AudioControl Avalon G4 Review: This amplifier can do everything
More than forty years ago, a group of avid US enthusiasts founded AudioControl. Much has been accomplished and manufactured over the years: sound processors and pre-amplifiers, equalizers and crossovers, multi-room equipment and power amplifiers – both in the home audio industry and in car audio systems.
Today we will focus on the Avalon G4 four-channel power amplifier. Building on their best practices (previously used in the Savoy G3), AudioControl engineers have created a versatile amplifier that can really make you smile. At least that’s what happened to me.
The design of the Avalon G4 is quite austere, but there are nuances that make it look quite stylish. First of all, there is a very futuristic-looking blue line that runs through almost the entire front panel of the amplifier. On the left side it is stopped by the power indicator, on the right – the power button.
Especially for those who do not like lights on such devices, there is a function to turn them off. But to my taste, this “sword” looks stylish and laconic, creating the effect of “light from within”, which perfectly complemented the textured front panel and never attracted too much attention.
But all the fun is located on the back panel. Looking at it, firstly, you can intuitively understand how to connect and configure the output signal for speakers. Secondly, it becomes clear why the Avalon G4 is called “universal”.
Four pairs of contact terminals for connecting acoustics immediately draw attention to themselves. That is, four speakers can be connected to it – and it will deliver an impressive 230 watts into 8 ohms (300 watts into 4 ohms) per channel. It can be either separate channels – near each pair of terminals there are also a pair of line-in tulips – as well as two stereos or one stereo system and two independent channels.
Buttons for switching between mono and stereo modes are located in the same place. In other words, the amplifier can simultaneously serve as part of the main audio system and at the same time sound a couple of additional channels in different rooms – or become part of a home theater.
As part of the cinema, the Avalon G4 performed well: receiving the signal from the AudioControl AVR-7 receiver and amplifying it for the front and rear speakers of the Wharfedale EVO, the amplifier demonstrated a fair “level up” across the entire frequency range that the fronts and rear were capable of. The readability and articulation of the sound has grown greatly – in general, it seems that the mid-frequency range received good support, stopped limping and became noticeably better controlled. The tonal balance of the sound was not changed.
In general, even before the test, it was clear to me that an amplifier of this level could handle cinema tasks easily and naturally. Creating the right sound pressure for spectacular movie viewing is not the most difficult task. But to do it with a solid increase in the quality and volume of the sound space – here the Avalon G4 not only fulfills its purpose, but also sets a certain bar of the same “quality”, which not every device in this price segment can step over.
The formation of an imaginary scene, in my opinion, is one of the most important criteria for evaluating devices that are used in cinema systems. And what Avalon offered – I was more than satisfied. The imaginary scene is uniform, creates a sense of a certain continuity of the ongoing process in the sound field. In simple words – the picture is solid, dense, but not squeezed, and its framework is not limited by the contour of the theater system.
Another function that will be useful both in a theater system with a receiver and in a banal background sounding of a room is the automatic activation of the amplifier when an incoming signal arrives. This will save the owner from unnecessary manipulations and from the next remote control on the table near the sofa.
Looking closely, on the rear panel of the device you can see two crossover controls (one for each pair of channels) and “level” controls – there are four of them, one for each channel. From here we smoothly move on to another variation of connecting speakers to the Avalon G4 – to the triphonic.
The Avalon brings together and amplifies a stereo pair and a subwoofer. The cutoff frequency of the subwoofer can be adjusted here, as well as the level of its gain relative to the stereo pair. In this variant, the subwoofer is connected by a “bridge”, and it has a potential 600 watts into 8 ohms!
After this experiment, my attitude towards the Avalon G4, and about AudioControl in general, gradually began to change. All that was needed was a pair of Wharfedale EVO 4.4 floor speakers and an MK Sound IW28S subwoofer. What started here!
The Avalon has shown itself to be as if it was engineered to keep 15-inch subwoofers in check. The SUB15i under his control showed amazing dynamics and control of a level that most of its active brothers will envy. The bass is very precise, collected and massive – with a sharp attack and correct decays. At the same time, its speed characteristics sometimes forced me to quote Stanislavsky out loud: “I don’t believe it! ..”
Indeed, from time to time I just wanted to look at the diffuser of the subwoofer so that the sound picture in my head does not lose the credibility of what is happening. This is the bass that I never expected to hear. There was no monotony or obsession in him. On the contrary, the textures and timbres were distinct and frighteningly realistic.
The crossover on the rear panel of the Avalon G4 played an important role in this: thanks to the precise adjustment of the frequency cutoff and gain level, it was possible to achieve the very effect when the subwoofer “disappeared” into the triphonic system. But its support for floor-standing speakers was very useful – after turning off the subwoofer, the sound lost a lot, but did not acquire anything that made me refuse to use the subwoofer in the future.
Hi-Fi. Versatility is not a sentence
Now I wonder how all this versatility will manifest itself in the area where it is customary to single out a separate shelf for each component and where they are not at all used to compromises – in the high-fi sphere.
Back to the back of the Avalon G4. Of course, biamping is the first thing that comes to mind of every high-quality audio lover when he sees four pairs of terminals for speaker wires at an amplifier. However, it should be noted that here, too, I had a choice: instead of biumping, I could use the so-called “bridging” connection.
With a bridged connection, each channel is capable of playing an impressive 600 watts, which in my case would be overkill. Therefore, I limited myself to a “modest” 230 watts per channel. Given biumping, this power can potentially be obtained by each speaker segment that is amplified. Roughly speaking, 230 watts each was reserved for both the bass section and the midrange / treble section of each of the Wharfedale EVO 4.4 speaker pair. This time the Cambridge CXN v2 streamer acted as a preamplifier.
And the first impression, which has always played an important role for me, was a state close to dissonance and a smile. I must say right away that after listening to Wharfedale EVO 4.4 for quite a long time, their place was taken by Dali Rubicon 8, with which I am also very familiar. And, generalizing the experience gained in the process of testing the Avalon G4 with different speakers, in the end I got what is called the “character” of the amplifier.
First, Avalon has always been neutral – his efforts have not been in vain in any of today’s tests. The overall sound picture has always strived for a neutral presentation, which is good news. Paying attention to the high frequencies, I could not find a reason to worry: everything is in order with detail, the attenuation tends to the limit of audibility, quantitatively there were always enough of them, no frills. There are also no complaints about the middle frequencies: all the overtones and semitones that I heard on high-fi amplifiers are all in their places.
Vocals – both female and male – sound natural, free and light. Working out the lower range with the amplifier reminded me of the same impressions that I had when listening to the triphonic – Avalon perfectly articulates and controls the low frequencies, while at the same time it can “unclamp the grip” and give some freedom to the diffuser when the composition requires it. So the jazz tracks did not sound insipid and never lost their intimacy.
Again, I would like to single out the construction of an imaginary scene – now in different circumstances. In this case, the Avalon G4 is not trying to build an imaginary scene – instead, it opens a portal through which the listener observes what is happening in the composition. I really liked this approach (perhaps a bit cinematic).
The canvas of an imaginary scene is a single, integral, inseparable, but at the same time it has boundaries that do not in any way rely on the points at which the speakers are located. Excellent combination of depth and width. But positioning from the point of view of high-fi is not the best thing that I have ever heard. Images are perceived as blurred within a certain framework, although, in my opinion, they are acceptable.
As for the promised dissonance, it lurked where I definitely did not expect it. While listening, trying to analyze and memorize, I caught myself that I like this sound. But this is a four-channel universal amplifier in class H!
I’ve always been very careful looking at this type of device. But what can I say – I myself am one of those people who do not like souls in large hot amplifiers, and a retro-Englishman in the AV-class works in my home system. But now show me a skeptic ripping his shirt off for Class A amplifiers – I’ll show him the Avalon G4!
Progress does not sleep. Not a trace of my skepticism remained. The Avalon G4 doesn’t need to find its niche – it can do everything! This amplifier showed me how far and in what direction this very progress has made. At the end of the test, there were really a lot of impressions, and they did not subside soon. One of the best solutions on the market in terms of versatility and multitasking.