A short review of Avalon TIME speakers

I had the opportunity to audition the TIME speakers a few days ago. Since I couldn't find any review yet, so I would just share my impression here. First some preamples. The demo room is about 14-15ft x 20-22 ft. Speakers are set up on the short end about 8 ft apart, 4 ft from the back wall, 3-4 from the side. We were sitting about 8-9 ft from the speakers. Left side of the room is all glass, a demo room after all :(

Amplification and digital source are top gears from Ayre. I didn't bother to check the models. Speakers are very new, may be two weeks in play. It is the second pair in my country. Owner of the first pair happened to be there as well. It was pre-ordered before CES launch Jan10. He actually ordered it without listening, but then he owned the Indra and so is happy with the family sound.

I spent close to an hour listening. Anyway, here goes. I started with "Autumn leaves" from Patricia Barber's Nightclub. First impression, very open sound, effortless, soothing and smooth. There is a good sense of scale. The high freq entension is very impressive and obvious. Resolution of fine detail is very pleasing. That extends to the bass region as well. We can follow every note in the double bass solo and it was fairly tuneful. It is my favourite section with individual notes delicately stringed together. On lesser system, the notes would seem unrelated. The female voice was beautifully and delicately rendered, especialy the softer passages.

Next up is Bartoli's Opera Prohibita (T3). This is a very interesting piece. There is a breathlessness to the whole music and yet Bartoli is in good form with total control here, with every note presented with the right amount of pace, energy and control. The string accompaniment is well presented, but seems to be playing on its own rather than integrated with the singing.

Overall the micro-dynamics is impressive and but less so for macro-dynamics. Very refined but without the last bit of zest. I selected Anne-Sophie Mutter's Carmen Fantasie to hear the full orchestra play. The violin playing and playback is exquisite. Again the high frequency extension really brings out the beautiful tone of the violin. One can follow easiy the beautiful notes that are floating in the air for the whole track. This is the first time I can follow the soft passage all the way with the high notes delicately played out. Very enjoyable overall but when the full orchestra comes in at about 6.45min, I missed the full impact and excitment - as if it is afraid to wake up the neighbour.

For piano, I chose the La Campanella from Noijma plays Liszt (RR) A technically challenging track. Again the Piano tones are near perfect, round and clear. The sound reminded me of a very apt description: sound of "pearls dropping on a plate made of jade". If I want to nitpick, I wished that there can be more percussive feel for the short and rapid fire high notes.

I heard many tracks but just want to conclude with one last one for male voice. Handel's MEssiah, Harnoncourt, DHM, Thus saith the Lord (Gerald Finley, Bass)I thought there should be more conviction and more power for a bass singing God's word.

Overall do I like the speakers? There are many impressive traits, high frequency entension, fine resolution, very well controlled and resolved bass, very delicate and refined presentation, openess and scale etc. I'm a bit concerned with the refinement though, just a tad too polite. There seems to be a lack of macro-dynamic, body or presence in the mid to draw the listeners into the music. It is still musical but somehow it fails to draw me in. I was attracted to the sound but less so the music though it is beautiful. It is like some beautiful music playing but the music is just not your type.

But I believe more can be expected from TIME. First, the speakers are still very new, and secondly, I suspect most of what I heard was the electronics. Ayre may be very refined and polite, and lack a bit of zest and dynamics. I have heard the Indra with lower models of Ayre electronics, the feel was the same. Of course TIME is a big difference to Indra.

To confirm my suspicion, I'd need to hear TIME with a different set of electronics. The show room offered to set it up with Spectral. Not sure how much difference would that make. Anyway, there are quite a few choices I want to compare at same or lower price points so there is no hurry to go back.
Thx for the review. Just as an fyi, I believe Roy Gregory reviewed this for Hifi+ in the March 2010 issue of the magazine for those interested.
I think setting them up with Spectral would make quite a bit of difference.

Take the shop up on the offer to set up that way and see how you like them then.
Good review. Sounds like you respect them, but don't love them. I know what you mean. It took some experimentation and tweaking until I fell in love with my Avalon speakers. Always respected them and got a great sound. Now, they make beautiful music. Once dialed-in, they are keepers.

I agree with the assessment of the speakers being too new. Driver integration and bass take many months. Electronics are also a big part. I suspect that both the Ayre and the Spectral will make a impressive sound, but will not convey the beauty.
Thanks for posting your thoughts. This is "the" speaker I will have an ear on in the future.

Hi Rtn1,
yes, that is a very apt summary "respect but not love", thanks. I'd certainly go back to try out the Spectral combi but I will let some TIME pass first :)

BTW, is there some acknowledged or recommended electronics for Avalon?
For the virtues I admire I love Avalon's with a tube amp and preamp of commensurate quality. I'm running my Eidolon Diamonds with the BAT Rex preamp and BAT 150se monblock tube amps. I hope to upgrade to the new BAT Rex power amp.

I also wanted to point out that I agree that more break-in time was probably needed on the the speakers for them to reach their full potential. I don't know if it was just me, but I swear I thought I kept hearing improvements in sound with the Diamonds until a little over the 1k hour mark. Any word on how they did in the Hi-Fi+ Plus review?