Clearaudio Reference Jubilee record player

There's an enduring debate among the turntable-tech intelligentsia between opposing theories of turntable design. Some designers, notably Roy Gandy of Rega, follow a less-is-more approach, building stiff, lightweight turntables that release energy rather quickly. Others, such as Franc Kuzma, whose Kuzma Ltd. manufactures my reference Kuzma Stabi R turntable and Kuzma 4Point tonearm, believe in heavy mass-loading to dampen vibrations, including transparency-miring resonances. Though analog sages and savants have argued for decades, the question remains: Should turntables be light or heavy? Should you liberate or dampen internal energy to achieve perfect analog sound forever?

Here's an equivocal answer: Both approaches can produce excellent, if quite different, sound. "The lightweight design approach is about PRaT, or Pace, Rhythm and Timing," turntable setup whiz and new Stereophile contributor Michael Trei explained in an email. "A lightweight design doesn't store as much vibrational energy, which in a high-mass design causes the resonances to linger for a more extended period, giving the turntable a deeper and more powerful but less rhythmically adept sound." Consider Michael Fremer's raves about Rega's extremely light, $6375 Planar 10 (topped in Rega's line only by the reference, carbon-fiber Naiad, priced somewhere around $45,000) and also the extremely heavy TechDAS Air Force Zero ($450,000 in its basic version; footnote 1).

Clearaudio's Reference Jubilee turntable ($30,000), which celebrates the company's 40th anniversary, seems to employ both principles at once. "Clearaudio founder Peter Suchy spreads the approach between resonance control, mass, and damping," Garth Leerer of Musical Surroundings, Clearaudio's US distributor, told me during a telephone call. "Clearaudio doesn't use a massive steel platter in the Reference Jubilee; they use a stainless steel, flywheel subplatter. Clearaudio uses POM (footnote 2) in the main platter, a material that has good resonance control and very low Q Factor: not much ringing. Sometimes, when you add higher-mass materials, they have their own ringing characteristics that can cause peaks in frequency response. Obviously, when you go to Clearaudio's Statement turntable, which weighs 770lb, they're introducing a lot of mass into the equation as well.

"Clearaudio doesn't go as far as the Rega philosophy in terms of ultralow mass and low energy storage, nor do they go in the other direction, with a super–high-mass 'table," Leerer added. "They're choosing materials and construction to lower resonances and reveal more of the low-level information in the music."

Noticeably lighter to lift, carry, and position than my 66lb Kuzma Stabi R turntable, the 48lb Clearaudio Reference Jubilee, with its included 9" Clearaudio Universal tonearm, builds on the company's past successes. Clearaudio has long disseminated unique technologies and materials up and down their German-made range, which currently includes 11 turntables, seven tonearms, and 15 cartridges.

The Clearaudio design team (footnote 3) engaged several design strategies in the Reference Jubilee. Limited to 250 units worldwide, the Reference Jubilee is shaped like a boomerang and features a Panzerholz plinth; a patented Ceramic Magnetic Bearing (CMB) (which "produces the effect of the turntable platter effectively floating on an air cushion," according to Clearaudio); Optical Speed Control (OSC); Innovative Motor Suspension (IMS); a new motor; and an updated Jubilee MC cartridge (not included at the Reference Jubilee's $30,000 price).


"Clearaudio take a holistic approach to their turntable design," Leerer said. "They share parts between 'tables, but each one is designed as its own standalone product to maximize how the parts interact in that given turntable."

I quizzed Leerer to better understand the metaphorical gears at work below the Reference Jubilee's façade. First: How does the boomerang-shaped turntable improve its sound?

"When you have two parallel surfaces, energy bounces between the two peripheries and can create resonance for a high Q Factor, or ringing," Leerer said. "When shapes are irregular and don't have hard reflective edges, energy reflections are more benign and don't have resonances. For instance, a triangle in an orchestra will ring in a certain way. But if you modify its shape, it can ring less and will have different characteristics. The idea with the boomerang was that there'd be less reflective energy within the surface itself."

The gently curved sides of the Reference Jubilee appear to be finished in dark veneer, but in fact it's clearcoat over Panzerholz.

"Peter Suchy likes the sonic characteristics of Panzerholz used in a plinth and as cartridge material because it has a very low Q Factor, or resonance. The Reference Jubilee uses Panzerholz birch ply sandwiched between two aluminum plates, top and bottom, black-anodized and engraved, with a polished, chamfered edge," Leerer said. "A phenolic resin is used to bond the Baltic birch ply under great pressure, then it's finished in a reddish clearcoat lacquer."


For an earlier Clearaudio turntable review in Stereophile, Leerer described the "inverted Ceramic Magnetic Bearing"—first the "inverted" part: "A traditional bearing goes down below the plinth, and the platter acts like a spinning top. An inverted bearing has the bearing shaft rising above the plinth, placing the bearing contact point, sometimes referred to as the thrust pad, right under the platter spindle. The argument for an inverted bearing is that it is more rotationally stable; the argument against it is that it places a potential noise source—the contact point of the spindle, ball bearing, and thrust pad—right under the spindle and, thus, the record. The spindle is typically hardened steel, the ball bearing steel or ceramic, and the thrust pad can be bronze, or a synthetic such as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, footnote 4). As these parts rotate and contact each other, there is the potential for not only vibrational noise but also for wear, which results in noise increasing over time. Typically, oil is used to lubricate all the parts to reduce friction and wear."

Now for the "magnetic" part. "The upper bearing part is magnetically levitated above the lower, eliminating the need for a ball bearing and thrust pad. The spindle is a ceramic material with lower friction than steel, so vibration, noise, and wear are greatly reduced." Leerer elaborated during our recent interview: "Multiple ring magnets on the bottom of the upper bearing housing create the opposing magnetic force to levitate the platters. By floating the two parts relative to each other, they're able to reduce noise transmission and decrease potential friction so the platters spin more freely." Clearaudio provides a synthetic lubricant for the ceramic shaft to further lower friction.

The upper bearing housing has a sintered bronze bushing fitted precisely to the ceramic axle. It supports the 1.97"-high, 11.2lb POM platter and the 0.59"-high, 18.7lb metal subplatter.


And then there's the aforementioned Optical Speed Control (OSC), in which "every three seconds, a sensor on the plinth reads the platter speed via the strobe ring on the bottom of the subplatter to regulate speed, primarily from stylus drag," the website notes. A hybrid engine control uses a "12-bit DAC to generate a motor reference voltage, which is fed into the purely analog motor control, [which] immediately regulates the slightest deviations by adjusting the motor's voltage via an operational amplifier." The Reference Jubilee's air-core, nonmagnetic, 24V DC motor benefits from what Clearaudio calls Innovative Motor Suspension (IMS): The motor hangs from 18 O-rings (nine above, nine below), keeping its vibrations from entering the Panzerholz plinth.

The 9" Clearaudio Universal tonearm has been updated with Clearaudio Silver internal wire and a DIN connector. The tonearm tube is carbon fiber; the bearing housing, engraved counterweight assembly/scale, armrest platform, four supplied counterweights, and motor cover are aluminum. The tonearm's threaded shaft is steel. "The carbon-fiber tonearm is a telescoping design of variable diameter to break up resonance modes," Leerer said.

Suchy and sons' reinvention of the wheel includes an improved Jubilee MC v2 cart ($6600), which uses a "separate coil for each channel, the coil being an air core wound with gold wire," Leerer explained. "The coils balance on a damper fulcrum surrounded by four neodymium magnets for a homogenous flux field. The stylus is a double-polished line-contact Clearaudio calls Prime Line, sourced from and based on a Gyger S from Switzerland. The v2 uses discrete, low-mass coils that contribute to the cart's speed and soundstaging."

Clearaudio's 1.6lb Statement Clamp ($1200), 1.5lb Outer Limit peripheral clamp and locator rim ($1500), and Professional Power 24V transformer-based DC power supply ($1200) are included in the Jubilee's $30,000 US retail price. What is not included is a tonearm cable. For this review, Musical Surroundings supplied one of its own, made by Cardas, based on their Clear Beyond interconnect ($2250).

As with the Clearaudio Concept Active Wood I reviewed in June 2021, the Reference Jubilee's packing materials and manual were first rate. Each part came in a form-fitting, dense foam-rubber cocoon. The online setup map showed where each part could be found, stacked tightly in a rigid cardboard shipping container. A book-sized accessories box held a pair of white gloves, a grounding wire, a level, a screwdriver, five Allen wrenches, a 285mm × 5mm flat silicone-rubber drive belt, and a vial of bearing oil. This is a high-tech 'table, but setting it up was easy.

Footnote 1: Which injects another consideration into this debate: The TechDAS Air Force Zero is obviously an outlier, in price as in most other ways, but—the $45,000 Naiad aside—mass-loaded 'tables usually cost more.—Jim Austin

Footnote 2: POM is polyoxymethylene, a strong, hard, stiff thermoplastic. Some guitar picks are made out of POM.—Jim Austin

Footnote 3: Founder Peter Suchy, sons Robert and Patrick, head of manufacturing Ralf Rucker, Stephan Taphorn, team leader of the tonearm department, and Georg Schönhöfer, team leader of the electronics department.

Footnote 4: PTFE is perhaps best known by its most common brand name: Teflon.—Jim Austin

Clearaudio Electronic GmbH
US distributor: Musical Surroundings
5662 Shattuck Ave.
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 547-5006

volvic's picture

This is beautiful, and Clearaudio's commitment to vinyl support will always be available for many years. I always wanted the Musical Fidelity M1 turntable but was always hesitant when it first came out about support and service from Musical Fidelity. I was right; even sourcing a motor is tricky. I cannot imagine you would have any problems with support from Clearaudio. As the review says, it also sounds fantastic. I should hear it.

Glotz's picture

The AXPONA 2022 exhibit of this unit and demo was very insightful and just plain beautiful. It proved for many how vinyl performs as an equal to digital, and in many parameters, excels it.

Hearing it with the DS Audio front end was even more of a treat! Would love to hear it in a larger room with the same cutting edge electronics supporting it (Boulder, DS Audio, Sonus Faber, Transparent). Beth Hart's Led Zep cover was dynamic, transparent and soooo pure. Maybe another trip to Chicago is in order..!

Great review as well! I'd like to see other audio products and racks done in their Panzerholz treatment.

volvic's picture

I have not heard the DS Audio cartridges, but from fellow Facebook friends who own one it is a heck of a cartridge. I got a lot of auditioning in my future.

Glotz's picture

I think you will find eliminating another source of vibration to be very insightful.

I wish you the most fun in your exploration. But you already have so many nice turntables and cartridges! Ah, who I am to tell someone 'no'? Have at it!

volvic's picture

I already have too many and tbh have run out of room in the built-in, but the itch is still there. The biggest investment that has transformed my listening experience has been the Sugarcube, I cannot speak enough of this little box that has finally made some very old recordings listenable. I have often thought of selling all the tables and tonearms and just get one last great turntable, but I love them all and they all serve different purposes. So much fun. Great review KM!!