Avid Sigsum Integrated Amplifier Page 2

As you can imagine, I was not minded to try three or four cartridges given the effort required to change the settings, but the phono stage deserves a top-flight moving-coil, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was voiced to optimise the performance of AVID's Boron or Reference Ruby [HFN Apr '21 and Nov '20]. I own neither, so I settled on another make of MC with a gem cantilever, and an evergreen Ortofon 2M Red [HFN Oct '08] for MM duties. Balanced inputs were tested with the Otari MX5050 open-reel deck.

One thing's for certain: this amplifier doesn't fear hungry or cranky speakers (or cranky reviewers). Most listening was undertaken with Wilson's Sasha DAW floorstanders [HFN Mar '19], which proved beneficial because I have been impressed by the lower registers of Bryan Ferry's remastered LPs. What the Sigsum exhibited was superb slam, accompanied by an analytical prowess in the bass, all expressly revealing of the differences between the original release of Boys And Girls [E'G EGLP62] and the remastered edition [Virgin/UMC BFLP6]. This is serious stuff, especially when purists insist that first pressings can never be bettered.

Classic Cuts
OK, so we're talking about remastering from 36-year-old tapes (nothing to worry about, in practice, when you think of reissues of Sinatra's 1950s LPs or even 1960s tapes), but such forensic skills speak of clarity, transparency and a freedom from mush which I suppose is what solid-state devotees consider to be their preferred topology's specialty. What was so refreshing about AVID's Sigsum was the sheer openness of its sound, despite a slight lack of warmth noted on Ferry's vocals for the aching 'Slave To Love'.


Noratel transformer [lower right] is at the heart of the big PSU feeding the two stacked power amp modules [on heatsinks, lower left]. A separate supply [top right] services AVID's MM/MC phono stage [top left

Despite my possibly misguided new persona of Mr Nice Guy, I decided a torture test was in order, so I fed the Sigsum with what could be either a visit to heaven, or trip to hell. I am not a huge fan of massed violins, but my forays into reel-to-reel have forced familiarity with such quaint outfits as 101 Strings. They recorded a delightful (as might be used by Barbara Cartland) homage, 101 Strings Play The Best Loved Songs Of Rudolf Friml And Sigmund Romberg [Audio Spectrum ASE5003 open-reel tape], with ditties from operettas including 'The Desert Song' and others of that ilk.

New Romantic
Ordinarily, a subtitle reading 'Favorite Romantic Melodies Of Yesteryear' would be my signal to up and leave the room, but via the Sigsum, what greeted me was silky, sweet, and even cosseting. The soundstage was suitably wide, just deep enough and possessed of enough air to give the proceedings a welcome lift. I was reminded of sessions in the late Alastair Robertson-Aikman's legendary SME Music Room, transporting me to a theatre and suddenly imparting in me a craving for sherry – which I haven't touched in 50 years.

To ensure that this wasn't a fluke, as the Sigsum was exhibiting almost valve-like behaviour in the upper registers, I moved onto more strings, this time from Andre Kostelanetz, whose The Academy Award-Winning Shadow Of Your Smile And Other Great Themes [Columbia CQ811] is a

feast of orchestral versions of 1960s film music. The title track alone confirmed that, indeed, the Sigsum's upper registers did not exhibit any brittleness, while the transient attack of staccato strings was as lightning-fast and precise as one would expect of a solid-state behemoth.

Back with vinyl, and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary [Capitol 3567012] vinyl box set supplied ample proof that this was as clean and uncoloured in the midband as it was up top, evidenced in both George's vocals – intimately familiar to any Beatles fan – and the superb guitar work throughout the set, but especially on 'Wah-Wah'. I am no guitarist, but I suspect the neutrality of this amp will empower those who are to identify which parts are played by Clapton, which guitars were being used, and other elements which eluded the liner notes.

Beach Bound
My new-found test for textures is the gorgeous remastering of The Beach Boys' Feel Flows [Capitol 02508 80212], mainly the Surf's Up tracks, not least because of the special effects that Brian Wilson was playing during this period, post-Pet Sounds. No puns intended, but there's a liquidity to the entire LP, especially 'Don't Go Near The Water', 'Feel Flows', and the lush 'Disney Girls'. In a word, like the music itself, the Sigsum sounds classy.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
AVID's Sigsum targets users who need or prefer integrated amplifiers, have an outboard DAC, rarely change cartridges, favour minimalism and demand indestructibility. If those apply, then the Sigsum ticks all the boxes, with clear, analytical sound, an air of reliability and longevity, and the kind of straightout-of-Metropolis looks (Lang, not Siegel and Shuster) that scream 'bombproof'. Ah, but for a remote!

AVID Hi-Fi Ltd
Kimbolton, Cambs
Supplied by: AVID Hi-Fi Ltd
01480 869900