Thursday, October 20, 2011

Avalon Acoustics' Amazing Sound Room

Being an industry insider certainly has its perks, and while I was attending RMAF as an exhibitor I was lucky to receive an invitation to visit the Avalon Acoustics factory in nearby Boulder, Colorado for an open house party. Avalon has been around for decades, making some of the most gorgeous (and gorgeous-sounding) loudspeakers available. Colleen Cardas, my business partner, owned a pair of Avalon Avatars for years, and it was her long-standing relationship with the company that got me invited to event.

The real reason for the open house was to show off the company's new sound room, which was clearly a state-of-the-art assault on room design. Using the company's new-ish Time loudspeaker, which retails for $50,000, I was treated to some of the most spectacular sound I've ever heard. The room itself was almost the size of a small movie theater, and the dimensions were based on a trapezoidal design that followed the Golden Ratio. No two walls were parallel, which eliminated unwanted reflections and resonances. Numerous DAAD room tuning devices, some of which resembled giant bongs, were placed strategically around the room along with plenty of absorption and reflection panels on the walls and ceilings.

The Times were placed about one-third into the room, which meant there was an enormous space behind the speakers. That sound was immediately filled with music, creating the largest, deepest and most clearly delineated soundstage I've ever experienced. At one point I even walked almost between the speakers in a near-field position and the music still seemed to exist in the rear third of the room. I've never heard a pair of speakers disappear so completely into room, utterly detached from the music.

After a variety of demo tracks that showed off the abilities of this amazing system (which included Rowland Research amplification, Transparent cables and a Spectral digital source), I asked to put on some of my own music. Unfortunately, all I had with me was a CD of the Black Keys' Brothers. If you're not familiar with this recording, it is grungy, grungy, grungy. It almost sounded like I broke the system. While Brothers sounds absolutely killer in my car, it kinda falls apart in a system of this magnitude. At one point Avalon owner/founder Neil Patel turned to Colleen and asked, "Does he always listen to music this weird?" (Colleen, of course, answered yes.) But I did get Neil to admit that despite the sonic shortcomings, the music was super cool.

Back at RMAF, I visited the Avalon room where they had the new Idea speakers playing. The Ideas are much smaller than the Times and cost just $8000 per pair. Even with the smaller speakers, fewer DAADs and the much smaller room, I felt that I was hearing the same sonic signature on a smaller scale. Soundstaging was absolutely incredible--again. I could easily live with Ideas and only occasionally think about the majesty of the Times.

I want to thank Neil Patel, Lucien Pichette and Dmitri Panfilov of Avalon for being extraordinarily gracious hosts, and for allowing me to hear one of the most amazing sound systems I've ever witnessed.

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