Innersound Kaya Reference loudspeaker Follow-Up, May 2005
Toward the end of my original audition of the Kaya, John Atkinson suggested that I experiment with the polarity of the speaker's electrostatic panel. Much to my surprise (as mentioned briefly in my December 2004 review of the Kaya), inverting the polarity of the panels of both left and right speakers had a drastic impact on the speaker's sound. With both woofers and panels connected in conventional polarity, the Kaya, at least in my room, had some problems in the upper bass/lower midrange. There had been a substantial suckout of the upper bass and, for reasons I could not fathom, the lowest bass seemed softer and less defined than I had expected, as well as lower in level.
The changes wrought by reversing the polarity of the electrostatic panel made a tremendous difference in the speaker's sound. The upper bass, where cellos and male voices reside, acquired a natural and surprisingly lifelike authority, especially for a system that relies solely on a single 10" woofer for frequencies below 360Hz. It seems likely that an infelicitous interaction between my listening room and the Kaya—especially given that this problem was most noticeable in the crossover range—was to blame for the "in-phase" problems.
What I found much more difficult to explain was that the lowest bass—such as the synthesizer bass on techno-pop and the massive five-string electric bass guitar on Eleanor McAvoy's "I've Got You to See Me Through"—was transformed. The bottom octaves had sounded soft and ill-defined, if surprisingly deep. With the polarity flipped, the Kayas became capable of room-shaking depth—not at the level of the Focal-JMlab Nova Utopia Be, but far more than merely respectable when the going got low. Perhaps, with everything in phase, there was a comb-filtering effect that muddied and canceled the extremes of low bass. That something was going on was plain to hear—my polarity experiments also resulted in a dramatic tautening-up of the lows. Deep bass is fine, but well-defined deep bass is better still—and the Kaya was capable of delivering it.
All of this suggests that the Kayas may take a bit more experimentation than some other speakers before their performance is maximized. They assuredly are not "plunk 'em down and play" speakers. But most top-shelf speakers benefit from extra care taken in setup. Usually, this care involves persnicketiness in placement, but the Kayas add an extra step: attention must be paid to what polarity works best in any given room. The results are worth the effort.—Paul Bolin