Avantgarde Acoustic Duo loudspeakers | Listening session

07.07.2011..

In Italy, the German Avantgarde is a well-known brand, thanks to the intriguing beauty of its products and the peculiar design philosophy. Such philosophy carries out the hybrid solution of putting together the high efficiency - with passive horn loading for the mid and high frequencies - and the traditional efficiency, but with active drivers, namely equipped with their own amplification for the low frequencies.

In the hi-fi world, the good reputation of the Avantgarde speakers comes along with the common belief that these speakers do not play very homogenously and have the low range set free from the other frequency ranges, with a clear gap between the two main bands that reproduce the recorded music.

Well, I must admit that this opinion is always confirmed, both in the Italian and international hi-fi shows, where the Avantgarde speakers lay themselves open to criticism by the enthusiasts.

 

Is that possible that the manufacturing company has never realized that?

 

The puzzling thing is that in the manual of the Avantgarde Duo there is a series of choices to connect the speakers to the amplification system. Their suggestion, however, is to use the simplest and more immediate connection to favour an external amplification instead of the active one. Moreover, the sole operation that the user can do is to adjust the crossover.

 

Are we sure that this is the best option?

Most probably, Avantgarde’s commercial strategy counts, on one hand, on the simple use of their loudspeakers, in order to avoid discouraging the average enthusiasts and, on the other hand, it leaves an open door to the more expert and capable of getting the best from these splendid hi-end objects.

This opinion has been taken up by the friends of Atelier del Suono, a small group of enthusiasts, who has created in Livorno (Tuscany), a meeting point, where you can talk hi-end and listen to first order systems.

As their goal is: “to let the Avantgarde Duo perform at best”, the friends of Atelier del Suono decide to buy a pair of second-hand Avantgarde Duo and start to test them immediately. In spite of the countless choices of cables and amplifications, they realize at once that it is necessary to follow the course of bi-amplification.

In fact, the active section of the Duo has an internal amplification designed to calibrate with accuracy the input sensitivity and to regulate, step by step, the frequency cut of the incorporated electronic crossover, from 70-80-90 Hertz up to and beyond 140 Hertz. This operation makes simple the match of the Avantgarde with the preamplifier.

We chose a preamplifier with two output pairs, so to favour the concurrent driving of the internal amplification of the low frequencies, and an added power amp which amplifies the mid and high frequencies by using different signal cables: in brief bi-amplification together with bi-wiring.

 

Let us proceed with order and, before recommending the definitive system, which is the system that we have hailed to it as a miracle, I would like to sketch up briefly what happened during four months of long and exhausting tests. Firstly, I connected the Avantgarde Duo to the Audionote Ongaku in the standard configuration suggested by Avantgarde itself, but the outcome has been mediocre with an evident gap between the frequencies ranges and a not very interesting sound. Secondly, I connected a couple of Audion 300 B Silver Night monoblocks (push-pull, 24 watts, class-A), and again, notwithstanding several cables, the sound was very poor.

Then, we tested the Audiotekne IT1 preamp and the 12 watts IT2 power amp, but no dice! Also the Sun Audio - 8 watts mono-triode and 15 watts push pull - with the 300B and the 2A3 tubes, did not prevail upon. With more powerful tube amps, like the 60 watts Luxman MQ50 with 6500 tubes, the result did not change a lot. The same happened with the two Perraux 200 preamps and 200 watts mosfet power amp and with a pair of 40 watts Albarry monoblocks.

 

It is like beating a dead horse and without honour.

 

Always the same problem: the low frequencies are completely set apart from the other ranges.

Then the brilliant idea! To make perform at best the mid and high range by exploiting the high efficiency of the horns. After several tests, the choice has fallen upon the Audio Note Neiro Silver, a model built in the ’90 in Japan by Kondo san: a 7 watts power amp with two 2A3 triodes put in parallel and driven, in this case, by the Audio Tekne TP8201. This last one has a double output, so it can drive, at the same time, also the internal amplification of the low range of the Avantgarde Duo, by using, as signal cable, a pair of YBA Cristal.

Between the Audio Tekne preamp and the Audio Note power amp, we have put a Millennium 6000 signal cable, while, as power cable for the mid range, we have put a pair of Harmonix Strings 101 and, for the high range, a pair of DNM Single Solid Core.

At this point, I would like to spend some words about the system we have used: as analogical source, a Micro Seiki FVG turntable, with air bearing platter, matched with a second 1500 Micro Seiki turntable as flywheel. The first tonearm is the Nobile by Da Vinci Audio, with Red Rose LP Playback cartridge, connected to the step-up and cable by the same Da Vinci Audio, and a battery powered phono preamp by Antonio Nincheri Il King with external power supply. The second tonearm is the Fidelity Research FR64S equipped with a carbon block shell and the Audio Tekne MC6310 cartridge plugged into the Audio Tekne TP8201 transformer via the Audio Tekne ARA-500 cable.

In short, a quite complicate system: tubes, bi-ampling and bi-wiring, high efficiency, analogical source with low output MC cartridges and step-up with transformers.

 

The outcome?

 

Well, extraordinary! The sound turns into… music that you can listen to, with eyes closed to enjoy its naturalness.

Just magic! The soundstage is filled up with vivid and full-bodied instruments and voices. The absolute silence is an astounding outcome if you consider the tube amplifications and the high efficiency loudspeakers: 104 db capable of delivering an energy that does not surrender to the loudest volume of the rock music!

 

The beautiful listening experience and the great path for the fine-tuning, prove how much care and passion is essential for an audio system to perform at best.

It is a pity that you cannot share this moment and this experience with me.

Imagine being get carried away by a rare magic in the world of the playback music with very high levels of purity and cleanness, a world where the music bosses the show and where your system disappears, making way to… emotion.

 

by Roberto Rocchi
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