At the Bristol show last month I caught up with AVM boss Udo Besser to find out about the AVM30 range that his company produced to celebrate its 30th anniversary last year. Initially built as a limited edition for the German market Udo took the opportunity to launch them at the show with UK distributor PMC. The range consists of the 125W A 30 integrated (£2,750) with digital inputs, Bluetooth and headphone output, the PA 30 (£1,800) is a preamplifier with MM/MC inputs alongside the same features and appearance as the A 30, and the MA 30 is a pair of 225W monoblocks at £3,200. Sources are the CD 30 disc spinner and DAC at £1,950, MP 30 streamer/DAC/CDP (£2,650) with access to Tidal, Qobuz and net radio and P 30 MM/MC phono stage at £699. The CS 30 (£3,249) is a one box solution that combines a 110W integrated amp with the functionality of the MP 30.
JK: How have you managed to get the pricing of the AVM30 series down to the extent that you have?
UB: We design our products with as few compromises as possible but here we have had to compromise things slightly. We could bring down the price because it didn’t require so much R&D where we said, OK the AVM 30 units used many existing and proven design concepts.
How old are these designs?
The integrated amplifier the A2 goes back to the late eighties so several generations back. So we said, we know this concept so let’s not start from scratch, let’s use that concept and bring it into the 21st century and we have done that. The other thing that is very time consuming is to select certain components, since we know all these components from our Evolution and Inspiration lines that made things a lot easier. The second thing is that we gambled on larger production numbers, you can bring your costs down without compromising anything this way, by scaling things up.
A 30 integrated amplifier
It’s still built in-house in Germany?
No, what we have done is given the units to vendors with components and asked them and trained them to build the entire unit for us. The only thing is you have to show them [what to do], we have implemented our special quality control at the end of the line. The main idea for these units is we want to bring the technology and the sound quality of AVM to a broader audience, that means we have to make things reachable in price. I get very frustrated about the high end when things go up to the price of a house! We know there are a lot of music lovers in the market who always wanted to have an AVM product, but save as hard as can it will always be out of their reach, whatever they do. So let’s bring AVM technology to a broader audience.
Have you had to go to the far east for manufacturing?
We source components there and we have one product that we build in the far east. We have a lot of vendors in the Czech Republic which is very close to us, and Slovenia, it is mostly European but the sourcing is global.
Are AVM30 amplifiers class D or class A/B
Both, it depends on the model. The all-in-one units, the CS 30 is class D, we chose this because we can deliver a lot of power, a lot of current, it can control larger speakers and give you a very full and rich sound. Also it’s a thermal thing, we have to control the heat because we have the CD player there, the streaming engine so we have to be careful because both these parts are heat sensitive.
The monoblock power amps are A/B they’re really conventional, they’re like Harley Davidsons with big toroidal transformers, a lot of transistors, a lot of heatsink a lot of capacitors.
What sort of power do you get out of them?
We rate them conservatively at 225 Watts into eight Ohms. Again the idea of making things available, where do you get 225 Watts For that kind of money? Also the integrated amplifier, class AB, when you look closer it is also a dual mono design. It has two toroidal transformers for left and right channels, if you take a saw and cut it in half it still plays! Where do you get a dual mono design for that price?
M 30 monoblock power amps
What’s your background, how did you get into building audio equipment?
Very easy, I just filled in a form, it was the wrong form!
It has always been my hobby, in my school years I worked for a hi-fi shop to finance the hobby then I studied electronics and after that I joined Burmester and worked there for 15 years. I became managing director and also co-owner of the company, sold my shares and left at end of 2009, but it was too early to retire, and it was too boring as well.
How did you manage to celebrate a 30th anniversary then?
I bought the company AVM, it was founded by some other people who are still with me. The company was founded in 1986 and I bought it end of 2010. They were looking for a partner not only to help financially but to give the company direction and that’s what I did. They sold me the company and we have grown from being very small to one of the top three companies in Germany.
You say that circuit board layout important, why is that?
Layout determines the sound performance of your unit this is something that you cannot really learn from books, only from experience. It’s taught to a certain degree but you learn from your mistakes, the more numerous the mistakes the better is your learning curve and I’ve made a lot of mistakes!
It’s because components interact with each other?
Absolutely, it becomes even more challenging with streaming engines being implemented, more digital stuff, analogue coming back, analogue circuitry becoming more sensitive. The limitations of space are getting more and more of an issue, music lovers don’t want to stack equipment any longer, they want integrated solutions, all in one units etc. You have to bring in a power supply and phono stage, a tuner which is also high frequency, a CD drive, 24/192 digital and so on. And you have to get that all into such a small space.
When you had the CS 8.2 you asked why is it so expensive, it’s well over £10,000. The answer is that miniaturisation is also something which adds to the cost. Within the CS 8.2 you have a stack that high [indicates a metre or so] of separate components, now we have all that performance in only one box. That is what it costs.
CD 30 CD player/DAC
And yet you have as many elements within the CS 30 at a much lower cost.
It’s a spin-off from the CS 2.2, what we have done is reworked the CS 2.2 to a little bit simplified version, but we know that it works so we don’t have to start from scratch. Instead of spending so much on R&D we only have to spend a little, and then we move it over into the much simplified cabinet and instead of using brushed aluminium we use nicely painted sheet metal.
It’s a brushed aluminium fascia isn’t it?
Yes, this is something that we don’t want to compromise. We’re jumping back and forth between what can you sacrifice and what must not be sacrificed. It still has to be an AVM component.
It’s the same idea that we use in the Ovation line but to a different extent. When we use the same thing, this is why we can’t go any lower than the AVM 30 without giving up all our standards.