Avalon Acoustics were the first speaker brand I dealt with when I started my Audio Therapy journey in 2017 and it’s a brand who my admiration and love for has grown immensely over that time. Avalon are renowned for creating a pin sharp incredibly immersive soundstage and wonderful 3D holographics, they have always been an alluring and captivating listen and they have really drawn me in with their abilities, few other speaker brands can live up to what an properly set up Avalon can accomplish as many of my customers will testify. I don’t carry a lot of brands and I can afford to be incredibly fussy and idealistic over what I do. You will not find any flavours of the month in my portfolio, just solid established brands who are small in scale compared to some, but they are all companies who put all their time and money into R&D and product development, not clever marketing or slick expensive websites.
Avalon’s entry level loudspeaker is the Idea mk2. It’s a fairly compact floorstander priced at £11,700 a pair and are a perfect fit for the typical modestly sized UK living room and although it is Avalon’s ‘starting-point’ it offers an incredible amount of performance and it will happily go toe to toe with other speakers costing more money and speakers that are physically much more imposing. The Idea has been very popular here at Audio Therapy and is the speaker I have sold the most of over the past 3 years so I know it inside out and back to front.
Avalon released a new range of loudspeakers a little over a year ago with the PM range, PM stands for “Precision Monitor”, there are 4 models within this range and the starting point is the PM1. Priced at £17,500 a pair the PM1 are a little larger than the Idea, but not dramatically so (they are 94cm tall and weigh in at 34kg each), still perfectly sized for the typical UK room. The PM1 has the classic Avalon faceting at both the top and bottom of the cabinet, (compared to just the top on the Idea), this isn’t just a visual design feature but is specifically to help reduce cabinet baffle refractions, side wall reflections and it contributes more than people realise to giving any Avalon speaker its voice.
The PM1 possesses all of the wonderful traits that Avalon have become renowned for the world over, when compared to the Idea the PM1 offers greater dynamics, more transparency, weight and precision. In front of a good system it’s a sizeable step forward in performance in every area. They are an even bigger leap forward over the original mk1 Idea and the older again Ascendent.
One of the first things that hits you with the PM1 is the tone and the overall balance of the presentation, it is incredibly even-handed. The treble never shouts at you or pins you to your seat, the bass is clean, tight, extended and wonderfully textured and it never swamps or masks the message the music is trying to convey. The actual cabinet itself is inaudible and it simply disappears into the room which is another great Avalon feature. Coupled with their fantastic imaging and spatial awareness the PM1 really lets you hear the ambience from room or studio where the music was recorded and it really is quite something when you experience it.
All Avalon speakers are perfectly time coherent and linear and this combined with their incredible imaging is for where they really excel and it contributes massively to their overall presentation and how they rise up above so many other speaker brands. It may sound cliched but they let you focus on the music and the performers so you can really hear how they play together, spatial cues and all, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers and Billy Cobb rarely sound this together and at the top of their game on Kind of Blue as they do on a pair of PM1.
Compared to the older Ascendent, Idea and even the Transcendent the PM1 are definitely more open and transparent, but they never sound forced or contrived in the way they present themselves, they are endlessly detailed but with incredible subtlety and an uncanny ability to pull out so much nuance from music you think you know inside out!
Anyone who knows me and reads my blogs/follows me on social media will know I’m all about lowering the noise floor, the devil is in the detail and by paying attention to removing noise in any system with the right cables, mains, isolation and grounding the benefits can be substantial. Avalon are certainly deserving of a top flight system to hear them anywhere close to their best. I have customers using VTL, Alluxity, Krell, Luxman and Burmester to name but a few. There is an incredible natural synergy with Avalon and Vitus as well which is very well trodden and proven ground.
Ultimately with a speaker as transparent as the PM1 the better the system behind it the better the end result will be. Starting with a Melco N100, Gold Note DS10 DAC, Power Supply and a pair of PA-10 amplifiers the PM1 sound fantastic, wonderfully musical and engaging, but switch the amplification to an Alluxity Int One for example and everything in the system steps up a gear and the PM1 responds brilliantly as a result.
Move over to a Vitus RI-101 mk2 and a Melco N1ZH and it’s another big step forward, there are greater levels of transparency, openness and a more visceral sense to the presentation, yet it never sounds forced or artificial, it’s a sound I could personally live with all day long. Given the price point of the RI-101 and the PM1 it is this combination which s likely to be most popular and they simply sound magical together.
An SIA-025 with an RD-101 or SD-25 DAC with an N1ZS is better again but the SIA-025 does take the presentation in a slightly different direction. It has all the detail anyone could ever wish for, but it’s more organic and rounded compared to an RI-101 with additional weight and texture, but a little less transparent perhaps, but no less enjoyable as a result.
Switch up to an SIA-030 and you don’t move the goalposts, but change the sport! It essentially gives you best aspects of both previous amplifiers but with the dial turned up to 11. Every aspect of the system dramatically improved, it became more lifelike, more vivid with an incredibly huge soundstage (wide, tall and deep) with holographics that really need to be heard to be believed.
Anyone who has heard the SIA-030 will know how quiet it is and coupled with the PM1 and a well configured system – it’s a match made in heaven! Although at this level of amplification there would certainly be benefits to step up to the PM1’s bigger brother, the PM2 which is priced at £34,500.
Ultimately there are very few speakers that perform like an Avalon, the cohesion, the lack of cabinet noise/cabinet influence, their even handed tonal balance and completely natural presentation with absolutely zero aggression and fatigue. Once they get under your skin they are very difficult to move away from!
Of course, I appreciate every one is different and has different tastes/likes – which is why Avalon is not the speaker brand I deal with! I also keep the Vimberg Mino on permanent demonstration as well, these are priced right in-between the PM1 and PM2 and are an equally brilliant world class loudspeaker but one with a different presentation to the Avalon. They offer a level of clarity and purity that many speaker brands simply cannot get close to achieving they have a greater level of weight compared to the PM1. For those in smaller spaces there is also the outstanding Vimberg Amea stand mount as well. With Avalon Acoustics and Vimberg I have 2 of the very finest speaker brands available in the world today.
Of course that’s not to forget out friends from down under as well, we also have the superb Mu2 and Mu2 SE from our Serhan + Swift. A totally different proposition and speaker to Avalon and Vimberg as they a very compact stand-mount, but one that performs to an equally high standard. For those in a smaller space or lower budget the Mu2 SE is a truly outstanding speaker and a viable option that will easily outperform other more established speaker brands.
Obviously whilst under lockdown home demonstrations are not possible, but if you are looking to upgrade your speakers and take your system to a whole new level please get in touch for a chat, I’m sure something can be organised some normality returns to all our lives.