AVID HIFI is well known and respected for their high-end turntables, loudspeakers and electronics, but their INGENIUM PLUG&PLAY turntable is just £1250 (with the option of an upgraded platter at £350) and is, as its name suggests, Plug and Play, coming as it does with arm and cartridge ready to go. Janine Elliot plugs it into her system and lets it play.

I am old enough to remember the Garrard sp25iii and BSR equivalent turntables. A plug-and-play affair. A bit like my first PYE record player or dad’s PYE radiogram. You bought it, took it out of its packaging, plugged it in and you were off. The arm and cartridge were already set-up for use, and unless you changed the cartridge you never ever needed to find a screwdriver or get weighing scales. Now over the past few years, a number of manufacturers have brought out modern-day equivalents, some with built-in phono-stages and even ADC’s. Very user-friendly for today’s busy customer. AVID HIFI’s INGENIUM PLUG&PLAY turntable is a modern-day take on the old format, a turntable complete with arm and cartridge all set up. AVID’s CEO Conrad Mas has had a love affair with turntables since a child, buying a Connoisseur BD1 turntable and Acos Lustre arm at the age of 16 and spent much time on improving it. This led appropriately to him forming AVID in 1995 with his own first turntable, the ACUTUS, and then extending manufacture over the years to that of loudspeakers, preamps, power-amps, phono-stages, arms, cartridges and racks.

CONSTRUCTION

Despite its promotion as a “Plug and Play” you will still need around 10 to 15 minutes to get it all set up, though assembling the turntable is not something to fear as it gives you a good knowledge on how it all works and how to look after it.  What was apparent as I got all the pieces out of the box was that despite its diminutive price tag of £1250, this was no less an AVID product; it was still solid and substantive engineering, as seen in their much more expensive turntables.  Most of what you see when you have set up the cute INGENIUM is the platter and arm, but hidden away beneath the cork-topped MDF platter is where all the work goes on; The plinth is a ‘T’ shaped solid aluminium affair, in my case, it was a special edition white version, otherwise, it is in black. It has three large sticky optimised elastomer feet with a felt base (so it doesn’t stick to your rack!)

Even with the base model, you can see similarities with more expensive AVID turntables. Indeed, CEO Conrad Mas’s design philosophy is to design the very best and trickle it down to cheaper models, so those sticky feet, the sapphire bearing and cork platter all come from the DIVA II. Oh, and that iconic AVID record clamp that is a familiar sight on all the turntables (except that is the clamp coming with the ACUTUS Classic, which is a fully adjustable version) comes as standard with the INGENIUM, unlike many manufacturers who will charge extra for such things. You can even get a cover for the turntable, should you want one.

AVID HIFI build to a performance level they deem appropriate for the model and then add the appropriate price. Their ACUTUS is still the turntable that many others set as their goal, the turntable that started AVID into their world of hifi. The ACUTUS was radical in the way it transferred vibrations away from the important area of the cartridge. Vibration caused during playback is transmitted to the sub-chassis directly through their unique single-point bearing rather than being absorbed into the platter. The INGENIUM PLUG&PLAY similarly transfers vibrations away from the all-important area of the cartridge as Conrad explained;

“The INGENIUM PLUG&PLAY offers the same bearing clamp system common to all our turntables. This reduces the noise floor within the record, lowering colouration, improving cartridge trackability and all-important, making everything sound better. The Sorbothane feet help absorb some of the vibration passed from the record into the main chassis via the bearing and also isolate the whole turntable from acoustic feedback.”

The original INGENIUM turntable has now been rotating since 2013. The new INGENIUM PLUG&PLAY has sonic improvements on the former and is significantly less expensive, even more reason to be considered as a benchmark for entry-level turntables. Its solid construction and small size certainly make it an attractive model to purchase, especially if you are short on space or want something that actually looks quite cute, as against the more butch looks of their more expensive models.

I had great fun setting up this turntable, as I do any that finds its way on to my hifi stand. AVID suggest around 10 minutes to set up the turntable, but it took me almost as long working out how to get all the gear out of the box; this was a brilliantly engineered packing system!

Once set up, the turntable is a very minimalistic looking device and much different from their iconic ACUTUS, for example. The Turntable looking down from above looks really petite, but the chassis, complete with arm/cartridge is a substantial piece of metal, embossed with the iconic AVID “A”.

Assembling the INGENIUM PLUG&PLAY is straightforward. Firstly, the chassis is placed on a flat surface. Then a ball bearing is placed at the top of the central shaft to which the drive hub is sat on top. Then the 115/230v 12mNm ac synchronous motor and belt are positioned to allow the drive hub to rotate. The motor is made by Crouzet, chosen due to its high torque and stability, and a make they have been using for three decades. The motor certainly gets up to speed quickly and has no problem revolving the record and heavy clamp. Although it has no regulation it runs immaculately to speed.

Finally, the platter is placed over the hub assembly. Turning on is simple. The motor switch is on the mains cable, a bit like those seen on heated under-blankets, done to keep costs down, and whilst this is a cost-efficient design you do need to make sure you have easy access to the lead. To change the speed you need to remove the platter and change the belt from one of the grooves to the other (small groove for 33⅓ and larger diameter for 45rpm). Not quite as simple as ancient P&P turntables such as the Trio KD1033, Pioneer PL12d or Dual CS 505, but significantly better performance!

All you need to do before playing the INGENIUM is to connect the tonearm counterweight as far as it goes on the rear of the arm, which is the pre-set point for balancing the cartridge. That arm and moving magnet cartridge labelled as TA-1 and CA-1 respectively, bear striking resemblance to those from a well-known arm manufacturer whose products will probably have been on one of your turntables during your hifi journey. The interconnect cable is nothing fancy, though listening tests were good, so it can’t be all that bad. The record clamp is reasonably heavy and screws into the spindle, bonding the record to the platter and bearing. Now you are all set to play.

For this review, I mated the INGENIUM with the new AVID integrated amplifier, the INTEGRA. The INGENIUM comes as an integrated model, so no offers of different arms or cartridges, however, they do offer an aluminium platter as an upgrade, which I get to try out later.

LISTENING

There is no speed adjustment, on the INGENIUM, but this cute player sings in perfect pitch. The first musical outing was a remaster of Dvorak’s New World Symphony (Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra). This is a great performance of the symphony written in 1893 whilst he was the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America. The recording has excellent depth of sound covering all frequencies, and only some grittiness in the mid frequencies spoilt the listening, though the cartridge was very reasonable in extracting the detail in the recording. For that reason, I turned to the remaster of ELO’s ‘OUT of the Blue’ album. This can sound similarly over detailed in the midrange, but the turntable, arm and cartridge worked well together to give excellent instrumental and vocal timbres, covering the basslines to the cymbals with equal aplomb. Only the very lowest frequencies were slightly subdued. The violins in “It’s Over” show a slight lack of clarity, though it has great fortitude, showing the cartridge’s limitations. It is, though, by no means a bad cartridge, and certainly an excellent starting point for this turntable. On track three the strings were much more balanced but there was still a slight lacking on lowest bass frequencies. The soundstage from this un-branded cartridge was good, and my favourite track “Across the Border” gave a good sense of acoustic flair. Playing the Kate Bush remaster ‘Hounds of Love’, all instruments and vocals were compelling, and depth of field was surprisingly good – even to the extent of pinpointing slight changes in microphone positioning on side 2, track 1, “And Dream of Sheep”.

So far so good, but then I was sent an aluminium platter to replace the MDF one that comes as standard. A £350 upgrade, but was it worth the extra dosh? Firstly, using the supplied MDF platter I played Supertramp’s “Live” album recorded in France in 1979. There is a lot of ambience in this album but the MDF platter kept everything more central than I would like and the vocals adding a bit of sibilance. The MM cartridge worked ably but I still felt the bass end could do with more verve. Adding the aluminium platter was a no brainer; the treble was not only tighter but more prominent and that bass end was extended, for example, the bass drum at the start. The high-torque motor doesn’t have any problem in coping with the heavier platter, the latter neatly fitting in place on four holes around the drive hub. Just using this new platter turned the turntable well north of £2000 in value. Next, I put on John Mayall’s ‘A Special Life’ with the track “Like a Fool”. That extra bass and a more accurately presented percussion made this track much more musical and enjoyable. Without the aluminium mat the Hammond Organ didn’t come across as well as I know it could, but with the upgraded platter the music came to life, and the moving magnet cartridge didn’t seem like the weakest link any more. From what was in comparison a just-so performance the music went on to be an infectiously toe-tapping experience. Going back to the wooden platter the music lost some of its excitement and felt slower. Remember that ELO album I played earlier? That aluminium platter significantly controlled the mid-range. Tracks were now more exciting and revealing. If you do buy this excellent turntable, I would strongly advise you to save up for the improved platter!

CONCLUSION

For a plug and play turntable this was a stonker of a machine; a very able arm, excellent motor and a sound that matched. If you have the money to purchase the aluminium platter then this will take the music performance even higher, improving bass end and detail at the top. With the aluminium platter, the AVID HIFI INGENIUM PLUG&PLAY is getting seriously close to outstanding for the price and even with the MDF platter it offers serious value for money.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality: Typical AVID HIFI engineering which looks lovely as well!

Sound Quality:  An honest performance, with a warm midrange

Value for Money: £1250 for an AVID is a bargain!

Pros: Excellent dynamics. An honest reproduction of the music. Adding the platter upgrade takes the sound to a completely new level.

Cons: Slight mid-range emphasis and slightly recessed lower-bass. Cartridge is the weakest link.

Price: £1250 + £350

 

 

 

 

 

Janine Elliot

Review Equipment:

AVID Integra amplifier and phono-stage; Ecosse SMS2.4 speaker cable; Wilson Benesch Arc and Graham Audio LS5/9 loudspeakers with Townshend Supertweeter; IsoTek mains conditioner, Townshend rack.

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