Starting a “Vinyl” journey
The start of journey some 20 years later
I have been a passionate audiophile for over 20 years now which is more than half of my life. I grew up in the 1980’s with a Father who had a HiFi but I wouldn’t call him an Audiophile. He had a turntable and a cupboard full of records but I cannot remember him ever playing one, in fact the turntable ended up in the cupboard upstairs and in its place was a Pioneer CD player. My first audio system was bought for me when I was about 10 years old it was a Sony “boom box” with its main source being a cassette tape player and my first album was the cassette tape of Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, I remember being most disappointed when I realised it was not the album I wanted. As a young teenager I progressed to an Aiwa 5 CD disc spinning, bass boost audio system, I wouldn’t call that a HiFi but it played music loud and that was good enough for a young teenager.
As I got older it was all CD’s and then ripped CD’s, Napster downloads and today a mixture of ripped CD’s and Qobuz streaming. I never had any access to Vinyl growing up, I never had any interest in it as a teenager, not even as a DJ because Pioneer released CD based decks their CDJ range and I bought and used those.
But now I am 40 years old and maybe its a mid life crisis but I am considering getting into vinyl playback at a serious level, I think it would need to be at a serious to fulfil my greedy audiophile desires. I feel like an outsider to record playing, I feel like a beginner, I feel like I know absolutely nothing about what is important and that is very disconcerting because I haven’t felt like this as an audiophile for a very long time. When you start at zero there is so much to learn but that is also a huge part of the appeal because it likely means new audio experiences are possible and who doesn’t love those.
Start by talking an expert.
I wanted to start my journey by talking to an expert and I was recommended to contact AVIDHiFi a UK based manufacturer of all things related to turntables and also amplifiers and speakers too. AVID have been in business for over 25 years so were bound to know a thing or two about a lot. I also wanted to make the most of the opportunity to learn about them as manufacturer and take the time to see their factory and how their products are all made in house. They have two factory buildings, one fitted out more for manufacturing and service work, the other R&D and offices.
I took my cameras and other bits with me and shot a full length interview video with AVIDHIFI’s Managing Director Conrad Mas that I recommend you watch link is here
For those who prefer to read these are the main questions I asked Conrad with his answers
Q – I suppose my first question to you Conrad is why setup AVID and what makes you unique as a HiFi manufacturer?
After spending two decades designing the Acutus turntable for my own personal use, friends suggested I try to sell them and AVID was born. The unique way we deal with distortion energy present in all audio, to leave just pure sound, is now embodied in our wide range of products, from turntables, through electronics and loudspeakers. Again uniquely, we have evolved into one of the few companies, which can supply a complete audio system, totally designed and manufactured in house.
Q – I know you manufacture the full HIFI system, but can we please initially talk about turntables because I have been looking at your product portfolio to see which one would be good for me as a newcomer with overly high expectations. You make the Ingenium a plug and play turntable but also the DIVA II which seems like it’s a little more advanced. In your opinion what would be the turntable you would recommend someone starts with and what are the differences as you move up your range?
Undoubtedly our Ingenium Plug&Play offers the best ‘bang for buck’, and happily compares with more expensive record players, however for customers who want greater flexibility upgrading the Diva II universal turntable offers more options and gives an insight to our higher-level products as it shares many of their design features.
As we move up our range, the sound quality improves dramatically as our improved isolation features work, improved drives and power supplies all allowing the cartridge to work more effectively.
Q – If someone is stepping into vinyl playback and they want to ensure great results what are the main things they need to be mindful of, think about and pay attention to.
Put your money where it will make the most difference sonically, leave yourself scope to upgrade and take care where you place your turntable to get the best results.
If your not buying a complete record playing solution like the Ingenium, then putting most of your initial budget into the turntable is our best advice. The arm and cartridge will not work effectively if you skimp on its foundation. Later as funds become available you should improve the tonearm first and lastly the cartridge.
Q – I would like to ask you about phono stages because I know you need one and that they are important, and I know roughly what they do but what makes a good phono stage?
Exceptionally low noise. The signals from the cartridge are very small and any noise in the phonostage will have a big effect on the final sound. All our stages, especially the balanced ones are exceptionally quiet and also increase the gain more than normal before reaching the main amplifier. By doing this, the delicate signal is less likely to become distorted as it passes through the connecting cables to the amplifier.
Q – I remember asking someone in the Industry the question how do you upgrade a turntable and the first thing they said to me was upgrade your cartridge, is that good advice and what makes a good cartridge?
Upgrading the cartridge is always good, so long as the turntable and tonearm are going to allow you to appreciate that increased investment in the cartridge. A good cartridge is one that is able to extract the most information. No information equals no sound, so this is critical and relies in part on the performance of the turntable and tonearm. Our cartridges are designed to extract as much information as possible, keeping surface noise low and with exceptional tracking ability in the groove. This means you hear everything which is on the record with no noise or distortion.
Q – I want to ask you about manufacturing and your facility here in Huntingdon
The listening room is in our second factory and is used for developing new products, but also for showing our distributors and retailers new products and for training purposes. We do entertain customers here, usually in groups with their dealer, and as we come out of COVID, we are looking to do this again, giving potential customers, not only the opportunity to experience what records can sound like but also tour our manufacturing facility and see behind the scenes.
We literally manufacture everything from the ground up, from raw material to the finished product. Our CNC machines cut metal to extreme tolerances, we hand populate and solder all our printed circuit boards and hand assemble, check and inspect every product we make. This gives us the flexibility to increase supply as required, makes R&D very quick, but most importantly means we control product quality to the highest standards.
Q – Lastly can I ask you about amplifiers and speakers because you have your reference series of products and then tiers below, make separates them?
All our product designs use cascaded down technology from the our top or best models and the amplifiers and loudspeakers are no different. Because of this there is a big difference in sound quality as you move between models, but each model offers class leading quality within its price class. In a world where sometimes you pay a lot of money for a small improvement, with AVID, every level up offers a huge and noticeable jump in performance and sound quality.
There is a lot more detailed information in the video on my YouTube channel and you get to see a lot of AVIDHiFi products and their facilities. For me I feel more informed about what is important for great vinyl playback and more important I feel a little more confident about starting the journey.