The AVID Ingenium Plug&Play turntable Plug and Play, Indeed!

By Jeff Dorgay

Listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s classic, Bridge Over Troubled Water, on AVID’s Ingenium Plug&Play table is not only highly satisfying but clearly illustrates how much difference the turntable makes in the analog equation.

Too often, I’ve seen audiophiles put a mega cartridge on a mediocre turntable/tonearm combination expecting excellence. But like a backyard mechanic that thinks merely putting a big engine in a car that is not capable of handling the extra horsepower will guarantee more speed, the same applies to your analog front end. It’s a system and should be treated as such. Too much or too little performance in any area throws off the balance, and in the end, throws away resolution. The AVID Ingenium Plug&Play is perfection in the sense that it all works together optimally.

An often-quoted audiophile truth states the source is the most essential part of your system, because if you don’t have the musical information to begin with, what’s downstream won’t matter, or at least not as much. To that end, AVID’s founder, Conrad Mas believes that the platform provided by the actual turntable as a stable mechanical platform is perhaps the most important. If you’ve visited an AVID demo at a dealer or hifi show, no doubt you’ve experienced his good/better/best demonstration, where he puts a mid-grade tonearm and cartridge on three different turntables in the AVID line. It’s always a straightforward exercise hearing how much more music is revealed as you go up the AVID range, proving that the table does make a massive difference.

Big sound indeed

Coming full circle, the same thing applies here. The Ingenium Plug&Play centers around the Ingenium turntable, which is a fantastic product on its own. For those interested, I own Ingenium #0001, so I’ve had as much seat time with the Ingenium as anyone but Mr. Mas himself. The level of fit and finish here at $1,795 with the Rega sourced arm and cartridge is nothing short of stunning. The key to the success of the Ingenium’s big sound is the main drive/sub-platter/bearing assembly, made to the same high standard as AVID’s flagship tables, with AVID’s inverted bearing design. It also uses the same high quality, machined center clamp equipped with every AVID table.

Having experienced this tonearm on Rega and other tables that are similarly priced illustrates that the much lower mechanical noise floor of the Ingenium extracts more musical information from this arm than anywhere else I’ve heard it used. The machined, minimalist chassis is used with a combination of three elastomer pucks. Not actually suspended in the classic sense, but not firmly coupled in a solid plinth way either.

While discussing various aspects of the Ingenium’s design, Mas mentions that the Ingenium is now only available as a Plug&Play, in both black and white finishes, it is no longer available sans tonearm. The aluminum platter will be forthcoming, so a sequel to this review is already in the works. And those of you that have a standalone Ingenium possess an instant classic.

Skip the setup

Whether you’re new to analog or a seasoned enthusiast, having a turntable optimally set up is critical to getting every bit of performance you’ve paid for. However, if you’re new to the game, it’s easy to get it wrong – no shame to that. As a result, more manufacturers are starting to sell pre-packaged turntable/cartridge combinations that need little more than unboxing, but most of these are budget tables in the $300 to $500 range. That’s great to get started, but as your excitement for spinning records grows, you quickly outgrow the tables in this range.

The Ingenium, a perfect choice for the analog enthusiast craving more performance than the budget tables, offer but isn’t quite ready to jump off the cliff for a much more expensive model. It unboxes in a few minutes – all you need do is install the drive belt, mount the platter, and remove the stylus guard. Double-checking the factory alignment of the cartridge with our Analog Majik tool suite reveals near-perfect alignment. More than good enough for all but the most obsessed. If you’ve spent the money on this level of tools, chances are you’ve moved up the range with your turntable as well. Kudos to AVID for doing a great job with the factory setup.

This reveals another aspect of AVID tables that is a major bonus. Once you set them up, they stay set up. In nearly a dozen years of using AVID tables daily, they are not fiddly turntables at all. It’s also worth noting that when checked, the speed accuracy of the Ingenium is right on the money.

Should you need performance beyond the Ingenium (even with the aluminum platter) this table is resolving enough to accommodate a better phono cartridge. To keep this as “plug and play” as possible, I’d suggest staying in the Rega range of cartridges, or something that has the same stylus tip to top of cartridge body measurement. (I believe about 15mm here) Then you won’t have to resort to spacers and the like to keep VTA where it should be. Or you can just play records and enjoy it!

Returning to the program

Spinning an old copy of Peter Gabriel, a record I’ve listened to thousands of times over the years, I’m taken back at how much nuance this table reveals. All of the care that went into Gabriel’s first solo album is readily available, and the Ingenium does a fantastic job of painting a large, three-dimensional sonic picture. The harmonies at the beginning of “Excuse Me” is absolutely brilliant – this is the kind of thing that draws people to analog in the first place.

Running the gamut, the Ingenium delivers a finely detailed upper register and well-controlled bass. The elastomer pucks supporting the chassis, do an excellent job at insulating the cartridge from the environment. Bass-heavy tracks can be enjoyed at high volume levels without acoustic feedback, and this is a plus.

As with all the other AVID tables I’ve owned and reviewed, the Ingenium shares a signature core sound that is lively, detailed, and never overdamped. The sense of musical pace is easily discernable. It draws you into the music, wondering “what’s different here,” when compared to listening to the same tracks streamed on a similarly priced DAC. As it should be.

Tipping point

$1,795 is a serious investment for most music lovers, so if you’ve come this far, chances are very good that you’re more than just a casual vinyl lover. For many, the Ingenium Plug&Play will be an excellent destination turntable, especially considering that the platter and cartridge can be upgraded further.

There is a point at which analog really draws you in and makes you crave more. I feel getting to this point requires more than the budget tables offer. This is what the Ingenium Plug&Play gives you at a cost that won’t break the bank, yet still provides a reasonable upgrade path should you want even more analog enjoyment. Well done.

And that is what makes the AVID Plug&Play The Audiophile Apartment’s Product of the Year in the Turntable category.