Vivid Audio Kaya 25 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Review
Vivid Audio is a loudspeaker line I've known for some time, yet never taken serious interest in. Not because I was unimpressed, but because other than shows I never really had the opportunity to absorb what they can do in a proper room. I do know that many of my fellow reviewers hold Vivid in high regard and my interest has always been there. Recently, Bill Parish of GTT Audio took over import responsibilities and invited me over to experience the entire line at his place. Fortunately for me, Bill is 33 minutes away (about 14 miles) and an easy highway-free saunter west into rolling hills and gentle farmland (not sure what made it gentle, but it was gentle dammit!).
Bill received me, along with Ewald Verkerk (Vivid Audio representative from South Africa) and I was treated to four rooms properly set up and beautifully representing the K25, K45, K90, G3 series 2, G2 series 2, and the spectacular G1 Spirit in Bill's reference room. It was a blast and I walked away with a solid appreciation for what Vivid can do and an open offer to review anything I just heard.
Having just reviewed a swath of ultra-expensive, very heavy loudspeakers, I chose what I considered a hyper over-performer for the money (and the fact that it was light and easy to move didn't hurt either) Kaya Audio K25. I was debating that or the K45. As luck would have it, someone else chose the K45 while I was dawdling. I do enjoy a good dawdle on occasion; and happily accept the repercussions of said dawdling.
About Vivid Audio
His obsession with avoiding standing waves through the use of non-parallel cabinet walls and tapered tube loading (used in the Giya and Kaya series) results in a clean, distortion-free sonic signature without coloration. And yes, he is the same Laurence Dickie who headed the design of Bowers & Wilkins's revolutionary Nautilus speaker back in the 1990s.
The Tapered Tube bass loading system used is built into the stand and behaves as an exponential absorber base reflex system. This results in deeper, more articulate, defined base performance in a wonderfully small enclosure. A 12.5cm midrange/bass alloy-coned driver handles everything under 3kHz. This driver is built with a radial rare-Earth magnet and becomes a cohesive whole with the 26mm Tapered Tube loaded alloy dome tweeter built into a shallow waveguide. The tweeter geometry is what they describe as Catenary, defined as a length of chain suspended between two points. This design pushes first break-up modes significantly higher than a spherical dome resulting in a lack of ringing, distortion, and improved transparency in the lower high frequencies and upper midrange.
The behavior of the two drivers more closely resembles a single source sonically which produced almost eerily realistic imaging and staging. In fact, this speaker became the new poster child for what a simple two-way system can accomplish. Technically, the Kayan Audio K25 floorstanding loudspeaker produces frequencies from 40Hz to 25kH, they have an 86dB/W/m sensitivity, and a very easy 8 Ohm nominal load (7.5 Ohm minimum). They recommend 25 to 125 Watts per channel to drive them, yet I feel they blossomed with over 100 Wpc and loved what my 300 Wpc into 8 Ohm Pilium Achilles amplifier did with them; although that would be the dictionary definition of overkill.
Loudspeaker wire binding posts are on the posterior of the plinth and you need bananas to work. I used adapters and had no issues. If you buy them, just make sure your speaker cables are bananas on the speaker end. Easy peasy! Did I mention all of their drivers are in-house designed and fabricated? No? Well, they are.
Sonically, I can describe them quite succinctly. They are essentially a tonally neutral, point source, wicked fast, floorstanding monitor with a built-in stand that allows better base response that vanishes like a Kit Kat in a six-year-old's Halloween bag. They present the recording with a sense of clarity and boundless exuberance. It was this presentation that motivated me to pick these over one of the higher-end Kaya or Giya models. Sometimes it's fun to review the one that sounds too good for its price as opposed to the one that damn well better sound as good as its price. Priced at around $11,000, they embody the David versus Goliath metaphor.
What's not there is not missed, and what is there is appreciated. Mussorgsky's "Dance of the Persian Slaves" [Khovanshchina, Act IV, Pentatone, FLAC 96kHz/24-bit] liveliness and high-frequency challenges proved a perfect match and a perfect example of the two-way small midrange design. The performance was rich, textured, and perpetually energetic while filling my room and absolutely refusing to reveal the location of the speakers or drivers. Truly holographic.
Daft Punk's "The Grid" [Tron Legacy by Walt Disney Productions 44.1kHz/16-bit] along with John Campbell's "Down in the Hole" (Howlin Mercy on Rhino-Elektra, 44.1kHz/16-bit] test that low-frequency extension as well as the grittiness in vocals, electric rhythm, and base guitar rifts. The volume, presence, and texture of the recording's low frequencies appeared without restriction and energized the room. What lacked was impact, slam, and viscerality; which I value. But as much as I missed it being there, it did not detract from me enjoying the system or the recording in any way. I did wish I had some subs lying around to try... oh well.
Sinatra's "The lady is a Tramp" [57-In Concert by DCC UCDCC 101 at 44.1kHz/16-bit) was toe tapping, finger snapping Sinatra pleasure. This recording needs resolution without getting offensive and demands both clarity and transparency of reproduction to fool the brain into transporting you into the venue. Frank is one of those performers whose personality comes through in the recording if well recorded and well reproduced. I use the track because it is well recorded, and this was very well reproduced.
Finally, I wanted to go to some classic jazzy kind of rock and Steely Dan's "Hey Nineteen" [Gaucho on Geffen at 44.1kHz/16-bit] hit the spot just about perfectly. Kaya Audio's K25 gave me that twangy guitar and Mr. Steely's sultry voice just the way I like it. What this speaker did time and again was purity, natural tone, youthful energy, and a master magician-level vanishing act. It's not warm, it's not cold, it's not boring, it's not syrupy sweet; it is a proper and correct reproduction of what is recorded in a way that audiophiles who are used to much more expensive gear expect it to sound. And that is an impressive statement.
Yup. Were there things I could hear with my $150-ish K Alexx's that were just not there with the K25's? Oh my god yes! But, would I be happy with a simple system including a good integrated (like the Hegel H600 I am reviewing right now for The Absolute Aound) and the Kaya Audio K25 loudspeakers within my family room and nothing else? Color me avocado and tickle me with a Chile pepper if the answer to that question is not also a resounding Yes!
They gave me music; pure, clean, engaging, tear-jerking, toe-tapping, knee-slapping, get up and dance music. I think I would eventually add a pair of subs just to round out that under 40Hz deficit that I personally value. But I never felt it needed it. For the money, the only other pair of speakers that have blown me away for the price this much is the Magnepan LRS (of which I have a pair in my office at work) for well under a grand. I have heard many other loudspeakers for under $13,000. I have heard none that got me this excited; and they look damn good and are super petite. If the look appeals and the price is right, I can't imagine anything else that can touch the Kaya Audio K25 floorstanding loudspeakers.
For a bit more, I would imagine the K45 would fill the bass gap just enough to not even want subs. But the difference in price between the two might be better spent on a pair of decent active subwoofers. That's a great question to ask during your audition of the K25 and K45, because you really should hear these glorious loudspeakers!
United States Of America Distributor