E&OE Copyright 2010-
Loudspeakers above £4,000
Living Voice Avatar R3
The Avatar is a development of the Auditorium (featured on the previous page), and whilst superficially similar in appearance features many improvements beneath the skin. The changes start with the drive units, the tweeter is replaced with the excellent Scanspeak D950000 tweeter and the bass driver units are custom made and feature larger magnets than the standard Auditorium. The crossover is similarly uprated, both with improved quality parts but also in terms of layout by means of star earthing. Finally the cabinets feature refinements including additional bracing.
What all these technical changes do to the sound is quite stunning, the speakers have even more definition and openness without losing the inherent musical strengths of the standard Auditorium. The other key strengths of the standard design, primarily their tonality, is further improved, and the dynamics remain just as exciting and wide ranging as ever.
ProAc Response D30/D30R
Due for launch in mid June 2013, the D30 fills the gap between the D28 and D40 in their range. It is available in two versions, one with a soft dome tweeter and one with a Ribbon tweeter (the ‘R’ version). It shares a similar carbon fibre bass unit with the D40.
Two versions will be available, one with a soft dome tweeter and the other with a ribbon tweeter. Naturally we'll be having a listen to them as soon as they have models available to audition.
ProAc D30 speakers in Cherry, Mahogany, Maple or Black: £4,500
ProAc D30 speakers in Ebony and Rosewood: £5,400
ProAc D30R speakers in Cherry, Mahogany, Maple or Black: £4,750
ProAc D30R speakers in Ebony and Rosewood: £5,700
Living Voice IBX-
The fundamental basics of the speaker stay the same throughout, it’s a fairly large, two way, rear ported, stand mount design using an 8 inch bass/mid driver and 1 inch soft dome tweeter. The speaker proportions may seem quite different from modern fashion, being wider rather than deeper, but in most rooms this is far more space efficient, and is responsible for the speakers impressive scale and imaging.
With a claimed efficiency in the region of 94dB up to 98dB (with efficiency rising as you go up through the range) and presenting an easy load to the amplifier these speakers allow a colossal choice of partnering amplification, and although they naturally lend themselves to smaller zero feedback valve amplifiers they will work well with any amplifier of sufficient quality.
Great attention is paid to the design and construction of these speakers, the cabinets are made entirely of birch plywood (with the exception of the entry level AN-
One of the more recent innovations within the Audio Note range is the use of Hemp cones, which on some models are standard fitment and on others are available as an option (the alternative being paper cones). As you’d expect, the paper cones sound incredibly fast, clean and exciting to listen to. In comparison the Hemp cones have a slightly richer and more relaxed presentation (almost as if you are a couple of rows further back in the concert hall). The main benefit of the Hemp is the improved mid band texture, tonality and resolution. I am regularly asked which I prefer and hand on heart I find it difficult to say -
So what makes the AN-
As will all efficient speakers the dynamics are impressive and believable. What’s more bass extension is remarkable, especially considering their size and efficiency (the manufacturer claims a remarkable in room -
They are incredibly subtle and revealing devices too, and whilst they will reveal the limitations of poor matching equipment, paradoxically they have the ability to often get brilliant results even from poorer recordings. They pull off the trick that many Audio Note products manage, they effectively disappear leaving the recording and the performance right in front of you. Nowadays it’s very infrequent that I hear new things in my favourite recordings, but the AN-
As you go up the range transparency, dynamics, detail retrieval and musicality all increase.
Please note there are no grilles supplied with the speakers, but if this is a problem for potential owners we can always provide something to protect the drive units from small fingers! Once you see the quality of the veneers available you will not want to hide them away under grille cloth unnecessarily.
I have broken this large range down into the following 3 sections:
Entry level model
Internal crossover models
These models have cabinets made entirely of Russian Birch plywood which are fully veneered in a selection of stunning veneers (see lower down for the listing of finishes).
External crossover models
These models feature external crossovers and come equipped with additional wiring to run between external crossover enclosure and speaker. It is possible to purchase a stand with the crossovers onboard for an additional £1,500, but personally we would only recommend it for when space is seriously limited.
Above: Alnico tweeter
Dimensions: Width 36cm, depth 27cm, Height 79cm (plus stands).
The finish options available are: Maple, Curly Maple, Palisander, Olive, Tulip, Alder, Oak, Apple, Cherry, Walnut, Black ash, Wenge, Birch Burl, Birds Eye Maple, Makassar-
I’ve pictured a few of the finishes below, we have samples of these finishes viewable in store too.
A choice of stands are available including Audio Notes own design (a flat back stand that requires mass loading) and the fully welded skeletal Something Solid XF (please see speaker stands section) are suitable.
Living Voice RW Series
The RW series are the ultimate expression of the Living Voice Auditorium range of speakers. Two versions are available, the IBX with internal crossovers and the OBX with external crossovers.
Both show tremendous attention to detail during the design process, with every component fastidiously listened to leaving no stone unturned. They feature a Living voice internal wiring harness, superior in house wound inductors and capacitors, with resistors specially made for Living Voice to their specification. The attention to detail extends to the level where some (but purposefully not all) components are cryogenically treated (including the WBT Platinum plated binding posts), the result of hundreds of hours of listening and experimentation.
The prices for the IBX (internal crossover versions) are shown below:
The benefit with the OBX external crossover models is that the components are kept much further away from the vibration and magnetic influence of the speaker drive units, as well as allowing much increased spacing between components allowing minimal interaction between each other. The crossovers are housed in matching veneered boxes and naturally take up a bit more space and require more speaker wiring between themselves and the loudspeakers, but offer the ultimate performance.
OBX pries are as follows:
The Direkt Dreikland is a very substantial 3 way design from Heco. It features a paper 15” bass driver, an 8” paper mid range driver and a horn loaded 28mm soft dome tweeter. These ingredients when combined with a large volume box should produce both good bandwidth and efficiency, and with a claimed 98dB sensitivity they are certainly not lacking in this respect. The speakers are just under 70kg each, making them at least a two man lift, but their shallow depth and floor porting means that they should not intrude into the room quite as much as would be expected from other speakers of this ilk. At the time of writing I’ve not heard these speakers, but if the excellent 2 way Direkt is anything to go by then they will be dynamic and exciting listen.
Dimensions: H 115cm, W 70cm, D35cm
Finishes: Black or White Satin
Heco Direkt Dreiklang: £8,999.95
The Zero XD Passive, is a new more affordable route into the wonderful world of Avantgarde horn speakers. From the outside this model looks near identical to the Zero 1XD (the all singing all dancing near standalone wireless speakers which combine on board DACs and multi driver amplification), and that’s hardly surprising, for this is the ‘passive’ version, ready for connection to any hifi amplifier and system -
It’s a three way design, with a sensitivity of 104dB, the 400mm diameter mid range horn handling frequencies over 300Hz, crossing over to the horn loaded tweeter at 4kHz. The low frequencies are covered by a 12” bass driver, fed from an onboard 500W amplifier with DSP crossover/equalisation, which can be easily adjusted from the rear panel or via USB connection to a computer if desired.
Above Left: rear panel showing display and connections, Above Middle: with rear cover in place
These are, frankly, some of the most impressive and exciting speakers I’ve heard recently -
What this means is that they simply sound ‘right’ and have a very live and life-
Naturally being so sensitive they are ideally suited to a purist design amplifier (i.e. a low powered Single Ended DHT valve), and as smaller amps always sound better than big ones (all things being equal), and are therefore much cheaper, it means you can use them with a more affordable amplifier than you might imagine -
With this in mind, and their overall range of abilities and strengths, I can’t help feeling these really are something of a bargain.
More information is available in the pdf brochure (opens in new window)
Dimensions: H 104cm, W 49cm, D 32cm
Finishes: Satin Black or White
Avantgarde Zero XD Passive speaker: £10,000
The Avantgarde Uno XD is a truly special, wide range, dynamic speaker system. It’s a three way design with horn loading covering the mid range and treble and a powered bass system covering lower frequencies. The result is a speaker with the remarkable benefits of horn loading but in a reasonably compact box, yet still offering a massive efficiency of 107dB and very wide bandwidth.
The key with any speaker is how it handles the mid range, and this is where the Avantgarde speakers are exceptional. On the Uno XD a large 500mm diameter horn loads a special non compression drive unit which features a paper domed surface. No crossover is used at all, the horn itself (and the chamber in front of it) effectively filter unwanted frequencies without the need for passive or active electronics. Above 3kHz a compression tweeter on a short horn is used, the crossover benefiting from Avantgardes CPC technology, which uses the audio signal to pre bias the capacitors meaning that they do not suffer from any dielectric ‘crossover distortion’.
Above Left: With the mid range horn removed you can see the domed surface of the driver
Above Middle: Substantial power amplifier board
Above Right: With fabric grille and Tweeter horn removed
Bass horns have to be massive to reproduce even relatively high bass frequencies, so here two ten inch bass units with stiff suspension and a sealed box help produce taught and fast low frequencies that are adept at keeping up with the lightning responses of the horn loaded parts of the speaker in a much smaller space. To drive these two 500 watt amplifiers feed them per channel (so yes, there’s a kilowatt per channel), and the low pass crossover is done with DSP which makes the speakers incredibly advanced, a small display on the rear enables the basics to be adjusted but things get really interesting when a computer is connected (via USB or Ethernet). Naturally not everyone will want to do this themselves, we are of course only too happy to install and setup the speakers. What the DSP brings to the party is not only the ability to fine tune the blend between low and mid frequencies (by changing crossover rate and frequency) to your satisfaction but also the ability to correct any low frequency room resonance's.
Enough of the boring technicalities, it’s the results that matter, and what Avantgarde have achieved here is seriously impressive. Across all frequencies the sound has incredible immediacy, dynamics and scale -
Unlike some of the breed, this isn’t a speaker that excels with a limited number of genres, it sounds believable with any good material, having the dynamic contrast, bandwidth and low distortion opens up recordings of all sorts as well as facilitating listening levels at both extremes and everything in between with an effortlessly clean sound. Colouration is pleasing low and the transparency great -
As one speaker that does it all, in a reasonably sized enclosure, this must be high up anyone's list of speakers to hear. What Avantgarde have achieved here is quite simply spectacularly good, offering a level of realism that really needs to be heard to be believed.
Finishes: A wide range of finishes are available for the cabinets and the horns, more details coming soon, but for the time being please visit the Avantgarde website
Dimensions: Height 137cm, Width 53cm, Depth 59cm.
Avantgarde Acoustic Uno XD speakers. From £21,500
The CN191 is a substantial corner horn which has its roots in 1949 when it was first designed, yet it can still offer a musical performance that is practically unmatched for speed, scale and resolution.
These speakers are two way horns, using massively built Alnico mid range compression drivers coupled to wooden mid range horns. Frequencies below 500Hz are dealt with by a 15 inch driver in a corner bass horn enclosure that uses the rooms walls to extend the bass response. The sensitivity of the system is an immense 105dB meaning amplifiers with just a watt or twos output will suffice in most circumstances, which results in ultra low distortion, maximum energy retrieval and practically complete dynamic contrast.
As standard they are finished in Walnut veneer, other finishes are available but may be subject to a premium
AxHorn is a family run firm based in Wales, which has been developing speaker systems for both hi end domestic and sound reinforcement duties for many years. The AxJet has been in development for several years, and has evolved into a seriously sorted design.
In my experience finessing horn designs takes a great deal of skill and experimentation. Horns by their very nature will cover a relatively small portion of the frequency range, which is why 3 or 4 way horn speakers are most common. In most designs multiple drive units are used with electrical crossovers in place to direct the frequencies to the appropriate drivers. Designing the crossover takes a lot of time to get just right, but is a relatively easy job to do if you have the patience, ear and plenty of inductors, resistors and capacitors to experiment with.
I would suggest that what has been achieved with the AxHorn is actually far more difficult. This is effectively a 3 way fully horn loaded design, but there is only one full range drive unit in use (a very high efficiency AER paper drive unit with Alnico magnet). The low frequencies are supplied by the rear of the drive unit, loaded by the smoothly flowing folded horn whose mouth exits in the lower portion of the speaker. The midrange, from circa 200Hz and upwards comes from the silver spun aluminium horn, and in the centre is the AfterBurner, which is a machined clear polycarbonate high frequency horn that effectively floats in front of the driver, collecting energy off the edge of the voice coil and whizzer cone.
Above Left: After Burner view head on. Above Right: from an angle, showing how it sits within the mid horn
The complexity of this sort of design is astonishing, the work to ensure that these horns work as acoustical crossovers ensuring a seamless transition throughout the ranges is almost mind boggling, with each change basically requiring a physical redesign, until eventually the sweet spot is found.
The cabinets are made from fibreglass that is reinforced and damped at various points with foam and glass fibre reinforced concrete. Their curvaceous cabinets are finished in an aerospace Supergloss ceramic lacquer that can be painted in any RAL colour desired.
As you’d expect of a horn loaded design these are very efficient speakers, with excellent sound being comfortably produced from a 3.5watt 2A3 valve amplifier.
The AxJet is a speaker that gets under your skin, a degree of acclimatisation is required as at first they do sound very different from most conventional speakers, but what they do well very few speakers can get close to. For a start the imaging is very impressive, being effectively point source in nature over the majority of the frequency range that matters. The treble quality is the best I’ve heard from a full range driver, the character remains consistent as you go up through the registers and it does extend remarkably well -
The Afterburner clearly extends these high frequencies very usefully, it does also reduce the beaminess normally experienced from a full range driver, but still you do want to be seated within a reasonably tightly defined listening area as moving away from this does add some shifting of the tonal balance.
They are particularly striking with simple quality recordings, those that are heavily compressed are revealed for what they are, but as a tool for hearing what is going on in the mix, they are well up with the best. You can swear you can tell when reverb is natural or electronically created, in fact all sorts of engineering tricks are revealed, not in a hyper analytical way, but there’s simply so little masking inherent in this design that you can listen to any aspect you want to or take the whole recording for what it is.
Being a well sorted horn design it goes without saying that dynamics and speed are beyond comparison to almost anything else out there. Low frequencies are not hugely extended but within their range the punch is very impressive (the next generation of AxHorn, effectively the mk3, which is undergoing final development has apparently resolved this issue with the bass extending much deeper). They can also let their hair down, stupendous volume levels are of course just a twist of the volume control away, and there’s no sign of strain as the levels rise.
Dimensions: H 132cm, W 93cm, D 71cm
Weight: 60Kg each (120kg each in supplied flight cases)