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You don't need us to tell you that vinyl replay has seen a huge resurgence in the last few years, such that there is now a greater choice than ever, from modest but capable turntables for a few hundred pounds up to major technlogical statements like the Clearaudio Statement.

A turntable demands a great deal of care in its setup and use to realise the best performance – correct settings for VTA and azimuth, for instance, are crucial if a cartridge is to perform optimally. If you prefer the certainty of "plug and play" a turntable such as Clearaudio's Concept, completely set up in the factory, would be the answer. It will provide huge musical pleasure while not scaling the heights of its more exotic brethren.

It's the scope for fine-tuning that makes the Graham Phantom and Spiral Groove Centroid tonearms so special. There are other good arms on the market but by making both these arms removable from the turntable the designers have guaranteed that cartridge installation is absolutely reliable and reassuringly accurate. With the tools provided with both you just know that the cartridge is precisely positioned.

Solid or suspended?

There is a common factor also with our two turntable brands – they are solid designs, avoiding the pitfalls of suspension. A major challenge for designers is how to disperse the large amounts of mechanical energy in a turntable – from the motor, the bearing and, surprisingly, the stylus – so that it does not contaminate the music signal.

The problem with suspended turntables is that they are never still. Instead they are in constant motion as the compliant suspension tries – in retrospect – to correct for all the forces, internal and external, acting on the floating mass.

Our chosen approach

In Clearaudio and Spiral Groove turntables the designers have used energy-absorbent materials and construction techniques, such as constrained-layer damping. This solid approach
ensures that stylus, arm pivot, platter bearing and motor remain in an absolutely fixed relationship. This technique helps to recover as much information from the record groove as possible to ensure confident, pitch-perfect
replay in a wide sound stage. Definitely no quavering piano notes here.

By contrast, suspended turntables are in a perpetual state of tension and correction, varying with the dynamic pull of the stylus as it traces the changing music groove and the torque of the motor. Then there are all the external interferences to correct for, such as airborne sound pressure and floor vibration. The suspension, whether metal spring or rubber, will be in constant flux – the system will not be a turn-stable.

Again, springs are far from ideal for suspension because a) they ring and b) they are not one-way devices, ie energy can flow back into the suspended mass.