Clearaudio performance DC turntable Review

Clearaudio Performance DC AiR Turntable with Tracer Tonarm

Last Updated: January 19, 2024By

Reviewing the Clearaudio Performance DC AiR with the Tracer Tonarm

and the Professional Power 12V Linear Power Supply Upgrade

Clearaudio, best known for its turntables, tonearms and phono cartridges, has been in business for 45 years, producing in-house almost all of its precision components at its Erlangen, Germany factory. A small proportion of its components are externally sourced. The family-owned business markets its products worldwide in more than seventy countries.

Elac Speakers

Read the Original Article HERE on Tracking Angle

Watch Michael Fremer tour their manufacturing facility in the video below.  

I’ve never had a Clearaudio turntable in my system, but of course I’m well aware of the company’s reputation for producing well engineered, great sounding analog products. When presented with the review opportunity, of course I said “yes.”

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A Vinyl “System”

Most of us have pieced together products over time to create a complete “system”—speakers, amplifiers, cables and source components to produce sound we find enjoyable. Vinyl playback can be looked at as a system within a system: a turntable, tonearm, cartridge and a phono preamplifier.

Musical Surroundings offers the Performance DC AiR turntable with the Tracer tonearm, which is also available separately. The combination saves you $900 off the cost of the arm alone. You save money and get a matched system. Clearaudio’s Satisfy Carbon fiber and TT-5 linear tracking arms are available extra cost options.

Clearaudio’s Performance DC AiR and Tracer Tonearm

I have spent the last few months with Clearaudio setup including their Performance DC AiR turntable and Clearaudio Tracer tonearm. In addition, I was also provided with the Professional Power 12V linear power supply ($800) as an upgrade over the supplied wall wart and The Twister record clamp ($175). 

For the sake of this evaluation, I didn’t look at this as multiple items, but as an analog playback system which also included the Hana Umami Blue moving coil cartridge

The Performance DC AiR Turntable ($3,600)

The Clearaudio Performance DC AiR is a straight forward looking table, which shows off German engineering with insane tolerances, elegant design and high level of build quality. The Performance DC AiR comes in a variety of combinations with silver or black finish anodized aluminum plates and silver or black banding. They also have wood options under a slightly different model number.

The Performance DC AiR is the most affordable turntable with Clearaudio’s CMB Bearing which combines a polished ceramic inverted bearing shaft, machined aluminum spindle top and strong magnet rings to provide low friction and isolate vibrational energy.

The plinth of the Performance DC AiR uses the thick aluminum top and bottom plates to sandwich an MDF core to better control vibrational energy. The platter bearing is their very own CMB (Ceramic Magnetic Bearing) which was patented in 2008 and magnetically levitates the platter.  Yes, you read that correctly, it levitates the platter.  

Clearaudio DC AiR turntable  finish options

The magnetic levitation of the bearing alleviates the need for any ball bearing to spin the platter, removing one more moving part that can create friction, noise and wear. The ceramic shaft of the CMB has a much smoother surface than lapped steel so this reduces friction for the platter to rotate more freely. With fewer parts with those parts not in physical contact, noise is reduced and rotational accuracy increased. The lack of friction in any turntable pays big dividends in tonal accuracy, imaging and low level resolution. 

I had intended on showing a video of spinning the platter (removing the belt from the motor) to show how long it would take for friction to stop the platter.  I gave up when I surpassed the five minute mark, it would have been a very boring video.  This is an old school way of assessing the lack of friction in the main bearing.

The machined aluminum armboard uses a retaining ring on the bottom of the plinth to rigidly clamp to the plinth. It can be rotated to accommodate various pivot-to-spindle distances and can be ordered for other tonearms such as Kuzma, Tri-planar, and SME.

The platter is made of POM (Polyoxide Methylene or Delrin®) as it is a material that can be precisely machined, is mechanically stable, and has low ringing or resonance. The Performance DC POM platter has a thicker weighted rim for enhanced flywheel effect thus more accurate speed stability. 

POM is similar to vinyl so when you couple your LP to the 40mm POM platter, you effectively make the record thicker and more immune to unwanted vibrational energy. It does not require using a mat to damp its resonance as required on platters or metal or glass that ring. 

The Twister clamp ($175) is also machined from POM and uses a locking collet spindle clamping system to best couple the LP to the platter.  Though technically an accessory, I found the Twister Clamp to be a necessity as the album would otherwise slide on the platter.

The AiR 12v Motor

The new AiR motor (used in the Performance DC Wood AiR, Performance DC AiR, Concept Wood AiR, and Concept AiR) use coreless DC motors to provide more linear speed and torque characteristics. In addition, they are more efficient and live longer than iron core motors.

Coreless motors were developed and used for demanding high tech applications including robotics, medical including analysis, imaging and prosthetics and radar. Instead of an armature with coiled wire, the coil is wound to create a basket weave, honeycomb, or bell. Without concerns of magnetic saturation, they can use rare earth magnets including AlNiCo, Samarium-Cobalt, or Neo-dymium. The AiR motor has both lower moving mass and 5 conductive contact points for smoother and more accurate operation. You can see why Clearaudio’s extensive work in cartridge design comes in handy. 

The motor itself is decoupled from the plinth via elastomer isolators and the pulley drives the aluminum sub-platter via a flat belt. The AiR motor has three speeds, 33 1/3rpm, 45rpm, 78rpm, easily changed by the push of a button.

The AiR motor can also be purchased as an upgrade for the Concept and Concept Wood ($500) and includes the AiR motor and new circuit board for controller function.

The Tracer Tonearm ($3,300)

The Tracer tonearm retails on its own for $3,300 but Musical Surroundings (the US distributor) has created a package price with the Performance DC AiR turntable for $6,000.

The Tracer has a machined aluminum headshell, carbon fiber arm-tube, 3 point bearing with 2 tungsten points on sapphire thrust plates for the vertical plane and a single tungsten point on sapphire plate for horizontal plane. The carbon tonearm tube is both extremely rigid and very lightweight

The counterweight is eccentric for a low center of gravity placing the mass closer to the stylus in the groove and features a fine pitch threaded adjustment. The lower center of gravity of the counterweight means less interference from the arm height to VTF.  

Anti-skate is magnetic and mechanically decoupled and controlled by a simple dial. Azimuth is handled simply and effectively at the headshell and VTA is adjusted with a locking collar on the armboard. Although not VTA on the fly, it is easily adjustable and locks into place. The tonearm “foot” is marked so you can quickly revert to any VTA setting.  

In keeping with the system idea,  the arm is wired continuously from cartridge clips to the 1.2 meter output cable with Clearaudio Sixstream copper wire that has independent positive and negative legs plus ground for each channel and braided shielding for noise isolation. This creates one connection from cartridge to phono stage and eliminates the need for an interconnect.

Professional Power 12V Linear Power Supply

Introduced at Axpona 2023, the new 12V Linear Power Supply ($800) is modeled after the larger Professional Power 24V linear power supply that was developed for those more expensive Clearaudio turntables.

The 12V Linear Power Supply replaces the included “wall wart” and is designed to provide more consistent power to the DC AiR motor. The upgraded power supply uses a vibration-damped toroidal transformer in conjunction with stiff regulation, providing clean power to the AiR motor.

An IEC power connector allows use of your preferred AC cables and grounding post provides an additional earth ground point.


Setup of the Performance DC AiR with the Tracer tonearm was easy and straightforward. The adjustable feet paired with manual showing the where to place the level (about 2:00 and about 2 songs in on the platter) made leveling easy. No problems setting the tracking force or VTA.  Everything locks in place with no drift of any fine tuned setting. Even after moving the table, everything stayed perfectly set up. 

The close tolerances of the Ceramic Magnetic Bearing was impressive.  I placed the sub platter on top of the CMB and routed the belt around the motor.  Because of my impatience, I then turned on the motor only to have the belt consistently come off the subplatter.  After a few moments of being perplexed, I placed the (quite heavy) platter in place which weighed the floating CMB bearing down about a ⅓  inch. This put the motor and subplatter on the same plane.  Now the belt stayed on.  Imagine that.

In setting the antiskating I set the skating force to zero and played some music.  As expected, the right channel showed no dynamics, while the left channel was over dynamic.  Slowly turning the anti skate, the right channel came more alive as the left settled down.  I played with this until both channels sounded equally dynamic, never to be touched again. 


First album up was The Vinyl Check (Tacet L210). Upon running through audible tests, the Performance DC AiR passed everything with flying colors. Speed was rock solid and I couldn’t get the arm to mistrack. I have a go-to song for audibly evaluating wow and flutter – Steve Miller Band “Wild Mountain Honey” (Fly Like an Eagle – Jacksonville Pressing Capital ST-11497).  The lingering synth lets you identify even tiny fluctuations in time. 

Over the next few months I listened to a ton of different music including the entire 5 album, box set of Tool Fear Inoculum (RCA – 19439-86879-1) which was recorded on 2” analog tape.  It was so enthralling, I listed to the entire thing in one setting.  Had to take a nap after it was over.

The Performance DC AiR was a pleasure to use and never showed any tonearm resonance or was bothered by vibration.  The arm lift is smooth and the platter gets up to speed quickly.  Although I don’t own any 78 RPM albums, I love the fact that I can get a quick cleaning done using the 78 RPM button right before dropping the needle.  :-)

Because my system doesn’t have monstrous bass, I brought in a car audio subwoofer and connected it to an old NAD amp I had laying around. I wanted to see how the Performance DC would respond to pressuring the room.  Even playing Primus, Sailing the Sea of Cheese (Rainbo Records – S-67310) at an obscene level, the Performance DC AiR was flawless.  She handles vibration well.

Read the Original Article HERE on Tracking Angle


The analog front end of the Performance DC AiR paired with the Tracer tonearm and Hana Umami Blue never disappointed.  Turntables have a few seemingly simple tasks to accomplish:  spin the album at a consistent speed, achieve little to no vibration from the motor, push any resonance of the arm out of the audible range and reduce any friction that would color the sound.

That may sound easy but getting all that right ain’t easy. The Clearaudio system checked all of the boxes. sounds awesome and just feels great to the touch.  Awesome sound, solid engineering and feels great to the touch. I’m not looking forward to sending it back.

Performance DC Air Specifications

Construction Details: Resonance optimized chassis with internal damping, belt-driven with user-adjustable speed control, dynamically balanced 40mm / 1.5-inch POM platter

Bearing: CMB (ceramic magnetic bearing)

Platter: CNC-machined POM (polyoxymethylene), 40 mm thickness

Motor: Decoupled DC motor with low-noise bearings

Speed ranges: 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM, convenient electronic controls

Speed accuracy: ± 0.5 %

Weight: 22 lbs with tonearm

Dimensions: 16.5″ x 14″ x 6″

Warranty: 5 years

Owners Manual

Tracer Tonearm Specifications

Construction Details: Radial tonearm with horizontal sapphire bearing and vertically ball bearing. Fine adjustment of the azimuth. Available in black or silver carbon with matching aluminum parts.

Cartridge Balance Range: 3 gram – 17 gram

Overhang: 16.935 mm

Effective Mass: 10 grams

Offset Angle: 25.54 °

Wiring: Clearaudio Sixtream Super Wire (1.1m) terminated with RCA plug

Mounting Style: Clearaudio (diameter of bore 24.85 mm)

Total Weight: 363 gram (incl. counter weight)

Warranty: 3 years

Owners Manual


Distributed in the US by:

Musical Surroundings

Tel: 510.547.5006
Fax: 510.547.5009


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