This record of Asi hablabla Zaratustra – Also sprach Zarathustra immediately drew my attention. Alas, when I attended, only digital music was played.
I’m not crazy about their appearance but that is a personal matter. Here’s a full YBA system consisting of the Passion CD player, Signature preamp, and Signature stereo power amplifier.
Wilson Benesch Resolution loudspeakers. It must have been the recordings that were played when I visited as I did not find the presentation to be very favorable. Thin and bright, and dynamically very flat, I was not moved. I certainly do not blame the speakers as I know they are the antithesis of thin and also firmly belong in the dynamic and expressive camp. I really should have made a second visit to double check but for some reason, that did not happen. Still – worth investigating.
This was a debut for me: Grandinote Mach 4 loudspeakers. Despite their slim appearance and relatively small woofers, these speakers produced very deep and powerful bass. The overall delivery was clean and very neutral.
YG Acoustics Carmel 2 with an all-Ypsilon system (PST-100 mkII preamp, VPS-100 phono stage, Aelius mono power amps). The sound of this system was extremely neutral and refined, with superb transparency. The Carmels themselves don’t have a lot of bass meaning that room support becomes important if you want them to sound more full-range. In this case, I think the system was tuned for the best transparency at the cost of some extra bass extension. Nevertheless, the delivery was fascinating.
Look: they used Kroma Audio Vibex feet under the Carmels!
The smallest member of the Kroma Audio lineup: the Mimi. At “only” 8000 euros for the pair (without stands) they are much more affordable than the larger models. Of course, their single woofer and small cabinet do not deliver the full scale of the larger models but you wouldn’t guess this by listening to the Mimi’s in isolation. Every time I walked in this room the sound was nothing short of realistic. With a large soundstage, big bass, and a full-color timbre combined with excellent resolution, the system never failed to engage.
New side panel option: walnut root natural wood, which I think is the best look for these speakers.
No servers, just the Luxman D-06 CD player. On top is a Luxman turntable that, as far as I could tell, was never used. The Luxman L509X class A/B integrated amplifier is clearly a very appropriate partner.
This room was among the most attended at the show.
You can hardly make it out but on the right is audio buddy JW speaking with Mesquita of Ultimate Audio Elite. Mesquita enthusiastically told me many times that he felt that his room was the best sounding of the show and while I cannot totally agree with that statement I must admit that this was the best performing system given its relatively modest cost.
Ah, Vivid! Playing here were the Kaya 90’s – the biggest of the range. When I first contemplated trading in my Apogee Diva panel speakers for a dynamic speaker a few years back, only Vivid seemed to fit the bill. And since then, I have heard great deliveries by various Giya models. As much as I anticipated the arrival of the Kaya range, so far, however, none of the models have managed to convince me. With the Kaya range, I feel that Vivid has sacrificed some of the linearity/transparency and non-aggressive even-handedness of the dearer Giya models. Every time I hear them, they sound 0verly bright and forward and not in a manner that feels natural to me. This time, too, they sounded unnaturally “bitey”. In addition, with this particular system, I felt that the soundstage was not extending outward much in any direction and the dynamics seemed compressed. I have a feeling that these speakers require fuller and warmer sounding amplification.
I did go back to this room a second time to make sure that what I heard was not due to the music played but, alas, the system did nothing for me to change my mind. If there’s one upside that I can think of regarding these speakers, it’s that they are very detailed and explicit and have great looks.
I have nothing but respect for Nagra. I have heard the brand play beautifully with speakers such as Wilsons and YG Acoustics but maybe the combination with the Kaya’s was not ideal?
Ain’t they pretty? If only the Kaya range did not deviate so much from the Giya range, based on their shapely figures, I’d definitely want to own a pair.
Addendum 24 November 2019 – iEar show in Tilburg, the Netherlands
Although the below has nothing to do with the show in Valencia, I felt it would be good to provide some perspective.
Having heard the Vivid Giya G1 Spirit at the iEar show in Tilburg, the Netherlands, with a MolaMola Makua preamp, Grimm Audio MU1 streamer, and Halcro power amps, I was reminded why I felt that a Vivid Giya model could be the most logical next step for me after having lived with magnetostatics and electrostatics for so long. With this system, there was absolutely no hardness and no forwardness as noted with the Kaya’s, just a large and entirely free-floating image with superb resolution and utter transparency. The dynamics were off the scale! Immediate and uncompressed yet never hardening up even at hurricane levels. The only very minor thing I could say about them is that I still feel that timbres can be slightly synthetic which is notable especially with wood instruments and piano. In their defense, I also feel this way about Martin Logan yet I still like them very much. In any event, if I could afford the G1’s then I’d not have to think twice.
According to Bert Bazuin, co-owner of Terrason, importer of Vivid, the Halcro’s provide a deeper, more layered soundstage than the Mola Mola Kaluga amps that they normally use with Vivid. While the Grimm Audio streamer is also something very special, the greatness of the performance as heard here was for the most part due to the speakers themselves. Having heard the Giya G3’s at Terrason, which performed very similarly in combination with other electronics, I can only concur.
Addendum 2 December 2019 – New Music show in Brussels, Belgium
It’s as if I have unleashed a weird cosmic force as once again I ran into a Vivid demo where the speakers sounded great, this time the smallest Kaya 25. Not only did they not sound forward or hard, but they also had a remarkable smoothness and great bass. I asked Bert Bazuin if he did anything special to obtain this sound and he just said “tweaking the system until it sounds right”. Either Bert has magical capabilities (I don’t doubt it) or the room was highly synergistic with the speakers (also very likely).
In conclusion, it seems that the Kaya’s are particularly sensitive to their surroundings, partnering equipment, and their placement.
Back to Valencia
MBL 120 – looking positively extraterrestrial. I much like their looks but their delivery is not for me. While tonally rich and full, dynamically capable and neutral without being clinical, the balance is a little too rolled-off for me from the upper midrange and upwards. But a darker sound alone is not necessarily a put off per se. What is for me, is that there was no imaging to speak of and no tangibility of instruments or vocals. This is something that I also heard before with MBL demos so it’s not just this particular demo. All the sounds within the stage come across as very large, spanning speaker to speaker but without any apparent shape. That said, I would imagine that their very big and non-beamy sound might work very well for classical music.
I’ve always been a fan of Audio Physic, even their then-entry level model “Spark” sounding lively and engaging. The Cardeas is of a very different order than the Spark, of course, and more in the league of Wilson Audio. As all Audio Physic speakers, perhaps not the subtlest of most nuanced, but with a tonally pleasantly full yet highly neutral and natural delivery that is full of energy and expression, they never fail to deliver the musical message.
The Octave pre- and power amps and the mighty Kuzma turntable provided a very solid foundation, playing to the strengths of the Audio Physic speakers – solidity, dynamics and communication.
On a second visit, a much more modest system was used. I did not sit down to listen but even from the sideline, I could already hear that the Audio Physic DNA was fully present.
Also interesting was the Artesania Exoteryc rack in white with gold accents.