AVID Hifi is headed up by Conrad Mas and make a wide range of turntables to suit many pockets. Janine Elliot gets her hands on the British company’s £4000 Volvere turntable.
When I think of turntables and stunning looks one name, AVID, always comes to mind. With their precision build quality and great visual attraction, you can be sure they have rustled up a product worthy of a listen. When I first encountered them a number of years ago I thought they were a model range of a famous German company, until I was clear that that this was indeed a British audio company that could produce such high levels of engineering and design. Whilst CEO, Conrad Mas’s mother might have arrived from Spain and his father from Australia, Conrad is English born and bred, and very proud of it.
AVID started its life back in 1995, and in 21 years is now regarded as one of the premier turntable manufacturers in the world, recently extending their expertise into phonostages, loudspeakers, preamps, power-amps, cables, alignment equipment, racks – the list just goes on – and soon tonearms and cartridges. At their manufacturing base in Kimbolton, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, not only do they make products under the AVID banner, but also design and manufacture for other companies within the audio, automotive, medical and military industries.
Conrad Mas has had a history of engineering and hifi. His interest in hifi stems from buying a Connoisseur BD1 plus Acos Lustre arm from a friend at the age of 16 and spending hours trying to improve it, which led eventually to him creating his first Acutos T turntable in 1995. His varied career in between included insurance and glazing, Musical Fidelity and Acoustic Arts in Watford.
Whilst the entry point AVID Ingenium is a very able machine at only £800, the Acutus Reference is at the other end of the scale, and quite simply stunning in both looks and performance. However, whilst the Acutus range starts from £10,000 rising to £25,000, it is nice to see that many of their ideas have been filtered down into the Volvere, up for review here, ranging from the design philosophy to the bearing, clamping and suspension. This is a similarly well-built and equally good looking mid-range turntable but at the much lower price of £4,000.
Set Up and Tech
The Volvere is a belt-drive, two-piece turntable with 3-point sprung sub-chassis that is fairly easy to assemble, especially with the instruction booklet with great photos; something other manufacturers could learn much from. Even pictures of what the internal packaging looks like makes assembly that much easier. Reviewing several products a month means taking hours unpacking, reading manuals and then attempting to re-package it all to send back, and is not something I look forward to. I just want to listen to music.
Taking the lead from the more expensive turntables the Volvere comes in two defined levels; the sub chassis on top of the main chassis is reinforced with a ‘W’ brace so that it has built in rigidity in the important areas with crumple zones like on cars so that the energy can be dissipated where it is not needed. The arm is fitted to this sub chassis, meaning the very critical set up can be done before connecting to the main suspended chassis. This unit has three legs which fit into the suspension cups of the main chassis. There are lateral suspension O-rings around the top of the feet of the main chassis which are stretched and clipped onto the underside of the sub-chassis. This converts undesirable rocking modes into the vertical plane, and because the frequency of suspension is lower than that of the arm and cartridge (at around 3.5Hz), when the suspension moves the cartridge moves with perfect linearity. The platter is a solid aluminium beast with brass centre point at the spindle, and with a fixed cork layer on the top rather than being loose as on some turntables. This is a welcome sight, meaning better linkage between the platter, record and record clamp.
Once the sub-chassis is inserted, levelling of the turntable can be done using the supplied Allen wrench. Also, the suspension joints can be adjusted so that they work at the same frequency; bear in mind the weight of the arm will mean the balance of the sub chassis on one of these feet will be heavier and therefore of a lower frequency, so the other feet need to be adjusted to match, usually by the retailer or AVID when adding the arm. Think of three different sinewave signals joined together; at certain times in the cycle the added total will be a higher point, meaning a repeating peak. This is the basis that piano tuners use to tune pianos, listening for audible beats each second when playing two notes a 4th apart to know that the interval between the two notes being tuned is correct. Most turntables will be repeatedly bouncing and then wobbling as these frequency variations coincide. Simply having a system on the turntable that levels the deck won’t on its own correct the frequency differences. External vibrations are also isolated by this unique AVID variable frequency suspension system. Another important factor is the vibration caused by the stylus on the record. Rather than going to the arm or absorbed into the platter, vibrations are transmitted to the sub-chassis directly through the main bearing via the mat and clamping system. Conrad explained;
“The mat acts as a mechanical impedance mismatch, thereby keeping the vibration in the record which is then coupled to the main bearing via the central brass fitting which acts as a mechanical grounding point for the vibration to be transmitted to the sub-chassis”.
Many years ago some manufacturers promoted felt mats to be placed under the record. This simply meant that vibrations would just stay there rather than being dissipated or removed.
The Volvere in its SP guise now includes a varispeed DSP controlled signal-generating power supply, and improved mains transformer, which totally removes the inconsistency of speed caused by the unpredictable household mains. Motor stability and vibration is also improved, because a better mains improves the ability of the motor to work at its best, and hence noise, vibration etc is reduced. There is no insertion of distortion or harmonics into the signal. The modified 24V ac synchronous Crouzt motor attains 55mNm, which means there is exceptionally high torque, something usually found only on direct drive motors. AVID have always used motors from this French company. Attaining full speed is done within a second, with no belt slipping but a noticeable noise, beating most of the competition at the starting gate. This formula 1 motor is no slouch at the traffic lights and then is silent when it really matters. On the AVID Volvere Sequel SP turntable the refined power supply is taken from the Acutus (adding another £1500 to the cost) with a whopping 140mNm torque, giving even better control of speed stability. The introduction of twin belts keeps that regulation even more precise and aids getting the record to full speed in a very short time after switch on, as well as removing the chances of slippage from a single belt. Like thick tyres on the back of a car it gives more control and improves belt life as there is less strain. However, having twin belts connected between the sub-platter could mean setting up the turntable would require considerable dexterity with the fingers were it not for the clever belt fitting pin; The belts are fixed around the sub platter and stretched past the pin that is screwed into the underside of the platter, which means the belt protrudes beyond the motor when the platter is placed on the turntable spindle, and then after revolving the platter a smidgen to line up with the indents of the motor capstans, the pin is then removed making it easy to get the two belts in the right place. It is bad enough trying to get a single belt connected to a motor that is hidden under the platter and much harder if there are two belts, so this simple device is a clever and welcome addition. Just remember to unscrew it after setting up! The turntable has a revised stainless steel bearing which has further improved the platter dynamics plus tungsten carbide/sapphire thrust point. This requires no lubrication, though careful set up including fitting of the platter would be advised and expected with this thoroughbred.
Listening to favourite albums my immediate observation was the control this turntable had on the music. Whether through my Manley/Krell system or via the Entotem Plato Class-A amplifier, the music was in charge. London Grammar ‘If You Wait’ is an exceptionally recorded and mastered album on 45rpm. “Stay Awake” was very moving and bass was extended with Hannah Reid’s voice calm and controlled; a mixture Florence and the Machine, Judie Tzuke and Goldfrapp. The trio produce a scarcity of music structure, but with plenty of reverb and effects over her gentle voice and the Benz Silver cartridge on the SME 4 arm gave a very detailed and painless performance, allowing all detail to last to the very last millisecond, with no hint of floor noise or rumble, showing just why vinyl cannot be beaten. “Wasting my Young Years” was released as a single in 2013, reaching number 31 and this track gave a clear and extended bass response and clarity in the top that was infectious.
The standard Volvere power supply is deceptive in use; the big knob on the left turns the unit off and on, and press “speed” control to change between 33 or 45. Finite speed adjustment is carried out by pressing the “play” and “speed” buttons simultaneously and then pressing either to alter in small increments. I initially thought the big knob would have an indented normal speed centre point and turning left or right would decrease or increase the speed. That would be too simple! The LED next to the speed button changes between green and yellow for 33 and 45 respectively, though these and the red “play” LED are not easily distinguished if the unit is in direct sunlight.
In use I found the power supply unit gave a very accurate check on speed of the modified 24v 55mNm ac synchronous motor, allowing the Benz Micro Silver cartridge to just concentrate on making the music. Playing the 180g 2015 Rox Vox remaster of Rush “Xanadu” there was a very definite hum at the start of the track at 15Hz recorded on the album that the cartridge and arm faithfully portrayed with no sign of turntable anxiety; a faulty lead at the live recording in Kiel Auditorium, St Louis Missouri in 1980, must have gone unnoticed. I didn’t need to play my Ortofon test disc test-frequency tracks to realise that this turntable/arm combo was now set up to perfection and that likely stylus bounce was out of the question.
The revised bearing design improved platter dynamics, giving a greater depth and gusto to the music than I could have hoped for with such a modest cartridge as the Silver, but there was also a clear bond between turntable, arm and cartridge to produce a musicality that is hard to achieve at £4000. This Volvere wasn’t reproducing the music, it was literally playing it!
I love reviewing turntables; always seeing how different manufacturers employ different methods to get the best portrayal of the music. If only all manufacturers could get together to make the definitive player. But, like peeling potatoes, there is more than one way of doing it.
Coming in silver or black finishes, the AVID Volvere is a breath of fresh air in terms of pairing physics with musicality. There is no need to quote signal to noise or wow and flutter figures as numbers don’t enter the equation when I am enjoying music as much as this.
Build Quality: Clever use of mixing technology, science, maths and music in a solid, well built and good looking product
Sound Quality: Well controlled capture and performing of music, with no hint of stress or angst
Value For Money: With many ideas from the £10,000 – £25,000 Acutus, this £4000 mid-priced turntable performs with admirable aptitude. No wonder Avid turntables are finding their way into so many rooms at hifi shows
Well-built, and good looking design
Not influenced by external vibrations
High torque motor reaching playing speed in around a second
Excellent instructions to get set up in a short time
Not sure about that big knob on the power supply
Nothing else at £4000
Drive: Twin Belt drive
Speeds: 33.3 and 45.0 RPM
Platter mass: 6.7 Kg
Bearing: Inverted stainless steel
Thrust point: Tungsten carbide/Sapphire
Suspension: 3 point, springs in vertical, o-rings in lateral frequency, vertical 3.2 Hz (variable), lateral 4.5 Hz
Tonearms: Std. cut for SME (adapters to order)
Motor: Modified 24v 55mNm ac synchronous
Power supply: DSP Vari-SPeed control unit
Voltage input: 100-240vac 50/60Hz 20 watts max. (depending on region)
Dimensions: Turntable (overall) 425 x 370 x 205mm (WxDxH)
Net weight: 12.5Kg turntable, 2.2Kg psu
Five Year Warranty – Upon Product Registration