Components employed to test the R3 Arretés included a MusiCHI SRV-01 server or a Baetis Reference music computer to play digital files and an Oppo BDP-103, used as a disc transport. Control and D-to-A conversion were handled by either a T+A DAC 8 DSD or Anthem D2v. Mostly, power was provided by Pass Labs XA 60.8 monoblocks, though a pair of David Berning Quadrature Zs were substituted briefly to give the speakers a trial with tube amplification. To facilitate the assessment of the bi-wire option, either one or two sets of T+A Hex cables connected the amps to the Pass 60.8s. My Magico subwoofer saw some action, as below.
The Audiovector R3 Arretés sounded quite good right out of their boxes, and their character didn’t evolve appreciably over the weeks I listened to them. Mads Klifoth later told me that the speakers had been played for 50 to 70 hours before being shipped. With the R3s evidently at “steady state,” I wanted early on to address two questions anyone purchasing a pair will need to consider: Should the R3s be bi-wired, and should one spring for the $750 cable needed to activate the Freedom Grounding circuit?
With the robust jumper plate that connects the two pairs of binding posts removed, and with two sets of T+A speaker cables connecting the R3s to the Pass amps, there was better image focus and scaling of instruments than there was with just one cable. However, the effect of engaging the grounding system was qualitatively greater than the single-wire/bi-wire difference. Music was subjectively louder, as if background noise had been substantially reduced. With well-recorded rock/pop, snare and kick drum had more punch and impact; bass was cleaner. Accordingly, all my subsequent listening was with both the bi-wire and grounding options. In terms of the latter, Audiovector asks its dealers and distributors to do active A/B demos for prospective buyers, with and without the Freedom cable, and more than 95% of all R1 and R3 Arretés are sold with it.
High-frequency reproduction with the R3 Arretés is exceptionally open, extended, and non-fatiguing, thanks, no doubt, to the Heil tweeter. The nuances of the drummer’s cymbal work on Shelby Lynne’s “Just a Little Lovin” were exquisitely detailed; with choral recordings, sibilants were not nearly as distracting as they often are. One of my go-to musical selections for evaluating HF resolution is the Prelude to Act I of Wagner’s Lohengrin. It opens with the ethereal music associated with the redeeming knight himself, played softly by divisi violins at the top of their range; in a darkened theater, the effect is magical. Too often, with a recording, it can sound as if the pristine triadic harmonies have been generated by a synthesizer equipped with a VST plug-in to generate a violin-like sonority. Not so with the Audiovector R3 Arreté. Edo de Waart’s performance, ripped from an Exton SACD, provided a sense of multiple flesh-and-blood violinists playing unique instruments, intensely collaborating to produce Wagner’s otherworldly sonority. The “non-fatiguing” descriptor offered above should not imply that the highs are in any way dull, rolled-off, or otherwise attenuated. In fact, a visitor checking out the R3s in my system observed that the sound on one recording we auditioned was “bright,” and he was right. Audiovector’s AMT tells the truth and if there’s excessive high-frequency energy on a recording, you’ll know it.
The AMT driver, and its implementation here, also surely contributes to the superior spatiality and transparency of the sonic presentation with well-made symphonic recordings. On the recent account of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Pascal Rophé and the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire—a BIS SACD, also available as a 24/96 download from eClassical—the orchestral textures have a see-through quality, with believable front-to-back layering and detail. This clarity is maintained as the volume level increases. The same can be said for Fabio Luisi’s reading of Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings [Sony]. Played through the R3s, the intelligibility of all those independent lines, played by instruments having a similar sonority, is quite remarkable.
Timbral accuracy is unassailable. Make a playlist of the jazz and pop voices you like best—that’s what I did—and you’ll hear them represented with complete faithfulness to the recorded essence of their distinctive vocal instruments. Sinatra, Tormé, Billie, Ella, James Taylor, Rickie Lee Jones—every one had me hanging on his or her every word. The same goes for actual instruments. The Audiovectors readily differentiate Stradivarius from Guarneri, Telecaster from Stratocaster, trumpet from cornet from flugelhorn.
Bass is taut and tuneful and, especially if your room is cooperative, there can be surprising low-end extension—the open B string on the 5-string electric bass played on “Wrapped Around Your Finger” from Kevyn Lettau’s Songs of the Police, for example. However, with a pair of 6.5" drivers, only one of which is fully dedicated to low-frequency reproduction, and an enclosure of this size, there simply can’t be the kind of prodigious output in the bottom octave that fans of Romantic pipe organ music or synth pop played at Studio 54 levels may require. The upside is the R3 Arretés won’t manufacture bass that isn’t there, and you’re less likely to overdrive a typical domestic listening space with less-than-musical results.
As a rule, it’s best to resist the temptation to add a subwoofer to a full-range loudspeaker in a small to medium-sized room—and the better that speaker is, the truer that maxim. As physicians are advised: “Primum non nocere”—”First, do no harm.” But it turns out that the Audiovector R3 Arreté may be a full-range speaker that’s particularly amenable to SW augmentation. It tried it with my Magico S-Sub, a powered design, in two configurations. First, I ran a set of analog cables from the T+A DAC to an Anthem line-level input, using the D2v’s volume control to adjust the sub’s output. Second, I used the Anthem for D-to-A conversion and its room correction/bass management software to determine how best to handle the signal. With the Audiovectors crossed over to the Magico at 60Hz, it was like listening to a much larger loudspeaker system, one that had the bottom-end authority needed for certain source material but that still manifested the transparency, speed, and tonal neutrality of the R3 Arretés by themselves. It may not work out that way with a so-so subwoofer. And even with the $15k S-Sub and sophisticated equalization, I still preferred listening to the Audiovectors on their own with 95% of the music I cared about.
The $10,000 per pair price point is getting to be a crowded space in the high-end loudspeaker marketplace. If this is your budget, there are quite a few candidates that will serve your music well, with strengths reflecting the best of what’s possible with the latest loudspeaker design developments and shortcomings that are generally subtractive, not what you’d call glaring deficiencies. Audiovector’s AMT driver, and all that derives from its implementation in the R3 Arreté, make this product one that deserves a very close listen. For many, so will the modest footprint of this supremely musical loudspeaker and the visual impression that it makes—or doesn’t make. If you end up owning them, you will indeed be a consumer of high-performance audio at the most exalted level. Albeit inconspicuously.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Floorstanding, 2.5-way, bass-reflex
Driver complement: Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter, 2x 6.5" bass/midrange
Frequency response: 23Hz – 53kHz
Impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: 7.5" x 41" (spiked) x 13"
Weight: 53 lbs.
Price: $9999 (Freedom Grounding Concept cable adds $750)