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From Hi-Fi World - October 2009 issue
BUY THE MAGAZINE (back issues subject to availability)
Viva La Diva
Bon viveur Adam Smith enjoys life with Avid’s new Diva IISP turntable...
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 company’s 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 it 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! Interestingly, a teaser has now been posted on Avid’s website, and it turns out that the launch for several of these new products will be the September Hi-Fi Show at Whittlebury Hall over the weekend of the 26th and 27th of September 2009. As the full Hi-Fi World team will be in attendance, it remains only to see who ends up banging on the door of the Avid room to grab first glance at the new £18,000 flagship!
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 supply.
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 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.
In physical terms, the Diva II SP is very well built as I would have expected, but the fitting of the twin belts is fiddly. As there is no separate subplatter, Avid provide a pin which is located in a hole under the platter, the belts are fitted around the drive surface and hooked over this, then it is put into position, the belts guided onto the pulley and the pin removed. All very well but clearance under the platter isn’t great and when I tried to remove the pin, the belt tension caused it to ping off, ricochet around the back of my rack and vanish into thin air!