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Technology clearly defines the Zero 1. But just as important are setup and interface friendliness to respect the time and frustration potential of end users who don't mean to futz and tweak but listen to music. Whilst these speakers from Holger Fromme's company are one of the technically most complex extant and a complete system, they're at the same time the very easiest to use and essentially maintenance free. You pay money for that but in life nothing good is ever free.
Here technology and user friendliness are core features but the likely make-or-break element is the industrial design. Hornspeakers are characterized by large horn mouths which Avantgarde offer in spherical form in all sizes and colours. These types of horns dominate any room's interior. With the Zero 1 meanwhile the horns literally don't stand out as they've instead been 'imprinted' negatively into the baffles to share a unified vertical plane with the woofer. Classic Avantgarde models rely on mechanical time alignment by mounting their drivers with physical offsets. The Zero 1 manages this alignment in DSP. Magnetized grills of ABS polymer hide the woofers and the speaker itself tilts back a few degrees on its rigid chrome-bar stands. To put it plain, Avantgarde's latest creation looks amazing!

Samples of music used during this review:
CDs - Jesteś Bogiem, soundtrack, Magic Records 3719533, CD (2012); Mission, Cecilia Bartoli, Decca/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UCCD-9885, SHM-CD + DVD (2012); Vivaldi con moto, Carmignola, Academia Bizantina, Dantone, Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv Produktion/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UCCA-1099, SHM-CD (2013); Alan Parsons Project, I Robot, Arista/Sony Music Japan SICP 30168, Legacy Edition, 2 x BSCD2 (1977/2013); Antonio Caldara, Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo, René Jacobs, Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Harmonia Mundi France HMC 905222, 2 x CD (1996/2002); Black Sabbath, 13, Vertigo/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UICN-1034/5, 2 x SHM-CD (2013); Depeche Mode, Enjoy The Music...04, Mute XLCDBONG34, maxi SP (2004); Enya, Enya, BBC Entertainment BBC CD 605, CD (1987); Nat 'King' Cole, Welcome to the Club, Columbia/Audio Fidelity AFZ 153, SACD/CD (1959/2013)...
...Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Atlantic Records/ORG Music ORGM-1081, SACD/CD (1959/2013); Richard Strauss, Also sprach Zarathustra, Zubin Mehta, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Decca/Lasting Impression Music LIM K2HD 035, K2HD CD (1968/2008); Siekiera, "Nowa Aleksandria", Tonpress/MTJ cd 90241, 2 x CD (1986/2012). Files - SATRI Reference Recordings Vol. 2, Bakoon Products, FLAC 24/192; Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC, NaimLabel; Dead Can Dance, Anastasis, Entertainment Group, PIASR311CDX, Special Edition Hardbound Box Set, CD+USB drive 24/44.1 WAV (2012); Depeche Mode, Black Celebration, Mute DMCD5, Collectors Edition, WAV 24/48 (1986/2007); Depeche Mode, Delta Machine, Columbia Records/Sony Music Japan SICP-3783-4, FLAC 24/44,1, HDTracks (2013); Miles Davis, Tutu, Warner Brothers Records, FLAC 24/96, HDTracks; Nagrania z płyt DVD-R pisma "Net Audio"; Persy Grainger, Lincolnshire Posy, Dallas Wind Symphony, Jerry Junkin, Reference Recordings, HR-117, HRx, 24/176.4 WAV, DVD-R (2009); Yes, Close to the Edge, Warner Music, FLAC 24/192,HDTracks (1972/2007).

From the owner's manual, "the Avantgarde Acoustic loudspeakers communicate with each other via a radio link. They only need to be hooked up to the mains with the digital input of the master loudspeaker connected to the music signal (e.g. via AirPort Express). That's it." How true. Even though manufacturers of advanced digital equipment invariably claim 'user-friendly smooth' operation, that's nearly always more wishful thinking than fact. In practice the number of steps required to get sound from a machine being at all related to computers and modern digital sources seems to grow exponentially with new features. Here a legacy CD or SACD player turns into a symbol of ease and reliability. Even a PhD in computer sciences won't guarantee straight sound after unpacking a PC audio source and most any setup change will almost certainly require a new installation process. That's one of the reasons why I think of computers as both valuable and bothersome sources. They lack a 'play' button and all too often force me to great lengths to produce any sound whatsoever. What a waste of time.

By contrast these Avantgardes really are plug 'n' play. Within the first ten minutes I managed to have them unpacked and set up. Their positioning didn't take too long either and they actually sounded best in the same spot once taken up by the Uno Fino and earlier Uno Picco. Just insure that the tweeter aims directly at your ears and that tilt-back increases the closer you sit. Connecting the power cords and source took another five to ten minutes. In my case the sources were an Ancient Audio CD deck with Philips CD Pro-2 drive and my PC with a USB connection. The Zero 1's USB input is limited to 16/48 signal to require no driver. All other inputs digest 24/192. All in all it should take about 30 minutes from unpacking to uncorking a bottle of wine to accompany your first session.

Here we immediately recognize the Avantgarde sound. It's hard to mistake for anything else. This sound is extremely dynamic. The Germans have accustomed us to their signature trait with prior exposure to no longer seem shocking. The problem invariably arises when we switch back to classic designs. Those will now seem slow and sluggish by contrast. Only magnetostats and certain electrostats combine similar speed and tonality as the Zero 1 – and of course all its stable mates. The longer I listened, the better I profiled my music choices and the more distinct became the similarity to my playlist for HiFiMan's HE-6 magnetostatic headphones.