Pulsus Reviews

November 2012 Ken Kessler, HiFi News Magazine (UK)

Group test; AVID Pulsus - Bel Canto Phono 3VB - Clearaudio Balance+ - Pathos InTheGrove MkII - Roksan Reference - Simaudio Moon 310LP

"Although the least costly in the group, AVID's was one of the three equipped with an outboard power supply - favoured by some for its potentially lower noise."

"In addition to being among the easiest to install, the AVID required the least 'warm-up' time..."

"I was soon enjoying the liquid sound of the keyboards throughout the Doors' debut LP, and the Pulsus excelled in creating the ominous atmosphere of 'The End', which fills a full side of this '45'."

"The airiness of the Sarah Vaughan LP was maintained on every track, the detail in her voice in 'I Remember You' having an in-the-room presence that was staggering."

"As there are no poor performers, and the worst-to-best was as close as this year’s F1 top six, I'm hard-pressed to create a pecking order. But each does have a personality. Best in value is, hands-down, the AVID Pulsus."

"AVID's Pulsus is the hair-shirt choice for old-school audiophiles who not only reject 'form follows function' but reject form full-stop, and only care about performance. The Pulsus is simply a bargain...'

October 2011 Phil Gold, Canada HiFi Magazine (CND)

AVID HiFi is the brainchild of Conrad Mas, who as a young man thought he could design a better mousetrap (strictly speaking a turntable) and took the next twenty years tinkering way in order to prove it. His Acutus Reference turntable is among the very best available and incorporates all his original ideas about how to cope with vibration. Below the Acutus Reference sit five less expensive models ranging from the entry-level Diva II through the Diva II SP, Volvere SP and Sequel SP to the Acutus SP. AVID also sell their own line of cables, supports and accessories and are about to launch a high end preamp and monobloc amplifiers. Rounding out the portfolio are two phono preamps, the cost no object Pulsare and the subject of today’s test, the Pulsus.

For both of these models, the idea was to produce a very low noise, fast, dynamic sound while remaining clean and neutral, but also to have good bass weight and presence. Offering turntables of the highest rank, Mas would hardly want to put his name to phono preamps that would fail to deliver on the full potential of the Acutus Reference. He suggests that a full bass is often lacking in most modern electronics as manufacturers seem to limit bass to emphasize mid and top to highlight detail. He believes the detail should still be there and apparent if you can keep the noise floor low but maintain the correct level of bass response which makes for a realistic presentation and gives the music the solid underpinning of real world music.

To keep the noise level low, AVID adopts a two-box approach, with the highly regulated power supply in a second identically sized and styled box away from the control unit. It is impossible to place too much importance the power supply makes in electronics. A good highly regulated supply is an expensive item to make, and influences the performance of all elements downstream. The separate box places the circuitry that has to amplify the extremely low level cartridge output well away from the transformers in the power supply and the high voltage inputs, allowing for more complete shielding of both components. The units are built to a high mechanical standard with fully screened casework. Custom components are employed, which raises the component cost but these are necessary to meet the design objectives. Consider the Pulsare as the no compromise offering and the Pulsus as the Pulsare on a diet.

Often a new model is derived from a less expensive model by using more expensive components, increasing the regulation and capacity of the power supply, increasing the power output and so on. On this occasion the reverse approach is taken. Having produced the superb Pulsare balanced phono preamp, Mas tried to bring this sort of audio quality to a unit that would sell for one third the price.

Here are some of the tricks he used:

  • Get rid of the front panel controls, in favor of dip switches on the underside of the control unit
  • Lost all the balanced circuitry, offering unbalanced mode only
  • Offered 3 gain options (from 4), 7 resistance loadings (from 8), 3 capacitance loadings (from 6)
  • Provided a 35va power supply, down from 300va with simpler regulation
  • Designed much more compact boxes

Now I can’t tell you exactly what sacrifices have been made in the sound quality going from Pulsare to Pulsus, since I don’t have them both here, but I can tell you how the Pulsus performs in my system, and without mincing words, it’s a giant killer.

With a wide range of adjustments, the Pulsus will match an extraordinarily wide range of phono cartridges. I tested it with a Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood cartridge, mounted in an Ittok arm with a Linn Sondek LP12 turntable, using excellent cartridge leads and cables from Cardas. The rest of the system is reference quality with high end speakers and headphones both used to put the Pulsus through its paces. I used the default settings for a moving magnet cartridge, and the first thing I noted was a significantly higher gain than through my reference Graham Slee Era Gold V phono preamp, which brought the level up to about the same as my CD player.

The first thing you notice is that the Pulsus projects a big bold sound with sharp attack and rich colours. As advertised, the bass is strong and extends very deep, while the midrange is detailed and spacious. The biggest gains over my vintage and far less expensive Era Gold V come in the treble. On Sonny Clark’s superb mono album Sonny’s Crib (Blue Note 1576) what was once an aggressive and harsh percussion in With a Song in my Heart was now revealed in all its glory, the compressed sound now fully resolved, tuneful and very much easier on the ears.

To hear the full potential of the Pulsus, I played Porgy and Bess sung by Ray Charles and Cleo Lane in a lavish Classic Records package [JP 1831]. The sense of ease and unlimited dynamics are palpable. The whole performance seems so alive, so rich and raucous. You just know this is what HIFI is all about. To get this feeling every link in the chain must be up to the job. All I can tell you is that the Pulsus does not get in the way, passing an extended bandwidth with no noticeable distortion or noise. There’s a ton of information getting through but it never sounds analytical or etched.

On a wide range of material, the Pulsus revealed layers of detail and delicate musicality that I had not known the Virtuoso Wood to possess. The Era Gold V had eclipsed a number of other phono preamps and phono sections on the various amplifiers that have passed through my system over the years, but now it must surrender its crown. The margin of victory was actually much narrower on less demanding recordings – only really high recorded levels of treble energy made the comparison one sided. In fact on less than perfect recordings the Era Gold V may be preferred, because it is generally less ruthless in revealing the faults in the recording, and is somewhat flattering in many cases by compressing the extremes of dynamics both in the treble and the bass. But given a top quality recording, the more honest, higher resolution and broader bandwidth capabilities of the Pulsus come into their own. To fully appreciate the Pulsus you will need partnering electronics and cabling of a very highstandard.

Despite this being AVID’s less expensive phono preamp, it still costs $1800 and that’s not chump change. There are other serious competitors at this price point, such as the brilliant EAR 834P tubed phono preamp and the Simaudio Moon 310LP. You should certainly check these out if you are in the market, but in truth the Pulsus competes with far more costly units and I think its competition may need to go back to the drawing board. The Pulsus is a grand slam home run.

August 2011 Jeff Dorgay, Tone Audio Magazine (USA)

The good news is that a few hundred dollars grants you access to the analog world. But should you become truly obsessed, you’ll require a better analog front end. Not to worry. Competition is fierce in the $100-$300 phono preamplifier segment, with fewer great choices in the $500-$800 range. Moving to the $1,000-$2,000 plateau offers not only a huge performance jump, but one of the most intense product rivalries in the high end. If you can stretch to this section of the game board, you will be given much more than a get-out-of-jail-free card. To wit, the $1,595 AVID Pulsus. It’s designed, built, and tested at the company’s UK facility. Many other units in its price range come from China.

Matching a phonostage like the AVID Pulsus with a favorite turntable and cartridge for a sum total of a couple thousand dollars will yield a very formidable analog source. Better still, it allows many wallet-conscious listeners to steer clear of megabuck turntables. Such a setup offers more than enough resolution to enjoy the best LPs. Plus, you’re only one Internet forum post away from a healthy argument.

A compact two-box design, the Pulsus allows you to place the power supply about three feet away from the actual preamplifier chassis, thus eliminating noise concerns. Said power supply connects to the preamplifier via a shielded cable with an XLR connector. Unlike AVID’s Pulsare phonostage, which features balanced inputs and a balanced design, the Pulsus is single-ended. Designer Conrad Mas insists that the unit isn’t a “stripped-down Pulsare,” yet a comparison of both models reveals a remarkably similar tonal balance.

When listening to both side by side with smaller-scale acoustic music, the two AVID preamplifiers sounded far more alike than different. However, the Pulsare’s superiority is made evident on symphonic and heavy metal fare. Such traits will appeal to those wanting to “stay in the family.” Why? Should you decide to move up to the Pulsare at some point, you will be rewarded with more instead of different—just as you do with the full line of AVID turntables.

Underneath the chassis, the Pulsus offers a wide range of adjustment, with three gain settings: 48db for MM cartridges, 60db for MC, and an additional 70db setting as well. Combined with the Pulsus’ ultra-low noise floor, even the low-output Dynavector 17D3 cartridge (.23mv output) had no trouble delivering. For MM users, the three available capacitance settings (100pf, 200pf and 500pf) should easily handle most combinations.

Listening began with a suite of reasonably priced cartridges that included the Shure V15vxmr, Denon DL-103R, and Dynavector DV-20xl. All turned in great performances and, in conjunction with the Volvere SP/SME combination, sounded better than when in my budget setup consisting of the Rega P3-24 and Dynavector P75 mk. 2. Feeling that the Pulsus was capable of more, I substituted the Sumiko Pearwood Celebration II MC cartridge ($2,499) and discovered the AVID still held its own. Thanks to a removable head shell on the SME309 arm, swapping the Pearwood for the Sumiko Palo Santos cartridge ($3,999) was as simple as opening a beer. The Pulsus still yielded enough resolution to tell the difference between the two cartridges, but distinctions were more easily discernible via the Pulsare. Such performance makes for a phono preamplifier with which you should be able to grow through several rounds of cartridge/turntable upgrades.

Unlike the Pulsare, which took a week of continuous play to fully blossom, the Pulsus required just 48 hours to come out of its shell. Only slightly congested upon first turn-on, it quickly became a great performer. And since it draws about 10 watts, leave the Pulsus on to maximize your analog experience.

Blondie’s Autoamerican came alive with both the AVID Volvere SP/SME 309 and Rega P9 turntables, each boasting an identical Sumiko Pearwood Celebration II cartridge. While Blondie’s 1980 set is fairly dense and somewhat compressed, marginal LPs can sometimes be more telling of a phono preamplifier’s capability than meticulously mastered audiophile pressings. In this case, “Rapture” extended more pace and depth than I’m used to experiencing with other similarly priced phonostages.

KISS’ Alive! is another LP with very limited dynamic contrast, but again, the Pulsus impressed. The highly processed drum solo during “100,000 Years” actually had life and dimension, effortlessly revealing the differences between the US and Japanese pressings—a revelation that confirms the Pulsus as a serious audiophile tool.

As expected, the Pulsus shined when playing pristine recordings. Classic Records’ remaster of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s self-titled debut had so much depth, it prompted one of my audiophile pals to look behind the equipment rack to be sure that the Volvere wasn’t plugged into the adjacent Audio Research PH6. “Are you sure it doesn’t have at least one tube inside?,” he repeatedly asked, inspired by the natural presentation. The PH6 is similar in the sense that it does not sound overly tubey. Akin to its more expensive Pulsare, AVID managed to create a solid-state phonostage that’s both resolving and quiet, and yet not at all harsh.

The Pulsus’ wide dynamic range is another welcome treat. Music Matters’ recent pressing of Sonny Rollins’ Newk’s Time pinned me back in the listening chair. As Rollins’ sax blasted from between the speakers, felt like I was the dude in the famous Maxell ad. With the turntable already in 45RPM mode, there was no reason not to blitz through my growing 12-inch maxi-single collection. Spread onto the whole side of an album, the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” volunteered crushing guitars that convincingly approximated the live experience. In addition to verifying that there are many well-produced hip-hop tracks, Eazy-E’s “We Want Eazy” proved that the Pulsus indeed goes deep and advances a highly convincing bass groove.

The Pulsus holds its own amidst a sea of comparably priced products. The Lehman Black Cube SE, a previous favorite in the $1,500-$2,500 solid-state category, doesn’t claim the AVID’s bass grip or expansive soundstage. Another favorite, the EAR 834P, is almost the polar opposite of the AVID. Whereas the EAR puts a warm, romantic feel on everything—great if you have an overly forward-sounding cartridge/system—the AVID gives you what’s on the recording, with an excellent sense of pace that leaves the valve unit, by comparison, sounding slow.

On a related note, the Pulsus’ best aspect is its overall natural tonal balance, which makes it painless to integrate it into any system. By merely revealing the nature of the equipment to which it’s connected, it has neither a forward, etched character nor a warm, embellishing one.

The AVID Pulsus builds on the Pulsare’s success, offering high performance at a more accessible price, and combining neutral tonal balance with excellent resolution and a high degree of dynamic contrast without going so far as to become harsh. Moreover, its low noise floor and ease of adjustability put it at the top of its respective price class. If you’d like to skip the pointless Internet banter and get down to the business of listening to records, head to your dealer and sample the Pulsus. I’m guessing you’ll take one home.

July 2011 Ed Kobesky, Positive Feedback (USA)

I used to pass a Land Rover dealership on my commute and fell hopelessly in love with the LR3 V8. A test drive confirmed it was the toughest, cleverest, most regal and invincible car in its class. I was so smitten that I bought a Volvo XC90. Why? Because really, with reliability ratings near—or sometimes at—the very bottom of the charts, that Rover was inevitably going to break my heart.

What the entire British car industry should do is start visiting their counterparts in audio manufacturing. Anyone ever heard of a Rega breaking down? I had a 30-year-old Planar 3 that was recently passed on to yet another owner. My Spendor speakers will probably outlast me with a little maintenance here and there. Okay, sure, there have been exceptions but I have yet to have an issue with any piece of British made audio gear, new or vintage.

And so it seems with AVID. Their Diva II is built like a tank. It was supremely confident and effortlessly resolving—though also slightly aloof for my tastes. Granted, I like my analog to sound really analog, which is to say I'm skeptical of any turntable design conceived after, say, 1975. So it was with a mix of both excitement and trepidation that I welcomed AVID's new mid-priced phono preamplifier, the Pulsus.

I knew it would be thoughtfully engineered and well constructed in the same relentlessly purposeful manner as the company's turntables. I also suspected it would probably be resolving beyond its price point. My concern was, what if—like some other phono preamps in its price range—it was a little too focused on detail retrieval? That could make for a thrilling listen for those some, but certainly not for me.

After listening for a few hours, clearly I was wrong in terms of not only my expectations but also the company's design philosophy. The Pulsus isn't designed to sound like the company's turntables, or amplify any aspects of their performance. It's designed to get out of the way. Basically, throughout the course of my listening, it sounded like whatever it was connected to. It makes me think AVID should start working on a line stage, too.

The design is simple and purposeful. Two boxes: one housing the power supply, the other with everything else, connected via a captive umbilical. Three sets of easily accessible DIP switches on the bottom of the main unit allow the user to select from a vast array of gain and loading settings that should suit just about any cartridge on the market. I wish the umbilical cord were black instead of an ugly shade of gray. I'd be hard pressed to criticize the design beyond that.

It took me all of ten minutes to get it unpacked and hooked up. Setting the DIP switches to suit a given cartridge will be self-explanatory to most vinyl enthusiasts. The instruction manual offers a simple and useful explanation of its functions that will be helpful for novices. I tried moving the power supply to the left and right of the main unit and also relocating it to higher and lower shelves on my rack for better isolation. It didn't make any audible difference. Keeping the two units a half-foot apart in any direction was sufficient.

When the AVID arrived, I was using a phono stage with tube output because, frankly, it sounds tubey and I like that. Swapping it out for the AVID didn't provide the same jarring experience as switching to, say, my old Audio Research. The AVID lacked the coloration (and noise) of the tube unit but didn't sound conspicuously solid-state. In this case, it sounded like a 1980s Linn because that's what was playing through it. The sound was grippy and highly tuneful above all with a focus on musical flow.

I've long believed that, unless you're an incurable experimenter like me, you should buy the best phono stage you can afford on day one. So naturally I was keen to test my theory with a nice Harman/Kardon from the 1980s—the kind of thing one could pick up for $200 or $300 on the used market. The Pulsus let its strengths shine right on through, including good rhythm and timing with a fair sense of air and space. Yet it didn't ruthlessly rat out the table's mediocre bass performance or cabinet-induced colorations. The AVID focuses on the music. Hooked up to a Rega, it sounded like a Rega—pacey, a bit dry. You get the idea by now.

I was hard pressed to identify any overt character or significant deviation from neutrality. Unlike a lot of phono stages, this one won't hold back any front end at or near its price point in any way. The flip side is that if your table/arm/cartridge are already aggressive or overly explicit, the AVID won't step in and tone things down. I didn't have an AVID turntable on hand, but something tells me I'd love the massive soundstage and pinpoint imaging I've come to expect from the firm, while being somewhat less than enthusiastic about the conspicuously structured sound. Most others would probably be enthralled.

You should also know that, in addition to its long list of strengths, the Pulsus is extremely quiet, even with the lowest low-output moving coil cartridges in my collection. I tried using step up transformers, both of which were admittedly low priced, and preferred the sound without them. Moving magnet or moving coil (or moving iron), high output or low, the Pulsus always delivered the goods.

At $1599, it's not cheap but, like AVID's entry-level turntables, makes a fantastic argument for itself. First, it offers some degree of trickle-down engineering from the $4999 Pulsare, though less obviously than in the company's turntable range. Second, it's essentially neutral and works well with a wide range of turntables, arms and cartridges. Third, it's totally un-fussy and made to last a good long time. Finally, for novices, it begs the question, why waste time and money slowly inching your way up the entry-level ladder when you can get one of these now? You'll enjoy every last drop of performance your entry-level turntable has to offer and appreciate the more expensive rig you someday hope for when that day comes.

So, an unqualified recommendation for AVID's Pulsus. Whether you're shopping in this price range or not it deserves a listen. It may convince you to spend a little less than you expected, or a little more than you'd hoped. Either way, unless you yearn for some specific coloration, the AVID will provide as spacious, bold, detailed, tuneful, and layered a performance as your front end is capable of; up to and somewhat beyond its price point. It will also last a long time. If I ever decide to start living in the analog present, this is likely the phono stage I'll buy.

November 2010 Deon Schoeman, AudioVideo South Africa (ZA)

Phono pre-amps face a tricky task. They have to receive the often miniscule signal from a phono cartridge (especially if the cartridge is a low-output moving coil design) and then amplify that signal to a level where it can be accepted by the line-level input of a pre-amp.

Vitally, it needs to retain the integrity of that signal, while not injecting any external artefacts - especially noise - to the process. And to make matters worse, the phono stage needs to be able to deal with the idiosyncrasies of individual cartridges, including the often critical resistance loading.

The resurgence of vinyl and its associated hardware has seen a revitalised demand for phono stages, especially since modern integrated amps and pre-amps rarely cater for phono applications - and even more rarely for low-output MC cartridges.

The AVID Pulsus is the second phono stage offered by the UK manufacturer of turntables such as the Diva II, the Volvere and the Acutus. It’s effectively a stripped-down version of AVID’s high-end Pulsare phono stage, but retains key elements such as extensive configurability and an off-board power supply.

The two-box device consists of a the main control unit and the power supply, both contained in all-metal casework finished in industrial matt black with white AVID graphics. The control unit offers a pair of gold-plated RCA inputs and an accompanying ground lug, as well as a matching pair of RCA outputs. A dedicated XLR-style socket accepts the juice from the separate power supply.

The underside of the phono stage features a series of jumpers, arranged symmetrically for the left and right channels. These allow gain, resistance and capacitance to be adjusted to ensure close compatibility with any number of cartridges across the moving magnet and moving coil spectrum.

Under the covers, the selected-quality circuit components include top-class capacitors, while the regulated power supply is a key design feature aimed at ensuring very low noise levels.

I ran the Pulsus in conjunction with my Linn LP12/Ittok/Ortofon Cadenza Black record deck, as well as with my AVID Diva II/Origin Live Encounter/Benz Micro Wood L2 deck. A Rega 3/OL1/Ortofon 2M Red combo was used to try out the Pulsus with a MM source.

Starting with Holly Cole’s ‘Don’t’ Smoke In Bed’, the Pulsus displayed a lively, pacey delivery. This is a phono stage that has plenty of attack. It never allowed the heavy bass passages to sound flabby or overpowering: the sonorous bass guitar snapped and crackled with energy.

Cole’s voice was rendered with richness, but never to the point of sounding bloated or over-saturated. Her vocals were allowed to soar unfettered above the instruments, the soundstage providing plenty of air and space. The Pulsus always retained its grip on the music, but never let that grip stifle the performance.

The AVID picked up the nuances and details in the music with ease. It facilitated an unencumbered view of the music, with every instrument, every voice, clearly audible and clearly contextualised. By extracting the strong emotional content of the performance, the Pulsus also promoted close involvement with the music.

The phono pre-amp proved to be a good companion for the Ortofon Cadenza Black - it acknowledged the cartridge’s revealing treble and deep bass, as well as its penchant for wide open spaces and extremely low noise levels, talking of which, this is a very quiet phono pre-amp.

Moving on to Bob Dylan’s ‘Together Through Life’ double set, the Pulsus treated the rollicking, hillbilly arrangements and Dylan’s hoarse, asinine voice with deferent accuracy. Again, it showcased the tremendous tonal range of the Cadenza Black, yet never allowed the big, resonant acoustic bass to dominate - even though it bordered on sounding too boisterous at times.

The AVID achieved excellent stereo focus and paid close attention to fine detail, which made for a powerful, enthralling sound picture. Not only did the instruments sound compelling and real, with almost tangible body and presence, but there was integrity and a cohesion to the music that made the music seem alive and, well, real. Again, the noise floor was extremely low, adding to the almost visceral quality of the sound.

One of my current favourite LPs is Jeff Beck’s ‘Emotion and Commotion’. Master guitarist Beck’s searing, passionate guitar can cut a sound system to ribbons, but the Pulsus managed to retain the attack and finely honed edge of Beck’s playing, while steering clear of any abrasiveness. His guitar riffs sounded rich and fulfilling, floating above the tight rhythm section that is percussionist Vinnie Colaiuta and Tal Wilkenfeld on bass. The intricate guitar passages, and the many facets of the instrument Beck manages to extract, were faithfully and compellingly reproduced.

Again, the Pulsus showed off its talent for pace and momentum, as well as a penchant for a grand, open, holographic soundstage that sounded real enough to walk into, and to shake Jeff by the hand ...

On the Tacet label’s ‘The Tube Only Night Music’, the sublime, tube-only recording of the Polish Chamber Orchestra performing Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ revealed the Pulsus’ ability to make the most of fine, detail.

The silvery violins on this record shimmered exuberantly, while the violas and cellos provided a richly resonant foundation. Again, the phono stage impressed with its nimble, athletic dynamics, its tonal depth, and its ability to place the music on an expansive, open and thoroughly accessible soundstage.

This album also highlighted how dead quiet this phono pre-amp is. The music was vividly etched against a dark, deeply silent backdrop, completely devoid of any electronic artefacts, and thus creating the illusion of being transported right into the heart of the concert hall.

The AVID Pulsus is an accurate, musically truthful phono pre-amp with extensive scope for configurability, ensuring superior compatibility with many different phono cartridges. In sheer performance terms, it’s good enough to accompany some fairly serious phono kit, and will delight vinyl lovers with its pace, dynamics, accuracy - and, above all, its musical integrity.

September 2010 David Price, HIFI World Magazine - (5 Globes) (UK)

Conrad Mas obviously has ants in his pants, as his company AVID can't sit still. Last year, amidst the depths of the recession, he confessed to me that whilst so much of the industry had retrenchment fever, hurriedly cutting product lines, destocking and trying to save every last ha'ppeny bit, AVID was on the march.

It was a long time ago since AVID launched its first turntable, but the company has burgeoned since. We've recently seen more and more turntables at differing price points (previously AVID was strictly medium high-end; now they go down almost to budget price points and right up to Russian oil billionaire level), there's the promise of several new tonearms and now a range of electronics too.

Don't think Conrad is content to stop at phono stages though; it seems he's up for taking the fight to the amplifier market too!

The Pulsus is the entry level AVID phono stage, costing an honest £1,000 which puts it into contention with a number of very accomplished performers. AVID say it's basically a low calorie version of the high end Pulsare, "Many of the Pulsare's features have been retained such as the switchable flexibility and separate power supply", they say. It's said to be designed from "first principles", and is an unbalanced design, but one that still attempts to keep noise exceptionally low.

Pulsus employs quality components; inputs and outputs are gold-plated RCA. Gain, resistance and capacitance are all easily adjustable from the underside of the casework and offer real flexibility. A passive RIAA (with Neumann HF correction) circuit using high-end capacitors is said to help maintain linearity of reproduction; and an external 35VA regulated power supply is used. It offers switchable gain of variously, 48dB, 60dB, 70dB and resistance loading of 100R, 300R, 500R, 1K, 5K, 10K 47K and capacitance loading of 100pf, 200pf and 500pf.

If you've every auditioned AVID turntables before, you'll know they have a distinctive sound; think big, widescreen, 'architectural', panoramic, dynamic, explicit and forceful, with a nice measure of subtlety mixed in for good measure. Such is the Pulsus; it's no shrinking violet as far as phono stages go. Instead of being one of those late night, whisky fuelled, jazz bar ambience designs, all silky and smoochy and smokey, the AVID cuts to the musical chase.

Talk Talk's 'Talk Talk' was a great showcase for its talents; a thumping early eighties slice of power pop, produced to thrill with passion and pace. The Pulsus set up a very wide soundstage across the room, dropping back more than I'd expected at the price, and located instruments with pin-point precision.

Crashing piano chords, jagged guitar riffs and those heavily compressed, processed vocals all ushered forth from the AVID at breakneck speed. It was particularly interested in the attack transients of the Linn drums, pushing them to the fore with utter belief. By contrast, my reference ANT Audio Kora 3T Ltd. seemed a tad subdued, more backward in coming forward, if you pardon the phrase. There was more energy from the AVID, and a complete sense of self belief that made it a hoot to hear.

The pattern continued with Fun Lovin' Criminals' 'King Of New York'; the Pulsus obviously loves pacey pop, dance or rap, as it thumped the song out with cowering bass, giving lie to any claim that Compact Disc is able to equal in this respect. Fast, punchy, fluid and rollickingly good fun to listen to, the AVID set up a bass groove that had me on the edge of my luxuriously appointed sofa, transported to a far more intense environment. Across the mid the Pulsus showed its spacial strengths, throwing out an ethereal trumpet sound, and giving real bite and grain to vocals. Up top, this phono stage didn't guild the lily; whereas the ANT Audio was a touch silkier and glossier, the AVID delivered a lovely 'live' hi hat cymbal sound, sharp and hard and biting, punching out of an inky black soundstage.

Feed in some classic techno in the shape of Kraftwerk's 'Computer Welt' and the AVID again impressed; it was controlled, detailed and utterly assured in the large soundstage it set up. All the different strands of the mix were positioned precisely, this new phono stage doing just the right thing when the heavily vocoded "Computerwelt" refrain kicked in, by panning the sound extreme stage left and right. Meanwhile, a powerful, insistent bass line warbled along in the background, counterpointed by lots of lovely midband detailing as elements of the electronic percussion backing jumped out at me. Again, treble was open and spacious, yet had real bite.

Here is a super £1,000 phono stage. In an already cut-throat group the AVID Pulsus comes straight into the top five, in my view, from nowhere. Indeed, if you're a fan of powerful rock and pop, it's highly likely to make your own personal number one spot. Of course, phono stages are very personal things, which is why an audition is always essential, but AVID has certainly distinguished itself with the Pulsus; it's the personification of power and passion in a market that doesn't have enough of it.