Review of GR Research A/V-1
Preamp: Yamaha 995
Amp: Rotel 1075
SACD Player: Sony SCD-CE775
DVD Player: JVC VBK 500
Interconnects: BetterCables and Sonic Horizons
Never audition new equipment, it only gets you in trouble. I have been a long-time Kef fan, and love their sound. Over the summer I heard their new Reference Line, which made my Kef Q series speakers sound terrible. However, there was no way I was ever going to be able to afford the speakers, so the search was on for better sound for less money (aren’t we all?). Unfortunately, my limit is approximately $500/component, excluding a television. After several months of research, I settled on the GR Research A/V-1.
I bought unfinished cabinets (the smaller ones tuned to 60 Hz) from Brian Bunge at http://www.rutledgeaudiodesign.com/
Brian’s work is stellar, and he is a great guy to deal with. I can highly recommend him. I eventually ordered the A/V-1 Kit from Danny with the Sonicaps upgrade and the BlackHole 5. The cabinets were primered, sprayed with a black textured paint, and then sprayed with a high gloss black paint finish. They look pretty good, but not nearly as good as Brian’s. However, these will eventually (in a year or so) be moved to surround duty and replaced with other A/V-1s in a better finish.
The speakers currently have approximately 15 hours of playing time. Here are some general comments, to be followed with some specifics. In general these speakers produce a very large, very deep soundstage. Imaging is extremely good. These speakers also put out a lot of very clean bass – especially since they are very small boxes. However, two things immediately struck me. One, these are very quiet speakers. What I mean, is that instruments are clearly separated in space, and the space between them is dead silent. Second, these speakers resolved low level details amazingly well, I am hearing this now that I have never heard before.
Specific Music in no particular order
Holly Cole – Temptation and Don’t Smoke in Bed - The Temptation album is great for bass, and highlight the A/V-1s ability to put out clean, articulate bass. The upright bass is clear and tuneful, not one note and thumpy. Listening to this CD was a real treat. On Don’t smoke in Bed, the tune I can see clearly now has a piano riff, that sounded just like a live piano – again it was clear, with just the right amount of decay.
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (aka Brudda Iz) - For those not familiar, the late Brudda Iz is a giant (figuratively and literally) of Hawaiian music. If you have seen the episode of ER where Dr. Mark dies, Iz is who was singing somewhere over the rainbow at the end of the episode. The Ukulele is a very difficult instrument to get right because of its slightly off key and plucky sound. On the Kefs the ukulele never sounded right. Here it did – the notes got played, and then stopped – they dynamics were just right.
Eva Cassidy – Live at Blue’s Alley – This women had an amazing voice, and this was a good test of the A/V-1s midrange. Momentarily waxing poetic – the rendition of What a wonderful world, brought tears to my eyes. The soft gentle tones were moving. This is one of the best and smoothest midranges I have ever heard. Clear, smooth, no chestiness or boxiness. A true joy.
Diana Krall (SACD) – lots of detail here. The sound of individual bristles on the snare drums was clearly portrayed. The piano, again, was smooth and liquidy.
Rolling Stones (SACD) – These speakers can also boogey when needed. Gimme Shelter was a real treat, especially with Gracie Slicks singing. You Can't Always Get What you Want was a real eyeopener. The chorus at the beginning was laid out perfectly, and was rather intense.
Well, no real tests here, except that on LOTR: FOTR EE, in the swamp scene with Aragon and the hobbits, the flies really jumped out at you. Again, the low level detail retrieval is really great.
All in all, this is a great speaker at a reasonable price. Danny has hit a homerun. The rumors on the net are that the A/V1+ is even better, but I do not want to find out at this time. Give these speakers a listen if you get a chance, you will not be disappointed. These seem to be forgiving speakers that are good at everything. However, they tend to be a bit laid back and on the warmish side (which is what I prefer, and why I did not build some Adire Kit81s).