Audiovector is a Danish brand that does unusual things. Like offering the same floorstander in three levels that are significantly different from each other. Custom colors? No problem. It is somewhat reminiscent of how car manufacturers offer you multiple finishes, engine options and colors. Even more special is that you can upgrade your speakers to ‘the next level’ at a later date. Does every step make a big difference? We thought that was a good reason to compare the Audiovector R6 Signature, R6 Avantage and the R6 Arreté.
The R6 we’re reviewing here neatly forms the centerpiece of Audiovector’s luxurious R-line. The Copenhagen-based speaker builder currently only has two speaker families, the R being the tallest. We recently looked at the cheaper, slimmer QR3 of them , where we were already impressed by the solid finish and beautiful display. What about the much higher positioned R speakers? We had been curious about that for a long time.
As the most popular model, the R6 model seems to be a suitable starting point to investigate those higher Audiovector models. This is the mid-range model, placed between the R1 bookshelf speaker and the slim R3 floorstander on one side and the larger R8 and mighty R11 on the other. It’s big, but not too big either. The R6 still fits in most living rooms.
We do look up when we look at the price list of the R6. Prices range from 16,250 euros to 29,950 euros per pair – and that’s quite a gap. We investigated why this is the case in the listening corner of Eglantier near Mechelen, just below Antwerp. Exceptionally not in our own test room, but on location at a dealer who could help us switch between the different R6 models.
More choice than you think
The fact that Audiovector’s complete range consists of only two loudspeaker lines may seem a bit limited. After all, many competitors flaunt four or five lines, in order to serve music lovers with different budgets. But that modest offer is deceiving, because Audiovector offers several versions of the same loudspeaker within its R-line. For example, the R6 floorstander we look at in this article comes in three editions: Signature, Avantgarde and Arreté. If you now spontaneously think of how car manufacturers market different versions of the same car, you are not completely wrong. The idea is similar. The chassis – the speaker cabinet – is indeed the same for the three R6 editions. However, these three editions are not purely about differences in finish. Also technically – say in terms of engine versions – there are big differences between R6 Signature, Avantgarde and Arreté. For example, in terms of the tweeter.
There are also several color editions: a white or black piano lacquer, Italian walnut or cherry wood overlaid with a piano varnish. Anyone familiar with Audiovector knows that the R-speakers are often shrouded in completely different colors at shows and in marketing material. After all, the Danes are willing to make their devices in a color of their choice – paint colors from a certain Stuttgart car manufacturer seem to be a particularly popular option. We have already seen Audiovectors in a Miami Blue, Speed Yellow, British Racing green and even a gold with glitter at shows and online. It is said that you can even opt for a naked version that you can have sprayed at a studio of your choice. Those special color versions all cost 1,650 euros per set. But whoever spends money on a loudspeaker,
The short summary of all this is that you do not have one R6 model, but many variants, both in terms of construction and color. That also explains the larger price range for this one model. By the way, you don’t have that three-part Signature-Avantgarde-Arreté with every R model. Well with the R1, R3 and this R6, with the R8 and R11 there is only an Arreté edition. It’s just the flagships.
The basis of all R6 models is a cabinet that is just over 123 cm high. It’s about a slightly larger loudspeaker, you think. But because of the convex sides that bend to a narrower back, it still has a narrower profile. Nevertheless, it remains a substantial device, partly because of the unusual base in metal. Especially if you look sideways on the R6, you will notice that the foot has a larger wedge shape at the back. This is not easy. At the back there is an opening that gives the downward-facing woofers breathing space. It is thanks to this construction that you can place the R6 speakers quite close to a wall. You won’t find any bass ports on the very narrow back that can cause bass problems, although there are openings. That rear is even so convex and narrow that a niche has been made for the speaker terminals.
By the way, there are two small air holes in the front. These do not disfigure the baffle, however, because they are arranged very subtly, with grids over the openings. A bass port in the foot, two openings in the front, that’s quite unusual. The reason behind this is that the R6 has an isobaric design. We still know that design from Neat Acoustics, but these Danes also believe in the added value of this technology to improve bass performance. So there are two woofers (one of 6.5 and one of 8 inches) hidden in the cabinet. They are placed in such a way that they reinforce each other, allowing them to produce a powerful and deep low.
At the front you will also always find two 6.5-inch midrange woofers made of carbon fiber and with titanium voice coil holders. They are drivers designed for Audiovector and built in Denmark by Scanspeak.
So where are the differences?
You just read what all R6 models have in common. The question remains: where are the differences between the three? There are quite a few, it soon turns out. What immediately stands out when we see the R6 Signature parked next to the R6 Avantgarde is that they have very different tweeters. The entry-level R6 features a round dome tweeter, the Avantgarde and Arreté are equipped with a rectangular AMT tweeter. That is a significant difference, and it will come as no surprise that these changes in particular already guarantee an impact on the display. After all, an AMT tweeter with its very long ribbon is something completely different from a dome tweeter, both in terms of appearance and speed. In addition, the AMT tweeter in the Avantgarde and the Arreté is not completely identical.
Equally special is that the Signature and Avantgarde are 3.5-way speakers, but the Arreté makes the step to 4.5-way. And that without doing anything with the visible driver arrangement. The difference is on the inside. At the back of the loudspeaker cabinet, an additional rear-facing midrange driver is mounted on the highest R6, which in our opinion seemed to improve the mid-range performance.
The R6 Arreté also comes with a number of innovations that Audiovector likes to play with its top models. Such as the Freedom Grounding Concept, where you ground the speaker with an additional cable. We were always slightly skeptical about FGC, but a quick comparison with and without a ground cable during the test work for this review did show a noticeable difference. Better or worse? Otherwise, we would like to keep it there based on a short impression. Interesting, yes.
Finally, the Danes added a number of things to the Arreté top model to improve the damping, such as internal shock absorption and spikes. Those seem like very valuable additions. And whether it really does much, we don’t know, but in this model the plate with the speaker terminals is also made of a flexible carbon fiber.
A permanent arrangement
For the actual test, we went to Eglantier, a company from Mechelen with a pro-audio department and a separate, well-equipped hi-fi shop. It is already quite spacious, with room for a very large assortment that is beautifully presented. But we hear from manager Herman and employee Shane that Eglantier will be enlarged later this year, including with a separate high-end listening room behind the current store. Now we were able to take advantage of their open listening corner for this review, on a closing day so that the listening session could be undisturbed. So we could get to work in peace; only when speakers were exchanged did we have to call for help. Always handy with something of this weight and value.
The big advantage of this location: Eglantier is an Audiovector dealer that has the three Audiovector R6 models ready for demo, so that a real comparison could be made. There is even a unique version of the Audiovector R6 Signature, finished in a crayon gray similar to what we once saw with a Porsche 911 that flashed by. This is a custom color, very neat and beautifully applied.
By the way, Eglantier is the only store in Belgium where the great R8 is permanently displayed. Still strong, because this mighty Audiovector costs more than 62,000 euros. After the R6 testing, we had a brief chance to listen to this exclusive model. You don’t get that chance very often.
In an ideal world, to compare speakers you would have a system that automatically and out of sight moves the devices. Unfortunately, as far as we know, only Harman’s research center owns that. In order to compare as well as possible, everything outside the speakers themselves was kept the same. The amplifier was an Accuphase E650, the source a beautiful Naim NDX 2. Although the Accuphase amplifier ‘only’ delivers 2 x 45 Watt in class A, it had no problem at all to control the Audiovectors delicately.
Although we were allowed to play vinyl or CDs, we chose to play (trusted) songs from an SSD. We started the test work by playing ten different tracks on the Signature. Later on, we featured a selection of these songs again on the Avantgarde and Arreté, plus a few other songs – just because we felt like it. Just before and after a switch, we repeated the same number. For example, we listened to Max Richter’s ‘War Anthem’ twice in quick succession, once on the Avantgarde, once on the Arreté. The intention was therefore to get a general impression of what the R6 delivers and of the more subtle differences between them – quite a challenging job. We also make sure that the volume level for a track we’re replaying is the same as before. Since the three Audiovector R6 models have almost the same sensitivity, this should not result in major differences in perceived volume. After all, ‘louder’ is often experienced as ‘better’ by our brain.
From universal to audiophile
We start with ‘Hurt’ by Arlo Parks, a pop song that presents the Signature a bit dark but grand, with the enchanting voice of the British singer and poet as a handsome eye-catcher. This is already a nice start, although we don’t play it really loud. The Signature already shows itself to be a beautiful reproducer that sketches a nice overall picture. When we switch to the Avantgarde and later on to the Arreté, we do notice the difference with this track. The Audiovector R6 Avantgarde creates a deeper, more three-dimensional soundstage and Parks’ voice gets a little more textured. With the Arreté, smaller details suddenly emerge, such as a sigh after a line of vocals. Some panning effects – with sounds going from one side to the other – suddenly become much more noticeable, which again makes that soundstage seem bigger.
Similar findings are also made with ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ by John Williams, here in the clever version together with the Berliner Philharmoniker that you will find on ‘The Berlin Concert’. The R6 Signature performs very nicely here. The frisky celesta at the beginning of this Harry Potter work is fresh and free-floating in the air. The depth and breadth you expect from an orchestral work is also there, and the Signature effortlessly shifts up a gear when the entire orchestra joins in halfway. That wall of sound doesn’t necessarily get bigger when we move to the Avantgarde. However, the speed for things like the glockenspiel is a bit higher, and the horns now have a lifelike sharper edge. This is even more pronounced with the Arreté, which again impresses with the larger sound image. The horns become very overwhelming and the timpani beats sound colossal.
As we listen further, we get the impression that the step from Signature to Avantgarde is often the biggest. The difference seems to be primarily in the upper middle, which makes a rock song like ‘Gentlemen’ by The Afghan Whigs much more cutting and a bit rawer – that’s how it should be – on the second R6. At the same time, the Signature puts down the drums in this song bone dry and tight, which really magnifies the impact. They are certainly not woolly speakers that Audiovector delivers, that’s what we hear with all three R6 versions on songs as diverse as ‘Papaoutai’ by Stromae or ‘Free Dom’ by Dominique Aimé-Fils. The fun factor is also high with the entry-level R6.
You will certainly benefit from the AMT tweeter on the Avantgarde and Arreté, especially with refined productions. With Max Richter’s ‘War Anthem’, for example, the Avantgarde gives you a bit more insight and its instruments are more textured than the R6 Signature. When we hear this catchy work again on Arreté, another step has been taken, more pronounced than with the Whigs song. The cello dives deeper and has more character in the low mids, and the soundstage is more expansive. We miss the deepest thud that the artillery has to represent, but we are in a very large space.
It quickly becomes clear where the difference lies between the R6 Signature and R6 Avantgarde. If we zoom in on the next upgrade step, you should already take some more time to discover and interpret the difference. It is there, if you listen more like a gourmet. ‘We the People Who Are Darker Than Blue’ by Curtis Mayfield really grabs us on the Avantgarde: the horns sound rich and catchy, Mayfield’s voice is real and the percussion is fast and live-sounding. At the Arreté, all this is also there – and more. The drumming reveals more complexity and finesse, the harp has really become an instrument and rhythmically it fits perfectly. So a step has been taken, but you will only really experience it if you sit down for it. That is of course not so unrealistic, because these remain speakers of a higher price point. So you buy them sooner because you really think music is important.
Conclusion – Audiovector R6
The easy conclusion is that the R6 Signature is good, but the Avantgarde and Arreté are better anyway. Good, better, best, as this review is titled. The story is more nuanced. Strictly speaking, that step from a dome tweeter on the Signature to the higher model does deliver a lot, especially in terms of speed and freshness in the highs. While we didn’t find this too sharp or analytical, we can imagine that some people may prefer the Signature’s more integrated, ear-friendly approach. The Audiovector R6 Signature is simply a loudspeaker that, despite a more audiophile character, also remains very universal.
The Arreté is a choice that you have to make especially if you really want to listen to music consciously and critically. This R6 with all the trimmings is a very skilled loudspeaker that exposes a lot of a recording without being analytical. The R6 Avantgarde is not neatly in between, but nestles closer to the Arreté than to Signature. This of course has to do with the move from dome tweeter to AMT. Listen for yourself and determine whether you think the difference between the Avantgarde and Arreté is big enough is the message.
We consider what Audiovector is doing here by offering three versions of the same speakers a positive thing. Also because you can still upgrade at a later date, without paying more than if you had immediately gone for that higher model. The Audiovector R6 is of course a speaker for the serious enthusiast. He discovers a lot to be happy about with every R6 variant.
- Noticeable leap in detail (Signature -> Avantgarde)
- You can upgrade afterwards
- Easy to control
- Premium build quality and finish
- Universal Displays
- Easy to place in any room
- The step to the next level carries a price