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What stood out first were classical recordings. Here almost all speakers have problems. Some pronounce their issues, others disguise them better but in general almost all speakers tend to get confused between showing detail and presenting the whole simultaneously. Instead they focus on one or the other. Like the HE-6, the Zero 1 Pro was capable of multi-tasking. Its sound was detailed and coherent to keep track of the big picture and the nuances. If we want we may zoom our attention on any instrument, artist or ensemble. If don’t we can zoom out and listen to the whole orchestra instead. This came into play intensely with the Prologue from Also Sprach Zarathustra. The opening's low rumble didn't clump together because it was conveyed as consisting of a variety of sub components. Yet this was only audible when I focused my attention on the details. I remember Damian Lipinski responsible for the Savage CD remasters talk about how surprised he was that each instrument on this recording is actually a construct of routinely a dozen layered tracks. A simple snare is actually composed of a dozen separate strokes. This becomes only audible over a good audio system whose sound is rich and multi-layered.

On a poor system it remains a strange sounding snare. The Avantgarde coped with this very well. The milieu on the symphonic Also… was quiet when the double basses closed it out but during each massed forte, everything developed rocket-like instant and scaled very loud very fast. This level of dynamic reflexes and selectivity cannot be faked. Only stage systems and large active studio speakers are capable of it. No wonder Armin likes to play Rammstein. But it's not only these dynamics and the excellent selectivity which surprise us in their unusual combination. They actually don't function as party tricks but as foundation for coherence. The company lit talks much about the near perfect phase behaviour of their D/A converters and these digital crossovers really must be excellent at least in theory. I admit that I probably never heard any digitally filtered speaker sound like the Zero 1. It’s not a perfect design nor is it aspiring to be for all I know. But we do get everything its maker promised us before the sale. The time coherence I mentioned translates into a most tangible sound.

The lower midrange seems almost warm. The speakers themselves don't sound warm at all, quite the contrary in fact (more about this soon) though they could appear so. That illusion is caused by their lack of irritating components and the elimination of some sort of sonic 'wobble'. Classic speakers usually conceal it because their sound is too slow to begin with. The Zero 1 Pro's impulse response must be incredible because we hardly perceive the attacks. They simply are. Electrostatic speakers which would seem equally fast very often emphasize and harden the attack. Classic speakers tend to blunt it. With either form of manipulation (too sharp, too round) attacks are heard as discrete entities. The Avantgarde meanwhile shifts our attention elsewhere and on a full-bodied sound.

But even that felt differently than I am used to. The sonic projection of the Zero 1 Pro occurred on and in front of the speaker line in supremely vivid tangible fashion. Soundstage depth was only slightly suggested however. That's partly why everything seemed so fleshy. But the real ride begins when one grasps how really everything is revealed. Selectivity after all describes how sonically disparate elements like instruments, human voices and acoustic traits of even various parts of larger instruments are separated from each other and how exactly their differences are shown. Though the Zero's resolution was no better than passive competitors in the same price range, its creation of vividness was special by not rounding over transients, attenuating the treble or obscuring detail.

Any of those common tricks can enhance vividness but each irreparably distorts the sound as well. The Zero simply was immediate. Its speed was a key factor of presenting an orderly universe where sounds simply showed up rather than slowly emerged into the present moment. Yet there was no worship at the altar of undue urgency, sharpness or aggression. Everything simply dovetailed. Instruments, sounds and layers didn't conflict but exhibited some synchronized 'inner communication'. This I hadn't previously heard from any Avantgarde – or far that matter much elsewhere.

On dynamics, speed, bandwidth, selectivity and soundstaging, the Zero was similar to the Uno Fino as one of this house's better speakers in my opinion. On the other hand it also resembled my all-time favorite but no longer manufactured Avantgarde (the Uno Picco) with its coherent sorting that felt like a grid with a nice superimposed finish. What I wrote earlier however remains unique to this model. Of course we remember that on price it's the entry-level to Avantgarde's universe. Once we do the math—fully active 3-ways with 2 x class A and 1 x class D amps per side, a stereo DAC and electronic crossover—there's no use to expect an overall sound quality that's fully the equal of costlier Avantgardes with their active bass systems but still the need for a separate power amp, preamp and DAC. What then is the price to pay here?