The Fifth Element #62 Page 2

For whatever reason, Roland Hanna wasn't blessed with the major career Tommy Flanagan had, though their playing was quite similar. Perhaps Hanna's "classical" touch was a bit more incisive or muscular, but it never was too heavy. Indeed, whereas Flanagan began as a clarinet player, Hanna studied classical piano as a boy, and went on to study at both Juilliard and the Eastman School. Just listen to the poignant rubato toward the end of "A Child Is Born," and then the way Hanna brings out Impressionist harmonies in Evans and Livingston's "Never Let Me Go."

I have babbled on too long and will now change the subject. But this is a solo-piano disc to check out. And treasure. (And don't be put off by the stupid cover, which looks like an ad for CSI: Miami.)

Vivid Audio V1.5 loudspeaker
I consider Wes Phillips' review of Vivid's top loudspeaker, the G1Giya (in the July 2010 issue), to be required reading for a better understanding of what I'm about to say, especially because there is a substantial commonality of parts and design between the two speakers—despite the yawning gap between the G1's price of $65,000/pair and the V1.5's of $7650/pair (footnote 2).

What particularly impresses me is that the V1.5, a two-way design with an integral stand, uses the same tweeter as the G1Giya (modified only because it sits in a recess, for directivity control), and that its woofer appears to be identical to the G1's lower-midrange unit. Those alone tell me that Vivid is a company the cut of whose jib I like. Vivid's products aren't cheap, but the fact that the drivers in their least expensive floorstander, the V1.5, are pretty much identical to the drivers in their $65,000 statement model speaks volumes.

That I was so smitten was a bit of a surprise. For quite some time I held off from borrowing loudspeakers made by Vivid for two reasons. First, even Vivid's most conservative designs look a bit weird. The V1.5 looks a little like the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or the principal subjects of Edvard Munch's The Scream or John Hughes and Chris Columbus' Home Alone. It's that mouthlike port—which, I'm sure, is shaped that way for good and sufficient reasons. I can say I never heard a hint of a chuff, and never got the sense that any midrange energy was making its way into the room through the port.

Second, and more to the point, Vivid makes its own all-metal drivers, going to the extent of using the same magnesium-aluminum alloy in their tweeter, midrange, and woofer diaphragms—all in the interest of coherence, designer Laurence Dickie told me in an exchange of e-mails. However, what I'd previously heard from other metal-cone drivers (as distinct from tweeters)—heard briefly, but long enough to let me know that I was unimpressed—had run the gamut from cold to brittle to harsh. Gobs of detail but not much body, and usually something wrong in the harmonic structure. Theoretically, metal drivers are supposed to provide pistonic operation within their assigned bandwidth; any nonpistonic behavior is either outside that bandwidth, or up where people can't hear it—the last being an assertion I completely disagree with.

Just about the time Stephen Mejias' blog entries were going live with his stories of replacing drivers in Wes Phillips' review pair of G1Giyas, and of John Atkinson's travails in measuring them, a pair of V1.5s finished in what Vivid calls Oyster (a metallic, dark gray-bronze) arrived at my house in wooden crates. These turned out to be a well-traveled review pair, evidenced by some repaired dents on the dustcap of the left speaker's woofer (the V1.5s are not mirror-imaged; I assigned the speaker with the lower serial number to the left), and the fact that no grilles or jumper wires were included. The V1.5s were accompanied by a pair of work gloves covered with rubber dots. These inspired confidence; I imagine that plain cotton gloves might slip on the speakers' gloss automotive clear coat. The owner's manual is available online.

I listened to each V1.5 individually using mono tracks. Hearing no difference between them, I declined distributor Philip O'Hanlon's offer of a replacement drive-unit; time was short, and I didn't want to add a break-in period.

In recent years I have grown increasingly frustrated by audio manufacturers who can't (or won't) explain what makes their equipment different from all other contenders in the general onslaught. Back in the day, Irving M. "Bud" Fried used to say of competing loudspeakers that they were "a piece of paper in a box," by which he meant that most of his competitors sold wood-pulp drivers in rectilinear enclosures. At least Fried, with his "line tunnel woofer loading" had a (non-unique) "selling proposition." Most companies don't. Especially in today's tough times, audio companies need to justify their existences to consumers by clearly explaining their products' features, functions, and benefits, and not by spouting self-congratulatory generalities.

So I'm always well disposed toward a company that seems to have a sense of its own identity and mission, and that takes the time and trouble to tell its own story without relying on the audio press to do its educating for it. I found this to be the case both with Vivid's own website and that of its US importer, On a Higher Note.

Vivid builds on designer Laurence Dickie's previous experience in designing B&W's Matrix system and that company's legendary statement loudspeaker, the Nautilus, most particularly in the areas of:

• minimizing cabinet resonances through hi-tech materials and nonlinear shapes
• minimizing diffraction effects through 3D modeling and design of the driver mountings and surrounding areas
• using proprietary alloys and designs to approach the theoretical ideal of pistonic driver behavior

Footnote 2: Vivid Audio UK Ltd., The Old Barn, Rosier Business Park, Coneyhurst Road, Billingshurst. West Sussex RH14 9DE, England, UK. Web: Vivid Audio (PTY) Ltd., PO Box 343, Kloof 3640, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. Tel: (27) 31-705-4168. US distributor: On a Higher Note LLC, PO Box 698, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693. Tel: (949) 488-3004. Fax: (949) 488-3284. Web: