Clearaudio Performance SE

This turntable’s simplicity belies some refined engineering technology and a performance to match

The latest incarnation of the Clearaudio Performance is a more substantial turntable than it looks, thanks to a plinth that’s made from a sandwich of aluminium and HDF. You can’t see the highdensity fi breboard because it is framed by the natural coloured aluminium in the sandwich, but it performs the critical task of damping any resonance that manages to get through the three adjustable feet beneath it.

The platter is a 40mm slab of acrylic that sits on a ceramic magnetic bearing, the shaft of which has been polished to an even higher degree than on the original Performance. The magnetic suspension means that the ceramic shaft doesn’t need a ball bearing or thrust pad to take the weight of the platter, which should reduce noise from this critical component quite considerably. The drive force comes from a completely separate motor in a solid housing with three silicone feet. It has an acrylic pulley with the larger 45rpm drive above the one for most of your records and you can adjust the height of the pulley with three nylon screws – a fixing that Clearaudio is rather keen on.

This turntable and arm is sold as a package with the Maestro Wood cartridge for £2,630 and uses nylon bolts to hold it in place. They’re a good thing for energy damping, but easy to damage. The so-called ‘silent’ drive belt is one piece of siliconbased rubber.

The Satisfy Carbon Directwire tonearm has a carbon-fi bre main beam that sits on sapphire and ceramic gimbal bearings and supports the cartridge with a fully adjustable headshell. The Directwire suffi x indicates a continuous cable run from cartridge tags to phono plugs.

Sound quality

The Performance SE proved to be very popular with most of the blind panellists; they all agreed that it has an excellent sense of pace, thanks to good leading-edge defi nition and strong timing. This is partly because it doesn’t have the bass extension encountered with many of the alternatives, but it has enough for most purposes. Keith Jarrett’s piano sounds a little more clanky as a result, but the instrument on the Köln Concert is not the richest from a tonal point of view. One listener thought it made the instrument more realistic, while another felt that the album wouldn’t have been a big seller if this is what most people heard.

One thing is clear about the Performance SE, it’s very articulate and detailed and this helps voices to project well; two listeners commented on the clarity of vocal on the Alan Taylor song. Live performances manage to deliver the atmosphere of the event thanks to spacious, open soundstaging and the aforementioned pace factor helps, too. There is a realism to instruments which is quite astonishing with some albums and the strength of imaging is, likewise, remarkable.

This is a lean sounding turntable, and with the right support system and cartridge, anything is possible. Either way it’s top-quality analogue entertainment in a very slick package.

LIKE: Fast, lively and engaging sound that’s strong on detail
DISLIKE: Slightly light balance and sound won’t suit all systems
WE SAY: Lean and pacy, this is a gripping turntable with impressive speed and plenty of detail

• Ceramic magnetic
main bearing
• 40mm acrylic
• Aluminium and
HDF plinth
• Carbon-fibre
arm beam
• Sapphire and
ceramic gimbal
Audio Reference
01252 702705