Clearaudio Champion 2 turntable & Unify tonearm with Benz Micro L2 phono cartridge Clearaudio Unify tonearm & Benz Micro L2 cartridge
When Garth Leerer of importer Musical Surroundings offered the Clearaudio Champion 2 turntable for review, I asked if he could also supply a typical tonearm and cartridge that a buyer might reasonably pair with the 'table. He responded by including Clearaudio's own Unify arm and a Benz Micro L2 cartridge.
The Unify ($1000) is a slick-looking unipivot tonearm with a sexy carbon-fiber armtube for low resonance and high stiffness. Azimuth and VTA are adjustable, and a length of Clearaudio's SixStream interconnect is permanently attached. This makes it a bit tricky to handle during setup, as the arm is completely undamped—the main part of the arm simply sits atop the post, the weight of the nondetachable cable pulling the whole assembly to one side until it's secured with a screw-down clamp. Moving the arm assembly around when setting up the 'table is definitely a two-handed operation.
As with the Champion 2 turntable, ergonomic issues raised their heads. The lack of damping means that cueing by hand is strictly for the steadiest and most steel-nerved, particularly if an expensive cartridge is being used. Attempting to sneak the cartridge off the record will often result in the arm wobbling away from the direction your finger is moving. The Unify's cueing is also undamped, an omission I find hard to understand in an arm at this price. Careful attention must be paid to cueing, as simply flipping the lever forward results in the arm immediately dropping straight down to bang the stylus on the record, with the potential for catastrophic results. Also, the arm had to be placed farther toward the center of the LP than the point I wanted the stylus to land at, as it drifted outward significantly on descent.
The Benz Micro L2 cartridge ($1295) is a low-output moving-coil design with a 6µm by 40µm elliptical stylus and a gorgeous body of Bruyere wood. Its output is 0.3mV, and the recommended tracking force is 1.8-2.2gm.
Paired with the Champion 2, the Unify and L2 made a well-matched and satisfying combination, the Benz in particular standing out for its excellent tracking, its sweet, natural, unhyped presentation, and an easygoing, highly musical personality. More dollars will buy more back-of-the-stage resolution, but it's safe to say that if you're hunting for a mid-priced MC, the Benz L2 is a must-hear.—Paul Bolin