March 2012 Paul Rigby, HIFI World Magazine (5 Globes) (UK)
Both the Avid Volvere SP and Sequel SP turntables have a deserved high reputation in audiophile vinyl circles for high quality output and for value for money. Both turntables have recently undergone improvements within their core design that promise advances in sound quality. There is a price to pay, however, as both turntables now cost £500 each extra.
I asked the Avid boss, Conrad Mas, what improvements have been made to the designs, “The Volvere’s power supply has been separated from the chassis for the first time, which means that we have been able to remove the cooling fins as well as fill in the cut-outs that were featured as part of the older design. This has made the chassis stronger. That strength has now been reinforced by 700% because the chassis is also thicker: moving from 18mm MDF to 22mm MDF. The old chassis will break under 40kg of load but the new version will take over 320kg.”
Mas declared that he wanted to move the power supply to an external chassis in order to incorporate a larger transformer. There was no capacity to have it installed onto the original chassis, “This means that the power supply is kept away from the turntable within a screened case so that, on this basis alone, the turntable will improve its performance. The larger transformer helps too. It gives the turntable more oomph.”
Moving to a larger toroidal transformer promised to reduce noise, making its operation more stable with a greater headroom of power to improve speed consistency. But what of the customer base? Volvere customers tended to buy the turntable because the power supply was attached to the chassis. Is Mas shooting himself in the foot?
“There is a large amount of people who perceive that having a separate power supply is better. In the old Volvere, it didn’t really make much difference because we had the transformer encased underneath the drive motor. Now we have moved to a bigger transformer and have made modifications to the power supply, the chassis is not compatible, hence the separate supply.”
There have been improvements to the costlier Sequel, but fewer of them and less significant than those in the Volvere. The previous Sequel chassis was basically a Volvere design but without the built-in power supply. Now, the Volvere and Sequel have exactly the same chassis created to the same new specifications and thickness.
There is an option for current users of the Volvere who wish to upgrade to the Sequel standard. Mas explained the practicalities of the process, “It’s easy because all you need to do is undo three screws underneath the turntable whereupon the motor housing comes off. You then put the Sequel motor housing on there and attach the Sequel power supply. The upgrade price is £1700.”
The new improvements to the Volvere and Sequel turntables are not what you would term as revolutionary. Mainly because the entire turntable range features top-down down technology from the Reference design in the range, the Acutus. A philosophy that Mas confirms, “the best way of describing our products is that they are evolutionary. You look at some cars, say, and you can draw a convenient metaphor. Some turntable manufacturers act like Ford. When they bring out a new Ford Focus it looks nothing like the old model. The only similarity is that they both share four wheels.
Some turntable manufacturers act in the same way. They even act like that within a current range, as if they are constantly reinventing the wheel. With Avid, we are a bit like Porsche. That is, our turntables and designs have got the basic essence right because we take the basic design from the top-of-the-range Acutus. With the new Volvere and Sequel variants, all we are doing is slowly tweaking and improving. With a Porsche, you may see five incarnations of a broadly similar product. With the Porsche 911, for example, it’s a standing joke that they have not changed anything in the last fourteen years.
“You can actually see subtle differences that we are making to our products, all of the time, but each change makes a significant improvement. And yet all of our turntables have family ties. All of our turntables have the three-point suspension, the same bearings and the same clamping system. Yes, there are subtle changes but in effect it’s the same thing, it’s not a completely different design.”
For this review, as the Volvere has experienced the greater improvements of the two turntables under discussion, I decided to give this turntable a more thorough review, bringing in an older model Volvere to perform a straight A-B comparison with the newly upgraded version. After this, I decided to compare the new Volvere with the recently upgraded Sequel – the Sequel being the next logical upgrade step for any Volvere owner.
At first glance, the Volvere/Sequel comparison is a complete waste of time. After all, the Sequel is more expensive and it offers a higher specification, so it should be a better bet, shouldn’t it? Well, ordinarily, yes, but think about it for a minute because this aural comparison is not as redundant as you might think. Often ignored by hi-fi magazine review teams, major upgrades to a well established line of products can sometimes provide a devastatingly unbalancing effect. The reason for the comparison is to see if the brand balance has been retained and if the Sequel still provides a valid upgrade. If Avid have got this wrong, the upgraded Volvere will have closed the gap on the Sequel to such an extent that the new Sequel will be largely redundant. If that is the case, then the extra £1,500 to purchase a new Sequel SP will be a waste of money and you might just find that the Volvere SP becomes a bargain.
But, one thing at a time. Let’s check out the old and new Volvere SPs first.
Initially spinning the Count Basie LP, the original HMV pressing of ‘Count Basie And The Kansas City 7’, right from the off, the new Volvere impressed over and above the older, original, model. Firstly, the introductory drum-based rim shots sounded rounder and fuller. Relatively minor beats in the grand scheme of the track, the rim shots now took a more important role, with a new and surprising physicality that was not there on the older model. This feature married well with the subtle acoustic guitar which now had a more involved personality.
Greater complexity within Basie’s piano performance produced a more focused delivery and an inherent, multi-timbral complexity that was new to the upgraded Volvere. Also high on the improvement list was bass which now exhibited a greater presence. Fuller and richer, bass took a more dominant role in driving the music forward.
Distortion has also been reduced which improved the rich nature of the soundstage as clarity increased, providing a quieter background in which the brass could better express itself. The sax, especially, benefitted here. It’s reed-like tones now had an expressive texture. The new suite of extended frequency highs and lows were best expressed in the treble-heavy cymbal effect which positively shone, keeping the track light, almost ethereal at times.
Moving to a more aggressive beat and The Pixies’ track, ‘Debaser’ from their ‘Doolittle’ LP, recently reissued via Mobile Fidelity, the dynamic qualities of this rocking classic hit me straight between the eyes as the improved Volvere’s bass added both focus and punch to the lower frequencies, giving the ear a greater impact. This adds to the entertainment value of the upgraded turntable because Rock provided a more guttural slam, enhancing the shock value of drums.
Similarly, bass guitar was now more meaty, taking a more significant role in how the track was driven. The bass guitar gave the track more direction too, acting as a rudder. But lower frequencies are not the only improvements here. The tambourine rose from the mire on the left channel. Before, this percussion instrument melded into the background but, with the upgraded Volvere, this treble-heavy sonic ingredient played a significant role, simultaneously adding musicality but, because it sat at the extreme of the channel, it stretched the soundstage, creating a larger entertainment vista.
Finally, acting as a significant cherry on the top of this fulfilling cake, lead singer, Black Francis, produced a sound that was fuller and more confident, generating more power in his delivery and creating a better understanding in the mind of the listener as to just how much emotion Francis was putting into his performance.
A SEQUEL TO THE SEQUEL
The worry for the upgraded Sequel was that the Volvere would move in on the Sequel’s territory, becoming sonically so close that the reason for buying a Sequel at all would be negated. I set up the Volvere and the Sequel with the same arm and cartridge that I utilise on my Avid Acutus: the SME IV and Benz Glider, to provide consistency during the comparison.
Playing The Pixies’ track first proved to be quite shocking. Yes, the Volvere produced a very attractive and welcoming sound but plugging in the Sequel transported the ear into a whole new sonic world. The improved chassis unleashed the Sequel, lifting the already impressive sound to new heights. Unlike the steadily improved sonics of the Volvere, the Sequel actually picked up the basic foundations of the sound and completely rearranged them. This was no improvement, this was a complete reinterpretation as the soundstage moved from 2D to 3D and onion layers of detail heaved into view, adding depth while, like the famous bra commercial of yore, the deck ‘lifted and separated’ the aural structures producing a quite startling presentation.
Lead vocals were raised and pushed forward while instruments became entities of their own. Bass guitar now sounded like someone was pulling and rolling their thumb from one string to another – full of personality and character, in other words. Electric guitar soared, surrounded by bagfuls of air and a newly discovered but effective subtle reverb. The general impression of the deck was one of tremendous smoothness. A bit like the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy’’s, totally black, frictionless spaceship that sat in the car park of the ‘Restaurant At The End Of The Universe’, the Sequel eased its way through music without any effort at all.
Playing the jazz-infused Basie LP, the Sequel showed just what a top all rounder it is. Double bass was now a major part of the arrangement instead of an afterthought while the sax sounded so slinky and sexy that it really should be submitted to the British Board Of Censors before your ears get anywhere near them. Trumpets displayed a purity of tone that rolled with the melody while the treble-soaked cymbals presented themselves as cloud-infused bodies of sonic conglomerations.
So, does the Avid Sequel SP sound like a £5,500 turntable? Most definitely. In fact, Avid boss, Conrad Mas, was honest enough to share his view that the Sequel SP is actually a better value for money turntable than his top of the range deck, the Acutus. As an Acutus owner myself, after hearing the Sequel SP, I have to agree. Further, however, I’m a little worried at just how close the sound of the Sequel is to the Acutus. Yes, the Acutus is richer in tone, deeper and fuller with a symphonic presentation but the Sequel SP encroaches upon the Acutus territory, muscling in on many of its standout points.
That’s what the Sequel does so well, it opens your brain to treasures of newly discovered detail, reintroducing you to your record collection.
There are upgrades and there are upgrades but this Volvere SP provides a significant overhaul of the entire sound spectrum. The improvements are not minor, nor are they selective so it is frankly amazing that Avid refuses to add a blaring addendum to the Volvere SP brand such as the ‘Volvere SP Pro’ or even the ‘Volvere SP GTI’. But then Avid has always had an understated view on life.
There are no shouty marketing men on tap here. This is a company that enjoys giving you a gentle nudge and then letting the hardware do the talking. The Volvere SP does more than that, it sings.
VERDICT; It may cost £500 more now but the money has been efficiently invested into a design that turns an excellent design into one that is a finger tip away from brilliant.
FOR; inherent design; detail extraction; low frequency grip; clarity
January 2009 Brett Gideon, Tone (NZ)
It's been said many times before, but despite the dominance (and eventual decay) of digital formats, the humble turntable has managed to survive - in much the same way as lizards, crocodiles and our own tuatara after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Now, of course, there is the download phenomenon, and recent sampling of network music servers has me convinced that even the CD may be heading to oblivion. So why is there such fascination with crackly, fragile and unwieldy 12-inch records? Because, adherents including myself argue, vinyl still represents the pinnacle of humanity's attempts to capture audio and preserve the musical moment. There is a certain sonic 'rightness' about vinyl when played on a quality turntable that has eluded the best of digital, even the much lauded and now virtually extinct SACD and 24/96 DVD-A. When done correctly, a record just sounds better.
I was lucky enough to experience high-end vinyl replay at a recent demonstration at Auckland's Shore Hi-Fi, courtesy of British turntable manufacturer Avid and its spectacular Volvere. High-end turntables are usually dramatic exercises in style and build quality, and my expectations were realised in full-the Volvere is quite stunning piece of objet d'art. A suspended design, the black sub-chassis, arm board and heavyweight platter (with composite cork mat) sit atop three beautifully turned metal suspension pillars. The turntable is supplied sans tonearm and cartridge, so for this demo a Naim ARO unipivot arm was used along with a very rare Fidelity Research FR1 mk3 low output moving coil cartridge.
I was expecting the sound to be detailed and pacy, and my listening tests confirmed those attributes, as well as offering a few nice surprises. First onto the massive platter was Santana's 1970s jazz-fusion epic Caravanserai, and I was impressed by the ability of the Volvere to extract detail from this old recording. Carlos's guitar came alive, bass lines and subtle percussion were easy to pick out of the recording and, more importantly, the music had a real swing to it. That was a good start, but things took off from there as the first notes of 'I Can See Clearly Now' by the Holly Cole Trio percolated into the room. This was stunning sound quality, and imaging from the system was breathtaking... detail from the double bass was just so real; I could almost reach out and touch the instrument while Holly's vocals pierced through the recording like a vocal epee. Oh boy this was great!
And it didn't stop there, either. American singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier's Mercy Now album was carefully placed on the Volvere, the arm delicately lowered and the fragile stylus began its musical journey in the lead-in groove. This recording is extremely gritty with lots of reverb, completely different from the lush treatment on the Holly Cole disc. Gauthier's atmospheric vocals ached along with the plaintive harmonica, while the kick drum took on an almost timpani-like character. This stripped-down recording allowed all the emotion of the music to flow through the system and into this reviewer - effortlessly.
Other discs from the likes of Pearl Jam, Morcheeba and Hans Theessink were sampled during this most enjoyable afternoon, and all with quite superb results. What struck me most about the Avid Volvere was its ability to communicate the expression of the music, so while it is an expensive component, it would represent a fine investment in musical enjoyment for those who can afford it. It needs partnering equipment of equal calibre and a well thought-out room, of course, but the stunning Avid Volvere is quite simply a superb example of audio equipment done right.
July 2008 Steve Harris, HiFi News (UK)
Customer System Review including Volvere Mk3
'Most of my collection is classical, but since that turntable's turned up I can't stop listening to rock and pop. Led Zeppelin and things that really get to me - I've turned into a Neil Young fan, Alison Krauss ...'
'I was looking for something that was going to be very musical and also good at rejecting surface noise. Anyway, they put that together for me, and I just couldn’t believe the sound when it came here. I'm still very impressed with it.'
October 2007 Jason Kennedy, HiFi Choice - (Editors Choice) (UK)
Avid has grown to become one of the UK's foremost turntable makers thanks to the popularity of its heavyweight, sprung-subchassis designs. The Volvere is its base model and its appearance in these pages marks the first major revision that the design has had since its introduction. The Volvere has changed in a numbers of small but significant ways; the main bearing was originally made from aluminium but is now fashioned from stainless steel, while the record clamp and adjustable feet are now scalloped rather being knurled. This is both easier on the fingers and, in our opinion, also more attractive. More importantly, the thread on the clamp has been coarsened so it’s much quicker to put on and off, a significant factor given that you have to do this every time you change a record. The suspension has also been changed to allow adjustment from above with a supplied Allen driver, whereas previously you adjusted it at the side. Another change that Avid has made to the suspension is the way that the damping 'O' rings now hook onto screws on the underside of the subchassis.
Once in action, the Volvere delivers a substantial sound. Its forte is bass, which it delivers with a weight and power that's rare among turntables at this price. If digital has any advantages over analogue, then bass is its trump card; silver discs can't match the natural sound of vinyl, but they do generally offer more powerful bass. No more, though. Here, vinyl has a weapon with which it can compete against digital on its own terms. You want slam, grunt, girth even? You got it.
Further up the band, things are pretty decent too...it keeps meticulous time and delivers a detailed and stable soundstage that you can walk into. The treble is well extended and has more sparkle than our reference SME 20A, the lap steel guitar on Joni Mitchell's Hejira album sounding uncannily real in its capable hands. The quality of the treble is also responsible for the precision of the bass.
Perhaps surprisingly, you don't get crunchy bass without clear-cut treble. The Volvere is more on the ball when it comes to rhythm and timing, surprisingly making the SME sound relatively cumbersome in comparison.
With the Naim Aro unipivot, Avid's custom-made sled base, the Volvere turns into a pacier, more nimble sound that encourages extended listening sessions, despite delivering less of the deck's bass power. Unipivots tend to be more fluent and less mechanical sounding than rigid bearing arms, and the Aro did precisely this while delivering good solidity of image and an attractively open and spacious sound, albeit one which seems to major on image width rather than height. There's still plenty of bass with the Aro, just not quite as much - the action being centred on the midband, the heart of the music. You also get a sense of better bass articulation because it's not quite as extended; bass lines tend to be more nimble and give the overall sound the classic Naim 'groove'.
The new Volvere is a welcome replacement for what was already a very good turntable. It has a good deal of power associated with the bigger Avid's and delivers a solid and precise sound that makes a lot of competitors sound decidedly weak. If it's not as refined as some, that's because its strengths lie elsewhere. However, given the price, it represents a definite benchmark.
August 2007 Jeff Dorgay, Tone Audio (USA)
I love the aesthetic beauty of a suspended turntable and appreciate the sonic benefits of said design, however as you well know, some of these designs can take a while to set up correctly. Not the AVID Volvere; a quick read of the manual, a double check of the settings and a few minutes later I was setting up the supplied SME 309 tonearm. Half an hour later, I was spinning records!
Actually, I had an evil plan; I had recently acquired an SME 10 turntable and whichever of the two I liked the best would get a permanent spot as my reference turntable.
AVID's Acutus tips the scales at $19,000 and is a fantastic turntable, easily competing with the best of the best. However the Volvere is much more affordable at $5000. You can step up a notch to the Volvere Sequel which is another $3000 and this possesses a beefier motor and an outboard speed control. The good news is that the Volvere tested here can be upgraded to a Sequel later date by purchasing an upgrade kit. I really think that AVID is to be commended, allowing you a path to keep a component that you are very fond of as your system grows.
In case you aren't familiar with AVID, they have been over in the UK making turntables for 20 years now; this is not a "new" company by any means.AVID also provides design and machining expertise to other high technology industries as well, so these folks are truly masters of their craft.
Thanks to a wide range of mounting plates, you can put just about any tonearm on the Volvere. If you are an SME fan like me, you are in luck, because the Volvere comes pre-drilled for an SME arm, so no additional mounting hardware is needed. Again, I would like to stress how easy this table is to get up and running. It was very well packed and only took a few minutes to get ready for assembly. Once assembled and level with tonearm in place it was time to play music!
For those stepping up from a decent 1000-2000 table, the first thing you will notice is just how much more music is lurking in those grooves of yours!! My old faithful P25 with all the mods that has served me really well over the years. Kapow! Everything got a lot bigger, with a lot more space and air between the notes right away. Whiles we often agonise over swapping cables, or other upgrades, a move like this provides instant gratification.
I checked speed accuracy with a strobe and my SME disc; the Volvere was spot on and I could not detect any other speed or rumble related problems. Their bearing is very quite, providing very deep backgrounds to whatever music I was listening to. Because I have a very thick concrete floor in my studio, the suspension of this table was not as important in terms of walking around interference might be in some homes. But, when I set it up in my living room, with bounce subfloor it was a completely different story; the suspension was very effective indeed!
One sure way to clear out a room full of audiophiles is to put Chicago's Free Form Guitar on the turntable; it works every time. But seriously, I've taken a new interest in this because it's another one of my favorite wacky records for listening to spatial anomalies and to MoFi version is quite good indeed. And I'll make you listen to it at very high volume if you come over to my house and start whining about interconnects! If you can blast this song with no feedback, your table is dialed in! Of course the Volvere passed this with flying colors as well.
But let's get serious about listening for a minute and get back to some real music. Spinnig a copy of Prokoviev's Excerpts From Romeo and Juliet (Sheffield Lab) really helps reveal the character of this table. It has a very open and airy presentation, with a very low noise floor. Real instruments float in the soundspace rather nicely and there is a good dose of front to back depth as well as left to right width. The Volvere will reproduce a good deal of weight, especially for a turntable in this price category. When the Dances of the Knights kicks in, it really grabs your attention! I suspect that taking it to the next level and upgrading to a Sequel will only enhance this aspect of the Volvere's performance further.
This table did a great job, no matter what I threw on its eleven pound platter. It is nice and dynamic and made listening to a lot of my favorite jazz and popular music records very enjoyable. Listening to some of my favorite albums going through everything from Bob Dylan to Led Zeppelin again revealed the Volvere's ability to not only reveal the low bass grunt, but also reproduce the rest of the musical spectrum in a very tuneful and enjoyable way. The Volvere does a great job with music possessing inner detail and can rock when required. Some accuse suspended tables as being soft, mushy and less defined than non suspended tables. While I had more of this experience with other suspended tables, this was not the case with the Volvere.
So, did the Volvere stay or did it go? Rather than agonise over this decision, the Volvere stayed to become an integral part of my growing turntable collection. At $5000, this table mated with a good arm and cartridge will get you more than waist high into the waters of great analog performance, with the promise of the Sequel motor and power supply upgrade taking you even further. Until that new motor and power supply get here, I managed to upgrade the arm on the Volvere to the SME V.
This combination offers a very easily heard improvement in the resolution and refinement of the sound, so if you can make the stretch, I would suggest it, but I am very good at spending other peoples money!
I can easily recommend this turntable with good conscience.
Portugal 2002: Analogue Product of the Year Award.
In its first review in this country, what an excellent award.
March/April 2002 Jimmy Hughes, Hi>Fi+ (UK)
"Enter the Volvere....It certainly offers more than a taste of the Acutus. And while the cheaper turntable does inevitably fall short in certain key areas, its overall performance is exceptionally fine. Indeed without a direct A/B comparison, there could be times when you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference."
"The Volvere might not be the ultimate turntable on the planet, but it needs no excuses making for it. None at all."
"...your cash buys plenty of good solid engineering-the Volvere looks and feels the class act it is."
"The massive ribbed sub-chassis is exceptionally rigid, with cut-outs ready to take a variety of tonearms, including SME, Rega and Linn. Which means the Volvere can be used with most arms on the market with no need for separate arm boards or drilling-useful if your're thinking of changing arms at some future date. For Rega arm users there's a special plate that screws into the base of the arm, allowing cartridge vta to be adjusted."
The sprung sub-chassis is centred by three rubber O rings keeping the whole platter/arm assembly stable in relation to the drive motor while allowing up and down movement. This ensures excellent isolation, while taking awat the tendency for the whole assembly to move in a lateral direction when excited. The system itself is very simple but effective. 33 and 45rpm speeds are avalable at the touch of a button, and the platter is fitted with a rubber ring to damp resonance."
"...overall it seems pretty easy to set up. Once installed, it shouldn't need much (if any) adjustment. It's designed to be non-tweaky. But what of the sound? First impressions aren't always reliable, but the thing that immediately stood out with the Volvere was its exceptional rock-like stability; the music sounded solid and focussed. It sounded like the stylus was in total contact with the groove walls at all times, and thus able to follow each undulation with precision and ease."
"The sound was extremely clean and refined, lending a smooth effortless quality to the reproduction. At the same time, dynamics were wide and the music sounded powerful and solidly focussed."
"So the Volvere immediately created a positive impression by virture of its sheer unflappability."
"Clearly the Volvere was providing a firm stable support, allowing both arm and cartridge to give their best. Surface noise was extremely low, as was extraneous hiss and rumble.Speed stability was rock solid."
"Overall, the music had a CD-like focus and precision, but minus CD's tendency to be clinical and overly analytical. Tonally, the sound was fullbodied and smooth, but not overlywarm or rich. Bass was firm and tight, while the upper treble wasextended yet quite sweet and oftensuprisingly smooth and mellow."
"Although I'd describe the Volvere's musical presentation as detailed and crisp, rather than warm and beguiling, never was the sound cold or stark."
"The Avid record clamp is brilliant at flattening warped LP's. Sonically, the clamp firms up the lower frequecies, resulting in tighter punchier sound.
"I want an inky-black background, no peak level distortion, no pitch waver, and no click and pops. Unreasonable? You bet. But the Volvere gets close to that impossible ideal - closer than you've any right to expect given the crudeness of a stylus tracing a wobbly groove in a bit of plastic."
August 2001 Ketan Bharadia, WHAT HI*FI? (UK)
"This Volvere is a simple deck to set-up, with easy adjustments to allow you to level the base and suspension, the latter being a clever design that maintains the correct spring rate throughout its range of adjustment. The result is a suspension that should bounce evenly, no matter what type of arm is fitted."
"There can be no questioning the fine build and finish of this turntable..."
"There's no excess richness in the bass to make records sound 'nicer', nor does this deck round off any dynamics excesses to make the sound more palatable."
"Dynamics are strong, and the Volvere's delivery brings the musician's technique to the fore."
"The lowest frequencies are held in an iron grip that's a world away from the soft and blurred bass that most of its rivals dish out. This makes it particulary easy to appreciate the decay of the lowest piano notes in this recording and so make the whole piece that much more convincing."
"The Volvere's combination of composure, resolution and control works well on all types of music."