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Soundz Avant Review – Peppy

Comparisons –

Soundz NOVA (990 EUR): The Avant is a refined incarnation of the NOVA which achieves a similar kind of spacious, energetic sound but with a more natural voicing due to its more progressive tuning. The Avant is more vibrant with higher clarity and separation in the midrange especially, but also less vocal and instrument body. It has a slightly fuller bass, better extension and superior responsiveness. The low end is a good step up in terms of power, weight and overall technical performance too. Despite the NOVA’s tuning being a bit cleaner tonally, it doesn’t have the same resolving power as a result. The midrange is a bit more laid-back on the NOVA and has a more coloured voicing. The Avant sounds a bit more focused here with more centred vocals.

Though both are energetic and revealing, the NOVA has a bit more colour to its midrange due to a greater emphasis on centre midrange and further enhanced articulation. It has a more neutral tone and body but provides a more esoteric sound overall. The Avant is a bit more vocal forward but has a better timbre and more natural voicing. Though it is slightly thinner, the Avant has superior extension and resolving power with less weirdness overall. The treble has more bite and definition on the Avant. The EST-based NOVA is notably brighter and actually does a very good job at resolving fine details but lacks the same note attack. The NOVA has a lot more air and a bit more mid-treble detail as a result, while the Avant provides a darker background and slightly better extension and micro-detail presence above. The soundstage presentation offers similar dimensions but the Avant has sharper imaging and noticeably better layering.

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 ($1499): The Solaris provides a hybrid driver setup with tubeless tweeter for a similar asking price. The build quality is far better and the shells are a touch smaller too. Sonically, the Solaris has a more coloured though equally well balanced sound. The Solaris has a bit more bass, sub-bass especially, delivering heaps of pressure and slam at the very bottom. The Avant is warmer with a bigger mid-bass and slightly more rounded notes. It’s a touch faster and more defined on complex tracks but the Solaris has the benefit of a more natural DD texture and superior dynamic performance. It offers excellent performance for a dynamic driver. The midrange is more upfront on the Avant and a bit more laid-back on the Solaris. The Avant also has a more natural voicing with much better vocal extension and better balance. The Solaris has more room and a denser voicing. It has more of a vocal focus due to its earlier 2kHz peak.

Though its bass isn’t as warm, the Solaris sounds fuller and smoother giving it a more musical presentation. Conversely, the Solaris has a brighter treble. It is also a bit more detailed with a sharper note attack and slightly better resolution of foreground fine detail. This is aided by a more present mid-treble alongside equally impressive extension and even greater upper-treble sparkle. The Avant sounds more honest, having a far more natural note body and greater balance while the Solaris delivers an engaging and colourful treble with heaps of energy and openness, a hallmark of Campfire’s high-end models. The soundstage is a touch larger on the Solaris while the Avant images slightly better. The Solaris sounds more multi-dimensional but delivers less accurate layering and direction.

Fir M4 ($1899): The M4 offers a warm and slightly more u-shaped sound signature upon a hybrid setup. The M4 offers a bit more bass and a slightly more forgiving top-end. It has a similar bass tuning with a slightly greater sub-bass focus due to the adoption of a dynamic driver. It has greatly slam and pressurization at the very bottom as a result. The Avant is slightly more responsive in the mid-bass in return and offers the generally faster and more separated bass. However, the M4 does offer sensational bass quality and speed for a dynamic being almost on par in terms of detail retrieval whilst offering a more natural texture and greater dynamics. The midrange is more laid-back on the M4 and has a warmer tonality. As midrange presence ramps up sooner, it has nice large vocals with high definition regardless.

The M4 is also a little more articulate that aids detail perception. The M4 has noticeably more mid presence that sounds a bit more balanced but also places the mids more front and centre. It has less body and sounds less forgiving in return for being more revealing of fine textures. The top-end of the M4 is similarly present to the Avant but they sound a bit more U-shaped due to the more laid-back midrange. As a result, treble stands out a bit more. The M4 has a sharper transient response and greater fine detail retrieval. It separates much better which gives it a more detail-dense image. The Avant has almost as much lower-treble crispness but a darker mid-treble. The M4 extends better an delivers more micro-detail and sparkle at the very top. While both offer similar stage dimensions, the M4 does image noticeably sharper.

Soft Ears RS10 ($2500): The RS10 offers a very similar driver setup and tuning to the Avant but has a more neutral and linear signature with smaller peaks and dips. Firstly, bass is less present and also has a greater sub-bass focus, it has a touch less bass even when Immersive mode is off on the Avant. The Avant has a deeper-reaching bass response with greater texture and weight. It has a fuller, warmer tuning that is more engaging. The RS10 has a dead neutral bass tone with a slight uptick in boldness and even greater speed at the expense of reduced dynamics and texturing. The midrange on the RS10 has a similar tuning with a progressive increase to 3kHz emphasis and some sustain around the 4khz region too. It has less bass but also a smaller midrange bump in equal proportion which gives the RS10 a bit more room and body around the lower midrange.

Though the tone is more neutral, so too does it have a bit more coherence and not body in addition to an equally natural voicing. The Avant is thinner but offers greater clarity and a bit more colour. The RS10 has higher resolution and better layering alongside a more accurate image. The Avant will appear to those wanting a bit more engagement. The treble is also similarly tuned with the RS10 having a smidge more middle-treble but not too much above. The RS10 has a sharper transient response and delivers greater foreground detail presentation and more bite. It separates within the treble better and delivers greater detail density. The Avant offers a similar sense of crispness and offers a bit more note body. It also has a bit more upper-most sparkle with the RS10 prioritizing supreme foreground detailing. The Avant has a slightly larger stage but the RS10 has noticeably sharper imaging and better layering.  

MMR Balmung ($2699): The Balmung offers 12 new generation BA drivers alongside some impressive 3D printed innards. Sonically, it most resembles the Avant with a similar high-contrast sound with a touch more bass and a bit more centre-midrange to compensate. It also offers a more extended treble at the very top. The Balmung actually offers slightly higher dynamics and a bit more slam, weight and impact than the Avant, yet both belie what you may expect from an all-BA monitor. It also has a bit more mid-bass tubbiness to its note timbre with the Avant sounding a touch cleaner and more responsive, offering slightly higher mid-bass definition and detail. The biggest difference between the two is the midrange voicing. The emphasis on the Avant continues to the 4kHz region granting its vibrant and revealing character. By companion, the Balmung offers a similar bump with a bit more 2kHz presence and a similar 3kHz peak but also a small nadir at 4khz.

This brings its vocals back a few notches giving it a denser, smoother and more laid-back character. As a result, despite measuring similarly, they sound quite different, the Avant being a bit cleaner and more revealing but also leaner, the Balmung, richer, larger and more relaxed suiting those sensitive to shoutiness. The lower-treble is a touch more laid-back on the Balmung too but effectively sounds about as present as its upper-mdirange doesn’t compete as much. The Avant has a bit more lower-treble bite while the Balmung offers better openness, shimmer and air due to its superior extension and more even mid-treble. It has greater background detail retrieval and sparkle. The soundstage is a touch larger on the Avant and separation is slightly higher. However, the Balmung offers slightly sharper imaging and noticeably better layering.

Verdict –

The Avant is a strong addition to the high-end IEM market and, as absurd as it may sound, represents strong value relative to many competitors. Its bass performance is especially noteworthy with a tasteful bass-boost that is equally viable with immersive mode on or off. While the tuning doesn’t target perfect accuracy, it is a well-balanced and engaging monitor great for musical engagement. Those sensitive to forward, revealing vocals may find the enhanced 4kHz presence gives the Avant a slightly in your face presentation. With Immersive mode on, I didn’t personally find it to be intense or shouty but on the precipice, especially coming from denser monitors. Subjectively, the midrange tuning is in good taste to balance out the midrange and the new generation drivers deliver a sensational level of dynamics and separation despite the often more bombastic bass presentation. Ultimately, the build quality lacks the pizzazz of many high-end monitors, the midrange tuning won’t suit all and the treble does fall behind in terms of extension relative to many TOTL designs. What remains is sensational bass performance and a vibrant, engaging and toe-tapping flagship that still upholds excellent balance with a functional tuning switch on top.

The Avant is available from Soundz (International) for 1390 EUR at the time of writing. I am not affiliated with Soundz and receive no earnings from purchases made through these links.

Track List – 

Billie Eilish – dont smile at me

Bob Seger – Night Moves

Courtney Barnett – Rae Street

Cream – Wheels of Fire

Dire Straits – Communique

Dirty Loops – Next To You

Eagles – Hotel California

Elton John – Honky Chateau

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

H.E.R – I Used To Know Her

Jasen – BYE

John Mayer – Continuum

Kanye West – Ye

Missy Higgins – The Sound of White

Radiohead – OK Computer

TALA – ain’t leavin` without you

The Beatles – Abbey Road

The weeknd – After Hours

Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Ryan Soo

Ryan Soo

Avid writer, passionate photographer and sleep-deprived medical student, Ryan has an ongoing desire to bring quality products to the regular reader.

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