We collectively missed the boat when it comes to the clever Avantgarde Acoustics Zero XD, a fully active, complete system built into two loudspeakers. We missed the boat on this because when it was launched, Avantgarde Acoustics was between distributors in the UK. That all changed at the tail end of last year, as Convert (the company behind the excellent Plato media player) took over distribution, just in time for the Zero – Teil Aktiv.
If your German is as rusty as mine (I once asked to try a different kind of beer, and instead got the same beer… with a slice of pineapple) then let me put you out of your misery: ‘Teil’ means ‘Part’ because the Avantgarde Zero uses an active bass driver, but lets you select the ideal amplifier for the midrange and treble. We’ll call it the ‘Zero – TA’ from here on in to keep life simple.
There was a significant hiatus between the launch of the original Zero XD, but this tells you more about Avantgarde’s devotion to the audiophile cause than it does about product launches. The company could have simply made a passive or part-active version of the original Zero XD, but in listening tests, the active system always sounded better. It could have compensated for the imbalance the easy way, just by tweaking the DSP, but that wasn’t right, either.
Instead, although looking on paper virtually identical to the original Zero XD, the Zero – TA started with an almost entirely blank slate, and as a consequence there are important differences in nearly every aspect of the later loudspeaker. Obviously, replacing wired and wireless digital links with a pair of speaker terminals demands a radical rethink of how the system works, in particular the way the its active bass section and DSP interact with the horn-loaded mid and top. The best way of thinking about the Zero concept is that it’s like an advanced jet like the Eurofighter or the F-22 Raptor; it’s impossible to do its job without the computing power in place.
Avantgarde didn’t reinvent the wheel for its own sake – the basic cabinet design remains the same and that constrained the designer to using similar Avantgarde designed and built 25mm and 125mm dome drivers (sitting in their respective 77x130mm treble and 190x400mm mid-bass horns), and a long-throw 300mm pistonic drivers for the bass. These are not the same drivers throughout, however, as they feature ferrite magnets, in part to enable a greater than 104dB efficiency and a very untroubling eight Ohm load.