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Positive Feedback ISSUE 43
may/june 2009


A&V-803 loudspeakers

as reviewed by John Zurek






Von Schwiekert VR4 jr, Optimus (Linaeum) Pro LX4 Minimonitors.

Cary SLP-88 preamplifier with Electro–Harmonix tubes, PS Audio HCA-2 amplifier, and a Aqvox Phono 2ci phono stage.

VPI Scoutmaster/JMW9 Tonearm /Shelter 501 Mk II, Cary 303/200 CD player, Sony DVP-NS755 SACD, and a Marantz CDR 630.

RS Duet Palladium, Phoenix Gold, Dunlavy Reference, Acoustic Zen MC2 PS Audio Xtreme interconnects, PS Audio Xtreme and Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables, PS Audio Xtreme power cables.

Standesign and Boltz racks, Argent Room Lenses, VPI HW-16.5 Record Cleaner, Monster HTS 200 power conditioner, Vibrapods, Sonex panels, and AudioPrism Quiet Line filters, Auric Illuminator, Pandafeet, Herbies Grungebuster CD mat, Superior Carpet Spikes, and Iso-cups, Lionel train trestles as speaker cable elevators.

Sennheiser HD 600 headphones, Headroom Supreme headphone amplifier, iriver 450 CD player, Cowon iAudio MP3 player.


At the end of a long day at CES we found ourselves, a haggard gaggle of PFOers, tired, hungry, and dogs barkin' in Roy Hall's Music Hall room. What to do?  Would Roy offer us a bit of the famous sacrament we were hoping for? Sure enough he did.  Single malt tastes so much better when shared with a Scott that knows his whiskey. Roy does. A few delectable sips later we were feeling much better. While swilling scotch the conversation revolved around whiskey. But, when it finally (and you knew it would) turned to audio,  I asked Adam Goldfine—fellow PFOer, excellent drummer, and tapas aficionado—if he heard any speakers he really liked that day—he responded quickly: "The Jatons". I'm thinking: "Never heard of 'em."

The next morning I made my way to the Jaton room, and as expected, the sound was good. Very good.  I met George Cheng, product manager for Jaton. We both enjoyed spinning Herbie Hancock's "River", a compilation of Joni Mitchell tunes, and eventually arranged for this review.

In a few weeks the Jatons arrived. Truthfully, I couldn't remember much about them, having seen and heard so many speakers at CES. They are a simple three-way design, featuring a semi horn-loaded ribbon tweeter, a 5-inch mid-woofer, and two 8-in subwoofers. They sport an unusual base, a large port on the back, and two sets of high-quality binding posts on the rear. The mid and subwoofer drivers have a black center and silver surround that gives them a pleasing high-tech look. They are available in mahogany, sandalwood, walnut, or dark walnut high-gloss finishes. A simple, rather handsome speaker. 45.5 in tall x 10 wide x 14.5 deep and not imposing at 100 lbs each. At 91dB efficiency they should be friendly to most amplifiers. Jaton says they like to be driven by 70-300 volt-amps.

During set-up I tried single speaker wire, then bi-wire. Even when not yet broken-in the difference was obvious. Bi-wiring changes the input impedance from 4 ohm to 8 ohms. I put my tuner on the local classical FM radio station and forgot about them for a couple of days. George believed break-in should take about 40 hrs. Two days later I sat down and was disappointed. Not even close to the speaker I heard at the show. What to do? Nothing. Let 'em cook awhile longer. Three days later the speakers now had over 100 hours of run-in, and I sat down to listen again. Much better! Actually better than what I heard in Vegas. The 803s continued to improve over the next few weeks.

I started listening straight away and heard a fairly well-balanced mix, although the usual positioning dance was required before I found the precise spot where everything really bloomed. The bass port could be quite sensitive to placement and could get a wee bit boomy. After an hour or two of moving a few millimeters this way and that, all was fine. Now the 803s delivered smooth treble, accurate mids, and fast bass that could slam when required.

Once broken-in it was easy enough to distinguish the differences between different sources and cables. I liked the fact that the Jatons were adaptable, very chameleon-like as you change your system around them. I got good results with copper, silver, and palladium wire. Analog was killer, and CD sounded great—and different—with or without a preamp. When I changed amplification from my tried and true Cary tube pre/PS Audio class D combo to the Dehavilland UltraVerve 2 Remote Preamp and the Bel Canto M300 monoblocks, the 803s responded! Detail, luscious mids, smoother than smooth highs, and gut—punching bass.  Now a different animal all together, the information the 803s mined from the vinyl grooves and the aluminum bumps increased with aplomb. Really, really good turned into great. These gems can run with the pack.

Vocals were accurate and had that silky quality that left me wanting more. Very well balanced, the 803s had the ability to render simple or complex music without obscuring detail. I was easily able to pick out individual lines in complex electronic music and ensemble work had a grace and effortlessness that satisfied.

Did they pass the classical test? First let's get something straight—a pet peeve if you will. While most audiophiles think any music performed by an orchestra, string quartet, opera, etc.—anything from renaissance to 21st century—is "classical" music, the actual classical period was short. Very short.  It was best exemplified by the beginning of the Sonata form and represented by two composers - Haydn and Mozart. Mozart and Haydn. They are it. OK-enough harping. These days anything and everything thatIthink of as legitimate or serious music is lumped into "classical". It's been shoehorned into a category much like rock/pop. Rant aside, when I listen to a speaker I have to try some serious music that includes many acoustic instruments and complex detail. Can the speaker decode and communicate the real deal? If it can't it fails. The Jaton can and does. Large scale orchestral, string quartets, brass and percussion, these gems delivered. Only when I cranked the volume to an unrealistic level did they begin to loose their composure—as virtually any speaker would do.

The A&V-803 - hitherto unknown (by me at least), was quickly turning into one of my favorite mid-sized floorstanders. They easily integrated with my room (which is not a simple task), and possess an organic balance that was sweet and sophisticated. Feed them a different type of recording and you get thunder and impact. These speakers had an ease of presentation that was a pleasure to listen to, an unfettered quality that was at ease with itself.

The Jaton Real was much better than I expected. At CES my impression was "accurate, but polite". Once properly broken in the Jaton retains its manners, but goes far beyond polite. Don't let the "A&V" in the A&V-803's nomenclature fool you. I'm sure the Jatons would be first-rate in an HT setup, but I think their real forte is in the two-channel world. They'll shine in most hi-end big rigs, and shine even brighter as you increase the quality of sources, amplification, and cabling. Highly recommended. John Zurek

A&V-803 Realwood
Retail: $6000

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