Clearaudio are in the business of making some excellent sounding turntable ‘packages’, with the Avantgarde Magnum being up there among the best in the Clearaudio range.

Clearaudio Avantgarde Magnum Turntable with Benz SL WoodThe Avantgarde Magnum shares the design principals of most of the CA range in the extensive use of acrylic, both for the platter and plinth. With a platter height of 2.8 inches, or 78mm, and a platter weight of 7kg, it presents a high mass rotating surface with excellent speed stability, enhanced by the use of the polished and hardened steel bearing housing with sintered bronze insert (inverted bearing design).

The total weight of the turntable is 28KG, almost 62 lbs, so it needs to be sited on a sturdy, rigid platform, as one would normally encounter in high-end audio circles.

This review table also includes the Clearaudio Satisfy tonearm (wood) and the venerable Benz SL Wood Low output moving coil cartridge.

The table is a breeze to install and setup, with the preliminaries of unpacking, siting, adding the plinth, aligning the free-standing motor assembly, attaching the belt, all comfortably handled withing a 30 minute window. Initial setting of the arm/cartridge combo takes a fair bit longer, though getting to the stage of a rough setting is handled just about as quickly as it can be.

The table also comes from the manufacturer with a fairly heavy self-locking record clamp, and Clearaudio recommend placing the vinyl directly atop the acrylic platter, without the use of a record mat. Whether you do this or not will be down to your own personal preference.

Clearaudio Avantgarde Magnum Turntable with Benz SL Wood

Once everything is in place you’ll want to start the process of setting up the arm and cartridge. In my case, both were set within 5% or so by the dealer, but I found myself making some fairly large adjustments to those settings.

VTA had the biggest impact on sound, I found with the recommended ‘parallel’ alignment, the bass was a little too shy and the sound altogether too lean, so I experimented with VTA and settled on a top-up setting at the pivot end of around 1/16th of an inch, maybe a tad more.

Clearaudio Avantgarde Magnum TurntableSetting the tracking force and azimuth on the Avantgarde Magnum were a little tricky but no more so than with any other system. The Satisfy tonearm allows azimuth adjustment via a hex bolt on the headshell/tube, so it’s a case of using whatever technique you’re familiar with.

It doesn’t take long before you’re up and running, with small adjustments to follow over a period of a couple weeks, until you’re happy that everything is properly dialed-in.

Once setup, the Avantgarde Magnum is a solid performer. It presents a deep, wide soundstage, accurate to whatever is on the recording. With older more intimate jazz recordings it places the performers between the speakers and captures ambient cues outside of the speaker boundaries. With well recorded big-band jazz, the sound is spread way beyond the confines of the speakers, with instruments appearing pretty much wall to wall in my 28′ wide room. Soundstage depth is very good too, with excellent separation and air around instruments and performers on the stage.

The top end performance is excellent, with the Benz Wood SL being a solid performer. It’s 0.4mv output is handled capably by the phono stage on my Supratek Chenin preamp, with a pair of Amperex NOS handling duties on the phone stage.

 Benz SL WoodMidrange can easily be affected by alignment, as can low-end bass and impact. Tilt the arm up at the pivot point by 1mm and warm the mids a tad with very little loss at the top of the frequency spectrum. Keep the arm just off parallel by 2mm and you’ll have a very neutral and transparent reproduction through the frequency range. This really is a precision playback instrument with just the right amount of adjustability to suit most tastes.

At around $8000 for the package, I wouldn’t expect any lesser level of performance. I do feel however that this rig has more to give, more than I’m able to extract from it with my ancillary equipment, particularly the phono stage/preamp.

Verdict – a great turntable combo. Easy to setup, easy to maintain and excellent sonics.