Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vivid Audio: Functional Art Makes Beautiful Music

My first encounter with Vivid Audio Loudspeakers was at the 2008 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Philip O' Hanlon of On a Higher Note borrowed a set of B-1's to me from October through January. That 4 months really allowed me to get to know the performance of the Vivid, and little did I know that experience would stick with me for nearly a year. I was very impressed with the speakers to say the least, but with the economy in a shambles I was hesitant to jump in with both feet and become a dealer. Still for the next 8 months, every loudspeaker that entered my showroom I was mentally comparing to the Vivids. Nothing quite measured up in terms of musicality, and long term listenability. As one customer put it after a long audition of the B1's, "everything else sounds like cones in a box". This was after auditioning Wilson Sophia's, and Revel's Ultima Salon 2. Indeed, after falling in love with the sound of the Vivid's other dynamic loudspeakers definitely had a boxy quality you could pick out immediately.

Vivid Audio B-1Flash forward to today. With the economy turning around somewhat, and many of my customers looking for speakers that weren't of the giant wooden box genre, the Vivids have made their way back into the TweekGeek showroom.

The Speakers

Vivid Audio's products are designed with a no-compromise engineering approach. I know it sounds cliche, but it is entirely true. Laurence Dickie has rethought everything about the loudspeaker, down to the finest detail. As a result, nearly everything that goes into a Vivid Audio loudspeaker is built using custom components made entirely in-house. With aesthetics as striking as the sound quality is pure, Vivid Audio strives for aural and visual perfection throughout their product range.

Vivid Audio loudspeakers deliver a 360 degree acoustic performance while remaining sonically invisible. The soundstage they exude is extraordinarily wide, deep and holographic, but never exaggerated. Instrumental timbres are strikingly realistic, dynamic and delicate when they need to be. They are perhaps the most transparent, resolving yet unfatiguing loudspeakers on the market today. They refine sonic reproduction to a new level which encourages the listener to want more, rather than tire and need a break.

The fit and finish are exquisite. With a sculpturesque shape that is rock solid, they sound every bit as good as they look. The surface quality of Vivid Audio loudspeaker cabinets is like that of a fine automobile finish, with a deep lustre and shine which can only be achieved through painstaking hand-finishing. Choose one of the standard colours to match the majority of listening environments, or contact us to order a custom pair of speakers in a color of your choice.

Vivid Audio's Pedigree

Vivid Audio's roots can be traced back to B&W. Robert Trunz, a partial owner of B&W, and Laurence Dickie, the designer of the original Nautilus series loudspeakers. Robert and Laurence ended up joining forces to work together on Vivid Audio Loudspeakers in South Africa.

B&W NautilusWhen Laurence joined Vivid, they used a Nautilus to voice the original active B-1 Loudspeaker so that could compare & contrast against the Nautilus. What was immediately apparent was that the new Vivid drivers that he had recently designed were substantially less coloured than those he had used in the Nautilus.

Laurence set out much of his agenda as when he did that original Nautilus, and a number of the basic principles used then may be seen again here in the B1. For example, he believes in creating pistonic drive units -i.e. drive units that are able to operate in a substantially linear manner throughout their intended operational bandwidth, with mechanical breakup modes kept more than two octaves beyond the cross-over roll off frequency.

The Drivers

There are no standard parts to be found in any Vivid Audio loudspeakers. Every component is made to their own exacting specification. Most of the innovation is hidden away, quietly delivering a listening experience not soon to be forgotten. To this end Vivid B1's (the same goes for the other models as well) incorporate anodized aluminium alloy diaphragm drivers throughout, in a ‘three-and-a-half-way’ configuration, with tightly defined, fourth-order crossover filtering, so that each driver is restricted to its appropriate operating band. Laurence continues: "The two identical 7" bass/mid drivers with 5" alloy cones are mounted back-to-back here. They're mechanically coupled so that reaction forces cancel out, and the one facing backwards just provides additional bass - it's fed via a first-order roll-off operating above 100Hz. These drive units have a very open and unobstructive frame, so there are no cavity resonances. The short-coil/long-gap motor section has some unusual features too, building on the work I've done with pro audio drivers to improve cooling and reliability and avoid power compression .

Vivid Audio C150 wooferVivid also uses special radial magnets, with the field running from inside-to-outside rather than between the flat surfaces of the ring. This helps focus the magnetic field and reduces stray flux, so that additional shielding isn't needed. The air beneath the central dome (within the voice coil) is ventilated through the motor, and the tendency for this to create a Helmholtz resonator is avoided by using a heavily perforated former for the 2" voice coil."

"Besides mechanically coupling the two cone drivers to cancel out reaction forces, they also use O-rings to decouple them from the enclosure above 50KHz, to avoid exciting any panel modes. The enclosure itself is moulded from a polyester resin loaded with carbon fibres, and its curved shape has acoustic benefits inside and out.

The 7" bass drivers are loaded by twin reflex points, situated on the front and the rear (so you can look right through), again to balance out reaction forces."

Vivid Audio D50 dome midrange

"The front-facing bass/mid driver hands over to a 2" dome midrange driver at 900Hz, primary in order to ensure that even and wide dispersion is achieved throughout the critical presence band.

We actually use the same cylindrical magnet elements for this driver as we use in the bass/mid drivers, which makes life a little simpler. Inside the enclosure, a tapering tube transmission line is fitted behind this mid dome to absorb rearward radiation without creating reflections. An internal tapering tube is also used behind the 1" alloy dome tweeter, and here we've used finite element analysis to the magnetic flux. With careful magnet shaping we've managed to achieve an extremely high flux of 2.4 Tesla."

UK HiFi writer Paul Messenger queried the need for such high magnetic power (most hi-fi tweeters settling for around 1.6 Vivid D26 TweeterTesla), and Laurence pointed to two advantages:

"The poles will always stay saturated, which reduces the effect of the steel while the high efficiency also improves headroom and hence reduces power compression. And the use of a large padding resistor also improves the stability and consistency of the effective driver load on the crossover network with different power levels", he explained.

Vivid's Aluminium Tweeter versus Diamond Tweeter

While the Vivid D26 tweeter (42 kHz break-up) is outperformed in the extreme high frequency response compared to other manufacture's Diamond tweeter (typically 60 kHz break-up); incidentally both tweeters perform well beyond human hearing. The Diamond tweeter is physically, considerably heavier than the aluminum D26, due to the thicker layers of diamond deposits that need to be laid down to achieve structural rigidity than the aluminum D26 The Vivid D26 is 7 dB more efficient than the diamond tweeter. Please review Vivid's Super Flux Magnet Technology employed in the D26 tweeters.

In real life, the D26 is padded down to 89 dB in the B1, K1 and 91 dB in the Giya, so the tweeter's 7dB of extra headroom gives us far less power compression for the same SPL and as a result of the higher efficiency, the Vivid D26 is just ticking over compared to the others. Meanwhile the Diamond tweeter is run at or near its maximum output, so at high SPL or high transients, the diamond tweeter will perform in a non-linear fashion and sound harsh & fatiguing.

The Products

Besides the remarkable sonics, the speakers are drop dead gorgeous - truly functional art. The fit & finish is superb.

Vivid Audio has a wide range of speakers to suit all sizes of rooms and while perfection is not inexpensive, the smaller speakers are quite affordable.

Standing over 1.3m high the K1 is the largest of the Vivid Audio range to feature the trademark ovoid form. With its four C125 aluminium diaphragm reaction-cancelling decoupled bass drivers the K1 is capable of filling very large rooms with spectacularly articulate bass. A 3½-way configuration includes the D50 mid range to cover the all-important mid frequencies to which the ear is so sensitive.

Featuring an almost identical philosophy and driver complement as the K1, the Vivid Audio B1 differs only in the number of bass units, having just two mounted fore and aft in a reaction-cancelling decoupled configuration. The same seamless union of the C125 bass with the D50 mid and D26 high frequency units delivers a smooth listening experience across a wide listening window with ample level medium to semi large rooms.

For those not requiring the level delivered by multiple C125s the Vivid Audio V1.5 family are two-way loudspeakers that achieve a respectable level into small and medium sized rooms. Being two-way designs the V1.5 exploits the benefits of a contoured baffle to preserve time alignment of the drivers as well as improve efficiency and Vivid Audio V-1directivity of the D26 tweeter. Pair the V series with a high quality subwoofer and you can extend the low frequency range and output of the system considerably.

Ideally suited to boundary placement, the V1 series are the smallest in the Vivid Audio range. Like the V1.5, they are two-way designs using a single bass/mid driver and tweeter mounted in a sculpted cabinet. Being designed for boundary placement the V1 exploits the natural low frequency reinforcement that results to permit a reduction in the enclosure volume to just 16 litres. A selection of three mounting systems make this a versatile design equally suited to the surround channels of a home theatre installation or to a near field computer music system.

Call 888-998-9335 or email us to discuss auditioning a Vivid Audio Loudspeaker