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AVID - Acutus SP Reference Turntable


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AVID Acutus Reference SP Turntable and Full-Sized Power Supply

The Ultimate in Analog Playback Turns Every LP Into a Private Concert and Personal Retreat: 'Table Features Industry's Most Powerful Motor and 42-Pound DSP Power Supply

Standard-Setting Turntable and Power Supply Rethink Analog Playback: This is the Beginning of You Hearing Music Like It's Meant to Be Heard

An age-old philosophy guides the principles behind the AVID Acutus Reference SP turntable: If you're not going to do it right, don't bother doing it at all. Completely conceived by starting from a clean sheet of paper, the state-of-the-art instrument achieves unheard-of levels of musical transparency and realism by way of AVID's insistence on ignoring previous 'table designs and examining— piece by piece—the physics, properties, and characteristics involved in turntable playback. You will hear vinyl records come to life in ways that significantly change your life. Once you experience the Acutus Reference SP, you will ask yourself why you waited so long to listen to its consummate presentation. The good news is that the best listening of your life can start now.

"Almost immediately, the Ref SP became the go-to mechanism in my stable of reference turntables. After a few days of comparisons, it was obvious that I could not live without it. It also meant that a couple of other turntables had to go."
– Jeff Dorgay, TONEAudio

Turn Every LP into a Private Concert and Personal Retreat
Meticulous mechanics, minuscule details, and hyper-fine-tuned parts: You wouldn't be amiss if you mistake Reference SP as the analog equivalent of the world's most illustrious wristwatches. In the same way you savor the master craftsmanship of a fine Swiss chronograph dial watch with hundreds of complications, you will likewise revel in the exquisite precision and pinpoint exactness produced by this truly reference turntable. Paired with its accompanying state-of-the-art power supply, the Reference SP provides a seemingly endless array of sonic brilliance. You will immediately hear astounding bass and treble extension, microscopic detail, enlarged and widened soundstages, photographic naturalism, lower noise floor, exceptional transients, and vivid dynamics. You will be transported to your own private island, a retreat from everyday pressures where your favorite artists serenade and surround you. The Reference SP turns every LP into a private concert. All you need to supply is your coziest chair and tastiest beverage.

"...with the AVID, I finally got the rabbit by the ears. The Acutus Reference SP combines bespoke build quality, ease of setup, and stellar performance in a gorgeous package. What else could you possibly want?"
– Jeff Dorgay, TONEAudio

Unique Design Elements and Power Supply Make the Reference SP Different
Achieving new, standard-setting heights for turntable playback isn't easy. And, no, it isn't cheap. But in the case of the Reference SP, you get what you pay for. Many of AVID's approaches differ from every other manufacturer. Then again, so do the results. AVID founder Conrad Mas literally threw away the book when creating the Reference SP. His refusal to compromise on any aspect and years of intense research led AVID to develop its unique "energy transmission system," which results in unparalleled record stability and zero vibration at the stylus. Opposite that of the competitors, AVID employs an intensely powerful hand-built synchronous motor to let the twin-belt drive control the platter. Offering ten times the power of conventional motors, AVID's unit is hand-tuned to the individual power supply, a genius invention deserving of inclusion in an audio hall of fame. Weighing in at an arm-straining 42 pounds, this DSP Vari-SPeed Power Supply utilizes DSP technology to control frequency generation and features a 1KV power transformer. It keeps motor speed precisely constant, reduces noise and vibration to incredibly low levels, bestows rock-solid stability, and epitomizes authority. It's one of the reasons why your records will sound utterly transparent, pure, vibrant, and lifelike.

Function-First Aspects Look Great and Enhance the Music You Love
Of course, the three-point-suspension Reference SP not only sounds fantastic, it looks like a million bucks. Amazingly, the appearance and materials stem from AVID's function-first strategies. In addition to the ‘table’s PSU and motor, other distinctive design characteristics include focusing the majority of mass in the platter—not the chassis/subchassis like other ‘tables—to keep bearing noise to an absolute minimum. AVID also bonds a polymer disc to the 10kg aluminum platter to reflect vibration caused by the stylus and channel it through the bearing to which records is grounded. Hence, unlike plastic platters that store vibration or felt mats that cause records to vibrate, unwanted vibrations are effectively dispelled. Complex physics aside, what matters most is how AVID's evolved thinking impacts the music you adore. Put simply, the Reference SP extracts more music out of vinyl’s grooves than any other 'table in its price class, and does so in a manner that enhances every prized audible aspect of music while simultaneously decreasing traits that distract from the musical experience.

Stop Wondering What Analog Nirvana Sounds Like
You could say the Reference SP represents the pinnacle of analog luxury. Perhaps. But what this terrifically overbuilt 'table really signifies is the beginning of you experiencing music as it's meant to be heard: With an ease and delightfulness that make you fall even deeper in love with your records, and give you peace of mind that no other pleasure can possibly equal. Backed by Music Direct's 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee, the Reference SP is ready to engage your senses and end your pursuit of analog perfection. Stop wondering what analog nirvana sounds like. Start your lifelong relationship with the Reference SP today.

Configuration Options
The Acutus Reference SP is available in three configurations, selectable from the menu above:
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Pro Reviews

Tone Audio

September 2010 John Bamford, HiFi News Magazine - (Outstanding Product) (UK)
You've got to take your hat off to Avid Hi-Fi. It's top-of-the-range Acutus deck, first introduced 12 years ago and enhanced with the launch of the Reference outboard power supply in 2006, is certainly one beast of a turntable. Resplendent in black and silver chrome that's polished to a mirror finish, it makes for an imposing sight atop any audiophile's equipment rack. Want to make the ultimate statement? The deck is also available to order finished in polished 24K gold plate, though for this you'll have to add an extra 35% to the price.

During the past year or so the company has been introducing 'SP' upgrades across its entire range of turntables. What we have here, is the recent incarnation of Avid's flagship, the Acutus Reference SP. Like all of the firm's decks with 'SP' nomenclature its external power supply (that provides electronic speed switching between 33 and 45 rpm) is a new design dubbed the 'DSP Vari-SPeed supply' featuring on-board digital signal processing to control frequency generation. Also common to Avid 'SP' decks is a twin belt drive system that claims to better control platter dynamics and stability under load.

As the name implies, the power supply now allows fine speed adjustment. On this top-of-range Reference supply for the Acutus, for example, there are three buttons on the fascia. One starts and stops the platter, the other two are for selecting the speed. Pressing and holding both speed selection buttons simultaneously moves the unit into speed adjustment mode, where one button speeds up the platter in fine increments and the other slows it down. You'll need a strobe disc to set it accurately, of course. Once the desired speed is reached, pressing both buttons together once more stores the speed setting in memory.

While certainly looking every bit a super-heavyweight, with its 45cm-tall 10kg platter and chunky suspension towers, the Acutus is actually a fairly compact design with a modest 410x360mm footprint, so you'll have no difficulty accommodating it on the top shelf of any standard-sized audio equipment rack. But don't forget you'll need a substantial shelf to house the Reference power supply that sets this deck apart from the 'standard' £8000 Acutus. The supply alone weights just over 20kg alone.

If you choose to install it yourself rather than have your dealer set it up for you, opening the substantial packing carton reveals a 'kit of parts' that initially rather daunting. But the design is beautifully thought out, and thanks to the explicit assembly instructions the Acutus can be assembled in a matter of literally a few minutes. It's the fitting of your chosen arm and accurately aligning your cartridge that takes the time...

Comprising a main chassis of cast aluminium with levelling feet that holds the deck's three suspension towers, and a separate motor unit that is easily fixed in place with a rubber O-ring in a matter of seconds, the separate subchassis sports three downward-facing 'legs' that simply locate into each tower containing a suspension spring. Each of the Acutus's three springs is the same, but adjustable so that the frequency of movement is the same independent of load. Spring adjustments are accessed through holes in the top of the towers using a supplied Allen wrench. Rubber O-rings fixed to the three towers act as lateral damping, and quickly return the platter to the vertical plane to provide a truly pistonic up/down movement of the subchassis and platter, with a resonant frequency of 2-2.5Hz.

Our sample was fitted with an SME Series V tonearm, into which was installed Ortofon's sublime ruby-cantilevered Cadenza Blue moving coil cartridge. The Acutus Reference's overall presentation appears tightly focused and controlled. Leading edges of notes, from soft and delicate to the loudest, most explosive crescendos, were sharply delineated and squeaky clean. Jan Garbarek's 'Molde Canticle, Part 3 from his album I Took Up The Runes sounded bold and powerful while possessing a beguiling coherence and effortless, relaxed feel. The melodic lines delivered by bass maestro Eberhard Weber were uncommonly easy to follow, where on lesser record players the subtle touches and inflections in his playing become all too easily blurred by over-prominent subsonic thumps of Manu Katche's kick drum. And although Garbarek's wailing soprano saxophone can often become jarring in digital EMC recordings such as this, the sound remained lucid and actually rather silky - even when Garbarek let rip during crescendos.

And this is not because the deck sounds smooth and mellow. Far from it, as it displays plenty of attack and zest. Sounding fast and authoritative partnered with the SME tonearm, there was joyous alacrity to Sly 'n' Robbie's rhythm section on Joe Cocker's Sheffield Steel, while his gruff vocal delivery stood out from the production with uncommonly fine diction and projection. There was nothing bloated about the sound of this turntable combo, everything appearing tight, sharp and lucid, which allowed you to hear deep into the mix of complex multitrack recordings to pick out the subtlest of details.

When listening to 'Couldn't Bear To Be Special' from Prefab Sprout's Swoon album, the low frequency 'thunder' effects had the kind of control one usually associates with CD replay, without an ounce of spare flesh artificially colouring the sound. The Acutus Reference makes vinyl sound not only clean but articulate too, Prefab Sprout's Paddy McAloon appearing frail and exposed as the halo of reverberation around his voice was portrayed vividly within the stereo image. The low-level swirling of electronic keyboards in the recording, together with the percussion fills and ethereal backing vocals, were delineated clearly within a cavern of eerie blackness, sound images seemingly locked in tight focus between and beyond the boundaries of the loudspeakers.

Its funny how the cosmetic appearance of a turntable can sometimes lead one to second-guess how it might sound...but you'd be wrong if you thought this grand and imposing Avid Acutus Reference SP might be all about blood 'n' guts and thunder, with heroic bass to blow your socks off. Not so. Its bass performance is impressive sure enough, Tony Levin's thumping bass 'stick' on King Crimson's Beat album demonstrating noble power and 'slam', but the Acutus' main sonic character is best described as a 'stately coolness' - where nothing appears forced or over lit.

The sound is ultra-clean, with fast, tight bass and lucid midband combined with equally fast treble and superb detail retrieval. Somehow it has the ability to sound explicit without a trace of harshness or over-etching, so the weeping electronic guitar of Crimson's Robert Fripp was exposed without ever becoming brittle.

As you'd imagine, female voices were beautifully served too. I found myself captivated by the richness and detail in lead singer Martha Johnson's voice when listening to Martha And The Muffin's 1981 LP This Is The Ice Age despite Daniel Lanois' typically dense production. The combo did seem to extract all the information it possibly could from the record's 30-year-old grooves.

HIFI NEW VERDICT : With its fabulous detail retrieval and focused sound, the Acutus Reference SP delivers a captivating performance. Moreover its elaborate suspension makes it immune to the vagaries of positioning - not something that can be said of most turntables. Beautifully made, compact, easy to set up and maintain, the only reason not to want it is the high-end cost. Aaah... the price of luxury.

August 2010 Wojciech Pacula, 6moons.com (USA)
Turntables from the Avid company look fantastic. Each time I test them; it is not only a feast for the ears but eyes. This time the power supply was a full-sized component to add both physical weight and cosmetic gravitas.

I also received AVID’s new Pulsare Phono. They regard it as their crown jewel and proudly first told me about it when we met during the Audio Show 2009. Poland actually became one of the first places where the Acutus Reference was shown with this phono stage. The Pulsare Phono consists of two units – the power supply and the amplification. With the Pulsare we have access to amplification and load settings from the front panel, which is key. The Pulsare amplifier has a fully balanced architecture so naturally the cartridge signal can be supplied balanced (each cartridge is naturally balanced versus tone arm ground) to the XLR input socket of the phono stage.

Together with the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge, the Avid in balanced connection always showed the sunny side of the world. If I would like to embed this in some psychological context, I would call this deck a born optimist. There’s nothing in the world, which would not be worthwhile, nothing so bad, and boring as to not invite a closer look. Anthropomorphization of course is never the best research strategy if we aspire to objectivity. From my experience, such approximations are simply very helpful when we attempt to describe matters, which are closely related to emotions. We better understand multidimensional complexity when we compare it to something similar/familiar - and music is obviously emotional. Optimist thus should hit the spot.

The British turntable sounds very civilized. I wrote about this already when describing the Acutus but here it was even more pronounced. All events on stage make sense. Everything has a common denominator, which holds it all together. If the voice is most important as on Mel Tormé at The Red Hill, then his voice will be showcased as the star. But when it is an interaction of two parallel elements as on Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley where the vocalist is accompanied by The Marty Paich Orchestra, then those become clearly—very clearly—two equally important elements. Both are rich in micro events within their boundaries and intriguing. But when playing together, it’s all about their interaction and how they combine. It's not about analysis of each element separately.

Like a source code, this sound has a built-in good attitude towards what the diamond reads from the groove. ‘Good attitude’ is not a precise descriptor but the best I have, which describes what I want to convey. Regardless of recording quality or condition of the vinyl, we can be sure that the Avid system will do its best to retrieve the best from the recording. This simply is how Avid has designed their turntables to sound. They don’t confront reality. They befriend it.

October 2008 Paul Messenger, HiFi Choice Collection (UK)
When Conrad Mas decided to launch a new hi-fi company based on an upmarket vinyl turntable in 1995, friends said he had taken leave of his senses. History has proved otherwise, as AVID has gone on to establish itself as one of the country's leading purveyors of luxury high-end turntables.

Although less costly derivatives like the Volvere, Sequel and Diva have subsequently been developed, the Acutus was the first Avid to be introduced and remains the flagship model in the range. The standard version with its normal, quite chunky, 80VA outboard power supply remains available at £7300, but is now joined by the Acutus Reference. The Reference shares the same basic turntable but has a much larger, more powerful power supply, which weighs slightly more than the turntable thanks to an extravagant 1kVA transformer.

The Acutus has done much to set the current fashion for skeletal oil-rig styling. Its exceptional standard of fit and heavily chromed finish making a strikingly handsome style statement. No turntable can function on its own, so we asked Avid to supply a partnering tonearm. The company is still working on its own design, so fitted an SME Series V, and also supplied the mounting and lower section of a Naim ARO.

The first, most abiding impression was just how clean it made vinyl sound. The Acutus seems to pin the music down as tightly and with as much control as any CD player. This is at least partly due to that Reference power supply, as comparison with the standard unit clearly revealed. The broad tonal character of the combo was consistent whichever supply was used, but the larger Reference supply tightening everything up significantly. Particularly, the bass and lower midband were better detailed and stereo focus was improved.

With Avid’s very solid ARO mounting platform installed, I was on more familiar ground and able to put the Acutus into some sort of context with two other turntables- an Armageddon-driven Linn and an early Rega Planar 9. Once again, the sheer precision and stability of the Avid was immediately apparent- much more like the Rega than the Linn, especially the way voices and lead instruments occupied and dominated stage-front.

This turntable projects music with a bold confidence and a notably strong and dynamic midband and presence. The bass, too, is punchy and precise, though not the last word in weight and agility. Although this is undoubtedly impressive some recordings can also sound a little forced and the result can sound a little sparse. That said, the overall solidity, stability and image focus set very high standards indeed.

March 2007 Wayne Garcia, The Absolute Sound (USA)
And over the five months I've lived with the Acutus Reference it has proved to be one of the most pleasurable-to-operate and finest-sounding turntables I've ever encountered. Its character is notably invisible. What it seems to do is allow whatever phono cartridge you mount on it to speak its voice.

Naturally this level of transparency applies to LP's as well, and do keep in mind that although I listened to two different cartridges on the Avid, the only arm I auditioned was the excellent SME V, whose own character leans just a tad to the dark side of the spectrum. Hearing Johnny Cash sing 'First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,' from American IV: When the Man Comes Around, Revealed a few more things about the Avid. For one, groove noise on this turntable is extremely low, particularly when paired with the Air Tight PC-1, which in my experience is simply unequalled in this area. Next was the Acutus Reference's way of digging down to reveal production details. Producer Rick Rubin deliberately swathed Cash's voice in a gigantic halo of reverb, and over the Avid it came across as never before-as if an electronic nimbus were surrounding his head, which seemed to hover like that of the wizard of Oz, several feet behind, just above, and smack in between my Kharma Mini Exquisite speakers. Most importantly, though, the Avid delivers the emotional goods-Cash's raw, broken voice, drenched in a church-like reverb, the dirge-like insistence of two strummed acoustic guitars, and the swell of the funeral parlor organ burrowed into your soul like grief itself.

Lowering the stylus into the 45rpm pressing of Monk's 'Brilliant Corners', the slightly hesitant opening theme of 'Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are' gives way to a series of solos by each band member. As each player improvises the theme, the Avid brought forth a powerful sense of their instruments' presence and musical force. From the reedy swoop of Ernie Henry's alto sax, to Monk's at first plinkity-plonk then fluid piano playing, from Sonny Rollins' tenor run that pokes around a bit before launching into brilliant improv, to Oscar Pettiford's bass solo, which seems not just grounded to the floor but rooted to the very earth, to Max Roach's drums-delivered with a transient snap and dynamic force we hope for but so rarely get from our systems.

Finally, Hans Werner Henze's 1973 composition 'Tristan' runs from calm passages for solo piano and the breath of a few woodwinds, to near-chaotic stretches for full-throttle orchestra that include the clamor of high-pitched percussion and woodwinds, strings that are bowed and plucked as well as tapped and scraped with bows, and all manner of violent-sounding taped sounds, with quotes from Wagner's opera and the Brahms’s First thrown in for good measure. The Acutus Reference & Co. tracked these as if they were lullabies. It also displayed a special ability to pull the minutest details of technique and timbre from the grooves, never lose a single thread of this highly complex music, to display a dazzlingly beautiful array of tone colours, to carve out a most impressive soundstage of tremendous depth, width, and height, to project dynamics with a convincingly lifelike range of no apparent limits, and to recreate a piano's sound with exceptional presence, lengthy decay, and bold lower-octave chords with a persuasive sense of weight and power behind them.

Avid's Acutus Reference clearly ranks among the handful of top analog playback contenders.

What I can say with confidence is that the Acutus Reference is one of the most musical-sounding record players you can buy, one of the most intelligently designed, thoroughly engineered, and beautifully made, one of the most compact, and one of the easiest to set up and maintain. And the fact that the company's range starts at $2500 means that, even if you can't spring for the Reference, another Avid is well worth considering.

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Drive: Belt drive
Speeds: 33.3 and 45.0 RPM
Platter mass: 22 lbs.
Bearing: Inverted stainless steel
Thrust point: Tungsten carbide/Sapphire
Suspension: 3 point, springs in vertical, o-rings in lateral frequency
    vertical 2.5 Hz (variable), lateral 4.5 Hz
Tonearms: Std. cut for SME (adapters to order)
Motor: Hand built 24v 140mNm ac synchronous
Power supply: DSP Vari-SPeed control unit
Voltage input: 100-240vac 50/60Hz 20 watts max. (depending on region)
Dimensions: 18.1" x 15.75" x 8.25" (WDH)
Dimensions: Turntable (footprint) 16.15" x 14.17" (WD)
P.S.U. 9.85" x 8.45" x 3.75" (WDH)
Net weight: 42lb turntable only, 8lb psu only
Packaging: 21.65" x x 21.65" (WDH)
Shipping weight: 66lb

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