I will be the first in line for any queue that wants to profess its love for the style, grace and sheer beauty of Avantgarde horn speakers. The Trio Classico (with that giant stack of Basshorns, of course) may well be my MegaMillions-winner speaker as that setup is well north of $150k, and (of course) I’d also need a new house with a room big enough to do that setup justice. I’m told that this is unlikely in the near term, but hey, man’s gotta dream!
So, for those of us living in more real-world spaces (but still with serious disposable income at hand), there are a few options from the German company. The newest is the Zero 1, and calling it the “entry-level” or “bottom-of-the-line” is a bit misleading. Honestly, it’s hard to reconcile with the rest of the Avantgarde line as the entire design is a firm and discrete step to the left. The giant horns, with the automotive paint in glorious and shocking color are nowhere to be seen. There are also no tubes — anywhere — in a Zero-based system. It’s all a bit modern. And perhaps a bit unabashedly so.
Much like the Grimm Audio loudspeakers, the Avantgarde Zero 1 (starting at $18.5k) is an all-in-one (dare I say it?) “lifestyle system”. It’s an active loudspeaker, so you don’t need your own amplifier, tube or otherwise, as there are three in each cabinet. There is one 50 watt amp each for the treble and mid, and one 400 watt amp for the bass; all are DSP-controled for a true tri-amp system without any need for a lossy passive crossover.
It also has an onboard DAC — just add a source, and you’re ready to go. Don’t have a digital source with a USB, AES or S/PDIF output? All your sources are analog, you say? No worries — there’s an expansion port for an analog-to-digital converter upgrade.
All you really need is power — one power cord for each speaker, and the FPGA-based input system will sort out input, encoding/decoding, crossover, and synching.
That is, while the speakers don’t actually support streaming, they do communicate via an included radio link, which means that no speaker cables are required. Talk about Mr Clean — if you have a room where there’s a significant issue around running wire, this might be the speaker to look at. I think my living room has this Zero written all over it.
The speakers, which are available in a matte black or white, are unobtrusively flat and elegantly contoured. The fit and finish is also rather modern — it’s nice — and the integrated stands are chromed. All in all, the whole package is kind of understated — odd for this brand, perhaps — even if the sound is anything but — I found it lively, extremely dynamic, and surprisingly coherent.