AVI is a UK company that specialises in active loudspeakers and subwoofers. That presses two audiophile ‘off’ switches – powered speakers, and external bass boxes – but those who like good sound instead of miring themselves in audio dogma should look at the DM10 monitor and 10” Sub from AVI with a little less bias and a little more attention.
The company is the brainchild of designer and engineer Martin Grindrod, who saw almost a decade ago that the market for separate hi-fi components was in decline and that a substantial change was needed. That change meant a move to active loudspeakers, at first using speakers with power amplifier modules, requiring either a conventional preamplifier or use of a computer’s own volume control. However, the revolution was complete by adding a DAC and a simple yet well-engineered line preamplifier into the mix, thereby completely removing the audio system elements to within the loudspeakers themselves. Which takes us to the present day and the DM10 loudspeaker.
AVI’s DM10 is the larger of two standmount loudspeaker models, the baby of the breed being the DM5. In both cases, the drivers are of good stock, even if they aren’t made of hand-spun unicorn eyelashes: in the DM10, these comprise a 25mm silk dome tweeter and 165mm paper cone bass unit built to AVI’s specification by Sinar Baja, an Indonesian company that leverages a considerable amount of Scanspeak DNA in its design and engineering teams. The DM10’s active section features a 75W amp for the tweeters and a 250W amp for the bass units. Instead of the more commonly used Class D switching amp modules, AVI prefers linear amplifiers with bipolar power transistors, chosen for solid sound quality reasons.
The unique part of the DM10, though, is the use of an eighth-order Linkwitz-Riley crossover network (LR8) handing over at 2kHz. This still leaves a full octave in the 165mm unit before it reaches its natural limits. The LR8 network – only achievable realistically with an active crossover – has a very steep 48dB/octave slope, which drastically narrows the crossover region, and is extremely rare: the considerably more expensive Event Opal active studio monitors being the most notable other LR8 crossover user. The DM10’s cabinet itself harks back to the ADM9 active loudspeaker that revolutionised AVI’s fortunes; it’s a solid pro-monitor sized veneered cabinet, with a front-firing port.
The speaker’s DAC stage features two Toslink S/PDIF connectors, but eschews coaxial S/PDIF, USB, HDMI, wireless, or Ethernet connections. Toslink is often overlooked by audiophiles, but is in fact one of the most flexible digital audio connections presently available. Its inclusion means the DM10 can access anything from a high-end CD transport or a network streamer, through Sonos boxes, laptops, and Google Chromecast, and even TV sets and games consoles. The DAC circuit itself uses a Wolfson WM8741 chip capable of 24-bit/192kHz precision, but sample rate conversion is used to play music at a preset 24-bit/96kHz.