SMRAvatar Audio Paavanis Review

, sets out to learn more about the Avatar Audio Paavani, a loudspeaker from, "...a small (but growing!) company of scientists and engineers who are also musicians, music lovers, and concert attenders".

Many thanks go to Mr. Daniel C. Wiggins for his help and for providing the review sample.


Avatar Paavani Specifications:

Woofer: 175mm composite polymer
Tweeter: 28mm treated silk dome
Frequency Response: 38Hz to 20kHz, +/- 2dB (Anechoic)
Sensitivity: 88db Anechoic (90db in room)
Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms
Min Impedance: 5.5 ohms
Max continuous power: 150 watts (500 peak)
Dimensions: 10 " wide, 13 " deep, 19 " high
MSRP $1750/pr

(All specifications as per manufacturer)

Avatar Audio PaavaniIntroduction:

Ok, just who the hell is Avatar? If they made good loudspeakers, surely the likes of TAS or Stereophile would have reviewed them, right? I mean, any speaker worth its weight in speaker wire has already been discovered by the big audio magazines, right?? Yeah, sure. OK, if you believe that, rather than continuing on through this review, just close your eyes, click your heels together and chant with me, "Theres no source like Stereophiles Recommended Components...Theres no source like Stereophiles Recommended components...". If youre still with me, you obviously havent been transported to Audio Nirvana yet and maybe that should tell you something.

The fact is that if you look through Audio Magazines Annual Equipment Directory, you well see scads and scads of makers of fine audio gear, most of which you will never see gracing the pages of Stereophile or TAS. Hopefully, you dont assume that the big magazines have discovered all the great ones. If you do make that assumption, unfortunately, youre not alone. But maybe we can start to change that.

We at SMR first discovered Avatar on the web. Stuart Robinson started talking with them and they agreed to supply us with a review sample of the Paavani, their stand mounted monitor (notice I didnt call it a "mini"). Truth be told, I didnt know what to expect myself. Looking at the pictures from their web site left me fairly unimpressed. Ok, I thought they were fairly strange looking speakers! There! I said it! But what the web site graphics dont, or rather, cant show you is the quality of the workmanship obvious in the wood working. I had them shipped to me at work and that is where I unboxed them. A few of the women in particular really liked them. They thought that they looked like fine furniture rather than speakers. Wow! Could this be a hint at an unanticipated high WAF (wife acceptance factor)? Well, maybe!

Avatar Audio PaavaniI was assured by Avatar that the review sample was already properly broken in. So I brought them home and threw them rather haphazardly on 16-inch stands and fired them up. This was in my rather large downstairs room and I didnt expect the smallish speakers to rock me with bass, and they didnt. But Ill tell you what they did do. They bowled me over with their imaging. Before me, and again, I emphasize that I got this after just plunking them down in the room with no effort at optimizing set up, was an exceptionally clean, detailed and "etched" soundstage. It may have been the most delineated image I have ever heard, certainly it bettered any I have heard in this house. It was at this point that I became genuinely excited.

I took them upstairs and did something that I dont easily do. I moved my reference Sonus Faber Concertos out of the way. This has been my "reference" room and is a sound that I like to keep constant. After listening to other systems, I retire to my dedicated sound room upstairs and, from memory, judge the review pair against my sonic yardstick. But I was so exited about what I had experienced downstairs, I couldnt wait to hear what they sounded like up there. I should note here that the size of the stands to be used is fairly critical. The speakers should be positioned such that the tweeters are just below the level of the ear. I found treble response to be a touch smoother that way.

Performance:

So, powered up by my Conrad Johnson PV12a and MV100 (90 watts/pc), I went to work (did I say work??). I pretty much placed the Paavanis exactly where I had the Concertos. The first thing I noticed was that the Paavanis played louder than the Concertos at my usual volume setting. With a sensitivity of 90 db 1w/1meter, they are indeed about twice as efficient as my reference monitors. As a matter of fact, they are more efficient than the majority of monitors out there.

The next thing I noticed was that they were much more like Concertos than they were different. You can read the rest of the review and you will not read any higher praise from me than that. It took me years to find a speaker that pleased me in as many aspects of performance as the Concertos do. But here I found all the essential aspects of the Concertos performance, in a larger speaker with more subjective bass extension, and one that could be used with less expensive electronics. In other words, I found that the Paavanis sounded wonderful on equipment that the Concertos chewed up and spat out. This is not an insignificant aspect of the speakers performance. While taking advantage of the better electronics I have around here, they sounded just fine on my inexpensive Rotel integrated amp.

Midrange was about as good, detailed and lacking in coloration as Ive ever heard. The good folks at Avatar obviously dont know the meaning of congestion either. In my admittedly smallish room, these speakers could play loud with no signs of strain or...uh,.. congestion. Clean, clean, clean.

The treble balance was the lone area that didnt conform to the Sonus Faber way of doing things. This just may have some of you with experience with Sonus Faber speakers breathing a sigh of relief. The Sonus Faber line of speakers are VERY sweet on top. Some may even call them dark. Some may call them too dark. I dont call them dark, I call them sweet but I acknowledge and accept that many out there prefer something a little more lively on top. The Paavanis are made for this group of listeners. While by no means bright, scratchy or edgy, they contained just enough upper midrange energy to please. I could live with this balance and be quite happy. I suspect that you could too.

Avatar Audio PaavaniWhat about that imaging that impressed me so downstairs? How did it compete with my reference speakers upstairs?? They beat it, thats how. Again, I found the imaging incredible. One of my favorite "demo" discs is the Telarc Disc of the Cincinnati Pops with Eric Kunzle at the helm performing his "Greatest 20 Hits" (Telarc CD-80401). One cut in particular is a great demo. Its the opening cut from Andrew Lloyd Webers "Chiller". The cut opens with some fantastically recorded claps of thunder. On lesser , "slower" systems, this clap will have the sharp edges rounded off and sound as if its miles in the distance. On systems up to the task, the clap sounds sharp and hair raising. It sounds as if its directly over head. It sounded this way on the Paavanis, which is no small feat for a speaker its size. But what followed impressed me more. The cut continues with footsteps tracking across the stage all the while the listener experiences a thumping heartbeat seemingly from all around. Then the woman knocks at the great door, the door is answered, she addresses the resident behind the door, and then you hear the monster let loose with a horrific growl. It was this growl that grabbed my attention. After countless times hearing this cut on countless systems, I was never before able to hear it this way. Rather than from the left speaker, as I had always heard it, the Paavanis threw the growl out to the left of me, to about the 9 Oclock position. Now, Ive got several "surround" encoded discs (recorded for two speakers) and Ive experienced 9:00 placement before, but never this growl! Id also noticed that the sound of the growl was never quite right. It had always sounded grundgey and had a "phasey" character to it that I couldnt alleviate. Well, now, in retrospect, I know that sound is indicative that something was wrong. When the speakers were able to place the growl out to my left (as meant to be), the sound was completely cleansed of this grundge.

Now, after the Paavanis are gone, I will go back upstairs with the Concertos, and as God is my witness, I will recreate that effect! But what has really impressed me with the Avatars is just how easy it was to achieve truly excellent performance. As I moved the speakers around trying to zero in on the best I could get from them, they always imaged well and stayed glued together. Again, this is not an aspect to be taken lightly. Anybody who has ever purchased speakers based on how they sound in the showroom only to take them home and be disappointed by some aspect of the performance will understand why I think this important. The speakers almost defy poor set up!

OK, no speaker is perfect, particularly in this price range, so lets get down to it. What is wrong with these speakers? Nothing is wrong in my opinion. Oh, if I had a magic wand and could change a thing or two, I know what I would do. First, as good as the imaging is, one area where they are bettered by my Concertos is that of depth of soundstage. Ive found that sweeter speakers sound less "in your face" and thusly give a better illusion of depth. More laid back speakers do just that with the soundstage, they lay it back a bit. Dont misunderstand, again, Im not calling the Paavanis bright, they are not, just brighter than what Im used to.

The other thing my magic wand would do for me is give me a bit more punch in the bass. While listening to James Horners soundtrack of "Braveheart" (London 448 295-2) I was impressed with the way the Paavanis could energize the room with bass energy. Drums are full and basses powerful. In fact, the emotion of the soundtrack just came pouring out of the speakers. One of the benchmarks of a good listening experience for Stereophiles founder, J Gordon Holt, is the "goose bump test". When a speaker communicates enough emotion or inspires enough in the listener to raise goose bumps, you know things are coming together. Well, the Avatars passed my goose bump test with flying colors.

Stevie Ray Vaughans 'Texas Flood'But when I went to listen to Laurie Andersons "Strange Angels" (Warner 9 25900-2) and then on to Stevie Ray Vaughans "Texas Flood" (Epic EK38734) I missed the visceral impact of the larger speakers Ive been using. Which speakers in the Paavanis class can impart more of that mule kick? None that I know of. There is just so much air a speaker with a 61/2 inch woofer is going to move. While bass performance is no less than you can expect from speakers in its class, the rest of the performance is so good I just found myself wanting it all, that last missing piece of the puzzle.

Another important thing to know is that these are extremely honest speakers. As they are detailed and transparent, any shortcomings in the recording will be thrown into sharp relief. Depending on from which side of the fence you hail, this honesty will either delight or irritate you. What you have recorded on your software is what you get coming out of the hardware. Good recordings sounded great. Lesser recordings sounded ,... uh, lesser! The speakers are not kind to bright, edgy or veiled recordings. But when confronted with a carefully crafted CD, you will be greatly rewarded, I promise.

On balance what we have here is a speaker with honesty of timbre. Instruments sound as they should. Stings sound sweet enough to draw you in from the next room, inviting you to sit down and enjoy. Brass on DMPs Big Band CD "Carved In Stone" (DMP CD-512) had a wonderful combination of edge and sheen. Stevie Ray Vaughns electric guitar sounded just as right as Jesse Cooks Spanish one.

Summation and conclusion:

So who the hell is Avatar? They are the company who produces the Paavani, a truly excellent speaker. Tonally honest with a clean, uncolored, detailed, and transparent midrange, a lively yet smooth treble and finished off with a neutral, tight, energizing bass. Imaging is first class all the way and set up is almost idiot proof (just watch stand height). They are as easy to drive as they are to set up and are at least competitive with the more well known speakers in their class. Thats who Avatar is!

Good luck and listening,

1997.

 


More information about Avatar products can be found at the Official Avatar Web Site.


Text John R. Potis Jr.; HTML SMR Home Theatre and Images John R. Potis, Avatar Audio & SMR Home Theatre cannot be reproduced without permission.

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