I’m not what you would call an early adopter. I resisted getting a mobile phone for years, and smartphones and tablets have only lately entered my life. It was the same with CD players, and even after getting my first player, it was a long time before the silver disk displaced vinyl in my affections. But displace it it did, and my turntable has languished if not unloved, then certainly unregarded, for rather longer than perhaps is good for it, or me. The trouble is, good though a well-fettled Rega Planar 3 undoubtedly can be, it isn’t in the same league as a dCS Puccini, with or without its U-Clock. I want to enjoy my now unplayed vinyl again, but anything I listen to it on is going to have to raise its game a fair bit.
So, where to go from here? Like many people, having bought My First Turntable™ in the form of a lower-end Rega or Pro-Ject, the obvious place to look would be further up those manufacturers’ ranges. But, I’ve always had a bit of a thing for the Avid turntables. Until recently, even the entry level models were a bit of a leap, but the introduction of the £800 Ingenium put Avid firmly in the ‘possibles’ pile. Add a decent arm and cartridge and we’re in the £1,200-1,500 bracket occupied by the higher-performance part of the Rega range, for example, so if we’re going to get a bit serious about vinyl, the Ingenium is a contender. And if the £800 Ingenium is a possibility, would it be worth the stretch to the £1600 Diva II? With these questions in mind, Conrad Mas from Avid dropped an Ingenium and a Diva II off, together with a Pro-Ject Carbon tonearm fitted with the excellent Ortofon 2M Blue moving-magnet cartridge. There is a review of the Ingenium pencilled in for a later date.
Happily for this thumb-fingered ignoramus, installing the arm on each table was straightforward and, having established a setup of arm height and tracking weight within limits, a little tweaking was done by ear to find each turntable’s sweet spot. Listening was done through the, rather good, built-in MM phono stage in my Albarry AP11, feeding the M1108 monoblocs to my regular Focal Electra 1028Bes or the new Tannoy XT 8F floorstanders.
The Ingenium and the Diva II share some common features, but differ in some important ones. Unlike the more expensive Avid designs, neither Ingenium nor Diva sports a suspended subchassis. This is obvious in the Ingenium, whose ‘T’ shaped chassis sits atop three free-standing Sorbothane feet, one at the end of each limb of the T. The Diva looks more like the Volvere, Sequel, and Acutus models, sitting on three pods arranged in an equilateral triangle. I assumed this was some form of suspension, like the Volvere but probably simpler. In point of fact, the pods house more Sorbothane rather than any form of suspension and are part of the chassis rather than having the chassis resting atop them; ultimately, both the Ingenium and the Diva II are rigid designs. Both use free-standing motors; the Diva II upgrades from the Ingenium’s 240v unit with on/off switch in the mains cable, to a considerably heavier 24v motor and dedicated power supply. Speed control is by alternative diameter pulleys in both cases. The main bearing, subplatter, and platter are common to both, and the Diva II comes as standard with a record clamp where this is an option on the Ingenium. Given an identical arm and cartridge, the obvious question is: what benefits do the differences between the designs bring, and are they worth the financial stretch?