"The single most interesting new product at Munich was undoubtedly the Zero 1 loudspeaker from Avantgarde Acoustics.
The German company has married its core technology of horn loudspeakers
with advanced new digital signal processing to create a very
décor-friendly, attractive, and affordable active horn loudspeaker.
Available in a wide range of colors, the Zero 1 looks from the front
like a small version of the monolith in 2001, but with drivers recessed
into the front surface. Standing 41” tall and nearly 20” wide, the Zero 1
is a three-way system with a 12” subwoofer operating up to 250Hz, a 5”
horn-loaded midrange driver, and a 1” horn-loaded tweeter. The
crossovers, implemented in the digital domain on a field-programmable
gate array, have extraordinarily steep slopes—100dB per octave. The DSP
also corrects any amplitude and phase errors, resulting in a perfectly
smooth and time-coherent response at the listening position. The
filtered bass, midrange, and treble signals are converted to analog by
three BurrBrown 24-bit DACs (one per frequency band). The three analog
signals then drive three power amplifiers, 400W for the woofer and 50W
each for the midrange and tweeter. Note that in this architecture there
are no inductors or capacitors between the amplifier’s output and the
speaker’s voice coils—a major advantage. The Zero 1 is meant to be
driven by a digital signal; inputs are USB, TosLink, SPDIF coaxial (x2),
and AES/EBU. Analog input is an option. Avantgarde reportedly spent
four years and more than one million euros developing this product.
We’ll have the first English-language review of the Zero 1 later this
year. No US price was announced, but expect it to be about $16,000.
Remember that there’s no need for an outboard DAC or power
amplifiers—just a digital source and the pair of loudspeakers.
Avantgarde’s huge room was packed to capacity, so I had to settle for a
quick listen standing off to the side. From what I heard, the Zero 1 is
Robert Harley in the absolute sound