Mordaunt-Short Aviano Speaker System

The Mordaunt-Short Aviano 6 tower speaker reminds me why it’s sometimes best to hold out for something you truly love instead of something that merely gets the job done.As we age, we often give up the pursuit of the great and settle for the good. We settle for sedans instead of sports cars because they get us to work every day. We settle for less-than-glamorous domestic partners, thankful that they can carry on a good conversation. And we settle for audio gear that is merely competent rather than pursue the elusive, often frustrating goal of sonic perfection.

There’s nothing outwardly special about the Aviano line. The company’s Web site touts “soft, organic contours” and a “purposeful, muscular look,” but those descriptions are about as forthcoming as my Match.com profile. Really, this is a workmanlike line of “black box” speakers designed for a typical livingroom home theater.

Still, the Avianos aren’t without their graces. All of the custom-designed drivers feature aluminum diaphragms. They’re surrounded by plastic moldings that help them blend, aesthetically and acoustically, with the front baffle. The metal speaker-cable binding posts exude a rare combination of beauty and user-friendliness; they’re a welcome relief from the generic plastic jobs you often find on speakers in this price range.

When Mordaunt-Short proposed that I review an Aviano system, my stream of thought ran something along the lines of: “Black-box speaker line . . . design looks reasonable . . . probably sounds fine . . . probably measures okay . . . only hard part will be finding something interesting to say about them.” Because I often prefer the sound of smaller midrange/woofer drivers, I requested some of the smallest speakers in the line: two Aviano 6 tower speakers for front left and right, two Aviano 2 minispeakers for surrounds, an Aviano 5 center speaker, and an Aviano 7 subwoofer. Mordaunt-Short also offers larger models of the tower speaker and the subwoofer, and a smaller model of the minispeaker. The Aviano 6 packs a couple of 6½ -inch woofers and a 1-inch tweeter. The Aviano 2 uses the same drivers minus one woofer.

The Aviano 5 uses the same tweeter and two 5¼ - inch woofers. And the Aviano 7 has a 10-inch woofer and a 175-watt digital amp. These specs are to a speaker line what “I love to laugh” is to an online dating profile — i.e., cookie-cutter stuff that leaves you expecting nothing out of the ordinary.

But in this case, I got much, much more.

SETUP

One great thing about a standard set of speakers is that it’s hard to mess up. Put the towers a couple of feet out into the room, put the center speaker on a short stand, put the surrounds on stands at the sides of the room, and put the subwoofer wherever it sounds best. The Aviano 2 and Aviano 5 both have enough bass to work well with the industrystandard 80-Hz subwoofer crossover point, and I ran the Aviano 6 full-range.

However, as I was plopping the Aviano 7 subwoofer down in my room’s subwoofer “sweet spot,” I noticed something I’d overlooked in my cursory review of the specs: a notch filter designed to eliminate the most troublesome bass resonance (or mode) in your listening room. In my opinion, all subwoofers should include this feature, because it’s inexpensive to add and can greatly improve the sound.

To set the filter, you play a CD of test tones that Mordaunt-Short includes with the Aviano 7, then measure and jot down the sound level of each tone with an inexpensive sound-pressure level meter. Then you set the frequency knob — which is marked both in hertz and in numbers that correspond to the test-tone tracks on the CD — to the frequency that measures loudest, and turn down the filter-cut knob so that this frequency’s about as loud as the others. It may sound a little complicated, but anyone even vaguely familiar with the basics of audio can handle it.

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