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: The Acutus Reference is the top model of the four Avid turntables and made in accordance with established company standards employed over years already, i.e. being mass-loaded but with a decoupled sub chassis. SME makes similar turntables yet with Avid, the suspension is very soft. When we apply pressure on the platter, it takes a while until it settles at zero. Because it is part of a dynamic system, it is never still and vibrates delicately at all times.

This is one item that separates these two big British companies – Avid believes their way is better because it allows for stronger decoupling of chassis and sub chassis. SME on the other hand shows how such a setting is never at rest and changes its position against the motor constantly to increase wow and flutter.

The plinth is supported by three tall very massive pillars with special leveling feet. A small inset bubble level on the front assists with that. The pillars are chrome plated and their tops which support the O-rings are painted black. The heavy sub chassis is incredibly rigid and shaped as a bridge with supportive frames. In three corners there are metal pins which insert into big springs inside the pillars to decouple the vertical plane.

The stability of the horizontal axis—the typical Achilles heel of such constructions—is maintained by rather large rigid rubber rings mounted to the pillars on one side and the sub chassis on the other. In the Acutus the rings were stretched between two pillar mounting points to decouple effectively in more than one direction. This allowed very low resonance frequencies. This suspension is not as rigid as an SME and motion takes time to settle.

The heavy motor is mounted to the chassis via rubber string for mechanical coupling with the plinth while also being independent from it. The motor is a synchronous 24V type hand-made by Avid. The Acutus Reference is equipped with a very heavy external power supply in a very attractive chassis where we select the rotational speed (33.3/45RPM). It has a 1kW transformer—instead of 80W—and fully stabilized output voltage with 190.000μF of storage capacity.

The company states that the PSU took three years of development and adaptation for the Acutus Reference. It is based on a DSP controller for a quartz-based feedback loop. Torque is transferred directly to the platter with two short round belts. With the single belt of the Acutus, this already wasn’t very handy because the belt was placed not on the outer ring of the platter but a lower part with a lower diameter resembling a sub platter. With two belts which kept falling off, this was very annoying. The platter weighs 10kgs and is placed on a sapphire crown with a tungsten carbide ball bearing. This bearing is placed in a heavy metal cone to which bolts the spindle with a brass coupler.

The platter then gets placed over the cone. The top of the platter is covered with a vibration damping material and the record is clamped with a bolt-on clamp. It is not easy to use and made from two elements, the weight and the screw-on clamp. However the clamp is mandatory as the cone in the middle is higher than the rest of the platter. The records must be clamped. Unfortunately this also eliminates the usage of Feickert tools to calibrate tone arm and cartridge (I have those). We need to use the simple protractors supplied by SME for their tone arms.

On the side of the sub chassis there is a protruding arm board prepped for SME arms. For review the turntable was equipped with the fantastic model IV but other boards are available upon request. Leveling the sub chassis is done by adjusting the springs with the long key supplied. The entire deck is beautifully crafted although the chrome-plated elements require frequent cleaning. The turntable is also available with gold-plated elements and one could purchase a fitting gold-black version of the SME V arm.

Avid’s Pulsare phono preamplifier looks extremely elegant. It is split into two aluminium enclosures of equal size. The fronts use thick brushed aluminum faceplates. The main unit has four knobs with milled edges similar to the turntable and power supply feet. The first knob selects the input – RCA, balanced RCA or XLR. The second selects the gain with four settings – MM, MC (low), MC (mid) and MC (high). The third selects the resistance load - 10-30-100-300-500-1k-5k-10k-47k; and the fourth the capacitance load - 20nF, 10nF, 1.5nF, 500pF, 200pF and 100pF. A red LED indicates power status.

On the back there are RCA and XLR i/o ports, a grounding post and a power socket (DIN type). All sockets are of high quality. Unfortunately I could not open the unit without damaging it to report on the insides. The power supply only has one red LED in the front. The mechanical power switch is placed on the bottom plate close to the fascia. On the back there’s only an IEC power inlet.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Drive system: belt drive
Speeds: 33.3 and 45RPM
Platter weight: 10kg
Bearing: inverted stainless steel
Support: tungsten carbide/sapphire
Suspension: three point, vertical springs, horizontal rubber O-rings
Resonant frequencies: vertical – 2.5Hz (variable), horizontal – 4.5Hz
Weight: 19kg

Speeds: 33.3 and 45 RPM
Weight: 20.1kg
Dimensions: 415 x 350 x 140mm (WxDxH)
Power transformer: 1000 VA
Capacitance: 190.000μF
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