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There shouldn't be business fluctuations due to trends, in the hi-fi sector. The right sound remains right during the years regardless of the rise and fall of the competitors. There are brands though that are in vogue for years and then fall into disgrace for a period and silently wait to go back to the past splendour. My impression is that this is exactly what happened to Avalon, at least here in Italy. Its loudspeakers were taken as an example of cutting-edge electroacoustic technology until recent times, but now it's different even if their quality and their performances are the same or even better. Many brands that seemed to be able to "defeat" Avalon have disappeared and, of other brands, only time will tell. In Audio-Activity we do not follow trends, we deem it's wrong. We'd rather tell our readers that there are brands that are serious and have a past history of reliability. In the hi-fi history there are so many brands that came up with a new Amazing discovery and after a while just disappeared, because the only thing they had probably found was a good marketing manager.
Listening to an Avalon is always for me a big pleasure. In my personal history of audiophile I possessed, after having reviewed them, the Ascendant and the Opus Ceramique. I have reviewed also the Mixing Monitor and I have listened to all the available Avalon models of the latest years. The Ideas, that we have here for a test, are the smaller model of the floorstanding line and take the place of the Symbol. The Ideas though are at a superior level both for sound performance and manufacturing quality. They are real Avalons and this is something you understand at the first glance. They have been presented on the market a year ago and in my opinion it's about time to talk again about these creatures of Neil Patel. They are produced in Boulder, Colorado. Their name is appropriate and also the idea of a model that is easily associated with the brand is appropriate. They have the typical Avalon shape, and the same look of the Ascendants. The Idea are different from Ascendant because they are smaller and lighter, and they also have a different tweeter. These loudspeakers have an accurate finishing - you can choose among 6 different veneer - and have the classical Avalon shape that reduces the baffle dimension around the tweeter. Cardas connectors are very good and easy to use. They have replaced the screw clamps placed under the loudspeaker that were really uncomfortable to set up. Also the grille has a shape similar to that of the other Avalon models. It must be left in place since it has the function to reduce baffle's reflection. It is composed of a big felt layer shaped in order to let only the direct sound exit, in order to avoid reflections. This is a two ways loudspeaker, it has two 7" Nomex-Kevlar woofers and one neodymium tweeter with dome that is made with a proprietary composite material. It looks like ceramic and seems produced by Eton just like the woofers. Declared sensitivity is 88 dB and impedance is 4 Ohm. Frequency response is 28-22000 Hz and suggested power is 50-300 W. Their weight is 27 kg each. The load is bass reflex with the port positioned at the bottom of the loudspeaker. In order to have the correct load in respect to the floor, three metal spikes, the APEX Couplers, come with the loudspeakers. These spikes must be positioned under the loudspeaker and will give it the height planned in the design.
Well, let's see if Neil Patel has succeeded in building an Avalon that is fit for small spaces but still has the sound of this brand unlike other models - that are now out of production - that had very good characteristics, while their design had nothing to do with the superior line models. Their positioning in a room is the usual Avalon positioning: at least 1 meter from the back wall and 80 cm from the side walls in parallel with the front wall. All this in order to obtain the gorgeous soundstage that these loudspeakers are able to create. The small fine tuning positioning will depend on the characteristics of your room, and must be done in order to obtain a right low range, that's it. All the rest will be done by the Idea. How well they do it is what we are going to test after having connected them to the following system:
Turntable Basis 2001, Graham 2.2 tonearm, Scan Tech Lyra Helicon cartridge, phono cable: LAT International XLR, phono preamplifier: balanced Einstein "The Turntable's Choice", cable between the phono preamplifier and pre amp: Transparent Super XLR, CD/SACD player dCS Puccini+U-Clock Puccini, loudspeaker JBL 4350B, loudspeaker cables: MIT Magnum MA, power cables: MIT Shotgun AC1, Black Noise Pearl and others DIY, net filter: Black noise 2500.
The first vinyl record is "La luna" by Angelo Branduardi (RCA). The quality of the recording is unexpectedly good. There are many electronic effects on instruments and voice but this does not affect the quality of what we are listening. In the first song there are many string instruments that don't bother at all the Avalon, that have the main characteristics of disappearing from the room. Once paid the "big" amount they cost you'll forget about them. The sound is diffused behind them and you are thrown in a theatre, sitting very close to the stage, in one of those rows that are usually reserved for politicians, VIPs, friends and relatives. In the track "Donna mia" the duet piano-voice is exactly what one wants to hear from an Hi-Fi system. Timbric correctness, tonal balance and a natural return of the record sound details. The vinyl "Milva e dintorni" (LP Ricordi) is a very interesting record. Lyrics are by Franco Battiato and it's very well recorded. Here, the Idea show once again that they want to stay away from those sounds that are "shot straight into your face" and this despite the medium range that is not lacking anything, in any way. The top end is a bit rearward while the bass guitar has the main role as is in the intention of the author for this recording. It sounds monotonous only in few passages. As I already said, coherence among the different ranges is really good. The crossovers that are designed by Neil Patel are very good and this is not something new. The sound results very consistent and the listening is easy and pleasant .Keep in mind that we are talking about parameters that are easier to reach with two ways loudspeakers. On the other hand, these latter have a tendency to "blamish" the midrange when the mid woofer has to reproduce at high pressures, low sounds extended in time, that bring unpleasant distorsions. This criticality is almost non-existing in the Idea but this depends on the pressure that the record requires. The vinyl "Live in Paris, April 23rd, 1966" by the Julian "Cannonball" Adderley Quintet, is the classic vinyl record recorded using badly the stereophonic technique, putting all the instruments on the two sides and leaving a hole in the centre. Avalon cope with this defect thanks to their horizontal dispersion and the listening is really enjoyable. In the Piano Concert no.2 by Brahms directed by Bernard Haitnik (on London digital vinyl), the piano played by Vladimir Ashkenazy is really wonderful, while the dynamics of the London Philarmonic Orchestra is well described in my listening room. This is an amazing result, considering the small dimensions of these loudspeakers. The soundstage is really good also thanks to the ability of descending in frequency of the double bass and timpani, that are reproduced with low distorsions and the right strength. Strings are not weary, even if they are very present. Also when recordings have a very deep bass - one of those low ranges that put on trial the system and the room with its resonances - the Idea are able to control it and still not to hide it. These Avalons react very well when I put them under pressure while listening to "The Division Bell" by the Pink Floyd (EMI CD). The sound gets confused only at a very high volume, very high for a listening room and for a condominium. In this situation we notice that voices are a bit withdrawn but the bottom end is very present. The sounds with higher frequency are always a bit smooth, so the listening is easy and pleasant even after many hours to an high volume. The sound is as “airy” as one expects from a good reproduction. Every sound is thoroughly explored but delicately and with prowess, so that your ears will be pleased and not mistreated. But mind, it's not a sound that wants to please you at all costs and it's not a coloured sound. It's simply a mellow, sweet and very pleasant sound. We could compare it to a curvy woman, with some flaws and not to a perfect skinny top-model.
Gilmour's guitar does not have the excruciating sound that comes through my monitors that most audiophiles would not like, since they are not used to going to concerts, and all those people that attended a live performance of the Pink Floyd know what I mean. If the sound you have in mind is close to that I just described with the women's comparison, the Avalon idea are heartily recommended. And when you will be tempted to change loudspeakers to make the sound better - as it often happens - you will look at higher Avalon range models, but you'll find out that the sound is quite the same. It's an unforgettable sound that made me go back in time while the loudspeakers stayed with me.
Moreover the Ideas have very small dimensions (90x22x25 cm) and can be positioned in rooms that are not that big. When you unpack them and you start the long burn in - 200 hours are suggested - read carefully the user's guide that is full of useful advices on positioning and on the acoustic characteristics the listening rooms should have. This is an added value and something that all manufacturers should supply. The price, when talking about Avalon, is never cheap.
If I don't get wrong many homologous items have the same range of price and, in this case, I'd surely opt for the Avalon.
I recommend listen to them carefully, you will love them.
Translation: Francesca Rubino
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