Aavik Acoustics I-180 integrated amplifier: review

Review by Tom Lyle (page 1 of 3)

Danish premium audio maker Aavik was kind enough to send me three components from their entry-level range. I call this equipment “entry-level” not because it is a system priced for newcomers to the exciting world of high-end audio, but because it These are the cheapest components in the 180/280/580 series from Aavik Acoustics. The Aavik Acoustics I-180 integrated amplifier is the base model, which makes its world-class audio performance even more impressive.

I did not know the price of these three components when they arrived at my house for review. On the surface alone, I assumed they would cost a lot more. Around halfway through the review period, I took a look inside the cabinet of this integrated amplifier. Its entrails seemed to have been built by an engineer but also by a plastic artist. Its intricate but very carefully arranged interior was impressive.

During my hearing of the three components, I determined that their display and smart functionality belied their relatively low price tag. One small difficulty I have to choose from is Aavik’s decision to use a generic Apple remote for these three components rather than design one of their own. While the Apple Remote is functional, by its very nature it does not add to the intangibles that often enhance the user experience, and in this case, does not regret spending nearly $ 30,000 on all three components. .

Igor Kivritsky, who is in charge of Aavik’s North American distribution, told me that rather than designing a remote control, Aavik “focused all of its resources on developing these first”, but that a Aavik universal remote control will be available later this year. I hope the currently supplied remote will not influence the purchasing decision, but if I were to acquire any or all of these Aavik components, I would insist on receiving the new Aavik remote when it becomes available.

Integrated amplifier I-180

It seems we’ve gotten to the point where Class D amplifiers are almost universally accepted. While there are always those who are reluctant, it was usually audiophiles who were disappointed when they heard a first D-class model. listen. But that was a long time ago.

The I-180 is nothing like those early Class D amplifiers while retaining all of the benefits of using this very high efficiency switching circuit. In addition, it generates little heat and therefore little or no heat sinks, a much smaller size.

Aavik has used UMAC amplification technology developed to surpass the sound quality of other recent Class D amplifiers. This new circuit focuses on two areas of modular amplifier design; the first is PWM (pulse width modulation) generation which is done with sine wave modulation instead of triangular modulation, which has been in use for some time. This PWM reduces high frequency noise by eliminating “sharp corners” and requires much less filtering at the output. This also leads to an improved damping factor and therefore better control of the speakers.

Aavik Acoustics I-180 Integrated Rear Amplifier

In addition to using sine wave modulation rather than triangular modulation, the Aavik uses “advanced dual-mode mixed feedback” that was previously only used in the best linear amplifiers. Not only does the I-180 use these two advancements in module amp design, but Aavik also uses a volume control which uses what they call “inverted virtual GND amplifier technology, which they claim delivers. the best stability. Providing the lowest signal-to-noise ratio with strong feedback attenuates the signal to a very low gain allowing it to preserve the full signal regardless of the volume setting.

All three components examined here have a giant red LED screen that stretches from the bottom to the top of the cabinet, making it easy to read this screen from across the room. Another cool feature of these components is that I didn’t hear any difference whether I stacked the three cabinets on top of each other or placed them on different shelves. Their glossy black front panel with a single button on the right and a few push buttons on the left gives the cabinets a clean and modern look.

This relatively small integrated amplifier packs a lot of power under its hood. At 300 watts per channel, he had no problem driving my rather large Sound Lab Majestic 545 full-range condenser speakers. I usually drive them with a Pass Laboratories X250.8 solid-state power amplifier, and its signal is fed through a tube line stage, the Nagra Classic tube preamp.

I feel like I can write a thesis explaining the differences in sound quality I have heard between these two methods of powering my system. However, I got used to the sound of the Aavik I-180 rather quickly instead of my reference amp / preamp. The I-180 had muscular amp handling, and that was very impressive, as its low-frequency prowess was easy to spot. Its pitch-specific bottomless bass response, combined with extremely fast transients, made listening to this amplifier unforgettable.

Thought this was the perfect time to listen to my Japanese pressing of the LP Pink Floyd Obscured by clouds that I had lied about it again since I was recently geeky, comparing it to the remixed version on the recently released double CD Obfuscation (sic), part of The first years box.

I shot the record on a Basis Audio V turntable with a Suzaku “Red Sparrow” Top Wing cartridge mounted on a Tri-Planar 6 arm. speed. This analog front end went through a Pass Labs XP-17 phono preamplifier.

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This album mixes up what most would consider a bridge between the beginning and the end of the ‘Floyd era. Plus, most would consider it to be a great recording, which is surprising, mainly because it’s not recorded at Abbey Road, their usual favorite studio, but rather at Strawberry Studios outside of Paris.

I wasn’t prepared for the amount of low-end weight this integrated amplifier had. I should have, because it was a 300 Watt Class D Amplifier, after all. Roger Water’s bass guitar and Nick Mason’s drums were reproduced with a pitch-specific extended bass sound that was not one of the qualities I usually attribute to this recording. Roger Water’s bass guitar, combined with the thud of Nick Mason’s bass drum, added to the beat and beat of the album, making me nod with the music, which I wasn’t used to. to do with many Pink Floyd albums.


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I was shocked that this album sounded so good, as I recently listened to the remixed version on CD, but the I-180 seemed to close the gap between that and what I assumed was the sharper sound of the newly released version. remixed. This narrowing was not due to the fact that it decreased the difference between the two versions, but aesthetically brought them together. Because of this, I can’t imagine why the band seemed to think this album needed to be remixed. Additionally, the space the I-180 seemed to create between the instruments made it easier to hear the difference between Roger Water’s bass guitar settings and the different recording techniques used on drums on each track.

On this album, there are many tracks where Pink Floyd plays like a real rock band, even approaching hard rock in some ways, like the second song on the first side, “When You’re In…”. Mason hits the snare drum harder than ever on this track, and “The Gold It’s In The…”, which appears two tracks later, has actually been covered by heavy metal bands. The I-180 made a very heavy and captivating sound on these tracks. The deep bass response of the I-180 was one of the best sonic attributes of this integrated amplifier.

During the entire review period, I never felt the Aavik I-180 adding its own “sound” to the signal, and this clarity allowed each recording I played to reveal both the flaws. and the conquests of each. Both macro and micro-dynamics have been reproduced with very realistic quality thanks to the Aavik I-180.

My benchmark amp and preamplifier, which cost more than three times as much as this single Aavik component, could distinguish better from very similar sounding instruments with lots of high frequency energy. However, after some time spent with the Aavik in my system, this minor complaint became less noticeable and I appreciated the very positive characteristics of this integrated amplifier much more. The Aavik I-180 had a very detailed sound, but never sounded engraved or in any way too detailed, depending on the recording, of course.

I have often said to myself that I was impressed with this integrated amplifier, that for a Class D amplifier, it sounded excellent. However, as I progressed through the review period, I stopped thinking that this was an exceptional Class D integrated amplifier, but simply an exceptional integrated amplifier, above all. at its price. I thought this was true even after reinstalling it in my system after listening to my reference. Sure, I heard better, but these amps had a lot less power and a lot less features than this really nice integrated amplifier.

The red LED screen covering the front panel of the I-180 was easy to read, even from across the room, and the intangibles of this amplifier, as many parameters can be changed by the user. I would have liked a subwoofer output, but other than that there wasn’t much more than I would have liked.

At $ 7,200 I have a bit of a hard time calling this integrated amplifier a bargain, but at 300 Wpc this is a muscular amp I doubt you’ll find one with so much power combined with that nice close appearance. of its price.

Next page: Review of the Aavik Acoustics D-180 DAC

Specifications I-180

Line step
Gain (line 1 – 4: 5-15 dB; maximum input 4.5 V RMS
Gain (line 5: 1-11dB; maximum input 6.5V RMS
Input impedance 10kOhm
Preamplifier output:
One pair of RCA output
Maximum output: 7.5 Vrm
Distortion, line age:
Output Impedance: 50 Ohms
Volume control: 76 positions in 1dB steps
Go out:
Two channels at 300 Watts @ 8 Ohm (600W @ 4 Ohms)
Distortion (THD + N): DIM: TIM: Dimensions: 4 ″ x 15 ″ x 15 ″ (HxWxD)
Weight: 19.5 lbs.
Price: $ 7,200

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