July 25, 2006

Avantone Mini-Review...

by Chris Randall

Okay, I should note at this juncture that I just discovered (and dispatched) a moth in my studio that was the size of a well-fed hummingbird. Now, that's not big for a bird, but for a moth, well, it's like fucking Mothra-sized. There is some mutant shit flying around these mountains, I'll tell you what. Anyways, I'm a little freaked out by this whole event, so whether that comes through in the following passages is up to you to decide. Caveat Emptor.

Anyways, I got home from Travels With The In-Laws (wherein sights are seen, wine is consumed, mountain roads are driven, et al) to find a nice big, heavy box on my stoop courtesy of UPS. And what do I find in this box buy a brand spankin' new pair of Avantone speakers. These created quite a buzz at Summer NAMM just past, and I was lucky enough to score one of the very first pairs on these shores, courtesy of my friends at Avant Electronics (yes, the same folks who bailed us out during the Great Chinese Microphone Caper.)

For those of you not in the know, the Avantone is a remake/update of the classic Auratone 5C speakers, found in most every studio the world over. The Auratone 5C, which _still_ commands $300 to $500 a pair used, is the world standard in shit speakers. From the late 70s to, well, today, you'd be hard pressed to walk in to a professional recording studio and not see at least one, if not a pair, of Auratones sitting next to the NS10Ms on the meter bridge of the SSL/API/Neve console.

"Now, Chris, that doesn't make any fucking sense," you say, with just cause. "Why would someone want shit monitors?" Well, Auratones (and the Avantone remake) are designed to answer two questions:

1: How will my mix sound on television, in a car or on a boombox (or, by extension, those shit iPod earbuds or the speakers in a laptop)?

2: How are my guitars and vocals balanced, and is the snare too loud?

The good ol' 5C does this (and only this) in admirable fashion, which is why most every studio has 'em, in addition to whatever they use for nearfields these days, even though they're not made any more.

Enter Avant. They designed and built a modern replacement for the Auratone 5C that clocks in at $169 the pair, and sounds, to my ears anyway, exactly the same. They are finished in a really nice cream-colored... uh... I don't know what it is. Substance? They're solid blocks of something or other. The picture doesn't do 'em justice. They aren't that panelling shit that Auratones were. Anyways, I plugged these little guys up, using what I think are exceptionally nice binding posts...

...and was instantly rewarded with that classic Auratone mid-range knock. These things hit the mark, and are absolute must-haves if you, like me, compose mainly for television. Now, will the Avantones be good as your only nearfield monitors? ABSOLUTELY NOT. But if you want to act like a real engineer and check your mix on more than one set of speakers before you send it to the pressing plant, something like this is a really good idea. I'm not trying to be an Avant Pimp or anything, and no one is ever excited about getting speakers that are singularly unpleasant to listen to, but these are one of the few products you can use and get a quantifiable improvement in the end result of your mix.

So, a STRONGLY recommended from me. Avant has mentioned to me that a group buy is a possibility, with strict limits, since they have experience with the AI userbase and our crazy group buy thing already. Is there any interest in such a thing 'round these parts? Since there's no unknown, it wouldn't be the complete pain-in-the-arse/cluster-fuck that the microphone thing turned out to be. Thoughts?



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Jul.25.2006 @ 12:36 AM
Yeah, I'd be interested in a speaker buy. And thanks to Avant for the mic deal. Mine should be showing up any day now I think. FWIW, and as you may know, the subsequent attempt at a group buy through the Home Recording board blew up as well without an Avant to put the pieces back together. Luckily, it wasn't as far along (no money had been committed yet). Clearly the Chinese mic manufacturers are not interested in doing a buying deal for existing products with a group operating through any kind of public forum unless it is really flying under the radar. And thanks for enduring the mic cluster-fuck Chris.

Jul.25.2006 @ 1:11 AM
i don't understand - why would anybody pay $500 for a pair of (albeit intentionally) shitty speakers? are they THAT much more awesomely craptacular than just monitoring through the boombox you found in your garage?

Jul.25.2006 @ 2:30 AM
Its hard to find a decent pair of grotbox speakers - the only other ones I know of being manufactured are the "pyramid" ones and the yamaha NS10 revision.

As to why they are a desired tool, let me quote Hugh Robjohns of SOS answering a question regarding the Pyramid monitors:

"The Pyramid monitors, like the Auratone 5C and Yamaha NS10 monitors they take their lead from, aren't just 'limited-range' speakers. They have a very specific set of characteristics which are fundamental to their usefulness.

For a start, they are all infinite baffle designs ? meaning that the speaker cabinet is a sealed box ? whereas most cheap hi-fi speakers use ported (or reflex) cabinets.

Porting is used to elevate the low-frequency response at the expense of mid-range clarity and transient response (often referred to as 'overhang'). So if you want to find a cheap substitute for these classic studio references, you have to look for a speaker that is a sealed-box design.

Next, the frequency response has a distinctive inverted 'V' shape, peaking in the mid-range and falling away gently above and below. This presents the most critical mid-range region in the best light and reduces the distraction caused by other, less critical, parts of the spectrum. Most cheap domestic speakers have an overly bright high end (to make them sound exciting), with a slightly reduced mid-range (to make them sound more pleasant and larger than they really are), and a lumpy, resonant bass end. The other thing to mention is that many cheap hi-fi speakers might not be able to cope with the often continuous high levels required in a professional mixing situation.

Trying to recreate the way these kind of monitors sound using EQ simply won't work either ? the issue is far more complex than that, and is as much about time-domain response as frequency response. One of the key attributes of speakers like the Auratones and NS10s is that they have remarkably tidy impulse responses. If you input a sound with a fast transient ? a kick drum, say ? the sound starts very quickly and stops almost as quickly. Many reflex speakers tend to resonate or 'ring' for a significant period after the input signal has stopped, and that inherent ringing tends to mask subtle low-level detail, as well as giving a false impression of level, dynamics and even spectral balance. These aspects are absolutely critical when judging the right balance between instruments, especially at the bass end."


Jul.25.2006 @ 8:42 AM
Chris, What amp did you connect these to?


Jul.25.2006 @ 9:07 AM
Sweet. I could use a pair of those. Count me in on the group buy.

Jul.25.2006 @ 9:14 AM
So for some broke ass like me who music isnt their profession,these shouldnt be used for accuracy,just for reference of an almost done project?Like a comparison tool?In other words save my coin for accuracy?Im in the market for buying monitors and the price is attractive.For my price range I can afford to compare on my car stereo,boombox,and yes,my wifes Ipod.

Jul.25.2006 @ 10:23 AM
Chris Randall
Good post, James (Carbon111). That is it, in a nutshell. Normal shit speakers have a honkin' big bass port on them, because most consumers equate big bass response to "good" and the easy way to get that is to knock a big hole in the speaker port. (Bose has made a good business model taking this to the nth degree. Their speakers are basically nothing but big bass ports.

Whereas "special case" shit speakers like these have terrible bass response. The first track I put up on these, I couldn't even hear my bassline, because it was a dub track I'm working on. As I said (and the Pyramid proviso states) these are very mid-range heavy. They aren't good for recording at all; they're only useful when mixing, to check your mid balances (snare, vox, guitar, horns if you got 'em) and the end result.

In a nutshell: if your mix sounds good on speakers of this type, it'll sound good anywhere. That's the general rule of thumb.

And to Tomer: I just cracked 'em on a Magnavox amp I had laying about. I'll get a Crown D60 for 'em, because that's generally what's used in this case. The best amp deal going, if you get one used, hands down.



Jul.25.2006 @ 10:40 AM
A group buy on the Avantones would be great.
Hopefully it wouldn't be the nightmare for Chris that the mic buy was.
Thanks again for the mic buy Chris, mine should be here tomorrow!

Jul.25.2006 @ 11:01 AM

they are very useful though. i'm curious what amp you hooked up to them as well.


Jul.25.2006 @ 11:29 AM
I am just currious...

Why doesn't someone whip up a plugin that EQs the audio to have the same frequency range as these speakers. A set of really awesome speakers would have the range to produce the sounds of the shitty speakers, but not vice versa.

It seems to me you could create a plug in with all the classic crappy studio monitors, along with other emulations (cheap television, boom box, telephone, ipod). You just buy a set of real high-fi amazing quality monitors, and emulate all the garbage monitors you want. It would be a great product. Even if the hardcore studio guys would turn their nose at it, there are plenty of prosumers who would would buy it!

Before you tell me I am silly... well, this is no more silly than "Tube" plugins, or plugins that simulate analog bucket brigades, or whatever.


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