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 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
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.
The 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 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.
The 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.
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.
AVM Evolution CD 3.2
AVM Evolution PA 3.2 Preamplifier
United States Distributor