Vivid Audio Kaya 45 Floorstanding Loudspeaker
The perfect system is an elusive and never-ending quest for most of us. To add to the misery, some of us would like to have a system that looks as good as it sounds. Rose-gold trim or chrome-plated products will garner a first look. Boring rectangular speaker boxes need not apply. The Vivid Audio line of speakers will never be called boring. Vivid Audio, based in West Sussex, UK, has been producing unique and sonically outstanding loudspeakers since 2004. At the 2008 CES, Vivid Audio stunned the world with the G1 Giya flagship speaker. My review model is the more affordable Vivid Audio Kaya 45 loudspeaker at $18,000 per pair.
Vivid Audio's Kaya 45 loudspeakers arrived via freight in a large wooden crate. Any pair of speakers arriving in a large wooden crate (with wheels, thankfully) always brings a smile to a reviewer's face. My review samples had been shipped to me from a previous reviewer and were moving around in the crate. Fortunately, upon removing the lid, the Kaya 45 loudspeakers showed only a few minor scuffs. They are deceptively light for their size (about 55 lbs. each), but difficult to lift, due to their piano black smooth surface and tear-drop shape. Wearing my white cotton gloves used for vinyl cleaning made the task more difficult. Two bare hands and an occasional thigh was needed to wrestle them into position.
The speakers were placed in the recommended distance away from the sided walls (about three feet) and about two feet off my back wall. The speakers started their review session toe-in (like my MartinLogan speakers) but were quickly placed almost flat across the front. The final placement was a mere five degrees off-axis. The recommended triangle and cross-axis worked best with my audio room setup. The finish of the Vivid Audio Kaya 45 was near flawless. The minor scuffs were at the bottom and out of sight. They offer other finishes in Pearl and Oyster Matte, but my review speakers were piano black. A variety of custom colors are available upon request.
The Kaya 45 loudspeakers are virtually smooth and seamless. The only straight lines are at the bottom plate, with the binding posts and spikes. To achieve this feat requires a dizzying amount of research and technology, and maybe a little magic? This innovative engineering-led company boasts of such technologies as Catenary Dome Profile diaphragms, Tapered Tube Loading, Super Flux Magnets, Reaction Cancelling Compliant Mount, and more. The entire review would be an example of an MIT white paper, and that may cause a few of you to glaze over. Let me summarize.
The 1" tweeter and 4" midrange drivers are part of tapered tubes (Tapered Tube Loading) that run from front to back. The bass drivers are even more of a technology marvel. The aluminum-alloy cones are flush on both sides of the speaker, with two flared ports located above and to the rear of the bass drivers. One would assume this was a simple "push-pull" woofer configuration. You would be wrong. According to the Vivid Audio website, the Kaya 45's heavily perforated voice-coil, "dampens resonances induced by the backwave". Combine this, plus what Vivid calls a bass absorber, combined with a densely packed fiber-filled cavity, and you have one high-tech speaker.
The finishing touch is the detachable perforated grilles for the woofers and midrange drivers. Small neodymium magnets hold them in place. The Kaya 45's are stunning with or without the grilles in place. For safety reasons, I put it in place after the first day. The bottom of the Kaya 45's is complete with six spikes, or flat feet if you desire, for stability. I preferred the spikes. The rear binding posts are mounted low to the ground.
Choices, Choices, And More Choices
The Vivid Audio Kaya 45's are rated at 6 Ohm (2.8 Ohm Min), with an amplifier recommendation of 25 to 500 Watts. Any of the three amplifiers on-hand would fit within those specifications. The Kaya 45's have a reported sensitivity of 87dB/W/m at one-meter on-axis and a frequency range of 37Hz to 25kHz.
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
"Hit Me With Your Best Shot" was the first of a dozen tracks played in succession. Tracks continued well into the evening. Ed Sheeran's "Galway Girl", "Eraser" and "Perfect". Strong male voice. Check. Next, the "Demo of Destruction" playlist. "Don't Let Me Down" [featuring Daya re-mix], and "Never Forget You" [MNEK re-mix]) are the first tracks on the list. The Vivid Audio Kaya 45 did not distort in any way. They produced very tight, mid to low bass without any woofer distortion or muffling. Tight.Studio monitor tight.
A few days pass before the next listening session. Ladies' night had begun. The usual list of suspects graces the go-to 'Female Vocal List'. Norah Jones "Come Away With Me [24-bit/192kHz], Pinks "What About Us" [FLAC 24-bit/44.1kHz], and Alicia Keys "Kill Your Mama" [FLAC 24-bit/44.1kHz]. You know the tracks. It is well known that female vocals can be difficult to reproduce accurately on many speakers. Being mostly mid-range in timbre, female performances can come across bland and lifeless, if the mid-range driver isn't up to the task. To my ear, the Vivid Audio Kaya 45's produced studio accurate reproductions of these performances. There was a smooth transition, from the tweeter driver to the mid-range driver, and back. My ears heard a nice flat, transparent reproductions, track after track.
Sadly, the Audio Research VT80 SE Stereo Amplifier had to be returned. It was time to muscle the massive Pass Lab X260.8 mono amplifiers into place.
The Pass Lab X260.8 mono amplifiers can deliver 260 Watts into 8 Ohms, so were pushing about 350 Watts per channel into the Kaya 45's. Being careful not to blow the review speakers (generally not advised by reviewers borrowing review samples); the 'Demo of Destruction' list was back in play. Starting on low; I gradually increased the level of pain (also called volume). It took six tracks to reach my pain threshold. The Kaya 45's never blinked. Yes, they eventually bottomed out and distorted, but not at any reasonable listening level.
If you've ever listened to studio monitors for an extended period, then you know they can be an acquired taste. For me, the Vivid Audio Kaya 45 loudspeakers take me right back to the late-night studio sessions. The Kaya 45's represent a transparent, tight (but musical) listening experience housed in a stunning tear-drop enclosure. At just 45" tall, the Kaya 45's can produce room-filling sound; whether you own 35 Watt tubes or 350 Watt solid-state beasts. The Kaya 45's imaging is very clear and detailed, with no noticeable coloring or accents.
The engineering marvels stuffed inside this chest-height loudspeaker should be appreciated as well. Even at volume, you will feel no noticeable vibrations or flexing of the cabinet. At low volumes, you would need to put your hands directly on the two 125mm bass driver grilles, to feel the vibration.
As a direct descendant of Vivid Audio's more expensive brethren their Giya range, the Kaya range is advertised as a more affordable line consisting of the Kaya S12, 25, 45, and 90. The number denotes the internal volume. The Vivid Audio Kaya 45's in Piano Black retail for $18,000. While this is outside of my range of affordability; it is not outrageous for what you get and what went into this wonderful package.
And Then They Were Gone
When we get back to normal and industry shows come back to town; look for the crowded room with the curvy loudspeakers. If the door tag says Vivid Audio, do yourself a favor. Come on in a sit down for a while. You may not be able to afford her, but you will enjoy those curves.
Vivid Audio LLC
Contact: Todd Sutherland