Just When You Thought It Was Safe…

I’ve talked about the Avantgarde’s dynamic and temporal qualities, as well as the sense of substance and easy musical organisation that goes with them. But one other facet of their performance is a mighty contributor to that musical integrity. One major challenge that faces any hybrid speaker system (and the Unos are a ‘double-hybrid’ in that they don’t just mix driver types, they mix amplifier technologies too) is achieving a natural sense of integration and musical proportion. For all their considerable virtues and attractive paper performance, this is exactly where earlier Avantgarde hybrids came unstuck, with the result that I never heard the earlier Duo models (with the honourable exception of the ‘all-horn’ Duo-Mezzo) achieve the same levels of musical communication and impact that came so effortlessly to the Trios.

That changed with the latest, active Duo GT and it’s a change that extends to the Uno SD too. This speaker is not just capable of superbly seamless, top-to-bottom continuity, it is considerably easier to achieve, thanks to the elegant active bass management system. The G3 revisions to drivers, horns and the interface between the driver and the neck of the horn have all gone a long way to eliminating traditional horn artefacts. Listen to the Unos with the correct rake angle and attitudinal adjustment and not only will the sound be contiguous, it will be properly proportioned with a natural perspective, as well as devoid of honk or piping colourations. The overall tonal balance is tuneable within reason, by varying the bass level and cross-over point, but push that too far and you’ll destroy the overall musical balance, undermining the rhythmic and temporal integrity if you run it too high, eroding the weight and substance if you stretch too low. But in between, with experience, trial and error you’ll hit the musical sweet spot for you, your room and your system.

Play Isabelle Faust’s beautifully realised recording of Locatelli Concerti (il virtuoso, il poeta – with Antonini and Il Giardino Armonico – Harmonia Mundi HMM 902398) and the soundstage is nicely proportioned, albeit without having the transparency, walk in dimensionality or scale achieved by the Trios. But the instruments are tonally natural and naturally proportioned, the playing is vigorous yet precise and Faust delivers the solo part with incisive musical agility and an unerring sense of rhythmic rigour. The dance-like quality in the music and the cohesive ensemble playing both gain from the stable solidity of the staging and the tonally and dynamically contiguous performance of the speakers. There are no jarring notes or discontinuities to rip the fabric or destroy the illusion. Sir Thomas Beecham famously remarked that, “There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together.” It’s a sentiment that applies equally to audio systems, especially speakers. In fact, it sums up the Avantgarde Unos perfectly. Listen to these speakers and you really do get a sense of everything (musicians and drivers) moving together, in concert, in step and in the same direction. Because of that, as great as the Unos are at squeezing the last drop of music from some desiccated recording, feed them the good stuff and they really spa