by Anthony Kershaw
Tri-cell, Canada’s Clearaudio distributor, has been very generous with me in the loan of high end cartridges. They import great analogue equipment of all types, and when I review any of their turntables I usually get (ask/beg) for a superstar cartridge. One such example was the second in line to the Clearaudio cartridge throne, the magnificent Titanium.
The Titanium is one of the new Clearaudio Moving Coil Generation with up to 100dB dynamic range. With this modification, Clearaudio has improved its patented 1980, fully symmetrical moving coil design.
The electromagnetic generator has been “redesigned in a revolutionary way of positioning and doubling the magnets to 8 pcs. so the coils are operating in a much stronger magnetic field using the strongest magnetic material available at this moment: Super Neodymium. Through these achievements, the efficiency has been raised by 30%, which results in an output of up to 0.9 mV at 5cm/sec.”
A new ‘Micro-HD-Diamond’ tip. They suggest that it “provides a hybrid parabolic geometry with the following stylus radii (0.008mm x 0.040mm). The total mass (0.00016g) is a fifth of the previous diamond stylus. Cartridge body resonances, while tracking in the groove, are minimized through a twelve-finger design of the mounting plate, with different radii on the cartridge body, which is a result of our constant research and sophisticated development.”
The output is 0.8mV and total weight is 9 grams. The body is made of Titanium. Doh! 24 ct. gold coils are used along with a solid Boron cantilever. Clearaudio suggests fifty hours of break in. My cart was well broken in when I received it. The cart comes with a two year Manufacturer’s Warranty.
I’m a great fan of Clearaudio products. I love the design acumen, the cool style, the longevity of the company and, of course, the sound of the many analogue products. The cartridges are especially good. I have experience with their entry level carts like the Aurum, better examples like the Sigma, and up to the two thousand dollar Concerto. They all have similar traits, with the more expensive cartridges giving more of what audiophiles crave — transparency, dynamics, trackability.
The Titanium was streets ahead (in audiophile terms) of the already very fine Concerto. It tracked anything that I threw at it, minimized both surface and inner groove noise, and lifted many of the veils that audiophiles’ ears become used to listening for years to lesser gear. It is a great tenet of human nature that we adapt to limitations. Only when those limitations are lifted, do we then realize what can be achieved. I’m sure the same will be said of owners of the Titanium when hearing a well set up Clearaudio Goldfinger, a full $2500 more than the $7500 Titanium! That said, the law of diminishing returns does kick in. Personally, I’d be happy with a Titanium for the rest of my analogue life. Mind you, I’ve never heard a Goldfinger!
I set up the Titanium on the Fortissimo tonearm of the Musical Life Basic Turntable, another German wunderkind of analogue engineering. Like all Clearaudio cartridges, the Titanium is easy to setup. As always, I refer to Audiophilia’s most searched article, and I follow carefully. The Fortissimo arm is a lovely analogue piece; wood and steel in a unipivot. I wrote in my review that ‘the Fortissimo is a unipivot design with steel bearings, available in 9, 10 or 12 inch models and in many types of wood. The arm installed was a 10 inch in ebony. This is the third unipivot arm I have used (the others are Roksan and Morch). I really like the results. The Musical Life arms are very beefy and are easy to set up. They look wonderful, too. The mass of the arms varies between 10 and 25 grams, material and size dependent.’ Even though a somewhat inexpensive arm, the Titanium matched beautifully. Of course, the Titanium could hang with any arm on the market. My analogue mantra is to always max out the arm! The Titanium will max out most.
The delicacy of the cartridge was what first surprised me. As soon as the diamond hit the vinyl, deeply musical sounds emanated from all sorts of material. The layered strings of Barbirolli’s superb Sinfonia of London on their EMI/Vaughn-Williams album was so detailed, and the Titanium retained all the sweetness of the violins. So tactile. Other cartridges offer the detail, the sweetness, but not the transparency of the original ambiance and the subtle layering. The players, placed at each end of Kingsway Hall, project their sounds like angelic voices. The Titanium captured all of the excitement and energy, too. This is a great record.
Talking of Kingsway Hall, the tube rumble on many RCA LSCs demonstrated just how clear the bass information is on the Titanium. The LSO/Martinon/Shostakovich 1st Symphony (another fantastic record) has some great London Underground accompaniment during the first movement (how did a 19 year old have such a developed sense of his own mature style? Staggering). As the vintage 60s LSO virtuosi beguile with their solos, the tube adds some deep, deep bass sounds. Once heard, never quite forgotten, especially by unsuspecting guests (‘what the hell was that!?’). As such, the Titanium unravels all; nothing escapes. The black hole of cartridges.
It did the same with jazz, vocals, chamber music, full blown orchestral music, and spoken voices. It caressed the music, cajoled the musicianship out of every bar. I can’t imagine what heavenly sounds it would coax from a Manley Steelhead phono stage, a top class ‘table and arm. Limitations, once again. Ah!
I know that some of our new readers (Audiophilia has been growing exponentially) may think that spending $7500 on a cartridge would be crazy. But many avocations are expensive, Audiophilia is but one. Yet, at what cost beauty? If you have the dosh, have a solid investment in vinyl and playback, why not? It’s a lifetime cartridge.
I’ve had two pieces of equipment in my house which, upon their return, left a void. One was the Burmester 911. Mk II power amplifier and the other the Titanium. Actually, its return saddened me. I say that as a musician first, and audiophile second. The Titanium is that good.
I hope that vinyl fans get a chance to hear one sometime in their audiophile years. Your musical life will be enriched beyond measure. Very highly recommended.
[We are proud to award this product an Audiophilia Star Component Award. Congratulations! - Ed]
clearaudio electronic GmbH
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