A lot of exotic turntables were shown at CES 2009. However, there were several new 'tables of note that won't break the bank and promise to offer real sonic value. Following are the most significant offerings I saw:
The Clearaudio “Innovation Wood” ($10,000) with its Universal Arm ($5,000) and da Vinci cartridge ($5,500), coupled with Aesthetix electronics and Vandersteen Quattro speakers, had superb ambience and fine detail retrieval. The Innovation relies on a DC motor with an innovative optical speed controller, as well as a sandwiched PanzerHolz and aluminum tri-star plinth to reduce resonances. Like all Clearaudio ‘tables, including the entry-level Emotion ($1,400), it uses a Ceramic Magnetic Bearing(CMB) to float the platter,
The Pro-Ject Xtension ($6,000) moves that company into higher realms in terms of both performance and price. Like the Pro-Ject RM-10, it uses opposing rings of magnets to float the platter, but the Xtension also uses magnetic repulsion for its feet, too, and includes an integrated speed controller. It comes with a twelve-inch “Evolution” carbon fiber tonearm with a massive armboard and bearing block, and designer Heinz Lichtenegger says it offers “great trackability and isolation.”
Euro Audio Team (EAT) is best known for its outstanding tubes, but it was showing its “Forte” table with a strikingly beautiful, custom Ikeda twelve-inch tonearm ($8,000 sans arm; $19,000 with arm). It uses a decoupled dual motor system, oversized platter, and magnetic feet to help isolate and support the ‘table. Coupled with a Colibri cartridge, CAT electronics, and Hansen Prince v2 speakers, it produced an open, dynamic, natural sound, with gorgeous string tone, a large soundstage, and an overall sense of ease on a Stravinsky recording.
A couple of more modestly priced offerings caught my eye. The Clearaudio “Tradition” turntable ($3,200, or $3,800 with Satisfy Carbon Fiber arm), with its plinth of PanzerHolz sandwiched between aluminum, outboard motor, and Ceramic Magnetic bearing might be thought of as a mini-Ambient. This looks like "trickle down" technology that will offer real sonic benefits. Rega was also offering attractive system packages with its high-gloss P3-24 turntable, available in a variety of colors, with improved RB301 arm and a TT PSU speed controller for $1295. My testing with the P5 suggests the TT PSU is quite a worthwhile addition.
These look like great values at each of their respective price points.