Avantgarde..... Still a contender???

I am thinking seriously about a drastic change in my system.... I am becoming very intrigued with the idea of high efficiency horn speakers and low-powered tube amps. If you look at "My system" you can see that this is a big change from my current set-up. The trouble is I haven't heard many horn designs (but so far really like what I have heard) and wonder if the Avantgardes are still thought of to be state of the art. Can I do better (for less money)? Any input from you SET guy's is very much appreciated. There just aren't very many (any) dealers doing horns in my area so I need some help on this one.

Other issues are:
1. Is my room large enough (21x15x11)?
2. What would be a good amp to start with (without
breaking the bank)?
3. Is there a good low-powered amp that is balanced? Or,
is single ended REALLY the way to go? (the rest of my system is balanced, and I'd love to keep it this way)

OK enough for now.


I've been through a similar transition. I auditioned Avantagardes. The importer and AG contend they are horns that don't sound like horns. I disagree. They are horns alright, and they unmistakably sound like horns, though less so than any other horn I've heard. It's a revealing, highly defined sound, but fairly frigid. The emotion comes from dynamics, not tone. Personally, I could not live with the more-than-a-trace of horn shout. But that was the secondary inhibitor to purchase. The bigger issue for me was that none of the AG systems sounded truly integrated. I was always conscious of the separate drivers and the imaging and tonal discontinuities between them. You have to get very far away from any AG system to ameliorate this, IMO. Even the cheapie concentric 2-way does this.

I found something much better. Zu Definitions. 101db/w/m, 6 ohms, 16Hz - 25kHz in a 12" x 12" footprint, 49" tall. A pair of full-range drivers handle the 40Hz - 12kHz region and roll off naturally on each end. The main band of the music sees NO crossover or filter elements. A supertweeter rolls in on a simple filter at a 12kHz centerpoint, and an active sub-bass array of 4-10" paper cone drivers is filtered in below 40Hz. This speaker has the transient speed and coherence you're accustomed to in your Martin-Logans, with much better behavior consistency midrange-to-bass, and far more convincing dynamic range.

You have some options on balanced amps but it doesn't always sound better. I suggest you first focus on the amp characteristics you need and treat balanced inputs as a mild preference, not a requirement. Zu Definitions really ought to be listened to at least 9 or 10 feet away, ear to baffle. It looks like you have that distance already assumed.

It's hard to say what amp you should start with, without knowing more about your room and how you listen. But a pair of Audiopax 88 monoblocks would be a terric start and finish. Also, there are some excellent 845 options and a few 300B amps worth considering. The Definition has the efficiency for you to consider something really mouse powered like a 45 tube, but choice narrows and you might not find the bass character you want.

You're welcome to email me for a little back and forth on this if you're interested.

I think you should listen also to Ocelia speakers. With your room and with the way these speakers are "room friendly"....they like any good amp,set or ss so you have many choices, but you will at the end end with SET anyway...
I’ve my owned Duos for 2+ years and consider them in the top echelon of speakers. Some of the speakers I’ve owned previously include Celestion SL 600s, Martin Logan Sequels, Quad 63s, Innersound Eros, & Verity Parsifal. The Duos, set up correctly and using synergistic equipment, come close to bringing live-in-your-home concerts to your everyday listening sessions. What the Duos can do and the emotions they bring to listening sessions are unique and addictive. Certainly, they are keepers.

Like most perfectionist speakers, especially those in the Duo’s price range, system synergy and fine tuning are required in order to achieve this speaker’s considerable potential. The issues that Cobra mentioned are not part & parcel to the Duo. Though, they are part & parcel to Duos hindered by set up or synergy issues. Critical setup items include speaker positioning to achieve excellent imaging and a coherent blend of the bass to the midrange, adjusting the bass to midrange crossover frequency, and setting the volume of the bass. Like many users, I find the Duos are coherent with the horns in their “stock” position. A few other users adjust horn positioning via the adjustments available to achieve a similar blending of the various drivers.

The Duos certainly let you know about the equipment used in front of them. Lacking proper attention to other components, the sound certainly can suffer. This is not a fault or a problem; just something to consider and is shared by most other speakers in this performance class. I sit about 10’ from the front of my speakers and the sound is fully integrated. Given decent source material, the speakers disappear and I have a lovely deep rectangular soundstage. I’ve never heard any lack of integration where I became conscious of the individual drivers. Timbre, harmonics, accurate tonal colors, etc are essential characteristics in my listening priorities. I used OTL amps for many years in part as they excel in these characteristics. The Duos also excel. You want emotion; you get it in spades with these speakers.

Per your electronics questions. I have not used a balanced amp in years so cannot provide any help there. Electronics that I like a lot with the Duos are the Viva electronics (like the Verona amp) and the Art Audio PX-25 amp. Viva components drove the first Duo system I ever heard and which initially caught my attention. The Viva Solista integrated amp, a scaled down combination of the Verona amp & Linea preamp, is rumored to be a great fit. Also, try the Audiopax as Cobra suggested. If you get the Duos, I highly recommend evaluating the new power cord from Basis Audio to replace the stock Cardas power cord as the improvements obtained are considerable.
I also think that Avantgarde has too much horn shout (for my tastes). Of all the horns I've heard, I've liket those made by Classic Audio Reproductions (Michigan) and also the Edgarhorns. There was one other horn made of wood (not the Zingali) that I though was good. Also, I've heard that the horns made by Exemplar Audio are fabulous. The ones I've heard are all characterized by a natural and warm sound, yet still fast. Good luck with yous search.
I just auditioned some Avalon Eidolon Diamonds, I know this item was not mentioned but I can not think of a better speaker that I have heard in the $20K used price range. They would work well in your space too.
I owned Duo 2.2 nice loudspeaker but it suffered from poor driver integration and the bass wasent up to snuff.I went with Oris horn to me much much better.But as always YMMV
Iv've never had the A/G's in my system but have heard them sound mediocre (at a NoCal dealer) and I've heard them sound tremendous (SoCal dealer). Ultimately, I bought Zingali as they were much less expensive and a "first step" into horns.

One thing I have discovered, these speakers do not need a large room. Horns have limited dispersion and seem to (to an extent) take the room out of the equation. My guess is that the A/G's will be fine in your space provided you can get the subs happy.
Actually, the lack of driver integration is part and parcel of the AG Duos and the rest of the line. It's just that not everyone is equally sensitive to this phenomenon. Fine tuned to the nth degree, with perfectly matched associated gear, the characteristic remains and in fact, to me, the more finely tuned an AG system is, the more obvious the lack of driver integration. It is least noticeable when other things are wrong. However, I know not everyone hears this or if they do, they don't care about it. It is an intrinsic quality of the AG series however that makes them unlistenable to me.

Johnk, per your comments about the old 2.2 version of the Duos. I never heard that older model, but what you mentioned seems right on. A large portion of the difference between the 3.2 Duos & that old model addressed the very issues you mentioned. The crossover changed, there were subwoofer changes, and the cables and power cords changed. Currently, a new version of the Duos is available which no doubt provides further improvements.

For those who knock the speaker, I respect your opinions. No audio product fits everyone’s priorities and goals. I do maintain that the objections people made are mostly if not entirely due to artifacts of setup and system matching issues. As with any high performance product, imperfect results readily occur if one but has few listening auditions & if respectful attention is not given to the setup and matching of components. And sometimes it takes living with a product a period of time in order to get the entire system in sync. Just one case in point. If I based my opinion on Quads from but hearing them at shows or at Quad retailers, I’d critique them to no end. Yet, when properly set up and matched with synergistic components, we are talking about a legend.

The Avantgardes have the potential to perform in ways that other speakers cannot. Although this performance is not for everyone, it has brought significant pleasures to many users. For many of us, the AGs provide the sonic performance that ends our quest for the last speakers we’ll ever purchase.

Chris, there is something about Avantgardes that caught your attention, and thus it seems worthwhile to audition them. Although you will have to travel a ways to listen to them, they or any other speaker in their class represents a considerable investment. Maybe making said trip a practical thing to do prior to spending the $$$.
Thanks for all of the input on my question (s). I do, in fact, have an audition set for this comming week with a set of Duo's. The dealer is one who I have great confidence in setting these speakers up "right"......... I'll report back. My idea of finding an effecient speaker relates more to my amplifier than to my current speakers. I love the ML Prodigy's and, like the Duo's, think that once they are set-up properly and mated to the right electronics are world class. Right now I live in Texas where it gets extreemly hot for about 9 months out of the year. I will not consider solid state amplification, and a tube amp with enough power to drive the Logans equates to a small rotisserie grill. The dealer I'm auditioning the Duo's at is also offering a good deal on a pair of demos (which is the only way I'm even considering them).

Some of the other speakers people have mentioned look very interesting, especially the Zu's. OTOH, I really don't care for most of the box speakers I have heard. I guess that's why I have Logans along with a pair of Maggies in my second system.

Keep the ideas coming please! BTW, are there any horn users out there who live around Austin, TX that would let me check their system out.......... I'll bring the drinks.

I went from a Martin logan Prodigy to the Duo 2.2 and the duo was much better.FYI.My buds a ML dealer
I agree with Tubes108. I own a pair of Duos in the UK (the version before the brand new omega drivers) and had them set up in my home by the UK distributor, Graham Tricker from GT Audio, as part of the after sales service. I run mine with Quad IIs, a Tron Meteor tube preamp (you gotta listen to the new model the Syren) and a Platine Verdier/Schroeder Model 2/Allaerts MC1B. My room is larger than yours, and the Duos sound stunning. They disappear and the soundstaging is believable (ie relatively broad images like the real thing, not hi-fi pinpoint images) and the dynamics are fantastic. Listening to some LPs eg the Speakers Corner Ella Fitzgerald Songbook reissues, you really feel as if you're there in the room - wonderful.
If you buy them, you could do no worse than run them off an old pair of Quad IIs - they're cheap and importantly QUIET enough. Sure if you have enough money an excellent 300B SET or PX25 would be great, but you can start really cheaply.
PS I know it's normally hot in TX, but I was in San Antonio ten days ago -whoa 28F without the wind chill!!
it never was........time will be the final judge
Chris, I owned ML SL3 for several years and Apogees before that. So, you know I like planars! Anyway, I made a change to an set amp are high eff speakers this year and I'm having a great time listening to music. Your room is similar to mine in general dimension, and I too used tubes on my MLs so we have some similarities there.

I still like the way the MLs sound, and maybe if I can have 2 systems they will be one of them. For one, the MLs present a much taller, deeper stage than non-linesource speakers. But I wanted to try out the set/high eff thang, and so my journey changed direction...

To answer your question, I don't know if you can do better for the money than AGs. The AGs have alot going for them including high eff and built in powered subs. They can be super tough to get seamless sound out of. But, I know it can be done as I've heard them at many shows and at one person's home. If you want a world class system that can do it all, the AG may be just the ticket. Heck, I almost got a pair--believe it or not, my wife liked the way red Unos looked on the website--did I marry right or what?!

Despite this, I went more simple and got Cain & Cain single BENs. They are a different speaker with different priorities. When you get a set amp you have so many choices of system flavors and objectives. As Phil notes above, the Zu is a compelling choice. For one, you get the single driver approach without bass sacrifice. To me, the benefits of set amp design alone are worth changing from push pull. Add in the benefit of going single driver (or "augmented" as is Zu & Cain) and you are really onto something!

As for amps, there are lots of choices. Will depend on speaker to a certain extent. The AGs are supposed to like Audiopax. There are lots of options now--heck, I built a kit!

Enjoy your journey.
I have never posted before here and must say that I own the AG Trios and lived with a pair Duo's for a number of weeks.
I really enjoy these speakers and the amps really make a difference. I have had Wavelength XS 300b,Venus 45's Lamm ML2'S and now Audiopax 88's on these speakers. It is amazing how revealing the speakers are to upstream changes.These speakers CAN sound warm with the right gear in front.As far as bass intergration,as with any speaker it takes a little time to get it right. In the past I have owned Genesis 201's,Wilson Watt/Puppy 5.1 and 6's,Martin Logan Quests years ago, Thiel,
B&W 801 III'S, Duntech, Sonus Faber Extrema and more.And I always was wanting for something more in my system.The reason I state this evolution in my system is because I am very happy where I am now. There has been many years of costant playing with the gear. I feel no need to go look at speakers. The Duo's do alot of what the Trio's do but have a leaner presentation. This hobby is all about what works for you and what your idea of music is all about.It's like checking out a live show in a good venue and realizing how far we really are from that in the home!
Hope you enjoy the hunt.
I second Lukestr. I have had Sound Lab A-1's, Quad 63 and numerous box speakers. Never has a speaker changed my enjoyment of recorded music like my Trios. They should call Horn speakers "Dynamic" speakers because that is what they do to music. They put the dynamics back in both micro and macro. To me without the dynamics music seems like a 2 dimensional picture and planar speakers can paint the most vivid 2D picture of all. Super high resolution like the finest camera can take but loss of the dynamics. I'd much rather accept some distortion in that picture to be able to see it in 3 dimensions. It's like taking a picture out your window and comparing it to looking through the window. Even if the window is slightly dirty the 3D view is better than the 2D view with the window open.
The dynamics of music are the wow factor yet some people are willing to give that up for tonal accuracy. We each have to pick what turns us on. I only wish I had checked out horns 25 years ago.
hi chris

your room size seems fine for most of the horns out there as all you need is 7foot + from the speaker for cohesive sound stage formation.
I have some AVG Uno's V2 with the upgraded subs which are faster and classed as one of the best possible for the price.
I have heard the newer version of the uno, the nano but prefer the overal sound of the unos as they are generaly larger and made for the job without cutting corners.

Amps: i have tried Musicfidelity Electra 300 tubes which are great but to powerful as you will get hiss issues at low volume. I have now gone to a arcam av top amp which has almost no hiss and a natural sound with out the harshness that people are getting with the other amps.

It all depends what you want from your speakers.
I compose and produce music on mine which is a experience in itself. Albums at www.mattsgallery.co.uk
Music made for Horns on Horns
I own the Duos. I don't hear any horn "shout" and prior to purchase compared them side by side with cone/box speakers and again heard no shout. As to the integration issue I have listened nearfield(6 feet away) and heard problems with integration. However, past 12 feet away I hear no integration problems at all. I have no idea whether I'm sensitive to this or not. Also for such large speakers they completely dissappear in the room(aurally not visually). Sometimes for the fun of it I listen in the dark and cannot locate the speakers in the room with music playing. Your room size seems fine as long as you can sit 12 feet away from the speakers while still having some distance between the speakers and the front wall. My personal feeling is that these speakers are tailor made for SET or OTL amps. SET are usually single ended but some OTL's such as Atmosphere are balanced and should sound good with the Duos. I also made the jump from SS/cone speakers to horn/SET and will not go back. More musical involvement. Hope this helps.
I have had the Duos since my original post aver three years ago..... Still love every minute with them. I don't see myself moving from the high-eff./SET thing anytime soon..... You can check the "My system" link to view the updates.

I think in an ideal world (where I had a lot more disposable income) I'd probably have second system with planars or cones....