May 2011 Laurent Thorin, Haute Fidélité (FR)
With this thoroughly revised version of the Diva II, Avid makes an
impact by offering an affordable turntable of outstanding performance,
capable of doing justice to the best arms and cartridges, as well as
less exotic partners.
The British brand AVID was created in 1996 by Conrad Mas, a mechanical
engineer with high fidelity as a hobby. In addition to audio, the
company also provides engineering and Avid’s knowledge to companies in
the medical field, robotics and defense. Avid turntables have
experienced rapid growth, and even the Russian president Dmitry
Medvedev, who is known for his passion for high-fidelity, has recently
purchased an Acutus Reference SP and Pulsare phono stage!
Diva II SP is a reworked version of the standard Diva II. It is also
twice as expensive. Aesthetically, it is very successful, according to a
well-known term that ‘form follows function’. The main chassis is a
casting of aluminium with a ribbed profile, comprising the arm board
(which is standard cut for SME), the three suspension pods and platter
on its bearing. For decoupling from the surface on which they rest, a
triple layer of a specific elastomer is used called Sorbothane. The
principle of inverted bearing has also been chosen and at the centre of
the chassis is a firmly fixed stainless steel spindle with a centred
end. Here a tungsten ball is placed. Then a tapered main bearing, with a
threaded spindle, rests on the ball with a ruby thrust. Finally, the
platter fits precisely on the main bearing. This tapered design
eliminates any chance of torsional movement. The platter is made from
one piece of aluminium and perfectly balanced. Weighing 6.3 kg, on its
upper surface it has a layer of cork that provides the interface to the
record. The record clamp is screwed onto the spindle pressing the record
to the platter. The large mass of the platter ensures a very low
suspension resonance frequency of about 4 Hz.
The design of the bearing and clamp allows vibrations generated by the
stylus to be evacuated quickly: the principle of creating a Mechanical
earth. The platter is driven by a 24 volt synchronous motor with high
torque. The drive is done using two cylindrical belts, allowing better
control the movement of the platter and stability regardless of load.
The motor is placed in a heavy cylinder totally independent of the main
chassis. Its place is clearly defined by a cut out in the latter. But be
careful during assembly, there must be clear space so the two sides do
not touch. Within its housing, the motor is duly damped by the heavy
material. The speed is tightly controlled by a separate DSP Vari-Speed
power supply. The DSP (Digital Signal Processing) power supply allows
changes in the speed and the motor enjoys a current source pure and
abundant. The owners of the Diva II can upgrade their version to SP
through a fixed price package.
This analogue source sets the bar very high for tonal equilibrium. There
is an impressive degree of naturalness. Anything that makes the charm
of analog playback is at the rendezvous, that is to say a good sense of
matter, a balance fleshy, and a tiny touch of warmth. However, these
virtues never become caricatures and are deployed with a keen sense of
measure. In short, this is the modern analogue and not a substitute of
vintage players. We locate this success primarily to the width of the
bandwidth that is characterized by a bass never seen on a turntable for
this price. Listening to the trio of Bill Evans recorded live in
Montreux in 1968; Eddie Gomez on bass is simply phenomenal. The tension
on the strings has superb presence and energy. There is a lot of
presence and accuracy in playing the bass. The limited version Kind of
Blue, the bass is once again exceptionally deep and control. It is
always surprising to rediscover a disc you thought perfectly well after
having encountered it hundreds of times. The fluidity of a medium is
The Avid / Dynavector impose a sense of energy always well controlled.
The listening takes place in an atmosphere of tranquility and serenity
simply because the dynamic behavior is controlled to the millimeter. The
accelerations are straightforward, the judgments are sharp. The breaks
are clear, the times too. In short, we can follow the complicated
melodic lines with the feeling of not missing a beat. This ease was
sticking to the signal gives meaning to listen expressed with clarity of
good quality. Whether on a trio or a bigger jazz orchestra, this source
is able to offer a deep breath to recorded music.
The image is large and has excellent holographic qualities. Kind of Blue
on the site of the musicians is an accuracy that is often lacking. Not
only is the focus of sound sources surprisingly accurate, but each
retains its own environment and placing on the panorama with excellent
space. The depth of sound is obvious with solid images.
The Avid-Dynavector combination quickly showed a supreme elegance and
revealed every detail and nuance, with a wealth of micro-information,
quite amazing at this price level. It allowed a fine analysis of records
by completing the most complex to dissect the message never isolate any
This analog source gave us the most musical performance in all aspects.
Of course, it is important to put this into a broader sense. Indeed, the
combination of which we have the opportunity to test is a bit unusual
and would be rarely assembled. It is indeed unlikely that a customer
would choose a tone arm which will be priced higher than the turntable,
and use a phono preamp costing 8000 euro and a 1400 euro cartridge. But
despite these imbalances the final result was an enthusiasm that the
intrinsic value of each link was excellent. And that the turntable, in
particular, is remarkable. This also allows us to confirm with
confidence that the Diva II SP, along with a less expensive arm (for
example a SME 309) and a more affordable preamp, would make a complete
analogue source (turntable + arm + cartridge + RIAA preamp) for less
than 7000 Euros, particularly capable of excellent performance. For all
these reasons, the Diva II SP wholly deserves our Best Buy distinction.
January 2011 Michael Fremer, Stereophile Magazine (USA)
I'd evaluated the Diva II turntable from Avid HiFi Ltd and was just
about to start writing the review. I didn't know the price, but based on
its build quality, and especially its sound, I figured it was about
$4500. But when I looked it up on the website of Avid's American
importer, Music Direct, I had to call them to make sure the price shown -
$1800 - wasn't a mistake. This is going to cause a revolution, I thought.
It wasn't a mistake, but it turned out I'd made one. I'd been listening
to Avid's Diva II SP ($3995), which includes, among other upgrades from
the Diva II, a nearly 14-lb machined aluminium platter and, for its 24V
AC synchronous motor, a DSP-based voltage-synthesizing outboard power
supply that lets you dial in the speed. World order had been restored.
The Diva II SP resembles other Avid turntables, with which it shares
components, including its tungsten-carbide/sapphire ball, inverted
stainless-steel bearing, affixed to the hub of a three-legged chassis of
cast aluminium. Part of that casting is an integral mount for an SME
tonearm machined into the end of a leg that protrudes from midway
between two of the support towers (adapters for other arms are
available). Instead of spring suspensions found in more expensive
models, the Diva II SP and Diva II use a three-layer elastomer system
that includes a "tailored Sorbothane compound" incorporated into each of
the support legs.
A mat of soft cork tops the platter. The crown of the inverted spindle
bearing protrudes slightly from the platter surface to provide the
downforce flex for the screw-on record clamp. The platter is driven via
capellini-gauge dual O-rings looped around double grooved pulleys on the
platter and motor.
Avid's ingenious belt-pin system makes it easy to fit the O-rings over
the hidden pulleys; Insert a small pin in a hole in the platter's
underside, close to its outer perimeter. Fit the belts around the
platter pulley and then over the pin, which pulls the O-rings away from
the pulley. You then carefully fit the platter over the bearing, placing
the pin so that the pulley-aside section bisects the motor pulley. It's
then relatively easy to remove the pin and let the O-rings snap into
place in the motor pulley's two grooves.
With the motor all but invisible between two chassis legs, the handsome
Diva II SP has a relatively small footprint. Turn on the power supply,
push Play, and the platter is up to speed so quickly you'd think it was
Music Direct supplied me with an SME 309 tonearm. I was able to securely
bolt it to the Diva in minutes, and set it up almost as easily. I used a
USB-connected microscope to set a Lyra Kleos moving coil cartridge's
stylus rake angle to 92, and a digital oscilloscope to set azimuth.
The results of this all-instrumentation, no fiddling, no guesswork setup
were spectacular. While sprung 'tables do achieve excellent isolation
from outside vibrations, I believe that once you set a platter spinning,
no matter how carefully it's machined, it will cause the suspension to
move. I much prefer the rock-solid performance of mass-loaded or
elastomer-isolated 'tables like the Diva II SP, provided they're placed
on a properly tuned isolation stand like the HRS SXR rack and M3 base -
which is what I did.
This $6000 combination was ridiculously good in every aspect of vinyl
play. It produced an impressively quite background out of which sprang
rock-solid three-dimensional images. The Avid's bass performance was
rhythmically nimble, "tuneful," and harmonically expressive. The bottom
octaves were taut and impressively well controlled, yet supple and
texturally revealing. In my experience, sprung 'tables have trouble
keeping up with this level of bottom-octave performance.
The Diva II SP's overall attack was fast and precise, its sustain
reasonably held long, and sounds decayed very, very cleanly into
silence. I sat twice through an original UK pressing of Eno's Before and After Science,
and found myself concentrating on the precision of the cymbal work,
particularly when I played the album at low levels during one play, and
on the "tunefulness" of the bass during the next. This 'table dug down
deep to deliver foundational rhythmic grooves for which rockers will go
All of the Diva II SP's sins were of omission, and even those were
minor. Overall dynamic and spatial scales were somewhat diminished, but
the Avid's most significant lack was of a fully fleshed out midrange,
which gave it a generally cool, detached sound. While this quality
produced less "fleshy" vocals and somewhat undernourished and mildly
recessed harmonic palette for strings, reed instruments, and keyboards,
it revealed an incredible wealth of genuine low-level detail,
particularly in the recording's reverberant field. This somewhat
clinical quality can be balanced out with a warmish cartridge or phono
However, even in the clinical context of a tonally neutral cartridge and
phono preamp, the Diva II SP produced sound so enticing that I listened
night and night to all kinds of music, constantly surprised by its high
level of performance, and telling myself that if times got tough and I
had to sell my big rig, I could listen happily ever after to the Diva II
SP. That's how well balanced and robust its overall sound was. My only
real complaint was about its coarsely threaded spindle: It was easy to
misthread the clamp, especially when I was in a rush to hear the next
While at $3995 the Diva II SP isn't the bargain it would have been at
$1800, it's still an incredible value for such a well-designed, well
built, superb sounding analogue rig. Combined with the precise-sounding,
easy-to-set-up SME 309 tonearm, I'm not sure what's better, or even as
good, for $6000.
October 2009 Adam Smith, HIFI World Magazine - (5 Globes) (UK)
Spurred on by the resurgence of vinyl, it would appear that Avid is a
company going places. I had a long and interesting chat with owner
Conrad Mas at the Munich Hi-Fi Show and he was telling me of the
companies plans for the future, and what they are planning to introduce
over the next couple of years. Naturally I am sworn to secrecy but
suffice to say that I nearly fell off my stool when he announced that
the number of new products in this period will be in double figures!
I think this is indicative that Avid has become something of a success
story since it opened its doors in 1995. Yes, the company also doubles
as a source of high quality mechanical engineering, but making perfect
'oily bits' for a turntable is all very well if you don't know how to
put them together or how to make them interact successfully.
Fortunately, judging by the Diva II, Volvere and Acutus models that we
are such fans of, it appears this isn't an issue. Consequently, it was
with a great sense of anticipation that I set to unpacking the first
newbie from Avid; the Diva II SP turntable...
As its name suggests, this deck is an evolution of the base model Diva
II, which incorporates some features found on bigger brother Volvere,
but also launches one or two new ideas for Avid onto the market.
Obviously visually similar to the Diva II, the first thing you notice
when assembling the deck is that the platter is a metal item, rather
than the MDF of the standard Diva II, and this spins on a high quality
Tungsten carbide/sapphire bearing assembly taken from the dearer decks.
As per all Avid designs, the Diva II SP is belt driven, but it is here
that the new item I mentioned earlier shows its face, in the form of a
synchronous AC motor, driving the platter through twin belts and
offering variable speed through a brand new frequency-adjustable power
This configuration came about as Conrad prefers to stick with a
synchronous AC motor. As he explained, he sees the use of a DC type as
something of an easy option, requiring a simple voltage alteration for
speed adjustment but his concerns at how the changing load on such a
motor can ever make it hope to remain stable meant that he stuck with
the AC, and chose to develop a circuit that regenerates a clean AC
signal to power the motor, making it frequency-adjustable for the
possibility of speed alteration. The result is the DSP Vari-SPeed
supply, so called because it uses Digital Signal Processing for the
signal generation and control.
Physically the supply is a small and neat metal box with an on/off knob
and two buttons. One starts and stops the platter, and the other changes
the speed, whilst pressing and holding both moves the unit into speed
adjustment mode, where one button speeds up in fine increments and the
other slows down. Once the desired speed is reached, both buttons are
pressed together once more and the setting is stored in memory. A simple
process and an effective one too, as both speeds remained rock-solid
after several days of continuous running.
With my Audio Technica AT-OC9MLII fitted, and warming up the Diva II SP
and supplied SME 309 arm with something a little frivolous in the form
of Kleerup's recent twelve inch single 'Longing for Lullabies',
I realised that the Diva II SP does indeed have the Avid family sound,
but definitely takes the performance of the standard Diva II up a gear.
The electronic bass line from this track was punchy and deep, offering
visceral excitement, and the Diva II SP proved a more than willing
accomplice to some dance-related shenanigans. Moving to something a
little more sophisticated, it continued to show that its right at the
top of the tree when it comes to bass lines, imbuing Tift Merrit's 'Still Pretending' with a delightfully well formed underpinning.
Equally delightful was its sense of expressiveness and feeling across
the midband. Tift's vocals were vivid and finely etched onto the
performance, the Avid making it easy to spot when she pulled back from
the microphone when delivering something of a vocal crescendo; some
lesser decks simply leave you wondering why she's gone a bit quite
suddenly, but the Avid didn't miss a trick here.
Instruments also held no fear for the deck, and the Uliean pipes from Brian Kennedy's track 'Captured'
were magnificent in both timbre and sonic texture. Once again, a less
than capable deck can make these sound rather strained and
uncomfortable, but through the Avid they sounded as clear and as
lifelike as I could have hoped.
Shifting the musical genre again the Jean Michel Jarre showed that the
Diva II SP is also something of a wizard when it comes to timing. Those
delicious analogue synthesisers stopped and started perfectly, and the
Avid made sure that each and every note sat in its own space and could
be easily picked out if one chose to do so, and yet melded with its
companions to form a beautifully cohesive and flowing whole. In fact, in
imagery terms, I felt that the Diva II SP is one of the best at its
price in the way in which it layers performances.
That is to say, some decks pull everything out into the room, some push
all the action off into the distance, but the Diva II SP has perfected
the trick that usually identifies something much more expensive. Which
is to say that it positions everything perfectly, lining the main action
up at the front, and tucking the backing performances in behind this
just where they need to be. Frankly, it's further grist to my theory
that, if you want surround sound but don't want a roomful of
loudspeakers, try a decent turntable instead.
The Avid Diva II SP is a fine turntable and, the doubling of price it
commands over the standard Diva II is well worth the extra outlay. The
Diva II is certainly an absolute bargain at its £1,000 price point and
punches well above its weight sonically, but listening to the Diva II
SP, it's easy to pick out the extra sophistication and musical insight
that the superior engineering has brought about. Add in a versatile new
power supply that will undoubtedly be making its influence felt
elsewhere, and you have a very fine vinyl spinner indeed that promises
high standard for the other forthcoming models.