There is something
really elegant and attractive about simplicity. The Avalon Acoustics NP
Evolution 2.0 is a perfect example of this principle. To begin with, the
speaker is a two-way, rear-ported design. As a floor-stander, it features a pair of identical
5.25" Kevlar woofers and a ceramic composite tweeter.
Atypical for Avalon, the cabinet is a traditional rectangular
shape, featuring ruler-straight sides. The only available finish is cherry.
There is a single set of binding posts and the speaker's grilles should not
be removed, unless you want the speaker to sound worse. In its design alone,
this speaker avoids two of my major pet peeves.
To put it plainly,
speakers that can be bi-amplified/bi-wired cause anxiety because there is an
implication you are missing out if you don't bi-amplify or bi-wire. I do not have
two amps powering one speaker and I probably never will. To be honest, I do
not even want that choice, and I find it hard to believe that there does not
exist one stereo amp or one pair of monoblocks that cannot get the job done
for one pair of speakers.
Similarly, if shot-gunning
(bi-wiring) cables results in better sound for that
particular speaker (although I've never found that to be true), I want the
manufacturer to make that call. Unpack any new speaker that has four binding
posts and those posts are connected by jumpers. I'm sorry, but that's just
schizophrenic. The fact that the Avalon has only two binding posts is a
reason to love it. You don't have to think. You don't have to wonder if the
speaker would sound better bi-wired. You don't have to wonder if the tweeter
should be wired with silver cable and the mid/bass with copper. To not worry
about any of that really is a welcome relief.
Don't remove the grilles.
With most speakers,
the sound improves when the grilles are removed. Sometimes, the manufacturer
will even recommend as such in the manual. This always bugged me because I
guess it means that you should remove the grilles when you want to listen
and replace them when you are done listening. In my experience, however,
most speaker grilles would not stand up to this constant on/off. Even if
they could, at some point, laziness sets in and the grilles remain either on
all the time or off all the time.
The two realities then are grilles on and
worse sound or grilles off and drivers exposed to dust and touch. That's a
lousy choice to have to make just because you want your system to be
low maintenance and/or you are lazy. Avalon instructs that the NP Evolution
2.0 should be listened to with the grilles on - another choice taken away
and another reason to love this speaker.
Below is a photo of
the entire NP Evolution line.
fact that the only finish is cherry is not a per sè reason to love it, but
the finish on this speaker is reason to love it. I have never seen a better
finish on a pair of $2000 speakers. It is really stunning. They have
book-matched graining, which combined with the satin lacquer, makes for a
really attractive appearance.
The addition of stylishly notched grilles tells
the world that this is no budget item. Someone thought about the look of
this speaker and got it very right.
The Evolution 2.0s come with heavy
spikes and hooray again, the manual says they are not optional.
My review system
consisted of Revel F12 loudspeakers, a Qinpu A1.0x integrated amplifier, a
Lyngdorf SDAI 2175 semi-digital integrated amplifier, a Classé CDP-10 CD
player, a Denon DVD-910, Analysis Plus Oval 9 speaker cable, DH Labs Air
Matrix interconnects, a Rotel RLC-1040 power conditioner, and Shunyata
Research Diambondback AC cords on both the amplifier and CD player.
is 22' L x 15' W with 10' ceilings. The Avalons benefited considerably from
break-in. New, the speakers lacked both bass and three dimensionality.
Neither amplifier had any problems driving them.
Getz Au Go Go [Verve] illustrates very nicely
what the Evolutions can do. Even though this album is ostensibly a Stan Getz
album, the highlight has always been Astrud Gilberto's
singing. To say that the voice is scaled correctly and placed properly
really understates how masterfully the Avalons handle this recording. It
doesn't just seem like you are in the audience, when "The Singing Song"
begins, it seems like it's 1964. I actually never remembered this album as
one of those magical "you are there" albums, even though it is supposedly
live. Something more is going on than just a good recording. The easiest way
to say it is that these speakers disappear more. As the album finishes, I
think to myself that they disappear better than any speaker I've ever owned
and any speaker that I can remember.
Pink Moon [Hannibal] was Nick Drake's last
album and is mostly just Nick's voice over his guitar. This album is about
as intimate as they come, but through the Avalons, it caught me off guard
just how intimate. Track five, "Horn," is about 80 seconds of really slow
guitar plucking. It's impossible for me to describe why, but it is just one
of the saddest things you will ever hear. There is no singing at all, but
somehow you feel something; it's uncomfortable, it's tragic, and it's
beautiful all at once. These speakers are great communicators. They remove
themselves and let the music pour forth.
Light and Magic [Emperor Norton] from Ladytron
is a recent album, but one which will very much remind you of 1980's synth-pop
acts such as New Order. What is interesting about Ladytron is that the band
really varies what they do with the human voice. The opening of track seven
"Cracked Lcd," left no doubt that the Avalons could lay down a convincing,
authoritative bass line when needed. While they were doing that though, they
also expertly hung the spoken-word title chant across the entire front
soundstage. The album's best song is track nine, "Evil." Listening to it way
too loud, I'm back at the concert a year ago - I'm outside and it's a cold
night in the Hollywood Hills. The night of the show followed a very long day
and I remember both how tired I was walking back to the car and how happy I
was that my girlfriend surprised me with tickets. I apologize if none of
this is making sense, but the standard-issue audiophile jargon is just
hopelessly inadequate to describe what these speakers evoke.
The Evolution 2.0s
can do wonderful things. They reach into the space around you and paint
details before your eyes. They do an amazing job of disappearing. The
impression they leave is to make you wonder where the sound is actually
It can be eerie. The Avalons hang layers of sound in front of
you, sure, but they stretch around you too. This is a speaker that never
gets flustered. Recorded sound is not yet complicated enough to make this
speaker even seem as if it is struggling. It worked its way through
everything, be it movie, video game effect, or complex musical passage.
Everything seemed alive. If you have forgotten or never known what I mean,
the Avalons will take your breath away.
My recommendation for
the Avalon Acoustics NP Evolution 2.0 is unequivocal. These speakers offer
their owners a
sanctuary from all that is overly hyped, overly complicated, and overly
disappointing in the current state of the audiophile world. They are simply, completely,
and assuredly my new reference.
- Michael Galvin -