The Microsoft Word Thesaurus provides the following terms as descriptors for the word ‘vivid’: dramatic, flamboyant, vibrant, brilliant, stunning, clear. Any or all of those words could be used quite appropriately to describe the striking form of the Vivid Audio Giya G3 speakers.
They can also be used to express the sonic calibre of these unique transducers. And as visually arresting as they are, the story deepens with the extraordinary engineering hidden inside. Ah, there’s so much more…
From snail to shell
Any compilation list of the best-performing and most advanced speakers of the age would have to feature, towards the very top, the Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus.
It was a fluid and organic presence unlike anything that had come before it and its technology was at the very cutting edge of what was possible at the time. But the gloss snail-like form, with its antennae-like rear protrusions, was not just about creating a visual statement, though it most certainly did. All its uniquely idiosyncratic elements were an integral part of the design based on engineering concepts motivated by the goal of achieving the best possible sonic performance.
The key man behind this iconic product was Laurence Dickie, who is now the main designing force behind South Africa’s Vivid Audio, a company whose distinctive products have been creating a whole lot of agitation in the high-end audio space. Vivid Audio’s current designs take elements used in the Nautilus project and reinterpret the ideologies, using up-to-the-minute technologies and applying them to its range of standmounts and the Giya ‘G’ series of floorstanders. And although the Nautilus was an active system requiring multiple channels of amplification, the current range of Vivid Audio speakers are all passive.
Laurence Dickie’s heavy engineering-centric philosophy has led to the development of his own range of drivers using some of the Nautilus concepts in evolved designs. All of Vivid’s drive units feature aluminium diaphragms, something that pays dividends in terms of a shared tonality across the frequency band.
The Giya G3, the subject of this review and the newest speaker in Vivid’s portfolio, features the latest driver and speaker enclosure technology designed using finite element techniques. For starters, the D26 aluminium dome tweeter is part of an overall structure that features a very powerful neodymium iron boron magnet motor to concentrate maximum flux around the specially-formulated ferro-fluid cooled voice coil. As used first in the Nautilus, the tweeter features a long tapered fibre-lined profiled tube designed to dissipate the tweeter’s back-wave energy reflections and resonances.
The midrange frequencies are handled by Vivid’s own D50 50mm fluid-cooled dome driver which shares many of the tweeter’s ideologies and technologies. The D50, however, uses a large rare-earth magnet structure to control the under-hung aluminium voice coil. This driver maintains pistonic action for two octaves above its operating range (880Hz to 4kHz) with a break-up mode up around the 20kHz mark, way beyond its roll-off in other words. Both the D26 and D50 drivers feature a carbon-fibre ring surrounding the metal dome — a Dickie innovation — which is claimed to push the drivers’ break-up modes significantly higher and well beyond their respective roll-off points.
The G3 features a C125S 125mm mid-bass driver which handles the lower mids and upper bass frequencies. The driver features a short-coil long-gap large magnet system and a copper sleeve pole piece for increased flux concentration around the aluminium voice coil. The driver’s rear wave energy is eliminated via a fibre-filled exponentially-tapered tube that curls inside to the enclosure’s upper ‘head’ section. The driver’s chassis is isolated mechanically from the enclosure to prevent excursion behaviour from impacting on the cabinet’s stability and vibrational rigidity.
For the Giya G3, Vivid Audio conceptualised the massive bespoke C135 driver (135mm of course) which is mounted, one each, on the sides of the speaker. The C135 drivers feature enormous short-coil long-gap magnet systems around 75mm ventilated copper ribbon coils and the enormous mass of the overall structures with their massive excursion power, again, have been decoupled from the cabinet via reaction-cancelling compliant mounts. Inter-driver coupling, however, is applied to the opposing woofers via a solid metal bar, a configuration that self-cancels vibrational behaviour, or misbehaviour, from the high power bass drivers. The twin bass drivers port via highly contoured airflow-optimised ‘gill’-like openings on the side of the enclosure just behind the drivers.
The enclosure itself is a heroic attempt at a non-resonant platform for the drivers’ optimum performance. Although comparatively lightweight (41kg), the ‘glass reinforced balsa cored sandwich composite’ cabinet is a complex structure of curved shapes, both external and internal. No one side of the cabinet is flat or hard-cornered, while the baffle width at the point of the diffraction-sensitive tweeter and midrange drivers is of minimal size and only just wider than the drivers themselves. The promise there is pin-sharp focusing and large soundstages (listening impressions will confirm or deny this later). Another promise is outstanding coherency and frequency range linearity due to the similar dispersion patterns and diffraction surface areas, as well as the identical dome and cone materials.
The G3’s crucial specifications are a quoted sensitivity of 87dB at 2.83Vrms and 1.0 metre on axis, a low reactance impedance of 6 ohms with a 4 ohms minima, and a frequency response of 33Hz to 36kHz at -6dB points.
Vivid Audio speakers feature a highly-buffed high gloss finish in a variety of automotive colours — our review sample came in a glorious piano black. In direct sunlight you can see a metallic emerald dust speckle of brilliant green through the paintwork; nice.
In terms of practicalities, the speakers come boxed in absolutely fabulous large wooden crates. These have built-in rope handles at one end — wrapped in thick flexible plastic to protect your hands — and roller wheels at the other. Simply pick them up and wheel them around pre and post unpacking. And the clumsiest of couriers won’t harm the precious cargo; the crates are lined with stiff foam and the speakers come wrapped in a cloth bag and with foam driver protectors.
Not so practical is the location of the binding posts, which are on the speakers’ base in altogether too small an indent cut-out. Vivid Audio provides jumpers for single-wiring and when used in conjunction with your own speaker cables (especially heavy gauge ones) it can get pretty crowded around the posts. To compound the issue, if your cables are spade-terminated with the long and angled shank variety you’re liable to have the whole speaker’s 41kg balancing on the cable connectors. The included spiking system, which is of very high quality, provides a little added clearance but they are of fairly short stature so not really much relief there either, especially on high pile carpet. But this is really the only small blemish in an otherwise extraordinary package where every aspect relating to their performance has been agonised over and then thoroughly refined.
Oh, and they will become the conversation focus of any dinner party — the G3s are industrial art befitting a Guggenheim exhibit piece.
We auditioned the G3s with a variety of our reference pre/power combos of both solid state and valve variety which, coincidentally, were all in the high-powered category. The solid state amplifiers ranged from muscular Krell Evolution 400e monos to the 750-watt Musical Fidelity kW750 monster, while the valve juice was provided via Audio Research Reference 150s. Preamplification was via Supratek’s killer Sauvignon, NuForce’s P-20, Audio Research’s Reference 5 SE and Musical Fidelity’s kW hybrid preamp. AMR’s sublime CD-77.1 provided the spinning and a MacBook/AIFF/BitPerfect to the CD-77.1’s DAC input served for computer audio.
Striking from the get-go was the total disappearing act the G3s performed. Where did the speakers go? This is an act Houdini would be proud of. Music just projected on the plane of the speakers but totally free of them, and with a positional precision that was almost scary. “Where did that come from?” was a common reaction when an instrument or backing vocal spawned in an unexpected location within the massive soundstage (yes, width, depth, height). The images seemingly floated upon this very large soundstage.
Surprising, too, was the bass depth and power from what really are relatively small drivers. And not just that either; the bass control — well, the amps had a lot to do with that — detail and nuance was among the very best this war-weary writer has heard.
On Musica Nuda’s self-titled release, Ferruccio Spinetti’s acoustic bass sounded positively captivating in its dynamic contrast and profound detail where every pluck and bow sweep was full of skin, bone and rosin. Higher up into the mids and highs Petra Magoni’s soaring vocals were never shrill nor even brash in the slightest, while her high-pitched tonality was presented in stunning verisimilitude.
I use Ani Di Franco’s Living in Clip as a test CD for a number of reasons. The vocals are recorded a tad hot and some components either emphasise or dull that aspect while the drum kit and Di Franco’s acoustic guitar are captured with extraordinary detail and vividness — pun not intended. The G3s never truncated the ‘s’ and ‘t’ sounds while also never causing that almost painful sensation a hot tweeter and sibilance can cause. It was just a perfect balancing act in the vocals while maintaining the magnificence, transient impact and utter slam of Di Franco’s manic strumming and drummer Andy Stochansky’s smashing kick and snare.
Living with the Giyas for a number of weeks, I could not pick an overt fault with these truly magnificent speakers. They imaged better than our reference Wilson Sashas, and while the G3’s bass was not as powerful or deep (we’re comparing twin 135mm drivers with twin 200mm drivers), it was just a tad faster and a smidgen more detailed. The Sashas shot ahead in terms of dynamic expression and top-end detail, while the G3’s D50 domes could not match the power and slam of the bespoke 165mm driver in the Wilson.
But the G3 is a much more forgiving speaker, perhaps better balanced and with a benign impedance plot, that still rewards with all the audio subtleties and nuances that you’d expect at the price, while being compatible with a larger variety of amplification.
The Giya G3 has been a regular at Australian audio shows, and even if you’re not shopping at this price point I implore you to rush, queue, and wait to hear this marvel of a speaker. You’ll be hearing what is really one of the examples of the state of the art in loudspeaker design. Sure, above the G3, Vivid Audio offers the larger G2 and flagship G1. The bigger brethren would, of course, offer deeper and more powerful bass registers thanks to their larger drivers and enclosures. But having in common the same tweeter, midrange dome and mid-bass drivers, all three Giya speakers should share the same midrange-to-treble balance and tonality, and the dispersion characteristics of an almost baffle-less driver array. The scenario then offers astute audiophiles a Giya choice in terms of driving gear and room size.
It’s said that Giya is a variation of the word Jiva in the Sanskrit language. Jiva, an immutable, indestructible entity transcends the constraints of mortality and is reincarnated in an eternal karmic cycle. Lofty as it may sound, this is I think, an apt parallel for the Giya G3’s transcendental qualities. This is a near-ideal design that will stand the test of time and will be known as a sonic, aesthetic and engineering classic in years to come. It’s that good.
Drive units: 1 × D26 25mm tweeter (patented) with Tapered Tube loading; 1 × D50 50mm midrange dome (patented) with Tapered Tube loading; 1 × C125S 125mm mid-bass cone with Tapered Tube loading and short-coil long-gap motor design; 2 × C135 135mm drivers with short-coil long-gap motor design
Frequency response: 36Hz to 33,000Hz ±2dB on reference axis
Sensitivity: 87dB @ 2.83Vrms and 1.0 metre on axis
Harmonic distortion: (2nd and 3rd) < 0.5% over frequency range
Crossover frequencies: 220Hz, 880Hz, 3500Hz
Power handling (music program): 800 watts RMS
Dimensions: 1161 × 341 × 578mm (HWD)
Net weight: 41kg
Finishes: Multi-component high gloss automotive
Warranty: Five years
The Vivid Audio Giya G3 won a Sound+Image Judges' Choice Award in the 2014 Awards, and featured on the cover of the Audio Esoterica 2013 issue in which this review originally appeared. For a digital edition of that and other issues, click the cover to the right.