Avid Diva II SP - Sound Quality

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Avid Diva II SP
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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 it is 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. I was aware that some notes were not quite as well separated as I am used to (but that’s a Garrard 301 for you...) but generally the Diva II SP carried the underlying tune beautifully and remained solid and confident throughout the track.


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 quiet suddenly, but the Avid didn’t miss a trick here. Instruments also held no fear for the deck, and the Ulilean 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 to 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 [hear, hear! Ed.]



Instrumental detail was another trick up the Diva II SP's sleeve that it unveiled fairly early on in the game. As I replaced the aforementioned Kleerup twelve inch single in my box of 45rpm vinyl delights, I came across another disc that hasn’t seen the light of day for a few years. ‘Birdman’ by Ride is an indie classic that starts with some softly tapped bongos and a delicately strummed bass guitar, which the Avid absolutely lapped up. In fact, the bongo strikes were quite uncannily lifelike in the corner of my room. The rest of the track is predictably noisier, and the Avid had fun with this, but I did detect a hint of compression starting to creep in on occasion


A further wander through my records seemed to suggest that, yes, the Diva II SP could sometimes get a little uncomfortable with harder, louder and more congested material, seemingly cowering away from it a little. As this was the first time I had used an SME 309, I did fit my own rewired Alphason HR100S to the deck at a later stage to see if this was causing the issue, but it remained in place, and so is something to look out for when auditioning. Still, it's worth pointing out that all the best of the rest of its price rivals are similarly afflicted by this to an extent. It's not for nothing that folk spend twice as much money on the likes of the Volvere Sequel...



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