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This review first appeared in the August 2011 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Audio Physic Avantera in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Audio Physic - Ed.

: Markus Sauer
Sources: Digital - Heed Obelisk DT CD-transport with Heed Obelisk D/A converter
Preamplifier: Tom Evans The Vibe+ with Pulse PSU
Power amp: Jeff Rowland 102, Symasym
Integrated amp: Octave V70SE
Loudspeakers: JBL LSR 6332, Magnat 1005
Review component retail: Starting at €12.990/pr

No black ‘n’ white. The new Audio Physic Avantera is the formal successor of the popular Avanti and occupies the catalogue’s number two spot between the Cardeas flagship and the Virgo 25. While these models share certain core technologies, they are distinctive and hierarchical otherwise. The Virgo has one midrange, the Avantera two, the Cardeas three. The Virgo runs two woofers with 17cm basket and 13cm active diameters, the Avantera gets four whilst the Cardeas breaks the mold with an active unit of 27cm basket diameter which is augmented by a passive radiator. With ascending authority and ability to load larger spaces, one assumes that these speakers share fundamental qualities. Having listened to the Virgo 25 for six months I’m not merely presuming that where it and the Avantera are concerned. Expect a few comparative comments.

A cone tweeter? Absolutely. All Avantera drivers are Audio Physic designs fabricated by China’s Wavecor and all rely on aluminium diaphragms. The HHCT II tweeter was first pioneered in the Cardeas and here appears in its second generation. The membrane isn’t a dome but cone. The latter’s lookalike is really the central dust cap. The actual cone surface is the surrounding ring that's centered by a cloth spider. Cone tweeters are presently enjoying a small comeback. As first introduced in 1958 by the Acoustic Research Model 3, the dome tweeter dominated hifi for decades. At least marketing claimed that domes offered superior off-axis response. Not necessarily. A cone too is a pistonic system which displaces air primarily in the main direction. Hemispherical radiation would require pulsation, i.e. lateral expansion. Audax experimented in that direction only with limited success. With proper geometry a cone can approximate off-axis dome behavior and depending on the beaming of the partnered midrange it can actually be advantageous if the tweeter operates with more controlled dispersion at the crossover frequency. This better linearizes the in-room power response.

The true reason for domes' popularity is the relative ease whereby they are fabricated with low mass and concomitant wide bandwidth. Cones tend to require a larger surface and with it heavier membranes. Vintage cone tweeters also tended to narrow voice coils of about 12mm in diameter. This made for poor thermal exchange and poor power handling which with old valve amps wasn’t an issue. That the victory lap of the dome tweeter would have been accompanied by transistor amps of far higher power was likely no coincidence.

Modern technology now should undermine the old limitations of yesteryear's cone tweeters. Audio Physic’s chief designer Manfred Diestertich prefers the cone for its drive principle. A dome is driven from where it is mounted, i.e. it is simultaneously damped. With a cone the drive and centering are discrete. They can thus be optimized independently. He believes that his cone passes more micro detail than even a superior dome tweeter. With its 39mm diameter the HHCT II certainly present a relatively large surface which probably benefits power handling too. Needless to say the matching HHCM midrange is also a cone. Its aluminium diaphragm is damped by its rubber suspension to prevent ringing and to sidestep the usual pass-band resonances which competing drivers must often address with notch filters and similar dynamic limiters.

The outer basket here is metal, the inner a composite. This combination is said to undermine vibrational cross talk between driver and enclosure. The doubling up of midranges creates superior room coupling and halves excursion requirements. This leads to superior dynamics and reduced distortion. The midrange units are loaded into their own chamber to be isolated from the action of the captured woofer rear waves. Each midrange gets its very own but otherwise identical 12dB/octave high and low pass filter. That the lower driver still rolls off sooner is based on its double-wound voice coil which increases mass and induction. Those effects are added to the electrical filter slopes.