AVM EVOLUTION MP5.2 CD Player and AVM EVOLUTION A3.2 Integrated
Not long ago, I was in conversation at CP’s house when he handed me the AVM EVOLUTION MP5.2 CD-Player with High-End Streaming to review. When I got the AVM home, I didn’t unpack it right away due to other pending reviews. After a couple of weeks, I unboxed the AVM MP5.2 and dove in to review its features and set it up. After a bit of surfing for quick start info due to the wrong manual being included with the review unit, I got the MP5.2 connected to my rig and playing music, once I added an Ethernet hub to my Xfinity router (purchased for a previous review but ultimately not needed until now), got a 50 foot Ethernet cable, and plugged AVM MP5.2 in. This got it online. It pays to have extra stuff at hand. AVM MP5.2 connects via wifi to your local network for control by devices and updating firmware. Check and done.
Inserted into my main rig, I put the Media Player 5.2 through a few hundred-hours of break-in. On the cusp of the review process, the AVM EVOLUTION A 3.2 Integrated Amplifier came my way for review as well… in a box box of surprisingly little weight. I half expected an empty chassis in there. Upon opening the box, I found the AVM A3.2 amp review sample intact. I decided to set up my review rack and relocate both units between my main speakers. Stepping back from review of the the Media Player, I spent added time breaking in the AVM EVOLUTION A3.2 integrated amp so I could review both units together. Because none of the options modules were included with the line-level integrated amp, reviewing both the Media Player and A3.2 amplifier together seemed an effective and economical approach.
Both the MP5.2 and the A3.2 are available in your choice of a silver or black aluminum anodized housing (chrome front optional). Each unit has minimal buttons – stark, minimal and with hidden connectors (screws and the like) and both units have a large, blue graphic dimmabte display. The MP5.2 has a large glass window in the top for internal viewing of the tubed line stage.
The AVM EVOLUTION MP5.2 Player
I’m beginning with the AVM EVOLUTION MP5.2 CD Player, since it arrived first. The AVM EVOLUTION MP5.2 CD Player looks exactly like the AVM CD5.2 from the front… and at first, that did confuse me (but later found the MP actually stands for Media Player 5.2 versus CD player for the CD5.2). The model number displays in the front display window as the unit warms up. I was puzzled to see there was no remote, though a remote is optionally available, but shortly found that the free AVM app, available for both iOS and Android, made navigating the unit with my iPad Air a relative breeze. A little while later, I got the CD player spinning, the Coax and Optical sending audio signals, the USB B receiving audio from my Mac Book Pro and internet radio streaming from the AVM to my rig. Sweet. All was good except, for now, I don’t stream Tidal, one of the two services the MP5.2 supports…
AVM describes the EVOLUTION MP5.2 as a CD-player with high-end streaming and 6 digital outputs and supported high res music streaming service with HiFi quality audio (Tidal & Qobuz nativly).
The AVM MP5.2 CD Player with High End Streaming is a competent compact disc player, featuring a propriatry TEAC Pure-CD drive with slot-in, spring mounted, that is exclusively provided to AVM. The MP5.2’s fully balanced DA converters and amplification stages, along with its magnetically shielded power supplies, separated mounting of CD drive and audio electronics and all digital signals passed on to specially conceived AVM low-level gain stages offer the user a component where no expense is shared when it comes to the field of DA conversion by providing two fully balanced DA conversion modules per channel.
The AVM MP5.2 has quite a nice feature set, though the CD player is, well, just a CD player… I had hoped it would play SACD as well. The MP5.2 has a Tube Line Stage with custom made AVM 83 T tubes used in balanced mode. It has both of analog RCA and balanced outputs and Digital inputs: 2 x SPDIF coaxial, 2 x SPDIF optical, 1 x AES/EBU for professional use. The rear panel also has both a USB A connector and a USB B input that’s asynchronous, galvanically isolated, DSD64 (2,8 MHz) There is an ethernet input and an antenna for wifi connection – this you need if you chose to use an IOS or Android device as a controller with your local network (WLAN & LAN). The RC 9 hand held remote is available as an option, should that be preferred.
This Media Player allows the user to toggle between two digital filters, smooth and steep, for tailoring your listening preference and it offers digital signal processing up to 192 kHz/24 bit and accepts a wide range of streaming formats (and gapless playback for WAV, AIFF, PCM, FLAC, MP3, M4A). Web radio is also supported with the AVM MP5.2 with Airable Internet Radio Service. I had my favorite jazz station, WBGO, streaming in no time (podcasts are also supported with the MP5.2). Tidal is the supported steaming service with HiFi quality audio. Suffice it to say that it’s a well thought out and nicely laid out unit. The MP5.2 has selectable up or downsampling of all incoming signals to the following formats: native (original), 44,1, 48, 88,2, 96, 176,4, 192 kHz. The MP5.2 Media Player (and the MP3.2 ) enables you to play back hi-res DSD audio files (DSD64, 2,8MHz). Not least, all XLR and RCA-outputs are entirely separate entities which can be operated at the same time.
The AVM EVOLUTION A 3.2 Integrated Amplifier
Though appearing very light upon delivery, the A3.2 Integrated proceeds output with hefty bass and a strong presence. According to AVM website, the AVM EVOLUTION A 3.2 is a very versatile integrated amplifier and, according to the maker, shares core values with its sister models A5.2 and PA 3.2: 5 line inputs, a front input and 3 slots for optional modules: phono module (MM/MC), FM-RDS tuner module, and the USB DAC module connect it to any source. The modules available are the AVM EVOLUTION Phono Card, FM-Tuner Card and the EVOLUTION USB DAC Card. Power amps can be connected via RCA and an active subwoofer may connect to the processor in/out. Comfortable menu functions allow an individual configuration of the A3.2 according to your personal likings (input names, sensitivity) etc.).
Researching, I found that the A3.2 is carefully developed and assembled by the AVM engineers in Malsch, Germany, with vendors for housing and electronic parts located near-by. The A3.2 I received is an understated black unit, producing 175 wpc with stand-by power consumption of less than 1 watt. It has one balanced XLR input, one processor in/out and two preamp outputs (RCA, XLR). The front-mounted headphone jack is useable as front input. There are three slots in which a user can add optional modules – phono module (MM/MC), FM-RDS tuner module, USB DAC module with 192 kHz/24 bit upsampling (USB, SPDIF coax and TOS-link) to add functionality. USB works with both PC and MAC without driver installation. While the MP5.2 has an optional remote, the A3.2 integrated is said to include a full metal aluminum remote control, though one was not included with this review unit. Parametric loudness, bass and treble controls are fully adjustable and can be bypassed as needed. Multiple functions are accessible from the display menu: Input sensitivity, individual input names and more.
Listening and Performance
I moved both my laptop and the Laufer Teknik Memory Player Mini to the setup with the AVM components. Though the A3.2 came without any of its 3 plug in modules, these digital sources proved competent sources to aid in running the AVM components through their paces.
The EVOLUTION A3.2’s performance came as quite a surprise. This line stage is a great sounding integrated amplifier – it’s deceptively light weight belies its bold delivery: full-bodied, with power, punch and warm plentiful bass. It’s user-definable inputs will make nice for any user choosing to personalize their unit.
Mating the AVM EVOLUTION MP5.2 Player to the A3.2 showed the two components have quite a nice synergy. What the basic, module free, A3.2 line stage lacks in its bare state, the MP5.2 provides in its thoughtfully well-designed and feature-rich package. iPad integration proved the missing link, indeed. The only feature I could count as missing was Bluetooth, but, then again, the MP5.2, with its high-end streaming capabilities, is designed as a center piece to a system that scoffs at the thought of Bluetooth. As I write this, there is internet chatter about Spotify possibly offering lossless streaming in the near future. I think it would behoove AVM to take note and update the MP5.2 to handle additional streaming sources.
Toggling between the MP5.2’s two digital filters, smooth and steep, I preferred smooth for the majority of my listening, which is primarily jazz these days. Some might like the steep filter for some rock and alternative content.
Once, I loaded a CD in the MP5.2 slot and, briefly called away, discovered that the CD played automatically when a CD is inserted. Nice. Also nice is a bit of eye candy when the unit is powered on – as the tube section warms up, text across the bottom of the display changes from lower case to upper case as a progress bar. A graphically thoughtful process that makes me smile.
Bring On The Music
Let’s get down to how these units handled music after an adequate break-in period. On Nik Bärtsch’’ Mobile’s "Continuum" (ECM 2016), played from he laptop into the DAC of the MP5.2, in response to my first play of track #1, ‘Modul 29_14’, I noted ‘to get this sort of performance from the MP5.2 and the A 3.2 line stage is just nothing short of exciting.’ Fun, textural, reactive, enjoyable are some descriptives that came to mind during listening. These 24-96 downloads are nothing to scoff at. The album’s second track, ‘Module 12’, was organic, explosive, descriptive, with extremely well-defined instrumentation. Earthy, quick, punctuated…
Billy Child’s magical "Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro" (Sony Masterworks 2014) played through the AVM MP5.2’s CD section with great body and depth. Listening to the track New York Tendaberry, sung passionately by Renee Fleming as accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma on cello, was a celebration of the goddess who was Laura Nyro, with dynamics and bass to die for. Full-blooded musical artists tackle Nyro’s many outstanding contributions to the canon of popular songwriting with grace and great talent. The MP5.2 delivers all the grace and drive – and the goods – and all this from a Redbook CD! The MP5.2 presents the singers and performers with great width and depth on a sumptuous stage, and used in combination with the A 3.2 line stage, provided abundant dynamics and textures that have captivated this listener with each and every one of the many replays of this disc. There is a terrific depth in the low frequencies presented here front to back, along with delicate highs. Strong, round bass lines are delivered with both resin and meat.
I noted, when playing The Confession, from he same disc, that the delicacies in the vocal delivery are on full display and both big and bold and yet small and intimate at the slightest turn of phrase when played through the smooth filter setting of the MP5.2. Overall, I preferred the smooth filter setting over the steep. Contours, to my ear, seemed a touch less dynamic but they were smoother and richer throughout disc play.
Bassist Petros Klampanis’ "Contextual" as listened to from a Spotify rip, delivered the songs rhythmically strong with lively transients. The second track, Skylark, rendered great body and dimension depth to the artist’s upright bass – not just on a flat plane of low frequencies between the loudspeakers – and organically, you really do feel the performance. Followed with The Necessary Blonde, the strings were bold and forceful, possessed with great textures, and very conversational. That track felt very live and not multi-tracked.
When playing "Miles Español: New Sketches of Spain" (Distribuidora Belgrano Norte S.R.L. 2011), disc 2, by the late Bob Belden and a host of talented interpretive artists, I found the AVM MP5.2’s CD player quite capable of presenting this glorious music in both a spirited, yet easy going, fashion and quite capable of relating the truth of the event. The CD player is detailed without sounding analytical – the music is fun with a bounce to the rhythms and a nice punch in its delivery. Percussion is well-delineated, with a warmth and spirited and enjoyable delivery.
Moving on to a 24 bit-96kHz home rip from the Super Analogue Disc 1992 vinyl reissue of the London Records KIJC 9107 performance of Zoltan Kodaly’s "Hary Janos, Suite" with Istvan Kertesz conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, through the USB DAC section of the MP5.2, I was, as always, transported by the wonderful silliness and dynamic seriousness conveyed in this lyrical piece.
Playing Riverman, from Tessa Souter’s CD "Obsession" the MP5.2’s disc player extruded intimacy, depth and subtlety with wonderful cymbal play from the performance. Souter’s voice was sweet and assured, with depth and intimacy. The group interplay was full of beautiful textures and resonances.
Nublado (instrumental), a wonderfully passionate tango by Será Una Noche on their self titled release "Será Una Noche” (Ma Recordings 1999), recorded in a small church just outside of Buenos Aires in 1998, is a beautiful and passionate work of art that just melts me every time played. The instrumental depth and textures captured here were palpable and the drive in this music was conveyed to the ear effortlessly and with great nuance. One can’t help but stop whatever you might be doing and sit, paying close attention when this work is commanding the air around you.
Gretchen Parlato’s vocal and lyricist Wayne Shorter’s Ju Ju, from Parlato’s 2011’s live "Lost and Found" (Obliqsound 2011), is a very well-recorded and expertly preformed. Ju Ju is delivered with the immediacy and danger one might feel while performing such a Iive effort. The venue’s soundstage was nicely rendered, with every hum, slap, pop, stroke and tap intact. The low frequencies presented by this recording are terrific. Job well done AVM combo!
The download of Cécile McLorin Savant’s You Bring Out The Savage In Me from her "WomanChild" (Mack Avenue Records 2013) release, brings out much of what I, as a listener loves: dynamics, great pace, responsiveness, yet with subtly and the oh-so-small cues that help convey the reality we strive to convey with our hobby. The AVM combo of the MP5.2 player and A 3.2 integrated made me love Savant even more, if that’s at all possible.
I love Al Kooper’s How My Ever from his "Black Coffee" CD (Favored Nations 2005). Kooper’s large warm vocal, with his yummy wooly B3 organ play, deliver music that’s big and bold, and yet with a palpable intimacy, on a nice soundstage with deep imaging. Quick transients, good bass, very nice highs and Kooper’s throaty vocals with body and personality are easy on the ears, baby!
I had only a handful of nit-picks. The A3.2’s binding posts appear best for banana plugs, as larger spades hang down and block the RCA jacks… I ordered some single spade-to-banana adapters because my numerous pairs of standard-spaced adapters didn’t work with the AVM’s binding post spacing. This got the spades off the back face a bit and made use of the inputs possible. When connecting spades to the binding posts from above, the spades could make contact with the AVM’s outer aluminum case – not good – so I knew better than to try that in order to expose more room around the inputs.
Twice, while listening to my laptop’s high res files through the USB DAC of the AVM Media Player 5.2 and out though the EVOLUTION A3.2 line stage, on rather cold, dry days, I touched the volume knob of the amp and transmitted a tiny bit of static electricity, which silenced the system. Rebooting the MP5.2, making sure it was again selected in the Amara HiFi prefs, fixed the issue both times. After the A3.2 was returned for a likely fuse issue and the MP5.2 used with a different integrated, I touched the MP5.2 a couple of times, silencing it as well. Toggling between standby and play modes brought it back to a playing state. We have a humidifier running at all times during the winter months and have bare floors but, being a large space, there are times when low humidity can’t be helped. Operating these units in a somewhat dry environment may lead to a bit of frustration – I subsequently learned to ground myself before touching
The MP5.2 always goes into standby at startup, which wore on me, but this might save tube life during a restart due to a power outage. Sent without the optional remote, it was a bit of a pain to grab the iPad whenever I wanted to play a digital file. Once, with a few fellow audiophiles here, people got easily confused by the front buttons on the MP5.2. The RC 9 remote control would have helped those new to the unit navigate it more quickly.
I never managed to get the rear mounted USB A input to work but I have faith that this issue has been addressed at AVM.
It’s A Wrap
I thought the AVM EVOLUTION MP5.2 Player and AVM EVOLUTION A3.2 Integrated Amplifier, were a great musical combo. The MP5.2, with its CD player, USB DAC and the multiple of digital inputs it offers fills in the feature set that the A3.2 amp lacks in stock form. Addition of the optional modules available for the A3.2 will increase the amp’s usefulness. The EVOLUTION A3.2 Integrated Amplifier was a surprisingly strong contender and quite musical, given its minimal weight upon delivery. Heed my caveat and forgo spades for banana plugs for speaker cable termination at the binding posts and you’ll expose all of this unit’s inputs. Be mindful of static electricity on very dry days and you’re good to go with this musical combo.
Specifications: AVM Evolution A3.2 Integrated Amp
Highly efficient output stages with 175Watt/channel
Stand-by power consumption < 1W
Line inputs (1 balanced XLR), 1 processor in/out, 2 preamp outputs (RCA, XLR)
Phones jack alternatively useable as front input
3 slots for phono module (MM/MC), FM-RDS tuner module, USB DAC module with 192 kHz/24 bit upsampling (USB, SPDIF coax and TOS-link), USB works PC and MAC without driver installation
Parametric loudness, bass and treble controls (can be bypassed) • Large bright blue graphical display, dimmable
Full metal aluminum remote control included • Remote control via RS232. Connector for external infrared receiver
Multiple functions accessible via menu: Input sensitivity, individual input names & many more • Case made of solid aluminum anodized in silver or black, chrome front available (option)
Amplifier Input impedance (25W/4 Ohm) 20 mV –350 mV (adjustable)
Input impedance line 6,8 kOhm SNR line, MM, MC (Phono optional) 101 dB (A), 85 dB(A), 75 dB(A)
Frequency range line / Phono < 5 Hz - > 50 kHz, 30 Hz - > 20 kHz
Intermodulation (25 W/4 Ohm) < 0,1%
Damping factor >200 Rated Power 2 x 175 Watt (4 Ohm) / 2 x 100 Watt (8 Ohm)
FM Tuner Module (option) Frequency range 87,5 MHz – 108,0 MHz Step 50 kHz Antenna impedance 50 Ohms Sensitivity mono / stereo 1,5 µV / 50 µV S/N mono / stereo 76 dB (A) / 70 dB (A) THD mono / stereo 0,1% / 0,3%
USB DAC Module (option) Sampling frequency upsampling to 192 kHz / 24 bits Frequency response 50 kHz (depending on input sampling rate) Deemphasis yes, auto Input data rate optical / coax SPDIF, 33 kHz - 96 kHz / 192 kHz / 16 - 24 bits USB input 48 kHz / 16 bits, no special drivers required S/N ratio 120 dB (A)
Phono Module (Option) Input sensitivity 50 µV – 10 mV (adjustable) Input impedance MM 47 kOhm // 100 - 450 pF (adjustable) Input impedance MC 75 Ohm - 1 kOhm (adjustable) SNR MM (5mV / 1kHz) 83 dB (A) SNR MC (0,5 mV / 1 kHz) 79 dB (A) Frequency range < 5 Hz - > 50 kHz RIAA accord. RIAA +/- 0,3 dB
General Power Supply 115/60Hz, 230V/50Hz
Power consumption (max.) 450 W Standby
Specifications: AVM Evolution MP5.2
Input impedance coax / XLR 75 Ohm / 110 Ohm
Input format coax / XLR S/P-DIF, 32 kHz -192 kHz / 16 - 24 Bit
Input format optical S/P-DIF, 32 kHz - 96 kHz / 16 - 24 Bit
Input format USB Asynchronous, galvanically isolated
PCM max. 48 kHz / 16 Bit
PCM max 192 kHz / 24 Bit (additional driver installation
is required for Windows PCs)
64DSD (2,8 MHz)
Sampling frequency Native, 32 kHz - 192 kHz / 16 - 24 Bit
up/downsampling switchable to 44,1 kHz - 192 kHz / 24 Bit