Vivid Audio Giya G3 loudspeaker

In February 2013, I was taking part in a "Music Matters" evening at Seattle retailer Definitive Audio, playing some of my recordings and talking about my audio philosophy. I love taking part in these events—in addition to Definitive's, in recent years I've participated in evenings organized by North Carolina's Audio Advice, Colorado's Listen-Up, and Atlanta's Audio Alternatives—but, as might be obvious, at each one I use a system provided by the retailer. The February 2013 system comprised Classé electronics and, to my surprise, Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus loudspeakers.

I flashed back to one of the first times I'd heard the Nautiluses—in 1994, at the home, nestled against England's South Downs, of B&W's then-owner, Robert Trunz. Listening to the Nautiluses, quad-amped by Krell monoblocks in Trunz's system, was an ear- and eye-opening experience. The four-way speaker, designed by Laurence "Dic" Dickie, was an all-out assault on the state of the loudspeaker art, with aluminum-diaphragm drivers intended to behave as perfect pistons throughout their passbands, each loaded by a true transmission line to absorb its backwave. It is the coiled line for the woofer that gives the Nautilus its distinctive shape, resembling that of a giant snail.

Trunz was soon to sell his stake in B&W to the Equity Group and retire to South Africa, where he started a world-music record label, MELT2000. Dic Dickie also moved on, to design high-quality sound-reinforcement loudspeakers for companies like Turbosound. In 1999, Trunz introduced Dickie to two South Africans, Philip Guttentag and Bruce Gessner, who were thinking of starting a company to manufacture high-tech loudspeakers. The result was Vivid Audio, and in 2004 came Vivid's first loudspeaker, the Oval B1, which I reviewed in October 2011. The B1 was based on developments of the ideas Dickie had first used in the Nautilus, which reached full fruition in Vivid's Giya G1, which Wes Phillips reviewed for Stereophile in July 2010.

John Marks examined Dickie's ideas in his October 2012 "Fifth Element" column; "Dickie's designs for Vivid [minimize] cabinet resonances and diffraction through the use of unique cabinet shapes and high-tech materials and fabrication techniques. He also aims to achieve uncolored, distortion-free sound by making all drivers from the same proprietary alloy, and by keeping driver behavior as pistonic as possible through careful driver and crossover design." In his G1 review, WP mentioned that "[Dickie's 'Tapered Tube loading' concept] consists of coupling a driver to an exponentially tapered tube filled with damping fiber. . . . All drivers have cylindrical magnets to leave a large-diameter vent behind the diaphragm in order to couple to the tapered tube, [and] are decoupled from the baffle by ring mounts."

The Giya G3
The G3 resembles the G1, but on a smaller scale, and costs $39,990/pair instead of $64,990/pair. To cover the range above 220Hz, the G3 uses the same three aluminum drive-units as the G1: a 1" catenary-dome tweeter operating above 3.5kHz; a 2" catenary-dome midrange unit covering the region from 800Hz to 3.5kHz; and a 4.9" lower-midrange cone covering 220–800Hz, all three set into a shallow depression on the front baffle. The crossover filters are all high-order. The ring-magnet topology permits the top three drivers to be closely spaced. It's just 10.5" from the top of the tweeter dome to the bottom of the lower-midrange cone—above the 220Hz crossover to the woofers, the G3 is basically a minimonitor, with all the attendant advantages for dispersion and imaging.

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Whereas the Giya G1 has two 11" aluminum-cone woofers, mounted on opposite sides of the teardrop-shaped enclosure near the base and loaded with a unique vented, tapered line, the G3 has twin 5.5" woofers, still with aluminum cones and still loaded with a vented, tapered line. Along with the lower-midrange unit, the three cone drivers have chassis carefully shaped and cast to offer minimal obstruction to the cone's backwave.

The enclosure, molded from a glass-fiber–reinforced, balsa-cored composite material, is still teardrop-shaped and, as in the G1, its top section curves over to merge with the cabinet's rear. However, because of the G3's smaller height—45.7" vs 66.3"—the tubes loading the top two drive-units, which were internal in the G1, emerge from the rear of the enclosure and extend to meet the woofer line. The internal tapered line that loads the lower-midrange unit now extends to the end of the woofers' line, where the latter meets the enclosure. The result is an attractive speaker that, to my eyes, looks more elegant than the larger G1.

Electrical connection is via two pairs of binding posts housed in a recess on the speaker's base. This was the only gripe I had about the G3's design: connecting cables required the speaker to be tilted to one side, and, with the thick cables preferred by audiophiles, there is only just enough clearance in the recess to tighten the terminals, even when the six carpet-piercing cones are fitted to the base. But as Laurence Dickie pointed out when I bitched to him about this awkwardness, it actually affects only dealers and reviewers. Once the dealer has installed the G3s in the customer's home, the owner need never be bothered by the problem.

Listening
Vivid's US distributor, Philip O'Hanlon of On a Higher Note, set the Giya G3s up in my room. They ended up a little farther way from the listening chair and closer to the sidewalls than the Wilson Alexias that had preceded them, and O'Hanlon preferred the high-frequency balance and imaging with the speakers toed-in, though not quite to the positions of my ears. This worked for me, and I performed all of my listening with the speakers set up that way. I also left off the vestigial wire-mesh grilles, the dome units still being protected by cruciform grilles.

As always with a speaker review, I began my critical listening by playing dual-mono pink noise from my Editor's Choice (CD, Stereophile STPH016-2), which gives me a handle on a pair of speakers' frequency balance and imaging. Pink noise sounded smooth and seamless when I sat with my ears on the Giya G3s' tweeter axes, the two speakers sounding identical. The noise signal acquired a hollow coloration when I stood up, and sounded bit midrange-dominant when I slouched in my chair so that my ears were below the tweeter axes. There was no top-octave emphasis; in fact, the G3's treble was free of grain, and sounded sweet without being rolled-off or dull. High-frequency clarity was superb.

With a dual-mono signal, a pair of perfect loudspeakers should produce an infinitely narrow image precisely midway between them. The G3s got close to this ideal with a central image that was narrow, well defined, and didn't "splash" to the sides at some frequencies as a result of frequency anomalies or resonances.

The low-frequency, 1/3-octave warble tones on Editor's Choice were reproduced with full weight down to the 40Hz band, and with the 32Hz warble significantly reinforced by the lowest-frequency, diagonal mode in my room. The 25Hz tone was both audible and free from obvious distortion, though the 20Hz tone was inaudible at normal listening levels. With the half-step–spaced toneburst track on Editor's Choice, the tones spoke very cleanly down to 63Hz, below which there was a slight lack of energy apparent before a big boost at 32Hz.

This exaggerated low bass is, as I explain in the "Measurements" sidebar, due to the coincidence of the G3's port tuning frequency and the frequency of the lowest resonant mode in my room. The exaggeration is just low enough in frequency that it didn't add significant coloration, though it did contribute to the "magnificence" I noted with some orchestral recordings. But it made the choice of amplifier critical. For example, the rumbling bass drum in the third movement of Mahler's Symphony 2, "Resurrection," with Benjamin Zander conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra (24-bit/192kHz ALAC file, Linn CKD 452), needed more control than the Pass Labs XA60.5 amplifiers I reviewed in January could provide. Replacing them with the MBL Corona C15 monoblocks (review to appear in a future issue) brought the low bass under better control without affecting the Giya G3s' superbly defined imaging and transparent, grain-free midrange and highs.

The control required by the G3's woofers will make amplifier choice critical for getting the best from this speaker. But even with the MBL amplifiers, the double bass on my recording of Mendelssohn's Piano Sextet from the 1997 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, on Encore (CD, Stereophile STPH011-2), was a touch on the gruff side, though pianist Christopher O'Riley's insanely fast spiraling arpeggios were reproduced with crystalline clarity. And the solo kick drum that jump-starts "Slow, Happy Boys," from Gov't Mule's The Deep End, Volume 2 (ALAC file ripped from CD, Advance Music AT00006), was reproduced by the Vivids with superb definition of the leading edges of its sound, plentiful weight, and no low-frequency hangover. My Fender bass guitar in the channel-identification tracks on Editor's Choice spoke cleanly, with excellent definition, even at high sound-pressure levels.

COMPANY INFO
Vivid Audio Ltd.
US distributor: On a Higher Note LLC
PO Box 698
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693
(949) 488-3004
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COMMENTS
remlab's picture

..do two 5.5" drivers go that low? The low frequency harmonic distortion must be extremely high when the speakers are played loud. 

John Atkinson's picture

remlab wrote:
How the hell do two 5.5" drivers go that low? The low frequency harmonic distortion must be extremely high when the speakers are played loud.

I think these Laurence Dickie-designed drive-units are something special. You will note both that I didn't hear any harmonic distortion on low-frequency warble tones and that the speaker did play very loud without strain in my approximately 26' by 15' room.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

remlab's picture

If the G3's can do that, then they really must be something special..(But I can't imagine the motors being anything more than downsized versions of the G1 woofer motors.)

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