Avantgarde's Zero 1

Stereophile's Jon Iverson grabbed me in the hallway of the Venetian Hotel's 35th floor. He was excited. "You've got to see Avantgarde's new loudspeaker on the 31st floor—it's full of features not found in most other loudspeakers." I rushed down the back stairs of the Venetian, and found Avantgarde's Executive Manager, Armin Krauss, who walked me through the $18,500/pair, three-way, Zero 1 loudspeaker.

Available in white or black, the loudspeaker resembles a 42"-tall monolithic slab, nothing like Avantgarde's other boxes, which sprout large external circular horns. The Zero One's horn is recessed into the face of the 88 lb, polyurethane cabinet. It allows the midrange driver to deliver the high 104dB sensitivity of the company's other horn-based loudspeakers. The woofer covers the range from 30–250Hz, the hornloaded midrange from 250Hz–2kHz, and the hornloaded tweeter from 2-20kHz. The Zero One has two 50W amps to cover tweeter and midrange, and one 400W amplifier for the woofer.

Internally, the speaker has a digital signal processor to manage the internal electronic crossover, digital/analog converters, and internal amplifiers, all within the cabinet. All one has to do is to connect the digital input of the master loudspeaker to the music signal (wirelessly or directly via USB, Toslink, SPDIF or the AES/EBU interface). No network is required. Hookup is pure plug and play: simply plug the AC cord into the wall, connect one loudspeaker (the master) to a WiFi network or digital connection, and the second loudspeaker (the "slave") will automatically be attached via a radio link.

For the CES show, Armin was using a wireless transmitter USB module by the European company "AudioFly" plugged into his iPhone, causing it to start streaming music because "it thinks it's plugged into the Apple Dock." An AudioFly wireless receiver module sat behind and plugged into the left channel Zero One speaker across the room. Sure enough, I could not find a speaker cable anywhere near either Zero One—they were being driven by a wireless, digital signal!

But how does this technical tour de force of a loudspeaker sound? The short answer is surprisingly good. When Armin played a few of my reference CDs, the Zero Ones generated a wide deep soundstage with good resolution of voices when playing Rutter's Requiem choral piece. However, the pipe organ bass line was too prominent for my taste, which led me to suspect that the corner-placed Zero Ones were getting substantial bass boost because of their corner location. However, the woofer level can be varied by a rear-panel switch that should easily reduce this effect.

The Zero Ones did a fine job separating vocalist Chris Martin from the hard driving guitars and drums on Coldplay's "Spies," from their Parachutes album. Bruckner's Symphony 9, conducted by Claudio Abbado, played with unusual dynamics and force, but a bit brighter than my preference. More listening in a familiar listening room would be necessary before any of these impressions could be validated. Even so, I was eager to hear more.

WAF Warrior's picture

This was one of the best sounding rooms I attended this year at CES. Bravo, these speakers really disappeared and took the room with them even when splitting the sweet spot with another listener.