This is a HiFi review of the Cambridge Audio ALVA TT V2 turntable. It is a fine piece of flexible equipment that builds on the ALVA with a new bespoke MC cartridge that is absurdly easy to set up, and it even has Bluetooth capability.
The ALVA TT V2 is a direct drive turntable that has a built-in phono stage for straight line-out output, a phono level output to an external phono stage and aptX HD Bluetooth connectivity. These are all nicely switchable, though these controls are awkwardly on the rear of the unit.
There is with this V2 apparently a new tonearm with a detachable head shell that is very easy to locate and setup. There is as standard a moving coil cartridge provided by Cambridge that is both very nice to look at and the stylus is rather extended, which I like a lot for ease of positioning and cueing up.
Bluetooth offers several things. Firstly you could locate your turntable, just about anywhere in a room, as they do bizarrely in films, and get a decent response. It also means you could randomly play a record directly to a pair of Bluetooth headphones, odd, but interesting.
The ALVA TT V2 is exquisitely presented, it is a thing of beauty
The ALVA TT V2 is exquisitely presented, it is a thing of beauty. The top of the turntable is machined from a 6mm aluminium plate with a ‘laser etched’ logo on top. There is some vibration-absorbing material inside an MDF inner that is contained in the visible black composite chassis.
The platter is made of POM (Polyoxymethylene), It feels like it has a ceramic finish, but it is a polymer. POM is characterised, according to Wiki, by having stiffness, low friction, and excellent stability, all good qualities for a turntable platter.
There is also a solid hinged, but removable see-through dust cover provided, though as usual, I have neglected to get it out of the box.
Otherwise, I’m line level out directly to my Moor Amps preamplifier or I’m using the phono output to my modest Musical Fidelity Phono stage that has a Moving Coil input.
Setup out of the box was dead easy. It probably took me five minutes to get up and running. Operation is simple with an on/off button on the top left-hand side with a button for speed control too. Cueing is gorgeous with the pronounced stylus very easy to position. I really do not like the gap between the cradle and the arm lowering mechanism, minor but annoying.
You can select a straight line out (using the built-in phono stage), or the phono output to your preferred stage at the rear. Bluetooth pairing is also at the rear. This is fine but a fraction annoying and surely it would have been just as easy to locate these options at the front given that you may switch from Bluetooth to line out fairly frequently given the flexibility of the ALVA TT V2. I do note, that once you have paired, say a pair of headphones, they automatically pair when you turn on the Bluetooth again.
Once again, like the Vertere DG-1S, the platter is just that fraction too big for an LP making the vinyl record hard to pick up unless you have Cruella De Ville’s nails.
In basic use with the built-in phono stage, the ALVA TT V2 is simply very good indeed. The output is clean, and detailed and offers great timing. The provided interconnects are thick and appear to step out of the way of the music.
Bluetooth to headphones
…the warmth of the vinyl experience is accessible even with Bluetooth
Using a variety of Bluetooth headphones including the budget Lindy BNX-80 and the not budget Mark Levinson No.5909, I find the turntable experience slightly weird. I just can’t understand why you would do this, beyond the novelty of it. Why would you go to all the trouble of creating a perfectly decent analogue experience only to chop it up with a Bluetooth connection?
That being said the output is bright and lively, yes, vibrant, and with the likes of Stop Making Sense (see Musical Interlude) there is no loss of fun. Clearly, the pace and rhythm are here, and this is great. I’m enjoying Tina Weymouth’s bass line from this Bluetooth connection in both the 5909s and the BNX-80s.
One thing is clear, however, after a while, I sort of get it. The Bluetooth thing is fun and is certainly a nice option to have, the warmth of the vinyl experience is accessible even with Bluetooth.
I’ve had a few dropouts with the 5909s but not with the budget BNX-80s interestingly, I wonder if the 5909s need to stay in line with the turntable and if maybe an antenna would help. I have fully charged them and get the same random weird glitch.
…the tactile nature of vinyl rarely fails to deliver and the same is true here.
There is an all-in-one NAD M10 here at HF&MS, it is a worthy device with heaps of flexibility. Indeed, it has two-way Bluetooth, allowing you to connect a source, a pair of headphones, or both.
The ALVA TT V2 paired seamlessly with the M10 and the output was happily vibrant and clear with plenty of detail. The ELAC Carina loudspeakers lapped up the pace and presentation from the ALVA TT V2. Again, though, there is always that feeling of ‘Why am I doing this?’, but the tactile nature of vinyl rarely fails to deliver and the same is true here.
Tradition now dictates a vinyl purchase on receipt of a turntable at HF&MS. So the 40th Anniversary vinyl release this August of Talking Head’s Stop Making Sense (Universal) was a no-brainer. It is such a vibrant and dynamic concert that everything feels so contemporary. Here the detail is clear, and the rhythm and toe-tapping timing with Burning Down the House and Life During Wartime a highlight.
There are a couple of extra tracks on the vinyl, though I have certainly heard this version of Big Business/I Zimbra somewhere, I can’t figure out how if this is previously unreleased.
Often on repeat with a turntable are the six discs of the 2014 Carnegie Hall recordings from Ryan Adams (Pax Am).
At the end of this review period, it has been a fun experience. The flexibility in location is an interesting feature and the M10 in our family living space afforded a fun Ed Sheeran-themed evening. The Phono stage by-pass offers the user the opportunity of an upgrade path at a future date, should a better MC phono stage come into your life, the turntable would merit this investment in my view.
If this is within your budget, you can think of this as a really decent turntable that happens to have Bluetooth as an option. I have a Rega Planar 3 with its matching phono stage and have done so for many years. The only place I thought I would go was the Vertere DG-1S if I had a windfall. But this ALVA TT V2 really does make you think hard as a stepping stone to something remarkable.
…this turntable really should be high on your list of options…
Though initially sceptical, this Cambridge Audio ALVA TT V2 turntable is a fine vinyl source in its own right. The fact it has an excellent inbuilt Phono stage and a decent Bluetooth option only adds to the choices on offer here. If you are looking for a step up from an entry-level vinyl experience, this turntable really should be high on your list of options, it is on mine.
Ease of cueing
MC Upgrade path
There was no gap between the cradle and the arm-lowering mechanism
The Bluetooth pairing button was elsewhere
A slightly smaller platter
Full details are on the company’s site.