February 2014, Marcin Olszewski (Opinion 1) Soundrebels.com (PL)
Continuing the turntable lead, after the old-school looking Linn Sondek LP12 Majik, we have the pleasure of presenting another example of British engagement in cultivating analog tradition – the AVID Sequel SP. The uncoupled sub-chassis, heavy platter and very modern, intriguing – industrial design make it hard not to notice this product. The designers were able to achieve a balance between the minimalism and sparse form of the basic model Ingenium and the almost byzantine, chrome or golden, splendor of the top model Reference SP in the Sequel.
The steel sub-chassis, being also the mounting point of the tonearm, is settled, by means of a proprietary spring-railing suspension, on a triangular, MDF, main chassis, varnished black. The chassis is placed on columns with regulated feet. The stiffness of the chassis is guaranteed with a dense “grating”. Massive, vertical pins are supported by springs, placed in the hollow feet, and the rubber railings act as additional stabilizers. The inverted bearing is placed in a dedicated cradle, and the threaded, brass pivot can handle a respectably sized disc clamp. The platter itself, weighing almost 7kg, is equipped with a nicely looking cork mat and a stylish, rubber ring, which adds visual lightness to the whole. This is not about rethinking the wheel, but just about aesthetics. Breaking the monotony of the aluminum edge with a contrasting element results in a “sandwich” effect, which combines well with the massive feet, on which the construction is supported. The motor is mounted in a dedicated place in the lower chassis. The turntable is equipped with a solid, external power supply, which does not only turn on the motor, but also controls the revolution speed.
The unpacking and mounting of the turntable takes only a few minutes, and even of that time, most is taken by looking at the elements, and not by some complicated assembly … with one small exception. It is about placing the two drive belts. Placing them on the milled pulley is easy, but putting them around the inner collar of the platter is better performed with a friend, who knows at least a minimum about what you will be doing, and have the children and wives go out of the room. But before you will raise your blood pressure, the chassis should be leveled. This is done by turning large nuts, which can support heavy loudspeakers. After placing the platter and the clamp, the leveling of the sub-chassis should be conducted, for which an Allen key is needed – supplied with the turntable.
Now we succeeded in putting the turntable in a nice and working whole, time came to place the purple vinyl Axel Rudi Pell – “The Ballads IV” on the cork mat and the loudspeakers woke up with a melodic, although spiced with heavy metal, music. Compared to the previous tested Linn Sondek LP 12 Majik the ability to keep the rhythm and to have the bass keep up with the rest of the sound spectrum improved drastically. But before I continue, I would like to mention the incredible vigilance of the Polish AVID distributor – Mr. Michal Gogulski from the Poznan based company Intrada, who knew, that the turntable would be tested in two different systems, and with different music, so it can show different faces during this test, allowed us to test the device in our systems, and then with the dedicated phonostage and a balanced cable linking it with the tonearm. This allowed us to hear, how the AVID fares “sauté” as well as a “specialite de la maison” prepared by the master cook. The above showed clearly, that the decision to distribute the brand was not a coincidence, and having an almost unlimited set of possibilities, Mr. Michal can prepare a truly audiophile feast. But let’s not anticipate the facts.
The first few days I player from the AVID connected to the RCM Sensor with RCA cables, and the pleasant pressing of „The Ballads IV” showed, that we do not have to limit the spectrum of player music to genres with limited energy, but it told nothing about finesse. Fortunately I had the ethereal and loaded with nostalgic guitar sounds “Missing… Presumed Having a Good Time” The Notting Hillbillies. Warm, involving sound and slight favoring of the midrange resulted in even this recording not being boring. Masterful focusing of the virtual sources and readability of the articulation created a very positive climate remaining on the side of musicality, without going too much into the analytical regions. Of course after changing the disc to the surprisingly well recorded (William Orbit had much to do with that) “Ray of Light” Madonna, I noted with satisfaction, that the synthetic bass, capable of reaching the depths of the Hades, is brilliantly controlled, while the space effects recorded on the album are so suggestive, that when I started to think about something else, their sudden appearance focused my attention back. The mentioned, spectacular bass did not obscure the rest of the frequency spectrum, and the only issues with stability of the stage were the result of the vision of the sound engineer and not due to the turntable not controlling the material.
Of course I placed on the platter also something audiophile “Satchmo Plays King Oliver” Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra, issued on 45 RPM 200g clarity vinyl, where Satchmo enchants with silky coarseness and caramel warmth. However there was an invisible barrier, which kept the listener at a certain distance, not allowing to immerse completely into the music, something small, that prevented to regard the musical even as complete. This was the moment, where Mr. Michal entered with the Pulsare II phonostage.
I do not want to fall into an overly euphoric state, but the change was so substantial, that I listened again to the playlist I already heard, and made additional notes, about the increase of dynamics in micro and macro scale and about increase of the freedom and volume of the sound. The mentioned barrier disappeared like a soap bubble and the music exploded with a double strength of emotion and timbre. At certain volume levels “Il Trovatore” Verdi (Leontyne Price, Elena Obrazcowa, R. Raimondi / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan) can create a wall of sound equally well as Deep Purple; “Vedi! Le tosche notturne spogile” sounded much more spectacular than “Smoke on the water” from “Machine Head”. You could feel the reserves of dynamics stored in the system. Like in a V12 engine of a large limousine, which moves the car forward when needed, without excessive noise and other effects, just using the potential hidden under the hood. The kick of the base drum, bass guitar riffs or orchestral tutti were immediate, powerful and showed no signs of compression. In this hurricane of emotion the turntable kept an almost stoic calmness. The timbre remained saturated and juicy, not falling into any dullness or oversaturation. The first of the mentioned anomalies can often be found in too offensive configurations – the contours and overly sharp details come to front, but information about structure and timbres gets lost somewhere. On the other hand, some overly postcard-like, and absolutely unreal, colors appear in systems having not enough power. The Sequel connected with XLRs to the Pulsare produced the sound close to the listener, but without any aggressiveness, with proper breath and gradation of planes. Even in culminating moments I could not catch the set on any shortcut or simplification by concentrating the listener on the first plane, while the further would become an impressionistic jumble.
The stay of the aesthetically and sonically interesting AVID Sequel came to an end, and with unfeigned sorrow I had to pack it back into the cardboard box. But I am happy, that even in such a short time I could witness the interesting idea of combining the assets of light, decoupled constructions with a mass-loader. The British engineers succeeded in making this combination of the two, seemingly so distant ideologies, work surprisingly well. The compact shape, advanced technology and great sound are the best proof for that.
Jacek Pazio (Opinion 2)
It took some time, but finally we could get our hands on some analog sources. This is a very delicate part of the trade, and many dealers selling turntables, despite the return of the format to full blossom, are not willing to have them tested by not so well known reviewers. I do not think, that I am an expert in this field, and the lack of feedback after some initial talks only proved me right. However I did not care to much about that and started my exploration of this audio area by listening to phonostages. A series of tests of devices from various price levels allowed me to create a network of reference points, to be able to identify, what should be where on a given price level. In the meantime there were some additional talks bringing me closer to the most important part of the game, but only the appearance of the legendary Linn made me become a quite believable and competent listener. Probably there were also some other aspects in favor of me – I use a reasonably high level source for years, I favor this format before the digital one (but not orthodox) and the fact that my vinyl library is much bigger than the CD one. The Scottish turntable (Linn Sondek) was the starting point of my vinyl path, and its appearance on our portal confirmed the old saying “What is delayed, will not flee”. The position it has on the analog market is also not to be disregarded, thus with such opening I can plan my reviews with greater freedom. Marcin decided to go with the flow and contacted another dealer of British turntables – I apologize to the Scottish, but they are part of Great Britain, at least administratively – and his negotiations were successful. The result was the turntable AVID, distributed by the Poznan based company Intrada, the model Sequel SP, equipped with the SME 309 tonearm and Goldring Legacy MC cartridge.
AVID is a brand not as legendary, as the recently tested Linn, but it has a strong position on the international markets, confirming that it is not just a onetime analog lovers product. Its construction is basically similar to the Scottish one, however the decoupled platter and sub-chassis are of much higher mass. I would classify this turntable as a soft suspended mass-loader, reminding me of another giant in this segment, which has a similar setup, namely SME, also a British company. The isolation is different, but the idea of softly suspending large masses allows to place them both in the same box. Despite both companies competing, they do not despise each other, and the mutual respect is shown by the fact, that the AVID comes as standard with mounting points for the tonearm from SME. The model Sequel SP is supported on three solid looking pylons, supporting the lower chassis. Each of those columns below the chassis is a foot, which allows to level the whole construction. The upper part of the pylons has more to do, and is a cylinder, where the springs are hidden, which decouple the vertical movement of the sub-chassis, as well as a mounting point for the rubber rings damping horizontal movements. For perfect leveling there are additional screws inside the springs, that allow to level the sub-chassis against the main support. Being the mounting point of the tonearm and the heavy platter, the sub-chassis has a significant weight, so the springs can elongate with time. To counteract this, you will need to adjust the level from time to time using the supplied Allen key. All AVID models have a disc clamp screwed to the spindle. The thread is quite large pitched, so mounting is quick. And the presence of the clamp brings only positive effects, so the process of placing the clamp quickly becomes invisible – at least for any vinyl lover, because opponents may always have some complaints. The platter is driven by two belts connected to a motor placed on the lower chassis in the left corner. The Sequel SP arrived in a disassembled form, but the process of putting everything together is fairly easy, the only tricky part being to place the driving belts on the platter. It took a few minutes, but anybody should be able to master it. Placing the turntable in the desired spot, leveling it, controlling the parameters of the tonearm and cartridge, connecting the external power supply with revolution control (we can easily set 33 and 45 RPMs), checking the speeds and we are ready to start listening.
When the tested device was fully assembled and placed in the right spot I knew, that things are going to get serious. The whole set costs around 40 thousand zlotys, and it would be a joke, if it would only play good. This price level requires more, it requires the turntable to try and reach the limits of the format played, and not just play good. I was curious, how my first contact with this player will look like, but unfortunately I decided to start with a photo session, an important element of our reviews. To make it more attractive, I took a random vinyl from my collection, being the Pacific Jazz issued monophonic, old Japanese pressing on thick red vinyl (they did such things already at that time): “Wes Montgomery with Buddy & Monk Montgomery”. When I took the pictures, the disc just played in the background, but I already got a positive kick in my music receptors. One of the instruments used in the recording session was a vibraphone, which is in one of my favorite silence dispersers. Well microphoned, mixed, mastered and pressed it is capable of overwhelming other instruments present in the recording. Played from the mentioned disc it made me stop photographing and listen to the whole disc, without paying attention, that it is a mono recording. It sounds rarely as well as on this disc, even in stereo recorded material. Saturation, timbre and not often encountered fleshiness just killed me. In general the disc sounded exceptionally well for such an old recording. After having heard that, I knew, that the British constructors do not just sit around, but they really propose a sound, which is adequate to the price tag of the turntable. And this was only the beginning, which only hinted to the capabilities of the AVID. I was certain, that the easiness of reaching the freedom, openness and smoothness of the sound reproduced from even very demanding recordings will allow me to choose freely from my library of black discs. It may happen, that a heavy metal fan buys this product – everybody is free to have his own taste – and will listen to such energetic music with his neighbors (I wonder, if they would listen voluntarily), having lots of fun, but I am a lover of more toned down sounds, so I placed on the platter the album from the Scottish label Linn Records titled “Messiah” from Georg Frederic Handel.
After the first, quite incidental, but positive contact with this Linn pressing – I decided to check, what the British turntable will present when dealing with an ideally recorded material. I knew already it can better long forgotten musical material, but this does not have to mean, that it can master everything. The sound could have gotten too homogenous, deprived from any rapacity. I lowered the tonearm on the run-in groove of the first side of the first disc and listened. The beginning is a tale of instrument placing over the virtual sound stage, but I waited for the vocals. The choir, skillfully scattered around by the sound engineer, is capable of showing many “favorites” their place in the peloton, but here nothing of that happened. The grading of the planes, readability of the virtual sources, saturation increasing palpability, resolution and a strange softness of the sound while having a good, edgy bass foundation pulled me into the vortex of emotion. I do not know, how the engineers from England did it, but everything here was ideally balanced, while usually something goes amiss when there is such a saturation of the reproduced music. Most companies lose airiness of the upper frequencies and readability of the bass when ballasting the frequency spectrum – nothing like that happened with the AVID. All those aspects create an impression of blacker than black background, what allows to catch all possible audiophile charms. Bravo for this setup for warming up the atmosphere without turning the reproduced music into a mud pool. But the mentioned “trash metal” lover may experience some rounding off the sound. For many people such sound may be an asset, but tastes are different, and we should confront this turntable with our repertoire and expectations. This thicker outline of the musical spectacle is an asset in my opinion, this is the reason for the positive effect with older recordings. This made me also listen to a lot of such recordings what resulted in me being delighted with the final result. But as it happens, I had to make the final coup, and treat the charming Englishman with something loaded with bass, with electronic music. Massive Attack showed many times before, how to tame “narcissistic all-rounders”, but this time I hoped, that the turntable will pass the test with flying colors. Due to the artificial sounds recorded on discs with electronic music, I usually limit the tests using it to verify, how the tested device fares with the flowing together lowest octaves and with the squeaky treble. Having listened to my three disc edition I must say, that even in this genre the Sequel SP fared well. When needed it shook my internal organs and it tamed the screaming treble, showing a more civilized face of that music. I do not claim, that this is the best way of dealing with it, but every listener, who cares for his ears, will give me right, that this is a very pleasant way of showing that kind of music.
Trying to summarize the performance of the British contender I must confess, that it surprised me with its idea for the final effect. Juicy and at the same time readable sound will for sure lure potential clients. The most interesting thing is, that it does not interfere with the overall readability of the sound. When needed the cymbals shine. All parts of the sound spectrum are ably sewn together, none comes before the others. If I would have to characterize the target client for this turntable, I would bet on a music lover, preferring the joy of listening to analyzing the individual sounds. You have to take into account, that my system is directed to the timbre, and I suspect, that a more neutral sounding system will accept the wealth of the assets brought by this turntable with acclaim. I will not even mention sharp systems, because the AVID Sequel SP will become a pleasant introduction into the analog world. Clients listening to music loaded with guitar riffs and short base drum kicks, and liking to split every hair in four pieces, should listen and think, if this way of presenting their beloved music is not more pleasant. In my opinion the price of this turntable, high for the average Kowalski, is absolutely adequate for the sound you get out of it, and the various tastes should only encourage to listen to this product in your own system. Even casual listening may turn into a purchase of this beautifully looking and brilliantly sounding turntable.
PS. When the test was coming to an end, and the Sequel SP was about to be packed I received the call from the distributor to listen to this turntable with the dedicated phonostage and XLR cables. So I received the AVID Pulsare II Phono Pre-Amplifier. Having the distributor show, that he cares about synergy, is worth mentioning. It does not require miracles, but it is enough to present what he has best for this setup. I plugged in the elements of the puzzle in my system (the phonostage is in two boxes) and listened. I could immediately hear a different approach to the source material, which was slightly thinned, improving the contours of the sound coming from the speakers, and was now more neutral. This going in the direction of tonal balance increases the potential target group, which does not need to search for a compatible phonostage. This experience allowed me also to verify, that the set is well balanced and the buyer will be absolutely satisfied. I can also add, that the deck itself has a much higher potential. I tested it with a phonostage almost twice as expensive as the Pulsar II, and the Sequel SP showed, that it can be done better. And this is not often the case, as usually a more refined device shows the shortcomings of the cheaper one. This time the marriage of the Katowice made Theriaa with the tested turntable shone with a deeper, more airy stage, darker background and better three-dimensionality of the virtual sound sources. Unfortunately such good things cost a lot, but I wanted to show to you, that the middle offering of AVID, the Sequel SP, has a lot of potential. I witness many failures with such combinations, so even more kudos to AVID. Bravo!
July 2012, Jimmy Hughes HiFi Choice - Editor Choice (UK)
AVID currently offers no fewer than six high-end turntables. Only Six? Actually it's seven if you include its hugely-expensive limited-edition Anniversary model. Now, just a mo; isn't that a wee bit excessive? Can there really be that much difference to justify such a broad range?
Happily, the answer appears to be yes. For a while the less expensive AVID models perform extremely well, high-end vinyl replay is an almost bottomless pit...
You can always squeeze a bit more out of your records, or so it seems. And that's what makes LP such a fascinating medium. It's the gift that just keeps giving - it keeps surprising you, getting better.
I actually reviewed the original Sequel as long ago as 2002 and was mightily impressed by its combination of crisp clean clarity, and outstanding solidity and precision. Those interested can still find this review on AVID's website.
Since then, AVID has improved the design in a number of important areas. Naturally, the basic qualities that made the original so good are retained. But now, added authority and subtlety bring performance levels closer to the Acutus.
The Sequel SP might not be AVID's finest turntable, but it's doubtful you'll notice anything lacking. Hearing it in isolation, you may well speculate on whether or not it could possibly be improved on. I certainly felt that way about the original Sequel. And while hearing the Acutus demonstrated that further improvements were indeed possible, sonically the Sequel more than held its own.
Now the Sequel has evolved into the sequel SP, AVID has been compelled to improve the Acutus to, no doubt, justify the higher price of its flagship model.
The Sequel SP features a rigid base that supports a suspended subchassis. It's very simple and straightforward. There's nothing fancy, nothing clever-for-its-own-sake, about the design. Its outstanding performance is the result of solid engineering, allied to careful choice of high-quality materials. There's no attempt to reinvent the wheel, or introduce flashy innovations for their own sake.
Build quality is very good and the finish superb. Everything feels solid and built to last. While not quite the heaviest deck around, the weight and construction are confidence-building and impressive. The alloy platter weighs in at around 6.7kg, and runs on an inverted stainless steel bearing shaft with tungsten carbide and sapphire bearing. The mat is fixed and made from cork. A screw-down record clamp is included.
The platter is driven via two short round belts from a modified 24-pole AC synchronous motor. The motor is quite powerful and produces plenty of torque; something that creates the musical impression of drive. The AVID-designed outboard power supply unit provides variable speeds of 33 and 45rpm. It borrows technology developed for the Acutus' PSU, and the company claims the result is a significant improvement in sound quality.
The three-point sprung suspension has a vertical resonance of around 3Hz. This provides excellent isolation from transmitted noise, while not leaving the subchassis to floppy and excessively decoupled. Although quite free to move vertically, the subchassis is surprisingly well-controlled in terms of lateral movement. Three fairly stiff rubber O-rings help centre it, and damp excessive motion.
AVID supplies its turntables with fixings for SME tonearms as standard, and our review Sequel SP came fitted with an SME IV. This matches the turntable sonically, as well as finish and build quality.
The Sequel SP is definitely a form-follows-function design. Assembly and adjustment are simple and straightforward. Once set up, performance does not drift. It's definitely not a deck that needs constant tweaking.
The Sequel SP offers outstanding stability. On a well-pressed LP, it deliverers rock-solid results that rival CD for pitch accuracy and security. There’s no hint of waver; if there is, check the record! Individual listeners vary in their ability to identify pitch waver, some being more sensitive than others. But - even those not conscious of such things - even register its absence subliminally. There's a sense of total security.
Voices and instruments retain greater separation and individuality. Not only is the stereo soundstage wider, broader, and deeper but the placement of images in space seems noticeably more solid and precise. Musically, the Sequel SP sounds impressively integrated and cohesive, with lots of fine detail and a wide dynamic range. Individual tumbrel qualities of specific voices and instruments are well preserved.
In other words, things don't sound the same all the time. Although the basic musical presentation is crisp and immediate, there's plenty of fine dynamic shading and subtle tonal colour to be heard. Bass is super-solid and powerful. This was one area where the Acutus scored over the original sequel. The latest Sequel SP now seems to offer greater weight and overall authority than before, rivalling its bigger brother.
Although it's important to audition turntables using LP's that are well cut and well recorded, sometimes it's more instructive to play something average. Thus, I sampled the Sequel SP on the Walker Brothers' Greatest Hits. Hi-fi it ain't. Yet played on the Sequel SP, the sound was amazingly full and rich, with excellent depth and space. The bass line was surprisingly firm and full, and did not seem lacking in any way. The sound proved remarkably holographic, and an impressively three-dimensional soundstage was created. Thus, a very 'ordinary' LP was utterly transformer.
Such exceptional clarity and stability soon makes you forget you're listening to flawed, fallible vinyl records. Surface noise is very low, and (given a suitable cartridge) tracking is extremely secure.
Many listeners today seem unfazed by surface noise. A bit of crackle and pop is almost welcome; if anything it reminds you you're listening to vinyl, and not 'pure perfect' CD. It's akin to having film grain in a photographic image...
But is it? For audiophiles of a certain age, ultra-clean quite vinyl reproduction was very much the Holy Grail. We dreamed of a turntable that made our LP's sound like master tapes. If that's still your idea, then check out the Sequel SP.
Those who want LP's to sound like CD and/or SACD in terms of neutrality and clarity will find the Sequel SP exceptional. It allows you to experience the best vinyl has to offer, while minimising most of the downsides. LP's on the Sequel SP exhibit a free, airy, spacious clarity you never get from silver disc. The precision and focus of CD is there, but without that dry and clinical quality you also get.
Suitably partnered, it promises a winning combination of focus and immediacy, coupled with delicacy and finesse that's very beguiling. So much so, it can be difficult to listen to the Sequel SP. It sounds so natural and truthful, your attention is immediately grabbed by the music and performance - indeed you almost forget it's there.
December 2008, HiFi World Awards - Turntable Winner (UK)
This year has seen a good number of excellent turntables tested in the pages of Hi-Fi World, so much so that this category proved the most hotly contended of them all. However, one particular machine stuck out in our collective minds for its superb all round ability allied to its unassuming looks and small footprint.
Whereas £5,000 will buy you vast sculptural monoliths in Perspex, gold or chromium if you so wish, AVID's Volvere Sequel is an altogether more unassuming proposition-but no less effective. Indeed, it is more.
We've often asked ourselves, 'if you were going to do a turntable from first principles, how would you do it?' Well the AVID is pretty much best practice made visible; there's very little conceptually wrong with it, which sets it apart from so many other rivals...
The result is a turntable that doesn't sound like a turntable; it is highly neutral, neither euphonic like many rival high end decks nor dysphonic like expensive digital devices, and simply draws your attention to what is in the groove.
Interestingly, many analogue addicts actually admit the AVID is brilliant but don't like the sound, describing it is as to stark, too dynamic, too clear. But to criticise it for these reasons is to object to its proximity to live music, which possesses the same characteristics. It certainly isn't a machine to provide background music - being a seat-of-the-pants listening experience - but if you're satisfied that this is what you want then there's nothing at the price to touch it.
Beautifully made, functionally superb but not terribly sexy to look at, the AVID Volvere Sequel does exactly what a high end turntable should do - which is bring you closer to your record collection.
January 2008, David Price HiFi World Magazine - (5 Globes) (UK)
For me, one of the most interesting brands to surface of late is AVID. Although the company's been trading since the late nineties, it now has a mature range of turntables, all of which show genuinely fresh thinking on precisely what is (and what is not) needed to get the very best sound from this venerable fifty something year old format.
For me, a keen student of turntable best practice with some ideas of my own about how to (and how not to) do a record player, the AVID Volvere Sequel - at £4600 a mid-priced deck in the company's range - is a real eye opener. Above all else, what has impressed me most about this deck is designer Conrad Mas's joined up thinking, which informs every aspect of its design.
Rather that fixing on one component of a turntable, such as the motor, bearing or suspension, the Volvere Sequel exhibits current 'best practice' right across the board, and adds a twist or two. As such, unpacking, assembling and auditioning the deck proved a delight, and a constant source of eyebrow-raising pleasant surprises.
First and foremost, the Volvere Sequel is a belt drive, which regular readers will know isn't my favourite way of spinning a disc right now, but the way the drive system has been done is such that many of the problems intrinsic to them have been eliminated by lateral thinking. As the design of this AVID shows, although the drive system is important, it's less a case of what you do and more of how you do it...Whereas some decks have high torque motors driving light platters, and most others the opposite of this, the Volvere uses a very high torque motor driving a heavy platter and is powered by a split-phase quartz-locked purposed designed power supply. It's all very well having a seriously beefy motor, but like a high performance car it's pretty irrelevant if it can't put its power down, and this is where the next clever trick comes in. The key problem with belt drive turntables is their unstable suspension, which causes speed instability when the distance between platter and pulley changes as the stylus encounters differently modulated passages along the groove.
AVID's answer is to lock the lateral movement of the springs, so they can move up and down but not side to side. Designer Conrad Mas has done this very simply with three rubber bands, one of each suspension turret, that severely curtail sideways movement whilst having minimal impact on the spring's ability to go up and down. This suspension design, allied to the massy plinth, round section belt and torquey motor, give solid power transmission with minimal drama, and this in turn has a profound effect on the basic sound of the AVID. Setting up the deck proved very straightforward, thanks in no small part to the superb packaging the turntable comes in. It's a three tier affair, like the turntable itself, and everything goes together very straightforwardly in the space of about twenty minutes.
I often find that auditioning high end belt drives leaves me beguiled by the delicacy, finesse and subtlety but a tad under whelmed by other aspects of their performance - not pithily, many lack 'true grit'. Not so this one which was undoubtedly the strongest, most stable and powerful sounding rubber band spun design I've ever heard. Pithily put, the AVID Volvere Sequel 'is the belt drive Garrard 301'.The trouble with powerful sounding decks is that they can be 'all mouth and trousers', possessed of great bombast, bluster and general attitude but so full of themselves that they gloss over the very smallest subtleties that vinyl is so rich in. With the greatest respect to our esteemed publisher and assistant ed, I find Garrards err towards this a little more than I'd like, which is why I've nailed my colours to the direct drive mast as of late. Unfortunately, the results I got with the AVID were such that I feel I may have to un-nail them rather hastily.
For example, 'Simple Minds' 'Alive and Kicking' is an excellent torture track for a turntable, especially in highly modulated 45RPM 12" single form. There's a lot of energy in the groove, lots of crashing power chords, musical climaxes and dynamic contrasts. Other high end belt drives can sound just a little unstable, whereas I've found the 401 can be a little over exuberant and forward. The AVID pretty much got the best of both worlds; giving great solidity in the bass allied to a wonderfully neutral and open midband without a trace of hardness or opacity. The opening electric piano chords were an ear opener, sounding less 'cracked' than anything with a belt I've heard to date. Most impressive was the clarity, and lustrous harmonics practically 'glistening' there in front of my very ears. When the bass guitar, bass drum and snares kicked in, I was greeted with a delightfully tight, taut punch which again was totally devoid of harshness or grain. Singer Jim Kerr's melancholic strains were remarkably clear and direct, sounding far less nasal than I usually hear him.
Excited, I moved onto my next torture track....UB40's 'Don't Let it Pass You By' has a very strong, under slung bass line that can take the song down like a lead balloon when played on most belt drives.
Not so with the AVID, which offered up a wonderfully fleet of foot rendition of this finely recorded slice of classic reggae (the track harks from long before the shame of 'Red, Red Wine', you understand!). The song also showcased the AVID's wonderfully expansive midband, offering a deliciously wide stereo soundstage that fell back many metres too. Again I've struggled to hear many decks that can out do Michell's Orbe in this particular respect, but the AVID was head and shoulders above it - no small feat. Likewise, it proved wonderfully dynamic, making the sometimes 'matter of fact' sounding SME sound positively profound and uncharacteristically emotionally committed to the music in hand.
Moving to some late sixties jazz and Herbie Hancock's 'I Have a Dream' on a 1969 BlueNote waxing showed the deck working consistently across a range of musics. This song is delicate and brooding, with subtle rhythms breaking through to gently push the song along. It's the sort of music that Linn's LP12 really shines with, and it came as a surprise to find the Volvere Sequel doing no less well. Here, I think the gently romantic sound of the Koetsu cartridge helped, but it was AVID's startling transparency and rhythmic integrity that really swung it. This deck is truly exceptional in its ability to impart the natural tone of an instrument, conveying all its intrinsic texture and lustre in its entirety without colouring it, embellishing it or indeed dulling it. The result was a mesmerically live sound, with brass, piano and drums all sounding as if they were in the room with me.
The AVID's almost supernatural solidity really came into play here too, giving the track a mastertape feel that left me enraptured with what on lesser equipment sounds quite a mediocre recording. From down in the bass, where's it's only a percentage point or two shy of my heavily modified Technics direct drive in tautness, to the midband where it's eerily translucent, icily clear and yet smooth as silk, to the treble where it is spectacularly open and atmospheric and delightfully precise, the deck was nothing but a pleasure to listen to.
Over the past few weeks I've duly been running the gamut of my not inconsiderably sized record collection. The deck is music-neutral; time and again I've find myself letting the turntable I'm reviewing dictate the music I listen to; SMEs work wonders with classical. Michells are a joy with electronica, Linns love rock; the AVID seemed as happy as a pig in poop with everything it was asked to play. Now numbering nearly 3,000, I rarely reach the inner recesses of my vinyl vaults these days, but this turntable had me searching out some of my least played discs.
CONCLUSION; Eagle-eyed readers may have gleaned from all this that I rather liked the AVID Volvere Sequel, and they're right.
This is one of the most impressive ways to play music I've come across to date, showcasing vinyl's jaw-droppingly powerful and musical sound in no uncertain terms.
My reviews of high end turntables are often full of praise but invariably tempered with some caveat or another, but here I can't really think of none. It combines the rugged build and superlative mechanical integrity of an oil rig with the delicacy, precision and finesse of the best hand-made mechanical watches. Its sound is so neutral and open that it's almost impossible to ascribe character to; in this review, I felt I was listening the SME Series V tonearm and Koetsu cartridge far more than the turntable.
And on a personal note, I love its lack of showiness - we're not talking acres of black Perspex or superfluous gold adornments here. Its styling, if you could call it that, is simply a function of how it does what it does.
A brilliant high end turntable then; expensive - but justifiably so.
VERDICT; A high end turntable of rare completeness, it offers breathtaking all round sound from a superbly balanced belt drive chassis.
FOR; Superb stability; glassy transparency; breathtaking dynamics; unerring musicality; design,packaging, set-up
January 2004, Anthony Kershaw Audiophilia.com (Canada)
"For the last three months, AVID's midrange 'table has sat front and center, and has not flinched at the avalanche of vinyl it has played."
"Careful examination of the chassis, bearing, and platter is witness to superb design and bulletproof workmanship. Audio gear to last the test of time. It looks dreamy, too."
"The silence from the workings of this table was eerie. Nothing from the motor, bearing, and almost nothing from the LP surfaces. Even dime store specials sounded superb after a good scrub. The Sequel is among the best I have (not) heard- the almost zero level groove noise and distortion."
"Extreme dynamics as well as a gorgeous midrange are the aural highlights of this turntable. A test par excellence: Varese's Arcana on Decca with the LA Phil and Mehta. About 5 minutes in, the Phil turns on a dime after some serious scratching from the strings. Thwack! A staccato explosion that will test most setups. This one didn't fidget, just replicated the great acoustics of Royce Hall perfectly. A test for the opposite extreme may be found in Marriner's great Argo of the Tallis Fantasia. The double string orchestra builds to a huge climax, but before the excitement, composer Vaughn-Williams treats us to some incredibly delicate string writing. Here, the AVID shines as much as it did in the knockouts. String separation was so clear, the contrapuntal lines were heard as if played singularly at your front door."
"Timbre of all instruments and voices was real and tangible. It was very nice to hear so much low level detail, too."
"Bass? Oh, the bass! Deep, deep, and very well defined..."
"The Volvere Sequel never sounded anything less than excellent, and on wonderful LP's, it sounded amazing. Piano, soprano voice, and French horn, the trifecta of recording difficulties, never bothered the AVID."
"The AVID separates musical lines extremely well. As turntables get better and better (where do we go from here?), the essence of the amazing analogue sound gets all the trappings of the silent backgrounds and unhindered dynamics of digital. The Volvere Sequel bathes itself in this technology. It celebrates it. It glorifies it. And you, the listener, are the better for it. I have not heard Conrad Mas' statement Acutus, but the sound he is attempting to draw from his designs really shines through this English Rose.
"But for my taste, the middle is where the meat is, and it will be very difficult for anyone to resist AVID's rich midrange, and one so balanced with the upper and lower octaves. The AVID is a superb example of English 21st Century craftsmanship and design. Conrad Mas is to be congratulated for his passion and commitment to excellence in vinyl reproduction. Yes, the bloom is definitely on this rose.
It is with great pleasure that we award The Audiophilia Star Component Award to the AVID Volvere Sequel Turntable. Congratulations!- Ed.
December 2003, Jimmy Hughes HiFi News (UK)
AVID's Volvere Sequel turntable falls midway between its £2000 'entry level' Volvere and the £5000 flagship Acutus. At £3500, the Sequel would seem to offer an effective compromise between cost and performance. But the basic Volvere already reaches an extremely high standard. It boasts excellent sonic performance, outstanding build quality, and solid engineering. So, how much difference, subjectively, should one expect? Isn't the 'cooking' Volvere plenty good enough?
It probably is. Nevertheless, the Sequel offers more-quite a bit more. Listening to the Volvere in isolation, you might think vinyl couldn't get much better - it's that good. Know what? You're wrong. There's further to go. And the difference isn't subtle. The good news for Volvere owners is the possibility of upgrading existing decks to Sequel standard at a cost of £1500.So you could buy a Volvere, use it for a while, then turn it into a Sequel without paying a premium.
The two turntables are essentially identical, sharing many common parts including base support, platter, and subchassis. The difference lies in a superior high-torque motor and beefier out-board power supply for the Sequel. For me, having lived very happily with a Volvere since the end of 2001, it was interesting to move up. The Volvere has no obvious faults or limitations, and I felt entirely happy with its performance. So, what sort of things might improve?
AVID designer Conrad Mas gave me a quick taste of the Sequel shortly before its launch at the Bristol 2002 show. And very good it sounded. But, if I'm honest, at the time the difference over the Volvere didn't strike me as huge. There was greater speed stability and a general firming-up of the overall presentation. The Sequel was slightly tighter and cleaner. By comparison, the Volvere was a shade looser and more relaxed - though still admirably solid and controlled.
When I finally heard the Sequel at home (having got thoroughly used to the Volvere over 18 months) there seemed much more difference. Immediately apparent were the gains in speed, stability and solidity, as previously noted. On difficult and demanding material-such as piano, harpsichord, classical guitar-the Sequel offered the sort of rock-like consistency one takes for granted when listening to CD. There's a sense of security that's very reassuring; it feels as if nothing could upset the flow of the music.
Dynamic range was enhanced, and there was increased contrast between loud and soft; climaxes expanded more. Compared to the Volvere, the Sequel's soundstaging was noticeably more holographic. Images projected out of the speaker boxes in a manner suggesting height as well as depth and width. It's almost as though the speakers had grown a couple of metres taller! Everything sounded bigger and more alive-as if it were somewhat more three-dimensional and vivid.
At any given volume level, the Sequel seemed to sound a shade louder. As a consequence, it proved possible to reduce volume levels slightly while retaining subjectively comparable loudness. One immediate benefit of this was the reduction in background noise-often to vanishingly low levels. The sound had a very impressive presence, making it seem as though voices and instruments were really projecting out-almost coming to greet you-rather than remaining localised in and around the loudspeaker areas.
Alas, the Volvere (once my pride and joy) now seemed slightly 'flat' and monochromatic! Dare I say it, more CD-like. That's not meant as a compliment. It's easy to forget that LP can (when everything's right) create impressive, vivid three-dimensional effects that CD still finds hard to equal. The overall result is somehow greater than the sum of the parts, and difficult to describe in just a few words. It's one of the reasons vinyl is still worth bothering with.
One particular recording that showcased the Sequels magic was Reinhard Goebel playing Bach's sonatas for violin and harpsichord on DG's Archiv label - an early digital recording from 1982/3. I've heard the LPs for 20 years, but always found them difficult to reproduce. Tonally, Goebel's violin usually sounds thin and reedy; likewise, the harpsichord will lack weight and richness. Also, left-right stereo separation between the two instruments is extreme - so creating a curious disembodied effect.
The balance between violin and harpsichord is not wholly believable. The sound is close and dry but, paradoxically, at the same time ill-focused and tonally under-nourished. All in all the sort of recording that got early digital (and DG/Archiv) something of a bad name. Eventually, the set was issued on CD. But, even in pristine DDD digital form, the same sort of problems were apparent - indicating that the LPs were probably reflecting the quality of the original master tapes.
A lost cause? I thought so. Yet playing these same LPs on the Sequel one could suddenly discern believable spatial depth and dimensionality. The balance remained close, immediate, and sharp; only now, both players were focused and distinct in a tangible acoustic. Their instruments sounded vivid and holographic, rather than like flat two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. And what about pitch stability! The Volvere is excellent by any standards; the Sequel is better still - absolutely rock solid.
The slow introduction to the first sonata is very testing. Goebel plays without vibrato, and his lean, at times almost vinegary tone, is very exposed. And there's the harpsichord; an instrument where even the slightest pitch waver or tremor stands out. Being an original digital recording, pitch stability (in terms of wow and flutter) is theoretically perfect.Going back through past analogue recordings of Bach's violin and harpsichord sonatas, on LP and CD, one realises how few were totally free of pitch waver.
The question is, how demanding should one be with LP? If a disc is pressed even fractionally off-centre, pitch stability suffers, no matter how good the turntable and how perfect the original recording. Having Goebel's Bach violin sonatas recording on CD, I know how secure they can sound. Theoretically, LP can never be as good as CD in this respect. But, on AVID's Sequel, pitch stability was subjectively comparable to that found from silver disc reproduction - but with a much truer, more holographic sonic presentation.
Put simply, the music sounded better. And by 'better' I mean truer, more believable, more natural, and more real. Suppose Goebel's Bach sonatas set was a brand new recording I'd not heard before; were I hearing it for the first time on AVID's Sequel, I'd never guess how thin and disembodied the sound could be when played on lesser equipment. It was quite amazing the way the Volvere Sequel turntable magically created a vivid three-dimensional soundstage that had width, depth, and height.
Actually, that's wrong: I should say 'revealed', rather than 'created'. The Sequel's 'holographic' presentation is definitely not a false effect superimposed on each recording. Rather, the Sequel simply seems to reveal more of what's there. By comparison, the Volvere gave a more predictable and uniform presentation. The Sequel was more varied; better able to reveal individuality in terms of ambience portrayal, soundstaging, stereo placement, and, best of all for me, the tiniest subtleties in the manner of the playing itself.
The Sequel offers a highly cohesive musical presentation. Timing is outstanding, making rhythmic detail more telling. As a result, each musical performance gains in terms of purposefulness - if it's a fast driving piece, there's a greater sense of the music moving forwards. If it's slower, there's an increase feeling of ebb and flow - more sense of phrases being shaped and caressed. The music sounds so much more characterful; more true to itself.
The Sequel gives the lower frequencies greater power and weight. Basslines seem enhanced - less buried in the mix - while at the same time going deeper. I've noticed this time and again with superior audio components; bass lines seem to cut through more cleanly, letting you follow (say) bass guitar parts more easily. Orchestral double basses come through more audibly too,allowing you to hear distinct pitch values, rather than nondescript, gruff rasp.
Playing various tracks from Joe Sample's LP Rainbow Seeker demonstrated the extra presence and fluidity of the bass parts. This album is a very good test of cohesion; there's bags of individual detail to seduce the ear, but ultimately it must sound like a team effort with everyone playing together. My US pressing is not the quietist, but the Sequel minimised background ticks and pops, projecting the music over the noise cleanly and powerfully into the room.
I don't know how Rainbow Seeker was recorded - whether it was single takes with everyone together 'live' in the studio, or track-by-track with lots of over-dubs. Subjectively, depending on the equipment being used, it can seem like
either. Usually, it just sounds like a collection of individual parts that fit together very well; occasionally you play it and experience real performances where people strike sparks off one-another. the Sequel gave the latter. It really doesn't get any better than that...
Conrad Mas himself converted my Volvere to a Sequel in under an hour. It worked immediately and seemed fine, but Conrad wasn't happy. The time taken for the platter to reach operating speed from a standing start was too long, he said, indicating transmission problems. So the belt was replaced, and the various drive surfaces cleaned. The result was noticeably faster take-up, and more importantly, the sound improved. Definition increased, and everything seemed much more crisp and better focused.
Which just goes to demonstrate the importance of a clean, solid drive. Even with a heavy 5kg platter, a high torque motor, and massive power supply, all can come to naught if belt and driving surfaces aren't clean and in perfect condition. Actually some turntables benefit from a little belt-slippage (remember putting Mr Sheen on Linn belts?); it helps iron-out the 'cogging' effects of poorly regulated synchronous motors. That the opposite is true with the Sequel indicates the quality of AVID's outboard power supply.
I used the Sequel with AVID's version of Rega's RB300 tonearm, fitting it with the latest Temper W moving-coil cartridge from Transfiguration. Although there's something of a mismatch here on paper - expensive turntable and cartridge/ relatively cheap tonearm - the combination worked extremely well. Tracking proved excellent, and surface noise (background hiss and ticks, and louder clicks and pops) was very low and well controlled. Rumble is virtually non-existent.
No turntable, even one as good as AVID's Sequel, can totally eliminate LP surface noise. But on a good, clean, quiet pressing there should be little or no noise to speak of. Even when playing worn or damaged records, the Sequel succeeds in focusing the music so that it projects over any noise that might be present. It's as though the noise itself is in a different plane - behind the music, if that makes sense. Having a good phono stage helps too.
The Sequel's platter is permanently fitted with a cork mat, and a raised brass housing near the centre spindle pushes the centre part of the LP up slightly, allowing the clamp to tighten down on the edge of the label, thereby flattening warped or dished records. This makes using he supplied clamp or external record weight more or less essential - otherwise the LP edges float free of the mat. Unlike some clamps, the Sequel's does not mark the LP centre label.
Being an open skeletal design, there's no supplied hinged lid. However, AVID offers two lid options. The first is a simple cover to protect the platter from dust and the tonearm/cartridge from prying fingers; the second (which I haven't seen) is a large cover, designed to keep the whole assembly dust-free and protected when not in use. Being open construction, the Sequel's a bit of a dust trap. But it's easily dismantled for cleaning when the time comes.
With CD having been around for over 20 years, and some form of super disc like SACD hyped to replace it, it's remarkable to find LP still part of the serious audiophile's agenda. And not just holding on by its finger-tips, but gathering strength. Turntables like AVID's Sequel enable vinyl to compete at the very highest level, offering a vivid holographic presentation that's impressive and exciting. But that in itself does not explain why LP has such a hold over audiophiles.
Perhaps it's the wealth of material on LP for second-hand collectors - so many unusual things still turn up, and there's still so much of the LP back catalogue that hasn't been issued on CD. I don't know about you, but I nearly always feel a bit smug and virtuous listening to material on vinyl that's unobtainable on CD. Especially when the sound is fabulously clear and flawless.
When such an LP is played on a turntable of AVID Sequel standards, the results can be breathtaking. To think that something so technologically crude and unpromising - a lump of black plastic being scraped by a diamond tip - can produce music that captivates and moves is nothing less than a minor miracle.
Inevitably, the AVID Volvere Sequel costs a lot of money. But how could something so lavishly and extravagantly be built on the cheap? Buying the best has always been an expensive proposition. Importantly, I'd say a Volvere Sequel represents good value for money. I mean, how do you put a price on transforming your entire LP collection? Or your life? You can't!
Hi-Fi Choice "Product of the Year 2002/3
A cross between the company's flagship Acutus and its base model the Volvere, this is a heavyweight suspended turntable that means business from the outset.
The three silver posts contain the suspension springs while the external power supply allows electronic speed selection. It's a simple but heavily engineered design that has all the ingredients to turn its users into vinyl junkies.
Put a favourite LP on the platter, screw down the fine threaded clamp and let the needle into the groove and you'll hear things you never expected vinyl to deliver. Killer bass that goes all the way down and shakes the furniture, the most transparent of midranges that lets everything through, and the sweetest highs imaginable. Absolute results depend on the arm used but if these are half decent you'll be revelling in analogue audio heaven.
Its transparency means that not all your records will sound great-there is plenty of variation in record quality and the Volvere Sequel lets you know it. On the other hand it will make the most of whatever you give it, and most recordings are much better than you might imagine. The degree of precision available means that you will hear every detail within the context of a fluent musical whole that cannot be ignored, such is the coherence and integration of the performance.
July 2002 Jason Kennedy, Hi-Fi Choice- Editors Choice (UK)
"This turntable has the platter and chassis from the Volvere coupled with the external power supply from the Acutus. The motor is fundamentally the same as that on the Acutus but in basic unmodified form."
"This is a very impressive turntable, there’s no getting away from it. Put a great record on and you hear everything, or put it another way it extracts so much more than is usually encountered that you feel you're hearing everything there is worth hearing. The humble vinyl groove has an extraordinary ability to store information, much greater than most turntables will let you hear, in fact. The AVID taps deep into that store."
"First impressions were of a bold, powerful and confident sound, with an image that sits in front of the loudspeakers to a greater degree than other sources. There's an architectural solidity to its presentation that you don't get with many analogue or digital sources, in fact hardly any of the latter, but which gives the music being played a presence and realism that is reach-out-and -touch-it real."
"The above is actually a description of the music reproduced by the AVID rather than the deck's character-this is one of the most transparent turntables I've heard and its sound seems purely to be that of the record you put on it. It reveals huge variations between recordings, to the extent that one selection of discs can leave you thinking it's nothing special while another has you leaping about the room with excitement. The difference between good and bad recordings has never been starker, so prepare for disappointment and elation, because while it will make the most of a great record it won't enliven a poor one."
The deck's precision is such that even within individual albums it draws out the great tracks from the lesser ones with ease. Take Radiohead's I Might Be Wrong Live Recordings- quite a few tracks sound pretty messy but the less complex acoustic guitar-based ones are clear and strong. Which could lead you to imagine that the turntable is struggling with denser pieces but Captain Beefheart's Floppy Boot Stomp put paid to that notion, this rhythmically contorted piece sounded supremely coherent and engaging. Other records reveal that different instruments within a piece were clearly recorded separately and in slightly different environments, Anouar Brahem's fine sounding Barzakh on ECM being a great example. Featuring only a few acoustic instruments recorded in ECM's characteristically clear style the AVID brought to light a wide degree of variations in acoustic surroundings of each instrument."
"Remarkable transparency and resolution to the finest detail plus tremendous coherence and power."
"Very impressive heavy-weight turntable that will deliver all the passion, grace and fire of your favourite vinyl."