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Clearaudio Innovation Professional Power Supply

Clearaudio Innovation_wood_Front_w SQ

The absolute stasis of the LP standard must be one of vinyl’s most reassuring qualities. The format and all its specifications were effectively settled over 70 years ago, with little changed since the expansion to stereo microgroove in 1958. In other words, any LP pressed from the 1960s to the ’90s plays with the same set-up as one made in the third decade of the 21st century.

So in contrast to most things digital since the CD, a record player does not demand software updates to adapt to new format variations or revisions in technology. And just as usefully, given the time over which established turntable brands have been working on their hardware, there’s usually little to patch once a product has been released.

Upgrades can and do appear on even mature models though, such as Clearaudio’s leading Innovation deck, first launched in 2009. A few small running changes have been made but as a development of the stable and already well-developed Reference series before it, there was nothing terribly broke that needed fixing.

Then after over a decade, and just like the proverbial bus, two upgrades come along at (almost) once. Both upgrades are power supplies, perhaps the least flashy but nearly always the most pivotal part of any audio kit, the turntable included. Either PSU will replace the switch-mode power supply, the proverbial wall-wart, that came with the original deck and all the iterations that have followed.

Technology revisited

Since it’s had little press attention in the intervening time, it will be useful to recap on the Innovation story. Like the Clearaudio Master Reference from which it evolved, the Innovation is a fixed-plinth design built around an extremely stiff three-legged chassis made from high-tech panzerholz. This is essentially armoured wood, highly compressed hardwood impregnated with phenolic resin, sandwiched between two thin aluminium sheets. The result is not only strong – bullet-proof we understand – but exceptionally well damped and therefore has very little ‘ring’.

The platter is a deep slice of plastic 67mm thick, either matt-finished acrylic for the lighter finish, or polyoxymethylene (POM) for the dark. The model tested had an acrylic platter weighing a rather massive 6kg, but this is outdone by a lower sub-platter of 15-mm thick stainless steel that weighs nearly 9kg alone. Together, the platter assembly represents more than half the all-up weight of the deck’s 22kg mass. Take the POM option and expect even greater platter weight, since the latter material is around 20% denser than acrylic.

That could be a burden on a regular hardened-steel bearing point, except the Innovation also utilises a Ceramic Magnetic Bearing (CMB). This neat design, awarded a patent in Germany in 2007 and originally offered as an upgrade for the Master Reference, uses powerful neodymium-iron magnets in opposition to completely levitate the massive platter, then centres it on a ceramic bearing spindle in sintered-bronze housing. The ceramic also helps to reduce upward conduction of residual fields to the platter surface, where magnet-based cartridges are known to skate.

The Innovation of 2009 went from a one-off to a series when it was joined first by the superdeck version Master Innovation in 2013. This doubled up on the panzerholz chassis to incorporate another sub-platter, this time magnetically-coupled like Clearaudio’s Statement überdeck. Then came the Compact in 2015 which removed one slice of the standard two-tier chassis and dropped the steel sub-platter; and finally the Basic the following year, which was a Compact further slimmed down by halving platter height to 38mm.

It’s worth noting that the Innovation series’ main advance on the Reference was in the use of a single high-torque DC motor, instead of up to three AC motors on the Master Reference. And it’s this solitary DC motor that is now receiving the attention of two different new power supplies.

Power play

First to market was the Smart Power 24V, a sophisticated battery-based PSU that Clearaudio offers as the ultimate supply for the Innovation. This deserves and will receive a review in its own right, but for the moment the focus is on the newer 2022 option, the Professional Power 24V, a simpler fit-and-forget outboard box to feed the deck’s DC motor.

‘Box’ is used loosely here, since the PP24V is built into a cylindrical aluminium barrel a little larger than a soup tin, 128mm long and 91mm in diameter. At £740 it’s around one-third the price of the £2,630 Smart Power, considerably smaller and easier to find space for on a nearby shelf.

It takes a standard IEC C13 mains cable and has a fixed 1.4m cable to plug into the inlet on the rearmost turret-leg of the Innovation. Also on the back is a grounding post, handy for those that like to experiment with system earths or use CAD or Nordost grounding boxes. On the front is a single power switch and blue LED.

Unlike the original wall-wart supply (and the charging circuit of Smart Power) the PP24V is a purely linear supply with no HF switching, although it does feature a simple 8-bit microcontroller to handle its delayed switch-on with flashing LED.

Inside the tube a toroidal transformer sits on a compliant mount to reduce mechanical vibration output and microphonic input. After rectification by diode bridge the PP24V takes a capacitor multiplier circuit to regulate the DC, centred on a MOSFET heatsinked to the front panel that can handle the inrush current from a capacitor filter bank. The system is protected by an oversized US-style fuse, with final passive filtering after this to reduce all-important output impedance.

While the static output impedance of the PP24V is comparable to the SMPS, the designer told me, its dynamic impedance is much lower, which bodes well for good motor control, and ultimately sonic performance.

The sound of power

Even in original form with stock power supply and round-section drive belt, the Innovation clearly shows the benefit of its advanced engineering and materials. There’s an overarching sense of ease in its timing and pitch stability, playing acoustic piano for example with such authority that you know that any hint of waver in note modulation is a product of the very piano’s tuning, the master tape transcription or the tiniest of non-concentricities from the record.

While settling in with this arrangement, I came to realise that the SMPS has no place on the same mains as the rest of the system. Sharing the Nordost QBase distribution board with the power amp and phono stage always betrayed a mild HF haze and midband muddle that was easily diminished by running from a separate outlet; in this case an IsoTek Sigma on a different wall socket.

That cleaning-up operation was magnified again with the PP24V now powering the deck. Focusing on the frenetic drumming in ‘Slow Yourself Down’ from Camel’s first album, the new supply gave not just more body to the percussive onslaught, showing the shape as well as placement of tom‑toms, it tidied and made sense of the whole backing track. No wonder drummer Andy Ward got a co-writing credit for the number.

Decluttering is another way of describing the effect of PP24V, widening the soundstage just a little, giving individual strands that bit more space between each other. There’s a noted leanness in the standard deck that this linear supply subtly remedies, giving more sense of drive and lower-end impact, gently nudging the slider from ‘CD precision’ to ‘analogue wallop’. Time and a Word as an album now sounded more filled out in the bass where a fledgling Chris Squire was still finding his unique sound. With the PP24V, it is was easier to hear that while the production might not always show it, he had already found that voice.

Returning to piano and Alfred Brendel’s compelling turn on Beethoven’s Der Sturm sonata, there’s the wonderful swirl of sustain-pedal chords and icy notes hanging lost in the air, followed by the rapid impact of stabs and runs from the left-hand. Somehow the new power supply helps the deck as a whole better tell all the drama of that tempest.

Modern productions benefit nicely from the fleshed-out lower octaves, while not quite reaching too fulsome and overblown. ‘Sky Fits Heaven’ segues neatly to ‘Candy Perfume Girl’ on Ray of Light with flatulent static that slides into the subsonic. The PP24V really opens up William Orbit’s production – yet keeps a sane check on the low-frequency effects populating these tracks.


Playing with the power supply shouldn’t be making that much difference to a platter storing this much angular momentum. That was my starting point, only to be impressed by the entirely positive upgrade from the Professional Power 24V. For its price compared to the complete deck, it’s easy to recommend, if not mandate. Next time – can the Smart Power 24V make that much difference again? After all, it’s only a motor power supply.

Technical specifications

  • Type Full-size, DC-motor turntable with outboard PSU
  • Rotational Speeds 33⅓, 45 & 78rpm
  • Supported Tonearm Length(s) 9-inch to 12-inch arms supported by separate armboards
  • Drive Mechanism Belt driven via DC motor
  • Speed Control Optical speed control (OSC) with Professional Power 24V providing stable DC voltage
  • Platter Type 12-inch platter in acrylic or POM with stainless‑steel sub-platter
  • Platter Weight combined approx 15kg
  • Bearing Type ceramic magnetic bearing (CMB)
  • Plinth Configuration Fixed plinth system
  • Dimensions (H×W×D) 220 × 485 × 460mm
  • Weight 22–24kg
  • Price Innovation £9,700 (light), £10,300 (dark). Professional Power 24V £740 (silver or black)


Clearaudio Electronic GmbH


UK Distributor

Sound Fowndations


+44(0) 118 981 4238

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By Andrew 'Harry' Harrison

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