Review: Avalon Acoustics Radian Speaker
On a whim I purchased the Avalon Radian speakers for what
I thought was a fair price. Their condition was mint, near
perfect in every respect. Each time I heard new Avalon speakers, like the Eidolon or Opus, there was always
something missing in their presentation. So why buy? They seemed to have potential because of their wide soundstage and imaging that was very precise, something I prize very much in an audio component. I felt if the Radians were 80%
as good at 1/6th the price of the new stuff, what a deal!!!
Each audio salon that carried Avalon speakers always had
the Eidolon or Opus matched with Spectral equipment.
I highly recommend Spectral for their very elegant presentation, easily the widest soundstage and precise imaging of all solid state equipment I have heard including
Rowland, Pass Labs, Krell, Classe, and even Gamut, supposedly the new king of the hill. Only Krell can beat it
on bass slam except the older pure Class A DMA-200 which is
included in this review.
The audio salons raved about Avalon , but as I said each time I listened, there was something not right, but the soundstage was very wide and deep with precisely focused
images of instruments or vocalists. I will state upfront
that they are either in too large of a room for the twin
woofers of the Opus or the single 11" woofer in the Eidolon.
And/or the listening was overdamped with tube traps. Thus
sounding anemic in the bass and/or dead, dull sounding
performance lacking air in the upper midrange treble
So as I said at the top on a lark I purchased the Avalon
Radian for what I considered a fair price. They were shipped
in their heavy custom crates. Lugged upstairs 280 pounds each with lots of sweat, uncrated and setup. The room is exactly 20 feet by 30 feet, with 4 feet vertical walls, then sloping upwards towards the roof giving a 10 feet clearance at the top. Using the Stereophile Test CD 1 and 2 and Radio Shack SPL meter, I set up the speakers. The best(ie flatest response) was 9 feet apart and either 4 or 7 or 9 feet from the back wall. Most of my listening has been with the 4 foot due to either the wife did not like them so far out or because they do weigh 170 pounds and are awkward to move about.
Without tube traps, but plenty of furniture, bookshelves, etc. I was able to acheive a flat frequency response between
30hz-16Khz of +/- 3dB; with usable bass down to 20Hz and down 6dB at 20KHz. So far so good.
My wife and I always put on "What's New" by Linda Ronstadt
and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, when we want to test anything new in the system. We put it on. Wow. Lifeless
and dead. I get out the manual to see if I had forgot anything. Toe-in. I said that really can't make that much
difference. I turned them about 6 or 7 degrees. We put it on
again. Wow. What a difference!!! Her voice was crystal
clear with a very precise image and the orchestra's presence was right there!! A marvelous first(second) impression. Now anybody that knows me on Audiogon knows me
as a dipole kind of guy, so how do they compare? Really
there is no comparison, it is truly a different experience.
It might seem trite, but it is like comparing apples to
oranges, they are just different, a box speaker and an electrostatic speaker. But please read on and I will explain.
Next up had to be Schubert, so the Emerson String Quartet rendition of the 14th String Quartet was put on. I have heard this recording at least 300 times, so I think I know
it. Wrong. It was amazing! The low level resolution of the
Radians was unbelievable. Sounds like breathing, bowing
techniques, feet moving which were recorded were heard
for the first time, just awesome. I never heard this through
my Acoustat 2+2s, Maggie 3.6s, Von Schweikerts, or Totems.
So far compared to other newer models of Avalons like the
Opus and Eidolon, the Radians sounded more alive and more air in the treble region. Whether this was due to room acoustics or room size I do not know. Perhaps even by design, the Radians being sealed and the Opus and Eidolon
being ported(though Avalon avoids this terminology). Though
ported designs should really affect bass, and not treble
Getting to the bass region, I am not a bass freak by nature.
But it is important to some, and I can report that the bass
is there, fast, articulate and plenty of it. I put on the
Godsmack CD, and cranked it up. The machine gun bass was
smooth, not harsh, was not one note. Compared to the above
contenders, beat them all including the new Eidolon and Opus
speakers. I do not want to harp but it has to be the rooms.
Or the synergy with the Spectral DMA200 was made in heaven.
So the soundstage and image focus which are Avalon Acoustics
tradmarks were there in spades. What ever recording had good
mike placements had great soundstage and imaging better
than the above except the Maggie 3.6, which was on par.
The downside of any box speaker is the lack of apparent dynamics and dynamic compression, and congealing at high volumes. They were all present, though less than the above
box speakers. I must say at low volume, say 60-70 dB, there
was not a lack of anything, it was as tuneful as at higher
volumes. You definitely cannot say that about dipoles, they
definitely need loudness!
So what is upshot of this. I have two rooms one with the
Acoustats and one with the Avalons. Their differences in
presentation warrant this. There is no one speaker out there
that can do it all,(at least not at a price I can afford) but at least for now I have the best of both
worlds. Do I recommend the Radians, heartily. And to you
dipole freaks.... don't give them up.... just go to the
"dark side" and get yourself a second system. Hey you need
both apples and oranges to live well.
Various MIT cables
In the price range I purchased the Avalon Radians, the Magnepan 3.6, Von Schweikert VR 3.5, Totem Forest were
similarly priced. The competition were
new versus 8 year old speaker technology.