GR Research AV1+ speaker Review - Audio
GR Research - AV1+ speakers
The following will not be a review that will be long on objective, side by side comparative assessments and scientific data. Many of you who would like to get to the ‘bone’ when reading experiences with various audio/video gear will probably not get much out of this information but I will try to give as much useful information about these speakers as possible providing I didn’t have another worth while speaker to compare with the AV1+’s.
My previous speakers were PSB Goldi’s and before that, the Paradigm Ref 100’s and before those, I had a pair of PSB 500’s and the speakers that started it all were my PSB Alphas. My amplification hasn’t changed since I had the PSB 500’s nor has my speaker cables. I’ve had a MSB link DAC modified and had it while I had both my PSB Goldi’s as well as my Paradigm Ref’s. My system has basically stayed the same (with the exception of various preamps) throughout my many speaker changes.
I bought the drivers, crossovers and everything else except the cabinet from Danny Richie of GR Research. I had the cabinet custom made by Brian Bunge of Rutledge Audio Design. Brian also constructed the crossovers for me and mounted them in the cabinets before shipping them to me. Both companies are great to deal with and are true examples of companies that care about their customers as much as they do the very products they sell. I made about 75 e-mails to Brian over at Rutledge from the time that I first inquired about the cabinets and the AV1+ speaker. I’ve been dealing with Brian for about 2 months now. I also made numerous phone calls to Danny over at GR Research including one on a Sunday evening at 8:35pm that interrupted a business meeting he was conducting over the phone. What was great was that he still found the time to call me back quickly after my first call. Kudos to both companies!!
My particular AV1+ cabinets are made of MDF board. They are very heavy, weighing in about 20-22lbs without the drivers and are very sturdy in a ‘Mighty Mouse’ sort of way. The internal bracing is thick and strong with horizontal bracing separating the two 5” drivers and center tweeter with diagonal bracing supporting each of the inside corners of the cabinets. Very strong and sturdy construction that exceeds the quality level of many speakers that cost more than what I paid for all three speakers in completed form. One nice thing is that Brian Bunge put a nice touch on the cabinet corners by rounding them out for a more personal touch. I was very impressed with the quality and craftsmanship of theses cabinets to say the least.
Danny Richie of GR Research uses a well documented proprietary network series crossover made with some of the finest quality parts available and he credits this fact as the reason the many fans of both his speaker designs (the Paradox 1 and the AV1) can’t get enough of them. He also uses the famed GR 130 5” driver to push these pups and with great success I might add. If I were more of a DIY’er I would elaborate more on the technical aspects of the crossovers but after all, I am the “Turn Key Guy” and frankly it’s really not my forte’.
I had a lot riding on these speakers initially. However, I was convinced after hearing the wonderful KEF 201 bookshelf speakers at an audio shop, that I was going to sell off my full range PSB Goldi’s to look for a replacement in the form of a bookshelf speaker. While doing research on bookshelf speakers, I was given GR Research’s name over at Audio Asylum. The number of threads, reviews and interest about their speakers (Paradox 1 and the AV1) naturally gave me cause to investigate. I liked what I read and began getting excited and started looking all over for any information about these speakers. After a while, I was convinced that I would give these speakers a try WITHOUT being heard. This is truly not a good way to buy speakers and should never be practiced unless you have money to throw away which I don’t. It didn’t take long to realize I was hooked by the many reviews of these speakers, the comparisons and the associated equipment being used to push them. What made it easy to convince myself that I should give these speakers a try is that I purchased a wonderful custom OctoSub from Acoustic-Visions that I playfully named ‘The Beast’. With the high level of performance , quality parts and low cost I received from my two subs purchased from Acoustic-Visions, I felt confident that I would find my next speaker in the DIY/custom built speaker arena. The AV1+ speakers were in my scope and were soon to be in my home spilling their guts for me in a glorious and harmonious fashion.
First up!! Vocals:
(Review performed after 3 days of break in at 14 hours per day of continuous play)
I was often told that the GR Research speakers handle midrange vocals very well. So naturally I picked up a few of my favorite ‘FEMALE’ vocalists and sat in for a few hours. First up was Cassandra Wilson’s album “Blue Moon Daughter” which is a dark and bass filled collection of songs with honey dripping lower octave harmonies and Cassandra lending the smokey, small night club vocals that are perfect for an inferior speaker to get wrong, especially in the lower octaves. The stand out track used was track #9 titled “Until”. A competent speaker would be able to retrieve the many subtle nuances and information that’s hidden in deep murky mixes like the ones on this album. I would call Cassandra’s voice ‘husky’ with the ability to fill the midrange octaves easily and with subtle power. My main concern with these speakers were if they would muddy up in the lower octaves. They handled this test very well at my reference level preference which is between 80-90db at the sitting position. My small room gave out before I could hear any significant strain from the dual 5”drivers.
I then wanted to see how the speaker handled the opposite spectrum of female vocals and I reached for my Dianne Reeves “The Calling” CD. Dianne’s cover of “If you could see me now” displays her vocal control over a wide variety of octaves and the AV1+’s handled Dianne’s vocal display honorably. On this particular track, Dianne Reeves voice takes you to the lower octaves with power and authority and in one swoop you’re left breathless when she shows her ability to skillfully project all but the highest octaves. The AV1+’s revealed to me that Dianne’s voice isn’t as polished as I first thought and actually revealed slight vocal strain when it came to holding extremely difficult notes. All of this is understandable with the notes and style in which she sings and only goes to leave one in awe of her vocal talent. These findings were definitely NOT evident before I heard her through the AV1+’s.
Since a lot of people are familiar with Diana Krall’s music, for sake of reference I thought it would be best that I include a note about my listening session with her Love Scenes album. During quiet passages, a lot of our systems and speakers can retrieve the breathing of the artist singing. However, with the AV1+’s I was able to not only hear her breathing but also the licking of her lips, her saliva separating from her lips and the impending swallow as well. I should also let you know that she moves around an awful lot in her seat while she’s singing. I’m not talking about the pedals on her piano that you can hear while she’s performing the “Garden In The Rain” track. I’m talking about her moving around in her seat and being able tell when she moves her head from the microphone while singing. Depth, soundstage and imaging are excellent on these speakers and they retrieved information deeply hidden in the recording not heard from my previous speakers.
For my final test of vocals I reached for my favorite DVD when it comes to dialog. Since I purchased a trio of AV1+ speakers, I thought it was just as important to see how they performed doing center channel duty as well. The movie ‘Chocolat’ has one of the most enjoyable displays of female dialog that I’ve heard in a movie. In chapter 1, the narration segment came across as ‘sweet’ and highly articulate. No 'boxy' or 'muddled' dialog what so ever with the soundstage staying consistent and focused throughout. The most wonderful thing about these speakers is that if your system is up to retrieving the details, the AV1+’s are game to display them and in grand fashion.
Steve Oliver’s 'First View' album track #10 titled "We Will Be”. It’s a Beautiful acoustic solo piece that is both spacious and detailed. The acoustic guitar is one of my favorite instruments and in a given system will sound either real or not real providing that the recording is up to standard. This particular track by Steve Oliver is a song that displays some of what I love most about the acoustic guitar. Soft & Hard plucks of the strings, the resonating tonal character of the insides of the guitar and the sweet harmonies when the guitar is strummed just right. The AV1+ once again articulated this recording in great detail, smoothness and a much larger soundstage then they have a right to have for their size. The AV1+ also captured the full nuance of the room, and certain processing effects used to bring the recording session into my room.
What about dynamics? Well this is where I really thought I might take a loss on these speakers and was prepared to take that loss if I were to gain in detail and accuracy . I also figured that my sub would help in terms of dynamics to a certain degree so I still saw a little light at the end of the tunnel. To ease my fears before I received my speakers, Brian Bunge and Danny Richie both assured me that not only will the AV1+’s have no problem filling up my room but they are very punchy and dynamic to boot. They weren’t lying and for most small to medium sized rooms, in real world applications, (not SPL competitions) the AV1+ speaker is more than up to handling dynamic material and delivering the goods . To confirm my findings I reached for the Chesky’s sampler disc and selected tracks “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “The Royal March” which are both excellent displays of dynamics and pace. The AV1+ was able to keep up with both recordings providing both the emotional impact and rhythm.
Bass and Power:
If there was anything that the AV1+ speakers did not have in spades it was bass. Meaning if I were looking for full range sound in one box, this was not the speaker to look for. If I were looking for a speaker that would punch you heavily in your chest much like my PSB Goldi’s and Paradigm Ref speakers did, well I bought home the wrong speaker. The lower end of the AV1+ below 60hz as my Stryke audio disc revealed to me, says that these speakers are most useful at 60hz and above. The bottom end with these speakers shine in terms of midrange punchy bass and kicks as opposed to all out dynamic punch that lands heavily on your chest like the ‘TRUE’ full Range floor standers can produce. For the fans of full range music you will most likey have to get a sub to have the absolute best of both worlds. In all fairness, I prefer the upper midrange and higher frequencies of the AV1+ over both the PSB Gold’s and the Paradigm Ref 100’s in my room. I have a fairly small room (not the smallest) at 11x17x10 so I think that below 80hz, bass issues and placement limitations may have played a part in the lack of quality sound I heard with my previous floor standers. However, even when I crossed the PSB’s over at 100hz(before I purchased my AV1+'s) and the sound was upgraded considerably, I still preferred the sound of the AV1+ at and above that frequency. In short, the AV1+’s properly crossed over at 80hz with my sub handling the lower octave information displays music at a level that I’ve never experienced in my room. I haven’t experimented with crossing the AV1+’s at the 60hz setting but I will to see if I could suck out a little more of the lower midrange and upper bass regions although it’s probably going to stay on the 80hz setting since they are rated flat to 60hz anyway.
To conclude my findings in the audio portion of my review on the AV1+ speakers(HT installation coming soon), I will say that I took a chance on these speakers and I’m happy with the results. Are they a perfect pair of speakers? Of course not. I did detect a little bit of forwardness (not in your face) in the upper midrange but it wasn’t to the point where it stole the show. My musical description of this speaker in a word would be ‘SMOOTH’. If I could add a few more words it would be ‘Articulate’ with a ‘tight fisted punchy’ kick.
It is a shame that everyone cannot hear these speakers by going to the store down the street. I’ve seen some owners open their doors to some folks who are interested in hearing these wonderful speakers. I am willing to allow those who are interested in hearing these speakers to judge for themselves and even bring in their speakers for a comparison to the AV1+’s. This is not a competition but a chance to see how these speakers compare to bookshelf speakers at a similar cost and beyond in a more objective setting.
Highly recommended for the money and beyond the price point of $1,500 - ???
*** When reading this review please keep in mind that the speakers that I compared the AV1+’s to were not done in an objective, side by side or double blinded fashion. This review reflects my personal observations and some statements can not be considered conclusive by way of scientific or technical proof.
B&K Ref 4420 - 2 channel amp (200watts per side)
Acurus 100x3 - 3 channel amp (100 watts per side)
Harman Kardon 2.0 - Pre/pro
Sony XA 20es - CD player
Outlaw Audio - ICBM
Sony DVP 7700 - DVD player
Harmonic Technology - ProSilway - ITC (CD player to processor only)
Canare ITC’s through out the rest of the system
DH Lab Q-10 - Speaker Cable
Room size 11x17x10
(4) 5ft Bass traps and acoustic wall coverings
Behringer Feedback Destroyer ( for the sub)
Associated Software used:
Norah Jones - Come away with me
Dianne Reeves - The Calling
Rebecca Pigeon - Chesky’s Sampler
Sarah McLachlan - Surfacing
Cassandra Wilson - New Moon Daughter
Chocolat - DVD Voice narration
Dianne Krall - Love Scenes
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Steve Oliver - First View
Grey Boy All Stars
George Duke - After Hours
Rutledge Audio Design