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June 2013
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere!
AVM Audio's Evolution PA 3.2 Preamp/Tuner, CD 3.2 Digital Player
And MA 3.2S Monoblock Amplifiers
Setting new heights for playback performance and a more three dimensional soundstage.
Review By Brett Rudolph

 

AVM Audio Evolution CD 3.2 Digital Player   AVM has been created audio equipment for over twenty years. Headquartered in Germany, they have produced a number of different components over the years and become somewhat well-known for their quality and performance. Recently AVM has won awards for some of their components and secured a place amongst some highly regarded companies. The chance to get an AVM component in for review was definitely an exciting concept, but the chance to get an entire system seemed almost too good to be true. Yet, that is exactly what happened and from the excitement of anticipation to the excitement of the review and there was never a time that this reviewer was disappointed.

The review system was from their Evolution line. It consisted of a Preamplifier/Tuner (PA 3.2), a CD player (CD 3.2) and two mono-blocks (MA 3.2S). These stand somewhere in the middle of AVMs product offerings in price, but offer a great view into the design and quality of the company's current offerings. Certainly, as you will see later in the review, the build quality is exemplary and the company's service second to none.

 

The System Setup
The review system showed up a few weeks after a conversation that I had with Charlie Harrison from AVM Audio USA, several boxes showed up at my doorstep just waiting to be unboxed and setup. Although packaging has never been something I particularly paid attention to when I opened a review system, I found myself fairly impressed with the detail that was given to producing the perfect travel environment for the equipment. Luckily, while the packaging was impressive removing the equipment from the packaging did not take too long to accomplish.

The packaging was mentioned for more than one reason. After placing the equipment on what would be its home during the review process and powering it up for the first time, it became sadly apparent that there was a problem. There was a problem with the equipment and unfortunately it was not functioning correctly. However, this is where my overall impression of the company began to build up tremendously. Normally, in my experience, it would take several calls and unfortunately several weeks before the equipment was diagnosed and repaired. However, AVM was exceptionally easy to contact and they diagnosed and repaired the trouble in nearly no time. One stand out technique was a series of videos which helped to show how to repair the problem, making the solution simple and my comfort level very high in one fell swoop. Of course after that, the rest of the break in period was totally uneventful. (Editor's Note: It never ceases to amaze me how badly international shippers can handle even the best packed gear from manufacturers. As such it was a mere loose Preamp ribbon cable.)

The equipment that AVM sent was brand new, so there was a certainly a break-in period. It was not as extended as many that this reviewer has had the opportunity to evaluate. It nevertheless took approximately two hundred hours until the components were totally free of artifacts which would detract from any concerted attempt at fair assessment.

 

The System Itself
It would be unfair to not give at least a paragraph to each of the components that made up the review system. However, to be fair, none of these components were evaluated on their own, so it would be improper to give any performance comments on them independently. However, each component, in addition to comments made specifically were exceptionally well made and extremely well thought out in terms of aesthetics and ergonomics.

The PA 3.2, is a combination turner and amplifier. It comes equipped with five line level inputs including one balanced input and a processor input/output. It has three expansion slots which can be used for the company's phono-stage, USB input or upsampling DAC. There are two pairs of outputs, one balanced and one unbalanced, to allow for maximum flexibility. The front of the unit boasts a well-designed display and ergonomically placed controls which can be used independently or in conjunction with included system remote control.

The CD 3.2 is an upsampling CD player with the ability to not only play music from its internal CD transport, but through the use of its 7 digital inputs, nearly any source in today's marketplace. These inputs include two AES/EBU, two S/PDIF and two USBs. The inputs are easily navigable through both the front panel, which also contains an extremely visible display and the well-designed controls, which can once again be used independently or with the company's remote control. The unit has both a pair of balanced and unbalanced outputs. Additionally, the signal can be passed through the use of either an S/PDIF or optical connection.

AVM Audio Evolution MA 3.2S Monoblock AmplifiersThe MA 3.2S mono-block amplifiers are rated at 420 watts of Class D power. They allow not only single wiring, but bi-wiring as well adding to their flexibility. Similar to all the products in the review system, they allow for both balanced and unbalanced connection to the preamplifier giving a far cleaner signal path whatever type of connection the user chooses to employ. They did not run at all hot regardless of the load put upon them from the music and did not exhibit any clipping even at higher volumes on the Martin Logan Requests used to evaluate the system itself. Both of these qualities are fairly unique and certainly speak to the fairness the company used when rating their equipment.

The evaluation system itself, in addition to the AVM components consisted of Martin Logan Requests, MIT interconnects, Monster power conditioning and regeneration and Kimber power cables. These are usually part of the reference system; however, since this was a complete system, it seemed prudent to utilize them in the evaluation to keep everything else within my standard parameters.

 

The 'Guts' Of The Review
The urge to both evaluate and experience the review system was simply too much for words as the time neared to actually put the equipment through its paces, so to speak. The sheer delight of the easily visible displays and well-designed controls, both on the units themselves and the included remote left this reviewer with a sense of refinement and control even before the first notes sounded from the playback system. The design itself is worthy of serious accolades from not only its ease of use, but also from the flexibility and integration between components and features. The musical evaluation of the AVM system was certainly on par with the overall impression of the outward appearance and more. Although many systems tend to be good at a small to medium sized cross section of musical selections, most do not even aspire to excel at all of them, yet this was the case with the AVM system. The following is a small subset of the source material used to audition the AVM's playback performance.

The first selection was Concord Jazz's Super Audio CD Sampler – Volume 2 on their own label.  The album offers a great selection of well recorded material across a wide range of jazz formats. The songs tend to humble even the most capable systems by relying heavily on well reproduced treble and bass extensions while still requiring the mid-range to be both defined and precise. However, not only did the AVM system do a stellar job at reproduction of the facets I have come to recognize as necessary for both enjoyment on a tactile and visceral level, but it surpassed my lofty expectations. In fact, there were many times that one could hear subtle differences within the attack and decay of instrumentals that brought new life and meaning to passages of the music itself.

The second selection was Dallas Brass II [DBI-82589]. This reference recording from the late eighties represents a great test of a system's ability to resolve the complex sounds of brass instrumentals. The music of Irving Berlin and Aaron Copeland, to name a few, are usually enjoyable on even the basest of systems, but in the case of the AVM system they came to life. There was not only an added vitality and presence, but the ability to take the somewhat complex and certainly bright sounds of trumpet, piano, trombone, tuba and percussion and weave it into a musically brilliant tapestry of delight was exceptional. The sounds of each instrument only served to enhance and embellish other instruments rather than overwhelm them which can happen on lesser systems.

The third selection used in this review was Pitch Perfect [Island: 3715971]. This mainstream album from a popular movie with the same name represents a better than average mastering of difficult a cappella music from both male and female vocalists. Although a far cry from a reference recording, it nevertheless creates a great test of a system's ability to maintain clarity and consistency while setting the stage for wildly different playback results. Once again the AVM system excelled. In fact, it set new heights for playback performance for mainstream album playback performance. There was not only better sound from the onset, but an increased range which translated to a more three dimensional soundstage.

AVM Audio Evolution PA 3.2 Preamp/TunerThe final selection mentioned in this review is Dark Side of the Moon [Capitol: 004ZN9RWK) by Pink Floyd. This favored album always seems to give a great indication of not only the ability of the system to resolve loud passages, but soft ones as well. The detail which one can hear shapes their overall experience and can be extremely difficult to portray correctly on an overly analytical system. Although it usually sounds far better on a tubed system from experience, the reproduction of the material was perhaps the best this reviewer has had the chance to hear in a very long time. The heart beat sounds in the beginning of the album were amazingly rich even before the sound became identifiable.

 

Conclusions
The AVM system represents one of the most amazing systems to have passed my walls in a very long time. The system's ability to resolve detail from both reference and mainstream mastered recordings is beyond reproach. In fact, there are very few systems which could be its equal and definitely none to my knowledge at its price. Simply put, it does everything with the distinction, poise and meticulous attention to detail that the components themselves present on a visual level.

Of course nothing this good comes without a price and the AVM system has a significant price tag. The entire review system retails for approximately $13,000 with the pair of AVM Evolution MA 3.2S mono-blocks at $5860, the PA 3.2 preamplifier/tuner at $3230 and the CD 3.2 player at $3950. However, once you get through the price, there should be nothing stopping you from considering the system. In fact, it is the only system in years that I wish I could have used to replace my reference system because what I thought was the best in my estimation just is not good enough anymore.

 

 

Specifications
AVM Evolution MA 3.2S Monoblock AMplifier
Frequency Response: < 5 Hz to > 50 kHz
Damping Factor >200
Rated Power 420 Watt (4 Ohm) / 220 Watt (8 Ohm)
Input Sensitivity 625 mV (for 25 W / 4 Ohm)
Input impedance Cinch 10 kOhm
Input impedance XLR 10 kOhm
SNR (25W in 4 Ohm) 100 dB / 104 dB(A)
Intermodulation (25 W/4 Ohm) < 0.1 %
Dimensions: 210 x 100 x 380 (W x H x D in mm)
Weight 66 lbs.
Price: $5860

 

AVM Evolution CD 3.2
CD, digital in/out
CD formats CD-Audio (red book), CD-R
Upsampling 192 kHz / 24 Bit adjustable
Deemphasis yes, automatic
Digital inputs 33 to 192 kHz / 16 to 24 Bit
(S/PDIF, AES/EBU, TosLink up to 96 kHz)
USB inputs up to 24/192 Asynchronous
Digital outputs 44.1 kHz / 16 Bit (CD)
(S/PDIF, TosLink) or input format
Digital inputs:
Input impedance cinch 75 Ohm
Input impedance XLR (AES EBU) 110 Ohm
Input voltages according IEC 958
Digital outputs: S/PDIF and AES/EBU
Price: $3950

 

AVM Evolution PA 3.2 Preamplifier
Sensitivity (25 W/4 Ohm) 33 mV – 560 mV (adjustable)
Input impedance RCA Cinch 6,8 kOhms
S/N line/MM/MC (option) 101 dB(A) / 85 dB(A) / 75 dB(A)
Output impedance RCA Cinch 75 Ohms
Output impedance balanced XLR 100 Ohms
Frequency response line / phono (option) < 5 Hz - > 200 kHz / 30 Hz - >20 kHz
Tuner (option)
Frequency range 87.5 MHz – 108 MHz
Step 50 kHz
Antenna Impedance 50 Ohms
Sensitivity mono / stereo 1,5μV / 50 μV
S/N mono / stereo 76 dB(A) / 70 dB(A)
THD mono / stereo 0.1% / 0,3%
Digital input (option)
Sampling frequency upsampling to 192 kHz / 24 bits
Frequency response <5 Hz - > 50 kHz
Deemphasis yes, auto
Input data rate optical / coax S/PDIF, 33 kHz to 96 kHz / 192 kHz / 16 to 24 bits
USB input 24/192 Asynchronous, no special drivers required
S/N ratio 120 dB(A)
Phono Option Available
Streamer Option Available
DAC Option Available
Dimensions: 430 x 100 x 325 (W x H x D in mm)
Weight 13.2 lbs.
Price: $3230

 

Company Information
AVM GmbH
Audio Video Manufaktur
Daimlerstraße 8
76316 Malsch
Germany 

Phone: +49 (0) 7246 4285
Fax: +49 (0) 7246 4289
E-Mail: info@avm-audio.com
Website: www.AVM-Audio.com

 

United States Distributor
AAyon Audio USA - Harwil Group
8390 E. Via De Ventura - F110-194 
Scottsdale, Arizona 85258

Voice: (310) 601-7976
E-mail: sales@ayonaudiousa.com
Website: www.AyonAudioUSA.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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