It’s been four years since we last listened to Audio Physic’s long-running Avanti floorstanders. Back then, we liked what we heard. Their unusually clean and articulate sound impressed us, though we wished they offered a bit more verve to go with their informative nature.
So here we are with the new version, built to celebrate the German speaker specialist’s 35th anniversary. On the surface, at least, little seems to have changed; these remain slim, classy and beautifully made towers packed with clever engineering. The only obvious cloud on the horizon is an increase in price of almost a third since 2016, which means the bar is set even higher.
The two drive units mounted on each of the front panels suggest that this is a two-way design, but delve a little deeper and, as in the previous generation, you’ll find a dedicated woofer hidden inside that immaculately constructed cabinet. The Avanti 35 sport a new 20cm paper cone design and a revised crossover to cope.
Unusually, this large unit fires down through the enclosure’s base. The speaker’s bottom panel is made of ceramic foam rather than solid wood, too. This foam is claimed to be considerably stiffer than MDF, but importantly it’s porous, allowing bass sounds to pass through.
Max power 30-180W
Impedance 4 ohms
Frequency range 31Hz - 40kHz
Dimensions (hwd) 109 x 17 x 29cm
The midrange remains a 15cm aluminium-coned unit, but now there’s a clever double chassis that helps to decouple the driver’s moving parts from the cabinet. The idea behind that is to minimise the amount of mechanical energy being fed into the enclosure, reducing any unwanted resonances.
What looks like a conventional dome tweeter turns out to be a 39mm aluminium cone. A cone tweeter is a rare thing, but it’s obviously something the company believes in because it’s a feature that has carried over from the last generation of Avanti without much fettling. Once again, resonance control is a high priority.
Look inside the cabinet and it’s hard not to be impressed. Each of the three drive units has its own compartment and they’re all linked to the new single-wired crossover network with good quality cables from Audioquest.
All that internal partitioning helps to brace the Avanti’s box, and more of that fancy ceramic foam has been applied to certain panels to help with rigidity and damping. Even the outer panels are far more intricate than appearances suggest, with layered MDF lined with glass and damping material on our review sample.
The idea is to create a rigid, well-damped and controlled enclosure that gives a good foundation for the drive units to work from. The only sound the engineers want you to hear is from the drivers, and you can see this philosophy implemented in every part of the Avanti 35’s design.
That unusual glass finish is used on every exposed side, bar the back panel, and available in no fewer than six colours: white, black, silver-grey, anthracite, pearl white and red. Apart from white and black, all the other colours add around a six per cent premium on the speaker price we’ve quoted at the top of this review.
We think the glass looks great, but if it doesn’t appeal Audio Physic also makes the Avanti 35 in more traditional walnut and ebony options for £6066 (AU$12,500). High gloss ebony or rosewood finishes are available too, but these also attract a premium.
Any speaker at this level positively demands a top-class system. We use our usual reference sources – the Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer and Technic SL-1000R record player – with Burmester’s excellent 088/911 Mk3 providing the amplification. We also give Naim’s talented SuperNait 3 a try to see how the speakers cope with more modest electronics.
One of the main strengths of the Avanti’s unusual bass driver arrangement is that it should make the floorstanders less fussy about room placement, as it fires down towards the floor. That rang true with the last generation, but with the new 35 we have to play around more than usual with placement to get a balanced presentation.
In the end, we have them well over a metre out from the rear wall and almost as far from the sides. We set them up with a touch of angle towards the listening position so that the speakers cross just behind our heads and produce a solid and well-defined sound stage.
We listen to Shostakovich’s Symphony No.8 and are impressed with the stereo image’s expansive and focused nature. Sounds are locked into place and remain stable no matter how demanding the music gets. The Avanti’s sonic presentation extends well beyond the position of the speaker cabinets, which speaks well of the cabinet construction, the driver dispersion characteristics and the seamless crossover calibration.
The 35’s detail levels are high and all that information is presented in an exceptionally clean and forthright manner – much like the last generation model but to an even higher level. There’s no sense of blurred edges here, with each note drawn with an unambiguous precision. These speakers are great at taking apart a recording and presenting it for inspection.
They may be relatively slim, but there’s a good dose of muscularity from that hidden bass unit. The lows are agile and punchy, matching the higher frequencies for responsiveness.
But for all the Avanti’s obsessive engineering and obvious sonic talents, we’re not totally convinced. Tonally, they’re lean and taut, though they avoid any charge of thinness. This balance aids their unerring grip when tracking instrumental strands, but also makes them fussy about partnering equipment and recording quality.
We’re all for transparency, but here it feels like the speakers overreact to any shortcomings upstream and highlight them in a ruthless way, particularly when it comes to any hint of higher frequency harshness or aggression. This is something to note if you listen to music because you love it, rather than for the quality of its recording.
We move to Everything Is Love by The Carters and like the way these towers make it easy to follow any particular instrumental strand. The 35’s midrange is as crisp as they get, but it’s also a little sterile and lacking in nuance. Beyoncé’s voice is usually a thing of power and beauty, but here it comes across as aloof and fails to draw us into the music.
Perhaps just as damaging is a lack of overall cohesion. These floorstanders can open up a recording for inspection, but then fail to tie it all together to make a musically cohesive whole. The interplay between instruments isn’t as obvious as we’d like and the ability to communicate shifts of rhythmic momentum suffers. We think it also affects the Avanti 35’s ability to convey dynamic contrasts with the conviction needed at this price level.
Cost is certainly a big factor in our criticism. Looking back on our review of the last-generation model, we mention weaknesses in terms of rhythmic communication and dynamic expression, but on balance thought the speakers recommendable for an audition at their price.
At a third of the cost more, we don’t think the 35’s sonic gains are enough. They certainly haven’t resulted in a more balanced sounding product. While the new Avanti remain superbly made and cleverly engineered, somewhere along the line they’ve become more about information rather than music. And that’s something we struggle to get behind.
- Sound 3
- Compatibility 3
- Build 5
Read our guide to the best floorstanding speakers
Read our ATC SCM40 review