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Say Hello to the Alva ST
In 1968, the world was introduced to Cambridge Audio as a division of Cambridge Consultants. Fast forward to 2019, Cambridge Audio came out with the Alva TT, the first turntable to offer aptX HD Bluetooth support. In early 2022, they introduced the Alva TT V2, the next generation Alva TT with a pre-installed high-output moving coil cartridge, a stable and silent platter, a built-in phono preamp, and of course, the aforementioned ground-breaking aptX Bluetooth support.
Now, at half the price of the Alva TT V2, we have the Cambridge Audio Alva ST. My first thought was, “What do you get for only half the cost ?” It turns out you get an incredible value turntable.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
The Alva ST and Alva TT V2 share the same tonearm, the same phono pre-amp, and the same Bluetooth aptX HD functionality. If you haven't already read our review of the Alva TT V2, you can learn more about all of that here. With so much in common, besides price, what's the difference?
The Four Notable Differences
- The cartridge is a much simpler Moving Magnet AT95E instead of the high output moving coil cartridge found on the TT
- The platter is die-cast aluminum as opposed to the POM platter of the TT
- The turntable is belt driven instead of direct drive
- The price
The cartridge is where a lot of the cost-saving comes in. The moving coil cartridge found on the TT V2 alone retails for $599. Die-cast aluminum tends to resonate much easier than the POM platter, but thanks to the rubber mat included with the ST, it's never been an issue in my testing. Despite the differences, belt-driven turntables are not objectively worse or better than direct-drive turntables. In a lot of ways, I prefer belt-driven turntables. Separating the most significant noise source in a turntable (the motor) from the platter with a belt is a great way to reduce noise and distortion.
Aesthetically, there are only a few minor differences. The top plate of the plinth, while similar, is slightly different. The logo, for example, is embossed on the TT V2 and printed in black on the ST. The buttons seem to be fitted slightly differently but don't stand out as unsightly or distracting. The platter is a bit shorter than on the TT V2, but since it's painted black, it also looks very similar. Even with the few (minor) differences, the Alva ST is a gorgeous modern turntable.
I tested the Alva ST with my Bluetooth headphones and powered desktop monitors that support aptX HD. I didn't have any problems worth noting, and I got a clear sound through every connection. Overall, I would say the ST sounds much brighter than the TT V2, and I think that mainly has to do with the difference in the cartridges. There was 0 noticeable distortion or noise. Since a majority of the tonality (how the turn table sounds) is determined by the needle and cartridge, it's nice to know that if I did want a warmer sound, upgrading the cartridge is a simple task.
The Alva ST is an excellent turntable for someone looking to start out in the world of vinyl records. You have a plethora of connection options and a well-defined upgrade path if you decide to really invest in the medium. Cambridge packs everything you need in the box to get started. All your cables, built-in phono, cartridge, and a scale to balance your tonearm.
As Cambridge would say, "Just add vinyl."
Make sure to watch our full video review above to learn more about the Alva ST!
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