AVID HiFi EVO FOUR Speakers REVIEW
This is a review written by Terry Ellis November 2022.
For my video review please see my YouTube channel link here
When I think back over all of my reviews in the last 5 years I have looked at least 40 maybe even 50 different 2 way stand mount speakers starting at £300 to about £20,000. They have all been different but a lot of them share a common-ish theme in terms of their design or what you might call their voicing. Its no word of exaggeration from me when I say I have never heard a 2 way stand mount speaker quite like the AVID EVO 4 so if this is your speaker type of choice and you cant find one that’s ticks all your boxes maybe this will be it.
Voicing is crucial
I first heard prototypes of the AVID HiFi EVO Four speakers at a hifi show a few years ago but its taken them several years to get the speakers fully ready for prime time. I think the EVO Four look really nice, the front thick solid aluminium baffle design is very cool but the rear also has a thick solid aluminium panel that is even cooler. I love the rear panel design featuring the Union Jack and the custom speaker cable terminals, I love those touches of quality like that and it’s a shame they are hidden.
To me the EVO Four are an unusual design, yes they have a typical 1 and a bit inch soft dome tweeter and a 6 inch mid bass driver but the shape of the speaker is small fronted, there are obvious benefits to this. The speakers are really very deep at 17 half inches so its very likely they will require custom stands and they have legs supporting the speaker body because they are bottom ported. They are very obviously different and also very obviously premium with a retail price of £8000.
There is a very common stand mount speaker voicing where a designer will roll off the treble some and raise the bass some and I have looked at lots of speakers voiced like this at many different price points. By rolling off the treble and raising the bass some it makes a speaker sound warmer and subjectively more pleasing. It helps to reduce the nasties that is in a lot of modern or compressed music and it can help make a smaller speaker sound larger. There are other reasons for doing this too, some are technical and its even been studied by Harman and proven that this type of speaker voicing is very popular. But clearly its not going to be for everyone otherwise all manufacturers would only make this type of speaker and we would all own speakers like this and they don’t and we don’t.
I do like this type of speaker voicing or a specific variation of it so there is merit in it but I do often find the treble can be a little soft. So much so I have been considering looking into super tweeters to give me some more control over this. Then we also have to consider as get older we may start to lose the higher frequencies so a speaker that delivers high frequencies with more energy could be a good thing for some audiophiles.
But I think it’s a fine line getting treble right because realistic treble, real sounding high frequencies would be loud and attacking. Think about the size of a cymbal and someone whacking it with a stick, the sound it produces is going to be loud and probably hard and have real presence. Yet a lot hifi and especially stand mount speakers soften the treble to make them sound more pleasing speakers to listen to and yet its claimed they still sound accurate and authentic but do they and do we really want that kind of level of authenticity for home listening?
Unique sound in ways
The whole point of discussing this is to create a context for the voicing of the EVO Four because there are not many stand mount speakers voiced like they are. I assumed AVID wanted to create a very high resolution small speaker that would image like a panel speaker but have much more bite and attack at both extreme ends of the frequency spectrum, because that was my initial take on them. I later asked AVID owner Conrad Mas about this he told me the EVO Four were designed technically and aesthetically, with a computer modelled the crossover but then through extensive listening and adjustment the team settled on a sound they thought was best. I think that is a great way, likely the best way to design a speaker.
To describe the EVO Four sound I think I should start with their biggest strengths and that is clarity, transparency and 3D sound stage. The EVO Four totally disappear and present an ultra precise soundstage with fantastic layering and organisation, creating a wonderful sense of space with speed and articulation and very present micro details. They sound very open and extremely expansive for their higher frequencies something speakers with a more rolled off top end just don’t do at all. This is obviously in large part due to the tweeter which is made from silk with a special damping compound applied called Acuflex, a damping compound strategy which is used to help cancel out break up that causes distortion. I think the tweeter is really something for just how precise and articulate it delivers information, so very clearly and very present. Silk dome tweeters do seem to have a slightly softer slightly more rounded way of presenting even crispy high frequencies, different I think to metal tweeters and the way the treble has been voiced into the the EVO Four puts them right on the front foot for transients clarity or edge definition which is great for electronic music which I listen to a lot and I think classical, but I don’t listen to much classical music.
There is a but here that I will get to shortly. A 6 inch mid bass driver in a good size enclosure is enough to give you some good bass and very good and very tight bass is what the EVO Four deliver. The bass is almost as articulate as the treble, not quite but almost. Back to the voicing, the EVO Four are designed to have a fairly flat bass response so its subtle when its supposed to be and bigger when called for and it can be surprising big. I personally prefer a bass that’s always big and then massive at times but thats not what everyone wants especially if your room setup is on the more bass heavy side or your placing speakers closer to walls and corners. The EVO Four will deliver a good amount of bass for you and probably negate the need for subwoofers for most owners, although adding a pair of good subwoofers to a system is always good advice. This is not a small speaker even though it seems so, but its still not a large speaker either, the bass is very impressive for the size.
There is a but here with the bass also, both buts relate to the vocals delivery. The tweeter is crossed over around 2 khz which means its doing a fair bit of the vocal region. This is common for a lot of modern speakers and I always find this makes vocals sound crisper at the tops of vocals and I do like it to a degree but it takes some getting used to compared to a paper or polypropylene mids driver crossed over higher and what that sounds like, often a smoother and more rounded sounding upper region of voices. They are maybe not as clear and as well resolved but also not as crispy sounding. Then when you combine this with the bass voicing that is relatively flat with a recession around 200 hz I found certain male vocals to lack some boldness and solidity and fullness compared to other speakers I have reviewed in this price category, I am thinking of the Marten Parker Duo which sound very tonally strong and always bold
But I do love how the EVO Four carve vocals out in space in the soundstage again with fantastic clarity and detail. The treble profile of the EVO Four will be better represented with a graph of how the speakers measured in my room. You can see the tweeter rising from 2khz, its very smooth but there is a fair few db worth of rise happening up to about 10khz and this means in some music there is fantastic amounts of ambience and cymbals can really shimmer and with electronic music the higher frequency details really pop. But other music like the Streets Original Pirate Material the music becomes very treble led and I think it gets in the way a bit as it dominates and even in sections of a softer song in the main like Christel Alsos, If you knew me now the treble detail becomes a bit hot and again dominates too much for me at least in my smaller listening room at the types of loud volumes I listen at. Lower volumes is a little different as our ears are less sensitive of course, maybe there is something in that.
Other speakers have this type of voicing too like Sonus faber and Bowers and Wilkins. The AVID sound different though, totally different to Sonus faber and different to Bowers, with the 805 D4 being closest in terms of comparison. Bowers 800 range are infamous so you might be thinking what makes the EVO Four stand out compared to the Bowers, interestingly its probably what you cant see.
The whole AVID concept for all their products is to remove bad vibration which makes sense in a turntable but also makes sense in a speaker. The thick solid aluminium baffle definitely makes sense for being a very inert front of a speaker to mount a driver to. What you cant see is the drivers are mounted inside the speaker to an aluminium frame system with a built in vibration damping solution AVID call TMT tuned mass technology. This essentially absorbs the mechanical vibration of the driver and stops it going into the cabinet. Of course the pressure created by the drivers motion backwards and forwards still goes into the cabinet which is important as we need to be hear that but we don’t want to be hearing the cabinet being excited with the mechanical vibration of the driver as that cause the cabinet to vibrate which can colour and smear the music.
Of course its impossible for me to know how well this works, but I did some listening comparisons with the Mission 770 my current reference speakers and of course it’s a chalk and cheese comparison but the Mission have a very inert cabinet and do disappear well. Compared to the AVID you can hear sound coming from a large speaker, you don’t hear any sound coming from the EVO Four, they totally disappear that is partly why they cost three times as much.
This comparison is also extremely interesting because the Mission 770 have exactly the voicing I mentioned earlier bold in the bass and softer in the top and its very interesting to listen between these speakers as one shows off the main strength of the other. The Missions big strength is they create a big sound, very pleasing with a big solid bass for a stand mount, they present higher frequency information with nice sparkle too, but its a softer sparkle and their vocals are just awesome. They also can sound very 3-dimensional with the right music.
Whereas the AVID sound 3-dimensional with all music because they disappear and that creates so much space in the soundstage. They have a lot more high frequency energy which makes them sound faster and livelier and large too but in a different way. Their bass is tighter than the Mission not by much and its very music dependent, their vocals sound crisper but not as smooth and pleasing for me in the main.
Using the Rings of Power season 1 sound track showed me these differences really very clearly with the AVID I think being great for the orchestral pieces because their clarity and energy really shows off the upper dynamics reach of the music. The Mission sound subdued in comparison but also very warm and bold which sounded great for track 4 Kaszad-dum that has strong male vocals and a lot of dwarf boldness to the track. Its beautiful music to listen to on a good system.
Audiophiles love synergy
But here is the real kicker to this situation. The Mission are easy to find a nice system synergy, yes some kit sounds better than others but the difference delta is not as great or the standard is always high. I have found the AVID to be quite fussy and they have had me working really hard to find a system synergy I thought was perfect. I do think this is to be expected though for a speaker designed this way.
I started with a crazy high resolution Chord front end (M Scaler and Hugo TT 2) with AVID best integrated amplifier the Sigsum and I didn’t think this combo worked that well. It sounded extremely clear, extremely detailed with immense sound stage depth but it was too vivid and not rich and bold and bouncy enough for me for longer loud listening sessions. I then changed to the darker and warmer sounding all NAD system and that seemed to be a better match, but even within this system I was ringing the tweak changes to try and find the perfect balance. I did find it once and it was awesome but then had to compare to the Missions again so sadly I couldn’t just stick with that sound. This showed me more of the sonic potential of the AVID and how its far greater than what the Mission can offer in a lot of ways, as it should be for the price difference but the Missions I found easier to be happy with.
Moral of this story, the voicing of the EVO Four I think is right on the line for me with the treble. I really like the lively high frequency stuff in music, the energy and the sense of detail and ambience and the crispness of the treble I really like it. But the upper vocal region where sibilance is and there is sibilance in a lot of content, I am very sensitive to it and in that frequency range and I found the AVID to be too strong with the high resolution Chord front end and still just a little bit too strong at times with the warmer darker all NAD system. There could be any number of causes but the speakers voicing I think will bring out sibilance when its there and if the system also brings it out then you can guess the rest. Moral of this story is speaker placement is always important as is a hifi systems synergy.
Are the Mission 700 the right speakers
I spent the lion share of my second review week testing with the Omnia in isolation with the new Mission 700 speakers because I was told there is a great synergy between them. Audiophiles are always looking for system synergy, especially between amplifiers and speakers and I was told the truth. Its early days for me with the Mission 700 speakers review but boy are they good, similar to the 770 but different enough. They are warmer overall and bolder in the presence mid bass and that pairs lovely with the Omnia and two sound really great together, maybe even better than the Omnia and 770. The 700 and Omnia is just great, everything just sounds right and I think this is the sign of great synergy, when you stop thinking about it and just start going deep into your music collection.
Long review number Two
Time to sum things up, what a difference a week or an update can make. I am glad I was forced in a way to go back and revisit the Omnia after the Play-Fi 8.1 update because it gave me more time to reflect and see things a little differently. A week listening to the Omnia in isolation with the new Mission 700 speakers has been a joyful experience for the audio quality and its been with no gaps too and that one seemingly small change makes me feel very different about the Omnia compared to other solutions especially for its £1599 price tag.
I think if your buying an all one HiFi product its extremely important that it ticks all the right boxes for you because the whole concept of having only one unit only makes sense when it does, at least to me. That is interesting because none will offer you everything of course but I think it’s worth spending a bit extra if it means more of your important boxes are ticked..
The Omnia big standout tick is the CD player that is its edge coupled with the Audiolab smooth neutral sound quality that’s great with the right speakers. The music streaming smarts are now better too which is great but being honest Play-Fi is still not delivering at the same level of user experience as competitor solutions and this is important to consider especially if music streaming is what you do a lot. But if you are quite new to music streaming and not what you might be a call a power user then Play-Fi is quick and easy to use and its simplicity could be exactly what you need combined with multi room potential if you want it.
Finding the perfect one
While we are on the topic of Synergy having the AVID Sigsum integrated amplifier here to review you would expect great synergy and with the NAD front end I liked it more for sure. The Sigsum also features the AVID Pulsus phono stage which is a £2000 phono stage. Vinyl does obviously sound different to digital and I have an AVID turntable here too, the Ingenium Plug & Play so this should have given me maximum synergy with everything coming from one manufacturer.
There definitely was but it was still a very lively upfront sound but I found the overall balance of the higher frequencies to be better balanced than with of the digital setups I tried. I have The Streets on vinyl too and it was still a quite treble forward listen but an easier listen in that regard. Adele 25 is quite a hot mastered album as we know all know but it was a very enjoyable listen on vinyl and then Colter Wall, this one really pulled on my emotion strings and showed me why going on a vinyl journey is going to be worth it.
I suppose the Moral of this part of the story is vinyl sounded excellent in the main and I can see why the speakers have this voicing because it gives liveliness and verve to vinyl which I like but like with everything this sound wont be for everyone.
I think this is a genuine question audiophiles should ask themselves, do I buy the AVID EVO Four instead of the Bowers 805 D4 and the answer is maybe. The reason I am using the Bowers example is their popularity and familiarity and because they have a similar voicing in the treble, that doesn’t mean the same but there is more similarity compared to a lot of speakers that are rolling off the treble so at least its an apple to apples comparison.
There is quite a big price difference of over a thousand pounds between them, so its a fair premium more for the AVID and of course some will buy the Bowers just because they are Bowers. If you hate the Bowers sound the EVO Four might still be for you, or maybe not for the similarities, but you should still listen to them because they are different. My advice here is if your considering the Bowers 805 you should also demo the AVID too to see if their strengths, the openness, clarity and 3-dimensionality appeal to you more in your room on your system.
For everyone else if you want a big warm cuddly sounding speaker, these are not for you. If you prefer a speaker that has more about it in terms of clarity, resolution, sound stage and energy these could well be for you, they are very impressive in a lot of ways but its always a fine line at this level for a speaker being the perfect one for you, bearing in mind perfect doesn’t exist but we are in pursuit of it.
An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential.