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Horns are better... Avantgardes (1 Viewer)

Chris Tsutsui

Screenwriter
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On sunday I auditioned the Avantgards Duo 3.0s in a Hotel sonic culture weekend and decided to post my thoughts and review.
Before you even consider these may I point out that they may not be in everyones price range.
I know that there are audiophiles that will say horn speakers are "colored" or harsh sounding due to their previous experience with horns. This was definitly not the case with these duos. The president of Avantgarde even stated that horn speakers DID introduce a change in tonal balance that wasn't always pleasant, until they developed new technologies to use Horns for an advantage.
With an extremely large horn, their driver can then move less than a tenth of a normal high-end speaker. Acceleration lag and overshoot are minimized in addition to the use of lightweight rigid diaphragms and giant magnets used.
The Avantgardes were very natural sounding, producing a smooth and effortless range of sound. Definitly the most clearest and undistorted speakers I've heard. The advantage of these speakers was that they were able to settle down after each transient due to their very large magnets. (They use a 6lb magnet on just the tweeter) Basically the driver barely moves at all, the horn amplifies the sound to a small sweet spot, using the physics of the horn to an advantage and reduce the need of a crossover. (circuitry tends to reduce signal strength)
Avantgarde attempts to describe the speakers by comparing them to others on the market:
First imagine a hypothetical speaker:
* Transparency of a great electrostatic (quad, sound lab or ML); or ribbon (Apogee, Wisdom)
* Balance and authority of Dunlavy, JM labs Utopia, Goldmund Apologue
* uncolored mids of Verity Parsifal or Quad
* dynamics of Klipschorn
* Build quality of Wilson, Thiel, and Avalon
* Accuracy of timbre umatched in many areas, noticeable on vocals, instruments, and brass (which usually lacks weight and sonority)
* Effieciency from 102-110db so it's easy on amps with a benign 8 ohms
They also claim to produce imaging and soundstage much more precise than LIVE, with an emotional impact to put tears in your eyes. (I didn't get tears, just goosebumps every once in a while)
They don't use a crossover for midrange, the musical signal passes directly from your amp to mid-range horn with nothing in its path for a more dynamic, detailed presentation. There is no passive crossover between mid and amp so physics (horn throat and bell) determines the roll-off.
Avantgarde states wide dispersion speakers are the wrong way to head, their speakers employ a controlled dispersion pattern so that ~85% sound directly reaches the ear so no room treatments needed.
Anyways the hotel demo lobby was roughly 15x35' and the speakers were roughly 20 feet from the wall.
Equiptment List:
Avantgarde Duo series 3 - 104DB+ @ 1w/1m/8ohms - minimum 1.5 watts
ABS plastic w/Nextel 225 S/L CTRL subwoofers
$17,970 pair
Audiopax Model 88 Mono-Block Single Ended amp - 30wpc
MPS - matched power supply
PTS - Perfect Triode Simulation
Bandwidth (15hz to 90khz, -3db)
-$9,970 each
Hovland HP100 vacuum tube stereo preamp
input impedance: 100kohm
gain: 14db
Freq resp: +/-.25db, 10hz-25khz
THD:
 

ling_w

Second Unit
Joined
Sep 3, 2001
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I heard a Avant-garde 5.1 setup last year with Trio as mains. Didn't find the sound particularly good, there was too much bass. Demo material was all video based music, with nothing intricate.

I guess in the large venue, loud horns are a plus.

Can't remember the exact equipment, but most of it was from CAT.
 

Tom Brennan

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Chris----There's a horn club in Southern California, you oughta get in touch with those guys. Dr. Bruce Edgar, ex Jet Propulsion Lab rocket scientist who makes the best horn speakers I've ever heard, is in the club and they often meet at his shop. You don't have to spend 20 grand for good horns, the guys in the club will show you how to do it yourself way cheaper and better with homegrown SoCal stuff from Altec and JBL. That stuff is the Real Deal, don't need no German "high-end" horns, Hollywood horns are where it's at babeee. :)
 

KeithR

Second Unit
Joined
Mar 26, 2001
Messages
258
I heard the ht demo in ny too, and wasn't impressed.
however, in a different 2 ch demo at a different time, I was blown away.
if i had the room, i would own the unos with a BAT VK75SE, or the Cary V12 I have (if good enough)....fyi, tubes are mandatory. that Hovland is also the best tube preamp I have heard...
Unfortunately, a Porsche is calling my name first...:)
 

Jan H

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Nov 6, 2001
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Chris,

To go from '52 Chateaux Lafite to Boone's Farm Strawberry must have sucked! Thanks for the review, that system sounds incredible!
 

Chris Tsutsui

Screenwriter
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Feb 1, 2002
Messages
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Thanks for the info, I used to be a horn skeptic until I heard these. (though my JBLs S38s have something similar to horns)

Funny KeithR should mention a porsche cause that's the black paint that was on the Unos. The paints used on the horns came in a variety of european car colors such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes/Porsche colors.

Thanks tom, if I decide to make DIY horn speakers I'll check it out.

Talk about sensitivity, the Avantgarde Trio 3.0 rated at 110DB 1W/1M/19 ohms. Those things blast with only a fraction of a watt. Throughout the demo, the president stated that he will never use more than 3/4 of a watt, and most of the time they'd only use 1/8-1/2 a watt.

Has anyone else heard the amp? The company states in their packet that "the Audiopax Model 88 is the best amp ever made. (and yes, we've heard the amp you're thinking of)."

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the source was the:

Electrocompaniet EMCI

(electro mechanical cancellation)Line section

Single ended gain 1.6X (4dB)

Balanced gain 3.2X (10dB)

THD (1V out, 1KHz) < 0,002%

Maximum output (Balanced) > 14V RMS

Channel separation (1V out, 1KHz) > 90 dB

Equivalent input noise 4µV

Digital section

Latest version of Phillips CD PRO Top loading drive unit (takes patience to center a CD and play it)

24 bits 96KHz D/A converter

Digital out RCA/XLR

True balanced system

Mechanical filter which cancels acoustic/mechanical vibrations preventing the laser pick-up from receiving unwanted signals

FTT Power supply

Fully remote (no volume control)

Power consumption (no load or signal) 23 W

Their real CD player didn't make it in time so they used the EMC1 as a backup. They also thought that the tube amps were broken (or should I say damaged) because the shipping crate from Brazil was smashed in. To their suprise the amps worked fine. The amps were however were factory broken in.
 

Brett DiMichele

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Brett
One thing those Horns will never be, are attractive.
(not to me)
Blah... I can't stand all these hippy wavy jetsons designs!
Give me a good old square black box and I am happy! :)
Now older horns I could get used to... If I knew anything
about them! (That's what we have Tom Brennan here for!) :)
 

Larry B

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Nov 8, 2001
Messages
1,067
Chris:

I should begin by mentioning that I have nothing personal angainst Avantgard's. I heard them only once, in an enormous room and only for HT, so I couldn't form an opinion.

That said, I couldn't help but laugh at at one of their boasts:

They also claim to produce imaging and soundstage much more precise than LIVE...
Just think: While the goal of the rest of the high-end community has always been to get things as close to real as possible (a goal still not attained, I might add), these folks make it better than real!!

Larry
 

Mark Seaton

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Mark Seaton
Talk about sensitivity, the Avantgarde Trio 3.0 rated at 110DB 1W/1M/19 ohms. Those things blast with only a fraction of a watt. Throughout the demo, the president stated that he will never use more than 3/4 of a watt, and most of the time they'd only use 1/8-1/2 a watt.
Ok, this one needs some qualification. There is a huge difference between CONTINUOUS power and PEAK power. For most music, you can expect at minimum 15-20dB crest factor above the average. 10dB is 10 times the power, 20dB is 100 times the power. While I certainly agree that efficiency is a beautiful thing, operating at as little as 1/4 watt average would often require peak power near 25W to prevent clipping. Playing with an amp with a fairly fast output meter is enlightening to see just how quickly the last 10dB, 50W to 500W for example, gets used up in dynamics and with small turns of the dial.
 

Ron Shaw

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Dec 4, 2001
Messages
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A good horn system is at the top of the pile, in my opinion. And as Tom said, you dont need to spend near that kind of money to get a good setup. I have played with almost every type of loudspeaker design there is in my 35 years of building speaker systems, and have come to the conclusion that nothing comes as close as a well designed horn. For me, a very importand aspect of music reproduction is to play it at a realistic volume level. No less, and no more. When you get to real live dynamics, there is nothing like a horn to give you the volume, dynamics, and low distortion of the live experience. Since the required cone excursion is so low, IM distortion is at extremely low levels.

As far as no crossover on the midrange, I would be sceptical that it would be lower in distortion than one using a crossover. Even a simple series cap would reduce IM distortion in the critical midrange, and I cant believe that the negative effects of a series cap wouldnt offset the benifits. With all the electronics already in the signal path, one more cap isnt going to be a problem. Id rather bi-amp anyway!
 

Saurav

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You guys might want to take a look at Oris horns. Welborne Labs sells the Moondog line of speakers which use Oris horns, and cost about the same as these - 5 figures. However, you can get all the parts for the Oris horns and build them yourself for around $4K. I listened to the Oris in a system with 0.5W of power, and like some others, was completely blown away. That person used to have Avantgarde Duos in his system before the Oris, and he prefers the Oris. The Oris is also more sensitive than the Duo, I think it's 108 or 110dB, which means it requires 1/2 to 1/4 the power.
They also claim to produce imaging and soundstage much more precise than LIVE...
Well, I've never been to a live rock concert that had any imaging at all, every stereo I've listened to has "better than live" imaging, simply because the recording has "better than live" imaging, which has been engineered in during the mixing/production. So, Larry, their claim is quite tenable :)
 

Mark Seaton

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It should be noted that there ARE inherent problems to watch out for and which need to be worked around in horn systems. The qualification above of "a well designed horn" should not be taken lightly. Proper mouth area, relatively smooth response, off axis power response, and the overall integration of a horn system is not trivial. The supposed "honk" or "horn sound" which many have observed is a direct result of certain characteristics, all being factors which need to be kept in check. As has been said, when a horn system is designed and applied properly, there are some major advantages to be had. Some of those benefits can't always be realized in every application.
 

Larry B

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Saurav:

You stated

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I think low powered tube amps mated with high efficiency speakers generally do a more natural job of handling dynamic swings

than low efficiency speakers driven by lots of power. Of course that's a gross generalization, but my experience with the few good systems that I've heard seems to bear that out.
Out of curiosity, have you heard many really good "low efficiency speakers driven by lots of power?"

Second, regarding your comment to my "better than live" remark: If the imaging (as in a rock concert) was not there to begin with, how can a speaker possibly add it back? And if the imaging was there, as in a well recorded acoustic venue (jazz, chamber music, whatever), do you really think these speakers are better than the original event?

Larry
 

Saurav

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And if the imaging was there, as in a well recorded acoustic venue (jazz, chamber music, whatever), do you really think these speakers are better than the original event?
In that situation, that claim becomes a little more far-fetched.
 

Larry B

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Saurav:
What I was getting at in my first query was whether you had listened to low-efficiency/high powered systems in the same price range as the Oris system you were so taken with. Based on your response, I think the answer is "yes." My reason for asking is that since we seem to have generally similar tastes, I wanted to know what the Oris' were being compared to.
You are of course correct about imaging being provided by the engineer but I think you still get my drift, namely that the speaker can't make this better. Indeed, the most we could ever hope for is that the speaker (and electronics) reproduce it exactly as it is on the record or disc, something that we have yet to accomplish, even with the absolute best of systems.
As always, thanks for your responses. I'll be out of town for the next few days car racing, so I'll "speak" to you again on Monday.
Regards,
Larry
 

Saurav

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What I was getting at in my first query was whether you had listened to low-efficiency/high powered systems in the same price range as the Oris system you were so taken with. Based on your response, I think the answer is "yes."
Certainly in the same ballpark, with the DIY vs. retail caveat thrown in.
 

Ron Shaw

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Messages
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One thing about horn systems is the controlled dispersion pattern, which can help tame a problematic room. This can make a horn system much more revealing than a wide dispersion system, where the imaging is smeared by many reflections. You definitely want to use amplification that is very clean at very low power levels, like tubes or class A SS. As far as power is concerned, typical loud RMS levels are maybe in the low to mid 90 range for realistic reproduction of an orchestra, so peaks are on the average of maybe 110-115db, so a couple of watts is quite adequate.
 

Tom Brennan

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Ron---Dead-on about controlled dispersion. I have a variety of horns ranging in horizontal dispersion from 60 to 130 degrees. By changing only the horn flares I can make a BIG difference in how the speaker interacts with the room. If I want a wide, spacious, "Magneplanar" type sound I use my 130 degree McCauley lenses, they bounce lots of sound off the side walls which gives a "cloudy" sound with imaging that appears to originate from well past the width of the speakers. With 90 degree Altec 511s I get a more pinpoint type of sound that I enjoy more. With the Edgar saladbowls, which make no attempt to hold any certain pattern and get beamy above 12khz, I get very nice imaging and the best tonality. Not that I pay much attention to imaging anyway, unless the imaging, like that of the McCauleys (in my room), is distracting from the music.
 

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