As I listened to the AVM, I moved back and forth between CDs and the identical material stored on my Synology NAS drive. Throughout, the MP 5.2’s sonic performance was excellent. Tonally, it had a glassy-smooth character with intimations of midrange and top-end warmth that were very appealing to my ear. Low-level and background details were well resolved. The rattles of the tambourine during Holly Cole’s “The Heart of Saturday Night” from Temptation were concise and cleanly represented, as was the ring of octave strings from the 12-string guitar during k.d. Lang’s version of Jane Siberry’s “Love is Everything” on Hymns of the 49th Parallel. With its high-output trumpet excursions, The Manhattan Jazz Quintet’s cover of “Autumn Leaves” continues to leave me breathless. This version features a slow, low-key buildup that turns into an ambush of house-on-fire dynamic intensity. This track has a level of transparency that challenges the transient and dynamic alacrity of every component in a system. The MP 5.2 traversed it with brio, imparting a vivid soundstage, nice depth cues, and a deep pocket of air for the piano. And as I turned to high-resolution Reference Recordings 24-bit/176kHz material, the MP 5.2 reached into the furthest recesses of an acoustic soundstage and furnished all levels of clues regarding venue scale and dimension.
The more I listened to orchestral string sections, the more I appreciated the denser timbre of the AVM. And by this I’m not referring to colorations per se, rather something more related to the physical, fleshy presence of musicians in performance. Similarly, string instruments such as cello and bass violin exuded the full-bodied, weighted voices and appropriately stout resonant foundations that I expect them to have. I can’t say with any certainty to what extent my sonic impressions can be attributed to the AVM tube stage, but I can state that over the years I’ve found that tubes illuminate the soundstage a bit differently—as in a shift in color temperature from, let’s say, a bluer “digital” cast to a slightly redder one. And this was the case here.
With the Esoteric K-03X SACD player/DAC still in-house (Issue 261), I was a little startled by just how closely the AVM approached the Big K’s overall performance and resolving power. The AVM couldn’t quite match the heavy and deeply rooted foundation that the K-03X establishes, but its timing and tonality didn’t take much of a backseat. As I discovered during Diana Krall’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” from Live in Paris, the AVM’s personality was a little brighter overall, a trait that allowed transients to really pop and heightened immediacy. Although both players offered solid dimensional cues, the Esoteric was a bit chestier and darker on vocals, and my ears perceived a more convincing degree of felt padding on the piano hammers. The AVM only ceded ground to the Esoteric when attempting to resolve some lower-level imaging detail, such as those found in the background singers’ shimmering vocals during Leonard Cohen’s “Darkness” from Old Ideas. In this instance, their seductive voices were rendered a little less distinctly from one another and were not as palpably present.
When the Beatles’ Paul McCartney sang in Penny Lane “…it’s a clean machine,” the line could easily have applied to AVM’s neatly executed, smartly appointed, and musically virtuous MP 5.2. Call it the streaming future and the CD past rolled into one. AVM’s small-footprint integrated solution offers the best of all digital worlds in a single, trim package. Easy on the eyes, easy on the ears, AVM’s MP 5.2 is a very strong contender in the youthful media-player segment. Enthusiastically recommended.
SPECS & PRICING
Digital inputs: Two coaxial, two optical, one AES/EBU, one USB input (up to 24-bit/192kHz)
Outputs: One stereo XLR, one stereo RCA, one coaxial, one optical
Dimensions: 16.9" x 5.12" x 14.6"
Weight: 20.25 lbs.
17800 S Main St #109
Gardena, CA 90248