Clearaudio TT2

Ron Resnick

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Jan 24, 2015
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How come us linear-tracking tonearm fans have not focused on this Clearaudio TT2, which looks extremely well-engineered and beautifully machined and can be mounted on most turntables?

 
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I heard my first Clearaudio LT arm this month at a wbf members home. Hard to parse the arm from the unfamiliar system but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Seems like they aren't too common in USA?
 
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There's almost no information on it... How does it work? All I can tell is it looks maybe like queing raises/lowers the entire thing? The lever is massive.
 
I have plenty of information on the Clearaudio TT2, because I worked with Lou Souther on the final development phase of the Souther Linear Tonearm 40+ years ago to refine the design, get it working and launch his initial marketing. Lou later sold his design, patents and business to Clearaudio, who sharply upgraded the materials, tolerances and implementation, but the essential tri-bearings carriage traversing parallel quartz rods track continues unmolested.

I'll wait for further queries to fill you all in.

Phil
 
As far as I understand, the original Clearaudio LT was based on the Souther design with the tri-bearing carriage riding on two quartz rods. However, for their latest model, while sharing a similar appearance to the original design, the bearing system is now based on the Proprius tonearm design with two (?) wheels traveling inside a glass tube.
 

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Sorry, my mistake, not based on the Proprius but Opus 3 tonearm
 

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I worked with Lou Souther back in 1980-83 to refine the materials and design execution of the Souther Linear Arm, which Clearaudio later acquire. It was a chance meeting, Lou and me, but the collaboration was successful, as his design at that point was glitchy and not market-ready, but held great promise. At the time I met Lou, his working prototype used glass rods for the twin-track. I suggested quartz as a higher-precision and more stable material, which he implemented. The tri-flanged-bearing design is a central element to the tonearm's operating integrity.

The original Souther had the twin quartz tracks glued to an aluminum spacer, and the end bits were molded, low-resonance plastic. The bearing that rested on the turntable spindle was at various times nylon or delrin embedded in an aluminum casing. As I recall, during development, I preferred Delrin (listening on Quad ESL-57 and BBC LS3/5a powered by Julius Futterman OTLs) and he preferred nylon listening on Klipsch corner horns powered by then-vintage McIntosh tube amps (IIRC Mack MC60s).

I arranged for Lou to debut his tonearm in a partnered room at summer CES in Chicago in 1982, as I recall, and I wrote his initial marketing materials. My evaluation cartridges for development were Denon 103D, Denon 103, Signet Tk-9a, Shure V-15 Type III & Type IV, Koetsu, ADC XLMIII. There were a range of counterwieght choices. The short vertical-pivot to-stylus-distance was reminiscent of the Transcriptor Vestigal tonearm from about 8-10 years earlier, which proved greatly accommodating of a wide range of system resonances with low and high-compliance cartridges, but also left you with sometimes warp-wow on the compromised vinyl of the oil-shock discs of the 1970s to early 1980s.

Lou found very low friction flange bearings for the 3bearings/2track configuration, and the moving assembly was VERY low mass, using a composite bearings carrier. So it didn't have the lag of servo-driven systems like the B&O 4000 nor the mechanical-servo systems like the Rabco/Marantz/Harman tire-on-roller system. You could mount it on most spinners. I had a Souther on one of my Luxman PD-444s, on a VPI HW19, and even on a dust-coverless Pink Triangle.

The Clearaudio implementation is a large upgrade on what Lou Souther could muster wrt materials and manufacturing. ANd Clearaudio apparently believes in the design enough to have continued to refine it. Compared to today's TT2, the original Souther Linear Arm was a toy, but a very effective one that sounded vastly better than it looked. In the Souther design, the spiral groove of the LP provides the motive force to move across the disc, but the moving mass is so low that it does so with no strain to the bearings, moving system in general, nor to the cartridge signal-producing assembly.

I eventually moved back to pivoted tonearms due to the general problem of linear tonearms not being mechanically grounding. But the Clearaudio/Souther sounds more grounded than any other LTA, while being simpler, more maintainable, and IME more toneful than any of its linear competitors. Why don't more people know about this? I don't know. I knew about it more than 40 years ago.

Phil
 
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What I meant was the current TT2’s bearing (not Souther) was based on the Opus 3 design. By looking at the photos of the current TT2, you can see it is not the Souther tri-bearing carriage on twin quartz rods bearing design.

If I remember correctly, Clearaudio started switching from Souther based to this Opus 3 based bearing design when they introduced their Statement tonearm fitted on their original Statement turntable. That was around 12 years ago I believe!

Best regards
 
Yes, Clearaudio moved to a stabilized duo-bearing design, for whatever reason, but the principle of a low-friction, low-mass, low-friction, purely mechanical linear arm remains. It's all traceable to work Lou started in the late 1970s before I met him. -Phil
 
I agree, the Souther was an excellent design! I still have one packed away at my friend’s storage; will have to set it up one day!
 
Sorry, my mistake, not based on the Proprius but Opus 3 tonearm
The wheels inside a glass tube makes perfect sense. My friend had one for awhile about 35 years ago that sounded very good even against an Air Tangent 10B. The reason he let it go was the quartz rods had to be kept immaculate (ie clean room) or it would mistrack. On an aside we had to figure out grounding for it on his air bearing turntable. Induced static electricity would also cause mistracking. We fastened a piece of Christmas tinsel on the platter touching the plinth.
 
What I meant was the current TT2’s bearing (not Souther) was based on the Opus 3 design. By looking at the photos of the current TT2, you can see it is not the Souther tri-bearing carriage on twin quartz rods bearing design.

If I remember correctly, Clearaudio started switching from Souther based to this Opus 3 based bearing design when they introduced their Statement tonearm fitted on their original Statement turntable. That was around 12 years ago I believe!

Best regards
How is the TT2 different from the Clearaudio Statement linear arm/turntable system? In your eyes, is the TT2 an improvement?
 
i think fundamentally there are air bearing linear trackers and non air bearing linear trackers. and i guess you can throw in pivoted linear trackers to complete the picture.

most us only have experience with the air bearing linear tracker examples. maybe because it's a challenge to execute a non-air bearing linear tracker comparatively. obviously none of the non air bearing linear trackers have been successful in terms of getting much attention. excepting the B&O version aimed lower in the marketplace.

as fininky as any linear tracker is, and always having to level it and protect the travel path from any slight impediment, the non air bearing versions have to be multiples more sensitive to any issues. nothing i would want to tackle. prefer top level pivots.....or air bearing.
 
i think fundamentally there are air bearing linear trackers and non air bearing linear trackers. and i guess you can throw in pivoted linear trackers to complete the picture.

most us only have experience with the air bearing linear tracker examples. maybe because it's a challenge to execute a non-air bearing linear tracker comparatively. obviously none of the non air bearing linear trackers have been successful in terms of getting much attention. excepting the B&O version aimed lower in the marketplace.

as fininky as any linear tracker is, and always having to level it and protect the travel path from any slight impediment, the non air bearing versions have to be multiples more sensitive to any issues. nothing i would want to tackle. prefer top level pivots.....or air bearing.
i think fundamentally there are air bearing linear trackers and non air bearing linear trackers. and i guess you can throw in pivoted linear trackers to complete the picture.

most us only have experience with the air bearing linear tracker examples. maybe because it's a challenge to execute a non-air bearing linear tracker comparatively. obviously none of the non air bearing linear trackers have been successful in terms of getting much attention. excepting the B&O version aimed lower in the marketplace.

as fininky as any linear tracker is, and always having to level it and protect the travel path from any slight impediment, the non air bearing versions have to be multiples more sensitive to any issues. nothing i would want to tackle. prefer top level pivots.....or air bearing.
If by attention you're referring to sales I agree. I do remember as a kid lusting after a few in the rags. When operating optimally they were claimed to create real magic. When I could finally afford it my first Linear tracker was an Eminent Technologies ET2 w/ a Wisa and surge tank. That took extra set up acumen and maintenance definitely more than a typical pivot at the time.
1. Goldmund T3F 2. Revox B795 3. Rabco SL-8e
1678046499695.pngrevox-b795-tonearm[1].jpgIMG_2618[1].jpg
 
If by attention you're referring to sales I agree. I do remember as a kid lusting after a few in the rags. When operating optimally they were claimed to create real magic. When I could finally afford it my first Linear tracker was an Eminent Technologies ET2 w/ a Wisa and surge tank. That took extra set up acumen and maintenance definitely more than a typical pivot at the time.
1. Goldmund T3F 2. Revox B795 3. Rabco SL-8e
it seems none of the vintage non air bearing linear trackers have survived the cut from improved pivots. not worth messing with anymore. even if we dreamed of them once upon a time.
 
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it seems none of the vintage non air bearing linear trackers have survived the cut from improved pivots. not worth messing with anymore. even if we dreamed of them once upon a time.
Agreed. Though a prominent company with resources like Clearaudio must find something special with this route. Or it could be marketing a different option with intellectual rights it already owns:)
 
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I've owned the TT2 for over 8 years and the Tri-Quartz before that; they are challenging arms to own (and ET2 a long time ago).
The TT2 is good though I don't have enough 'other' arm experience to compare against anything current.
My setup is the Clearaudio Master Innovation, TT2 and Goldfinger Statement.

Some challenges with the TT2:
1. The arm frame sits over the center of the platter limiting the clamp that can be put on the record. I use the Furutech record clamp which barely fits. Anything taller will not work and the Clearaudio record clamps that fit do little to clamp the record down.
2. The actual tonearm is about 6 inches long and is very light. I get a tizziness (sorry for lack of better word) so wrapped a couple small strips of damping tape at the back and middle that helped with that problem
3. The distance between the pivot point the the needle tip is about 3 inches meaning record thickness makes a big difference in SRA/VTA. With the Goldfinger, its necessary to pay attention to this and adjust frequently to get the best sonic results.
4. Due to 3, the two bolts seen on the front of the base used to level the arm are impractical to use ( I have removed them); instead, the adjustment screw on the right side of the base is used. The issue here is this tiny screw is supporting the entire mass of the upper arm (very heavy) and doing little to mechanically ground it. I've used other techniques on the structure which helped reduce vibrations and greatly improve focus, tone etc.

One good thing about the arm is that when changing records, the arm and therefore cartridge are way out of the way of the platter meaning less chance of needle damage.

The TT1 solves many of the above issues but is priced out of the market (or at least my market). I will be trying the 12" Graham Phantom Elite next year. I only try what I can hear elsewhere so am very limited in tonearm choices.
 
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@markhof56 regarding hearing other arms there are a number of very generous wbf members that may possibly be open to inviting to a listening session. If you wanted to share where you are roughly located you might be surprised at the opportunities. Just a thought...
 
I'm very curious about the CA TT1 MI, same unit as on the $275K Statement but made to fit the $30K Master Innovation. $62K for the system. Roughly the same price as the Atlantis. It slides front to back on rods with precision bearings like a slide saw. Locking to the front and back using magnets. It slides back to place an LP and slides forward into playing position. The knobs on top raise and lower each side for VTA. There are precise graduations. The tone arm uses bearings in a glass tube with a slight downward slope. The change in VTA across the slope is said to be inaudible. I just read MF's review of the VYGER and it requires a slight slope as well.

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