YG Acoustics Sonja 1.3 loudspeaker

The advertisements run by Colorado manufacturer YG Acoustics in 2008, when it launched its flagship loudspeaker model, the Anat Reference II Professional, unequivocally claimed it to be "The best loudspeaker on Earth. Period." They caused a stir. The YGA speaker cost $107,000/pair at the time of Wes Phillips's review in the March 2009 issue. Wes didn't disagree with the claim, concluding that, "Like my pappy used to say, it ain't braggin' if you can actually do it."

To riff on Wes's conclusion, "If it ain't broke, it don't need fixin'." So I was somewhat puzzled when I first saw the Anat's successor, the Sonja 1.3, at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. The Sonja 1.3 comprises the Sonja 1.1, the top module, which can be used on its own and costs $38,800/pair (footnote 1). Adding the upper woofer module gives you the Sonja 1.2 ($72,800/pair), while completing the package with the lower woofer module results in the Sonja 1.3 ($106,800/pair).

Superficially, the new speaker looks identical to the older one: the same height, the same form—three separate modules constructed from aluminum panels mounted atop one another—and the same drive-unit array: a 1" silk-dome tweeter mounted within an almost circular waveguide between two 6" midrange drivers, and two 10" woofers. But on closer inspection, it became apparent that the Sonja 1.3 is, in many ways, a completely different design.

The Sonja . . .
The modules of the Anat Reference II Professional were flat-sided, with the HF/MF module rectangular and the two woofers truncated pyramids of different heights but identical volumes, which gave the speaker's appearance a Bauhaus flavor. By contrast, the Sonja 1.3's modules feature subtly radiused side panels, the increasing radius of the lower modules producing an elegantly concave profile. The woofers are no longer powered but passively crossed over, the crossover for both modules residing in the bottom one. (When just the Sonja 1.2 is purchased, the low-frequency crossover is housed in the 1.2 woofer module; this is replaced by a blanking plate when the 1.3 woofer is added.) The crossover filters are a proprietary topology, said to add in-phase in the overlap regions, and use expensive, close-tolerance Mundorf capacitors and "Zero Ohm" inductors. One toroidal air-core inductor is wound in-house by YGA, and the Sonja's internal wiring is all Kimber Select.

Most significant, whereas the Anat and its variants used paper-cone midrange units and woofers, the Sonja's drivers feature the BilletCore diaphragms that made their appearance toward the end of the Anat's life. Each cone begins as a circular blank of 6061 aluminum alloy, an aircraft-grade metal that finishes well and doesn't corrode like harder aluminum alloys. A five-axis CNC machine first balances the blank, then increases its rotational speed so that metal can be cut away to produce the finished cone. It takes about three hours of machine time to produce the woofer cone, which has a thickness before anodizing of 0.25mm, this down from an initial time of eight hours. To produce a midrange cone, which is 0.2mm thick, takes about 90 minutes (both times including setup). The finished cones are sent out for hard anodizing, then shipped to Denmark with the surrounds to be assembled into complete drive-units, the Danish company providing all the "soft" parts, such as the spider.

The final woofer cone weighs 46gm; for reference, the cone of the 10" woofer used by KEF in its R207/2, which I reviewed a few years back, including the voice-coil and its former, weighs 40gm. There is therefore a tradeoff between increased mass and reduced sensitivity with a machined-alloy cone. However, YGA's founder, Yoav Geva, feels that this is worthwhile, given that the BilletCore cone is going to be truly pistonic not only throughout its passband but well beyond it. The use of machined metal unstressed by stamping or extrusion makes the cones extremely rigid and strong—the midrange cone has a mass of only 8gm, but can take 1000 lbs of vertical load without flexing.

Not only the cones, but all the metal parts in the Sonja, including the trim rings around the drivers—even the biwiring binding posts—are made by YGA. The aluminum panels that form the enclosures are milled from large sheets of aluminum.

I visited the YGA factory just before writing this review. It's an impressive operation. Raw aluminum-alloy rods, bars, and sheets enter; finished speakers and bags of aluminum swarf and scrap leave, the former to dealers and distributors, the latter to a recycling center. YGA's two expensive CNC machines run flat-out for two shifts every day, even machining away the copper between the traces on the circuit boards for the crossover filters.

Having seen YGA's capital-intensive operation, I am surprised not only that the Sonja 1.3 doesn't cost more than it does, but also that it costs slightly less than the company's earlier flagship model.

Setup & System
YGA's Dick Diamond and Kerry St. James delivered the six aluminum flight cases containing the Sonja 1.3s and, much to my relief, insisted on setting up the speakers in my listening room all by themselves. With each complete speaker weighing 506 lbs, I had been wondering how they were going to move them.

The answer: To place the 1.2 module atop the 1.3 module, then crown the array with the 120-lb 1.1 module, they used the hand-pumped, handled suction cups used to lift large sheets of glass. Then, with the speaker assembled, they slid Teflon furniture-moving coasters, fitted with Delrin inserts, under the four spikes. It proved surprisingly easy to slide the speakers around on these coasters, to find the optimal positions in the room. Once Diamond and St. James had proclaimed themselves comfortable with the setup, they took the suction cups and coasters away with them, meaning that I was able to do no further fine-tuning of the speaker positions.



Footnote 1: This price is with the internal, 65Hz high-pass filters fitted. A pair of Sonja 1.1s without the filters costs $34,000.
Company Info
YG Acoustics LLC
4941 Allison Street, Unit 10
Arvada, CO 80002
(801) 726-3887
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Comments
joelha's picture
Amazing

It's amazing to me how often high priced equipment elicits contempt.

If you don't like the equipment, don't buy it.

But why the contempt and mockery? Is there something about people spending lots of money on high-end product which makes you unhappy?

Do you stand out in front of Lamborghini dealerships upset at the purchases made there yelling "Hey, you could have bought a nice Mercedes instead. What are you, stupid?"

Notice to contemptuous posters: The buyers of high-end product are spending their money, not yours. And even if the'yre the most foolish people in the world for doing so, why do you care so much?

In the case of the YG Sonja 1.3's, they sound absolutely remarkable. I've owned some very high-end speakers in the past and none of them, in my experience, matches them. They do reach realistic sound levels and convey a realism I've found to be virtually unique in the hobby.

I speak from experience as I own a pair.

For those who find my purchase unacceptable, I apologize for the upset my greater enjoyment (and support) of our hobby is causing you.

Joel

MVBC's picture
As usual

setting a strawman is typical response to pointing out troubling facts based on technical attributes. Your comparison with a Lamborghini is ill advised since sports cars engines are tuned to provide the best weight/power ratio, which 85 or 88 db/2.83V/m for a speaker is not.

JohnnyR's picture
Glad You Spent it Not Me

A $108,000 speaker that requires a special amp to drive it because of the horrible impedance and phase response isn't a well thought out or well designed product.

joelha's picture
What "special amp" are you talking about?

I've used Krell and Halcro amps to power the Sonja's.

What's so special about them?

And as for your being glad I spent the money instead of you . . . so am I.

Joel

JohnnyR's picture
One of Atkinson's Amps

had problemns driving the speaker. Go back and read what he reported in the measurement section. Why is it that both YG and Wilson have probelms with speaker impedance dips, is crossover design the weak part of their company?

jmsent's picture
It's baked into the design...

Any speaker that has a crossover point this low between woofer and midrange is going to require some pretty large inductors and caps to get the job done. This, in combination with the paralleled woofers and a very low resonance frequency is going to result in a very tough load to drive. The same can be said for Wilson's designs, except that they use reflex enclosures. It's nothing new. I had a pair of the original B&W 801's that were well beyond the current capabilities of most amplifiers of the day. At least today, there are behomoths from the likes of Pass and others that can drive the YG's. Personally, I don't think designs like these are well suited to passive crossovers. A well executed active design in this configuration would make much more sense technically, but alas, the "high end" market rejects such products.

GeorgeHolland's picture
Several Ways To Get Around The Problem

As you suggested, using an active design (wasn't the model that came before this active?) Using drivers with higher impedance voice coils so that the parallel combination doesn't dip too much. Using a better crossover design. Using a single larger woofer, a 15 inch instead of two 10's although it's the midrange drivers that are the culprits with their parallel impedance dipping too low around the 200Hz point, fix that problem and it would be okay.

Please understand I am not saying the YG is a horrible speaker but for the money it should be better in this case. Frequency response wise it's very good, the tweeter looks a bit ragged for the price. If they addressed the impedance problems then it would be a lot better. KEF years ago had a model that was virtually flat in impedance across the frequency range.

joelha's picture
If low distortion and

If low distortion and remarkably flat frequency response are hallmarks of a weak crossover design, maybe you should re-read the measurements.

In spite of any issues John Atkinson may have had with driving the speaker in one instance, he still concludes with "Class A, all the way".

Have you even heard the speaker?

Between your theory regarding weak crossover design and my first-hand experience, I'm going to have to go with my first-hand experience.

And if you can find something better, at any price, please let me know what it is so I can audition it.

Joel

JohnnyR's picture
Weak Speaker Design

which may be partly attributed to the crossover design along with driver choices made by the designer and builder have already been mentioned above. Maybe YOU should re-read the measurements yourself. Ignoring the faults already pointed out isn't going to make it any better, sorry.

Atkinson gives out a lot of superlatives to undeserving components, in MY opinion that have problems which are convienly ignored, again MY opinoin.

Sorry again but that "theory" you mentioned is based upon educated scientific knowledge not from some one who just spent too much money on a speaker and was "wowed" by it.  Congrats on liking your new toy, flaws and all.

Have you checked out the two links posted earlier with the open baffle speakers? Have you listened to those?

ChrisS's picture
my, my, my...

Comrade JRusskie,

How does your opinion compare to first-hand experience and measurement? Do you think that anything that happens solely in your imagination has any bearing on the real world?

joelha's picture
So let's see, Atkinson is

So let's see, Atkinson is wrong for being so impressed with the Sonja's, I'm wrong for being so impressed by the Sonja's, and you, the one of us three who hasn't heard them, knows better.

Congratulations.

And yes I've heard the Linkwitz's and with all due respect to those who love them, in my opinion they're not in the same league.

I'll offer a theory of my own: It really bugs you when anyone spends six figures on an audio product.

Too bad.

I'll continue to enjoy my "toy" and you can continue to be annoyed.

Joel

anomaly7's picture
I'm sold

Having heard YG's at shows, I'm convinced they sound as good as they look.

If only you had an online contest where I could win a pair of these...

ChrisS's picture
How does it feel...?

"When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?"

Comrade JRusskie, since you revealed long ago that you have nothiing valid to contribute to the discussion of audio products, you are now just simply annoying.

Patrick Butler's picture
A reality check

While transducer design has come a long way in the last 50 years, we are still not close to designing and manufacturing anything that could be described as a perfect transducer.  State of the art designs are merely that- the best examples of the art as currently exists.  They all have problems.  The best works are artful compromises, and anybody that tells you differently is selling something.

lap's picture
I just want to say that I

I just want to say that I greatly appreciate all of you out there that are so worried about someone like me who has "wasted" my money on a pair of YG speakers. I currently own Anat lll Signatures.  Although I do own my own house, my own cars and actually have enough money in the bank to retire now if I wanted to it's very comforting to know that there are so many financial experts out there looking out for me....and audio experts to boot.

pulsetsar's picture
Vandersteens?

I was wondering about JA's decision to use the Vandersteen Treos (about $6k) in this review as a comparison in the measurements section. Was it just fresh in his mind or was he so impressed by those speakers he felt the need to compare them to ones almost 2 orders of magnitude more expensive! Having heard the Treos I have to agree that they are pretty awesome. Since I wasn't able to find anything else in their price range that could compete, by my ears, I put in order in recently for a pair with Richard Vandersteen himself answering the phone when my dealer called him - talk about service!

John Atkinson's picture
Re: Vandersteens

pulsetsar wrote:
Was it just fresh in his mind or was he so impressed by those speakers he felt the need to compare them to ones almost 2 orders of magnitude more expensive!

Mostly the former but definitely some of the latter too,

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

brettmendes's picture
Hmmmmm....

I always find it interesting how dedicated certain people in the audiophile community are to complaining. It's not like some 18 year old kid is saving his pennies to purchase a pair of these. There's no one who's going to save up $100K and then spend it on a pair of speakers. So who do these malcontents think they're defending? The speakers are bought by those that can afford them. I certainly can't and am unlikely to ever be able to. But I still can be curious about them, and these reviews satiate my curiosity. Isn't that part of the point of reviewing them in the first place? 

-Brett

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