AUDIO PHYSIC AVANTI 35 LOUDSPEAKERS REVIEW

Audio Physic Avanti 35 Loudspeakers are the latest iteration of the German brand’s well known and well-loved Avanti speakers. Stuart takes a listen to an old friend reborn.

Audio Physic Avanti 35 Loudspeakers

The Avanti 35s are available in a wide range of colours.

I’ve been a long time fan of German brand Audio Physic and have owned a couple of pairs in the past – the smaller Tempos and, crucially for the purposes of being able to talk about the speakers we have here, the Avanti 3s. Both were exceptional loudspeakers for the money and it is likely that we would still have the Avanti in our system somewhere were it not for a series of unfortunate circumstances best not gone into here.

The original Avanti 3s that I had were really nicely finished, were valve amp friendly, and, to coin a phrase, imaged like bastards ((that means they were very, very good at imaging!)! Really, the stereo image that the original Avanti 3s threw out into the room was, and yes I bang on about this term being overused, holographic. I remember hearing Audio Physics for the first time when they were relatively unknown in the UK and thinking that I really ought to own a pair sometime. I forget what the first ones I heard were but remember them being powered by tubes and me being asked if I had any requests. I had a recently cleaned (scratches repaired) Mastercuts CD of Hip Hop on me at the time and the chap in the room very kindly played a track from that whilst commenting “Not the usual kind of thing that gets played through these, I’d guess.” I was smitten and returned home and bought a used pair of Tempos which I powered using a 300BPSE amplifier. I loved them but in reality they only gave me a taste of what I’d previously experienced and so when the Avantis came up I jumped at the opportunity, even though it was a three-day round trip to pick them up…and this is what they looked like in the flesh.

Audio Physic Avanti 35 1

Our own pair of Audio Physic Avanti from several years ago.

So, when the guys at Elite Audio called me and asked if I’d be interested in listening to a pair of the new Avantis it really was a no-brainer for me and I immediately said yes. What is interesting is that the very same amps I had powering the original Avantis are the ones I am using for the review here, though previously I had them with a Coffman Labs pre and now a Leema Libra DAC/PRE.

Now I’m sure that all reviewers do the same, but here at Pig Towers we have a pretty strict regime for the review process and we try to make it as consistent as possible so as to avoid anything getting in the way of us focusing on the product, in this case, speakers, that we are actually reviewing. That means that we don’t use amps that are in for review and always use our own reference amps, we use the same front end, and, where possible, the same cables. Crucially we also don’t do any critical listening until, particularly loudspeakers, have had time to run-in/loosen-up/call it what you will. For the Avanti 35s we had them hooked up to a big old Krell that had just come back from the States after a bit of a refresh. Tunes were blasted through at decent volumes for a good few days and whilst we obviously listened to music through them we made no notes or judgements – though they did actually sound pretty decent out of the box. All this adds time to the review process, of course, but we’d rather think we were using a product as it would be likely used in the home than a product straight out the box.

FEATURES, FIT AND FINISH

The speakers arrived nicely boxed and were simple to extract and get set up. The finish on these paino black ones is absolutely stunning with a mirror-like reflection from them – see my little piggy picture. Actually the speakers are finished in glass (yes) that really enhances their finish, though it’s an obvious trap for fingerprints, though no more than any other high gloss finish and being glass they polish off easy, though a pair of white gloves in the packaging would have been a nice little touch for initial positioning. That’s an unusual material to use and I only know of one other company, Waterfall, that employ glass to this extent – actually Waterfall speakers are wholly constructed from glass and so very different from the Avantis that use glass as an outer layer only.

Aesthetically the Avanti 35s are a very attractive speaker in this finish. They are fairly tall (1087mm) but also fairly slim (170mm) and slope slightly backwards. You get a set of feet to fit to the outriggers that use opposed magnets to provide a degree of isolation from the floor – I believe these are an extra and are called VCF Magnetic, though the speakers do come as standard with the non-magnetic version simply called VCF (Vibration Control Feet).

Audio Physic Avanti 35 Loudspeakers Review 1

Audio Physic Avanti 35 back panel shows one pair of binding posts but a second pair can be added if ordered.

Round the back are a single pair of good quality binding posts though you can order the speakers with an extra set should bi-wiring/bi-amping be your particular thing.

A Healthy Obsession With Vibrations

The cabinet is a sandwich affair designed to keep the speaker as quiet as possible vibration-wise. In essence, the cabinets panels have an internal core to which the outer panels are glued. In this version, the glass panels are then placed on the outside of this sandwich and Audio Physic claim that the heavy glass panels act as further dampening. The tap test does seem to have the cabinets being pretty dead apart from one area that I’ll come onto later on. I spoke to Audio Physic about the idea behind this sandwich, and particularly its use with glass and got this response:

“The sandwich construction of the AVANTI 35 is made of an inner cabinet (MDF), an elastic acrylic tape (2mm thick) and glass panels (4mm on the side /6mm front and top).

“The resonance characters of glass and MDF are completely different. In combination with the elastic tape, the overall construction has no typical sound. The 2mm gap between the inner box and the glass reduces the transmission of sound from the inside to the outside of the cabinet.

“Overall, this reduces colourations associated with the cabinet.”

Bracing in the cabinets uses an interesting material in the form of Ceramic Foam which is basically what it sounds like. This ceramic foam is lighter and more rigid than the often used MDF and being porous doesn’t impede the drivers’ performance, claim Audio Physic. I think this is a very interesting use of innovative products and so asked how they came about it:

“Several years ago we ran several tests with all kinds of open-cell foams (metal, carbon, polymers, ceramic). Due to the huge surface, open-cell foams act more like a diffusor than an absorber – a characteristic, that I prefer. The ceramic foam is very rigid and “consumes” very little volume, which makes it ideal for internal bracings. Using it as a diffusor, allows us to use less absorbing material.

The copper foam experiments lead to a new generation of capacitors (manufactured by CLARITY CAP).”

Audio Physic seem to have paid a whole lot of attention to damping in these loudspeakers and employ active damping on both the mid-range driver and the tweeter. The technology is called Hyper Holographic Cone Technology and I’m guessing that the Audio Physic marketing department chose this given their loudspeakers past history of being described as “Holographic”. Audio Physic use a dual basket design for the HHCM-III drivers whereas conventional drivers usually only use one. Conventionally, this basket is used to mount the driver to the cabinet to allow free travel of undesirable vibrations from the driver to the cab and from the cab to the driver, whereas the HHCM IIIs mid-driver has an inner basket with good damping properties to cancel micro-vibrations. The second basket around the inner basket is used to mount the driver to the chassis with the contact between the two baskets being very small and then damped – again to reduce vibrations. New 3D printing methods have allowed for a more complex open structure to the dual basket design that optimises vibration control and rigidity better than were previously possible using normal production methods. See, told you it was a bit of an obsession.

This obsession with damping also extends to the speaker terminals which are mounted on an aluminium construction that is decoupled from the cabinet using a neoprene seal. Audio Physic say that they search for vibration and attempt to eliminate it at every opportunity.

Audio Physic Avanti Loudspeakers 3

A shot showing the internal bracing of the Avanti 35s

Something Is Missing But Not Really…

So all in all the Avanti 35s certainly look the part but I couldn’t help looking at the speakers (and whilst having them playing in the warm-up period) and thinking “where is that bass coming from?” The little mid-range unit is far too small to be producing such prodigious bass, but where the original Avantis that I had had a pair of side-firing woofers these don’t have anything  – no bass ports, no downward-firing bass, nothing! Or so it would appear on the first inspection. Whilst tapping my way around the speaker (yes I know) it was clear that the lower part of the speakers sounded more “hollow”. After reading the technical spec’ of the speakers the bass I heard and the hollower sound on the tap test was made apparent. Basically, there is a woofer that is placed within the cabinet that uses the sandwich construction and a cavity in the base of the cabinet to allow it to move air, though there is still the glass panel there. I’ll be honest here and say that this worried me more than a little. It’s a bit of a departure from anything I have personally seen used before, and whilst it allows for a more home-friendly design, I just didn’t get how it would work in the real world – though it clearly does work. Audio Physic say that the first approach was more cosmetically driven and that the side-firing woofer of the first generation CLASSIC 20 spoiled the look of the sandwich construction and so after some experiments with the “invisible woofer”,  they found that they could improve the performance in the bass and get a speaker that is easier to set up in a room.

Audio Physic Avanti Loudspeakers Hidden Woofer

A key feature of the Avanti 35s is the “hidden” bass speaker.

Let’s see!

The Avanti 35s have a claimed frequency response of 31Hz to 40KHz which is, on paper, very impressive and lower than I would have thought for these cabinets. They are nominally a 4Ohm load and are 88dB sensitive.

SOUND QUALITY

So, after a suitable running in time I reckoned the Avanti 35s were about ready for a bit of a listen with a more critical ear.

As I mentioned (in part) the kit for this review was a pair of Merrill Thor amps with Merrill (Cardas) XLR interconnects and speaker cables, Leema Libra Pre/DAC and an Auralic Airies G1 running Roon from a NUC.

Audio Physic Avanti 35 Loudspeakers 5

The Avanti 35s have outriggers for anti-vibration footers and tilt slightly backwards which enhances their already splendid appearance.

Positioning is not difficult but you will be rewarded by spending a few minutes back and forth from your listening position to get them just so and by way of getting that image pin sharp. I had these a metre or so from the back wall and a couple of metres from sidewalls in a fairly well acoustically treated room. I found that to get the best image I had to have the right-hand speaker (slightly further away from sidewall) a little more toed in than the left-hand speaker, but we are talking a matter of a few degrees here.

John Tejada’s Year Of The Living (Kompakt) is a downtempo techno album for the most part. It’s a record I’ve been getting into a fair bit and it’s a pretty good record for using in reviews I think as it’s pretty simple and rich in lots of different frequencies, tones and effects. This record suits the Avanti 35s really well. At low volumes, you get a very good sense of what is going on with regards to the record. Skippy beats on the electronic hats are crisp and taut and effects come and go in the soundfield really well. It’s difficult to say if the soundstage that the original Avantis I had is matched by the 35s (it’s a good few years ago since I heard them) but it is pretty impressive without being overblown or artificial sounding. There is a bit on the track Panacea that is clearly a clever mixing effect, but the sound does appear to be coming from way beyond the speakers’ boundaries and into the room – it’s a cool effect and a tad more pronounced here than is usual for us. There is a definite sweet spot with these speakers where everything just clicks into place in the stereo image and whilst they spatially perform well away from this hotspot it is here where you get the best effect. The positioning of instruments in the mix is really impressive with a real three-dimensional feel. I like this effect a lot and it’s something I normally associate more with top-notch standmounters – I suppose the small driver and the narrow cabinet are helping in this regard. When compared to our Audiovector R3s I’d suggest that the air I always talk about with the top end is there to an extent but different in its presentation – where the R3s do the imaging this really well they also seem to float instruments in their own space, whereas the Avanti 35s seem to be more pin-sharp in their spatial presentation.

Audio Physic Avanti 35 Front

The Avanti 35 is a very elegant looking loudspeaker with a really beautiful finish.

Turning the volume up on this track was pretty impressive and, like the recently reviewed FinkTeam KIMs, they kept their cool as the wick went up – everything still in its proper place spatially and just more of everything. As always, I pushed these pretty hard on this track and didn’t feel they lost control until really being pushed beyond their limits. Actually, they really came alive when pushed a bit, but I’d suggest that these are a fairly refined loudspeaker in that they don’t seem to want to over-exaggerate anything that’s going on.

Audio Physic Avanti 35 Loudspeakers 6

A closer look at the mid-range driver and the tweeter employed.

No review of mine would be complete without mentioning the Daft Punk track Contact and this isn’t going to be the exception. The Avantis play the tune well, though I think they are a little too polite for my personal taste and this particular track. Yes there is the detail and texture to the sounds of the tune, and yes I can hear everything that is going on in the tune but it’s not got me on the edge of my seat and really getting madly excited about the tune as it does on our own speakers. With that said it is not that the tune sounds bad or unlistenable in any way, rather it’s a bit polite for my own personal taste – I am certain others will love this easy-going approach and delivery. I actually let Roon do its thing and played a whole load more tunes over and over and I actually found the speakers a real delight to have on in the background. Servicio al Cliente by Servicio al Cliente is new out on Kompakt and laidback morning music and again I think the Avantis really suited this kind of tune.

The obvious next step is to throw some raucous rock and roll and Pink Fairies’ City Kids comes out of the virtual rack. It sounds great; there’s clarity and definition and the phased effect comes across really well,  but it leaves me feeling a little like I wanted more oomph and, well, raucousness.  Likewise The Sex Pistols God Save The Queen – it’s all very nice but a bit lacking in welly that this track needs.  But then you whack on a track like Hardfloor’s Acperience 1 and all is good with the world again. That bubbling 303 sounds like it should, the kick is right, the hats sound crispy, and the cowbell sounds as it should (all these are sounds I know pretty well). That relentless 303 in the background manages to hold its own with the other sounds in the mix without becoming muddied in everything that is going on and when they let fly with the cutoff and resonance knobs you can really hear (and visualise) what they are doing to the silver acid box.

Audio Physic Avanti 35 Loudspeakers 7

Close up of the bass unit and the ingenious sandwich construction of the cabinet showing the use of the porous ceramic material.

Switching over to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain makes e sit up and take notice. Detail and tone are the main things I bring from this. The castanets moving about the stage sound absolutely brilliant as does the tambourine (or whatever it is). Davis’ Flugelhorn sounds really very good and the speakers capture both the tone and subtlety of the playing here. Dynamically they do this track justice brilliantly and just as you are getting drawn into the tracks quieter moments you jump at the crescendos. Hard to fault really. The Stockholm Guitar Quartet on Opus 3s DSD Showcase sounds live (it is) and you get an incredible sense of the recording space as well as the recording. Superb stuff!

Audio Physic Avanti 35 Review 4

Close up of the cabinet showing the glass panels.

Do let’s talk about bass and what better way to put a pair of speakers through their bass paces than a bit of dub in the form of Dub Syndicate’s Strike the Balance record. Bass underpins the dub sound ( you know that, yeh?) and I’ve no complaints here at all. That unrelenting bass goes deep enough, though I’d say that 31Hz is a little on the ambitious side if I’m honest, and given the size of the drivers and cab this is hardly surprising. This may sound like a bad thing but the reality of the situation is that there’s not going to be that much music other than the odd organ track that digs that low in real terms. What I love about this presentation is that the speakers allow the tune to do all the stoned out tricksy stuff that dub is supposed to your head – it’s a spatial thing in a lot of ways, of course. I could listen to dub on these all day and every day!! The strings in Je T’Aime are lush and the little percussion effects are delightfully presented and really jump out from the mix.

CONCLUSION

This is a bit of a difficult review to write really. In many ways, I really love the Avanti 35s and what they bring to the party and they do bring back memories of the Avantis I owned. On a whole lot of music they are brilliant and wholly satisfying, and then a track comes along that really throws them, and without much notice that they are going to not like it. My suspicion here is that the small mid is being asked to do a little more than it should be and I’d really love to try the MIDEX or AVENTERA IIIs from the same Reference Line as the Avantis.

The Avantis are really very good indeed on relatively simple music – and by simple music I mean music that doesn’t have too much going on, or is really well mixed with regards to the placement of instruments. Simple vocal music, though I don’t mention it much above, really is very good. Likewise, Jazz and, particularly, dub sound glorious through the Avantis.

The 35s imaging and stereo soundscape is great without you feeling it is being over-exaggerated. Likewise, the detail you can pick out of tunes is very impressive, and on some tunes I was hearing things that I’d not taken much notice of before.

Bass is good and tight but I think 31Hz would be pushing it a bit. I never thought that the bass was anything other than correct and I actually think this is one of the strong points.

Look here is the thing, these are a very good loudspeaker at a pretty reasonable price in the grand scheme of things. They don’t, in my experience, do everything well and with equal measure but when they are playing something they get along with they really do sing.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality:

The Avantis look great and are undoubtedly very well finished and put together. That glass finish is really something to behold, but watch for fingerprints on them!

Sound Quality:

The level of detail you get with the Avantis is very impressive. Soundstaging and imaging is fantastic. They are uncoloured and the bass is tight and taut. They can get confused in the mid-band on complex tunes.

Value For Money:

I actually think these are pretty good value for money. They certainly look the part and with most music the sound very good indeed.

We Loved:

Fantastic Detail

Wonderful imaging

Tight and taut bass

Uncoloured and clear sound on the right music

We Didn’t Love So Much:

Can sound a bit lack-lustre and unengaging on some tracks

Mid-band can become muddled on busier music

Price:

UK: £5499 standard finishes (+£300 enhanced finishes) + Free UK shipping

EU: €6590 / €6890

US: $5538 + vat / $5790

Elevator Pitch Review:

On the right kind of music these speakers really are fantastic with incredible detail, imaging, and clarity allied to a deep enough and tuneful bass. They are unfatiguing and are clearly a class act, but can be a bit polite on some music and muddled on other. Personally I found myself digging out a lot of dub reggae to play on them as they really do this well! Pass the chillum, would you?

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart Smith

Supplied By Elite Audio

Review Equipment: Auralic Aries G1 Streamer, Leema Pre/DAC, Merrill Thor amps, Cables by Cardas, Way, Atlas.

Specifications:

Height: 1087 mm / 42.8″

Width: 170 mm / 6.7″

Required Space (W x D): 11.8″ x 15.7″

Glass / Veneer: ~ 22 kg (Wood) ~ 27,5 kg (Glass version)

Recommended amplifier power: 30-180 W

Impedance: 4 Ohm

Frequency range: 31 Hz – 40 kHz

Tweeter: HHCT III

Midrange: HHCM III

Woofer inside: 8.5 Paper Cone

Sensitivity: 88 dB

Accessories: Glass- and Fabric Grill Black, Spike Set

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