Prior to our arrival, the Duos had been re-sited from one end of the room to the other, although there’d been no time to readjust the bass alignment – which was kinda perfect, giving me a chance to work first hand with dialling in both the set up and the bass integration. Using the Kertesz /Dvorak New World Symphony as a benchmark, it quickly became apparent that rake angle is just as critical to the Duo as it is with the Trio: Hardly a surprise. The three position ±1.5dB gain switches for DSP, mid and treble were also extremely powerful/useful. With the mid and treble balance sorted, it was time to go to work on the bass. The Duo GT employs twin 500Watt Class D amplifiers to drive its paired 12” bass drivers, fed from a sophisticated DSP interface that allows users narrow band graphic equalisation of the bass output via the G3 PC-based user interface. While past experience with DSP controlled subs, especially those with Class D amplification has left me suspicious of the approach, this is different in that it is an integrated solution in which the interface parameters are all known quantities. Whether it is that, or just a very clever implementation in this instance (probably a bit of both) the adjustability of this Duo’s bottom-end proved a revelation after previous models. Dialling in (or in this case, dialling back) the bottom-end opened out the mid-band and acoustic space, bring dimensionality and distance to go with the stunning presence and immediacy that the iTron driven horns generate so effortlessly. Getting the bass balance right adds texture, subtlety and an almost preternatural sense of timing and connection to the performance. If this was a ‘quick and dirty’ set up, it certainly promises great things from a more considered and carefully dialled in system, especially one with the higher quality source components I have to hand.
The other thing that comes with better integration is dynamic headroom and maximum usable level. Working with the bass EQ on the Kertesz demonstrated not only how dramatically it affected the sound-staging and overarching acoustic, but also how it managed to bring those tumultuous opening drum rolls into the hall and then into the music as a whole. As the percussion settled in, so the volume could be advanced, without feeling that you were on the verge of provoking the audio equivalent of a cavalry charge. Just as many users faced with a horn system just can’t resist seeing how loud it will go, many users faced with a highly adjustable bottom end will flirt with the outer limits of acceptability. Ironically, dialling back the bass and dialling it in properly is what’s going to unleash the Duos’ undoubted scale and power.
With an entire afternoon to play with, I was able to ring the musical changes far and wide, from early consort classical recordings to a first pressing of This Year’s Model (Elvis Costello, Radar Records RAD3). What was immediately apparent was that the Duo GT projects the same sense of physical presence, natural, uncompressed leading-edge dynamics and instrumental or vocal texture that sets the Trio G3 apart from the competition. If you want or value the sense of real musicians and real instruments, in the same space as you, the immediacy and musical energy that goes with that, then you’ll struggle to match the performance of the Avantgardes at anything like this price point. While Elvis and the boys had all the bustling attitude and smack your chops impact you’d expect, there were a couple of real stand-out records. One was Mari Samuelsen’s Lys (DGG 486 2095). Having literally just seen her play live, the Duo GT demonstrated a breath-taking ability to capture and recreate the texture and beauty of her playing, the elongated lines and orchestral layers. Her solo instrument was presented with such natural scale, body and harmonic texture, her bowing with an almost physical sense of direction and purpose, resulting in an almost uncanny dimensionality and presence, capturing the shifting angle of her instrument to the microphones, the sway of her body as she plays. This isn’t a case of wandering image. It’s imaging and spatial cues taken to a higher plane.