Visit to Todd (sbnx) Avantgarde Trio G3 in Parker, Texas

Ron Resnick

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Jan 24, 2015
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Today I visited Todd and his wife, Sally (who wants Todd to mount actual musical instruments on the kitchen walls -- Go Sally!), to audition his Avantgarde Trio G3 + iTron system. Todd uses Avantgarde bass-horns and a pair of Wilson Benesch Torus subwoofers.

Todd's system is digital only, with CH Precision DAC and Wadax streamer. The pre-amplifier is a CH Precision L10.

IMG_2262.jpeg

Todd's dedicated and custom-built room is stunning, sonically and visually.
 
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One thing about horn loudspeakers in general, and Avantgardes in particular, which has always puzzled me is why they are so often seen close to the front wall. As a planar person, I want to pull speakers into the room at least five feet to start with, and after that as far as possible.

I remain baffled to this minute why the Trios Kedar and I auditioned at the Avantgarde factory in Frankfurt in 2015 were so close to the front wall in a gigantic (something like 40 foot long) room.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into Todd's room is how far from the front wall his speakers are positioned. And guess what (although this is no surprise to me)? His system has the best depth and the best sound-staging I have ever heard from a horn loudspeaker system.

I have heard over a dozen different Avantgarde systems in private homes and shows: sometimes bright; sometimes brighter; sometimes bright AF! When KeithR wanted to buy Duos I told him I would endorse that purchase only if he matched them with Viva Aurora mono amplifiers (gorgeous, lush-sounding SETs).

Todd is an Avantgarde whisperer, because his Duo GT system (with iTron) at the Southwest Audio Fest this weekend had no edginess and no brightness that wasn't on the recording. Similarly his home system had no edginess and no brightness that wasn't on the recording.

Todd's room is 28 feet long and 22 feet wide. I think the physical width of a listening room is directly proportional to the realism and the perceived width of the soundstage of recorded music.

The system gave me the sensation of it being very sensitive, very responsive and meticulously finely-tuned -- I want to use a race car as an analogy. I had the sense that the system has limitless dynamic capability and limitless headroom. It feels like there's a whole lot of horsepower under the "hood."

The rolling waves of drums in the last movement of Reference Recordings' Symphony Fantastique I think was the most detailed and textured and realistic I've ever heard that recording reproduced. I think my Gryphon bass towers themselves get the texture and the detail similarly correct, but I think the room isn't large enough to let the waves of sound dissipate and escape without bunching up on each other and blurring some of the detail. There was no blurring whatsoever of anything in Todd's room. There was this sensation of unlimited sonic ceiling.

Playing Adele's "Someone Like You" pressurized the room in a way that I did not recognize from other listening rooms.

Todd's reproduction of Black Sabbath "Paranoid" was the most exciting I've ever heard that track in my life. I think the iTron amplification equips the horn system with incredible speed and dynamics.

Todd's room plus system is easily one of the best systems I've ever heard in my life. The precision and meticulousness and perfectionism with which Todd has set up the system, and which he has chronicled for us over the last year, is very apparent when listening in the room.

In terms of my personal subjective preferences, do I wish there were tubes in one or more places in Todd's system? Yes, I do. But I now think there really is something to the iTron, which of course was designed specifically for Avantgarde horns.

This room plus system is another world-class achievement! Congratulations Todd and Sally!

Thank you very much for hosting me today!
 
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Nice Ron, i enjoyed reading this.
You are certainly gathering a great reference base on many diverse top class systems.
 
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Great report, Ron, and congratulations, Todd, on such an excellent system!

Yes, a great and spacious room is essential to get the best sound.

May I ask, what is the height of the room?
 
Thanks Ron for the nice report
What a fantastic room and set-up that obviously delivers the good stuff!!!
 
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Fantastic, Ron. Great write up and personally not surprised at all for 2 reasons:

1. I have heard the AG Trio G3s and spacehonrs myself and have a high level understanding of them now. Very high level
2. I cannot think of a more indepth and detailed step by step process of set up than Todd's chronicles here on WBF. Marty is probably the only other one that goes thru such minute detail in the scientific measurements, note-taking and milli-adjustments.

And if there is one thing I could tell from the AG Trios is that one of their attractions IS that they are meticulous, exacting and have instant reflexes at almost every level within the spectrum (deep deep bass probably an exception I have not covered and it seems Todd has also found his own way). But the distributor/dealer did warn me...it will cost you in the set up dedication you are prepared to give it. They are very tough to set up.

In truth, they were breathtaking in many respects: effortless scale and yet incredibly nuance and detail at whisper levels. The key was that the treble was hard...I said so...and the dealer could only shrug in acknowledgement and say 'they are really, really tough to set up and I think he would still have liked more time.

In a room 45' wide and 35' deep with 14' ceilings, it was like the jazz ensemble was playing at a level that was believable and yet effortless. And by my experience at that sound pressure level, most speakers would give you a sense they were playing loudly. Even big XLFs, Focal Grande EMs, etc. But not this. Not at all.

That one hearing has left quite an impression on me.
 
Ron, if you were to ball park the 'footprint' the horn plus spacehorn' take up on Todd's floor...would that be around 4.5' deep x 5' wide? Perhaps Todd would let us know. The biggest problem with magnificent 4-towers or 4-pieces is the footprint...particularly horns!

Having looked at the AG Trio plus even 1 pair of narrower spacehorns, I could not think of how to set up the cone + spacehorn in a footprint much smaller than 5' x 5'. And that is just too big, particularly when the dual subs (as Todd has) take up another footprint.

(One particular element I believe David Wilson got really right in his designs was that he delivers great performance in a speaker that is very adjustable (very good in the right hands) and also a 2' x 2' footprint...so very many households and studios.)
 
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Ron, if you were to ball park the 'footprint' the horn plus spacehorn' take up on Todd's floor...would that be around 4.5' deep x 5' wide? Perhaps Todd would let us know.
I don't want to guess. Todd can tell you precisely.

I am used to seeing stacked AG bass-horns. Subjectively one bass-horn adjacent to (almost touching) the Trio didn't seem like that big of a combined package. And in Todd's speaker location/seating configuration the Trios felt close (even though the tweeter to ear distance is 11 feet).
 
I don't want to guess. Todd can tell you precisely.

I am used to seeing stacked AG bass-horns. Subjectively one bass-horn adjacent to (almost touching) the Trio didn't seem like that big of a combined package. And in Todd's speaker location/seating configuration the Trios felt close (even though the tweeter to ear distance is 11 feet).
Yes, that is exactly how I had imagined it in my head when trying to look at photos of the main speakers from multiple angles and doing approximate measurements as to whether you could slightly 'cheat' by placing one 'inside' the overall footprint of the other due to the actual shape of the horns which are very wide in front but taper dramatically towards the rear although they still have vertical columns and wide feet.
 
11 feet is incredibly close but if it works then fine.

I’m at 14 ft with my Duos and that seems close, too close?, for me.
 
11 feet is incredibly close but if it works then fine.

I’m at 14 ft with my Duos and that seems close, too close?, for me.

If I remember correctly your Duos are not toed-in? I think this is the other set up innovation which Todd has discovered. Much of the integration "problem" with Avantgarde goes away, it seems, if you toe them in.

If I remember correctly, people were concerned about tow-ing them in because it created brightness. Todd seems to have solved that problem, too.
 
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One thing about horn loudspeakers in general, and Avantgardes in particular, which has always puzzled me is why they are so often seen close to the front wall. As a planar person, I want to pull speakers into the room at least five feet to start with, and after that as far as possible.
I'm pleased you enjoyed your day with the Trios. I'm sure they sounded great. Thanks for the review.

My take on your first paragraph is that horns, far more so than any other type, are very tolerant of placement regarding the wall behind them and to a lesser extent walls beside them. The reason is pretty clear from their design - the sound is projected directly forward with very little escaping backwards or sideways. However placement regarding toe-in, etc is still very critical with horns - perhaps even more so than other types.

By contrast, planars are probably more dependent on these walls as any other type. Since often 50% of their energy is projected backwards, they rely on some of this energy being usefully harvested to sound their best and your 5 ft starting point seems to be about right.

I've been using Avantgardes since 2002 and in 2021 went on an electrostatic adventure in the hopes I could better my (then) Unos. The big Quads sounded remarkably good (but a non-starter for their "barn door" appearance), but the Martin Logan Expressions were a disaster despite Anthem doing its best to improve matters. The conclusion was that electrostatics (and presumably other planars) need a wall behind them - something not possible in my room where speakers have 12 ft behind one and 15 ft behind the other and an angled floor-to-ceiling glazed wall behind them. No place for planars but ideal for horns.

Sadly although my semi-circular room is large at 945 sq ft, its ceiling height is less than 8 ft. My current Duo XDs are happy there and perhaps my next speakers will be the Duo GTs with iTron. Not sure about the recently announced Mezzo - the price mentioned seems too much more than the Duos and just to achieve a horn loading for the bass drivers.
 
If I remember correctly your Duos are not toed-in? I think this is the other set up innovation which Todd has discovered. Much of the integration "problem" with Avantgarde goes away, it seems, if you toe them in.

If I remember correctly, people were concerned about tow-ing them in because it created brightness. Todd seems to have solved that problem, too.
Always have been toed in since purchase but tweeters aimed at the shoulders. Aiming at the ears does increase the brightness of the old drivers.
I credit Jim Smith with the toe-in ‘innovation’.
 
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The Trio+Spacehorn does have a quite large footprint compared to "box" speakers. Often we see the space horns layed horizotally (and maybe stacked) between the Trios. In my setup I have the spacehorns turned vertically and to the outside of the Trios.

The Trio is about 37.5 inches wide. the spacehorn turned vertical (like I have it) is 29.5 inches wide. I have about 5.25 inches between the outside of the iTron and the Spacehorn but you can see overlap between the horn and the spacehorn. Without taking an exact measurement I would say that the horizontal footprint would be about 65 inches wide. The spacehorn is about 46" deep and this is deeper than the Trio. So the footprint is a little over 5'X4'.
 
Todd is an Avantgarde whisperer, because his Duo GT system (with iTron) at the Southwest Audio Fest this weekend had no edginess and no brightness that wasn't on the recording. Similarly his home system had no edginess and no brightness that wasn't on the recording.
Ok, I had missed his industry affiliation and did not know he had the Duos too.
 
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One thing about horn loudspeakers in general, and Avantgardes in particular, which has always puzzled me is why they are so often seen close to the front wall. As a planar person, I want to pull speakers into the room at least five feet to start with, and after that as far as possible.

So of the ones you have heard, I can immediately think of the Pnoe, Bionor, and Cessaro Zeta as having been pulled out?

Unlike planars, most horns do not the rear wave as being half the sound, except for those with an open back /baffle.
 
Unlike planars, most horns do not the rear wave as being half the sound, except for those with an open back /baffle.

I know you are an experienced horn person and an experienced Martin-Logan person. I know that there is nothing dipole about (non-open baffle) horn loudspeakers.

But, as with every loudspeaker I have ever heard, a better sense of depth and more believable sound-staging is achieved when the speakers are pulled out from the front wall. For me, this includes horns.

In most horn systems I find the sound-stage to be flat-ish compared to other other configurations. This is largely true even of Ali Lehman's amazing room + system.

Todd's sound-staging was conceptually quite familiar to me because -- as with panels --- the entire presentation develops behind the plane of the loudspeakers. Hearing the depth arising from a speaker located 13 1/2 feet in front of the front wall makes me want to pull my Pendragons further away from the front wall.
 
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I know you are an experienced horn person and an experienced Martin-Logan person.
And liked apogees and analysis audio.
In most horn systems I find the sound-stage to be flat-ish compared to other other configurations. This is largely true even of Ali Lehman's amazing room + system.

I find it to have the best soundstage. Far bigger, and more real, and changing, than other types of speakers. Of course I refer to the good horns and not the poor ones, and with good recordings, as the good ones do not force a soundstage of their own. In fact I find Devore Orangutans to have a better soundstage than Wilson XVX, and the best soundstage I heard at Rhapsody Dallas was on Diesis, not on Alsyvox or M9. But then, put a poor record on and it goes flat. Transparency to Recording stage and dispersion style is more important than size of loudspeaker

That aside, my previous post to you was just to say that not all horns you hear were back to the wall, the pnoe, Bionor, and Cessaro Zeta you heard were pulled out. As were the Tune Audios at Munich or the Vox Olympian at Munich. The AGs weren't. And obviously not corner horns.
 

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