There’s plenty of practical, consumer-friendly gear filling the halls of CES each year. And then there are products like Clearaudio’s absolutely outrageous $45,000 turntable, the Innovation. Nestled in Clearaudio’s glorious suite at the Venetian, which is laden with more than a dozen crazy-looking wax spinners, the Innovation takes the cake — and absolutely lives up to its name.
You can’t help but be a little stunned just looking at this work of audiophile art, but even so, the more you learn about it the more impressive it becomes. For starters, all of those matte, metallic columns supporting the turntable aren’t metal at all. Instead, they’re made from what’s called Panzerholz plywood, which consists of multiple razor-thin layers of birchwood stuck together with a special adhesive, then sprayed with a lacquer, and set between anodized sheets of aluminum.
Clearaudio tells us this design allows the turntable to mitigate unwanted resonances and flutter, while the natural material also allows for sympathetic resonances, similar to the way a fine wooden instrument like a violin or cello does. (Incidentally, the company also claims this material is used for bulletproof cars in Germany.) The Panzerholz supports are part and parcel with two available components, including the tall base stand (sold separately), and the columns that are actually attached to the turntable itself.
The Innovation is a belt-driven turntable, allowing for all three standard vinyl speeds (33⅓ rpm, 45 rpm, and 78 rpm) regulated with an optical system to assure perfect rotation on the fly. The deck comes with a carbon-fiber tonearm, and can be packaged together without the stand for only $13,500. However, the version we saw with stand in tow was also outfitted with a $15,000 cartridge, the brand of which we didn’t even bother to ask, because seriously. Similar to the three-armed Technics monster, the SL-1000R, you can attach a second tonearm if you so desire.
In the video, you’ll note that the record appears to be sunken into the platter, but it’s actually just surrounded with a metallic ring weight around the platter’s outer edge, alongside another weight on the top that looks like, well, a top — a very heavy top.
Listening to the table on Clearaudio’s own phono preamp and some seriously high-end third-party gear, the sound was — as you might imagine — nothing short of flawless. Now, we’re not saying you need to spend $45,000 on a turntable by any means. But if you have the cash to throw around, we’d argue their are worse ways you can waste it. For our part, we were just happy to get a listen. That’s what makes CES special, after all.