On a Higher Note

In a room sponsored by the California-based distribution company On a Higher Note, Vivid’s entry-level loudspeaker, the V1.5 ($7700/pair and photographed here by Robert Deutsch) sounded immediate, lushly textured, and vivid indeed: Voices, violins, drums, and—especially—saxophones leaped from their respective mixes with presence, power, and beauty. Associated gear included the SQ-38u integrated amp ($6000) and D-05 CD player ($5000) from Luxman, full-monty Bardot III record player from Brinkmann (including enhanced Origin Live Encounter arm and Brinkmann Pi cartridge: $12,300 for the package), and a full array of premium cables from Kubala-Sosna—whose proprietor, Joe Kubala, also played some of his own superb recordings through the demonstration system.

While listening to the Vivids, it finally dawned on me that an inspiration for their unusual yet acoustically sensible shape might have been an ancient shape known as the Vesica Piscis (literally, the bladder of the fish), the contours of which have, over the centuries, inspired the Roman Church, Ordo Templi Orientis, and the late, great Philip K. Dick. My friend John Marks should look into this!

Robert Deutsch adds: SSI 2011 had some truly impressive demos featuring price-no-object equipment—Fidelio's demo featuring the big Sonus Fabers, Peter McGrath playing back his own recordings on the Wilson Alexandria 2s, and the MBL 101 Mk.II demo come to mind—but the one I kept going back to for sheer listening pleasure was the system featuring a pair of Vivid Audio 1.5 speakers. (Well, this one and the system built around the Dynaudio Confidence C1 Mk.II.)

Presented by the ever-charming Philip O'Hanlon of On A Higher Note, this system consisted of Luxman digital source and amplification, Brinkmann turntable, and Kubala-Sosna cables. Total system price was $35,900, but the speakers themselves were a relatively modest—in the ultra-high-end context—$7700/pair. O'Hanlon played a recording of a jazz combo made by Joe Kubala which had a you-are-there presence that was breathtaking.