The Fifth Element #64 Page 3
The pair I received, in rolling flight cases, were painted in Graphite (Dark Gray Metallic), and had been the demo pair for Vivid importer On a Higher Note at the 2010 SSI Show in Montreal, after which they'd been sent to another reviewer. Just as I'd noted last October some apparent damage, benignly repaired, to a V-1.5's midrange drive-unit, I now noted some apparent damage to the tweeter of one of the B-1s, also repaired. I set up the B-1s in the positions the V-1.5s had occupied; the only change was that the B-1's larger bases meant that the garden-paving stones I'd used to raise the V-15s could not be stacked one atop the other, and so were placed offset and one behind the other.
Half my listening time was with Ayre Acoustics' wonderful AX-7e entry-level integrated amplifier ($3500) and CX-7eMP CD player ($3500). The other half was with an all-Luxman setup: D-05 two-channel SACD/CD player ($5000), CL-88 tubed preamplifier ($6000), and MQ-88 tubed power amplifier ($8000).
John Atkinson had to leave before the Luxmans arrived (see below), so he and I listened only with the Ayre electronics (supported on Ayre's Myrtlewood blocks), and Ayre and Cardas speaker cables, interconnects, and power cords. The Ayres have been covered in the past by other Stereophile writers. All I can add is to report that, near the close of our listening session, JA said, "What more could you want?"
Gloriosky, the Vivid B-1s were just so great to listen to! And they sure didn't sound like speakers with nothing but metal drivers.
My initial impression was that the B-1s produced a sound that was bigger in every way: spatially, bass extension, dynamically. This was particularly evident in a higher soundstage. As already noted, even when stone cold, the B-1 revealed a touch of nasality or smearing in the V-1.5's midrange. This became apparent while listening to Morten Lauridsen's "Contre Qui, Rose," from Voce's Sure on This Shining Night, which I recommended in December (CD, www.voceinc.org). The sound was smoother, with better separation of voices in space and timbre. The B-1s struck me as having a near-perfect balance of warmth and informationagain, information about space and about temporal articulation.
Turning to Peter McGrath's favorite setup track, "And So Do I," from Christy Moore's This Is the Day (CD, Columbia Sony Music 5-3225.2) (again, see my December column), there was not only a much taller image and better separation of instruments, there was also a low bass note I hadn't noticed on the smaller speaker. Soundstage depth was amazing. The fact that there is reverb on Moore's voice, but not as much, or none, on the instruments, was more apparent than before. It was this track that put aside my concerns that the B-1's more complex crossover would muddy the sound. Indeed, that the reverse proved true should remind us all that there really is no substitute for getting the stuff out of its boxes and listening to it! (footnote 2).
The B-1s "disappeared" from the room better than had the V-1.5s, and, from my memories of much listening over the years, were right up there with the best descendants of the BBC's LS3/5a minimonitor in terms of such vanishing. The sound was relaxed and effortless, and this with Ayre's entry-level (if by no means budget) electronics.
One especially gratifying thing about the B-1s, in contrast not only to the smaller V-1.5s but also in contrast to smaller speakers in general, was that they were great for late-night listening: I didn't have to turn the music up so loud to get satisfying impact. This was shown by "Bridge Over Troubled Water," from 2L's soundtrack album of organ music from the film deUsynlige (CD, 2L66), in which Iver Kleive plays the magnificent organ at Bergen Cathedral to stupendous if kinda one-trick-pony effect. There's a sound sample on 2L's website (www.2L.no), but you'll have to navigate to it using the iTunes-type, jukebox-themed cover flipper at the top of the home page.
In the same vein, my recording of James Busby playing Herbert Howells' Master Tallis's Testament, from Pipes Rhode Island (CD, Riago 101), enjoyed an overall better sound than through the V-1.5swhich, given that the B-1s cost twice as much, is how things should be. The oboe-like stop early on was more plangent, with more of a sense of the attack of the notes, and the single clanking pull-down solenoid in the works was just that much more clear.
Footnote 2: However, for the most part I agree with legendary classical producer and engineer Tony Faulkner: As far as clarity goes (if not bass or dynamics), two-way loudspeakers usually outpoint more complex designs. Faulkner regards Wilson Audio Specialties' Duette as the pick of the Wilson litter.