AVID “T"s Off with Low Priced Ingenium Turntable

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!

Simple Set-up

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.

Feickert Platterspeed App Chart Result

The test record’s 3150Hz fluctuating tone shown in yellow, low pass filtered to remove groove eccentricity effects in green.

Feickert Platterspeed App Numerical Result

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).

The Competition

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.

Conclusion

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.

COMPANY INFO
AVID HIFI Ltd
Bicton Industrial Park
Kimbolton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
PE28 OLW England
info@avidhifi.co.uk
+44(0)1480 869 900

COMMENTS
jazz and cocktails's picture

I love the design, and think you'd be hard pressed to beat it for >$2500, including the Dyna 10x5. i have a Diva II SP, but had been considering the ingenium initially. still think it's sweet deal, and as your importer said, "it makes music." isn't that what we're all here for?

Ortofan's picture

would you choose the stock Ingenium over the Concept?
With the add-on speed controller units, you're closing in on the price of a Performance DC (or a VPI Classic 1)
Time for a turntable survey?

AnalogJ's picture

Mikey, you write that this platter comes with a "scew-on weight." I was half expecting an Elmer Fudd-like "he-he-he-he". With the all awuminium VPI pwattah, do you get qwietah backgwounds?. He-he-he-he. :-)

Michael Fremer's picture
Did I really write that the platter comes with a "screw on weight"? I don't recall writing that and it doesn't!
AnalogJ's picture

You wrote that a "scew-on" weight is an extra add-on option. It's above.

akovo's picture

Oh...this looks cool! I've been thinking about adding the Wave Mechanic PSU to my Nottingham TT, and have been hawking all of the normal second hand sites because it feels pretty spendy at full retail. The combination of price and the fact that the Falcon is US made is enough to make me pull the trigger. Thanks for the tip, Mikey!

Michael Fremer's picture
on the Falcon
Primo's picture

Where did you mount the sensor on this table, as there really is no place except maybe the end of the bearing beam?

Michael Fremer's picture
At first, just to see it in action, I put little plastic stick-on "thingies" on the sub platter, which raised the platter sufficiently for the magnet attached to the platter underside to clear the chassis on the high side near the tone arm. Then it was a matter of raising the Hall señor circuit board sufficiently high for the magnet to affect the sensor. Any kind of platform you can make will do. The circuit board has to be very close to the platter bottom (something I'll get into in the full review).

The problem with that was that the raised platter messed with SRA so I removed the plastic risers on the sub platter and instead put the magnet on the side of the platter.Then I devised a vertical device to elevate the circuit board and Hall sensor to meet the magnet position. It worked fine. Were it a permanent installation I would have found a more stable, permanent solution. I didn't see it as a problem.

uniqueusername's picture

I bought my $20 hall sensor off ebay. I mount my magnet on my Sota clamp (hey, a circle is a circle, an RPM is an RPM, isn't it?) where it is out of the way. My sensor hangs down from above in mid-air to read the magnet going by. I put the sensor on a telescoping arm of a $3 tool from Harbor Freight so I can retract it out of the way easily. It does not control my speed like the $600 Falcon pair for sure, but does monitor it in real time, I can see if I have drift and adjust when needed.

I hope Falcon licenses these pair to all (should be) embarrassed manufacturers who have the gall to charge thousands of dollars for tables that cannot spin at a constant and correct speed. Manufactured at volume, they should be able to integrate these for a minimal price increase.

Dual utilized hall sensors on tables in the 1970s, so this ain't new stuff.

jazz and cocktails's picture

Mickey, you gave the mat short shrift- it's identical to the one on my diva, and i love it- love that's integrated into the platter as well.

Michael Fremer's picture
I felt it was integrated and I couldn't compare it to anything else so I just mentioned it.
Primo's picture

Conrad Mass had produced 2 Ingeniums for a USA show. Serial numbers 70001 and 70002. I bought 70002 with an SME M2-9 arm mounted with a Dynavector 10x5. I really enjoy this table. I had two Rega RP-6 tables, and had arm problems with both tables. I had enough of that and struck a deal for the Avid. I am glad the Rega tables gave me trouble or I wouldn't have gotten this table. I am very interested in your review of the Falcon an Roadrunner. Move that to the front of your plate...please, you know it will taste good.

Michael Fremer's picture
I'm waiting for a software-upgraded tachometer and once it arrives I'll write the full review...
Brother John's picture

MC Cartridge Mikey as possible replacement for my aging Shelter501MKII. Great review by the way. An old friend at Muscidrect just told me he loves the Quintet Black so really Interested to read your take. I just purchased a demo VPI Classic 1 and was going to upgrade to something like the entry level $1650.00 Lyra because Argo Isn't In my budget so looking for alternatives right now.

Rudy's picture

I'm anxious to read a good Quintet Black review as well. I doubt I'd say it's comparable to the 2M Black, which I own and think it is one of the worst trackers I've ever heard. (This is even after aligning the price of crap with a USB microscope and oscilloscope!). I am dumbfounded they put a nice Shibata on a fat, high mass aluminum cantilever (which is also resonant as hell and gives the 2M its pesky response in the highs). The Quintet mounts the same Shibata on a skinny boron cantilever that is far lower in mass. I'd love to see a direct comparison between the Quintet and a Dynavector 17D3 (which I've heard and like quite a bit).

Ortofan's picture

...the optional record clamp (aka "screw on weight") - which requires fitting of a threaded spindle - makes a discernible improvement in sound quality. If you still have the Ingenium in house, can you get the clamp and try it out?

Also, a review from Australia mentioned that all Ingeniums shipped to Oz would include the clamp as standard equipment. Maybe Avid has decided to do this world-wide, or is the clamp going to remain optional for certain markets in order to hit a particular price point?

jkilla's picture

has the clamp. I haven't found it makes a huge difference in sound quality (I would say that the difference is subtle at most), although it does a great job with warped records and also ensuring the record travels at the speed of the platter.

Irreversible's picture

Extremely ugly...

Primo's picture

Stop looking in the mirror

howardk's picture

I've noticed that many audiophile turntables, with the exception of Rega, do not include a cover, and in most cases a third-party cover is expensive or not available. I can't imagine leaving my turntable exposed to the "elements", especially when playing records. How do you deal with that?

jkilla's picture

I've owned an ingenium for about 8 months now, I agree with all of the points made by Michael here. Really glad that this is NOT a fluff piece put out by your typical hifi review writer.

The speed issue is something I noticed as well. It really flirts between audible and inaudible, but for sustained notes it is easier to notice. It still remains a highly enjoyable turntable, though to invest in a speed controller at that price, I think I'd rather get another table. Does anyone know if the DIVA units have this same weakness?

Michael Fremer's picture
I reviewed on for Stereophile and didn't notice a speed issue.
utahusker's picture

I'm curious if the power supply from a Diva II could be adapted to the Ingenium.

The people that upgraded their Diva II's to SP's, would have an extra power supply laying around, including me. There would need to be some rewiring of the power cable with DIN connectors, but I think it would be better than the inline on/off switch.

Michael Fremer's picture
The Diva II's motor is a 24V unit. The Ingenium plugs directly into the wall and so is a 110V motor. You'd have to change the motor and add the power supply.
utahusker's picture

I guess I should have looked up the specs before posting. I was thinking they installed a cheap power supply in the switch thingy.

Hey now!