Avantgarde Acoustic Zero 1 Pro Loudspeaker

Modern Masterpiece

Equipment report
Categories:
Floorstanding
|
Products:
Avantgarde Zero 1 Pro
Avantgarde Acoustic Zero 1 Pro Loudspeaker

Avantgarde Zero 1 Setup
The instruction manual that comes with the Zero 1 does a good job of explaining how to set these speakers up for your listening position. As noted in the review, they will make far-better-than-decent sound virtually anywhere, but for highest fidelity they need to sit in a space with a mixture of live and damped surfaces (such as an average audiophile listening room). Though the speakers can be parked close to rearwalls (with a consequent increase in bass output), I found the Zero 1 had the best balance in the places that I usually park speakers-under-test—about four feet from back and sidewalls and about ten feet from the listening seat, with the speakers toed in so that you are listening virtually on axis (though the Zero 1s also sound swell with some toe-out, slightly off-axis). The most important adjustment you will make is to the tilt of the speaker. Adding (supplied) washers to the front of the speaker (where it screws into the supplied stands) increases the angle of tilt. What you want to do is ensure that the tweeter is more or less directed at ear height.

The two speakers that make up a Zero 1 pair are configured as a master and a slave unit. The Master speaker has all of the digital inputs and the remote-control sensor (see below). The Slave speaker has the same built-in amplifiers as the Master but no inputs. You can connect and sync up the Master and the Slave by two means: wirelessly via a built-in, dedicated 2.4GHz ISM/GRD link or hard-wired via an Ethernet cable. (I chose the Ethernet cable.)

Outside of on/off switches beside the IEC power-cord inlets and the various inputs for digital sources on the Master unit, the Avantgarde Zero 1s have no controls. Everything is handled by its hefty cylindrical remote, which you use to turn the speakers on and off, change inputs, and raise and lower volume by aiming the remote at the IR-receiver built into the base of the Master loudspeaker. Though the power-on light in the bases of the Master and Slave speakers wink when the speaker is “off” and brighten to full illumination when the system is turned on, these are the only “indicator lights” on either loudspeaker. Unfortunately, neither the speakers nor the remote have any provision for telling you which input you are switching to and from (or what volume level you are at). For me, the usual routine is to keep pressing the Channel button until I hear the music I want to hear—then adjust volume from there. Another little oversight is the absence of a mute control on the remote. To turn these speakers down—for whatever reason—you have to hit the volume-down control button or switch inputs or turn the entire speaker system off. (If you change inputs be aware that the remote is uni-directional, which is to say that you can’t “go back” to the input you just left with a touch of a button; you have to cycle through all the inputs to get back to the channel playing music.) The other little drawback of the remote is ergonomic. There is a reason why most companies do not make cylindrical remote controls—they can roll off things like tabletops or chairs if they aren’t set down carefully.

All of the Zero 1’s inputs are compatible with 24-bit/192kHz files, except for the USB input, which is limited to 48/16. Why Avantgarde made this choice I don’t know, but in practice it isn’t much of a limitation. All you have to do is use a USB-to-AES (or SPDIF) converter box, plug your USB cable into the converter, and then plug an AES or SPDIF cable from the converter into one of the Zero 1’s high-resolution inputs—instant access to high-res files. The AD converter for analog sources that came with my Zero 1s is 24/96.

At the moment Avantgarde makes no provision for DSD or double-DSD playback. However, the spare port into which my AD board plugs (no assembly or disassembly required) could easily house a DSD module. If DSD catches on, I’m sure that Avantgarde will make such a module available.

According to its Web site, Avantgarde does offer an optional software package (though it wasn’t offered to me) that lets you further tune your room/speaker interface via DSP, with 100 built-in EQ curves (each with 16,000 frequency points) and, one supposes, the potential of developing any number of freakish curves of your own. Although the company strongly advises against taking this route, endless DSP’ing is available to you tweakers out there. (Given that Avantgarde is markedly opposed to this kind of fiddling, you have to wonder why the software’s even being offered as an option.)

N.B. Since I wrote this review, Avantgarde has developed an app—Windows only, I’m afraid—that addresses many of the command-and-control issues that I just mentioned. In order to use it, you have to connect a PC, on which the app has been downloaded, to the Zero 1 Master speaker via a USB cable. Once the Zero 1 and your computer are hooked up, you can use the app to do all of the things that I just said you couldn’t do with the remote, as well as to adjust some things that I didn’t even mention—e.g., set volume precisely with a numerical readout, mute the speaker, directly select the source by input name, adjust the balance, switch between stereo and mono, optimize the gain of the analog input for mm or mc cartridges, etc. The only downside is that the app requires a hardwired connection, eliminating the USB input as a potential audio source and making a functioning PC or PC laptop a necessity. Though it certainly works, I think the app is a bit of a kludge solution to a problem that would be better addressed with a new, wireless touchscreen remote.

Along with the app, Avantgarde has also made a simultaneous change to its DSP engine, which, though subtle, does audibly affect the upper midrange and lower treble, reducing or outright eliminating the occasional touches of extra sibilance that I mentioned in the review, slightly dialing back presence, tightening focus just a wee bit, and, as a result of the changes in tonal balance, making the bass octaves seem a bit fuller and more prominent, though they still don’t have the slam of the Big Boys.

SPECS & PRICING

Type: Three-way active, digitally optimized floorstanding loudspeaker with horn-loaded tweeter, hornloaded midrange, and dynamic bass
Subwoofer frequency response: 30Hz–250Hz
Midrange horn frequency response: 250Hz–2kHz
Tweeter horn frequency response: 2kHz– 20kHz
Sensitivity: >104dB
Inputs: USB, TosLink, SPDIF, AES /EBU, analog (optional)
Digital processing: 6 channel, 66-bit FPGA up to 100dB/ octave; progressive FIR filters; three 24-bit Burr-Brown DACs
Amplification: Two 50W Class A, one 400W Class D
Dimensions: 490 x 1040 x 318 mm
Weight: 30 kg (per speaker)
Price: $16,000

Avantgarde Acoustic
Lautsprechersysteme

Nibelungenstrasse 349
D-64686 Lautertal–Reichenbach
Germany
+49 (0)6254 306 100
avantgarde-acoustic.de

JV’s Reference System
Loudspeakers: Raidho D-5, Raidho D-1, Avantgarde Zero 1, MartinLogan CLX , Magnepan 1.7, Magnepan 3.7, Magnepan 20.7
Linestage preamps: Soulution 520, Constellation Virgo, Audio Research Reference 10, Siltech SAGA System C1, Zanden 3100
Phonostage preamps: Audio Research Corporation Reference Phono 10, Innovative Cohesion Engineering Raptor, Soulution 520, Zanden 120
Power amplifiers: Soulution 711, Siltech SAGA System V1/P1, Constellation Centaur, Audio Research Reference 250, Lamm ML2.2, Zanden 8120
Analog source: Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond Mk V, TW Acustic Black Knight, AMG Viella 12
Tape deck: United Home Audio UHA-Q Phase 11S OPS
Phono cartridges: Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Ortofon MC A90, Ortofon MC Anna, Benz LP S-MR
Digital source: Berkeley Alpha DAC 2
Cable and interconnect: Synergistic Research Galileo LE, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Anzus Diamond
Power Cords: Synergistic Research Galileo LE, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Anzus Diamond
Power Conditioner: Synergistics Research Galileo LE, Technical Brain
Accessories: Synergistic ART and HFT/FEQ system, Shakti Hallographs (6), Zanden room treatment, A/V Room Services Metu panels and traps, ASC Tube Traps, Critical Mass MAXXU M equipment and amp stands, Symposium Isis and Ultra equipment platforms, Symposium Rollerblocks and Fat Padz, Walker Prologue Reference equipment and amp stands, Walker Valid Points and Resonance Control discs, Clearaudio Double Matrix SE record cleaner, Synergistic Research RED Quantum fuses, HiFi-Tuning silver/gold fuses

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