Cape Town-based high-end audio distributor 13hof is now importing Germany’s Avantgarde range of speakers for South African music fans. As much objets d’art as they are functional, Avantgarde’s products aren’t for the faint of heart or the light of pocket. The Zero 1 range, for example, starts at R190 000 for a pair and goes up to R240 000 for the Zero 1 Pro units, which include better processing.
Achim Spelling and Joel Kopping run the Cape Town and Johannesburg offices of 13hof respectively. The company also distributes other top-notch audio gear from the likes of Gryphon and Rega.
So, what sets the Avantgarde Zero 1s apart? For a start, they’re a horn-loaded, three-way, fully active speaker system. Each speaker has a built-in amplifier so there’s no need for an external one, meaning you can connect any audio source directly. The speakers connect to one another wirelessly, so the only cables you need are a power cable for each speaker and another for audio input.
Each speaker weighs 40kg and includes five digital inputs: USB, two coaxial, optical and AES (or “balanced digital”). The Zero 1 range is available in white or black and Kopping recommends connecting them to a Sonos Connect box or similar device with digital output. The full specifications are available here.
Kopping says 13hof’s prices are “within 10% of European pricing” and that the company offers full after sale support. He says the company is looking at putting its products in local stores countrywide but that would-be local dealers need to meet certain criteria to stock Avantgarde’s products.
“We’re looking at maybe 15 dealers countrywide,” he explains. “To be a dealer you need to hold stock to qualify for full dealer discounts. We also insist that if you have an online presence you don’t discount the product online. We want to encourage people to visit dealers where they’ll be looked after properly and get the full service experience you’d expect when purchasing these sorts of premium products.”
Stuff visited 13hof’s Johannesburg showroom to have a listen to the Zero 1s and found they sounded at least as good as they look. As you’d expect, the speakers can be cranked up to the point that the bass is rattling the window panes without introducing any distortion or muddiness into the sound, and highs, mids and low tones are all impeccably rendered.
Aside from raising the funds to buy a set, the biggest challenge the Zero 1s will present to most people is finding sufficiently high-quality audio to do them justice. But then, you could always alleviate that problem by investing in a R67 000 RP10 turntable from Rega while you’re at it. It’s good to dream.