It’s a bold manufacturer who underestimates the appetite amongst audiophiles for pain and aggravation. The belief that optimum sound is truly worth suffering for – in fact, can’t be achieved withoutsuffering – is all too common. And like any religious supplicant anxious to display the scars of their self-flagellation, the audiophile zealot will have numerous anecdotes about the physical and financial lengths they’ve gone to in order to transcend to audio Nirvana.
With the Alva TT, Cambridge Audio wants to encourage the fanatics to cast aside the crown of thorns. To take their feet off the hot coals and slip them into something a little more comfortable. With the Alva TT, Cambridge Audio wants to make achieving that optimum sound easy and convenient. This, at first glance, looks like heresy.
The Alva TT isn’t the first turntable equipped to deliver a wireless Bluetooth signal, but nothing that’s gone before could remotely be described as ‘audiophile’. Quite the opposite, in fact – for the majority of Bluetooth record players convenience is the be-all and end-all. They’re a way for dabblers to put some vinyl on without having to faff about while doing it. It might be argued that a cheap Bluetooth turntable could be considered a ‘gateway drug’ – and no doubt some owners might well be seduced on to the harder stuff in due course. But for audiophile listeners who’ve had the vinyl habit for years, a Bluetooth turntable isn’t to be countenanced. It doesn’t sound good and it’s in no way fiddly or demanding. Where’s the religious ecstasy in that?
By building a turntable priced to compete with some established, well regarded models from brands with fearsome pedigree, Cambridge Audio surely knows it has its work cut out. But by making the Alva TT the world’s first with aptX HD Bluetooth capability (so it’s able to wirelessly stream at a giddy 24bit/48kHz resolution), it’s given itself a unique selling point and offered reassurance to the vinyl agnostic. It’s actually able to make good on the promise of the pictures in every turntable’s promotional literature, the one that shows a huge loft apartment with virtually nothing in it but a pristine turntable and not a cable in sight.
At first glance the Alva TT looks absolutely as you’d expect. The turntable design template was set some time ago, after all, so – unless you want a bit of wilful weirdness a la Kronos or Kuzma – nothing here is going to set your pulse racing or startle the horses. This is a chunky (11kg), smoothly finished slab of clean industrial design, built upwards from an aluminium plinth to an aluminium top plate. The brand logo is tidily punched into the surface of the top plate, below the tonearm, and there are power and speed selection buttons on the opposite side. The dust cover is pleasantly weighty too. There’s probably a little more overall tactility to the Alva TT than to a comparably priced Rega, and just as much visual satisfaction as Clearaudio can provide for the money.
The tonearm itself is a single-piece aluminium casting, and looks awfully similar to one of Rega’s RB designs – it’s an eminently sensible choice if it is in fact a Rega item. Neither Cambridge Audio nor Rega seem all that keen on confirming or denying, from which we are all invited to draw our own conclusions. At the business end is the Alva MC; a Cambridge-branded, high-output, moving-coil cartridge with elliptical stylus, a replacement for which will set you back £450 according to the Cambridge Audio website.