Review: AVM Evolution SD 3.2 Streaming Preamplifier DAC

Mark Gusew's avatar

by Mark Gusew

14th December, 2015

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Review: AVM SD 3.2 Streaming Preamplifier with DAC

Comparisons

The NAD M12 is a similar spec streaming DAC and preamplifier, so is a suitable unit for the sake of comparison. Playing award-winning Daniel Lanois’ second track “The Maker” from the “Acadie” album, this track has always struck me with the feeling that the bass lines are somewhat bloated and confused, a little difficult to follow along. That was certainly the case when listening to the track through the NAD.

When switching to the AVM, there was a touch less bass weight, but a clear ability to decipher the individual instruments and their contribution to the overall sound, it was like someone cleaned the window that you are looking through. There was also more front to back layering and an overall cleanness and separation of all its parts in the music. The NAD on the other hand highlighted the vocals as sounding slightly more aggressively forward and brighter. The cymbals were more splashy and edgy, and Aaron Nevilles’ vocals were not as smooth and integrated.

It struck me whilst playing it for about the 4th or 5th time, going back and forward between units, just how much is really recorded within the track, with bongo’s, synthesiser and backing vocals all blending in to give you a big sound. A really good system should give you the ability to break down the mix, hearing each individual component and to visualise each and every one of them. You should be able to separate them and then rebuild them in your mind, just as they would have been at the recording studio. This is something that the AVM SD3.2 did well. As a tool used to unravel all of the individual parts in a music track, it does exceedingly well. And it doesn’t sound analytical in the way that it goes about its business. It is smooth, musical and detailed, with enough audible clues being given, to make any music lover and audiophile happy for years to come.

Switching to another track in constant rotation is Daft Punk’s “The Game of Love”, the opening 20 seconds of the track contain light cymbal work that highlighted the differences between the two units. Through the NAD it sounded more like wood being tapped on steel, whilst the AVM correctly gave me the sound of wood sticks on a large brass ride cymbal. The shimmer and reverb was spot on and it sounded very realistic, with all the correct tones and harmonics of a real cymbal. Incidentally, cymbals are on my personal “list of hard to accurately reproduce instruments”, as I played drums in my youth and certainly know how they sound. To the credit of the NAD there was a touch more force and impact to the bass guitar and kick drum, which seemed to be just what the powerful Bryston (600W/Channel into 8 ohms) needed to really light up and give me something approaching live concert sound pressure levels. Sometimes I just love this job!

Conclusion

At a retail price of $7587 I believe that the AVM SD 3.2 represents excellent value as a high quality and versatile multi-purpose device.

With its wide range of inputs, both analogue and digital, it is highly capable of handling everything that you are ever likely to need to connect up to it. Add to this the inclusion of what I consider to be mandatory for this price bracket, both balanced and unbalanced outputs, as well as a headphone output, it really is just like the Swiss army knife.

As the majority of music played in homes is now streamed in one form or another, it is totally modern in the fact that it has native support for internet radio stations, podcasts and importantly the lossless streaming service Tidal. Having the AVM app on your favorite tablet or smartphone device is a game changer, as the convenience and level of control is highly addictive.

The interface is slick, it operates quickly with very little lag and is easy to use. Alternatively there is always the optional remote control, if that is what you prefer.

I enjoyed the versatility and ability to play any song that I liked from my NAS or network storage, wirelessly if I preferred, as well as from a USB stick or portable hard drive connected directly into the rear panel. To me, that ability, especially with the flexibility to handle the majority of musical file formats and resolutions out there, is key to any having any successful piece of equipment and as a long term proposition.

With AVM’s continued support via updates and a simple update procedure, I believe that AVM have really produced a winner here. And that’s even before you have heard it! Once you do, I’m sure that you will feel as I do, that the AVM is truly one of the best sounding, most well thought out and executed streaming pre-amplifier / DACs on the market.

BEST IN CLASS 2015 - Digital Preamplifier with Streaming DACAt the tail-end of the year it becomes clearer which products we've looked at this year are worthy of accolades and awards. Without doubt, the AVM Evolution SD 3.2 takes the award for Best In Class - Digital Preamplifier with Streaming / DAC for 2015. A credit to AVM and Australian distributor, National Audio Group.

Pros

Sound quality, versatility of inputs and streaming sources, upgradability

Cons

Expensive remote control

AVM is distributed in Australia by National Audio Group.

Mark Gusew's avatar

Written by:

Mark Gusew

Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early 80’s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now manages a boutique audio manufacturer.

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Posted in: Hi-Fi
Tags: avm  evolution sd 3.2  national audio group 

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