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Price (in Poland): 13 000 zł (+ SME M2-9: 4450 zł)

Manufacturer: AVID HIFI Ltd

Bicton Industrial Park | Kimbolton, Huntingdon | Cambridgeshire PE28 0LW | ENGLAND
tel.: +44(0)1480 869 900 | fax: +44(0)1480 869 909


Country of origin: Wielka Brytania

Product supplied for testing by: Intrada s.c.

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Photos: AVID HIFI Ltd (start, 1-8) | Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Andrzej Dziadowiec

Published: 1. September 2012, No. 100

Conrad Mas, the owner of AVID HIFI Ltd, and thus of the AVID HIFI brand (photo no. 2 from the High End 2012 show in Munich) is a very nice man. Naturally cherishing his own products, he nevertheless does not forget of others, very interesting manufacturers. Of all of them, he is perhaps closest mentally to his compatriot, Alastair Robertson-Aikman (1924-2006) and his turntables sold under the brand SME Limited. I think that turntables designed by AR-A, as Alastair Robertson-Aikman is commonly referred to, have simply appealed as they still do to Conrad’s engineering sense of style and elegance. That is why, I believe, he started his own designs from SME turntables – both companies offer decoupled turntable designs (an exception to that – though not fully – is the currently reviewed Diva II SP), but not in the fashion of Linn or Thorens and their followers, but rather on its own, with both horizontally and vertically controlled resonance. They are heavy (mass) turntables, yet still employing suspended design. The SME ‘hangs’ on four pylons and many thin rubber strings, while the Avid on three legs and a few thick rubber bands. So there are similarities, including e.g. a very heavy sub-chassis.

I actually think that it is the sub-chassis, with its unique design and properties, that became the keystone of Conrad’s company, present in all their designs: Diva II, Diva II SP, Volvere SP, Sequel SP, Acutus SP, Reference SP and Anniversary.
Seen from the top, it is shaped like a triangle, yet not a flat but rather solid figure, resembling structural elements of a beam bridge, where a flat beam is supported by load-bearing components underneath. This is to ensure high rigidity in all planes.
In its three corners, the sub-chassis has vertical pins, which in more expensive models are mounted to pillars with rubber components, while the Diva II and the Diva SP also sport three pillars but no rubber decoupling. Instead, the role of mechanical vibration “silencer” is handled by a triple-layer elastomer system.
The original Diva design was the result of a suggestion and explicit request of a distributor in Japan. Since then, however, it has undergone many changes and improvements, which first received the ‘II’ and now the ‘SP’ designation indicating an external, high-quality power supply. There are actually more changes in comparison to the Diva II, the most important being a high-torque motor and two belt drive system.

Previously AVID HIFI featured in the following:

  • REVIEW: Avid ACUTUS turntable + SME Series IV, see HERE
  • REVIEW: Avid ACUTUS REFERENCE (+SME IV) turntable + Avid PULSARE PHONO preamp, see HERE


Płyty wykorzystane w odsłuchu (wybór):

  • Benny Carter, Jazz Giant, Contemporary Records/Analogue Productions, AJAZ 7555, 45 RPM Limited Edition #0404, 2 x 180 g LP (1957/2009).
  • Bill Evans, Selections from Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top Of The Gate, Resonance Records, HLT-8012, Limited Edition #270, blue wax 10” LP (2012).
  • Bing Crosby, Bing Crosby’s Greatest Hits, Decca Records/MCA Records, MCA-3031, LP (1941-1945/1977).
  • Breakout, Blues, Polskie Nagrania Muza/Polskie Nagrania, SXL 0721/2007, LP (1971/2007).
  • Brendan Perry, Ark, Cooking Vinyl/Vinyl 180, VIN180LP040, 2 x 180 g (2011).
  • Chet Baker Quartet, Chet Baker Quartet feat. Dick Twardick, Barclay Disques/Sam Records, Limited Edition, 180 g LP (1955/2011).
  • Chico Hamilton Quintet, Chico Hamilton Quintet feat Buddy Collette, Pacific Jazz Records, PJ-1209, LP (1955).
  • Depeche Mode, Wrong, Mute Records, BONG40, Limited Edition #4223, red vax 7" SP (2009).
  • George Frideric Handel, Messiah (Dublin Version, 1742), Linn Records, CKH 312, 3 x 180 g LP (2006); reviewed HERE.
  • Jean-Michel Jarre, Revolutions, Dreyfus Disque/Polydor, POLH 45, LP (1988).
  • Jean-Michel Jarre, Zoolook, Dreyfus Disque/Polydor, JAR4 5, LP (1984).
  • Kankawa, Organist, T-TOC Records, UMVD-0001-4, digital master, 4 x 200 g LP + CD-RIIα (2010), reviewed HERE.
  • Kraftwerk, Techno Pop, Capitol Records/KlingKlang/Mute Records, STUMM 308, digital master, 180 g LP (1986/2009); reviewed HERE.
  • Peter Gabriel, New Blood, Realworld, 67855216/PGLP13, 2 x 180 g LP + heavy weight 7" SP (2011).
  • Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here, EMI Records, 029880, digital master, 180 g LP (1975/2011).
  • The Doors, Vinyl Box, Elektra/Rhino Vinyl, 2274881, digital remaster, 7 x 200 g LP (2007).
  • Tommy Schneider & Friends, The Hidden Port, Kolibri Records, no. 12001, 180 g LP (2012).
  • Gerry Mulligan, Thelonious Monk, Mulligan Meets Monk, Riverside/Analogue Productions, AJAZ 1106, 45 RPM Limited Edition #0584, 2 x 180 g LP (1957/2009).

I sat to audition this particular Avid turntable a few times and each time it seemed to me that right then I managed to grasp the essence of its sound; that I was just about fully ‘getting’ it. And each time it turned out that it was still not ‘that’ and I could hear something else with other records.
My earlier reviews of top turntables from Avid had left me with exactly opposite feelings. Pretty soon I was able to determine what they were all about, to define color, resolution, dynamics, soundstage, etc., and above all to establish my own relationship to their sound. Not so with the Diva II SP.
At first glance it seems that it’s simply a warm, organic sound. All recordings sounded slightly softened, with a clearly withdrawn top. After listening to dozens of records I was, however, no longer hundred percent sure of that.
I usually carry out turntable reviews using my favorite Miyajima Laboratory Kansui cartridge, characterized by similar sonic attributes as Avid turntables. In order to have complete clarity, I round out each audition with the Denon DL-103 and the DL-103SA (see HERE and HERE) and, if need be, also with the no longer in production, Dynavector Karat 23R cartridge. In this case, I also had at my disposal the London (Decca) Super Gold cartridge, reviewed in the same issue of ‘High Fidelity.’
The end result was similar with all these cartridges – the records sounded nicely, without imposing the bright parts of the midrange or the top, and they had a strong bass. After some time, however, I noticed a common pattern in the way the sound was being modified.

Well then, all records sounded organic. In other words, full, saturated, complete. The sound was holistic, i.e. presented as a whole, not being split into details. It resembled the way we actually perceive sound, be that in a concert hall or a small club. There we also find it difficult to pinpoint the sound source, unless we locate it with our eyes. The Avid subordinates everything else to the core notion, i.e. sound integration, its ‘musicality’ or whatever it’s called, - for good and for bad.
As a result, we get incredibly friendly ‘gut’ sound. Both jazz in the type of Benny Carter’s Jazz Giant or Mulligan Meets Monk (both in 45 rpm re-editions) as well as a very cool mono album by Chet Baker Quartet sounded large and robust. The instruments had large volume and nice, realistic color.
It was particularly well audible with mono records, such as the mentioned Baker’s album, but also the 1977 re-edition of Bing Crosby hits, originally released by Decca in the 40s of the last century. With this type of recordings you cannot “catch up” on anything with tricks of perspective, of moving the instruments around soundstage. They are good and valid sound engineering methods, helping to recreate real space, but it is with mono records that we get the truth about color and other sonic aspects.
With such records, as well as others I do not see the sense to list now, the Avid sounded ‘deep.’ That is the best fitting description I can find. For not only was midrange evenly weighted and bass was where it needed be, but there was also good depth perspective.
At the same time I had no sensation of in-the-face sound. That is a common side effect of ‘turning up’ a part of midrange and low end, resulting in a deep, full sound. And I am not saying that if that happens, it is automatically a flaw. It is rather a matter of personal preferences and individual understanding of the ‘absolute sound.’
In the real world, the performers are always in a certain, usually quite large distance from us, the listeners, and it is the reflected sound, not the direct sound, that plays critical role in their reception. Seen from this perspective, the sound should emerge quite far behind the speakers, and if it is shown close up, something is wrong. On the other hand, sound reproduction at home has no chance duplicating reality. It does not need to. The recording is a separate world, and if the vocal or the instrument is placed near the microphone, which is the extension of our ears, it should be shown close up and that’s it. And in this sense, the close up perspective of the recording is normal and appropriate.

The Avid turntable, equipped with the SME tonearm and the Miyajima cartridge sounded very warm, but not for a moment did it try pushing vocals up front. Nor the instruments. Unless it was deliberate, intentional sound engineering where the color of a given component was clearly warm. As was with the Carter’s records and the wonderful Japanese release from T-TOC Records, Kankawa’s Organist album. On the former it is the saxophone, on the latter the Hammond organ.
Both these instruments had a very large volume and were quite clearly up front, a little before the speakers’ line. I did not perceive it as artificial ‘pumping’ of the sound, because nothing was overburdened in this picture – I just had a large musical instrument in front of me, with other instruments well shown in the background.
On the other hand, albums with ample soundstage depth, recorded with microphones positioned far away from the performers, like for instance the Linn Records release of Handel’s Messiah, were presented accordingly, with deep breath and without clearly drawn instruments in the foreground. As you can see, differentiation was very good in this respect.

Treble and upper midrange presentation was very interesting. Writing about my first impressions of auditioning the Diva, I talked about “warmth.” In the context of sound, the word creates a whole conceptual grid, in which the notion of withdrawal of treble and part of midrange stands out. And I think it is that incompatibility of what I knew and what I heard that forced a longer adjustment period on me.
I think the whole ‘truth’ about that sound is based on a combination of several things. First of all, it needs to be said that the sound is not particularly resolved, and certainly not selective. There are not too many details, niceties, puffs or creaks, at least not in the first or second layer of sound.

Most of these components can be heard, for example, non-musical details from Kankawa’s studio recordings that were clear, although not overly exposed. If I listened intently, I could hear the creaking of the stool, etc., but – again – only when I wanted to, when I turned my attention to it. These components were quite ‘dark’ in nature, and probably that is why they did not jump out in the mix. If, in turn, I listened to what was in the foreground, everything else disappeared, for the sake of music, instruments, and presentation.

On the other hand, the kind of differentiation we get with the turntable is, for the money, outstanding. Once again I hear the same thing with vinyl, i.e., that resolution is seemingly poor, however, the ability to show different planes, shades of color, levels of background blackness is outstanding. The Diva II SP, although not expensive in itself (in high-end terms), does that in the same way as turntable masterpieces, such as the recently reviewed AMG Viella V12. It’s the same DNA, the same trail as that followed by the Transrotor ZET1 and the (no longer in production) Thorens TD160 HD.
Excellent differentiation also means access to certain characteristics of vinyl, not always positive, such as distinguishing between records cut not from analog but digital mother tapes. I could hear it every time – a slight decline in dynamics and blurring of image. With the records from digital tapes. Only the absolute top, such as the said Kankawa or records cut from 24/192 audio files, for example The Doors boxset, were free from that problem to some extent. All others, be that Depeche Mode or Kraftwerk remasters, or even Handel’s “Messiah” from Linn Records (cut from high-resolution digital tape, for all I know), had blurred midrange and withdrawn foreground.
In the turntable’s defense, for it is worth it, I need to say that I did not particularly regret that. I listened to these records with equal pleasure as to the others. It is because the British turntable did not get of all the crap off them, that is too forward upper midrange and faint hisses instead of cymbal crashes. Even the quite brightly recorded Zoolook by J.M. Jarre with wonderful guest musicians, such as Laurie Anderson, Marcus Miller and Adrian Belew, recorded on the Sony PCM 1630 (16/44.1) digital tape recorder, which could not compare with the fullness and silkiness of Oxygene and Equinoxe ( and even Magnetic Fields), even that Zoolook sounded really good.

The downside

Thus, neither resolution nor selectivity, or even tonal balance should not be the factors that make us consider that design, with that particular tonearm. We should be rather concerned with something that probably stands behind all those things I mentioned, namely shortening of sound decay. That, I think, is the conclusion I reached at the end of auditions; that is the one particular component that ultimately defines the sound.
Sound attack is excellent – listening to the vinyl version of Brendan Perry’s Ark (the soon coming, unexpectedly, brand new Dead Can Dance album titled Anastasis will be released on transparent vinyl!), with lots of percussion instruments, I was pleased to note sudden beats on various types of drums, tambourines, etc. On this record I also heard the kind of bass I had not heard from vinyl in a very long time. Likewise, sustain is exceptional and, along with full bass and lower midrange, it is responsible for a large volume of instruments on the Diva II SP.
However, sound decay is a very short, too short. Sometimes, it seems, that the sound is somewhat muffled. That is not true, although in the first moment that’s our impression. Instruments do not have much air behind them, and studio recordings are quite intimate, that is the instruments are shown more up front, in the foreground.
The choice of cartridge needs to be well thought-out. The Miyajima is a great cartridge but I think, ultimately, not for this turntable. By that I do not mean the brightening of sound, because – as I said – the tonal balance is perfect, but rather some quickening, some lightening of the background. Dynavector, Lyra, Benz or possibly Ortofon cartridges – these will be the best choices. With them we will get what’s the best, without emphasizing the things that – apparently – for the money are really difficult to combine with the upsides.


The Avid turntable appealed to me with its organic sound. I like to hear everything, after all I've been an audiophile for some years and I used to be a sound engineer, but I find myself more and more often coming back to what I once started from – the primacy of so-called ‘presentation’ over its ‘components.’ I am willing to sacrifice details for the sake of fullness and consistency. And I hate brightness, which – for me – disqualifies any piece of equipment, regardless of its price. That is something that should be long gone from the audio landscape, yet it reappears over and over again.
The Diva II SP turntable is far from any brightness. Its quasi-warm sound is really well differentiated and rich in harmonics, in the information of cymbals’ weight, in their physicality. They are not some trinkets shaken by the wind, but solid smashes, beats, hits. It’s the same with bass – wow, Conrad did really well in the bass department! I already mentioned Brendan Perry, but I could add to that both Kraftwerk and The Doors.
Although rather inexpensive as for high-end, it is not low-priced by any means. I will say more – it actually costs a lot. But what we get is a finished project, with huge attention to detail. Not perfect, as it has its weaknesses, but simply well thought-out. It is high-quality engineering combined with a good ear. The turntable is very easy to use, convenient and looks good. You can buy a protective cover for it, in two versions.

Testing methodology

Testing had a character of A-B comparison with A and B known, with the AMG Viella V12 turntable as the point of reference. I listened to whole albums as well as individual tracks.
The Diva was equipped with the following cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory Kansui, Denon DL-103 and DL-103SA (see HERE and HERE as well as Dynavector Karat 23R.
Additional audition was done with the independently tested London (Decca) Super Gold cartridge.
The turntable was placed on the wooden shelf of the Base Solid VI [Custom Version] rack.


Technical specifications (according to manufacturer):

Drive: dual belt
Speed: 33.3 and 45.0 rpm (variable)
Platter weight: 6.3 kg
Main bearing: inverted, stainless steel
Point of contact: tungsten carbide / sapphire
Motor: 24 V, 12 mNm, AC synchronous
Power supply: external, digitally controlled DSP system

  • turntable (overall): 450 mm x 390 mm x 140 mm (WxDxH)
  • turntable (feet): 380 mm x 340 mm (W x D)
  • power supply: 158 mm x 283 mm x 60 mm (WxDxH)
    Weight: 12.8 kg

  • The most important component of the Diva II SP turntable is its aluminum cast chassis. Seen from the top it is triangle shaped, but not flat. Its lower part extends downwards, forming a structure reinforced from within by means of additional frames. Self-lubricating main bearing is mounted in the point of intersection of bisectors. It looks very similar to other designs from Avid – its bed is made of tungsten carbide and sapphire, with a steel ball on the top. Tungsten carbide is a very hard material, originally developed for other purposes – for cutting other hard materials. Part of the base is a very heavy, solid arm board. It is designed for SME tonearms, but we will have no problems with Jelco tonearms, etc. For the review it was fitted with the SME M2-9 arm.
    The corners of the base have vertical pins. They enter large, aluminum pillars, which are turntable feet. Although it might seem that the Diva II SP is not a decoupled design, as you there are no rubber rings, on which the sub-chassis is suspended in more expensive Avid models, it is not certain. The sub-chassis or actually its pins are decoupled from the pillars by triple layer of a specific elastomer called Sorbothane. However, since the fitting is firm with no movement at this point, it also makes sense to call it a non-decoupled design. The last vibration-decreasing layer is a sheet of sorbothane under the feet.

    The 6.3 kg platter made of thick aluminum plate is painted black, like the whole turntable. There is no sub-platter, yet torque is not transmitted to platter’s perimeter. This is one of Conrad Mas’s “patents”, common to all his turntable design – the platter is milled in the bottom so as to form a sort of sub-platter, being however an integral part of the main platter. It is that “projection” that revolution torque is transmitted onto. The platter has a large hole in its middle. It is because it’s not placed directly on the bearing, but on an aluminum-made component with tapered sides. On its top is a brass spindle onto which we place the platter. Top surface of the platter is finished with a thick cork mat. Heavy clamp made of machined aluminum is screwed onto the spindle to tightly hold the record to the cork platter mat; the clamp is taken directly from Avid’s more expensive models

    AC synchronous motor is placed in a heavy cylinder totally independent of the main chassis. In other Avid turntables the motor is connected to the chassis by rubber o-rings. It is decoupled from the sub-chassis that ‘hangs’ on its own o-rings. Here decoupling is not so effective, and hence the motor is outboard. Accordingly, it is very important onto what we put the turntable and the motor.
    Engine housing is solid cast steel. Mounted on its axis is an aluminum shaft with two small disks. The Diva II SP has an improved twin belt drive transmission – using not one but two drive belts. Probably the most important improvement against older Diva models is, however, motor’s power supply. It is a separate unit, with a large, silver knob on the front panel, used to turn off the power. Next to the knob there are two small buttons, accompanied by two LEDs. The first is the motor start button, and the other is the speed change button – available speeds are 33.3 and 45 rpm. 78 rpm is available as a special order option. The change of speed is indicated by LED color – red or green.
    The motor power supply called DSP Vari-Speed is actually an AC current generator using DSP (Digital Signal Processing) for the signal generation and control. It is coupled with the motor by a long power cord.

    Distribution in Poland:

    Intrada s.c.

    ul. Szewska 18a | 61-760 Poznań
    tel. +48 (0…61) 662 40 98 | tel. kom. +48 501 454 880




    • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition, review HERE
    • Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
    • Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE), Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE
    • Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III [Signature Version] with Re-generator Power Supply
    • Power amplifier: Soulution 710
    • Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom Version, review HERE
    • Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
    • Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro; 600 Ω version, review HERE, HERE, and HERE
    • Interconnect: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300 (article HERE, preamp-power amp: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
    • Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review HERE
    • Power cables AC (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
    • Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE
    • Stand: Base; under all components
    • Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD, Audio Revive RAF-48 platform under the CD and preamplifier
    • Pro Audio Bono PAB SE platform under Leben CS300 XS [Custom Version]; review HERE