I confess to having little knowledge about AVM prior to attending this event. A quick flurry of research unearthed some interesting facts about AVM. It has quite a long history, and it's present owner, Mr. Udo Besser has an established track record in the audio industry, being formerly CEO of the well known German high end audio company, Burmester.
Browsing through AVM's website, the impression conveyed was that of elegantly designed products catering to a wide range of customers - from the beginner to the very serious enthusiast.
AVM's exclusive dealer in Singapore, Sound Decisions had arranged for Udo to meet some of it's customers and members of the hi-fi press at it's cosy showroom.
A number of products had been set-up for demonstration including the SD 5.2 Streaming DAC from AVM's Evolution line of products, and the PA8 modular preamp and MA8.2 monoblock amplifiers from it's top range - the Ovation line.
Also on display was a line-up of all-in-one solutions (CD, DAC, tuner, and amplifier - just add speakers !).
|The mighty Ovation MA8.2 mono power amplifier.|
|From top to bottom :- Inspiration C8 CD-Receiver, Evolution SD5.2 Streaming DAC, Evolution C9 CD Receiver.|
Attendees were shown how the SD5.2 could be operated, both using the supplied radio frequency remote control, and with an iPhone running AVM's iOS app (under development). The remote control and the iPhone were able to simultaneously control the SD5.2 seamlessly - selecting tracks from the connected NAS, or from music files stored on the iPhone. It was even possible to power up and power down the system.
Udo then made a short presentation on AVM, with a description of the different product lines.
Some points of interest :-
1. AVM manufactures it's products in Malsch, Germany.
2. The vacuum tubes used in it's products are custom designed and manufactured specifically for AVM and then screened and tested for quality by the tube manufacturer.
3. The mono output boards in the Ovation series power amplifier are fed separately by a small dedicated toroidal transformer for each individual board, instead of the common industry practice of using a single massive transformer with multiple voltage taps.
4. AVM uses UcD Hypex amplifier modules specially customised for AVM in its entry and mid level product lines.
5. Custom finishes are available at extra cost including a stunningly beautiful mirrored chrome finish (I couldn't help but mention this to whet the appetite of all you Burmester fans out there).
I was impressed by the build quality of the products on display, coupled with reasonable pricing. I especially liked the tactile feel in operation of the knobs and switches, and the elegant designs that exuded class.
|A close-up of the tube output board, with the custom specified and manufactured tubes.|
|You can definitely put my name down for the optional chrome finish.|
Udo in Conversation
I asked Udo whether he designed his products with a certain philosophy in mind. His answer was that sound quality is his most important objective. Any particular technical design choice would be made based on this. As an example, he cited amplifier power - the end objective was not to make the most powerful amplifier available, but high power output (e.g. in the Ovation series amplifiers) was a by-product of pursuing that objective.
We also discussed the choice of a switched mode power supply in the PA8 preamplifier, which is generally frown upon by audiophiles. Again, Udo stressed that the best power supply design was chosen for the task, and in this case, a switched mode power supply best achieved his objectives, and was critical to ensuring low noise in the optional phono stage card.
I was interested to know more about the modularity offered by the PA8 (e.g. choices available include a DAC card, phono stage, tuner card, and a tubed output stage) - did he feel that this would cause interference or somehow degrade performance ? Udo explained how these issues were overcome in the design (the cards are shut down if not required, and powered up again when necessary) , and that simply, he would not launch any product unless it met his exacting standards. Much thought also seems to have been made on the software front, with the PA8's firmware checking each individually installed board. A newer version board installed would automatically update the unit's firmware - very smart indeed.
Crowds make it quite hard to evaluate sound quality. I cheated somewhat and had a quick audition of the PA8 and the MA8.2 a day prior to the event. I was not familiar with the German Physik paired with the PA8 and MA8.2, but the tone of the system was on the fuller and sweet side. The system at all times sounded natural and effortless (600 watts per channel (into 8 ohms) - power does corrupt !), with excellent bass depth and definition, and spades of detail across the frequency spectrum. I am pretty sure these could hold their own against the rest of the premium names out there.
Looking at the clean design lines, excellent finish, and ease of operation, you have on hand a product that has purposeful objectives achieved by solid engineering. In that vein, AVM is the epitome of Teutonic values.
AVM may be a relatively new kid on the block internationally, but I would give them serious consideration - whether you are looking for a good-looking all-in-one system, or top drawer electronics.
I would like to thank Sammy and Eugene of Sound Decisions for inviting me for this event.
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