Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Modwright KWI 200 + Vivid Audio B1 = Music

Every once in awhile you find audio components that simply work well together. Their sonic characteristics compliment one another to such a degree that together, their sum is greater than their individual contributions. It's called synergy, and I am writing today to share with you my discovery of (at least two) components that have this synergy.

Vivid B1
Vivid Audio B1
The Vivid Audio B1 loudspeaker is the first step up from the entry level in Vivid Audio's speaker lineup. It is by no means entry level priced, but I am of the belief that a large part of one's audio system budget should go to loudspeakers. After all, they are the end of the signal chain, and should have the capability to reveal everything being fed to them from the components upstream. Everything about the Vivid B1 is designed for a purpose. One look at the loudspeaker will tell you that it should be different from anything else in its class, and it is. Vivid loudspeakers have their heritage with the B&W Nautilus speakers. Their designer, Laurence Dickie, played a critical role in the design of the Nautilus. As the designer for Vivid Audio, he now has the freedom to take his ideas to their ultimate expression. The bottom line is, this speaker will give you everything it is fed. Good, bad, and ugly. When paired with the right components, It will reward you with dynamics, soundstaging, imaging and a tonal "rightness" that simply states "this is music". You will hear things that your current loudspeakers have veiled, but hear them in a most musical, pleasant and unfatiguing way. But be warned, if the upstream components are "sonic scalpels", then you will have an audiophile dissection of your music like nothing you have ever heard before.

Modwright KWI 200
The Modwright KWI 200 integrated amplifier is a bit of a conundrum. It is made in the USA, yet is very competitive in its price and sonically a mind blower. It has received rave reviews from professionals and users across the board. It is a MOSFET design rated at 200 watts into 8 ohms and 400 into 4. One look inside the chassis from the top and you can plainly see a massive transformer (1.5 KVA) and several large capacitors (234,000 microfarads), which clues you in to its massive power reserves. You have 3 RCA inputs, 1 XLR input, a home theater bypass, and an RCA preamp output. There are options for a phono stage or USB DAC as well. They do add to the price.  The sound of the KWI 200 is musical. It's one of those components that makes everything sound good. It has incredible dynamic drive and punch, even at low volumes. The bass is full and tuneful at any volume level, and if you are a vocal person (meaning accurate, musical reproduction of the human voice through your audio system is essential), you are in for a superb musical experience. Heck, even if you're not a vocal person you might become one after listening to the KWI 200. The sense of control in the low frequencies I believe has a lot to do with how well the midrange and high frequencies are reproduced with the Modwright. The dual woofers on the Vivid B1's are capable of delivering every subtle nuance of bass that the Modwright reproduces. The same goes for the midrange and highs, the B1's are so revealing, and yet non-fatiguing, you really get the best of both worlds when you put these two audio components together. The Modwright needs a neutral to cool sounding loudspeaker to achieve the right balance. If you own a speaker on the warm side of neutral, it may be too much of a good thing.

Modwright KWI 200, Vivid B1, Stillpoints rack, Bybee Stealth
The Combination: music and detail
The Vivid B1's with the Modwright KWI 200 produced a sound that was in my opinion, the best of both worlds. There were musical nuances, and details revealed that I had not heard before. Even at low volumes, I found myself thinking "Wow, I didn't know that was in the recording." The next thing that captured my attention were the dynamics. Again, even at low listening levels, the dynamics were there. Then there were the vocals. Listening to male singers offered a rich, textured, simply real vocal presentation without chestiness or artificial boominess. It was captivating. Female vocals were equally captivating and real as well. They
 were filled with emotion and realism that allowed me to connect to the music on a very deep level. The soundstage from this combo was wide, tall and deep. It was placed slightly forward of the speakers and went wayyy back. Imaging was very accurate, rendering instruments in an exact location when mixed as such, with clarity of location and a really nice sense of space around the musician. The electrostat-like speed detail and dynamics of the Vivids mated perfectly with the dynamics, silky smooth mid-high frequencies and warm, tight and tuneful bass of the Modwright. These two components simply make music together without sacrificing detail and nuance.

Other Reviews

Modwright KWI 200
Vivid Audio B1

Other Recommendations

Synergistic Research cables worked very well with the Modwright/vivid setup. I really like the new Element series. The Element Tungsten interconnects and speaker cables, the Tungsten and Copper Tungsten power cables offered HF/LF extension, dynamics and a holographic soundstage. To add to that, the Bybee Stealth power conditioner allowed these components to perform at their absolute best. It lowered the noise floor to quite a degree. So much so that a great deal of low level information became easily audible.

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