Written by SoundStage! Hi-Fi Editors
Created: 01 July 2020
Located in South Thomaston, Maine, Rockport Technologies is a boutique audio manufacturer known for the tremendous attention they pay to every detail of their loudspeakers. As revealed in a SoundStage! Shorts video featuring president Josh Clark, every Rockport speaker is thoroughly checked before leaving their shop to ensure that its finish is flawless; its acoustical output is listened to and measured, and its crossover is tweaked, until its sound duplicates, as closely as possible, the sound of that model’s prototype. Rockport is not a high-volume manufacturer.
Last December, Jeff Fritz reviewed the Avior II for SoundStage! Ultra. Although, at $38,500/pair USD, it’s Rockport’s second-least-expensive loudspeaker, the Avior II’s sound quality ranks high — Jeff thought it “easily one of the finest loudspeakers I’ve heard in the last five years.” The Avior II measures 46.5”H x 15”W x 24.5”D, including the base; it weighs a hefty 220 pounds; and its enclosure is made of constrained-layer-damped MDF. The curved side panels vary in thickness, the top panel slopes slightly downward toward the front, and the front and rear panels are raked back. On the rear are a port and binding posts, and the front baffle is 6” thick, with generously chamfered edges that taper outward from bottom to top, to minimize diffraction effects. The Avior II is finished in high-gloss black paint (custom colors are available for an upcharge).
Mounted on that massive front baffle are four drivers in a three-way configuration: a 1” beryllium-dome tweeter seated in a Rockport-designed waveguide (the latter is the biggest difference between the II and the original Avior), a 6” midrange, and two 9” woofers. The tweeter is made by Scan-Speak, but the midrange and woofers, which have cones comprising two layers of carbon-fiber fabric sandwiching a Rohacell core, are bespoke Rockport designs. Rockport specifies the Avior II’s frequency response as 25Hz-30kHz, -3dB, its sensitivity as 89.5dB/2.83V/m, and its nominal impedance as 4 ohms.
In his review, Jeff said that Rockport’s founder and chief designer, Andy Payor, “likes real bass — solid, punchy lows that listeners can feel throughout their bodies — and dislikes grating highs that can at first sound like increased detail, but are actually excess treble output.” The Avior II reflected this taste, Jeff found: “It had deep, full-bodied bass that most speakers of similar size can’t match. It also had a high-frequency balance that I never tired of — listening fatigue was never part of my Avior II experience.”
[T]he weight of Jamal’s left-hand notes was fully re-created by the Avior IIs, presenting in my room a convincing aural facsimile of an actual piano. . . . but it’s nowhere near the full story. At about 2:12 into this track, James Cammack’s subtle double-bass playing — this is a duo album — was fully distinguished from Jamal’s left-hand notes, as if an aural microscope had been trained on the two instruments. Through the Avior IIs, bass was never merely bass — their impressive delineation of low-end notes greatly added to my enjoyment of “Marseille.”
To test the Avior II’s tonal balance and ability to reveal musical details, Jeff first played “River Lea,” from Adele’s 25 (16/44.1 FLAC, XL/Columbia/Qobuz): “I heard deeper into the electronic reverb added to her voice, and her inhalations before vocalizing, than I’ve been able to with most other speakers, regardless of cost. The midband in ‘River Lea’ was basically neutral in tonality, but the dense midbass and info-packed lower midrange laid bare the slightly husky quality of Adele’s almost universally recognized voice.”
Listening to Sara Watkins’s Sun Midnight Sun (16/44.1 FLAC, Nonesuch/Qobuz), he noted that “her fiddle sounded rosiny, and her voice in ‘When It Pleases You’ was clear and tinged with emotion.” Jeff could also clearly hear that the recording “lacks wide dynamic range,” and pointed out that it “can sound too processed through some speakers because of their inability to reveal microdetail — sounds that should be distinguished from each other are instead mushed together. But I found that if a recording contains a detail, I heard it through the Avior IIs.”
It combines an expertly voiced tonal balance that I can’t imagine anyone disliking with the ability to resolve the finest details in recordings, from the top to the very bottom of the audioband. In fact, until you hear these speakers, you very well may never have heard genuine bass detail. When you combine an exalted level of sound quality with qualities of build and fit’n’finish that are in the top 5% of speakers in the high end, you also have a slam-dunk recommendation from me and an easy Reviewers’ Choice recipient.
Those things convinced us that the Avior II also deserves to be the first Rockport Technologies speaker to be added to our list of Recommended Reference Components.
Manufacturer contact information:
586 Spruce Head Road
South Thomaston, ME 04858
Phone: (207) 596-7151