Product Review - Castle Avon Floorstanding Speakers - September, 1997

J.E. Johnson, Jr.


Castle Avon Speakers - Click for large image
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Castle Avon Floorstanding Speakers; Two-way design; One 6 1/2" woven carbon fiber woofer; One 1" cloth dome tweeter; Vented box design; Ported on bottom of enclosure; Cloth grille; Frequency response 45 - 20 kHz; Sensitivity 87 dB/w/m; Nominal impedance 8 Ohms; Power handling 150 w rms/ch; Bi-wirable; Size 34"H x 8 1/2"W x 10 1/2"D; Weight 44 pounds each; Yew Wood or Rosewood veneer: $1,999/pair; Also available in Cherry, Mahogany, Ash, Oak, and Walnut ($1,799/pair); USA Distributor: Audiophile Systems LTD, 8709 Castle Park Drive, Indianapolis, Indiana 46256; Phone 317-849-7103; Fax 317-841-4107; E-Mail [email protected]; Europe: Castle Acoustics, Ltd., Park Mill, Shortbank Road, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 2TT ENGLAND; Phone +44 (0)1756 795333; Fax +44 (0)1756 795335.

I'll make a confession here. I like old furniture, and one of my favorite woods is the English Yew. It was used by the English to make longbows, you know, Robin Hood and all that stuff. Yew is extremely hard, and it is full of knot holes. As a result, you don't often see it as a speaker veneer, because it is a nightmare to work with. However, it makes fine furniture, and I have a set of six Yew dining room chairs that are at least 100 years old. I stopped by the Castle exhibit at the 1997 CES in Las Vegas, and was immediately taken by the tight sound being demonstrated there, and also by the Yew veneer. So, I requested a pair of Castle Avons, which are about the right size for stereo listening, and also have potential for home theater. The Avons came in Yew as I wanted, and they are something to behold (see photo). They are finished on all sides, and even the corners are superbly crafted. No glue marks, no MDF peeking through anywhere, and the semi-gloss finish gives the wood a "fireside listening" kind of look and feel. (Castle makes all their enclosures, including the veneering, in-house.) The grilles are curved, which exposes all the more of the veneer. Each grille is a mirror image of the other, so you can "shape" the look of the sound stage. The 6 1/2" woofer is at the top, with the tweeter underneath, slightly off-center, which is engineeringly stylish. The port is at the bottom of the enclosure which is suspended all the way around so that the bass from the port escapes in a 3600 pattern. I liked them best about 2 feet out from the wall.

I tested the Avons with several systems, including the McCormack CD system, Balanced Audio VK-5i preamp, and LLano monoblocks. We also set them up with a home theater system, using the Yamaha RX-V990 receiver, Carver AV-705 power amplifier, and M&K LCR speakers for the center and rear. We connected just about every type of cable we have. The receiver appeared to drive the Avons nicely even without additional power amps (i.e., using the on-board power amps that come with the receiver).

The tonality of the Avons consisted of a neutral high end, slightly laid back vocal mid-range, and extremely tight bass. The frequency (room) response tests, shown below, confirm what I heard (nice when it works out that way). It surprised me that they flowed so well with the M&K center speaker. I expected there to be a change in tonality as sounds moved across the front from one side to the other. It still is a general rule to stay with the same brand of speakers for the front left/center/right, but sometimes the speakers are close enough that it works out with two brands. However, the M&K are also very tight, so maybe that is one of the contributing reasons for the match.

Although the Avons are not highly sensitive, they are 8 Ohms nominal, so that is why they worked so well with the Yamaha receiver's amplifiers (100 w rms/ch into 8 Ohms for the front left/right). I found myself thinking that these would be good speakers to use with tube amplifiers having a big mid-range. The bass was lacking though. Tight, yes, but not much output, except at the 13 foot measurements, which can include artifacts. On the other hand, this translated to very low harmonic output. It was one of those situations where I had to look close to see if the driver was moving when input with low frequency sine waves. In any case, a subwoofer is really necessary with these speakers for use in home theaters, and with stereo music listening. There are lots of musical instruments that go down into the 40s. A piano's lowest key has around 28 Hz fundamental.

Frequency Response (Room Response), left channel only, 1 meter, on-axis, grille cloth off, volume set to 80 dB at 1 kHz :

20 Hz - 56.3 dB
25 Hz - 57.4 dB
31.5 Hz - 63.1 dB
40 Hz - 68.0 dB
50 Hz - 78.2 dB
63 Hz - 81.5 dB
80 Hz - 73.8 dB
100 Hz - 81.6 dB
125 Hz - 72.8 dB
160 Hz - 69.7 dB
200 Hz - 69.2 dB
500 Hz - 72.0 dB
800 Hz - 78.3 dB
1 kHz - 80.1 dB
2.5 kHz - 79.4 dB
5 kHz - 80.8 dB
8 kHz - 79.0 dB
10 kHz - 78.5 dB
12.5 kHz - 82.4 dB
15 kHz - 78.6 dB
18 kHz - 75.1 dB

Frequency Response (Room Response), left channel only, 13 feet, on-axis, grille cloth off, volume set to 80 dB at 1 kHz :

20 Hz - 74.9 dB
25 Hz - 80.0 dB
31.5 Hz - 88.5 dB
40 Hz - 80.2 dB
50 Hz - 62.6 dB
63 Hz - 84.1 dB
80 Hz - 88.2 dB
100 Hz - 86.6 dB
125 Hz - 84.1 dB
160 Hz - 82.7 dB
200 Hz - 94.5 dB
500 Hz - 82.9 dB
800 Hz - 92.9 dB
1 kHz - 79.4 dB
2.5 kHz - 77.4 dB
5 kHz - 82.8 dB
8 kHz - 81.2 dB
10 kHz - 86.8 dB
12.5 kHz - 79.9 dB
15 kHz - 83.7 dB
18 kHz - 81.7 dB

In summary, the Castle Avons were as beautiful as I expected. If you like fine wood veneers, you really have to see these. Their general tonality is neutral, but not enough bass punch. This is easily remedied with a subwoofer. Have a listen if you get the chance. I liked them enough to place them in our new Seattle office on a permanent basis. They seem to work well with just about any type of sound or music that we put through them, and I guess we will be using them for general all-rounders for some time to come.

J.E. Johnson, Jr.

Copyright 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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