For years, the first thing I’ve played on every new speaker system has been Holly Cole’s “Train Song,” a track that combines powerful bass, a clear female vocal, and percussion that practically dances between the speakers. There’s something in “Train Song” to trip up almost any speaker, but the Aviano 6 sailed through it. Cole’s voice sounded especially intimate — partly because the timbre was so natural and partly because the speakers imaged so strongly. The tinkly percussion revealed tremendous depth and detail; sonic images emerged from far behind my speakers.
The Aviano 6’s dual woofers delivered the 52-Hz A-flat that kicks off “Train Song” with authority and no apparent distortion — and this one upright bass note has blown at least two woofers on speakers I’ve tested in the past.
More music listening confirmed my initial impressions. Through track after track, my listening notes filled with allcaps superlatives, exclamation points, and other crude writing devices that would get me fired from the magazine if they ever leaked into my review text.
I did start to notice a slight hiccup in the treble, though — a mild emphasis that made edgy-sounding recordings more so, and made the songs on Herbie Hancock’s The Piano sound a little less lush than I’d have liked. But I’m nitpicking here.
The Aviano 6 shook my couch with potent midbass energy. The sole recording that pushed the speaker into audible distortion was “Falling,” from electro-pop group Olive’s Extra Virgin — but it took a frat-party listening level for the track’s super-deep synth-bass line to overwhelm the Aviano 6’s woofers. There’s definitely enough bass here to make a subwoofer optional.
To tell the truth, I started this review using the Aviano 1 — a minispeaker with a 5¼ -inch woofer — for the surround channels. It’s competent, but once I heard what the Aviano 6 could do, I asked that Mordaunt-Short send the Aviano 2, which I figured would be the same speaker as the Aviano 6 minus the deep bass. The Aviano 2 was indeed a better match; it sounded just as magical as the Aviano 6.
The Aviano 5 center speaker matches the sound of the Aviano 6 and 2 well enough for the system to deliver awesome home theater sound for its price. I can’t say I loved the center as much as the others, however. Dialogue in Kit Kittredge: An American Girl and other movies sometimes sounded slightly thin, and I noticed that the timbre of voices changed when I moved my head a foot or two to the side, indicating that the horizontal dispersion wasn’t quite as consistent as it could be.
The little Aviano 7 subwoofer fills out this system perfectly. Given its dimensions and its modestly sized amplifier, it’s no powerhouse. But Mordaunt-Short seems to concentrate the Aviano’s limited force right in the area where the Aviano 6 could use a hand: frequencies between 25 and 50 Hz. Also, with the sub’s single-band EQ taming my room’s 40-Hz “hump,” the bass line from the Olive tune — which is the track I usually use to evaluate different subwoofer positions — sounded much more even.
A few speaker engineers have confessed to me that they occasionally get lucky — that sometimes a particular combination of drivers, enclosure, and crossover yields a far better result than expected. The Aviano system, especially the Aviano 6 and Aviano 2, is a prime example of this phenomenon: speakers that start with skilled engineering, sprinkle in a little good fortune, and end up delivering sound quality that’s way out of proportion to the system’s price. I think audiophiles who hear these speakers will consider them one of the all-time great values in sound.
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