Vivid Kaya S12 loudspeaker Measurements

Sidebar 3: Measurements

I used DRA Labs' MLSSA system, an Earthworks microphone preamplifier, and a calibrated DPA 4006 microphone to measure the Vivid Audio Kaya S12's farfield behavior, and an Earthworks QTC-40 mike for its nearfield responses. I left the vestigial grilles that cover the two drive units in place for the measurements. I used Dayton Audio's DATS V2 system to measure the impedance magnitude and electrical phase angle.

Vivid specifies the Kaya S12's sensitivity as 87dB/2.83V/m. My B-weighted estimate was inconsequentially lower, at 86.3dB(B)/2.83V/m. The Kaya S12's impedance is specified as 8 ohms, with a minimum magnitude of 5.3 ohms. I found that the impedance (fig.1, solid trace) remained above 8 ohms for almost the entire audioband. The minimum magnitude was 6.35 ohms at 242Hz. The electrical phase angle (dashed trace) is occasionally high, however, and the EPDR (footnote 1) drops to 3 ohms between 161Hz and 186Hz, with values of 3.6 ohms in the midbass and upper midrange. The Kaya S12 will work best with amplifiers that are not fazed by 4 ohm impedances.


Fig.1 Vivid Kaya S12, electrical impedance (solid) and phase (dashed) (2 ohms/vertical div.).

The traces in fig.1 are free from the small discontinuities that would imply the presence of resonances of some kind. When I investigated the enclosure's vibrational behavior with a plastic-tape accelerometer, I found a couple of resonant modes on the curved sidewall, the highest in level lying at 199Hz (fig.2). However, this mode has a low amplitude and a moderately high Q (Quality Factor), both factors that will work against audibility. Fig.2 was taken with the Kaya S12's base bolted to the speaker's dedicated stand. I repeated the measurement with the speaker sitting on three upturned cones, these placed at the perimeter of its base. (This will be the worst case, as it allows resonant modes to develop fully.) I was surprised, therefore, to find that the resonant modes were now lower in both level and Q. However, the hashy-looking behavior between 1kHz and 2kHz in fig.2 was higher in level without the stand.


Fig.2 Vivid Kaya S12, cumulative spectral-decay plot calculated from output of accelerometer fastened to center of sidewall with speaker bolted to matching stand (MLS driving voltage to speaker, 7.55V; measurement bandwidth, 2kHz).

The saddle centered on 44Hz in the impedance-magnitude trace suggests that this is the tuning frequency of the rear-panel port that reflex-loads the woofer. The red trace in fig.3 shows the port's nearfield output. The response peaks sharply at 40Hz, and the upper-frequency rolloff is clean. The nearfield response of the woofer (fig.3, blue trace below 300Hz) has the expected notch at the port tuning frequency, which is when the back pressure from the port resonance holds the diaphragm stationary.


Fig.3 Vivid Kaya S12, anechoic response on tweeter axis at 50", averaged across 30° horizontal window and corrected for microphone response with the nearfield response of the port (red), woofer (blue), and their complex respectively plotted below 325Hz, 300Hz, and 300Hz.

The black trace below 300Hz in fig.3 shows the complex sum of the nearfield woofer and port responses, taking into account acoustic phase and the fact that the port is on the speaker's rear. The Vivid's low frequencies shelve down a little between 40Hz and 120Hz, and the usual boost in the upper bass due to the nearfield measurement technique is absent. As Vivid's Matt Longbottom implied in HR's review, the Kaya S12's low frequencies will benefit from the boundary reinforcement of placement relatively close to the front and side walls. The black trace above 300Hz in fig.3 shows the Kaya S12's farfield response averaged across a 30° horizontal window centered on the tweeter axis. Other than a very narrow spike at 5.8kHz, the speaker's response is extraordinarily flat throughout the midrange and treble. The output between 10kHz and 20kHz is 1–2dB too high in level, but the output drops above 20kHz due to the effect of the high-Q tweeter dome resonance at 30.6kHz.

The Vivid's horizontal dispersion is shown in fig.4. (The traces are normalized to the response on the tweeter axis, which thus appears as a straight line.) Other than a slight lack of energy in the presence region to the sides, which might make the speaker sound a little polite, the contour lines in this graph are smooth and even, which correlates with accurate and stable stereo imaging. The Kaya S12 becomes a little more directional in the octave below 20kHz, which will tend to compensate for the slight excess of on-axis energy in this region. This graph also shows that the tweeter resonance is higher in level off-axis.


Fig.4 Vivid Kaya S12, lateral response family at 50", normalized to response on tweeter axis, from back to front: differences in response 90–5° off axis, reference response, differences in response 5–90° off axis.

The Vivid's vertical dispersion, again normalized to the response on the tweeter axis, is shown in fig.5. The Kaya S12's balance is maintained over a ±5° window centered on the tweeter axis, which is 34" from the floor with the speaker bolted to its dedicated stand. (A survey conducted for Stereophile by Thomas J. Norton in the 1990s indicated that 36" was the average ear height for seated listeners.) Above and below that window, however, a significant suckout in the crossover region makes an appearance.


Fig.5 Vivid Kaya S12, vertical response family at 50", normalized to response on tweeter axis, from back to front: differences in response 45–5° above axis, reference response, differences in response 5–45° below axis.

After the review had been prepared for publication, I measured the Vivid S12's spatially averaged response in my own listening room (fig.6). I didn't have time to optimize the placement by moving the speakers closer to the sidewalls and the wall behind the speakers, which means the low-frequencies are shelved down. But note the superbly even response in the upper midrange and treble. Other than a slight excess of energy in the mid-treble region, the trace gently slopes down in the optimal manner as the frequency increases.


Fig.6 Vivid Kaya S12, spatially averaged, 1/6-octave response in JA's listening room.

In the time domain, the Kaya S12's step response on the tweeter axis (fig.7) indicates that both drivers are connected in positive acoustic polarity and that the tweeter's output arrives first at the microphone. The decay of the tweeter's step blends smoothly with the start of the woofer's step, suggesting optimal crossover design. The Vivid's cumulative spectral-decay plot (fig.8) is impressively clean, with the exception of a narrow ridge of delayed energy at 5.8kHz, the frequency of that small spike in the fig.3 response. (As always, ignore the apparent ridge of low-level energy just below 16kHz in fig.8, which is due to interference from the MLSSA host computer's video circuitry.)


Fig.7 Vivid Kaya S12, step response on tweeter axis at 50" (5ms time window, 30kHz bandwidth).


Fig.8 Vivid Kaya S12, cumulative spectral-decay plot on tweeter axis at 50" (0.15ms risetime).

The Vivid Kaya S12's measured performance is indicative of the superb loudspeaker engineering I have come to expect from this brand.—John Atkinson

Footnote 1: EPDR is the resistive load that gives rise to the same peak dissipation in an amplifier's output devices as the loudspeaker. See "Audio Power Amplifiers for Loudspeaker Loads," JAES, Vol.42 No.9, September 1994, and
Vivid Audio BV
Vivid Audio U.S.
201 West High St., Unit B10
East Hampton, CT 06424
(650) 996-2295

PeterG's picture

A great review, as always, and I would look forward to a listen.

But as a person who enjoys stand-mounts, it always puzzles me when they are reviewed without a sub and then evaluated on bass. OK, that's a very relevant issue for a person who will not have a subwoofer--maybe they live in an apartment building or love monitor-style sound? But for a person stepping up with $8K or so for speakers, I would expect they are typically committed enough to great sound that they "need" a sub.

MZKM's picture

Many audiophiles who can afford this speaker are also usually the ones who disdain subwoofers, they are 2ch purists.

Also, the price tag for a 4” woofer is very steep. Even if crossing to a sub, the speaker has to be able to go down to at least 80Hz not just at 1W but also at peak SPL, which a 4” woofer is unlikely to do. But yes, other than bass, the measured performance on & off axis is very good.

PeterG's picture

I am a 2 channel audiophile with stand mounts that are a bit higher in price than these, and a subwoofer is essential. (So I'm not complaining about the price and I'm skeptical of your "purists" point wrt stand mount buyers) Without the sub, the stand mounts may sound beautiful, but they do not sound complete--it's kind of like you're listening to only a portion of the song.

Jack L's picture


Bingo !

How can a 4" mid-bass driver (3KHz X-over) reproduce decent bass, let alone cathedral pipe organ music & synethetic rock bass notes !!! This is physics.

Listening is believing

Jack L

Jack L's picture


Really ???

So yours truly might be one-of-a-kind "2-ch purist" as I hate multi-channel surround sound since day one. Yet I've installed 3 active subs to my pure stereo system (L,R, L+R channels).

I demand music performances covering FULL frequency spectrum from my stereo system. NOTHING less ! Why compromise music enjoyment because of the main loudspeaskers not doing their job right ?

Listening is believing

Jack L

Anton's picture

She took one look at the pic of the back of that speaker and asked, "What in the hell is that supposed to look like?"



That stand/speaker difference is interesting.

Thank you for the fine review, the speakers are reminiscent of the new Genelec line. Were those reviewed here, or was it The Audiophiliac?

MontyM's picture

I thought they looked like lima beans. My partner thought they looked like a character from the Barbapapas, a somewhat obscure cartoon from the early 70's. Either way, not a conventional shape or color.

I do like designs with a point of view, both acoustically and aesthetically, though. Thanks for the review HR.

Jack L's picture


Personally, I don't worry too much about the look of any audio components as long as they combinedly sound good.

The look does not tell you how good or bad it may sound, right ? The music is for our ears. Not a fine dine which should look, smell & taste good.

Listening is believing'

Jack L

RH's picture

Nice review!

I have listened to several Vivid speakers, and auditioned the Oval speakers, and listened to the Kaya45 speakers a number of times at a friend's place. "Vivid" is certainly an apt name; that's certainly the impression of that brand, no matter where I heard them! Just super open, airy, ridiculously detailed.

The thing is, to my ears, while the speakers conjured up super "vivid" sonic images of singers, they never really sounded human. More like a fabulous holograph of a recorded voice. The artifice of the recording process was made just as "vivid."

I was using Harbeth SuperHL5plus speakers at the time and after listening to the Vivid speakers, voices on the Harbeths just sounded more like real people - dense and soft in a palpable and recognizably "fleshy" manner. (Frankly, the same was also true to an extent with my Thiel speakers powered by my Conrad Johnson tube amps).

I find the Vivid speakers a neato experience, but they aren't for me. I get why others would love them, though. And I have a hunch which way Herb's tastes go on that...:-)

thethanimal's picture

You start off referencing Family Matters and then give the gems of Nik Bärsch’s Mobile and “Hirundo Maris - Chants du Sud et du Nord”, further cementing your status as my favorite audio writer/reviewer. Thanks.

remlab's picture 5.8 khz is most likely a breakup in the 4" metal cone raising it's ugly head. I have a feeling that the crossover uses relatively shallow slopes compared to other Vivid models. The vertical response family is also indicative of that.

Axiom05's picture

I was surprised to see such an obvious resonance peak in a Laurence Dickie design.

remlab's picture

I wonder if it's due to the cabinet being too small and crowded for a higher element crossover.

pbarach's picture

That is the ugliest finish I have ever seen on a speaker. I had to check the manufacturer's website to see if it came in other colors: Yes, but that website only shows the same gangrenous green.

Glotz's picture

Is 'grass-fed and tactile'. LOVE it.

Glotz's picture


tonykaz's picture

Audiophile Transducers typically make our music sound better, isn't that the goal we strive for ???

I like and appreciate the Active Genelec Monitors that look pretty much like this Vivid design but also offer matching Sub-Woofers and other Room Matching capability for significantly lower investment costs. ( and long lived re-sale -- residual values ) .

Maybe I'm prejudiced because the Vivid somehow reminds me of TellaTubies , hmm.

Still , if this transducer can live up to Mr.HR's discovery of 'shape-shifting', it just might be a neurotic / psychotic's ultimate satisfaction system. When a person changes interconnects, will this loudspeaker notice ?, care ?, throw a fit ???

These Vivid people certainly do a nice job of designing and building unique products, but will they ever disappear in any Room they're in, even if the lights are fully off : Vivids are loudest when they're silent.

Tony in Florida

Herb Reichert's picture

The Genelec G3s are up next


remlab's picture

Now we’re talkin’. That’ll be fun

remlab's picture

MontyM's picture

Hi Jack,

I agree that the top selection criterion has to be how well a component sounds in your room. But I think it also has to be something you enjoy looking at. Even then, while I might be willing to work a pair of very modern looking Kaya loudspeakers into our traditionally decorated home, it's not all up to me. Fortunately, there are lots of excellent sounding beautifully crafted components out there, so major sacrifices are rarely, if ever, necessary.

Best, Monty

Jack L's picture


Fully appreciated yr home situation now ! You are not alone, for sure.

That's one of the reasons why I installed my audio den down the basement of my house day one I moved in 30 years back.

My wife is very indifferent to HiFi music which is deemed 'noisy' to her. That said, she somehow pushed my elder son into learning piano while he was only 5. She wanted him to complete his classical piano training before entering university. Thanks goodnes, he did after graduated from our city's Royal Conservatory of Music on classical piano with honour.

So home sweet home upstairs & music sweet music downstairs in my basement. Everybody is happy now.

Jack L

Danny-s's picture

Definitely on my wish list for a bedroom speaker.
Still addicted to my other Vivid’s v1.5 (Powered by Audionet WATT) which are just Incredible! :-)

tnargs's picture

Does it look like an EBS alignment to you, John? I know it has this complex “tube loaded reflex” internal arrangement, but the net effect resembles EBS at first glance?