Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Have You Seen?


It was the kind of serendipity I couldn’t ignore. The room next to mine was hosted by American Sound of Canada, a Canadian distributor with a bricks-and-mortar presence just outside of Toronto, which is where I live.


I’ve crossed paths with Angie Lisi, president of American Sound, on many occasions, but have never had the opportunity to write about any of her company’s products. So American Sounds’ proximity to my sleeping room and the fact that they were playing Avantgarde Acoustic’s UNO SD speakers ($35,000 per pair, all prices in USD), which have been close to my heart since the late 1990s when I first heard them at a store near my house, made it all come together.

Here, the UNO SDs were being driven by Phasemation MA-1500 mono amplifiers ($30,000 per pair), each rocking one 300B tube for a tidy 10W. Phasemation also performed preamp duties via its CM-2200 preamplifier ($26,000).


The dynamic shadings of Piazzolla’s Tango: Zero Hour were highlighted, maybe even exaggerated by the Avantgardes, which could go from a whisper to a hurricane roar in an instant. “Milonga del Ángel” was smooth as butter, rising and falling without ever breaking into a gallop, and the Avantgardes projected concise images of the bandoneon and violin, with more emphasis on the overall shape of the instruments than on the outlines. The next track, “Concierto Para Quinteto,” is more frenetic, and here the Avantgardes came into their own, slamming out dynamic peaks in the way only horns can.

In some ways, listening to a pair of Avantgardes at full chat is something of an assault. It’s kind of that Maxell-blown-away experience that only a big-ass pair of horns can provide. But here, with the UNO SDs, their internal subwoofers added a grip to the bottom that reinforced the overall feeling of power that these frightening speakers can project.


Case in point: Dead Can Dance’s Into the Labyrinth reproduced courtesy of the uniquely Canadian Oracle Delphi MkVII ’table loaded with an Analog Relax EX300 cartridge on a Glanz tonearm. The phono stage here was a Phasemation EA-550, with the whole analog front end coming in at a cool $38,000.

There’s serious low-end lurking everywhere on this album, and the UNO SDs’ subs nailed it, ripping off huge waves of tight, room-hugging bass.

Lisi was playing music at fairly high levels, and sometimes the Avantgardes could snap off a transient that was a touch bitey—but that’s a feature, not a bug. It’s what these horns can do. They project music with realistic dynamics, and occasionally that can make you jump. It’s part of the charm.


As I was sitting there just loving the sound, I thought to myself, Hey, I’d just love to have these in my room. Wait a second! I’m a reviewer! I turned to Lisi and asked her about acquiring a review pair. “How about this coming June?” she responded.

Life is good.

Jason Thorpe
Senior Editor, SoundStage!