Avid Ingenium Turntable Review
Simple looks, devastating performance - welcome to Avid
Introduction - Time to step upIf you have been following the turntable review process that AVForums has been publishing so far you'll know that we, as makes no difference, doubled our price between the first turntable and the second. In case you were thinking that's the rule of thumb we were sticking to, I'm afraid it isn't. A Rega RP3 with cartridge is £550. The turntable you see here is getting on for three times that price in the same condition. Why is this? Simply put because this the most affordable turntable I know of that brings a new quality to the format.
This does mean we've missed out a big chunk of great decks. Michell's Tecnodec, the VPI Nomad and the Pro-Ject Xperience are just three cracking turntables we've blazed past without stopping and all of them are capable of providing serious helpings of musical joy. At the same time though, all of them are simple improvements over what the Rega does. They all impart a sense of their design decisions to the sound that they produce. This is not a crime - after all decks with clear sonic traits can be had for a lot more money than this - but what if you are looking only to hear what is in the grooves of the record and not the engineering decisions employed in playing them?
Enter the Avid Ingenium and with it a need for a slightly different perspective. While it is rather pricier than anything we've seen so far, as far as Avid is concerned, this is the least amount of money they can produce a deck that can perform in the manner they have come to demand and they make no bones of their opinion that rather more performance is to be had if you go further up their model range. As such, you are being asked to spend three times as much as the Rega RP3 to join the bottom rung of a different ladder - so how does that work?
What is the design of the Ingenium?The Avid is an unsuspended skeleton chassis turntable with a free position motor unit. What does this actually mean? Unlike the two previous decks, the Ingenium doesn't use a plinth to mount the bearing, armboard and motor in one place, instead connecting the bearing and the armboard by a single structure - in this case a two piece cruciform supported be three feet. The motor is them connected to the sub platter by a belt but has no other physical connection to the deck at all. To understand why the Ingenium follows this pattern, it is necessary to understand a little of how Avid designs products.
The first product that Avid produced was the Acutus turntable which was developed over the course of twenty years and remains in production to this day. As a design, the Acutus is a three point suspended chassis that dissipates energy away from the record via the bearing. By the standards of 'superdecks' the Acutus is actually very reasonably priced but it is capable of fearsome performance. From this design, Avid has populated the range with turntables that occupy lower price points than the Acutus but are effectively, the closest turntable that can be built to it at that particular price point. The Ingenium may look a little different but the principle is the same.
There is one change to the design that gives the Ingenium an unusual customer option though. The move to the cruciform chassis where the bearing and armboard are on the same axis means that this section can be extended to place the armboard further from the bearing. This means that you can order a version of the Ingenium suitable for use with 12 inch arms. There are pros and cons to longer arms (and the arguments have been going on for decades) but you do at least have the choice if you want it.
Then, as a straight line is a straight line, you can extend the chassis in the other direction and mount a second arm on the Avid- again either 9 or 12 inches in size. This creates a rather striking looking device and one that is rather useful if you either have plenty of mono records or want to have two different presentational styles on the same turntable. I found this latter option so appealing that in the interest of full disclosure, I bought one for my own use two years ago.
One area of economising that Avid has had to do with the Ingenium compared to their more expensive designs is that the arm mount (or mounts) are pre drilled. This means, when you pick your Ingenium, you are going to be choosing a cutout that will define your future choices if you change the arm. The review sample has what is officially described as a Linn mount on it which is also the fitment used by Pro-Ject. This means that the rather excellent 9cc tonearm can be fitted and this is the most commonly supplied arm on the Ingenium. This is in no small part because the 9cc is strong value for money and an excellent design. The carbon fibre tube is nicely finished and well damped and works effectively with a variety of cartridges.
And in cartridge terms, Avid has played a bit of a blinder. The review sample is supplied with a moving magnet design from Japanese company Nagaoka. This might look like it escaped from the set of Super8 but is a truly excellent design and one that has the measure of any other cartridge under £250. You can of course choose not to buy a cart at the same time and indeed also forgo buying the arm at the same time too if you wish and take delivery of a basic Ingenium for £800 with your choice of Linn, Rega (old and new), Jelco or SME cutouts.
The review sample also has an optional extra which is so worthwhile, I have included it in the price and would strongly urge you to budget for it. The lovely cork topped platter is standard but this Ingenium has a thread added to the spindle which means that Avid's excellent clamp can be used. This serves visibly to bolt warped records flat to the platter and reduce the efforts on that part of the arm but also aids the energy dissipation principle that the Avid works to. You can have it retrofitted but it makes most sense (and costs less) to have it fitted from the start.
What's good about the Ingenium?The Avid is a big jump in price from what went before but what you unpack from the (excellent) packaging leaves you in no doubt that this is a much more serious piece of equipment. The whole design feels immensely solid and exactingly assembled. Avid does all their metalwork in house (and indeed does a fair bit for other audio companies) and it shows. This is a very serious piece of kit. The Avid requires more assembly than the previous designs but the result is completely logical and takes about twenty minutes to do if you pay attention and read the manual (and in the world of analogue, real men read manuals). The very small chassis means that the Avid is easy to work on and impressively compact as well.
It will also stand a degree of upgrade too. If you choose the Pro-Ject arm, this limits some of your future options but a Rega cutout could see you attach the RB303 from the Rega RP3 (sold on its own for £348 at the time of writing) before moving up the Rega pecking order or choosing from the many other arms that use this fitting. While a great many Ingeniums start life with Nagaoka or Ortofon 2m cartridges, the design can show the benefits of a more expensive designs too. This is a deck you can buy with some growing space in it.
Finally, in aesthetic terms, the Avid is a great looking thing. Where I would happily call the Rega RP3 pretty, the Avid is handsome. The minimalism of the design is fantastic to look at and there's something very businesslike about the Ingenium. The option of two arms arguably looks even cooler and nothing says analogue maniac like a twin arm turntable.
The whole design feels immensely solid and exactingly assembled.
What's not so good about the Ingenium?The Avid has three flaws, two of which are design niggles and the other is a function of the basic design. The first is that the switch for the motor is a lamp switch type device on the mains cable. Depending on how you place the Ingenium, this can make it hard to reach. The second is that as the motor is positioned free of the chassis, you need to take a little care placing it as too close or too far from the bearing can affect the otherwise impressively solid pitch stability.
The third is that as a 'skeleton' deck, the Avid has no dust or child protection as standard. This means that it is rather more vulnerable than the two proceeding decks to the outside world. Avid offers some covers and other options are available but this of course will be additional to the cost of the turntable.
How was the Ingenium tested?The Avid was tested with a Naim Supernait 2 integrated amp, Avid Pellar phono stage and Neat Momentum 4i floorstanders all connected to an IsoTek Evo 3 Sigmas mains conditioner. Like the other turntables, as it was placed on a ground coupled rack, the Ingenium was also placed on an isolation platform that also comes from Avid - indeed it is designed with a view to being used with the Ingenium or Diva turntables. Once again, I'm sure you'll be amazed to learn I tested the Avid with vinyl.
What does the Ingenium sound like?As I alluded to at the start of the review, the Avid represents a step forward in design terms over what has gone before. Simply put, the most important thing it does is that you can't hear it or more accurately, you can't attribute any significant aspects of the performance to it. If you budget can stretch to the fitting of an SME arm, the Avid is probably the most affordable truly neutral turntable you can buy. As it stands, the Pro-Ject arm does have a little character of its own but this is still a fearsomely accurate deck.
This means that the Avid will genuinely play you what is in the groove of the record with nothing added or removed from the performance. Where the record has excitement, there is plenty of it. The utterly euphoric Go! by Public Service Broadcasting pounds along with the mounting excitement of the track building relentlessly all the while. Switch to the disparate jazz of the Portico Quartet and the Avid gives this curious record, the space it needs to shine. This is vinyl as a reference not a toy.
With this studied neutrality comes an ability to really pull information out of the grooves that escapes notice on less capable designs. If you take something like Fink meets the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, this is a pressing that can really show what a turntable can do. It has vast dynamic range and goes very low and very high. Play it on a less capable deck and it is good - very good in fact - but there is a sense that all of the information isn't being reproduced. Heresy of heresies, it actually sounds better as a lossless download. Give it to the Ingenium and finally, those complex string sections and powerful brass start to make sense and this amazing record starts to come good.
This means that if the media is equal to the digital (and thanks to modern mastering techniques, it is frequently better), the Avid isn't simply the more fun choice, the more emotional choice or the less compressed choice, it is the outright better choice. You will be treated to a performance that delivers immense accuracy with refinement and real scale when appropriate. Both of the less expensive decks have good bass at their respective price points but the Avid creams them in both extension and definition- and indeed, there isn't much at £1,500 that can stay with it.
Impressive to relate, the Pro-Ject arm is actually the limiting factor to even higher performance. An identical Nagaoka MP150 in an Audio Note Arm III on my Twin sounds even better, trading off a tiny amount of absolute depth for even better detail and three dimensionality. This might be the lowest rung on the Avid ladder but it is still at a higher level than much of the competition.
Only one really and one that anyone looking at an accurate source across any format will be familiar with. The Ingenium, is accurate and revealing. This means that while it can dig incredible amounts of information from a great pressing, it is also completely capable of showing you everything that is wrong with a poor one. If I reach for my copy of Placebo's Meds - an album seemingly mastered by someone who wasn't completely clear how a record works - the Avid takes no prisoners in terms of how it sounds. This is not a romantic sounding device so if you are after something that always gives that warm and bloomy analogue sound that turntables can be stereotyped with, this probably isn't it.
Less of a downside and more of an observation is that I'd also suggest that while the possible arm and cartridge choices are extensive, unless you have some direct experience of matching components, I would recommend going with Avid's suggestions or following your dealer's views as it is possible to pick some unsuitable combinations if you go on price or looks or have a bit of a hunch. Avid has selected some excellent
UK dealers for this reason so they will be able to walk you through your options and you can make decisions based on this.
The Avid is probably the most affordable truly neutral turntable you can buy.
- Accurate, detailed and involving performance
- Built like a tank
- Considerable upgrade potential
- Requires some assembly
- No lid
- Won't flatter poor pressings
Avid Ingenium Turntable ReviewVinyl is an unforgiving format. Here we are, more than halfway through this series of reviews and at the £1,500 price point - a sum of money that is a serious chunk of change for most of us - and we've finally reached the point where it is capable of the accuracy, range and sheer consistency for it to outperform digital products on a routine basis rather than simply sounding more fluid and with a better midrange. If you are entering the world of analogue at this level, I hope you have decided that it is for you.
If you are going to drop £1,500 though, this is where your money should be going. The Avid is elegantly simple, beautifully built and extremely flexible. More than any of these things, it is the moment where records cease to be 'fun' or 'beguiling' and instead become the most compelling way of listening to music. Where it not for the fact that I've heard the Acutus so I know how much more Avid has to give, the Ingenium would see me good for the rest of my days. Welcome to the big leagues.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,600.00
Ease of Use8
Value for Money9
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