Mordaunt-Short Aviano 1 Speaker System

Price: $2,134 At A Glance: Extensive experience with aluminum driver diaphragms • Sub notch filter surgically removes bass bloat • Unusual bullet-shaped speaker terminals

Take Aim at Bass Bloat

Mordaunt-Short’s Aviano is a new speaker line from a British company that’s been making high-performance speakers since 1967. Since then, we’ve seen the rise of Japanese-made mass-market A/V receivers, the advent of surround sound for home theater, and lots of new speaker categories from sat/sub sets to soundbars to in-walls. On these tumultuous seas, Mordaunt-Short remains seaworthy by concentrating on the fundamentals of performance and, more recently, value.

The new Aviano line underranks Mordaunt-Short’s Performance and Mezzo lines. However, it’s got pride of place above the slightly more affordable Carnival line and the fashionably compact Alumni, Genie, and Premiere lines. Need something that you can custom-install? That would be the Avant Architect.

I first spotted the Aviano at a trade show. Given the positive experiences I’ve had with the Mezzo (HT, September 2008) and Alumni (HT, March 2008), I knew I should devote a slice of my listening life to the Aviano—and I knew that the time would not be wasted.

Simplicity Itself
I reviewed four Aviano 1 monitors, an Aviano 5 center-channel speaker, and an Aviano 7 subwoofer. The monitors are simplicity itself. They feature a two-way, rear-ported design with a 1-inch tweeter and a 5.25-inch woofer. All diaphragms are made of aluminum. A black metal screen covers the tweeter, which sits inside a shallow wave guide that’s claimed to optimize off-axis response. The center uses the same drivers, doubling the woofers and confusingly turning this wave guide on its side. Even the 10-inch sub driver has an aluminum cone. The finish is a vinyl wrap.

Mordaunt-Short’s speaker terminals are unusual. They’re bullet-shaped metal, with a matte gray plastic finish over a metal core. They are arranged in a horizontal row, in biwire configuration, from left to right: negative low and high, positive low and high. The sub has no speaker-level terminals; it only has a line-level RCA stereo input and output.

In addition to its front-facing 10-inch driver, bottom-mounted port, and 175-watt amp, the Aviano 7 sub has a major advantage over many other subs: It can use equalization to notch out the bass bloat that often plagues rooms. A supplied test-tone CD lets you evaluate the sub as it interacts with the room and determine the frequency and level of bass exaggeration. You can then set a filter, with dedicated knobs for frequency and level, to notch out the hump.

Mordaunt-Short provides minimal instructions for setting up the equalized sub compared with those I’ve seen in the past. Here are the instructions in their entirety: “Setup is most easily completed with a sound pressure level (SPL) meter. Disable all speakers except the subwoofer. Make sure the notch filter is off. Play the supplied CD on your CD or DVD player. Use the SPL meter to note the level of each track. Turn notch filter back on. Set frequency to match the track number with the most overemphasized level. Using the cut control, reduce this level to be consistent with adjacent readings.” The frequency knob is thoughtfully labeled with both frequencies and the corresponding CD test tracks. You can use your ears, but the classic and relatively inexpensive RadioShack SPL meter we’ve been carping at you to buy for years would be a big help here.

Simplicity has its virtues, but these instructions may take it to an extreme. Mordaunt-Short doesn’t supply an SPL meter or a graph form. At the very least, the company should have warned users to set their SPL meters to C-weighting in order to include bass frequencies. (A-weighting more or less omits them.) Some form of visual aid to show the plotting of a curve would also have helped. Neither the sub itself nor the instructions make any provision for the width of the correction—that is, whether the bass hump is fat or skinny. Infinity, Revel, and some other manufacturers’ subs include this adjustment and a more complete set of tools to utilize it. That being said, even with its limitations, the included ability to correct the low-frequency response is welcomed.

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