Review: Avalon Acoustics Radian Speaker

Category: Speakers

On a whim I purchased the Avalon Radian speakers for what
I thought was a fair price. Their condition was mint, near
perfect in every respect. Each time I heard new Avalon speakers, like the Eidolon or Opus, there was always
something missing in their presentation. So why buy? They seemed to have potential because of their wide soundstage and imaging that was very precise, something I prize very much in an audio component. I felt if the Radians were 80%
as good at 1/6th the price of the new stuff, what a deal!!!

Each audio salon that carried Avalon speakers always had
the Eidolon or Opus matched with Spectral equipment.
I highly recommend Spectral for their very elegant presentation, easily the widest soundstage and precise imaging of all solid state equipment I have heard including
Rowland, Pass Labs, Krell, Classe, and even Gamut, supposedly the new king of the hill. Only Krell can beat it
on bass slam except the older pure Class A DMA-200 which is
included in this review.

The audio salons raved about Avalon , but as I said each time I listened, there was something not right, but the soundstage was very wide and deep with precisely focused
images of instruments or vocalists. I will state upfront
that they are either in too large of a room for the twin
woofers of the Opus or the single 11" woofer in the Eidolon.
And/or the listening was overdamped with tube traps. Thus
sounding anemic in the bass and/or dead, dull sounding
performance lacking air in the upper midrange treble

So as I said at the top on a lark I purchased the Avalon
Radian for what I considered a fair price. They were shipped
in their heavy custom crates. Lugged upstairs 280 pounds each with lots of sweat, uncrated and setup. The room is exactly 20 feet by 30 feet, with 4 feet vertical walls, then sloping upwards towards the roof giving a 10 feet clearance at the top. Using the Stereophile Test CD 1 and 2 and Radio Shack SPL meter, I set up the speakers. The best(ie flatest response) was 9 feet apart and either 4 or 7 or 9 feet from the back wall. Most of my listening has been with the 4 foot due to either the wife did not like them so far out or because they do weigh 170 pounds and are awkward to move about.

Without tube traps, but plenty of furniture, bookshelves, etc. I was able to acheive a flat frequency response between
30hz-16Khz of +/- 3dB; with usable bass down to 20Hz and down 6dB at 20KHz. So far so good.

My wife and I always put on "What's New" by Linda Ronstadt
and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, when we want to test anything new in the system. We put it on. Wow. Lifeless
and dead. I get out the manual to see if I had forgot anything. Toe-in. I said that really can't make that much
difference. I turned them about 6 or 7 degrees. We put it on
again. Wow. What a difference!!! Her voice was crystal
clear with a very precise image and the orchestra's presence was right there!! A marvelous first(second) impression. Now anybody that knows me on Audiogon knows me
as a dipole kind of guy, so how do they compare? Really
there is no comparison, it is truly a different experience.
It might seem trite, but it is like comparing apples to
oranges, they are just different, a box speaker and an electrostatic speaker. But please read on and I will explain.

Next up had to be Schubert, so the Emerson String Quartet rendition of the 14th String Quartet was put on. I have heard this recording at least 300 times, so I think I know
it. Wrong. It was amazing! The low level resolution of the
Radians was unbelievable. Sounds like breathing, bowing
techniques, feet moving which were recorded were heard
for the first time, just awesome. I never heard this through
my Acoustat 2+2s, Maggie 3.6s, Von Schweikerts, or Totems.
Just amazing.

So far compared to other newer models of Avalons like the
Opus and Eidolon, the Radians sounded more alive and more air in the treble region. Whether this was due to room acoustics or room size I do not know. Perhaps even by design, the Radians being sealed and the Opus and Eidolon
being ported(though Avalon avoids this terminology). Though
ported designs should really affect bass, and not treble

Getting to the bass region, I am not a bass freak by nature.
But it is important to some, and I can report that the bass
is there, fast, articulate and plenty of it. I put on the
Godsmack CD, and cranked it up. The machine gun bass was
smooth, not harsh, was not one note. Compared to the above
contenders, beat them all including the new Eidolon and Opus
speakers. I do not want to harp but it has to be the rooms.
Or the synergy with the Spectral DMA200 was made in heaven.

So the soundstage and image focus which are Avalon Acoustics
tradmarks were there in spades. What ever recording had good
mike placements had great soundstage and imaging better
than the above except the Maggie 3.6, which was on par.

The downside of any box speaker is the lack of apparent dynamics and dynamic compression, and congealing at high volumes. They were all present, though less than the above
box speakers. I must say at low volume, say 60-70 dB, there
was not a lack of anything, it was as tuneful as at higher
volumes. You definitely cannot say that about dipoles, they
definitely need loudness!

So what is upshot of this. I have two rooms one with the
Acoustats and one with the Avalons. Their differences in
presentation warrant this. There is no one speaker out there
that can do it all,(at least not at a price I can afford) but at least for now I have the best of both
worlds. Do I recommend the Radians, heartily. And to you
dipole freaks.... don't give them up.... just go to the
"dark side" and get yourself a second system. Hey you need
both apples and oranges to live well.

Associated gear
Spectral DMC-10
Spectral DMA-200
Resolution CD50
Various MIT cables

Similar products
In the price range I purchased the Avalon Radians, the Magnepan 3.6, Von Schweikert VR 3.5, Totem Forest were
similarly priced. The competition were
new versus 8 year old speaker technology.
IMO your experience w/ the Opus and Eidolon designs is adversely colored due to room or system dependency issues. I think your experiencwe w/ the toe-in angle supports this- these are fussy speakers in terms of set-up, as are most ultra high-end designs. The Radian is not in the same league as these newer products. In fact, I thought that the older Ascent II was a better performer than the Radian in terms of transparency and soundstaging. Nonetheless, I'm glad to hear that you have found "the formula" that makes the Radian work for you.
Dear Linkster: Perhaps the Opus and Eidolon are better speakers but I have yet to hear the potential in them that Robert Harley and others have written about. As I said I bought them on a whim, I NEVER heard them anywhere anytime.
The person I purchased them from was a very nice gentleman
who was a former Avalon dealer. He has a pair of Ascent II
also, that he is keeping. He also prefers them to the Radians, he said he didn't like the Radian HCs or the
the 2 way Avalons as much. Lots of people think the speakers
are analytical with Spectral, I in fact find the opposite
to be true. They are a little warmer than I supposed they
would have been considering the buzz about them. Again for the money I paid for them, the sound value is more than I thought I would get. To me they were a bargain.
I used to own a pair of Radians and you got one killer speaker. I have listened to the Eidolon maybe 10 times and only once did I think the Eidolon was setup right. Well only once did I think they was setup the way I would set them up. I think you said it best. There isn't one speaker that does it all but I think you have a winner with the Radian.