YG Acoustics Carmel 2 loudspeaker

For me, one of the highlights of 2013 was being able to live with the Sonja 1.3, the flagship loudspeaker model from Colorado-based YG Acoustics. I reviewed this tall, massive, three-enclosure tour de force of a design, which costs $106,800/pair, in July 2013, and was not surprised when, for the December 2013 issue, Stereophile's writers voted it one of the magazine's two Loudspeakers of the Year. So when I was asked last spring if I wanted to review the new version of the smallest and least-expensive model in YGA's lineup, the request fell on receptive ears.

The Carmel 2 is a two-way floorstanding design costing $24,300/pair. Like all of Yoav Geva's designs, it uses proprietary drive-units, premium-quality parts, and a complex enclosure constructed from CNC-machined aluminum panels. Standing 39" high on its spikes and weighing 76 lbs, the Carmel 2 combines a 7" woofer with a 1" soft-dome tweeter. The woofer, made entirely in-house, has a cone machined from aircraft-grade aluminum billet, hence YGA's name of BilletCore for this driver. (See my Sonja 1.3 review for a fuller description of the company's technologies.) The cone is the same as that used in the midrange unit of YGA's three-way Hailey model, but here the driver is optimized to reproduce both low and midrange frequencies. Low-frequency distortion will inevitably be higher with a two-way than a three-way design, but YGA says that the Carmel 2 woofer's distortion is very low, and close to the noise floor of the anechoic chamber at Canada's NRC, where YGA does the final testing of its prototypes.

The ForgeCore tweeter, identical to that used in the Hailey and Sonja, features a chassis machined in-house by YGA and is set back within a shallow waveguide with a conical flare. The drivers are crossed over at 1.75kHz, and YGA's DualCoherent topology is claimed to maintain a flat response and near-zero relative phase in the crossover region, similar to the Sonja. The complex circuit features toroidal air-core inductors CNC-wound in-house, and which YGA calls ToroAir. However, YGA says that there are very few components in the signal path, to preserve the sonic transparency of a simple crossover.

The construction of the sealed, three-chamber enclosure is also complex. YGA uses what it calls FocusedElimination to avoid resonances. Whereas the original Carmel's enclosure was straight-sided, the Carmel 2 has a gracefully curved front baffle and sidewall, all CNC-machined from aluminum sheet as in the Sonja (though the Sonja uses a dual-shell, box-in-box construction). The Carmel 2's front baffle is 1.38" (35mm) thick.

Overall, two Carmel 2s comprise some 1020 parts, almost all of which—even the handsome binding posts—are made in-house. I was told that the Carmel 2 requires about 34 hours of CNC machine time per pair, of which 20 hours are devoted to milling, 11 to turning, and 3 to winding coils and polishing. The result is an elegant piece of audio furniture.

Despite its size and complexity, YGA's Sonja 1.3 had been relatively straightforward to set up in my room; the Carmel 2 proved more problematic.

When you position speakers in a room, you want the woofers' distances from the floor, the nearest sidewall, and the wall behind the speakers to be maximally different from each other, to ensure that the low-frequency room resonances are evenly spread out. (As a rule of thumb, this will be achieved if you make the difference between each distance and the next smaller distance conform to the Golden ratio of 1.618:1, footnote 1) Yet the Carmel 2's single woofer is 29" from the floor—and, with the YGAs set up in the positions where the KEF Blade 2s had worked well when I reviewed them for the June 2015 issue, that was too close to the distance of each woofer from its sidewall. As a consequence, the midbass was lumpy, and while I didn't expect the Carmel 2 to have extended low frequencies, they were missing in action.

When you buy a pair of relatively expensive speakers, the dealer should be responsible for setting them up in your room, but in this case, YGA's Dick Diamond and Kerry St. James visited to optimize the positions of the Carmel 2s. Diamond played a selection of recordings with which he was familiar, and kept shifting each speaker until he heard the transition between the low midbass and the mid–upper bass smoothing out. He then adjusted the speakers' toe-ins until the central image was solidly and stably defined but the top octave wasn't being emphasized. That toe-in ended up being around 5°, and the speaker positions were asymmetrical. Although each speaker was 7' 2" from the wall behind it, the right speaker was 4' 7" from the books that line the sidewall nearest it, while the left speaker was 3' 2" from the LPs that lined its sidewall. (All distances were measured from the woofer dustcaps.)

Even then, with the Carmel 2s driven by Pass Labs XA60.5 monoblocks and fed directly from a PS Audio DirectStream DAC, the speakers sounded on the lean side, with a little too much top-octave energy. Diamond explained that while these review samples had been played for many hours back at the factory, the time spent in shipping probably meant that their woofers needed more break-in. We spent the next couple of hours listening to a wide variety of music, and yes, the midbass began to free up and the lean quality decreased. These changes continued for the next two weeks of my noncritical listening until, finally, the Carmel 2s' bass balance plateaued.

Other than the presence of its lowest-frequency diagonal mode, at around 32Hz, I have optimized my room's acoustics for low-frequency articulation rather than bloom (footnote 2). So even though the Carmel 2s' bass had loosened up as much as it was going to, and even with the Pass Labs amplifiers and their rather soft bass character, the YGAs still sounded more lean than generous in the lows. Changing to the MBL Corona C15 monoblocks tightened up the bass—a step in the wrong direction—though the top-octave balance was now smoother. Replacing the MBLs with Parasound Halo JC 1 monoblocks, which Michael Fremer had described as being "perhaps a tad polite," the YGA speakers sounded a touch too vigorous in the midrange, and again, the Parasound's superb control of the bass emphasized the leanness of sound. Of all the solid-state amplifiers I had to hand, it was the softer-sounding treble of the Arcam FMJ P49, which I reviewed in November, that worked best with the Carmel 2s, bringing the midrange and treble into an overall neutral balance.

Footnote 1: The Dunlavys were notorious in this respect because they were both tall and had multiple woofers mounted above and below the tweeter-midrange array, meaning that the distance of each woofer from the ceiling also had to be taken into account.

Footnote 2: Rather than absorptive damping, I have primarily used diffusive surfaces (books, LPs, RPG Abffusors) and strategically placed ASC Tube Traps to get an even reverb time of around 250ms from the lower midrange through to the mid-treble, above which the reverb time shortens due to the increased absorption of the furnishings. Voices sound uncolored in my room, but overall, it's drier than the typical American home's living room.

YG Acoustics LLC
4941 Allison Street, Unit 10
Arvada, CO 80002
(801) 726-3887

jporter's picture

I will take the Triton Fives and save the $22,300 for other things. Many other things. The Carmel 2's seem like they have way to many significant issues for that price point.

corrective_unconscious's picture

That's interesting. Just for clarity's sake, what would "many significant issues" mean? Four significant issues? And then what does "to many significant issues" mean in numerical terms? Eight significant issues? And what are these too many significant issues afflicting the Carmel, exactly, in your view?

jporter's picture

1. "problamatic" set up...
2. Limited bass extension for a $25k speaker
3. mid range colorations..."But with some spoken-word recordings, such as David Wilson's commentaries on the high-resolution files of his reissued Wilson Audiophile–label recordings, I became aware of a slightly resonant quality. Similarly, naturally recorded solo-piano recordings, such as Robert Silverman's traversal of the two Rachmaninoff sonatas (CD, Stereophile STPH019-2), had a little too much upper-midrange bloom.
Read more at http://www.stereophile.com/content/yg-acoustics-carmel-2-loudspeaker-page-2#TEgqFOyQ33YQHhyt.99"
4. Finicky amplifier pairing.

At $25k I consider those significant issues. Thanks.

corrective_unconscious's picture

Those things apply to just about every other $25k speaker. It is true that some speakers under that price point will go lower.

I think you blew up the report of this bloom into somehow unacceptable midrange colorations.

Dynamic's picture

These are the best speakers I heard last year at "The Show " in Newport . They were Incredible. I'm not one to fall or think a speaker is good just because they are expensive but these were. Magnepan, Martin Logan , Jbl LSR708i, were others that impressed me, Everything else regardless of price was bad, Infact some people seemed impressed by regular sounding speakers probably because of the design or brandname.These reviewers need a lesson in real proper speaker setup. Proper amplifier setup? LOL WOW , use a solid state amp and you are done you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an amplifier if your life depended on it.

Anon2's picture

I heard the Carmel 1s at a show. I liked them. I probably don't have the discerning ear, placement flexibility, nor the access to as many speakers as JA, so I won't refute his findings.

I wonder what differences, if any, there are now that YG is making its own drivers, as opposed to the Scanspeak Revelators that were on the Carmel 1s.

The Carmel 1s that I heard at a show were located pretty far from the walls. I'd say at least 4 to 6 feet. I heard the Carmel 1s with Vitus amplification, if my memory serves. Kris Kristofferson's rendition of "Hemingway's Whiskey" was the featured track of the hour. These small speakers projected a large sound and a surprising amount of bass for a sealed enclosure.

Those are my recollections.

jazzdude6's picture

We were lucky enough to have a pair of YG Acoustics Carmel 2 speakers delivered and properly set up by Jim Haubenschild of Aberdeen Audio, Centennial, CO, a gentleman we met at RMAF 2017. These offered truly beautiful sound at our Oct.22 Classic Album Sundays listening party in Colorado Springs. The album featured was Kraftwerk's 1977 classic Trans Europe Express. The partnering gear was VERY modest in comparison to the YGA Carmel 2....The results were well beyond our high expectations....Wonderful transparency and detailed layering of instrumental textures, rich mid-range and deep, fulfilling bass. A very involving, moving listening session. Partnering equipment;
TT: Rega Planar 3 w/Elys. Pre amp: Croft Acoustics Micro 25 Basic w/Telefunken NOS 12AX7 tubes in the phono section. Power amp: Rega Maia 3. Power Cables by Cardas and JPS Labs. Pre/Power amp cables by Cardas. Speaker cables; Analysis Plus Clear Oval.

Chris O'Shea - Classic Album Sundays-Colorado Springs

jtrimm's picture

I own a pair of the original Carmels, and they are a very special speaker. That said, mine needed about 750 hours before their sound opened up and became glorious. If the reviewer got a pair of review speakers that hadn’t broken in, I would echo many of his complaints on my original Carmels pre break-in. During break-in, I second guessed my purchase, not really being happy with the sound… harsh on the highs, mids sounding thin, bass not full…. Then there is a magic 2-3 day period where the sound starts to radically change, and when you come out the other side, the sound is astounding. Tone, bass, detail, soundstage… everything explodes. So, either the Carmel 2’s are not a good speaker, or the reviewer got a pair that weren’t broken in.. I suspect the latter (which is a bad move by YG to not send out a properly broken in pair).