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Reviewers: Marja & Henk
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: CEC TL5100, Audio Note tube DAC; Philips DVP 5500S SACD/DVD player
Preamp/integrated: TacT RCS 2.0 room control system, modified Audio Note Meishu with WE 300B (or AVVT, JJ, KR Audio 300B output tubes); Trends Audio TA-10; Qables iQube; RSA Predator
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Avantgarde Acoustic Solo in HT 2.0 setting; Audio Note AN/Jsp silver-wired; Podium Sound Podium 1 [on loan]; Duevel Planets [in for review]
Cables: Audio Note AN/Vx interconnects; Siltech Paris interconnects; Gizmo silver interconnect; Qunex 75 reference interconnect; Crystal Cable CrystalConnect Reference interconnect, CrystalDigit S/PDIF RCA/RCA and RCA/BNC, Y-cable, Crystal Cable Piccolo iPod to XLR, CrystalPower Reference AC-Eur/IEC CrystalSpeak Reference; Audio Note AN-L; Gizmo silver LS cable. Nanotec Golden Strada #79 nano 3; Nanotec Golden Strada #79; Nanotec Golden Strada #201 nano3; LessLoss DFPC [in for review]
Power line conditioning: Omtec PowerControllers; PS Audio P1000
Equipment racks: Two double sets of Solid Tech Radius; Acoustic System amplifier shelf
Sundry accessories: IAR carbon CD damper; Boston Audio graphite CD damper, Denson demagnetizer CD; Furutech DeMag; Nanotec Nespa #1; Machina Dynamica Magic Box; TacT RCS calibrated microphone and software; Exact Audio Copy software; Compaq server w/Windows Server 2003 and XP; iPod; wood, brass and aluminum cones and pyramids; Xitel surround processor; Manley Skipjack; ASI TopLine; Boston Audio Design TuneBlocks
Room treatment: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, Diffusers and Sugar Cubes; Gizmo's Harley Davidson cap
Room size: ca. 8.0 x 4.70m with open extension to a 2.20 x 2.40m A/V bay and open kitchen. Ceiling height is 2.50m, reinforced concrete walls of 45cm, reinforced concrete floors and roof of 30cm. Room has on one side a large glass bay.
Discussed component retail: €1990/ea.

Today we report on our visit with Ad and his son Victor in their spacious Audioart Maarssen factory in Holland. Van Medevoort is Audioart's brand name for its line of consumer audio electronics, not surprising once you know that Ad Van Medevoort is both the designer and owner. With his parents operating a few musical instruments shops, Ad grew up amidst real instruments and though he was frequently found building radios from an early age on, it was the advent of the Hammond organ in his parents' shop that really lit Ad's fires. Henceforth fully into all technical aspects of music reproduction, he went through several schools and subsequent training to pursue knowledge in the field.

Until 1985, Ad held jobs with various Dutch audio distributors and dealers where much of his time was spent upgrading equipment. With (in his view) simple adjustments or parts replacements for others sounding better, he learned how much could be gained from audio circuits in sound quality. Though it was April 1, that day in 1985 was very serious for Ad because he launched his own Audioart enterprise. The main reason for turning entrepreneur was an electrostatic speaker which he had developed during his spare time. In Ad's view only an electrostatic loudspeaker is capable of reproducing music in a natural way. The sound propagates on the line source principle and he believes that its speed and transparency in the mid and high-frequency ranges can never be matched by a dynamic transducer. Another big advantage is the absence of a crossover filter in the presence region. However, a full-range electrostat lacks speed and dynamics in the bass. Hence Audioart developed the vM EE/EB system which combined an electrostatic mid/treble panel with a sealed dynamic bass system. By mirroring the woofers in their sealed enclosure, Audioart addressed unwanted resonances and compression.

Before launching the vM EE/EB system, Audioart had waited until their dealer network had grown to 50 strong. Then the vM CD 2.5 dynamic speaker arrived. Those were the days of hifi enthusiasm. Today, Audioart has some 30 dealers. That says more about the market than the company or its products. Large chains like the German Media Markt and Saturn franchises overwhelm the independent small shops with sheer mass and low-priced offerings. While Audioart aims at selling high-quality products with high quality sound at a decent price, rampant commercialism makes it hard to reach the average music lover. So Victor van Medevoort recently opened a web portal to accommodate the surfing generation.

Nonetheless, the need for real specialist audio retailers remains. To serve those who are dedicated to good products and service, Audioart has set up several listening rooms in their large production facility. Dealers may arrange a demo at the factory which not only shows off the quality of the products, the production process itself can be witnessed as well. The latter is rather integrated as all Audioart product sub assemblies are crafted in house whenever possible. Only wood and metal parts are sourced from specialty shops.

For now, back to the early days. Audioart had a fine hybrid loudspeaker but the market did not offer an affordable amplifier that matched the high quality Ad was after. This soon led to the introduction of the first Van Medevoort amplifier, the MA220 which due to its design was also able to drive many of the so-called difficult loudspeakers of the time. The success of these first products compelled Van Medevoort to design and produce a line of separate pre- and power amplifiers. The most salient detail is that most of these amplifiers produced between 1985 and 1995 are still up and running. To this day Audioart maintains a parts inventory for all products they have ever produced.

In 1995 Audioart expanded its product line to cover any part necessary to reproduce music in the home. Besides amplifiers and speaker, the Dutch factory began to produce CDPs, cables and accessories. Every 7 or so years hence, Audioart launched a new product line which consisted of advanced versions of previous iterations distinguished externally by more and more stylish enclosures. The current crop is the cosmetically most sober and well thought out, without unnecessary frills and only the vM logo on display. Even the SACD player remains wary of superlative but obnoxious alphabet-soup markings .

Speaking of SACD, the contacts Audioart had and continues with Philips led to active collaborations with getting the early SACD players of that brand to sound more musical. The many years of experience Ad and later his son Victor accrued while performing modifications and tweaking of their own and other products have now paid off. In short, these men have amassed a unique knowledge of what might be called parts sound. By investigating the best-sounding parts in specific circuits, they learned a lot. Most designers are good at calculating circuit proficiency but sonically, things are still different. Audioart became a specialist of swapping crucial parts for their electrical equivalents which offer superior sonic performance.

This knowledge led to another pillar of the Van Medevoort emporium, AudioMart. That company, currently led by Victor van Medevoort, performs heavy modifications of optical disc players by Marantz, Philips, Sony, Luxman, Olive, Denon, Teac and CEC. These modifications go beyond just inserting a nice new clock generator but can be as extensive as changing out the mounting and damping of the drive and enclosure to eliminate mechanical resonances. Electrical modifications upgrade to quieter faster parts. Frequently voltage supply points are decoupled to eliminate crosstalk. Such modifications are all accompanied by a certificate and a warranty, the details of which depend on the modified machine.

But what else does a company into audio hardware require to complete the picture? Proper software. The software component of Audioart can be found in their professional recording arena activities. Under the umbrella of Audioart Recording Technology, Ad and Victor routinely hit the road with various orchestras and musicians like the Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra. Their performances are recorded with microphones, mike amplifiers and AD converters designed and built by Audioart. An additional spin-off is a series of professional amplifiers used for instance by Channel Classic Records in their recording studio. Yet another project resulted in a very sought-after guitar preamplifier with ECC83 tubes!

Ad van Medevoort's ultimate wish was for an amplifier that would sound the same no matter what – what the Americans call load-invariant. In his design he achieves that by biasing the output stage in dynamic class A which tracks the input signal and adapts accordingly. All other stages run in static bias class A. This insures thermal stability regardless of volume and the dynamic nature of class A operation is said to maintain a stable tonal balance throughout the frequency spectrum regardless of dynamic stress.

As full-blooded technology aficionados with a musical heart, the Audioart men don't merely pursue musical pleasure for today. They look ahead. Granted, it is very tempting to sit in their large listening room and forget everything else while contemplating a recording through the huge vM reference loudspeakers that combine electrostatic panels with 12 woofers per side. But there is an EU law -- power factor -- in the making that will go into effect by 2012 to render impossible the marketing of inefficient class A amplifiers. The legislators in Brussels have discovered a way whereby to ban such linear power supplies in favor of switch-mode variants together with Tungsten light bulbs and certain herbs and food supplements. In our discussion with Ad and Victor, we hit upon other questionable issues such as the CE directive that gave way to GSM and the fact that GSM telephones are exempted from RoHS compliance. To cut to the chase against this backdrop, Audioart has investigated and now implemented UcD for its new product line. The UcD class D technology was developed by Bruno Putzeys while working at Philips and claims for its implementation 10 times lower distortion combined with a very analog character. When mated to correct components and parts, a very musical amplifier can be built, exactly what Van Medevoort has pursued all his life. His first class D amplifiers outputting from 80 to 300 wpc are now available. NXP of Nijmegen Holland supplies the heart of UcD in the form of a stereo chip. Audioart uses two of these chips, each in a mono configuration. Incidentally, Audioart was already involved in the development of this chipset with NXP. Its class D switching frequency of 350kHz causes a lot of distortion if not properly filtered so Audioart uses their library of component know-how to implement the best possible filter. Their solution -- which places the filter inside the feedback loop -- enables faster signal rise times and a more transparent sound.