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Avalon Acoustics NP Evolution 2.0 Floor-Standing Speakers

November, 2007

Michael Galvin

 

Specifications:

● Design: Two-Way, Rear Ported
● Drivers: One 1" Dome Tweeter,
   Two 5.25" Mid/Woofers
● MFR: 36 Hz - 22 kHz
● Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
● Sensitivity: 90 dB
● Remote Control Included
● Dimensions: 35" H x 7.5" W x
   12" D
● Weight: 43 Pounds/Each
● MSRP: $1,995/Pair USA

Avalon Acoustics

Introduction

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.

The fact that the only finish is cherry is not a per s 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 Class 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.

My room 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.

In Use

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 coming from.

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.

Conclusions

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 -

Copyright 2007 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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