AVID turntable supplied by Hexagon Audio
Retail prices in the NL, including 21% VAT:
TD1601 – 2.999 euro
AVID Dive II SP – 4.100 euro (no tonearm)
AVID TA-3 tonearm – 550 euro
Just in the nick of time, on the evening before the day that the turntable would be picked up by Marco, I figured that it might be interesting to see how the AVID Diva II SP would compare to the Thorens TD1601. And at the same time, it will be nice to see how the AVID behaves in the secondary system, where the Thorens TD1601 is normally used.
Please note that this article will not be a full-on, in-depth review as I normally do but merely a quick comparison. Hence the Mini Review appendix.
Setup and Context
To keep this comparison simple, I will use the same cartridge for both players and a single arm on the Diva II SP. The Audio Technica AT33Sa Shibata-stylus low output MC cartridge works very well with all the tonearms that I have available and it will be swapped between the two players using the Acoustical Systems SMARTractor. The tonearm for the Diva II SP will be the entry-level AVID TA-3 (OEM Rega RB330).
The phono stage is the AVID Pulsare II (review forthcoming), set to 300 Ohms and the MID gain setting. The rest of the system consists of the Thorens TD1601 turntable, the Ayon Spirit III KT150 tube amp, and Xavian Perla Esclusiva speakers.
Price-wise, these two turntables are not real competitors. At 4.100 euro sans tonearm, the AVID is priced significantly higher than the 2.999-euro Thorens, which does come with a tonearm. Arguably a better comparative AVID turntable would have been the 2.550-euro standard Diva II (not SP) but that one’s not available. Of course, I could have also used the Ingenium but that’s an entry-level turntable intended for first-time vinyl enthusiasts and frankly, it is no match for the Thorens.
There is a certain synergy between Thorens turntables in general and my secondary system. The classic TD160 mkII, TD145 mkII, and TD125 mkII all worked well here and the TD1601 performs even better.
The TD1601 does particularly well to sound fluid and silky and super-refined while its inherent speed and agility make that the delivery is relaxed and highly engaging. The AT33Sa itself is highly refined and slightly sweet but it combines very well with the Thorens’ open and upbeat character, resulting in a gently smooth but agile, beautifully transparent, and well-detailed delivery. Coming from the classic Thorens turntables, the 1601’s bass is also great: fast and article but rather more full-bodied than before. I listened to a couple of tracks from different LPs swapped the AT33Sa to the Diva and played the same tracks.
Ok, so I thought the Thorens had surprisingly good bass, especially given my experience with the brand’s classic players that all sounded relatively lean. But as I already heard in the main system as part of the main AVID review, all the brand’s turntables are absolute bass champions. And indeed, in the secondary system as well, the Diva II SP has immensely robust and full-bodied bass. If the Thorens’ bass was already great, the Diva’s bass is absolutely magnificent. It has a super-impactful solidity that reminds me of the way that Wadia CD players sounded in the bottom end but with all the organic qualities that go along with the analog medium.
Another aspect that stands out with the Diva II SP is its fuller tonality and its very convincing and natural timbre. In comparison, the Thorens (with the AT33Sa at least) is leaner and relatively and subjectively less natural through the midrange. Although experience with the Dynavector DV20x2 cartridge confirmed that the AT33Sa plays a large part in this, there’s no denying that the Diva makes it sound more natural. Much of this stems from the turntable’s fuller bass and richer lower midrange but I’m confident that it’s also an inherent quality of the torsion-free AVID chassis in terms of purity and neutrality. Lastly, it is conceivable that the particularly lively (in some combinations forward to hard-sounding) AVID TA-3 / Rega tonearm further adds to this. Indeed, as I found, not all cartridges work synergistically with this tonearm but the relatively smooth AT33Sa certainly feels right at home.
So far, I’d say it’s a matter of taste and system synergy, but in terms of bass robustness and tonal fulness, the Diva is easily at an advantage. However, there’s another matter which again throws off the balance which is the treble behavior. Although the AT33Sa sounds relatively smooth with the Diva and TA-3 tonearm, the latter negatively influences the overall sound in terms of reduced extension, refinement, fluidity, and air. And in each of these areas, the Thorens has a clear advantage.
As mentioned, this article is only a Mini Review which means that I won’t dive too deeply into the various variables and there will be no overall conclusion. All I will say is that these two turntables clearly cater to different tastes and markets. For in-depth descriptions of the two turntables, please refer to their main reviews. But before signing off, I should mention two things.
First, it is abundantly clear that the AVID Diva’s performance is majorly restrained by the tonearm. Even though it performs admirably with the TA-3, the Diva simply deserves a much better tonearm. As I found during the main AVID review, swapping the TA-3 for the Audio Origami PU-7 did indeed make a world of difference. But at 3.100 euro, this would further offset a meaningful comparison with the Thorens.
Second, it’s worth noting that the Thorens TD1601 has a spring-suspended sub-chassis which the AVID Diva II SP lacks. And as became clear from the comparison between the Diva II SP and the Sequel during the main AVID review, the sub-chassis does indeed make a very large difference in terms of soundstage width, depth, and the overall flow in the music.
Ultimately, between the Diva II SP with TA-3 tonearm and the Thorens TD1601, my preference goes to the latter. However, given a better tonearm, that balance might tilt, but that will also further tilt the difference in price between the two players. The reality is that the Diva II SP is more of a high-end machine that deserves a higher-end tonearm and consequently comes at a higher-end price. If a better but still relatively modestly-priced tonearm comes along it will be interesting to see how the regular Diva II (not SP) performs.