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Floorstanding loudspeakers
Avantgarde Acoustic DUO OMEGA

Price: 80 400 zł (~ 20 000 euro)

Distributor: Nautilus Hi-End

ul. Malborska 24, 30-646 Kraków

tel./fax: 0048 012 425 51 20/30
tel. kom.: 0048 507 011 858


Manufacturer's website: Avantgarde Acoustic

Text: Marek Dyba
Photos: Marcin Olszewski, Avantgarde Acoustic

Avantgarde loudspeakers belong to the most discussed ones every year during and after annual Audioshow held in Warsaw. Most likely there are no other speakers that are so commonly admired but in most cases this is just platonic love. Platonic only because there are very few audiophiles who can afford to buy these outstanding horn speakers. Only those with quite deep pockets buy them and hide them in their listening rooms to enjoy their company for the rest of their lives. Unless of course one day they buy a … more expensive model of Avantgarde Acoustic.

Even though these are the most commonly discussed loudspeakers it doesn't mean that all audiophiles speak only positively of them. Some people say that Avantgarde's sound is not really true, not perfectly realistic and that's what counts them off the high-end class. According to these folks the size of instrument's image is usually magnified – guitar is like 2m long, double-bass even 3m and so on. These who know my admiration for Avantagarde's speakers might be surprised when I say that to some extent I agree with such opinion but I wouldn't hold this feature against German speakers. How is it possible?! Well, let me explain using some none-audiophile example. If I ask you how do you like to watch some movie most of you would answer: at the movies (lets forget the problem of people eating popcorn, opening colas, answering phones and so on). But why there? Cause there is a huge screen so we can see everything better, and the sound is also bigger, better. All right than – but if you go to the movies Woody Allen will be 6 m tall – that's not too realistic, is it? Well, that's right but nobody cares. OK, so lets go back to Avantgarde horns – they produce big musical images which might create an impression that instruments/vocalists and so on are bigger than in reality. But it allows to present any and every element of the music in a very precise, almost live-like way. In fact sometimes it can be even more precise than live music because during such an event we stay 30 or sometimes even more meters away from the stage and that doesn't allow us to hear everything so precisely as we wish. What we get than is more like a bigger, general picture without that many details. German loudspeakers act like … binoculars, they bring us closer to what's happening on the stage (or bring the stage closer to us) offering outstanding resolution that doesn't allow us to miss even smallest details. On one hand it gives us incredible sense of the music presence in our room, and this music is reaching to us, involving us and not just happening (like with most loudspeakers) somewhere there behind speakers fronts. On the other hand you will hear clearly all imperfections of any recording. No way some flaws get lost in the bigger picture, or get polished or hidden to make sound better. So what really are the German horns? Liars showing us unrealistic close-up of music. Or very high-fidelity speakers that show us more precisely than “regular” speakers what is really in the recording? Well … they do both – they show incredibly well what's in the recording but they ignore recordings perspective putting us always in the front row, or sometimes even among musicians.


Recordings used during listening sessions:

  • Paco De Lucia, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Friday Night in San Francisco, Philips, 6302137, LP.
  • The Ray Brown Trio, Soular energy, PA002 (2), LP.
  • Bizet, Carmen, RCA Red Seal, 74321 39495 2, CD.
  • Metallica, Metallica, 511831-1, 4 x LP.
  • AC/DC, Live, EPIC, E2 90553, LP.
  • Diana Krall, All for you, IMPULSE, IMP 11642, CD.
  • Eva Cassidy, Live at the Blues Alley, G2 – 10046, CD
  • Bente Kahan, Farewell Cracow, TCD 001, CD.
  • Kari Bremnes, Desemberbarn, FXCD 247, CD.
  • Janis Joplin, Greatest hits, Columbia, PC 32168, LP.
  • Aretha Franklin, Spirit in the dark, Rhino, 8122-71525-2, CD.
  • Patrica Barber, Companion, Premonition/Mobile Fidelity, MFSL 2-45003, LP.
  • Holst, The Planets, DECCA, SXL6529, LP.
  • Albeniz, Suita Espanola, KIJC 9144, LP.

Japanese versions of CDs one will find on CD Japan – press HERE.

During this test I used two amplifiers – my own Art Audio Symphony II and Ayon Mercury, and Ayon CD2 and fantastic AirTight PC3 mounted on my new TransFi T3PRO Terminator tonearm as sources. Each amp and each source allowed to obtain bit different sound but the main sonic signature of Duo Omegas remained always the same. Ayon Mercury offered bit faster and more transparent sound and Symphony II was more about the wonderful timbre and its sound was bit darker, with bit more weight in it. CD2 turned out to be a very nice CD player (actually it's been already replaced in Ayon's range with its new version called CD2s – from what I heard even better one). Even for such an enthusiast of analogue sound as myself it made quite a competitor for the turntable. The latter, most likely thanks to fantastic Air Tight PC3 cartridge and TransFi arm, could be my reference source for many years to come (if only I could somehow afford to buy this Japanese masterpiece), offering nothing short of high-end performance.

Lets focus on the test items – Avantgarde Acoustic loudspeakers. Manufacturer says they might be used even in a room as small as 20 sqm. Well, mine is 24 sqm and the height is around 3 m, but as the system is placed along longer wall, the distance between speakers and my listening place is not too big – no more than 2m. Such a proximity made Duo Omega look bit overwhelming - over 1,5 m tall with huge midrange horn (670 mm diameter!)– they were really impressive. Top level finishing, possibility to choose among many available colors (so they could always fit the room) – if you spend that kind of money for speakers you shouldn't expect less. But if that's not enough manufacturer offers one more convenience – horns and vertical colored strips along bass module can be easily replaced if they don't fit your room after redecoration or if you get bored (if yours are in perfect shape the exchange might even be executed for free) – do you know any other company, at any price level, offering similar customer-friendly solutions? I can't think of any.

The main downside (at least for my poor backbone) – these are damn heavy loudspeakers – the steel-tube frame with active bass module weights like 65 kg, and when you assemble the whole thing it becomes more like 80 kg which is hardly movable for a single man. Of course when you finally find the right placement for them in your room they become more like estate – no reason to move them any more. The proper setup might take a long time though – it's not only about the positioning them in the room, the best distance from listener but also about adjusting couple of electronic controls available at the back panel of bass-module. This variety of options allows owner not only to obtain best possible sound in objective terms but also best fitted to the room and to particular listener's preferences. To be honest I think that during those two weeks of my test I wasn't able to find really the best possible setup in my room – that required lots of time and I had to do some listening too (to be honest I didn't want to “loose” 10 days for setup and be left with 4 days for listening). Many owners treat all this process as a great fun and the final, precisely adjusted setup offers such a performance that it is worth any trouble and any time they spared – at least that's what they say. So I assume that I didn't hear the best possible performance of Duo Omega but still basing on what I heard I would have bought them immediately if I only could. My guess is also that this would be the element of my system that might stay in it till the end of my days. Having said that I should in fact finish this review but I will still try to give you some more details.

Duo Omega loudspeakers are capable of delivering every and any music in a fabulous way. Matthias Ruff proved that personally during one of the AudioShows playing to scared to death listeners a piece from German band - Rammstein. I was among those who wanted to run for their lives to the door to get as far as possible before this “heavy noise aka devilish music” ;-) even started, and also one of those who stayed trying to pick their jaws from the floor after hearing how Avantgarde speakers delivered this „noise” with power, drive and clarity that made it simply an incredibly involving spectacle. Not that I started to love this music – no! but I started to love the level of performance these German horn were capable of.

During the test, listening to Duo Omegas in well known environment I realized that they are first of all unbeatable when it comes to presenting acoustic music. Listening to performance of three ingenious guitar players: Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Al di Meola in “Friday Night in San Francisco” was unbelievably close to live concert experience. The already mentioned feature of reviewed loudspeakers that places listener in the front row of a concert hall allowed me to follow so closely each pluck of a string, each tapping on resonance box, each foot stamp and so on, as I never did before. I've listened to this record (never CD! as its quality is just embarrassing) many, many times but the experience was never so realistic before. The three guys were sitting just in front of me so close I could almost grab their hands. I could not only hear the music, but also feel the air moved by instruments – in simple words – I could take part in a concert and enjoy it as much as the rest of the fans who were really there, in San Francisco. The same experience of musicians present in my room happened when I was listening to another brilliant recording – Ray Brown's “Soular energy”. I mentioned that in my previous reviews probably several times already that in my opinion this was one of the best, if not THE best, recording of a bass ever made. Even though I thought it was impossible Duo Omega speakers raised the level of performance even further beyond my imagination.

I always appreciated the timbre presentation and how colorful and dynamic Ray's bass was, but now it was shown in even more realistic way emphasizing the size, weight and almost infinite dynamics of this powerful instrument. I listened too many times to bass recordings on many systems when it sounded like there were only strings playing and no wood at all. The German speakers, by showing all events on the stage from so close perspective, might have created an impression that bass was even bigger than in reality but on the other hand it allowed me to appreciate the role of a soundboard in full extend. Bass extended to the lowest, deepest abyss, each pluck on a string vibrated endlessly or in fact until the musician touched same string again. This incredibly natural, direct presentation was a “must hear” for all who doubted how colorful the bass was with its “just” four strings. Each transient attack and transient decay was shown perfectly – sure to achieve that I needed also extraordinary source as AirTight's cartridge, because its perfect timing came handy. On the other hand such a presentation wouldn't have been possible with any loudspeakers – very few could have made such a great use of top quality signal from source as Duo Omega did and in a very natural way. That was one of the biggest advantages of tested speakers over most of these I knew – even if I agreed that they might have magnified the music or presented it “via binoculars” – it was still the most natural, unforced, palpable, damn fast but very liquid sound. There was no “over there, behind speaker's fronts” presentation, but the MUSIC HERE and NOW.

Using Ayon CD2 I played my favorite opera – “Carmen” by Bizet with wonderful Leontyna Price. This piece was much more than just couple of instruments on a small stage. That was a great orchestra (led by von Karajan by the way), soloists, and choirs (sometimes more then one at the same time) moving actively on the big stage. Even during most dramatic fragments I wasn't able to find any traces of compression or distortion of any kind. No matter of how loud I played it (and I mean really loud – much louder than I normally listen to at home) there was no limitation of dynamics in micro or macro scale. Most of loudspeakers I had a chance to test wasn't capable of such performance – some compression or distortion always must have appeared eventually. But not this time. This “binocular” way of presentation allowed me to follow each and every detail even when listening at the craziest (loudest) moments. I guessed (as I didn't speak French) that most likely almost every sang word was understandable. Also the great skills of soloists who had to express emotions mostly with their voices (in contrary to “regular” actors who could use also body language when acting) were undeniable thanks to fantastic, direct way of Duo Omegas presentation. I was so impressed with the performance of Avantgarde's speakers that I listened to this particular recording couple of times because I knew I might not have an occasion to experience it in such “live-like” way again (especially that it was not possible to go to any opera house in the world to listen to this particular version of “Carmen” anymore).

I wasn't such an “extremist” as Matthias Ruff, so Rammstein was out of question but I couldn't resist not to try famous “Black Record” from Metallica or “Live” vinyl from AC/DC. I was trying to find some weakness of Duo Omegas but I couldn't. No compression in sound, fantastic presentation of lowest bass tones – with power, drive and fabulous pace&rhythm. Electric guitars were sharp, rough enough, sometimes (when needed) even raw sounding. For this kind of music all these controls at the back of bass module came handy starting with low-pass filter that I set for 30Hz (instead of 20Hz) which made bass less boomy but faster and more tight. I also tried other controls with different effects – I guessed that learning how to use them to my satisfaction would take more time than I had. Even during such a “noisy” music treble (like cymbals) or midrange (vocals) were presented in very clear, transparent way, matching with great bass perfectly. All the frequency range was presented with amazing resolution, speed, balance and timing in, again, very natural way.

One my evenings/nights with Duo Omega was dedicated to wonderful female vocalists, starting with (little abandoned by me) Diana Krall, Eva Cassidy, Bente Kahan, Kari Bremnes, and ending with Janis Joplin and Areta Franklin. Regardless of voice being deep and rough, or high-pitched and smooth, singing jazz, blues or pop, each and every time it was simply the top performance of each of these ladies – so natural sounding, so palpable that I felt like taking part in a private concert specifically given for me. Each of these fabulous vocalists stood in my room within hand grasp delivering their top performances and charming me with undeniable sex-appeal. I could not only to listen to them but almost see their gestures, moves on the stage, their body language – so it was much more than just “delivering” the sound.

It really didn't happen that often that I tried to use the time I had with tested device up to my limits. By my limits I meant that I listened to more and more recordings during nights, weekends at the expense of some other everyday activities. I couldn't find any flaws I could use against Duo Omega though but so many advantages that I might say I found what my own private heaven. Listening to Avantgarde Acoustic speakers for some time gave me another perspective, different reference point for future tests especially in terms of how palpable presentation of music could be. Everything was happening so very close to me, sometimes even around me which allowed me to “see” every detail I chose to “see” - it was always up to me which part of the recording I wanted to follow closely. These were also incredibly fast loudspeakers, but while so fast they still offered very smooth and coherent sound. Midrange and treble were simply top-notch and I couldn't really find what was usually a flaw of many horn speakers, so any coloration to the sound. Bass range could be adjusted to the room and listener's preferences via active crossover and thus its performance matched the rest of the range perfectly. All horn's advantages were there – great spatial effects, direct presentation, wonderful timbre, speed, and all that without already mentioned coloration of sound. The whole presentation was very coherent, smooth, natural (yeah, with this small “but” - meaning me sitting always in the first row). These loudspeakers were also capable of playing any music. Sure I mentioned I liked them most in acoustic recordings, but it didn't mean that the other ones sounded worse – it was more about my personal preferences. Any kind of music I laid down on Duo Omegas these accepted and performed with ease in such a natural way that it made me simply euphoric when listening to them.

Giving Avantgarde loudspeakers back was a traumatic experience. But hey, there was an up-side – if I become a rich man some day, I should have no problem with picking up my new loudspeakers, so one “rich-man's problem” less to solve. What was also important was that even though Duo Omegas cost a lot they didn't necessarily required also very expensive amplifier to accompany them – both: Ayon Mercury and even bit less expensive Art Audio Symphony II were a great match. Sure if you can afford Duo Omega you could probably also afford much more expensive and thus even better amp. But in contrary to many high-end loudspeakers it is not a must to have also a super-expensive amp to get a great performance from the speakers. Even with much less expensive amplifier Avantgardes can offer performance that is not obtainable for many competitors from the same price level regardless of how expensive the whole system is. Digital and analogue sources are bit different story – the better input they provide the better final performance but again all I used was Michell Gyro SE with TransFi arm and Air Tight PC3 cartridge, so far from Duo Omega's price mark and the final effect was already fabulous. Ayon CD2 (can't call it inexpensive but surely far from being the most expensive CD player on the market) also performed brilliantly in my opinion – maybe because it was a tube player (and I was a tube guy) but anyway its price was also far from loudspeakers level. Normally if you want to build a high-end system and you spend say … 80 kPLN for loudspeakers than to match them you need an amp costing say … 50 kPLN and a source costing 30-40 kPLN at least. Let's not forget the cables – at least another 15-20 kPLN. Alternative choice – you build your system around Duo Omega, spend much less money and the performance should be much better than this of many of other, more expensive systems.


Avantgarde Duo Omega are called “horn speakers” which is true as midrange and treble speakers are placed in horn, but the low range is delivered by active bass module – so it's more like mixed design than “pure” horn speaker. The huge loudspeakers are supported by steel-tube frame with adjustable spikes. Lower part is occupied with large active bass module which sports also in upper part small horn with tweeter horn driver. Above there is huge spherical horn (Ø 670 mm) containing midrange speaker. Tweeter is 25 mm (diameter) H2-Omega with weighting almost 3 kg ferrite magnet. Its passive crossover point was set at 2kHz. Midrange driver is M2-Omega with famous Alnico magnet. The Kevlar midrange cone of the M2 omega is coated with trillions of tiny microfibers generating a “Velours Damping Effect”. Avantgarde Acoustic managed to increase the effective magnetic flow in the air-gap of the driver by eliminating the usual copper inlay of the pole-piece. The roll-off at higher frequencies caused by the higher inductivity of the voice coil and a specially designed dome was set to the exact crossover point of the tweeter. The proprietary CDC system features a controlled roll–off at 2,000Hz, which allows to completely eliminate all passive crossover components in the signal path. The Duo Omega is supplied with the active subwoofer Sub 225, which is driven by two powerful 25 cm long–excursion drivers. The powerful neodymium magnet with a very strong BL power factor and the very stiff but light membrane ensures highest resolution and authority even with complex signals at extreme sound pressure levels. The integrated active PA 106 electronics consists of a powerful 250 watt amplifier and an active frequency crossover. Signal to the active bass module might be delivered either with speaker cables from amplifier or with XLR interconnect from preamplifier. Midrange driver has to be connected with speaker cable.

Technical data (according to the manufacturer):
Frequency range: 18 – 350Hz (Subwoofer); 170Hz – 20kHz (horns)
Sensitivity: >107dB
Nominal impedance: 18Ω
Subwoofer amp power: 250W
Dimensions: 670 x 600 x 1595mm
Weight: 81kg

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