When Hifi Pig heard that Loud & Clear in Edinburgh were having a roadshow showcasing a trio of Avantgarde horn loudspeakers along with Simaudio’s Moon888 monoblock power amps, we had to go along for a listen.

This is the first time that the fully active Zero 1 XD, the Zero ‘Teil Aktive’ semi-active and the Uno XD speakers have available together for demo in the UK.  Time did not permit the auditioning of all three speakers but the semi-active Zero TAs (£10,000) partnered with Moon electronics gave a solid account of themselves in one of Loud & Clear’s smaller demo rooms.  From Kraftwerk to The Oscar Peterson Trio, the Zero’s impressed with their combination of dynamism and transparency.  This version of the Zeros combines an active bass driver with a passive mid/treble driver so if you are fond a particular amplifier’s sonic signature you need not relinquish it entirely to the Zero’s onboard electronics while the inbuilt DSP allows the bass to be custom configured to your requirements.  The softly-sculpted monolithic Zero’s are distinctive and modern in their styling and are available in either a white or black finish.

The Avantgarde Uno XD speakers (£20,000) are no less distinctive but in a very different way… Linette and Stuart use the Duo XD as their reference loudspeaker.  A fairly normal looking floorstanding cabinet is highjacked by a pair of spherical horns – a 20 inch horn for the midrange above a 5 inch horn for the upper frequencies.  The end result is eye-catching yet elegant.  The cabinet body is available in either black, white or two types of wood veneer while the horns come in 12 colour options.  Like the Zero TAs, the Uno XDs are semi active.  Two subwoofers are driven by a pair of 500w amplifiers, controlled by a DSP.

Paired with a pair of Moon888 power amps (of which more below) the result is a wall of sound with bass, midrange and treble seamlessly integrated and a soundstage that hangs in the air like a curtain across the width of the room.  I must have heard Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here a thousand times but there were textures in the radio static at the start of the track and in David Gilmour’s acoustic guitars that had previously passed me by.  Private Life from the live Isle Of View album by The Pretenders was beautifully rendered with a terrific sense of the live environment.  Another album that I thought I knew like the back of my hand, The Who’s Live At Leeds,  provided the finale for the evening; closing my eyes, I simply felt that I was there on the night.

And so to the Moon888 power amps,  presently the only two to be found anywhere in the UK.  These amps really need to be seen “in the flesh” to be properly appreciated – photographs don’t really do justice to either their physical presence or build quality.  At 22 inches wide, 27 long and 14 deep and weighing in at 300lbs each they are not exactly inconspicuous but their understated external design ensures that they don’t distract from the music either.  The brief for the design of the 880s was to build the best regardless of cost so every component, with the exception of the Furutech binding posts, which it was felt could not be improved on, has been custom build to Simaudio’s specifications. With a power output rated at 888 watts into 8 ohms – or 1.2 horsepower as they like to say in the marketing material – there is little danger of them running out of steam.  The build quality of the aircraft-grade aluminium chassis really is superb and by integrating the audio circuitry in to the single piece aluminium heats sinks, vibration within the body of the amplifier is minimised and heat is dissipated effectively.  The 888s are priced at £125,000 (that’s per pair rather than each – I checked) which includes delivery and set up.  Additionally, owners of existing Moon Evolution amplifiers will have the cost of their existing amplifiers refunded.

Loud & Clear’s Avantgarde roadshow runs until 13 May after which the Moon 888s will be taking a brief holiday to the Munich High End Show.

John Scott

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