Back in the late 1970s, the music centre (as it was once called) was the popular choice among non-audio enthusiasts. This was a time before ‘small’ and ‘minimal’ were the orders of the day, so they looked like a cross between a studio mixing desk and the flight-deck of an aircraft carrier. It was a good idea in theory, but one that was chronically hampered by the performance of the electronics at the time. However, the second decade of the 21st Century has witnessed the rebirth of the music centre, but this time it comes with great performance in tow. Which means the AVM Inspiration CS 2.2 can be considered the spiritual heir to the music centre, without any sense of the pejorative.
As with its forebears, it’s easier to describe what this modern-day take on the music centre doesn’t include, than to list what is available in the one comparatively small and well-made box. So, there’s no SACD and no DoP DSD support, there’s not much in the way of provision for multichannel or home theatre systems, and you can’t use the CD mechanism to rip discs to an external computer. It also won’t make its own electricity, can’t solve quadratic equations, and won’t make you like Brussels sprouts (unless pan-fried with garlic and pancetta).
There’s a phrase I all but threw away in the last paragraph, that deserves some serious unpicking: ‘well-made’. In fact, ‘unpicking’ is a very good term here too, because at first glance you might struggle to see how it’s put together. Although not an entirely screwless case, this brushed black or silver aluminium design drips quality – not in a back-breaking, high-mass way, but made in the way you’d expect from a country obsessed by car shut-lines and precision engineering. We’ve seen this before from AVM, but the no-compromise approach to design seen on the company’s high-end separates is writ just as large in one small box. It’s the feel of the buttons, the resistance on the volume control… all the kind of things that shouldn’t make a difference, but bespeak of assured quality.