AVM’s Evolution range is the company’s ‘performance’ line; set above the two Inspiration integrated models, but below the cost-no-object Ovation line. To many, that represents the sweet spot, combining all the best properties of the high‑end range without significant compromise. But it’s a big sweet spot, with the Evolution range spanning 13 models; two CD players, two DACs, two receivers, three integrated amps, two preamps, one stereo power amp, and a set of mono power amplifiers. We went for the big Kahuna; the top Evolution SD 5.2 streaming DAC (with built in tube line stage), and it came coupled with the MA3.2S mono power amps. We’re focusing primarily on the SD 5.2, however.
There’s good reason for this focus. The SD 5.2 represents yet another way the future of audio encroaches on our present. A few years ago, products were neatly delineated: DACs were DACs, preamps were preamps, and so on. That’s all changing. This DAC can be used as a streamer, or even a preamplifier. In fact, it will probably be used as all three. While there is still an argument to say this whole new world of streamed and networked audio is little more than an extra shelf on your equipment rack, devices like the Evolution SD 5.2 periodically come along and challenge that concept. Rather than adding to the kit list, this potentially slims down your equipment table by combining several key devices in one.
The SD 5.2 also points to the process of potentially winding down line‑level analogue sources. This is to many people all they need from a preamplifier today; two line level inputs, with all the digital audio sources dealt with from inside the one box. Why just two line inputs? Because the chances are the only analogue audio sources you are still using today are a turntable and maybe an FM tuner. Everything else is now in the digital domain, and we possibly need to switch our thinking from ‘preamplifier’ to ‘hub’. And the SD 5.2 is a digital hub that comes with two line inputs and a tube output stage. In 2015, that counts as ‘job done!’