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June 2020
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Superior Audio Equipment Review

AudioNec Evo #2 Loudspeakers
These speakers will not be for everyone, and not for every amplifier.
Review By Dr. Matthew Clott

 

AudioNec Evo #2 Loudspeakers Review

 

  I happen to be one of those audiophiles that are always drawn to eclectic and unusual speakers. Not that I dislike or don't own the 'standard' dynamic box speakers, but planars, electrostatics, open baffle designs, horns, omni-directionals, line arrays, plasma tweeters and the like satisfy my inner physicist and draw me to them like a black hole capturing a photon! Brilliant designers and engineers who take the path less traveled, resulting in sensational designs that sound fantastic and look like the love child of art and science. These speakers usually make as bold a statement visually as they do sonically. In most cases, the creative approach removes the box from the equation entirely, or somehow creatively hybridizes the design to get the best of both worlds, so to speak. They are also, typically, quite polarizing in regards to opinions of both their appearance and/or their performance.

 

Enter AudioNec
In my search over the years for the bold and unusual, I read of a French company called AudioNec that utilized a truly unique driver design whereby a vertical voice coil was placed within two cylindrical membranes. The lateral edges of the membranes are static and the central zone is active, vibrating longitudinally and creating those magic sound waves we love so much. The result is a very low distortion, very low vertical dispersion driver of reasonable sensitivity while keeping impedance demands to a minimum on the driving amplifier. I was fascinated! While not truly omni-directional, the sound radiates outward in a dipole style 180-degree dispersion front and back, but attenuates laterally. The lateral dispersion attenuates since the cylinder's internal element is where the movement originates.

So truthfully the central 40 degrees front and back get the lion's share of the output. Because of the geometry of the two cylinders meeting in the center, the most central portion acts as a micro-horn and creates dramatically increased efficiency. As a result of all of this engineering ingenuity, the resultant driver can comfortably cover a frequency range of between 200Hz to 400Hz on the low end and up to 14kHz on the high end; depending on the vertical length of the driver. This covers the midrange and most of the highs, where many of us think the bulk of the musical magic lies. As previously mentioned, these drivers are hybridized with more routinely utilized super tweeters and woofers to cover the rest of the audio bits to make a complete package. They call this scientific audio'phonic marvel their proprietary "Duopole Driver."

 

AudioNec Evo #2 Loudspeakers Review

 

All that sounded great! And looked even better! But their USA availability was nonexistent and their cost was, quite simply, prohibitive to we normal Joe's (or Matt's in my case). Even for an expensive speaker, the AudoNec line was expensive! Don't misinterpret this statement as I relish my time with gear that costs as much as cars (and sometimes houses)! Although many scoff, the average Joe audiophile will save for years and beg their spouses eternally to get into a $20,000 to $50,000 speaker or component if it strikes their fancy just right. I don't want to go down that rabbit hole, but I know a lot of very average income audiophiles who have put together systems with gear that costs more than their pickup truck or above ground pool.

But (isn't there always a 'but' with these reviews?) now things have changed. AudioNec has created its Evo series and made their sonic artwork available at "more affordable" prices. And (isn't there always an 'and' also?) AudoNec has established solid and stable USA distribution. Hence ('but', 'and', 'hence' - the reviewer's linguistic triumvirate. Check) I was offered for my reviewing pleasure and your reading enjoyment the opportunity to temporarily adopt a pair of AudioNec Evo 2. Did I take the opportunity? Hell yes!!!

 

Design Details
The Evo series is a hybrid design incorporating AudioNec's "Duopole Driver", with a super tweeter and a passive woofer in a simple and brilliantly designed modular system. As you move up the line the essential Duopole / super tweeter / woofer combo persists and you add more woofers and powered (or passive) sub-woofers. The upgrades intend to add scale, dynamics, and low end; and to better energize larger spaces. The upgrades are dealer implemented and do not require shipping anything back to the mother ship. Or you can jump in at any level.

 

AudioNec Evo #2 Loudspeakers Review

 

The design is quite elegant and, to me, attractive. The Wideband DS31 Duopole Driver is 31cm in height and is essentially an aluminum frame supporting the central vertical voice coil, and a special paper double cylinder (hyper resistant to moisture and humidity). This driver handles all frequencies between 400Hz and 12kHz. A super tweeter just above, built into the frame, covers 12kHz to 45kHz. And below this combination is a vented box 22cm Scanspeak Revelator paper woofer driver held in place like an athlete holding a soccer ball between his legs; with rear tripod support in the back. Three audiophile-grade footers are supplied with the speakers to isolate vibration between floor and speaker frame. The woofer box covers 35Hz to 400Hz. This is what an Evo 1 is. 'My' Evo 2 had an added 28cm Scanspeak Revelator powered paper sub-woofer enclosure just below the woofer box that fills out the low frequencies from 18Hz to 35Hz. AudioNec insists on paper drivers throughout to both help maintain a cohesive sound as well as take advantage of paper's organic and lifelike presentation. The aluminum metal frame was black anodized and the enclosures were matte white. All wiring is internal and nothing is visible.

Two pairs of five-way high-end binding posts were on the powered unit (so you can bi-wire if you would like) along with the perfunctory IEC AC receptacle. There are three bass presets on the back of the sub-woofer module: standard, increased for electronic and rock, and reduced for apartment dwellers and late-night listeners. There is also a gain dial to adjust output from -12dB to +12dB. All of this allows flexibility in placement and fine-tuning to add to the speaker's overall ability to functions as a unified whole. The CNC metal frame was quite solid and did not ring when tapped; and the fit and finish of the entire unit was clean, well-proportioned, and suited to its overall design. There is a passive version as well which offers the use of external bi-amplification with an internal passive crossover network. They refer to the powered woofer versions as "AS," or active subwoofer.

 

AudioNec Evo #2 Loudspeakers Review

 

The Evo 3 keeps the powered subwoofer, woofer, Duopole, and super tweeter and adds another woofer and sub above a'laD'apolito. And the Evo 4 adds the second tower of four powered 38cm subwoofers with six kilowatts of power and extends down to 15Hz, if you don't like your home's foundation and want to cause a few cracks.... Finally, there is also a Signature version using AudioNec's DSPV4 preamp/DAC utilizing digital crossovers, room correction, and active amplification as a state of the art modern system. There is also an intermediate sort of Signature service where AudioNec's dealer will measure your room and create a custom filter for the subwoofers. The upgrade path can be from passive to active, and from active to Signature, all implemented by your dealer. Finishes are flexible, and the sky's the limit; different color and finish paint, straw-marquetry and even leather finishes are available as paid options.

AudioNec's Classic line (read, more expensive) utilizes larger Duopole Drivers measuring 50cm in height which has an extended low frequency down to 200Hz. There are obvious height and cost saving of the smaller 'DS' 31cm model which suits the Evo's modular vertical design well. AudioNec says that the DS31 Duopole Driver does have maximum SPL limitations and can not drive a room over 200 meters squared, which is a massive room. My room (15' x 18.5') is 25.8 meters squared. Extensive testing was done to determine the ideal cylinder diameter, thickness, material, and rigidity. I can say that the cylinder is not easily stained or damaged as I asked if they were child friendly. What self-respecting six-year-old wouldn't at least try to poke or draw on them if given the chance?!? The Duopole material is resistant to touch and pressure, but they are releasing a grill for those who would prefer their investment protected, and the membrane itself is supposedly easy to replace if needed. The designer's also spent significant time adjusting the Duopole Driver's sensitivity to perfect driver integration between Duopole and midrange.

 

AudioNec Evo #2 Loudspeakers Review

 

How Does The AudioNec Evo #2 Sound?
So, how does all of this fancy French fabricated creativity sound? In the French word, fantastique! Considering the abject discrepancy in driver technology, the whole functions as a whole, with no sense of individual components. There is a wonderful integration of drivers with extension from sub to super with no overt deviation from a unified sonic signature. That unified sonic signature is subtlety, refinement, and dynamic scale. These speakers scale, and they scale well. Saint Saens' "Danse Macabre" from [Witches' Brew Blue Moon Imports B0098YTXAC, 44.1kHz/16-bit] presents with quiet moments of anticipation and hesitation flowing into subtle grandiosity. The Duopole offers a wonderful sense of subtlety at both soft and louder listening levels. And as the music soars to dynamic heights, the Evo 2 properly conveys gravitas and impact while never loosening its grip or allowing things to smear or lose composure. Thoroughly enjoyable (is that a complete sentence?).

I find that when speakers do scale and dynamics well, they sometimes lack subtlety and refinement. In this case, that was not apparent. Alison Krauss's "Down to the River to Pray" from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Mercury Records WAV 96kHz/24-bit], although the recording is a tad bright, has harmonic structure and texture that can be difficult to properly reproduce. This track was well done and the Evo 2's extricated the detail and subtlety that was hiding in the zeroes and ones. I did hear my first hint of a lack of lower midrange that made me think that the speakers were a bit thin in that region. This motivates an entire off subject monologue.... And here we go.

As I said before, the Duopole is a dipole radiator with an approximately 40 degree forward and backward dispersion. As such, it does require some care in setup. So I spent time with placement. And listened, and spent more time with placement. The lesson here is, don't just plunk your new speakers down where your old speakers are, people. Invest the time to find their perfect spot, because the room makes the sound. Finding that perfect spot where bass is not overly exaggerated and your midrange is not absorbed by your drapery or couch takes time, but pays in sonic dividends. Do it. Also, these speakers are more particular about what drives them. Not power-wise, as they are rather efficient; and not impedance wise as they are quite an easy 6 Ohm impedance to drive. But they do enjoy an amplifier, preamplifier, or source that is on the warmer end of the spectrum. They are remarkably neutral and don't synergize with an equally neutral system. In my room, they most enjoyed my Octave V80SE integrated with Super Black Box. Once I fine-tuned the location and the system, thin became pleasantly rounded; sort of like me as I age.

That aside nicely segues us into a comment on their overall tonal character. As I said, they are neutral. The remarkably small and room-friendly powered sub-woofers are measured to 18Hz. They certainly go low, but once below around 25Hz didn't hold the complex harmonic textures that my much more expensive Dynaudio Consequence Ultimates with twin 12' drivers reproduce; very little can compete with them though. For such a small enclosure, they do an exceptional job of delivering the goods. The reproduction of textures in the 25Hz to 45Hz range is wonderful. Oscar Peterson Trio's "You Look Good To Me" from We Get Requests [Verve XVRJ8606D64], DSD single rate 2.8MHz/64fs has a lingering base note that allows you to feel the reverberation of the wood as it is bowed. It always puts a smile on my face when done right. Midrange and up is where that wonderful driver shines, and the same track's piano presented with the rich tonal luster it was recorded with. As I eased through my listening list, both male and female vocals flowed with ease and a natural sense of expression and harmonic layering that would make a Harbeth sit up and take notice. Highs are extended and airy without shining or offending. Properly conveyed for this level of equipment and delightful in the presentation.

 

AudioNec Evo #2 Loudspeakers Review

 

The wide band of the Duopole Driver is the key to its neutrality and overall coherence. I ramped up the pace a bit by trying some of Sinatra's "The lady is a Tramp" from 57-In concert [DCC UCDCC 101, 44.1kHz/16-bit). The room widened and Frank was dropping his tacky one-liners. The orchestra was deep and wide, with stage extending well beyond the speakers' boarders. More set back than forward, I felt mid audience with the stage just above. Frank's voice hung in the air at the proper height and the instruments each occupied their own space with the identifiable distance between them. They were social distancing and didn't even know it. At first, I was concerned these refined monochromatic beauties wouldn't be able to rock, but David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars [Rhino/Parlophone B0106UFG1G, 44.1KHz/16-bit] was a blast and showed the Evo 2's were more than willing to groove and jam. Then I threw down Infected Mushroom's "Becoming Insane" from Vicious Delicious [MOON Records B015NKJ9NU 44.1kHz/16-bit] and was blown away at the abuse these speakers could take, and not lose their magic mojo.

 

AudioNec Evo #2 Loudspeakers Review

 

Conclusion
When offered the opportunity to review something my internal excito'meter drifts into one of four categories ranging from, "OK, for the good of the publication," to "Are you F'in kidding me? I get to review that?!?" I will openly admit that I liked these speakers before I heard them. I would guess they are visually polarizing, but find them aesthetically to be quite purpose-built and are the best-executed version of what they are. Their neutrality, their sense of realism and refinement, their looks, and their wonderful dynamic scale set these unique speakers apart from their competition. Within their price range, there is very stiff competition. These speakers will not be for everyone, and not for every amplifier. Yet if you put the time in to audition them, plus give time to adjust to their wonderful neutrality, and also match them to a system that plays to their unified sonic signature, only then will you be rewarded.

 

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

 

Specifications
Type: Modular floorstanding loudspeakers
Frequency Response: 18Hz to 45kHz
Impedance: 6 Ohms
Sensitivity: 91dB/W/m
Dimensions: 17.75" x 44.375" x 18.5" (WxHxD)"
Weight: 167 lbs.

EVO 2 
$33,125 for pair 
$38,125 for pre-wired

EVO 2 AS 
$36,250 for pair 
$41,250 for pre-wired

EVO 2 Signature 
$62,375 for pair 
$67,375 for pre-wired

Upgrades from Standard to Signature as from AS to Signature, on request.

All prices are for standard lacquer finish in all RAL colors, please consult us for all other finishes as piano lacquer, wood, leather, straw marquetry...

PW: Pre-wired version for possible upgrade.

 

 

Company Information
AudioNec
Voice: +33 (0)6 07 51 48 28
Website: www.audionec.com

 

 

North American Distributor
Destination Sound Group
527 Townline Road
Suite 302
Hauppauge, New York 11788

Voice: (917) 854-4471
Website: www.dsgdistro.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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