“We endeavour to include a wide selection of hi-fi equipment in Hi-Fi Choice, ranging from so-called entry-level systems right up to those exotic items that most of us can only drool over,” begins Neville Roberts in the magazine’s October 2016 issue.
While both the entry level and the middle ground of the hi-fi spectrum are well catered for, at the top end there sits a sparse range of audio elite “where price tags can often approach that of a small house”. Affordable only to a tiny minority, “do they really have
a place in today’s audio lineup?” asks Roberts. It’s a good question and one that he pondered in depth at the recent UK launch of Clearaudio’s Statement v2 turntable – claimed to be one of the world’s finest – hosted by Dorset retailer Stone Audio.
Price notwithstanding, “I was fully expecting to have my socks blown off,” concedes Roberts. “I wasn’t disappointed and was totally smitten from the moment I heard it play.”
As a reviewer, Roberts was keen to hear the Statement v2 play something he knew well and so took along a couple of favourite recordings – some classical, some big band. Despite being fortunate enough to have a high-end reference system at home, with the Statement v2 Roberts could actually pick out instruments he had never heard before, and was immediately “conscious of the almost inaudible ambience that the system managed to produce that quite simply took my breath away.”
But with a price tag of more than £100k (with tonearm and cartridge), is it really worth a manufacturer expending R&D effort and manufacturing costs to make such a high-end turntable for just a select minority?
Roberts believes that the answer is a resounding yes. “Why is it acceptable for a car manufacturer to make a concept car, but unacceptable for a hi-fi brand to make a premium piece of kit?” he asks, referring to the many and varied audiophile bulletin boards littered with critics of the ultra high-end and writing it off as overpriced.
On the contrary, the benefits of the top end reach far beyond satisfying the market for the fortunate few, argues Roberts. “It is really important for a company to be able to showcase its achievements and demonstrate what can actually be accomplished when no expense is spared,” he explains. “Such products can become yardsticks by which others are measured, raising the sound quality bar ever higher. It is also often the case that while developing a flagship ‘statement’ product, useful spin offs from the research are applied to models lower down the range, which ultimately benefits everyone in the end.”
It’s a valid point, and one that has long been shared and practiced by the Clearaudio team. When the original flagship Statement turntable was launched a decade ago, one of its most prized innovations was the magnetic bearing technology, in which the platter was magnetically suspended so that there was no mechanical connection between platter and drive motor. So successful was this technology that it has since been patented and applied to most of the Clearaudio turntable range.
As for the likes of the Statement v2 itself, “I thoroughly enjoy being able to experience such endeavours,” enthuses Roberts, “and even though I am unlikely to ever be able to afford to buy any of them, it’s still nice to dream.” Indeed it is Neville, indeed it is.
Read Neville Roberts’ opinion piece in full in the October 2016 issue of Hi-Fi Choice.