Review: AVM Evolution SD 3.2 Streaming Preamplifier DAC

Posted on 14th December, 2015

Review: AVM SD 3.2 Streaming Preamplifier with DAC

Setup

I found setup to be straightforward enough for a streaming device that requires connectivity to your network and the internet. I plugged in the RJ45 Ethernet connector and made the power connection. I used a Bryston 14B SST2 power amplifier via balanced Synergistic Research interconnects, and that’s about all you need in order to play music. A hard wired network connection is required in order to setup the interface to your iPad and/or wireless remote control, as both operate via your network. Once a connection is setup on your device, you can then setup a wireless connection if that is more convenient, or if the listening room doesn’t have an Ethernet connection available.

Review: AVM Evolution SD 3.2 Preamplifier with DAC

I downloaded the AVM RC S app from the App Store onto my iPad and found it very straightforward to setup and use. Once it was connected, I pressed the update button in the device settings menu and after a few minutes it rebooted with updated host firmware (v0.18 dated 16-10-15). This latest update allows streaming via Tidal as well as some other enhancements. Also new is access to ‘Airable’, a provider of web radio, podcasts, and online music services which replaces the formerly installed web radio service named vTuner.

Once everything is connected and updated, all that remains is to choose a suitable source and some musical content. Selecting Airable, and then ‘Radios’ brings up selectable menus for an immense range of stations from around the globe. Within seconds I was streaming music from the internet, albeit at a low bit rate. This at least confirmed that everything was working correctly and that music would play.

Using the optional AVM RC 9 remote control was really handy, especially with its small color display. As it is controlled via the same wireless network that the SD 3.2 unit uses, the range is wonderful, extending right around the home. I carried it around the home with me wherever I was, whilst still being able to adjust the content and volume. The same goes using an iPad or tablet device. The convenience factor is very high and the sheer usability of it makes using the streaming DAC a pleasure to use.

Review: AVM Evolution SD 3.2 Preamplifier with DAC

Listening

As the sample unit had already been run-in before I received it, it only required some warm up time before I could start some subjective testing and listening. I started off by listening to some music on a USB stick inserted into the rear panel of the unit. This contains a mixture of music that I have ripped from CD into FLAC files, along with uncompressed WAV and high resolution FLAC and AIFF files. The SD 3.2 played them without fuss or delay. I also connected a CD transport and streamed from music residing on my NAS.

“Use Me” by Junior Wells is a familiar track to get a feel for the sound quality. I was greeted with a fast and punchy sound, just the way that it should be, with lots of background detail and sustained reverb tails. The bass player and drummer work together in close formation on this track, which gives a funky feel to it, but also a very good sense of timing and rhythm. The silence in between the notes is just as important as the notes that are being played, and the AVM provided a lovely quiet background for the music to spring from. This allows the music to breath and allows it to sound realistic and to some extent, live. I was also impressed with the size of the soundstage and the stability of the soundstage image itself, with everything being rock solid.

Review: AVM Evolution SD 3.2 Preamplifier with DACI switched to a 192khz/24bit recording of “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 3, “The Klezmer Concerto” Movement 1 from the album “Joy and Sorrow” by David Chesky. Although not a piece of music that I would normally like to listen to, as it is a bit sad, the recording and the engineering is superb, featuring binaural recording technology. Wikipedia states that “Binaural recording is a method of recording sound that uses two microphones, arranged with the intent to create a 3-D stereo sound sensation for the listener of actually being in the room with the performers or instruments.” I found that it sounded very realistic in both tone and in the sense of space around the instruments in the recording room. It has to be played and recorded in just one take and goes against the common practice of multichannel edits; it sounds better than usual for all the effort required.

The SD 3.2 delivers all the spatial information clearly with an excellent spread of instruments from left to right and in height and depth. Nothing seems out of place and it sounds like the streaming DAC just gets out of the way of the music and delivers everything on offer. It sounds very smooth and natural on this piece of music, with all of the instruments sounding tonally clean, pure and true. The room decays are particularly clean and long in length. I have no hesitation in saying that the AVM delivers all of the emotion and sadness of the track very convincingly, and without the distortion or saturation of a lot of valve preamplifiers.

A well-used track that most audiophiles tend to run away from is Rebecca Pidgeon’s “Spanish Harlem”. This high-res track is included in the review specifically for the manner that the AVM manages to faithfully extract every bit of the room decay of her voice. I know this track very well and can easily determine when a device gets it right or not. Happily, the AVM really nails her voice as it echo’s from her lips out into the recording room, to be picked up again by the microphone. It is the relationship between her voice and the reverb of the room that is quite special and it sounds very clean and accurate, with tons of detail and interest. Even the maracas reverb cleanly and naturally. It seems as if the timing is absolutely spot on and this allows everything to sound as it should, as if there is a lack of confusion, but rather a sense of unity and togetherness.

This feeling of ultra-precise timing and unity only intensified as the AVM and Bryston power amplifier was left running for days during my listening tests. Rather than switching them off at the end of the day, I found that by leaving them on and playing music from the USB stick softly it has cumulative effect upon the evenness of the tone from top to bottom. It’s also apparent that it increased the size and depth of the sound stage as well as adding to the overall naturalness of music. While the same could be said for many audio products, it really became quite special after 4 or 5 days.

For example, playing any sort of simple piano recording was all telling and revealing of the phenomenon. Alfred Brendel playing Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57” in the background whilst working in the office was magnificent. The tone of the piano sounded more than just a little better with the units after running them for some days. Rather, it was the difference between saying that the AVM CS 3.2 has some minor tonal anomalies, or being able to state that the unit is tonally pure, neutral and with harmonic integrity. Which is most certainly is.

This is part of the reason that reviewers cannot be rushed in giving a professional opinion. Those that do rush, are not doing products justice and they are often inconsistent with the results.

Mark Gusew's avatar

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 

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