August 2014 Michael Fremer, www.analogplanet.com
Designing a turntable (or pretty much anything) with no budgetary constraints is far easier than is designing one to a specific price point, especially a low one.
While AVID’s new Ingenium at $1999 including Pro-Ject 9cc tone arm is not “budget priced” it is but a fraction of the cost of AVID’s $37,944 flagship Acutus Reference SP turntable to which it bears scant resemblance. It more closely resembles the $4,040 Diva II but at half the price including a tone arm.
That said, a danger point for a luxury turntable manufacturer would be to issue a budget model that damages the brand, and worse, doesn’t compete sonically and mechanically with the competition.
So what has AVID done here to rein in costs? For one thing, it’s produced a skeletal, though relatively high mass “T” shaped aluminum chassis reminiscent of what Kuzma pioneered with its “brass pipe bomb”-like $2156 (w/o arm) Stabi S. We think less plinth is better than more.
Like the Diva II, the Ingenium, is an unsuspended design though with a simpler elastomer footer design. Unsuspended is my preference generally though it means the ‘table’s performance will greatly depend upon the platform upon which it’s placed. Yes, even suspended designs need a good support system but not to the same degree. The Ingenium rests upon 3 soft elastomer feet resembling an elephant’s. There’s no way to level the ‘table so the platform must be levelable.
One key to a turntable’s ultimate performance is the bearing and here’s where AVID has least compromised. It’s the identical inverted Tungsten-Carbide ball system used in the Diva II consisting of a substantial, cupped-top tapered polished stainless steel tower well-anchored within a semi-circular cut out in the main support beam, in which sits the 4mm ball. The spindle bushing—also substantial at this price point— topped inside with a sapphire thrust pad, is attached to a large diameter grooved aluminum sub-platter. The large diameter “O” ring goes around the sub-platter and the stepped A.C. synchronous motor’s pulley.
The Ingenium uses the Diva II’s lightweight, but full-sized MDF platter topped with a permanently affixed cork mat that fits over the spindle housing and rests on the sub-platter. A scew-on weight and threaded spindle is an extra cost option.
The design saves additional money with a simple in-line on-off switch placed on the A.C. cord between the wall plug and the motor housing, compared to the Diva II’s 24V A.C. motor and controller system. The arm attaches to an outcropping machined from the right side of the main “T” beam and that’s it!
The box in whch the Ingenium ships is so small you’ll think there must be another box but it’s all in there and once you’ve carefully leveled the platform, it sets up quickly, though you must have at your disposal a strobe disc. The motor’s placement is critical to achieving the correct speed (or at least as close to correct as is achievable). Too much or too little belt tension and both speed and stability suffer. So take your time with that. The review sample shipped with a Pro-Ject 9cc arm and Dynavector 10X5 cartridge aligned and ready to play.
Smooth, Rich, Airy Sound
I played for a visiting importer of very expensive gear the Ingenium fitted with the new $999 Ortofon Quintet Black MC cartridge, which is fitted with a Shibata stylus—it’s the MC equivalent of the MM 2M Black. A review will be posted shortly. The phono preamp was the intriguing current amplification Vera 20 ($2590 plus high performance power supply ($1790). He was suitably impressed and took down names and numbers.
After swapping out various known and unknown cartridges as well as various known and unknown phono preamplifiers and later using both in a known turntable, the Ingenium’s sonic character revealed itself as did its strengths and flaws.
Tonally, the Ingenium was a pleasingly smooth performer with an evenhanded balance, somewhat rich in the midrange but notably free of a mid bass bump type coloration sometimes found in ‘tables below $2500. Some ‘tables avoid the bump or a low frequency resonance produced by excess energy that the chassis is unable to absorb, by curtailing the very bottom.
This is where the Ingenium excelled, producing reasonably deep and well-defined bass, though slightly softened to go along with the overall generally soft and warm sound. The ‘table did have the advantage of being isolated in the adjacent room on a very nice Finite elemente stand sitting on a slab concrete floor but even that can’t eliminate boom and bloom from a lesser design.
The recently reviewed Analogue Productions reissue of Tony Bennett Live at Carnegie Hall didn’t produce the pin point image definition and detail, or generous soundstaging heard on the reference system but it produced a satisfying picture that led my importer-friend to exclaim “Forget about the little details Mikey, that’s music!” Which was more than he could say about another more expensive combo I played for him.
While the Bennett recording and many rock and jazz recordings indicated a turntable that will provide long-term listenability, a solo piano recording engineered all analog by AIX’s Mark Waldrep—best known for his high resolution digital recordings, not to mention his digital advocacy—pointed out the ‘table’s one significant weakness. The record, by the way (to be reviewed shortly), is Beautiful Jazz-A private concert (Wilderjazz 1401LP) by Bay area pianist Christian Jacobs. Minimally miked, recorded, mixed and mastered (by Paul Stubblebine) all analog, it’s a successful attempt to create the sensation of being in a concert hall (recorded at Zipper Hall, The Colburn School, Los Angeles, CA) seated not far from the Hamburg Steinway Model D Grand and having the pianist play just for you.
Unfortunately, the long piano note sustains point out the ‘table’s speed stability issues that are well hidden on “choppier” music. The RTI pressing too, has it’s eccentricity issues, which is unfortunate, but they are minor when played on a better ‘table and exacerbated here. The problem is, you have a light-weight platter combined with a motor plugged directly into the wall. The speed stability issue will bother some more than others mostly based upon musical tastes: no problem with rock or most jazz, definitely a problem with solo piano or classical piano with orchestra. The 3150Hz test tone was reproduced at 3145, which is close enough to correct speed to not be an issue.
The Speed Stability Solution
The $378 Phoenix Engineering Falcon PSU Turntable Speed Controller and $234 Tachometer arrived simultaneously with the ‘table (you can use just PSU and add later the optional Tachometer). I spent a great deal of time with the ‘table plugged into the wall before trying these units. The full review will be published shortly (there’s a great deal on Mikey’s analog plate).
Adding this $600+ option completely transformed not just the speed stability (and allowed the 'table to reproduce the 3150Hz test tone at the precisely correct speed) but the overall presentation as well. Much of the pleasing midrange fullness receded to reveal sonics much closer to more expensive ‘tables. The midrange fullness was really clouding (pleasing as it was) caused by the speed instability. On the Tony Bennett record, Bennett’s voice became far better focused and clearly defined in space, stage three-dimensionality greatly improved as did overall transparency. It was in some ways like changing the turntable. On the Jacobs record the sustain and decay became far more stable and the sea-sickness subsided to where only the slight eccentricity of the record was audible as it was on the reference ‘table. I am certain that even an inexpensive Pro-Ject Speedbox would produce an improvement but the combination of the Falcon PSU and Tachometer made a huge difference (it requires a magnet to be put on the platter side or bottom read by a Hall sensor attached to a chip that must be placed “just so” but it’s well worth it).
At around $2000 with tone arm, the competition includes the Rega RP6 (with Exact cartridge), which sounds somewhat leaner and “faster” (and most likely runs a bit fast as most samples I’ve checked out do) and the VPI Scout 1.1, which features an MDF platter to which is bonded an aluminum plate, and an aluminum platter and A.C. synchronous motor.
There’s competition from Clearaudio, Pro-Ject and others. All of these ‘tables come with tone arms. In a perfect world I’d have them all here to compare for you but I don’t. Based upon audio recollection I’d say the Rega was the leaner faster choice, more suited for rock, though its bearing and sub-platter can’t compare to the Ingenium’s while the VPI’s bearing is comparable to the Ingenium’s but its heavy aluminum platter is many significant notches better than the Ingenium’s of MDF. While all of these individual attributes can be compared, in the end the turntable’s components perform as a system and often the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Taken as an out-of-the-box product, the Ingenium is a nicely built, easy to set up and use turntable with a substantial minimalist aluminum chassis, an outstanding bearing system—probably the best in its class—and a lightweight MDF platter that helps produce less than excellent speed stability coupled with an ungoverned A.C. synchronous motor. Still at half the price of the Diva II, AVID has packed the Ingenium with a great deal of performance and quality engineering.
Sonically the Ingenium defines the word “musicality” and provides for long term listening pleasure with its shortcomings, other than the speed issue on instruments with long sustains, well-hidden. Were I to buy the Ingenium with Pro-Ject 9cc arm, I’d definitely add a speed controller and a moderate mass record weight. While the Falcon PSU and Tachometer “tach” on almost 30% to the total price, in my opinion the addition more than doubles the Ingenium’s sonic performance.
As delivered for $1999 with arm the Ingenium is still an attractive combination that incorporates an outstanding bearing system and an upgrade path that can greatly improve performance. AVID has managed to produce an excellent turntable at half the price of its previous lowest cost turntable. Add a motor controller, even the relatively pricey but sophisticated Falcon, and you are still below $3000 with tone arm. That’s impressive.
March 2014 Chris Croft, Australian HIFI Magazine
"AVID makes turntables. Everyone knows that...Pitch-perfect rotation, with no wow-or flutter-and no extraneous low-frequency noises: What more could you want from a turntable?...This one's a definite keeper!"
Read the full review here: avid-ingenium-turntable-review-and-test
January 2014 Ed Selley, HIFI Choice Magazine (5 Stars)
When a manufacturer hits on a design philosophy that works it shouldn't be too surprising to find that it will use the same basic pattern for as many products as it can. However, in the case of AVID, this methodology is taken one stage further. The company's extensive range of turntables has all been designed 'top down'. The flagship Acutus turntable was developed first and every other turntable since is effectively as much of the Acutus as it is possible to retain at the new lower price point.
This has proved effective and means that AVID turntables have a strong family resemblance and a degree of 'house sound.' If you like what the Acutus does, the Diva - up until very recently the baby of the AVID range - will deliver much of the same characteristics at a more terrestrial level. The catch, of course, is that the Diva is effectively the lowest price that a turntable built on the principles of the Acutus can be produced. In the great scheme of things, the Diva is not hugely expensive, but it meant that AVID was missing out on the sub-£1,000 turntable market, until now that is...
Enter the Ingenium - the first AVID turntable to deviate from the tried and trusted Acutus pattern. The philosophies that mean that the Acutus looks and sounds the way that it does have not been abandoned altogether, though.
The design is intended to dissipate energy away from the playing surface via the bearing and nothing on the Ingenium is there for decoration, but the layout of the turntable is different to any other AVID that's we've seen before. The chassis of the Ingenium takes the form of a two-piece cruciform with the longer section housing the bearing and tonearm mount and the shorter crossbeam adding stability. The motor is derived from the Diva and sits in free space behind the main chassis member.
The most visually distinctive aspect of the Ingenium's design is the bearing. This is set forward from the centre of the chassis, which means that you can see the entire assembly rotate if you are seated in front of the turntable when it plays. It also means that the spine of the chassis retains more of its structural strength as it is complete across the rear of the unit.
There are some other rather neat touches too. The cork-topped platter used on other AVID turntables is retained and the feet add some useful isolation. The excellent AVID clamp is also an option.
As the main chassis member holds the bearing and the arm, the Ingenium differs from other AVID models in that you need to decide what arm mounting you want when you order it – all of the usual suspects are catered for and the review sample is fitted for and supplied with an SME cutout and arm (£1015). This additionally has two knock-on effects that give the AVID a bit of clear space to rivals. The first is that the chassis can be ordered in a longer length allowing for the Ingenium to mount a 12in arm, which is something of an unusual option at this price. The second is that the chassis member can be extended in both directions and the Ingenium ordered to mount two arms, which is still fairly unusual at any price.
The Ingenium is free of adornments, but the finish is of an extremely high standard throughout. Everything feels extremely solid and very logically thought through. The skeletal design makes working on the deck very simple indeed and setup is extremely easy to carry out. There are few minor detractors in comparison to some competitors at this price. The Ingenium has no standard cover as standard, although AVID produces a variety of options for an additional fee.
The other quirk is that the motor on/off switch is on the power cord and the chances are this will be dangling behind your stand or rack, which can make it difficult to reach. Speed change is done by moving the belt to a different pulley – this is not unusual on turntables that compete with the Ingenium, but does require the platter to be removed in order to make it possible.
The motor itself is about the only vaguely complex part of the entire setup process on the AVID. It needs to be placed far enough from the chassis to allow for good belt tension or you can experience slight pitch instability on sustained notes. Provided this is done, the Ingenium is very speed stable indeed.
The simple act of supplying the Ingenium for review with a tonearm that costs more than the turntable does should be seen as a sign that the company has considerable faith in its new baby. If the SME M2-9 is a bit rich for your blood, you can order the Ingenium supplied with a Pro-Ject Carbon arm for £1,260 and some Rega arms will drop the price even further. If you can stretch to the SME, though, there is much to be said for this partnership.
With the winner of the recent cartridge group test, the Nagaoka MP150 attached – something the SME makes very simple – and connected to an AVID Pellar phonostage, the turntable makes a very strong case for itself. In keeping with its bigger brothers, the Ingenium is not an intrinsically romantic sounding turntable. It is complete free of any softness or bloom and it is sufficiently revealing that it will show up the limitations on poor pressings. The rather better news is that with discs of any quality at all, the AVID is capable of a truly exceptional performance.
The most immediately arresting aspect of the presentation is the seamless integration from top to bottom that means you tend to sit back and enjoy the performance rather than spend time analysing particular facets of it.
With the sumptuous soundscape of the Hidden Orchestra’s Archipelago, the AVID produces a wonderfully full and inviting performance that effortlessly spreads and layers the performers in a tangibly real soundstage. There is an effortlessness to the way that the Ingenium performs that is very compelling.
There is a considerable sense of control to the performance, too. With the faster and more aggressively presented The Bones Of What You Believe by the Chvches, the AVID gets on top of the rhythms and simply pounds along. After a considerable period experimenting with some of the more curious ends of my record collection, this turntable proves itself to be pretty much unflappable across the entire spectrum of music. The calm neutrality of the AVID is a happy with the pared-back simplicity of Fink as it is hammering through the pounding baselines of The Prodigy.
It takes a little while to realise that the Ingenium does something very unusual at the price. As reviewers we often talk about the mighty soundstage of a Gyrodec or the legendary timing of the Linn LP12, ascribing character to the turntable itself. The Ingenium is by contrast almost entirely self-effacing. More than anything else, it is a platform for the arm and cartridge that you choose to partner it with, rather than a part of the performance in itself. It is, in the best possible way a tool to aid your enjoyment of music rather than something that sets out to be the source of the enjoyment itself.
This means that the character of the AVID is subtle to the point of reclusive. Having listened to a twin arm version with an SME on one side and Audio Note’s fabulous Arm III on the other, the Ingenium reveals a consistently detailed and agile bass response with commendable depth to low notes. By the same token, the ‘take no prisoners’ approach to poorer recordings seems to be in part down to the SME, but the Ingenium is not a deck that will flatter something that is compressed or hissy. That being said, the noise floor is impressively low and the excellent clamp makes short work of warped records.
The AVID is subtly different proposition to some of the other turntables on offer at this price point, as the ease with which it accommodates an arm that costs more than the deck demonstrates.
The Ingenium is comparatively light on features and while I am rather fond of its appearance, which results from the triumph of function over form, there are undoubtedly prettier turntables on the market.
What the Ingenium can do, however, is very unusual at this relatively sane end of the market. This is an incredibly neutral, accurate and revealing turntable that allows any arm and cartridge connected to it to lead the performance, while the deck itself gets out of the way.
When you consider that the Ingenium allows for a very wide variety of arms to be attached, you have a turntable that has the potential to make a great many vinyl lovers very happy indeed.
December 2013 Lees Verder, Hifi.nl (NL)
Translation from http://www.hifi.nl/artikel/21074/Review-Avid-Ingenium-draaitafel.html)
Although we best know of AVID HIFI as a relatively small manufacturer in the world of precision engineering and audio turntables, it’s also a very high technological company. AVID has ultra-modern CNC manufacturing facilities and has invested much time in materials research.
AVID not only supplies the high-end hi-fi sector, the automotive industry is known to seek the brand and it helps develop precision mechanical components for that sport.
News buzzed all around for a while. There was a new AVID turntable, and they called it 'cheap'. Well, I could not imagine something inspired by AVID could be 'budget' or 'undressed', as Conrad Mas has strong views on turntable design but it's been many years since he personally came to deliver and install an AVID Diva to me.
It was a memorable evening, a sort of college lesson in applied fine mechanics. He kicked a lot of sacred cows in the turntable world down to build the Diva. For example, he had in his heavy structures a different vision of the concept of mass, no granite, no lead, but mainly focusing on the removal of energy caused by unwanted resonances that affect the cartridge scanning process.
Ingenious: In the course of 2012 the first pictures of the new AVID Ingenium, the subject of rumours appeared. At first sight, there was a break with the illustrious AVID past. In all their current turntables they used a relatively light and rigid base of sand casting which connects the platter and arm with each other. Upon closer inspection of the image shows that the sand casting on the other turntables is replaced by a clever construction of beautifully crafted aluminium beams that are perpendicular to each other.
The only aspect that really differs from the Ingenium is the fact that we can no longer speak of a turntable subchassis. The base has an aluminium cross that stands on three Sorbothane feet, which should ensure rejection of external vibrations. The long arm of the cross is the basis for both the arm and the bearing. The inverted bearing is maintenance free construction and the same as the bearings in the other AVID turntables. The design of the bearing, I need to spotlight because they are so beautiful and you do not see very often. It is clear that the manufacturer is high in precision engineering. The conical bushing attached to the inner platter has a pivot point of sapphire. This runs entirely on a similarly tapered shaft topped with a tungsten carbide ball, the bushings are made of high quality bronze. Do not make the mistake to forget the ball because you’ll really have a problem. This also applies to the possible addition of lubricants. Don’t do it: RTFM !
Assembly: When Marc Lops of Stage Acoustics, the new importer, bought me the turntable there was not much to do. There was already a Denon DLA100 (grandson of the DL103, my first MC cartridge) installed. I only had the AVID Ingenium to set up and to be adjusted. Piece of cake... The rotation could begin soon, lovely.
A week later, I have two cartridges from my own collection installed. This I do on my workbench with my measuring equipment and can check the channel equality and bias compensation, important parameters.
The Project arm used, the PJ - 9CC, is well known to me. Rega was so far the most common OEM arm, but we see that the Project arms are rapidly gaining ground. The assembly of the cartridge in the arm is straight forward, all parameters (VTA, Azimuth, etc..) are properly adjusted, the wiring is good quality. Because this Project arm has a din plug, I have used an XLR interconnect connected to the Phono Preamplifier JK Smart. It has a fully balanced input, and it would be crazy not to use it.
"There's a price to pay, perhaps, but why would you give yourself less performance?"
Incidentally, the good old-fashioned way, with me, it always starts with looking at the manual. I can only say that it is simple and clear, with the appropriate illustrations. Does that mean that you can just order it on the Internet as a turn-key and plug and play object? I do not think so and I’m not surprised. No, this turntable you should order from a dealer who specialized in analogue technology, if at all possible, who will adjust the whole turntable complete with installation. There's a price to pay, perhaps, but why would you give yourself less performance?
Incidentally, should you want to pick up the turntable at your retailer, your newly acquired property by appointment, then it’ll not be a problem, because the packaging deserves an award for ergonomics.
Be aware that when you are already in possession of a pickup arm, you need to order which arm you want to mount. Specifically every different available arm requires a different base bar. For real analogue aficionados AVID offers the possibility of two fitted arms. The base can even have the combination of a 9" and 12" arm.
Placement and other matters: No, the fragile tea table is not the ideal base for the Ingenium, moreover, for any turntable. Always have a firm foundation, a good stable standing cabinet or a shelf on the wall. My Pressand rack with some additional damping measures for the turntable shelf is rock steady.
The AVID Ingenium is a so-called barebones model and is therefore drawn up clearly different from other, more traditional turntables. It is equally Peeling, but then allow the Sorbothane feet on their place. The motor is installed near the bearing. The short drive belt runs from a small motor pulley with two diameters to the inner platter on which the main platter - a fairly lightweight MDF with cork mat - is fitted. The freestanding, 24 -pole AC motor is a 230 version of the 24 - volt type that AVID use on the other DIVA models. The Ingenium motor is connected directly to the mains. Switching on/off takes place with an inline cord switch and speed change is possible by moving the belt on the motor pulley. The distance between the motor and inner platter is quite critical, so - and not cocky - please read the manual. The motors have a decent pull, especially compared to the motors used by Linn, Thorens, Project and some others, so the platter is up to speed within one revolution. If you have chosen the AVID Ingenium Clamp - which I would not cut back on - then the turntable must be stopped before changing the record.
Another reviewer also ventured to look. Nothing against the quality of the AVID but the Ingenium is not exactly a typical “budget” table. The bearing needs a little maintenance, only once every ten years and depending on usage you would be wise to replace the belt once a year and clean the motor pulley and inner platter. The on/off switch is very durable and would seem to me to last a lifetime.
It was still the music: Yes, and what an experience, many enjoyable hours with this turntable - LP after LP. Used with the clamp you then have something musical. The clamp makes the connection between platter and record perfectly. Because AVID chooses a mismatch in terms of mechanical impedance between the record and (cork) mat, the tiny resonances are neatly removed from the centre to the massive base bar. In fact, a kind of mechanical star earth.
Listening: What struck me at the first hearing was the stability and the absence of any graininess shone through. I have developed in my collection some beautiful, but also very common LPs. The best known is the Milestone LP saxophonist Joe Henderson: Power to the People. In the song Black Narcissus tenor puts in long lines down a melody in which the other instruments provide their backing. These long melodies I've heard in various stages of graininess in recent years. Especially on direct drive turntables with high compliance cartridges (e.g. ADC XLM or Shure V15 IV) and light arms (SME 3009S2), there was an almost rattling sound, although wow & flutter was correct.
With the arrival of the first MC's it got better, tighter, but still not flawless. The results were even better when it was in substantial products with thought about the close relationship between arm -cartridge - bearing centre. The AVID turntables are an example of this, with an associated flawless result. Both the Denon and the later designed ZYX Yantra 100 left nothing to be desired quality. The differences between these cartridges, however small, in this combination are very obvious. Especially the spatial image, the flagship of the ZYX, stood like a house. That was very good to hear when listening to Leonhard Cohen Live EP in Fredericton. A masterful band, of course, a magisterial lively voice, but what gives the Ingenium/ZYX combination that live feeling? Nowhere is the PA sound a killjoy, nowhere are the acoustic layers obscured in the recording. This can only be the sum of arm and turntable and the cartridge is not disturbed by unwanted resonances.
Of course, Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert the piano tones are simply a perfect way to show short and fast speed and establish derogations. I enjoy every time the wonderful live atmosphere of this legendary record, despite not being a great recording. For a special recording and special instrument then I like to grab the magnificent Philips recording harpsichordist Blandine Verlet or, the music of the French Baroque composers, Balbastre and Dulphy: Scarlatti French style with a lot of drive and humour. Beautifully recorded and an instrument that is miles away from the nail crates ever played. Cortex threatening even as a caricature of a harpsichord Pulse display at its best with great fabric string expression.
For who?: In the beginning I said the words "budget sample table”. That is definitely not the Ingenium. It is a good turntable in combination with Project 9CC arm, which is excellent and stable for a wide range of quality cartridges. “You love ‘em or you hate ‘em”, there will undoubtedly be turntable enthusiasts who sneer at such a barebones turntable, but to them the market has plenty of alternatives to offer. Could I could live with such a simple on/off feature in the form of a solid cord switch, asked someone else. I do, but I can imagine that in the future AVID will release a motor control for Ingenium. Well a very hosanna story, said another. Yes, I have little to say about this AVID, the only point where I myself would have made a different choice is the belt. My choice would have been a silicone rubber type because they last longer and are less prone to irregular start-up.
July 2013 Ed Selley, www.hifiwigwam.com
This review has been a long time in the making. A fair bit of this delay can be attributed to poor time management on my part- I’m very busy, easily distracted and still prone to idleness when the thumbscrews are put away- but some of it has been down to trying to get a handle on what is a slightly unusual but also very special piece of kit. Why special? Read on.
AVID as a company doesn’t need much of an introduction. Since their arrival in 1999 (although the company was actually founded some years before this and development on the Acutus itself rather before that), they have expanded their turntable line-up to a complete range and recently started on supporting electronics with a considerable vigour as well. Until recently, the turntable range started with the Diva which at £1,600 isn’t painfully expensive but denied AVID a shot at the sub £1,000 category where a great deal of the action is.
The problem for AVID in contesting this category was that taking their design principles to a point below the Diva was not a simple undertaking. AVID products are developed ‘top down‘- the best product the company can make is developed first- for example the Acutus. When a less expensive model is envisaged, the reference is taken and the minimum possible amount of materials and technology removed to meet to the price point. This has worked admirably but the Diva represents effectively the irreducible minimum for an ‘Acutus pattern’ turntable.
Enter the Ingenium- yours less tonearm for £800. The new entry level AVID still holds true to the company ideals. It is still designed around the principle of dissipating energy away from the playing surface via the bearing and it still spreads the energy over three isolating feet but the format that the design takes to do this has changed somewhat. The sub chassis shape that we associate with AVID models has gone and is replaced by a two piece cruciform. This comprises a main chassis section that holds the bearing and the arm mount. This is stabilised by an outrigger that forms the arms of the cross and mounts two of the three feet.
The arrangement of the main bearing is interesting in that it is not mounted in the centre of the beam of the chassis. It has instead been set forward (when the turntable is viewed head on) which means that the full thickness of the beam is maintained across the ‘back’ of the chassis with the attendant benefit in terms of the strength of the design. This also means that from the front, when in use, you can see the whole bearing rotate which is a nice touch.
This change in design practice means that the Ingenium can do two things that its bigger brothers can’t. Because the main chassis is also the arm mount, you can order the Ingenium with a longer outrigger that is capable of mounting a twelve inch arm. Company founder and head honcho Conrad Mas is not the greatest advocate of the footlong but has spent the last few years being asked sufficiently often that he has designed to Ingenium to allow for this. The cost of a single 12” arm Ingenium is £930 with SME or Pro-Ject cut out.
The other option is more unusual at the price and is modelled by the review sample. The as well as being extended in one direction, for £1,200 the Ingenium can be ordered with the chassis extended in both directions for a twin armed version. This is an unusual option but thanks to the way that AVID do all their machining in house, something that they can offer. You can additionally order your Ingenium for two nine inch arms or one twelve and one nine inch- or indeed two twelve inch arms.
While this extra flexibility is welcome, the only downside of the beam chassis is that the arm mounts are fixed. You will need to decide what arm type you are going for and stick with it. This is hardly the end of the world and the Ingenium can be ordered with Pro-Ject, Linn, SME, Jelco and Rega mounts- the latter being usefully able to do new Rega and old Rega types from the same mounting. You can also order your Ingenium with a Pro-Ject tonearm fitted and ready to run. I haven’t heard this combination but given that the Pro-Ject carbon arms are capable bits of kit, I suspect it would be a pretty good one stop shop.
The motor for the Ingenium is free of the cruciform and effectively tucks in behind the main bearing. This is an adapted version of the Diva motor and sits in a custom housing designed to minimise vibration. It is a simple enough unit that connects directly to the mains and spins at a constant speed- speed changes being made by altering the position of the belt on the main bearing pulley. This is a simple arrangement but in practice it works well.
In design terms, the Ingenium follows the AVID practice of absolute functionality. Everything on the deck is there for a reason and the overall appearance is decidedly minimalist. That being said, I like it. The Ingenium is recognisably AVID, the cork top to the platter and the (seriously good) clamp could only be them but the Ingenium is a testimony to the idea that beauty stems from simplicity. It isn’t pretty like my Gyrodec but it is handsome. The build is also extremely good too. The Ingenium feels solid and everything slots together in a very reassuring way. Nothing says, ‘this is the baby AVID’ when you use it and the packaging and supporting accessories are really well thought out. In a perfect world, the motor on off switch would be easier to reach but again, this isn’t a deal breaker.
The review sample came supplied with an SME M2-9 arm and an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. The other mount was drilled for Rega and left open to technically allow for my Roksan Tabriz to be transplanted from my Gyrodec. For a number of reasons- other review work, the joylessness of removing it from the Gyrodec and an ongoing problem with the VTA staying locked meant that it wasn’t in a position to do so. My lasting thanks therefore to Audio Note UK for the loan of the Arm Three you see in the pics. This arm has been exactingly reviewed before by Dom so I felt it might be a useful known ‘benchmark’ in reviewing the Ingenium. That and the fact it is stupidly good.
This ensemble has been tried largely into my listed equipment in my profile but has in the time this review has taken to come together also been partnered with a pair of Sonus Faber Venere 1.5’s and a complete 47 Laboratory Midnight Blue system which together with the twin armed AVID was half hi-fi and half surrealist art installation. AVID also supplied an isolation platform which has been used with the deck but I’ve also tried it without. Cartridges have included my Dynavector DV20X, Clearaudio Virtuoso as well as the supplied 2M Blue and indeed a complete group test of moving magnet cartridges.
The listening process with the Ingenium wasn’t initially completely smooth sailing. I found that even after letting the deck do some spinning before attempting any listening, I couldn’t quite shake the sense of a very slight pitch instability. This turned out to be motor positioning- it had initially been placed slightly too close to the chassis resulting in slightly low belt tension. With it moved outwards, the problem vanished and hasn’t reappeared- indeed the Ingenium appears to be extremely good in this respect now. It is worth pointing out that everything else on the Ingenium is close to being plonk and play and this was the only aspect of setup that even required a modicum of thought.
With this all sorted, the AVID has revealed itself to be a very interesting performer and in many respects a startlingly good one. The Ingenium is recognisably an AVID- it sounds big, controlled and has very substantial bass when required but there was also a slightly matter-of- fact nature to the performance that I’ve been less aware off when listening to some of the bigger models- although very detailed, I’ve found them to be fairly forgiving to less than beautiful vinyl. Having now mounted the Audio Note arm and tried a variety of different cartridges in it and the SME, I think that some of this can be laid at the foot of the Ortofon and SME combo (or M2 and 2M if you will). That said, even with the more forgiving Audio Note/ Clearaudio combination on the deck, there is still a sense that the Ingenium is capable of extracting enough information to reveal the limits of a poor pressing. If this comes across as merciless, it isn’t- if a truly terrible pressing suffers a little, the payoff with most other ones is really exceptional detail retrieval.
There is a sense after some time with both arms in place that the Ingenium is a very neutral platform that allows for the arm and cartridge to inject what (if any) character you might be looking for in your vinyl replay. Certainly, although a single arm Ingenium machined for the SME would be less than the cost of the M2-9 it mounts in this case, the deck certainly seems up to the task of doing it justice. The resulting performance is led by the SME and the calm, unruffled and detailed presentation that this combination produces is very grown up indeed for a deck at this price. The Audio Note is a more energetic performer with more a sense of life and attack to it and again the Ingenium lets it happen.
Some traits can be pinned on the deck though and the good news is that they are largely positive. The noise floor is extremely low and the Ingenium is a very quiet deck in terms of generated noise and noise audible through the system itself. Bass is good and impressively deep but in the context of my listening room is just shaded by the Pedersen Gyrodec- modifications that add to the already higher price of the Michell over the AVID.
This is a very unobtrusive performance that is deeply impressive for a sub £1,000 deck but there is a little more to the Ingenium’s ability than meets the eye. The extreme simplicity of the Ingenium and the fact it shares some components with Diva means that on balance, I think that the basic Ingenium at £800 less arm (£872 with SME or Rega cut out) would be comfortably over a grand if a company with less of a ready designed component arsenal and its own machining in house tried to construct it. I don’t want to use the word ‘bargain’ but there aren’t many decks at the price that are so unobtrusive in terms of letting your ancillaries show what they can do. The twin arm variant is more left field and harder to make comparisons to but the basic performance remains unchanged and at the asking price, I’m not aware of many other twin arm decks, let alone ones as capable as this.
Effectively, after some time spent with the AVID, I’m left with the conclusion that is superficially underwhelming but rather more exciting when the implications are considered. The Ingenium fulfills the main AVID design intention- it gets out of the way and allows you to enjoy the music via the arm and cart you have chosen. This self-effacing competence and the ability is a very welcome arrival at the price point. The twin arm version is visually a bit more exotic but retains the raw abilities of the simpler version. From a reviewing standpoint, this performance (and the fact that the design makes working on the deck a joy) is too good to pass up and in the interests of full disclosure, this particular Ingenium isn’t going anywhere because I’ve bought it. As a means of testing cartridges and accessories, it really can’t be beaten and furthermore it sounds great while you do so.
Even if you aren’t a reviewer, I think the AVID warrants a place on any shortlist at the price. The way that Ingenium goes about making music is fuss free and deeply impressive. Furthermore, it is built like a tank, offers a fair few choices of arm candidates and looks pretty cool in a minimalist sort of way. An Ingenium/Audio Note Arm One combo would be under £1,500 and I don’t think there are many combinations at similar money I can see outperforming it. The twin is undoubtedly more specialist but the asking price is very reasonable and it really only faces competition from an older deck with custom plinth- something that the ham fisted of us would need to have made anyway. It has taken a while for AVID to go sub £1k with their decks but the result was worth waiting for.
March 2013 Paul Rigby, HIFI World Magazine (5 Globes)
For some time, I've had customer requests for a less expensive turntable than the Diva, AVID boss, Conrad Mas, told me. "I've always, however, not wanted to make another turntable in that price range. I want to make the best turntable in that price range".
That was why the Ingenium was created. The model is actually a base for a range of turntables that provide a wealth of choice. The basic Ingenium costs £800, arriving with a standard spindle and no clamp. You can add the signature AVID screw spindle and clamp for an extra £120 before delivery or for £240 if you upgrade later, "I think that most people will buy the turntable with the £120 upgrade but we can also supply the Pro-ject Carbon 9CC arm which totals £1,260 or £1,380 with that upgraded spindle and clamp. Incidentally, the arms arrives with an arm cable. A lot of the time, this arm doesn't arrive with a cable at all. Incidentally, this is the same arm supplied to Linn for their LP12 Majik turntable (approx £2500)".
Mas described the arm as, "functional...it does a service, has good bearings and is well made for the money. It's ideally suited to the Ingenium and is easy to use".
Of course, the Pro-ject is not the only game in town. Users might wish to fit their own arm. As an alternative, AVID is prepared to fit a 9in SME base that adds £25 to the basic price of the turntable. "We can also supply a M2-9 arm, if required but a 309 or 3009 would be equally viable. Because of the way we manufacture turntables we can include features that are also found on the more expensive Diva Mk 1.
That means that we can supply a fitting for a 12in SME arm (raising the base price of the deck to £930). The turntable configuration also means that we can extend the length of the chassis to include two arms with a variety of arm combinations (basic price of £1,200 with an extra £120 with a screw spindle and clamp).
As long as it fits, we can mount any other arm but we recommend that people ask us first." Custom order arm fittings demand a £300 charge. "That said, while fitting an SME arm that you already have is one thing, we would not recommend buying a costly brand new SME M2-9 arm (£900) to fit to the Ingenium. If you wanted to do that, we'd recommend buying a better turntable, such as the Diva, to take such an arm."
So why produce the Ingenium in the first place? Because the original Diva occupied that same position when it was initially released but then was subject to technological improvements that transformed it into the Diva II which then succumbed to price increases in materials and manufacturing. Hence, the former 'entry level' turntable now fetches £1,600. "This means that the Diva is more of an entry level 'aspiration'. That is, it's a little bit beyond many people's budget.
When you put an arm/cartridge on it you're looking at more like £2500.What I wanted to do was produce something that provided an entry level product but not join the ranks of companies that produce an MDF or plastic slab with a moving bit in the middle that they call a turntable or buy an OEM turntable from Rega. I also didn't want to make something that's for every man and his dog. I wanted to keep to an audiophile product but not compromise on the previous turntables, so you can see a family tree. Hence, we have kept the design philosophy of the more expensive turntables within the Ingenium. For example, to feature a sapphire bearing in a turntable priced at under £1,000 is, as far as I'm aware, unique. We've managed to keep prices down because we have the engineering expertise in-house and we buy the raw material in at a good rate because of the volume of work that we are doing with other products."
In technical terms, the platter, drive hub and bearing are identical to the more expensive Diva turntable. The sub-chassis offers a substantial casting: a 2.5" thick, solid bar of aluminium which provides a substantial mass and rigidity that almost totals the same weight as the Diva. To provide additional stability AVID has added a rigidly bolted cross-bar from front to back from aluminium. The same Sorbothane compound used within the diva has been used to make the isolation feet for the Ingenium and rather than use a separate power supply AVID has used a mains-powered motor but it's the same motor as used in the Diva. Instead of a low voltage, 24v version it's a mains voltage version.
You can fine-tune the speed by pulling and shifting the position of the motor - so it's a good idea to invest in a decent strobe for final checks. Putting tension on the drive belt either increases or decreases the speed. This is a basic speed variable method that does the same job as the fancier system seen on the top-of-the-range Acutus but, on that model, you use a system of buttons.
"Because the motor tucks under the platter and its mains driven, the wire goes straight to the mains but you need some way of turning it on and off. I explored having a switch on the motor itself but you have an accessibility problem if it's on a shelf or tucked away: you can't get to the motor to access the switch. I didn't want to get into the realms of a separate power supply because that just adds to the cost. The obvious thing was to have a switch in the cable itself. It doesn't compromise sound at all. The whole switch is soldered into place to ensure a good connection and the switch is flat on the sides to aid mounting to the surface of the side of a shelf".
Again, the essence of the in-line switch reflects the overall philosophy on prioritising sound quality and not aesthetics, "If you want a fancy box to turn the thing on and off, it's another product that you need to buy" said Mas. "Adding a power supply box might add £150 to the cost of the turntable".
As AVID has it, the Ingenium is its budget turntable. The company makes great play upon the fact it's an 'entry level' deck, in fact Hi-fi enthusiasts and other cognoscenti might agree. In the real world, however, it's nothing of the sort. No truly budget turntable costs £1,380 to get up and running (unless you decide to split genre hairs by calling it 'upper budget level' or some such). If you are examining the true budget sector, then you are looking at something like a Rega RP1 turntable for around £240, sporting an internal power supply, resin platter, RB101 arm and Moving Magnet cartridge.
Of course, AVID's Conrad Mas would exclaim that the RP1 is aimed at exactly the audience which AVID has no wish to plunder. It's the audiophile market where AVID maintains its interest. I would disagree, to some extent. Audiophiles would, I believe, find the RP1 a very pleasant listen indeed. It is a well regarded budget deck, offering a clean midrange and a speedy attack. So, in sound terms, what does a budget AVID give you that a genuine budget deck, like the RP1, does not? Why would a first-time audiophile buyer bother to save all that extra cash to purchase an Ingenium when they could just as easily get a RP1 and lots of vinyl? Relative to the money spent, is an Ingenium worth it?
After setting up the Ingenium, as suggested by our tests, I began with Neil Young's portentous and brooding 'Safeway Cart' which is bass heavy with a rolling percussion and a quite delivery. This rock track displayed a focused bass, as predicted during testing with rim shots that were hit with real precision. There was also appreciable bass shimmer from the electric guitar which throbbed with potential power. It sat behind Young's voice, glowering with primeval authority like a thick-necked night-club doorman.
Upper mids displayed a decidedly rich totality, occupying the wide soundstage. For example, Young's vocals were opened up to reveal a host of new detail. The subtlety and nuance in Young's quite delivery was full of emotive layering that worked well in portraying his message. There was also space and air in between each instrument that enabled the track to relay detail in a considered and complimentary way.
On Anita O'Day's version of 'Sweet Georgia Brown' from Verve's 'the Jazz Stylings Of...', the turntable didn't provide the smoothest progression when moving through the upper mid registers up to the treble at high volumes. Sometimes, when pushed, the Ingenium was a tad too lively as it bit and barked a little as control was lost but, as our tests confirm, this may have more to do with the arm than the inherent design of the turntable.
The Ingenium did offer a free, shimmering treble via the delicate cymbal strikes, with instrumental separation allowing the creation of a melange of interesting detail as brass and double bass formed a solid foundation to the rhythm while the electric guitar played around the feet of the piano to give syncopation to the track. The AVID provided space for all, allowing the ear to drink in a fully featured arrangement. Meanwhile, O'Day had a clear tone to here delivery that was expressive and animated.
Moving to classical and Sullivan & Mackerras' 'Pineapple Poll' a Gilbert & Sullivan inspired comic ballet score. On the 'Opening Dance', the brass expulsion was a little strident at high volumes which, again, may connect to arm issues but there was also plenty to like on this track including a rich sweep of the strings over the entire soundstage which not only had breadth but distinct 3D effect to its depth. The lower frequency areas of the strings were rich and confident too. Detail could be a delight. The delicate triangle interruptions were tantalising, gentle yet elusive while the wind instruments projected a distinct woody nature.
Should audiophiles save their pennies for an Ingenium rather than buy cheaper and invest in more vinyl? That depends on your needs and requirements. If you want a creditable playback system that supplies the essentials of each record in a lively and concise terms, then a well designed budget deck will serve you well.
If on the other hand, you want to get to the bottom of your music, to peel back the layers and reveal the truth of what the music is trying to say and to key into the vocalist's emotive pathways then a true audiophile deck is what you need.
As such, the Ingenium is a good entry point to such a world.
This is an affordable turntable that oozes quality in both construction and sound and offers an excellent entry point into serious music listening.
January 2013 Jeff Dorgay, Tone Audio Magazine (Publishers Choice Award) (USA)
In the world of racing, lighter is better and anything not contributing to getting across the finish line first is deemed useless, but in the world of turntables mass is usually considered an asset.
We’ve seen a proliferation of tables that merely just chunk on the weight – adding massive platters and enormous plinths, (often eschewing real engineering in the process) chroming everything along the way to justify a high price. This has never been the mantra at AVID.
AVID designer Conrad Mas continues to refine his design in the hope of making a table in the highly competitive price range occupied by the Rega RP6, VPI Traveler (and a few others) without compromising the engineering and performance principals that make an AVID an AVID.
AVID has always taken a more intelligent approach, using mass where needed to get the job done along with a highly tuned suspension to extract the maximum amount of information from those delicate grooves. Their highly successful Diva and Diva IISP turntables use the same W-shaped plinth, derived from the original Acutus design, forming the critical bridge between the tonearm and the turntable bearing, with a simplified elastomer based suspension. The Ingenium’s MDF platter, bearing, spindle and clamp are directly off the Diva II assembly line; but its plinth uses a simpler, rectangle-shaped part, keeping CNC time to a minimum. It also allows the user to see the spindle rotate during playback – kind of cool for technology lovers. The elastomers are a different shape than those of the Diva series tables, but made of the same material and to the same tolerance.
This configuration brings AVID performance to a wider range of customers. If AVID’s Volvere turntable is a Lotus Elise, think of the Ingenium as a Caterham 7; distilling the AVID concept as far as it can go, but no further.
Would you like some fries with that?
Setting the tonearm down on War’s “Lowrider” reveals the signature AVID sound – big dynamics and rock solid bass. You can’t have a Diva IISP for $1,350 but you do get a lot more than you bargain for at this price, and the Ingenium succeeds brilliantly. The big question is how to configure your Ingenium. The table is available without tonearm, drilled for a Pro-Ject Carbon arm for $1,300, 9-inch SME arm for $1,350 and a 12-inch SME for $1,550. It can also be purchased in a dual arm configuration for $1,950 – the model we have here. The entry level Ingenium is available with the Pro-Ject arm already installed (and it is a great arm, also featured as standard equipment on the Oracle Paris) and can be ordered with or without the AVID clamp, again an effort at keeping cost to a minimum with performance at maximum.
Mr. Mas and I have gone back and forth about the validity of a dual tonearm setup (he’s against it, I’m for it), so his catering to the true analogaholic and offering this option is highly commendable. I am convinced that this functionality, usually limited to some of the world’s most expensive turntables, is an essential feature to fully enjoy analog, whether you use that second tonearm for a mono cartridge, a budget cartridge for playing rough records, or an alternate tonal balance at the ready.
Spending a ton of cash in the context of a dual arm Ingenium isn’t necessary to reap the benefits. With so many used SME, Rega and other arms on the market, that second arm is well in reach. For this review, the SME 309 arm ($2,250 new, usually around $800 on the used market) and the new Ortofon TA-110 ($1,495 new) offer the best of both worlds – both having removable headshells, with the Ortofon using a more universal headshell, compatible with the vintage SME 3009 and the Technics SL-1200 tonearms. The Ortofon arm is easy to install, streamlining the process for those loving to mix it up with their cartridge collection. The majority of my listening was done with the Shure V15mxVr, the Ortofon MC Vivo Blue and the Zu Denon 103 – all cartridges in a range of about $400 – $600.
I modified an Ortofon arm adaptor from the Volvere SP, but AVID should have these available shortly as a regular item for the Ingenium. Should you be as impatient as I am, the threads can be gently drilled clean with the aid of a drill press to keep the holes perpendicular to the board, allowing the threaded screws supplied with the Ingenium to clamp the board down. This is the opposite of the other AVID turntables.
A joy to listen to
Tracking through the Art of Noise’s Who’s Afraid of the Art of Noise? reveals a wide and deep soundstage, with all the minute synth bits and vocal echoes floating all over the room, well beyond the speaker boundaries – the mark of a great turntable. (or hallucinogen) The bass line in “Moments in Love” stays solid, never lacking weight or focus at the expense of blurring the musical information in the rest of the track.
The combination of layered vocals and multi-instrumental talent on Egberto Gismonti and Nana Vasconcelos’ Duas Voices, again highlights how well the AVID/SME combination retrieves inner detail and preserves transient attack. This album is full of lightning fast acoustic guitar runs and explosive percussion – Vasconcelos’ specialty. The degree of texture present with the bongos here is enlightening, and the rich decay of each guitarist’s hands as they slap against their guitar bodies adds to the dimension of realism that this table offers.
More great guitar licks abound on Ry Cooder’s Into the Purple Valley, with a plethora of layered vocals here too. This densely packed record is a torture test for low-level detail and tracking ability – if everything isn’t sorted, it just sounds like an AM radio. Another test easily passed by the Ingenium.
The rock solid bass and image detail can be chalked up, in part to the excellent speed stability of the Ingenium. The Feickert analog tools reveal the Ingenium spot on in terms of speed and when monitored over time, unwavering. AVID deviates from the standard practice of most other belt drive turntable manufacturers using a low torque motor to drive the platter, choosing a high torque, high power motor instead – feeling this offers better control over the platter and minimal effect from stylus drag.
The Ingenium starts up with the sheer spin of a direct drive table, at full speed almost immediately. The only odd bit about the Ingenium is the power button; instead of being built into the plinth or in an outboard enclosure, it’s merely a rocker switch incorporated into the AC cord. Be sure to route the cable accordingly so that it can be easily accessed. A small sacrifice indeed, for this level of performance.
The basic elastomer suspension works well to isolate the table from the room. Acoustic feedback was nonexistent at high volume, and arbitrary raps near the Ingenium on the equipment rack barely came through the speakers. Not as effective as the suspended AVID tables, but way better than the non suspended tables in my collection.
At the end of the test, mounting an identical SME 309 tonearm on the AVID Acutus Reference SP table confirms how well the entry level table stacks up against AVID’s finest, with the Zu Denon cartridge affixed to each arm, using the Aesthetix Rhea phonostage as a conduit to my reference system. The Ingenium provides stellar performance in the context of a Journeyman level system (Electrocompaniet integrated, a pair of KEF LS-50s and the AVID Pellar phonostage), and it is no slouch in my reference system. Compared to AVID’s top table, the lineage is clearly confirmed. The Ingenium shares all of the same virtues of the Acutus Reference SP, just in a smaller dose.
True to the AVID design brief, each table up the range consistently reveals more music than the one before it. Having owned or reviewed every AVID table in the range except the Sequel, I can say this with 100% confidence.
Because our test Ingenium is fitted with a tonearm costing nearly twice as much as the table itself, even cursory comparison with the Rega RP6 and VPI Traveler isn’t fair. However, it is to AVID’s credit that this table performs so well with the 309, offering the prudent enthusiast a major glimpse at what high end analog is really all about without spending five figures. We will get a standard edition Ingenium without clamp and featuring the Pro-Ject arm to investigate further very soon.
Utilizing the second tonearm configuration proves a ton of fun. The Ortofon arm makes it a cinch to go through my collection of cartridges mounted on the standard Ortofon headshells, swapping one for the other at will. Though slightly retro, the Ortofon SPU is another heavenly match for the Ingenium. Substituting the Lyra Kleos Mono, normally used on the Thorens TD-124 extracts a great performance from my mono Beatles and Stones records. Grado, Ortofon and Denon (to name a few great examples) all offer fantastic mono cartridges in the $200 – $300 range, so you can take full advantage of this functionality without going broke, I just happened to have the Kleos on hand.
Even those with a modest collection of mono LP’s, will be surprised at how much more lifelike they sound played back with a proper mono cartridge. The Shure M97xe also proves a great match for the AVID table/Ortofon tonearm combination and provides a budget alternative as a starter cartridge, it’s excellent for tracking through questionable yard sale finds, or favorites that are warped. In some instances, the thrift store specials sound better with a low budget cartridge.
This level of performance, convenience and style makes for an award winning product. We awarded the Ingenium one of our ten Publishers Choice awards for 2012, and feel that this table is at the top of the $2,000 turntable category in every way. But just as in racing, the competition is always in your rear view mirror. The good news for analog lovers is that we all benefit from this competition.