The Avid Volvere Sequel is the third in a line of turntables to grace the listening room recently. Two Germans, the Clearaudio Champion Level 2 and the Amazon Model 2 received glowing reviews from me. Both are outstanding examples of mid price, high-end turntables, brilliantly engineered and superbly produced. As this review began, I wondered whether the English beauty could match or exceed the excellence of its Euro cousins.
A local distributor told me about her new turntable and that it should be on my review list. As it takes very little to convince me to review anything analogue, I took delivery of the Volvere Sequel soon after. For the last three months, Avid’s midrange ‘table has sat front and center, and has not flinched at the avalanche of vinyl it has played.
Based in that hotbed of English audio, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, Avid has been producing analogue gear since 1995. Founder and designer, Conrad Mas began with the splendid-looking, 10 grand Acutus turntable. Later, audiophiles with fewer disposable dollars have been able to experience the Avid sound with the Volvere Sequel, the standard Volvere, and the entry level Diva. From many reports, the trickle-down technology seems to have worked both visually and aurally.
The Volvere Sequel uses many of the unique design elements of the aforementioned Acutus table, including the high-torque motor and superb stand alone power supply, but at a more affordable price. The Sequel is built to the same exacting standards as the most expensive Avid and uses a similar suspension, clamp, and bearing. It is belt driven and has a sprung sub chassis. Careful examination of the chassis, bearing, and platter is witness to superb design and bulletproof workmanship. Audio gear to last the test of time. It looks dreamy, too.
The manual is well laid out but the font used is tiny — a trip to your local Kinkos may well be in order. The actual diagrams used for bearing installation and suspension adjustment are fine, though. A nice touch is the inspection and packing checks stamped by the designer. The manual suggests that ‘…vibration caused by the stylus during playback is transmitted to the subchassis directly through the bearing and not absorbed into the platter. This is achieved using a unique matting material and clamping system. External vibrations are isolated by the unique Avid suspension system. Using the power supply and motor from the Acutus its improvement in sound quality is great and instantly noticeable. Improved dynamics, imaging, and information retrieval brings you closer than ever to the performance of the Acutus. Extended frequency extremes, especially in the lower registers again make this a class-leading product’. Design features include: unique, tunable suspension, adjustable from above, Tungsten carbide/sapphire bearing assembly, aluminum chassis construction and one-piece heavy platter. The ‘table accepts Rega and SME tonearm assemblies (an SME Model 309 was used for this review). Price for the Volvere Sequel is US$4000 not including arm and cartridge.
The silence from the workings of this table was eerie. Nothing from the motor, bearing, and almost nothing from LP surfaces. Even dime store specials sounded superb after a good scrub. The Sequel is among the best I have (not) heard – the almost zero level of groove noise and distortion (helped no doubt by the fine SME 309 arm and super Koetsu Rosewood Signature cartridge), was a testament to the excellent suspension towers and 5Kg platter topped with cork (no need for a Ringmat!). Included is a billet-machined, screw-down clamp. All these technical marvels helped in delivering a knockout punch or the most filigree of textures.
Extreme dynamics as well as a gorgeous midrange are the aural highlights of this turntable. A test par excellence: Varese’s Arcana on Decca with the LA Phil and Mehta. About 5 minutes in, the Phil turns on a dime after some serious scratching from the strings. Thwack! A staccato explosion that will test most setups. This one didn’t fidget, just replicated the great acoustics of Royce Hall perfectly. A test for the opposite extreme may be found in Marriner’s great Argo of the Tallis Fantasia. The double string orchestra builds to a huge climax, but before the excitement, composer Vaughn-Williams treats us to some incredibly delicate string writing. Here, the Avid shines as much as it did in the knockouts. String separation was so clear, the contrapuntal lines were heard as if played singularly at your front door.
The synergy heard between the Avid, SME and Koetsu was special. Timbre of all instruments and voices was real and tangible. It was very nice to hear so much low level detail, too. The pp opening of Ravels’ Daphnis et Chloe (2nd Suite) was a perfect case in point. The virtuosic warblings of woodwinds from bar one was heard beautifully from both Monteux’s and Munch’s benchmark LPs. Even the secondary instruments were heard matching the principals note for note. It is usual for the entire section to sound like a blur — possibly what Ravel had in mind, but here rendered clinically by the virtuosic Avid ‘table.
Bass? Oh, the bass! Deep, deep, and very well defined, easily matching the two German turntables discussed earlier. At the end of the second movement of Ravel’s (again!) Rhapsodie Espagnole (Chicago/Reiner/Classic Records reissue), there is a very low bass drum note, played very softly. Quite possibly one of the lowest non-electronic sources you’ll hear. Even this wonderful LP has its limits, and this note’s transient is always slightly muffled. It remained so through the Avid, but the weight was excellent and resultant decay filled the back of Chicago’s magnificent Orchestra Hall. The LPs power was heard in its glory a little later in the fourth movement’s furious dance. Superb!
As always, the essential sound of a piece of equipment is difficult to nail down. The Volvere Sequel never sounded anything less than excellent, and on wonderful LPs, it sounded amazing. Piano, soprano voice, and French horn, the trifecta of recording difficulties, never bothered the Avid. Barry Tuckwell’s horn quartet’s recording of Tippett’s Quartet is a case for CD! The splendid Argo LP can give a lesser combo nightmares — not so, the Avid. This seminal work is a one-of-a-kind, and should be in the library of every classical music lover. Each of the horn players (basically, the 1960’s LSO horn section), sounds special and unique, but they blend when required. Now, even the wonderful Avid (or my ears) cannot distinguish horn makers Paxman from Alex to Conn, but it was very cool to hear this LP as never before.
The Avid separates musical lines extremely well. As turntables get better and better (where do we go from here?), the essence of the amazing analogue sound gets all trappings of the silent backgrounds and unhindered dynamics of digital. The Volvere Sequel bathes itself in this technology. It celebrates it. It glorifies it. And you, the listener, are the better for it. I have not heard Conrad Mas’ statement Acutus, but the sound he is attempting to draw from his designs really shines through this English Rose.
Has it bettered its Euro cousins? I think so, you may not. The German turntables are very fine, and the Volvere Sequel is more expensive than both. But for my taste, the middle is where the meat is, and it will be very difficult for anyone to resist Avid’s rich midrange, and one so balanced with the upper and lower octaves. The Avid is a superb example of English 21st Century craftsmanship and design. Conrad Mas is to be congratulated for his passion and commitment to excellence in vinyl reproduction. Yes, the bloom is definitely on this rose.
Further information: Avid HiFi