Avantgarde Acoustic Duo XD Hornspeaker Review
Yes, you have read the measurement results from our lab correctly (in case you checked them): For 94 decibels of sound pressure at a distance of one meter, this speaker needs just 0.07 Watts of power. Seven Watts would be somewhat normal, 0.7 Watts already a sensation – but 0.07 Watts reads like a typo. It is completely true though! This is made possible by the large horn at the top end of the Duo XD, coming from the specialist Avantgarde Acoustic, based in a small town in the Odenwald mountain range in southwestern Germany. This horn is connected directly to the amplifier without any intermediate crossover and visually symbolizes the phenomenal efficiency with its huge opening of 67 centimeters.
The funnel-horn for the tweeter just below is considerably
smaller – this might seem obvious, as little energy is needed for loud high
frequencies. The tweeter is located in the front of the woofer cabinet, which is
equipped with two 30 mm drivers. Clever and powerful active electronics ensure
that the bass doesn't lose connection with the level. In a passive system, this
would only be possible with ample drivers and long sound guiding. This way,
however, a veritable, but not too protruding woofer module is located in the
frame, which is finished in "anthracite metallic" and internally
damped against resonance. This frame ends in four elongated feet at the bottom,
which gives the Duo XD an almost graceful appearance despite its size and the
weight of almost 90 kilograms per piece.
Every Duo Is Unique
A midrange driver with a "Soft Mesh" membrane sits
behind the 37-centimeter-long horn, made from the amorphous polymer ABS. Its
voice coil runs in the stable field of an "AlNiCo" magnet, an alloy of
iron with aluminum, nickel, cobalt, copper and in this case titanium, to which
special audiophile qualities have been attributed by high-end enthusiasts.
The funnel for the tweeter, only 18 cm in diameter, is also made of ABS. In this tweeter, a thin, lightweight "Mylar" film does the work, whose motor is a flat ferrite magnet. You can see it when you unscrew the horn, attached via a thread. The narrow cloth cover in the center of the woofer can afterwards be removed, and you immediately see the two big bass drivers right behind it. These are not powered by the main amplifier. Rather, they are powered by a 1000-Watt active module, which consists of two effective switching output stages of 500 Watts peak power each.
This is controlled by the DSP-based command station, which
normally draws its musical information from the main signal, digitizes it and,
if desired, processes it in many parameters, converts it again and feeds it to
the Class D amps. For this purpose, the listener can call up fixed presets via a
small display on the back of the speaker, for example to set the woofer three or
six decibels louder or quieter. In the same way, the transmission range of the
bass speaker, which extends from about 20 to 200 Hertz and has its upper cutoff
frequency at 170 Hz, can be extended or reduced by 30 Hz, which has direct
consequences for the homogeneity of voices and instruments.
More interesting, because it is much more complex, sensitive and effective, are the various possibilities the control menu offers. This includes correction curves that exactly match your "playground" and result from a complex measurement procedure in the listening room (see side). With this extensively elaborated tool, Avantgarde Acoustic consistently uses the advantages of active speakers to the improvement of sound quality.
Sound Improvements With Compensation
At this point, the test you are reading right now could have
ended with a detailed description of the sound, but the highlight was still to
come: Two days after the memorable set-up date, we received an email with the
compensation curves determined from our room measurements, which were quickly
transferred to the speakers. Although our listening room and its setup is
fantastic in any way, the difference to the uncorrected performance was simply
striking: In Maria Pihl's "Malvina", the slight bloating in the bass
range disappeared, but that was not all. Rather – surprise number two – the
large-scale and also conscientiously ordered spectrum took a step back, the
performance gained spatial depth, clarity and plasticity, which was immediately
noticeable to the ear when resetting the correction.
Now the Swedish singer not only stood tangibly between the
horns, so that one could listen all around her, as you could say. This was the
case because the rich bass no longer encroached on her, and the swaths of
synthesizer looming in the background were clearly further away from her, thus
bringing incomparably more "air" and naturalness to the performance.
The loudspeakers almost "disappeared" into the music, which is
especially fascinating when it comes to such full-grown specimens – all in all
a great listening experience. Rarely has "Malvina" sounded so
convincing and genuine.
Concise To The Point
Chadwick's orchestral piece "Jubilee," fluctuating
between furious attack and heartfelt rhapsody, flowed from the high-tech horns
with such elemental power and free breathing that one could only marvel. In
general, each piece appeared in that aura of affectless finesse and casual
matter-of-factness that defines "true" high end.
Despite lightning-fast speed and elastic conciseness, there was no trace of that rowdy, aggressive attitude that is often associated with horns, often with good reason. In contrast, the Duo XDs produced noblesse that seemed to border on self-denial, and to which – perfection in detail – WBT's "Nextgen" connectors used together with "body silencers" may have contributed to.
Thanks to the extreme efficiency in conjunction with unusually
high impedance, any amplifier, no matter how powerful, could play mostly
"unloaded" on the Duo XD, which at 10 Watts are louder than normal
boxes with 1,000. Tube amplifiers thus find virtually ideal conditions. In
addition to our tried and tested amps, Avantgarde Acoustics' ultimate preamplifier
/ power amplifier combination XA Pre/XA Power, tailored to the Duos, took part
in the listening test – and proved to be a fantastically good addition.
However, the speakers presented themselves not only as highly effective, but
also as an acoustic magnifying glass that reveals every detail and differences
of quality between source devices and amps with brutal honesty – another trump
card in the presentation of the Duo XD, which thus easily exceeds our high
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