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This review first appeared in the July 2010 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read this review of the Avid Acutus Reference in its original Polish version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or Avid Hifi. Ed.

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacuła
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air 
Phono preamp: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Preamp: Leben RS-28CX 
Power amp: Luxman M-800A
Integrated amp: Leben CS300
Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann
Headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600 Ω
Interconnects: CD-preamp Wireworld Gold Eclipse 52, preamp-power amp Velum NF-G SE, speaker cable Velum LS-G
Power cords: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100 (CD) and 2 x Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 (preamp, power amp)
Power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip
audio stand Base
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD, turntables change continuously, as do cartridges
Review component retail: £12 000 (+ £1490) + £3000 in Poland

The Avid Reference turntable is in fact the Acutus model with a different motor, power supply and platter bearing. ‘In fact’ is a bit exaggerated since these elements are all key to realizing the full potential of a given design platform. But in general the design of the model Reference is very close to the basic version, hence my usual description section of the last page repeats some information I already listed in the Acutus review. Turntables from the Avid company look fantastic. Each time I test them, it is not only a feast for the ears but eyes. This time the power supply was a full-sized component to add both physical weight and cosmetic gravitas.

I also received Avid boss Conrad Mas’ new Pulsare Phono. He regards it as his crown jewel and proudly first told me about it when we met during the Audio Show 2009. Poland actually became one of the first places where the Acutus Reference was shown with this phono stage. The Pulsare Phono consists of two units – the power supply and the amplification section exactly as my RCM Sensor Prelude IC. I mention this on purpose because I think that it’s time for RCM to move forward in terms of external design and finish. The British devices are gorgeous. That’s how the new Polish reference preamplifier from the Katowice-based company should look if it ever gets made. With the Pulsar we have access to amplification and load settings from the front panel which is key. The Conrad Mas amplifier has a fully balanced architecture so naturally the cartridge signal can be supplied balanced (each cartridge is naturally balanced versus tone arm ground) to the XLR input socket of the phono stage. Alas, we need to use a dedicated cable, the DIN-to-twin-XLR we can order from Avid. At 3.879zl or £790 for one meter, that’s unfortunately extremely expensive and really just a plain van den Hul D-501 Hybrid with Neutrik XLR plugs.

Besides my usual system I also used the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme and Miyajima Laboratory Waza cartridges, the Art Audio phono preamp and the Tenor Audio 175S amplifier. I made direct comparisons to the Black Stork and its 12" Reed Q3 tone arm. The signal between phono stages and line preamplifier ran over a Wireworld Platinum Eclipse. The turntable sat on my Base rack and the anti-vibration platforms Rogoz Audio SMO40 and Pro-Ject Ground It deluxe 3.

Sound: Discs used for testingMusik wie von einem anderen Stern, Manger Products, MANG-2010, 2 x 180g LP.; Billie Holliday, Songs For Distingue Lovers, Verve/Classic Records, One-sided, 2 x 180g, 45rpm LP; Depeche Mode, Fragile Tension/Hole to Feed, Mute Records, 12BONG42, 2 x 180g, maxi-SP LP.; Frank Sinatra, Sinatra & Strings, Warner Music/Mobile Fidelity, MFSL 1-313, No. 199, 180g LP; Frank Sinatra, Sinatra&Sextet: Live in Paris, Reprise/Mobile Fidelity, MFSL 1-312, No. 238, 2 x 180g LP; John Coltrane, Giant Steps, Atlantic/Rhino, R1 512581, 2 x 45rpm LP; Julie London, Julie is her name. Vol.1, Liberty, LRP 3006, LP; Kraftwerk, Tour The France Soundtracks, EMI Records, 591 708 1, 2 x 180g, LP; Mel Tormé, Mel Tormé Sings Shubert Alley, Verve/Polydor K.K. Japan, KI 8212, LP; Mel Tormé, Mel Tormé at the Red Hill , Atlantic/London Records, HA-K 8021, LP; The Cult, Electric, Beggars Banquet/Sire, W1-25555, LP; The Doors, Limited Edition Vinyl Box, Warner Brothers/Rhino, 7 x 180g LP; Yamamoto, Tsuyoshi Trio, Midnight Sugar, Three Blind Mice/Cisco Music, TBM-23-45, 0080/1000, 45 rpm, 2 x 180g LP.

Together with the Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge, the Avid kit in balanced connection always showed the sunny side of the world. If I would like to embed this in some psychological context, I would call this deck a born optimist. There’s nothing in the world which would not be worthwhile, nothing so bad and boring as to not invite a closer look. Anthropomorphization of course is never the best research strategy if we aspire to objectivity. From my experience, such approximations are simply very helpful when we attempt to describe matters which are closely related to emotions. We better understand multidimensional complexity when we compare it to something similar/familiar - and music is obviously emotional. Optimist thus should hit the spot.

The British turntable sounds very civilized. I wrote about this already when describing the Acutus but here it was even more pronounced. All events on stage make sense. Everything has a common denominator which holds it all together. If the voice is most important as on Mel Tormé at The Red Hill, then his voice will be showcased as the star. But when it is an interaction of two parallel elements as on Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley where the vocalist is accompanied by The Marty Paich Orchestra, then those become clearly—very clearly—two equally important elements. Both are rich in micro events within their boundaries and intriguing. But when playing together, it’s all about their interaction and how they combine. It's not about analysis of each element separately.

Like a source code, this sound has a built-in good attitude towards what the diamond reads from the groove. ‘Good attitude’ is not a precise descriptor but the best I have which describes what I want to convey. Regardless of recording quality or condition of the vinyl, we can be sure that the Avid system will do its best to retrieve the best from the recording. To a certain extent the Pulsare preamplifier is responsible due to its slightly tube timbre but I enjoyed the same general results with my RCM Audio phonostage. This simply is how Conrad Mas has designed his turntables to sound. They don’t confront reality. They befriend it.