Avantgarde Acoustic - Test Reviews


DATE: 2008-08-01

Loudspeakers TRIO and BASSHORN in the gallery Objet Sonore (Paris/France)

The German manufacturer Avantgarde Acoustic is one of the rarely found companies worldwide that only offer horn loaded loudspeakers, recently complemented by a line of high quality solid state electronics. Their impressive models TRIO and BASSHORN are awaiting us in the gallery Objet Sonore in the 3rd Arrondissement (urban district) of Paris.

It’s not without a certain anticipation that we arrive at our private audition in the gallery Objet Sonore, where David Blécher, creative director and founder of this out-of-time place, welcomes us personally. The gallery is located only few minutes from Place de la Bastille and close-by Présence Audio Conseil, David’s high performance audio shop, existing for more than 33 years. The gallery Objet Sonore (sound object) should rather be called “gallery for vocal architecture“, as the display strongly resembles a design exhibition rather than an audio shop. Although David kept an eye on a reasonable acoustic environment, the curved walls and ceilings breathe a nice 70’s flair, with typical curvatures - and a spiral staircase - in flower power style. And finally the equipment on dispaly as well puts us back to this era, when the designers exhibited limitless creativity, ready for technical and aesthetical experiments, modeled on the car designs and autobodies of the post war years. Between a pair of spherical plaster-made Elipson speakers and the modern Ferguson Hill acrylic horns, we discover here and there a Braun amplifier, stand-mounted spherical speakers by Grundig or ultra slim Bang&Olufsen components with sliding controls. We remain silent in amazement.

Our wide open eyes are attracted by the treasures of long ago, and we appreciate this skillfully compiled collection, it is a bit like (re)discovering a piece of music from the time or a beautiful classic car. Not speaking of absolute quality, as obviously audio electronics have made huge steps regarding sound quality and sonic realism, similar to progress in the automobile industry. But speaking of a different quality of a certain sensuality and substantiality. How could one not be touched at the sight of a Philips „Rosita“ ensemble, a futuristic combination of tuner, record player and cassette deck, mounted on a chromed tulip-shaped stand? Kitsch, probably, but definitely heart-warming... And a blow of pure oxygen, compared to the „political correct“ equipment that is offered today. „Just like an admirer of modern cars with the years, with a certain maturity that is, will be attracted to classic cars as well, I have started some time ago to look at those components through different eyes“, says David Blécher. „Judging on the distinctiveness of these devices from a distance, one thing seems clear and evident for me. The designers those days were much more creative and open-minded than today. One could say the same about modern automobiles, where only the top models let us dream and revel“, David continues, and finally concludes: „Maybe now you have a better understanding for our approach, venturing on this new project.“ The word has been dropped: dream. That is what the manufacturers of those days made us, and what also distinguishes the gallery Objet Sonore, by offering – classic and modern – products for sale, products that don’t leave us cold and polarise visitors. Like the Avantgarde Acoustic TRIO with BASSHORN, the true reason of our visit, which David Blécher has set up downstairs, where as well numerous desirable hifi classic are on display. 

Avantgarde = avant-garde (vanguard)?

The German manufacturer Avantgarde Acoustic, located 1 hour driving time south of Frankfurt/Main has been forging on a solid reputation as a world market leader of spherical horn loudspeakersfor more than 15 years (since 1991). Having sold and installed more than 2500 systems worldwide (which is remarkable considering their premium price category), this success has clearly not been left to chance, but is the fruit of a dedicated ans skilled team of designers and engineers, who entirely specialised on horn technology – with the efficient help of CAD and up-to-date manufacturing processes. A short glance on an Avantgarde Acoustic speaker will suffice to realise their remarkable build quality and as well the ears will quickly recognise their outstanding musicality. And finally we are dealing here with a breed of loudspeaker that will immediately catch our eye, wherever they are set up or displayed. All models feature horns, be it round horns with spherical curvature for midranges and tweeters, or be it rectangular horn shapes with combined expo-spherical characteristics for the subwoofers. But what devil possess Avantgarde Acoustic to walk on the wild side, while the majority of speaker manufacturers worldwide bases on the same old electrodynamic direct radiating speakers?

The roll of a horn is that of a sound pressure transformer. It comprises a „throat“ (narrow entering area) and a „mouth“ (wide exit area). The diaphragm is located near (behind) the throat, from where the horn expands following an exponential function (i.e. conic, exponential, tractrix, Iwata...), ending in the horn mouth. The length of the horn is defined by its desired frequency range (long with low notes, short with high notes) and by the desired radiation pattern. The diaphragm displacement causes the air volume inside the horn throat to vibrate (forming a sound wave). The pressure of this sound wave is at first increased through the nozzle-like funnel, and is gradually decreased and finally adapted to the environmental air pressure after travelling along the horn curvature. Everyone can comprehend the horn priciples, by simply putting the hands in front of the mouth for addressing to a distant person. Therbeby one channels the sound energy towards the recipient. This pictures one of the fundamental advantages of the horn, increasing the efficiency of sound emission.

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