Audio Physic Avanti III loudspeaker Page 3

When I'd parted company with the Virgos, I'd willingly given up some of their astounding imaging and soundstaging prowess to get the Sonus Faber Amatis' rich, voluptuous, swoon-inducing delicacy and inner detail. I'd traded brisk athleticism and excitement for raw, seductive sex. The Avanti III delivered all that I'd given up and more, with surprising ease—in fact, without ever pausing for a breath.

If cleanliness is next to godliness, the Avantis were next to godlike—so clean, so detailed, so revealing—and yet, when everything (including the source material) was right, so rich, so fundamentally correct and satisfying. Take Willie Nelson's "Stardust," from the album of the same name (Columbia JC 35305 or Classic Records' 180gm vinyl reissue): The Avanti IIIs delivered the track with each element neatly separated yet seemingly connected to a delicate whole. Nelson's voice was out front, compact and hovering vividly in three dimensions. His chest was present, but without "chestiness." As Nelson varied the volume of his voice within the phrasing, he seemed to pitch slightly forward and back. There was no "overhang" to the voice. It was there in bold relief, with nothing but black beyond, all the way to the drum kit. The drums, crisply rendered but not overcooked, were punctuated by woody rimshots, the pop of each of which was followed by a gentle trail-off. The cleanliness of the brush and cymbal work was memorable. Booker T's juicy-toned organ hovered in the distance, and the closely miked acoustic guitar picked the melody smartly in midfield. Each cleanly delineated musical development had a consequence that the ear could follow, even as new events piled on in rapid succession.

Within this simple, spacious arrangement was a wide variety of tones, textures, and, especially, events. The Avanti delivered each the way a cold, clear night delivers the stars. But don't think I'm implying that the Avanti sounded cold. Hardly. With clarity and focus comes an inviting, almost warming certainty. Along with its superb clarity, the other standout quality of the Avanti that remains with me was its top-to-bottom rhythmic coherence. Its ultrafast, ultradetailed top end was matched by its tight, nimble, well-damped midbass and bass. Where the Virgo is warm and somewhat hung-over in the bass, the Avanti was lean and muscular—which is not the same as "thin." The Hovland preamp brought a new level of microdynamic bass control to my system. The Avanti III brought that subtle, rolling sensation of ultra-low-level bass articulation and control to new heights of delicacy and detail.

The Avanti IIIs disappeared even more effectively than did the Virgos; having not lived with that sensation for two years (at least not to the same degree), I spent many, many late nights catching up on it. The Avanti IIIs managed to delineate and differentiate the positions of lateral images with even greater precision than the Virgos had (as I remembered them playing very familiar recordings), while rendering those images in greater relief against blacker, clearer backgrounds.

I played the original UK LP edition of the Beatles' Abbey Road straight through one night at relatively high SPLs and was enthralled by the speakers' ability to let me follow each Beatle's vocal line with ease, though they're mixed together spatially. The distinctive vocal timbres seemed to hold together with greater authority than I remembered ever hearing, and I noted that Ringo's drums were rendered unusually cleanly, without compression or edginess. Top-end extension was satisfyingly open and airy, without etch, and without the highs pulling apart from the musical mix—though when recordings had been artificially and unpleasantly brightened, there was no escaping it in the playback through the Avanti IIIs.

If you're getting the idea that I really loved the Avanti III, you're correct. It offered superb dynamics at both ends of the scale and never sounded compressed, even when played at ultra-high SPLs. Its tonal coloration was impressively low. In fact, aside from a slight but very noticeable leanness in the midbass that seemed to drop off a few dBs over the entire range (and could have been a room-related issue), the Avanti ranks with the Infinity Prelude MTS as, subjectively, the least-colored speaker I've reviewed.

One-third-octave tones on Alan Parsons' Sound Check CD (Mobile Fidelity SPCD-15) indicated a speaker with a superbly flat in-room response, and I've never heard sweep tones reproduced with such evenness. This speaker should produce a super-clean waterfall curve; its off-axis response seemed to be free of sonic bumps and bruises, making side-chair listening a pleasure. I know—I often had to give up the sweet spot!

The Avanti bettered the Infinity Prelude in the midrange, however, being somewhat more revealing and delicate, and definitely more detailed and less congested. Female vocals, for example, had a clarity and focus that easily surpassed what I remembered the Prelude delivering. But the Infinity, with its built-in powered 12" subwoofer, stomped all over the Avanti in the deep-bass department. Though the Avanti III is rated at 28Hz-40kHz, -3dB, in my room its response at 25Hz was audible but minimal, and 30Hz was only somewhat better.

Because of its audibly flat and extended HF response and seemingly lean midbass, the Avanti III could sometimes sound somewhat thin overall—even, some might say, "analytical"—especially if you're used to or crave whomp-'em stomp-'em room-warming bass and midbass.

Audio Physic
US distributor: Immedia
1717A Fourth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 559-2050