Despite the not insignificant 40kg weight, the GAG is easily handled and assembled, not least because of its two-part structure. I have only two practical complaints. The most serious is that the ball-bearing tipped Delrin cones supplied lacked long enough threads to allow for proper adjustment, or locking nuts for proper stability. Instead I used Track Audio feet, which raised the speakers by a couple of cms (necessitating a small forward rake to compensate) but made levelling and angular adjustment simplicity itself. Longer threads and locking collars on the original cones would have solved this and would be well-worth Gershman instituting (spikes and lock-nuts are already an option) as height off the floor and attitude are crucial to the speaker’s performance. My second observation (complaint is too strong a term) concerns the supplied grilles. These are magnetically attached, slatted MDF and the best thing that can be said about them is that they are easily removed. In place and to my eyes at least, they rob the speaker of its unobtrusive elegance as well as impairing transparency, focus and immediacy. Despite their robust nature, I’m not sure they even provide that much protection; isn’t a partially obscured driver, peeking through the slots even more fascinating to the enquiring juvenile mind? I listened to the speakers with them; I listened to the speakers without them; I consigned them to the packaging where they remained for the duration.
Set up was completely straightforward, the bass being deep enough and clean enough to let you clearly hear the impact of any positional shifts. With the speakers positioned slightly closer together than normal but with minimal toe-in, I drove them with the Levinson 585, the VTL S-200 or the CH Precision A1.5, all you’ll note, capable of delivering a healthy 200W/Ch. That really is the one proviso to a happy, long-term relationship with the GAGs. They like power and lots of it, but provided that you feed them their preferred diet they’ll respond with some serious musical gusto. Unusually for these days, the speaker is also bi-wirable. That means including a set of decent jumpers in your cable budget, although it does allow for bi-amping, which given the Gershman’s bandwidth and modest sensitivity, could be an attractive option.
I opened the original GAP-828 review with the comment that, “If hi-fi should be about music rather than the system delivering it then these Gershmans are a great place to start…” It’s a sentence that can simply be recycled for this review, over 10-years later, the GAGs exhibiting exactly the same natural warmth, musical presence and easy, unforced dynamics that have come to characterise the brand. In that, the Grande Avant Gardes are (almost literally, given their shape) a real chip off the old block. But that doesn’t really help if you’ve never heard their other speakers and nor does it explain how, or how successfully, those qualities have been translated into such a compact and domestically friendly design.
Listen to familiar recordings – pretty much regardless of genre – and you should immediately notice how the music steps away from the speakers. Despite their small size, the GAGs throw a huge acoustic space that extends out beyond, behind and well above the speakers. Voices are set at a natural height and the speakers seem to unearth a soundstage from within the most unpromising of recordings. Not since the Audio Physic Virgo have I heard a speaker that makes everything image, but this Gershman gets close and, in many ways does it less spectacularly but more convincingly. Modern studio mixes, like Michael Kiwanuka’s Love And Hate [Polydor 4783458] or Vampire Weekend’s Father Of The Bride [Columbia 19075930141] take on an open, dimensional quality, with natural spatial separation of voices and instruments, layers and over-dubs. Indeed, voices are one of the GAG’s party pieces, whether it’s unearthing meaning from Steve Earle’s slurred lyrics, or the realisation, courtesy of Vampire Weekend’s ‘We Belong Together’ that Danielle Haim really can sing.