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Review: AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

This week we tested the AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2, a network stereo receiver with integrated CD player and HD audio streaming functions. With 2×165 W into 4 Ohms, this Class D compact receiver holds up as a very serious candidate for powering compact speakers as well as the most demanding floorstanders.

For those who aren’t familiar with AVM, Audio Video Manufaktur is a German hi-fi brand which designs and builds all of its electronic components in Germany. These components are all produced by local companies, which means that AVM products are 100% Made in Germany. Understandably, this approach is reflected in the price of the brand’s products. Given these conditions, AVM’s amplifiers don’t compete on the same level as those built in Asia. Above all, AVM’s policy involves proposing receivers which are much more powerful than the industry average, in addition to being highly musical and functional. A mobile control app for iOS and Android is available, letting the user control all of the device’s features as well as access Tidal and online radio stations.

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

All things considered, the compact AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 is only small in terms of size (34 cm wide and 9.2 cm tall). Beneath its brushed aluminum chassis, with a facade composed of the same metal and no visible screws (AVM prides itself in high-quality design), the CS 2.2 houses an enormous toric transformer in charge of supplying a colossal amount of power to its generous capacitors. The power into 8 Ohms thus increases from 110 W (from lows to highs) to 165 W into 4 Ohms.

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2: audio sources

CD player
The AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 is equipped with a slot-in CD player designed for playing 12 cm discs.

Analog inputs
Three RCA inputs enable connection to external stereo sources. One of the inputs features an RIAA phono preamp. An antenna socket connected to an FM tuner makes it possible to listen to analog radio stations.

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

The AVM CS 2.2 receiver’s speaker terminals are exclusively compatible with banana plugs.

Digital inputs
There are two inputs and two outputs (monitoring), one in optical S/PDIF format with a Toslink connector and the other in coaxial S/PDIF format with an RCA connector, and both are compatible with PCM audio stream up to 24 bit/192 kHz.

USB Type A input
For USB flash drives and hard disk drives (5V/1A max), compatibility is assured with most PCM formats, and notably lossless files such as FLAC. It is important to note that selecting the USB input requires using either the optional IR remote control or the mobile control app.

WiFi and Ethernet
The dual network controller grants access to online radio stations (vTuner), Tidal (for subscribers) and audio files shared on the local area network (DLNA servers), as well as to audio files stored on a smartphone or tablet with the AVM RC S app (iOs and Android).

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2: ergonomics

While the AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 presents a minimalist design, it offers a wide range of enticing settings. In addition to classic settings such as Balance and Correction for lows and highs (+9 dB for lows, +7 dB for highs), a Loudness setting with 9 equalization curves and a Bypass Mode for tone settings are also available. Another practical feature is the possibility to deactivate the output stage to use the pre-out outputs, bringing with it the ability to drive an external power amplifier.

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 : test conditions

To fully benefit from all the AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 has to offer, we recommend connecting it to a local network. Begin by connecting the device to the network using an Ethernet cable in order to transfer the WiFi connection settings. After having downloaded the AVM RC S control app, simply indicate which Wi-Fi access point the receiver should choose the next time it powers on and enter the corresponding encryption key. At this point, the receiver will instantly respond to the app’s commands. In terms of ergonomics, this isn’t particularly extravagant, but the essentials are all assured: source selection, volume control, searching for online radio stations, etc. Moreover, it is possible to use an UPnP/DLNA control app (Twonky, Bubble UPnP, etc.) or even a music player app on an Android smartphone, on the condition that it is compatible with DLNA playback devices.

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

The AVM RC S app for Android

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

We listened to the AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 receiver with Klipsch Heresy III and Cabasse MC170 Antigua speakers that we connected using Viard Audio Silver HD12, Audioquest Rocket 88 and NorStone W250 cables. While all cables worked just as effectively for the Cabasse speakers, it was another story entirely for the Klipsch speakers. The Viard Audio Silver HD12 seemed too energetic in the mids, while the Audioquest Rocket 88 and the NorStone W250 were sufficiently balanced. In our opinion, there’s no use using silver-plated cables when the AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 is paired with very sensitive speakers.

As usual, we chose several tracks from our collection of FLAC audio files. The impressions we share in this review aren’t exhaustive, as we listened to many other types of music as well as online and FM radio stations. The following qualities are thus applicable to all music styles.

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

The AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 network stereo receiver with Cabasse MC170 Antigua speakers

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2: listening impressions

We won’t keep you waiting any longer, this receiver met all our expectations (and justifies its price). The simplicity of its restitution is reminiscent of high-quality electronics. Thorough and wide, the sound of the AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 offers an exceptional reproduction of human voices, placing them in front of the musical accompaniment and at the center of the listener’s attention. Breathing, groaning, tremolos, nothing is left out. None of the three registers seemed weaker than the others.

Welcome to my World (live in Berlin), Depeche Mode (FLAC 24/96)
A very dense sound take, with synthesized, muffled textures and complex dynamics. Traditionally, this track makes an impression with its introduction and the synth which dives down into the bass register, then is met by the drums. Without surprise, the CS 2.2 delivers a lot of punch, but immediately adds a realistic dimension to the sound, with unusual echoes and an eloquent, silent background. From the very beginning of the track, the listener agrees that this is exactly how it should sound. Following the introduction, Dave Gahan’s interpretation is especially powerful and confirms that this compact amplifier is full of surprises and above all made to provide an enjoyable experience. The vocal inflections are subtle or commanding from one verse to another and captured our full attention. The public’s loud cheers convey all their enthusiasm at the beginning of the concert. With Heaven a bit later on, the receiver’s dynamic qualities are handsomely displayed, allowing the listener to fully appreciate the singer’s vocal talents as well as Martin Gore’s high-octane accompaniment. For fans of Depeche Mode–and even those who aren’t particularly familiar with the group–the dazzling professionalism of this performance, to which the amplifier pays an admirable hommage, is unmistakeable.

Me and Bobby McGee (Pearl), Janis Joplin (FLAC, 16/44)
The first track we listened to with the AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 was Me & Bobby McGee, interpreted by Janis Joplin, with Klipsch Heresy III speakers. If you know this track, you are no doubt familiar with the very lateralized mix which brings the piano and guitars to the front, while Janis Joplin’s voice sits in the center and is even overshadowed from time to time. This is not the case with the AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2, which extracts the singer’s voice from the first notes in order to place it exclusively in the foreground. The artist’s phrasing is restituted with a stunning amount of realism: the groove is incredible. As far as the piano and guitars (electric and bass) are concerned, they naturally find their rightful place in the soundstage. The AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 knows how to offer a convincing restitution of all the emotion packed into this track.

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2

The AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 receiver alongside the AVM A 3.2

AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2: conclusions

What we liked: the impulse response and the musicality that goes along with it, the realistic timbres of the instruments, the human voices brought to the forefront, the integrated CD player and the streaming functions
What we would have liked: a less complex WiFi network connection process

Not musical, class D amplifiers? Listen to an AVM model and you’ll be convinced of the contrary. The AVM INSPIRATION CS 2.2 abounds with musicality, and while this is reflected in its price, enduring pleasure is assured. To power high-end compact speakers with average sensitivity (PMC Twenty5, Dali Rubicon, Focal Sopra, Magnat Quantum 1003 S, for example), the CS 2.2 is a logical choice as it is a powerful, all-in-one receiver. For those who wish for the same energy with floorstanding speakers, the AVM EVOLUTION A 3.2, which we were able to briefly listen to–or its CD-player/streamer version, the AVM EVOLUTION CS 5.2–are definitely among the best choices.

This post is also available in: French

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

Tristan est rédacteur chez Son-Vidéo.com. Passionné de musique, d'acoustique et de high-tech, il réalise notamment les tests matériels pour notre blog.

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