Avantgarde Acoustics Trio/Basshorn Loudspeaker System

When She Was Good

Equipment report
Avantgarde Trio/Basshorn Loudspeaker System
Avantgarde Acoustics Trio/Basshorn Loudspeaker System

On the very first cut I listened to, “Guantanamera” from the superb Analogue Productions reissue of The Weavers Reunion at Carnegie Hall, 1963, the Trio-G2/Basshorns delivered extraordinary realism on Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, and Bernie Krause’s vocals, with no horn colorations, no sense of the speakers behaving as individual tubes or as tubes hooked to a “slow” subwoofer; in fact, virtually no sense of the speakers at all. Tone color was exceptionally rich and beautiful, as were the clarity of articulation and the delicacy of textures on voice and guitar. Imaging was neither razor-cut nor twelve-feet-wide; I’d call it “life-sized” (rather like a Maggie). In addition, on larger-scale numbers, such as the whole outfit chiming in full-throat on “’Round The World,” the spine-tingling thrill of fortes reproduced without shrillness or excess sibilance (okay, there was a slight touch of spittiness at the loudest moments) reminded me of why I fell in love with the original Trios in the first place. This was simply and wonderfully lifelike high fidelity, replete with a soundstage that extended wall-to-wall across a very large room and imaging that, as noted, was much more tightly focused and naturally sized than it used to be. Perhaps my only demurrer was that stage depth seemed somewhat compressed.

I had the exact same reaction to Marc Cohn’s “29 Ways” from MoFi’s reissue of Cohn’s eponymous album, where the Trio-G2/Basshorns were fabulous on kickdrum and Hammond organ, great (again) on voice, and extremely realistic overall. At louder level, the Avantgardes projected Cohn’s voice a bit forward of the plane of the speakers (as was the case with The Weavers), though, paradoxically, they also managed superior depth of stage with the backup singers on “Walking in Memphis.”

In timbre and dynamic, B.B. King and his band (from B.B. King Live in Memphis) sounded just as I’ve heard them in life. Indeed, it was listening to this harder-driving album, after the sonic triumphs of the first two, that made me realize that the density of tone color, depth of image, and dynamic ease I was hearing through the Trio-G2/Basshorn were qualitatively different than what I was getting from the Zero-1 Pros at home or the sound I’d heard from the Magico Ultimate 3s in Cali. The very slight sense of digital “processing”—of something very lightly curtailing the dimensionality and energy of music—was no longer present. No, the sound of the Trio-G2/Basshorn system wasn’t as textbook flat nor as time-and-phase-coherent (e.g., the slight touches of spittiness and midrange forwardness on fortes) as that of the digitally optimized horn systems, and, yes, I was listening to vinyl with the Trio-G2s rather than to server-based digital (as I did with the Zero-1 Pros and the Ultimate 3s), but despite any slight deviations from neutrality, the Avantgarde Trio-G2/Basshorn presentation was richer, airier, bloomier, and more robust than what I hear and heard from digitized horns.

After folk, pop, and blues, I turned to classical. If you think that the Trio-G2/Basshorn proved a letdown with large-scale acoustic music, you’d be very mistaken. On Malcolm Arnold’s Tam O’Shanter Overture from the excellent Classic Records reissue of Witches Brew (what a great-sounding LP!), I heard ravishingly lovely, massed string tone, superb timbre on brass and winds, great foundation on cellos and doublebasses, truly biting transients (without edge) on purling horns, darting flutes, and whip snaps, and deep rumbling timps. At the lovely entry of the Scots piping tune, I literally put down my pen, because there was nothing to critique—string and winds had the air they have in life, cushioned and sweet, and on orchestral tuttis the Trio-G2/Basshorns served up the terrific dynamic range that only horns are fully capable of. (At average-to-moderate levels I measured 38dBC valleys and 98dBC peaks—60dB dynamic range! And all of it clear and beautiful.)

This was a far cry from the sound I remembered from twenty years ago. The driver-to-driver discontinuity, which affected timbres, dynamics, and imaging, was gone, replaced by naturally gorgeous tone color, blur-free attacks, and lifelike focus, all accompanied by a realistic sense of ambient bloom. Plus, on full orchestra the Trio-G2/Basshorns were adding a sizable virtue I’d never before experienced from any two-channel stereo system.

I don’t know whether the centrally located Basshorns were the reason, but the new Trio-G2 had much of the solidity of three-channel playback, coming closer than any hi-fi I’ve heard to the continuous, wall-to-wall sweep of a real symphony orchestra playing all-out (rather than the slightly discontinuous, U-shaped, puddled-up-in-spotlights presentation that most loudspeakers deliver). In short, on symphonic music the overall presentation was spectacularly realistic.

Were there downsides? Yeah. Over and above the Trio-G2s’ occasional midband spittiness and forwardness, I suppose the Basshorns’ bottom end wasn’t as deep-going or as tightly defined as I’ve heard through certain other speakers, including the DSP’d horns, though the color, bloom, power, and natural sense of decay of these giant woofers were highly realistic. Avantgarde’s own claims notwithstanding, I estimate low-frequency rolloff begins at about 40–45Hz—not subterranean bass, but superbly continuous and very musical. Like most horns (including the DSP’d ones), the Trio-G2/Basshorn system had just a little less air in the very top treble than certain ribbons and cones, and once again was somewhat more compressed in stage depth than many dynamic multiways.

This said, what’s not to like? A horn system with top-to-bottom coherence, bloom, three-dimensional body, air, lifelike focus, and sensational stage width and continuousness, to go with the phenomenal dynamic range, lifelike speed of attack, and the superb resolution that such speakers have always excelled at delivering. A horn system with bass that (finally) matches the beauty, speed, and power of its midrange.

Of course, you’re going to need a good-sized room to house these critters (which is why they’re not sitting in my digs at this very moment). And only time will tell whether they’ll fully satisfy in the long term. But in the short term, after listening to scores of albums (and some digital, too), I can tell you that I haven’t heard a better (non-digitized) horn loudspeaker at anywhere near this price. (When you consider that the entire Avantgarde system—Trio-G2s and six powered Basshorns—comes in at about $170k, you’ve got to think that this is, if not a bargain, a pretty damn good deal by ultra-high-end pricing standards, especially compared to the near-million-dollar horn systems it is competing against.)

Obviously the Avantgarde/Trio-G2 system comes with my very highest recommendation—and my genuine applause for all that Holger Fromme, Avantgarde’s CEO, and Matthias Ruff have done to improve these classics. If you like your music big, powerful, detailed, beautiful, and coherent (and you have the space to house them and the money to properly amplify them), the Avantgarde Trio-G2/Basshorns are certainly must-auditions.


Type: Three-way spherical-horn-loaded loudspeaker
Power capacity: 150W
Sensitivity (1W/1 m): >109dB
Crossover frequencies: 100/600/4000Hz
Nominal impedance: 19 ohms
Recommended amplification: >2W
Recommended room size: 250ft2
CDC (Controlled Dispersion Characteristic): Yes
CPC crossover (patent pend.): Yes
Horn type: Spherical horn
Horn material: ABS injection-molded
Horn diameter: Low midrange, 37" midrange, 22" treble, 7"
Driver diameter: Low midrange, 8"; midrange, 2"; treble, 1"
Dimensions: 37" x 66" x 33"
Weight: 123 lbs.
Price: $51,000/pair

Type: Expo-spherical horn-loaded subwoofer
Frequency response: 18–350Hz
Crossover frequencies: 60–350Hz
Horn type: Expo–spherical horn
Driver diameter: 12"
Number of drivers per module: Two
Magnet material: Neodymium
Power output (RMS): 2 x 250W
REAL TIME feedback control: Yes
ADRIC circuit (patent pend.): Yes
Subsonic filter: 20/30/40Hz
Dimensions: 40" x 29" x 42"
Weight: 196 lbs.
Price: $39,000/pair

JV’s Reference System
Loudspeakers: Raidho D-5, Raidho D-1, Avantgarde Zero 1, Avantgarde Trio/Basshorn, MartinLogan CLX, Magnepan .7, Magnepan 1.7, Magnepan 3.7, Magnepan 20.7
Linestage preamps: Soulution 725, Constellation Virgo, Audio Research Reference 10, Siltech SAGA System C1, Zanden 3100
Phonostage preamps: Audio Research Corporation Reference Phono 10, Constellation Audio Perseus, Innovative Cohesion Engineering Raptor, Soulution 725, Zanden 120
Power amplifiers: Soulution 711, Siltech SAGA System V1/P1, Constellation Centaur, Audio Research Reference 250, Lamm ML2.2, Zanden 8120, Odyssey Audio Stratos
Analog source: Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond Mk V, TW Acustic Black Knight, AMG Viella 12
Tape deck: United Home Audio UHA-Q Phase 11 OPS
Phono cartridges: Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Ortofon MC Anna, Ortofon MC A90, Benz LP S-MR
Digital source: Berkeley Alpha DAC 2
Cable and interconnect: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo LE, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power Cords: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo LE, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power Conditioner: Synergistic 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 MAXXUM 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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