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Avantone Pro Planar The II

Open studio headphones with planar-magnetic drivers

In a nutshell

As changes to the new edition of the Planar are mostly cosmetic, everything else – fortunately – remains the same: with the Avantone Pro Planar The II, you get a pair of studio headphones that are visually full of character, technically mature and sonically as suave as they are balanced, overall there is something luxurious about them.

Pros:
  • Balanced and unstrained sound
  • Very good spatial representation
  • Comfortable fit (considering the weight)
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These headphones, which look a little retro and reminiscent of the “good old days when things still had quality”, fully live up to the promise of their appearance. This is (unfortunately) also reflected in the price, but it seems absolutely justifiable in view of what is on offer.

Avantone Pro Planar The II – differences from the previous model

A good three years have passed since we tested the first version of the Planar (review) from the American audio manufacturer “Avantone Pro” and we gave it full marks. Now, the manufacturer, who is primarily known in professional studio circles for the production of legendary monitors such as the NS-10 from Yamaha or the Soundcube from Auratone, has launched updated studio headphones, which operate using magnetostatic technology.

The only changes concern the choice of material used for the perforated rear panel (aluminium instead of steel) and the connection cable, which should now be a little more stable. The electronics, drivers and design are – fortunately, as we will find out – the same as those used for the original version.

Panar magnetic drivers: How do they work?

The new version also leaves the eponymous planar-electromagnetic diaphragm design untouched. The biggest advantage of this sound transducer principle is the lower mass that has to be moved in order to generate sound waves. While a classic loudspeaker has a tightly wound voice coil in addition to its own diaphragm, on a magnetostat, a fine dust-thin (21 μm) coating on the diaphragm foil is sufficient to drive it.

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And there are even more advantages: The permamagnets (stators) mounted on both sides mean that the movement of the diaphragm (push-pull structure) is – at least in theory – more balanced than with classic voice coil speakers. And since the entire diaphragm surface is stimulated to vibrate at the same time, it operates with very low distortion. So much for the theory – let’s now look at the device we tested.

Avantone Pro Planar The II: impressive optics

On the outside, everything has remained the same: The Planar is still an indisputable powerhouse that weighs half a kilo on the scales – or, in this case, on your head. But this makes sense because pretty much everything about it, apart from the leather headband and earpads, is made of solid metal. Its mighty, square speaker pods with rear panels made of perforated aluminium (available in the colours: red, black and cream) are attached to a headband which is also punched out of metal with thick screws; all this makes it look extremely impressive. Even if you take off the earpads – which are very smartly attached with integrated Velcro – the impression given is one of being solid, as the membranes are anchored in the housing shell with no fewer than twelve screws.

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And as with its predecessor, this great retro look, which is reminiscent of early radio technology, is particularly charming because it is not simply decoration; it is based directly on the technical and functional design of the headphones: the magnetostats need plenty of space. As this is an open design, the visually impressive grid of holes on the rear panel is a successful means to an end, and this also ensures excellent ventilation of the earpieces.

But as solid as the entire construction is: metal bends under heavy loads – so I see these headphones primarily for use in the studio and the home music room rather than for mobile use. Even though they are supplied with a bag with “Avantone” lettering on it. This should be seen as a nice addition to the package rather than an invitation to transport the headphones around with you. You simply can’t take a 500-euro (and gram) headset of this size with you on public transport, even if it does look really cool.

Wearing comfort: a sofa for the ears

What is amazing is that the Avantone Pro Planar The II are extremely comfortable to wear despite their high weight. What’s more, when you put the Planar on, it almost goes “whoosh”, and you feel like you’re at one with this technical device. It was pretty much how I imagined wearing an exoskeleton from “Avatar”, “Edge of Tomorrow” or “District 5” would feel.

There are three good reasons for this. Firstly, the extremely wide headband, which measures almost eight centimetres at its apex, sits directly above the skull and distributes the weight of the headphones over a correspondingly wide area. Secondly: the soft, plush ear pads, which are over two centimetres thick and nestle against the head, distributing the contact pressure over a total area of around 77 square centimetres. And thirdly: the open design, which efficiently counteracts heat build-up when worn for long periods of time.

In short, wearing the Avantone Pro Planar The II feels a bit like sinking into a comfy sofa (and not wanting to get up again). It should also be noted that the wide-area magnetostats also allow a generously wide range of positions of the headphones on your head (further up/down, front/rear) because there is no distinctive sweet spot as there might be with headphones using cone diaphragms.

Technical aspects of the Avantone Pro Planar The II

As with the previous model, the frequency response of these headphones ranges from 30 Hz to a dizzying 30 kHz. At this point, I won’t go into the question of whether this is a pleasure reserved for bats, dogs, cats and other small animals or whether we, normal listeners (up to around 16 kHz), can also benefit from it – it certainly doesn’t do any harm, as we will discuss in the sound section. However, what is much more relevant in practice is that the impedance is only 33 ohms (averaged) despite the large diaphragm surfaces, meaning that these headphones can also be used with low-power amplifiers (e.g. mobile phones). Another practical feature is the mini-jack socket on both sides and the free socket, which can be used to connect a second pair of headphones.

How does the Avantone Pro Planar The II sound?

It rarely happens, but sometimes you come across headphones that, from the first beat, make you think: “Yes, everything here is just right”. The Avantone Pro Planar The II belong to this rare species.

At the same time, they master the sonic somersault of delivering a fully comprehensive reproduction of the entire frequency spectrum while sounding completely unobtrusive so that they can be listened to and worked with for hours without you becoming tired. This trick works because they deliver a very balanced and natural sound across the entire audio spectrum. If you have previously listened with headphones that have a more treble-heavy sound, you may initially find the sound somewhat muffled. However, after a while, you will realise that the Avantone Pro Planar The II reproduce everything, but in a relaxed manner, without trying too hard to make an impression.

The same also applies to the bass range, although it should, of course, be mentioned that it is physically impossible for open headphones to develop the same dynamic pressure as closed headphones.

The spatial depth and resolution of the Avantone Pro Planar The II are quite extraordinary: for example, if you load up your player with Trevor Horn’s new “The Best Of” album, which is relatively boring artistically but absolutely first-class in terms of sound balance, and listen to the applause that briefly flies in during the intro to the pompous version of “Slave To The Rhythm”, you will catch yourself looking over your shoulder in shock because it really does seem as if a small group has snuck into the room unannounced and started clapping to the left of you. The fact that the Planar is able to create such an immersive sound stage is, of course, due to its operating principle: where conical diaphragms have a certain focusing, a sweet spot that is ideally aligned with the ear canal due to their design, planar headphones emit the sound evenly over the entire diaphragm surface. Accordingly, the Planar still work if you wear them at an angle – it simply makes no difference to the sound.

Conclusion

I liked the Planar three years ago, and that hasn’t changed with the updates to version number “two”; these mainly affect the material mix and the connection cable.

The conclusion I made back then remains unchanged: the Planar The II from Avantone not only convinced me, but, to a large extent, they also impressed me. These are excellent sounding and rather spectacular looking headphones that I can recommend to music producers for studio work as well as to audiophile music lovers who are looking for a very precise and, at the same time, balanced sound that can be listened to for a long time without tiring. The depth of the spatial imaging is particularly worth mentioning, as it makes music listened to on the Planar The II appear almost three-dimensional. You shouldn’t be intimidated by the massive exterior of the magnetostat – it is much more comfortable to wear than it looks.

5 months ago by Numinos
  • Rating: 4.88
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingOver-ear
  • Typeopen
  • Transducer principleplanar magnetic
  • Frequency response (headphones)30 - 30.000 Hz
  • Impedance33,05 ohms
  • Sound pressure level (SPL)96,25 dB
  • Pressure averaged from big and small head943,5 g
  • Weight with cable545 g
  • Weight without cable510 g
  • Cable length195 cm

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