Ingenium is the most basic turntable in AVID's offer. This statement could either start this introduction or end it. However, despite it's true, it may also mislead readers who haven't been interested in analogue technology so far, or to whom the name AVID says very little. Why? When we talk about the base model, it is commonly associated with devices built down to a tight budget, and have been literally stripped of everything that could raise the production costs. Speaking about turntables, there are many models costing only two hundred dollars, but this comes at an expense of both sound and the quality of materials used to build such a turntable. In AVID's case, it is different because in the brand's catalogue there are no cheap models looking like a board with a platter and a miniature electric engine. The concept of "the cheapest AVID" thus carries the same message as "the cheapest Bentley" and is quite positive in its meaning.
The British company remains active since 1995 and is guided by the principle that the audio equipment should tell us the truth about music - no more and no less. Every audiophile will agree with this statement, certainly when it comes to dealing with the playback device with a variety of media - vinyl in this case. The model opening AVID's catalogue is obviously the cheapest, which doesn't necessarily mean cheap. Maintaining high standards in production, combined with the highest quality of materials does not allow to descend to the level of two or three hundred dollars, but that's not the point. The designers wanted to create a turntable that will keep the class of other, more advanced products, being much simpler and less expensive, and will take AVID's sound quality to a wider group of music lovers who may previously not be able to afford any product from the company's catalogue. This kind of thinking is totally opposite to what we usually have in low budget turntables, where the price is more important than quality. What would be the effect of such approach?
Design and functionality
More and more turntables are advertised as almost ready to use right after we pull them out of the box. Just attach a drive belt, a platter, undo two screws, remove the wire holding the arm in place and you can connect the equipment to your preamplifier and start listening to your records. And my engineer's soul is crying... Why can't I spend the whole evening putting all the individual elements together? It's a bit like Lego. It's always more fun to build stuff than to play with the structures that are already assembled. With the Ingenium, the pleasure of combining consecutive elements into a complete turntable is a big part of the whole process, which naturally will give much pleasure to all vinyl lovers. Everything is done in two stages. Building this turntable requires a moment of concentration, and when finally the machine is ready on the shelf, we can begin the sound feast. But for now, let's go back to the beginning, which means unpacking the box.
Ingenium comes to us in parts, so it's best to prepare some space on the desk, or on the floor, and naturally a levelled shelf on the rack with the audio equipment. The basis of the turntable is not a rectangular plinth, but two connected bars made from 6.5-cm thick aluminium. Then there are three massive sorbothane feet, a 9-inch Pro-Ject carbon tonearm with a dedicated cable, a sub-platter driven by the belt, a platter made of MDF with a cork mat glued to it, the electric motor which is completely separate and independent, a rubber ring for the motor, a drive belt, anti-skating weight and a small metal ball. This microscopic ball is very important because it acts as a bearing - without it the correct operation of the turntable is not possible, so you have to be very careful with it. All components are packed perfectly, virtually every part is in a separate foam packaging, and all accessories such as rubber bands or straps are in separate bags. The installation of the turntable is a task for a good half an hour or so if we want to do it neatly, but if you completely don't know what's what and have no experience with calibrating a tonearm or cartridge, it will probably take a few hours to complete this mission.
Interestingly, the Ingenium we're describing is not the only one you can have. The performance and of course the price of this turntable depends on the tonearm with which you order it. There are four options available - a 9-inch Pro-Ject Carbon arm, a 9-inch or 12-inch SME arm or the Ingenium Twin, to which we can attach both SME tonearms with a length of 9 and 12 inches. I went for the cheapest version with Pro-Ject's 9-inch Carbon arm. Additionally we can buy a dedicated base for the turntable, made of MDF, which insulates our equipment from ground vibration and noise. This base was also included with the set we got for the review. The platform also has a special recess for a on/off switch mounted on the wire for the electric motor. Clever, but it's not entirely clear how the switch can be placed in this recess and stay there, because the power cord is quite thick and stiff. Possibly you need to use some adhesive here.
The time has come to set up turntable. AVID, of course, does not leave the poor user alone with this problem and gives us quite detailed instructions saying what, where and in what order should be placed. I will not describe the assembly process itself, because all in all it's not difficult or complicated. You can see some of the steps in the gallery below the text. The only thing I will say is if you decide to try this turntable at home, pay attention to the most inconspicuous thing in the whole set, which is a small metal ball. It should be placed in a special groove on the top of the tapered roller bearing. If you lose the ball, you will not be able to turn your turntable on!
When the turntable is all set up, it looks very chic and modern. Although I am a supporter of a classical construction of such devices, AVID's design makes me pleased. Every detail and the robust simplicity of this device attracts attention. Three massive feet which support a great aluminium construction with the additional plinth ensure serious approach to record playback. The only problem is how to protect the Ingenium from dust. You can get the original, transparent plastic cover, but to my eye the turntable loses all its beauty when you use such a box. A partial cover for the platter and tonearm seems to be a more practical and elegant solution. Of course it only protects the most important parts of the machine, but it does not interfere with its presence, and you don't need a lot of space to put it aside when you start listening.
How to change the speed of the platter? The turntable does not have an electronic switch, so you must do it manually by moving the belt on the motor pulley. Due to the specific construction and placement of the motor under the platter (drive is transferred to the subplatter with smaller diameter), you need to remove it altogether before you put a record on. I tried to do this without removing the platter, but underneath there is not enough space even for a finger, so it's not a good idea. It is however a very little flaw when you bear in mind a very original design of this machine, giving hope for a good sound. So now, when the turntable is all set up, cleaned and calibrated, it's time for what? Playing some records of course!
Ingenium has been provided with the assembled Nagaoka MP-110 pickup, which surprised me because at first it looks like a mismatch in terms of the price. Surely it would be best to use a more expensive and interesting cartridge. After a moment though I thought that there might be some method in this madness. Perhaps the manufacturer wanted to prove that the Ingenium can deliver a great sound even with such an inexpensive cartridge and draw our attention to what the turntable can do with it? Apparently, during various demonstrations, people from AVID compare different turntables with the same tonearm and same pickup fitted, because they believe that the drive itself is very important. Right, so let's play this game and see what this machine can do. As I use exactly the same cartridge myself with one of my turntables - an old Thorens TD-166J - I was ready to start listening to the Ingenium straight away. The turntable already had a few days to adjust itself to a new place, so I chose a set of records, made myself a cup of nice tea and immersed in the world of analogue music.
At first I thought it can't be the same cartridge I'm used to. But I looked closely at the tonearm and no - it is the same Nagaoka MP-110! Minute by minute, with every record I tried, I wanted to paraphrase Bill Clinton's election slogan - "It's a dynamic, stupid!”. Ingenium simply pushed this rather inexpensive cartridge to its limits. Accentuating its undoubted advantages, such as musicality, uniformity of the bandwidth and pleasant sound temperature, AVID's turntable raised the dynamics and timing to an almost unbelievable level. As a result, the records I've used were given a new life, surprising me with new details that had previously eluded me.
After several records I found the bass seems to be fuller, deeper and more interesting even though it was not trying to push me off the chair. If the Ingenium can do so much with the MP-110, I wonder what would have happened if it was fitted with a more expensive cartridge. But perhaps this is the AVID's way - charm the listener with a sound of a basic configuration and then make them imagine the sound they will get for several hundred dollars more. I knew that this turntable will arrive with Nagaoka pickup, but I bet almost every owner of the Ingenium will buy a better one sooner or later. Usually this audiophile need for changes and improvements appears after some time, when we get used to the sound of our system and wish to go forwards. In case of Ingenium with the MP-110 cartridge, such a thought occurs practically after several hours of listening. And it's not because the sound is bad. Contrary - if it sounds so good with this Nagaoka pickup, what will happen when we pick a better one? But I think I will soon have an answer, because the Ingenium stays with me and will be the part of my reference system.
Build quality and technical parameters
AVID Ingenium is a belt-drive turntable capable of playing 33 1/3 or 45 rpm records. The device is available in several versions, with different tonearms and accessories. For our review we got the one with a 9-inch Pro-Ject Carbon arm and Nagaoka MP-110 pickup. The turntable is built on the base made of metal profiles connected in the shape of the letter "T". The electric motor is physically separated from the main structure and the drive is transmitted by a belt to a subplatter. On top of it there is a main platter made of MDF with a natural cork damping mat.
For the purpose of this review I used the AVID Pellar phono stage plugged into the Edgar SH-1 headphone amplifier which powered Ultrasone Proline 2500 and Beyerdynamic DT-880 headphones. The turntable was also the source for the other system with Audiolab 8200A amplifier and Pylon Audio Sapphire 31 speakers.
Although Ingenium is the first turntable in AVID's catalogue, for many music lovers it can be the basis of an analogue system which will stay in their homes for years. And so it will probably be in my case, because infatuated with its sound, I decided to leave it in my system. The price you have to pay for this "cheapest" AVID is not small and I'm not going to say it's a bargain, but it's a very fair deal to say the least. This machine is surely worth the cost. The only problem I haven't managed to solve is how to protect it from dust, but perhaps I should start worrying about it when I'm done with the listening, so I have plenty of time to work it out.
Turntable type: Belt-drive
Record speeds: 33 1/3, 45 rpm
Platter weight: 2 kg
Tonearm: Pro-Ject 9" Carbon
Bearing: Inverted stainless steel
Motor: 115/230 V 12 mNm AC Synchronous
Dimensions (H/W/D): 13/37/30,5 cm
Weight: 5,9 kg
Price: $1350 - $2560 (depending on configuration)