December… ‘tis the season for cranking up your favourite tunes, putting on a bit of a show, having some fun and, traditionally, giving generously. The folks at hi-fi brand Clearaudio have been entering into that very spirit, by supporting – and starring in – a ‘cheeky’ new short film inspired by one of contemporary cinema’s most iconic music and dance scenes.
“We may be in the streaming age, but this hasn’t stopped vinyl sales booming. Audiophiles and analogue devotees, as well as digital converts, are rediscovering the joys of records,” writes Wired magazine, which has just singled out (no pun intended) its best record players for any budget in 2018.
It’s that time of year again folks… when hi-fi’s greatest hitters from around the globe flock to the world’s largest audio exhibition. Yes music lovers, High End Munich 2018 is almost upon us. So, just before I get packing, here are some of the highlights I’ll be heading for.
“Clearaudio’s Maestro positions itself as an intentional disruption to shake most shoppers from lurching around with ‘MC tunnel vision’ and have them stop for a moment to consider what a carefully crafted moving magnet product can bring to the table,” writes Buzz Hughes in the October issue of Hi-Fi Plus. So does it succeed?
“Clearaudio’s Maestro has no intention of playing second fiddle to the MC crowd,” says Hughes: “from the first look and touch of the cartridge the Maestro is effectively drawing a line in the sand saying ‘I dare you to find a better value at my price point…’”
Hughes takes up the dare and dives straight in with some testing tracks. First up, Roy Ayres’ Change up the Groove album, whose vibrant vibraphone will clearly reveal just how much an MM cartridge can “intrude onto a moving coil’s holy ground sound signature, the treble.”
The results are immediate. “The clarity and depth of the notes coming through the Maestro is unmistakably impressive… there is no stretch or reach to produce the sweet highs and breathtakingly long decay… overlapping and rapid vibraphone strikes take flight and hover in the ether with enough space and time to take them all individually, examine them, and let them float away into a spaciously dark background.”
Hughes puts the bass to the test with Mad Season’s track ‘Wake Up’ on the album Above. “The bass extension was one of the lowest I have heard come through my system.” Not only did it dive Hughes lower than he had been prepared to expect, but the Maestro also “opened up the texture on the bass as well as revealing quivers and shimmers of low frequency sound that simply were not there before.”
In his evident enjoyment of the Maestro, Hughes confesses to being very much a fan of a “front row and centre of aisle” style of musical presentation, appreciating the way that the cartridge “pushed me right up into the act and let me feel like I was holding the bands’ microphones and amps.”
Does this mean that the Maestro lacks a certain subtlety? Not at all. “While [it] excels with driving, pumping music like MM cartridges are reputed to do, I found that the real strength of the Maestro cartridge is the ability to control its power and still achieve a neutral canvas for the other aspects of my music regardless of genre.”
“One of those special cartridges that is smart enough to do it all and makes you want to buy more LPs instead of more equipment.”
Read Hughes’ full review in the October 2017 issue of Hi-Fi Plus.