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Brief Impressions:  The YG Acoustics Sonja XV Reference Loudspeaker, a Photo Essay

09-15-2016 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 87

Alice_with_Caterpillar_and_mushroom

Funny thing. You'd think that there wouldn't be any enormous mountaintops in Newark, New Jersey.

And you'd be wrong….

Let me explain.

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Bill Parish of GTT Audio

A couple of months ago I got an invitation from Dick Diamond of YG Acoustics, Bill Parish of GTT Audio, and Joe Kubala of Kubala-Sosna to attend a special event at GTT Audio's HQ in Newark. It turns out that Yoav Geva…the "YG" of the company name…has been working on a statement loudspeaker, behind our collective backsides. This product would be launched at a special press event there at GTT Central. YG Acoustics has developed a superb reputation in high-end audio for its family of great speakers over the years. In fact, I have given a number of my Audio Oasis! Awards for YG's designs at shows, which are always exceptional, year in and year out. I have also given a Brutus Award for the exceptional Anat III Pro Signature speakers that were here in our reference listening room a few years back. (See my review impressions back in Issue 64)

It would be a whirlwind trip…in on one day, out on the next…and a long flight (5 hours from Portland, over 6 hours back, due to the usual headwinds from the Jet Stream)…tiring stuff. Then again, I knew that Yoav Geva is a genius in the audio art of speaker design, the music would be brilliant, and I would get to see some really good audiobuds.

Was I interested? Would I attend?

Damn right I wouldt!!

That event was held last week, September 5-10. My time slot for listening and evaluation was the evening of Tuesday, September 6, just a few hours after I landed. Paul Vataj of GTT Audio was kind enough to pick me up at JFK airport (the flights direct from Portland to Newark were all full)…and then came to drive to Newark, Lord help us. It turned out to be 1.5 hours to make the few miles into New Jersey, due to traffic congestion.

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Yes, I know. If you live out East, you're not surprised at all.

There was an opportunity for more serious photographic work along the way however. Art always makes long drives a bit more endurable.

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"Bridge. New York City, 2016."

Paul Vataj and I survived the drive, but due to the amount of time that it had taken to get to Newark, had to go directly to the welcome dinner. To my delight, given the time that I lived in Brazil, Bill Parish had chosen to take us to a Brazilian Churrasco restaurant. I am a huge fan of churrasco…Brazilian-style barbequed meats…and Bill had them bring on the works! Bem carnes!

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At the churrasco house:  From left, Paul Vataj, Danielle Green, Lynn Nack, Dick Diamond, Marshall Nack, Bill Parish, and Joe Kubala. Yours truly was seated in the gap between Marshall and Bill.

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Ready for churrasco:  Bill Parish, Joe Kubala, and Paul Vataj.

Ten…count 'em…ten flights of Brazilian-style barbeque meats! A real feast, with many memories of Brazil coming back to me. Muito bem saudades, amigos!

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A portrait:  Marshall Nack (foreground) and Dick Diamond at our grande churrasco! dinner for the YG Acoustics Sonja XV launch event.

And I also had a chance to greet one of the Senior Assistant Editors at Positive Feedback personally:  Marshall Nack. Being on opposite coasts, we don't get to see each other very much.

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A portrait of Joe Kubala, Newark, NJ, 2016

After this truly fantastic banquet, it was on to GTT Audio for the business of the listening session.

I had never been to GTT Audio before. Bill's place is located in a beautiful neighborhood in the midst of trees and fine homes, out in the semi-rurales of Newark. Weighing in at nearly 10,000 square feet, there is plenty of room for the multiple listening rooms (five or so?) that Bill has available to his clients.

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One of the GTT Audio listening rooms, equipped with smaller YG Acoustics models, Audionet electronics, Kubala-Sosna cabling, a KRONOS Sparta turnable, PS Audio digital gear. And this is a smaller room.

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During the tour of the listening rooms at GTT Audio:  A portrait of Bill Parish.

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Also along the way to the "big room" was this listening room, with the Kii Three loudspeakers on conspicuous display. Also featured was a Marantz SACD player and a totaldac DAC, digital preamp, music server, and active crossover…a nice mate for the Kii Threes.

Finally, after a handful of rooms, we got to the main event:  The BIG ROOM with the YG Sonja XV statement system.

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And I mean BIG. This GTT Audio room is a very satisfying 35' long x 20' wide x 11.5' high. There are 21 dedicated power feeds to the room, with digital and analog separated from one another. All lines are 20 amps each, except for the amplifier feeds; these are 30 amps each. Big, and damned impressive in every way.

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YG Sonja XV, right side pair

In this room were placed the YG Acoustics Sonja XV four-tower statement. They grabbed my attention as soon as I walked in. There's no escaping the fact that the Sonja XV's are going to grab you by the eyes, so that they can clobber you by the ears.

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YG Acoustics' Dick Diamond with the main column of the Sonja XV…note that he's pointing at the new and amazing tweeter from YG here.

To give you a sense of the size of the Sonja XV, see the photograph above. Dick is not a small fellow, and you can see that the main column of the Sonja XV is taller than he is. The bass column is just peeking out behind the right channel front-end column.

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YG Acoustics Sonja XV with Kubala-Sosna Elation! cables, left channel rear view

The rear view gives you a sense of the cabling from the dual monoblock pair of Audionet MAX amplifiers to the Sonja XV's:  A bi-wire pair to the main column and crossover, and thence to the cabling network on the XV bass column.

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A close-up view of the MTM section of the Sonja XV front speaker column; note the radically new tweeter amidst...

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A pair of Audionet MAX monoblock amplifiers, the Kubala-Sosna Elation! cabling, and the YG Acoustics Sonja XV speakers, left channel rear oblique view

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Dick Diamond and Bill Parish in the GTT Audio big room, with a portion of Bill's LP collection therein as a backdrop.

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The KRONOS Pro with its new SCPS1 DC Accumulator Power Supply.

The analog front end was the brilliant KRONOS Pro with the new SCPS1 DC Accumulator Power Supply. This is a remarkable, revolutionary new power supply system for the KRONOS Pro. It brought the KRONOS to a whole new level of performance…and I ought to know, having had the original KRONOS Pro in my own reference listening room for over a year now.

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The KRONOS Pro SCPS1 Power Supply…an upgrade to the KRONOS Pro that I now consider to be essential.

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The KRONOS Pro Turntable with SCPS1 DC Accumulator Power Supply (underneath the base), Black Beauty Tonearm, and Air Tight Opus 1 MC cartridge…damn!

Friends, this is a brand-new game for turntable performance, without any doubt in my mind. The step forward in performance is simply killer over the earlier version of the KRONOS.

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Audionet reference electronics on the source end, with an AURALiC ARIES peeking in just to the left

Just to make sure that I list everything for you in one place before I share my impressions, the associated components for this demonstration included the following:

  • YG Acoustics Sonja XV Loudspeakers
  • KRONOS Pro Limited Edition Turntable with Black Beauty Tonearm, SCPS1 Power Supply, and the Air Tight Opus 1 MC cartridge
  • Audionet PAM G2 Phonostage with EPX Power Supply
  • Audionet PRE G2 Linestage Preamp
  • Audionet ART G3 CD Player with EPX Power Supply
  • Audionet DNC Streaming DAC with EPS G2 Power Supply
  • Audionet MAX Monoblock Amplifiers (two pairs)
  • Kubala-Sosna Elation! Cables throughout

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Looking down the right side of Bill Parish's large reference listening room:  the source racks

All of these components represent world-class design and execution, of course. Nevertheless, the focus of the demonstration was the launch of the YG Acoustics Sonja XV's.

The reason for this is obvious:  The Sonja XV (XV standing for "eXtreme Version") takes the earlier Sonja design to stratospheric levels. It goes to four towers, itself not an unknown thing for statement loudspeaker products, but does so with some major new innovations.

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The YG Acoustics Sonja XV Tweeter:  The new kid in town

The new tweeter in the XV is really remarkable. YG describes it as "…a resonance-free soft dome…supported by a stiff, light airframe machined from an aluminum billet. The airframe weighs a mere 30 milligrams (about a thousandth of an ounce), but its critical sections are up to 14 times thicker than a typical hard dome, so its structural strength is vastly superior even to domes made of the most exotic hard materials." This new tweeter also features YG's ForgeCore™ motor, with very complex 3D-geometic magnets.

In addition, YG trumpets the quality of their bass, midbass, and midrange drivers, constructed on their BilletCore™ technology. This crafts drivers with very high precision out of solid aluminum billets, producing speakers that are extremely dynamic, fast, detailed, and with very low distortion. Note that there are 18 such BilletCore™ drivers in a four-column set of Sonja XV's, with a total of 20 drivers (including the tweeters).

The Sonja XV's crossover network uses its DualCoherent™ technology to optimize both phase and time domain simultaneously. The bass columns uses a new ViseCoil™ technology that produces inductors and are CNC-wound at YG, and then housed in milled housings to cut residual loss by a claimed 24% while increasing linearity by a claimed 60%. Low frequency control is thus significantly enhanced. The midrange and tweeter crossovers use ToroAir™ technology, wherein the in-house CNC-wound toroidal air-core inductors eliminate cross-talk, thus preserving the delicate high-frequency details.

Cabinet design is once again of precision-machined aircraft-grade aluminum, multi-layered in fabrication, produces extremely low cabinet vibration regardless of volume.

(BTW:  Good news for current YG Sonja owners! You can upgrade to the XV version without having to replace your speakers. Contact GTT Audio for details and pricing.)

All of this is at the heart of the delicious and authoritative presentation of recorded music, which is certainly what I heard.

The key claimed specifications for the YG Sonja XV include a frequency response of "below 20 Hz" to "above 40kHz," +/-1 dB. Relative phase is +/-5 degrees "through the entire overlap." The sensitivity is listed at 88dB/2.83 Volt/1 meter, 2 pi anechoic measurement. Nominal impedance is 4 ohms, with the minimus at 3.5 ohms.

The Sonja XV is a fully passive speaker, with crossover at 65Hz, 337Hz, and 1.75kHz.

Dimensionally, the Sonja XV has four enclosures, each 70" high x 17" wide x 28" deep. The weight of each tower (unpackaged) is listed at 463 lbs. (210 kg), and so your total floor weight is going to tip the balance beam at 1852 lbs (840 kg). The shipping weight is a hefty 1.3 tons, so make sure that you have lots of help if you decide to order the XV's!

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Buddha Bill:  A portrait. (You get a sense of the sheer scale of the Sonja XV and of Bill's large listening room from this photograph.)

So…my thoughts on the sound of this system?

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First of all, I have to say that just a few hours with a system during a 24-hour window is a pretty short exposure. It's closer to a show experience for time…but then there's the fact that the GTT Audio room is an extraordinary sonic setting, a real world-class space. Couple that with my nearly 30 years of serious audiophile listening experience, and I'm confident that I have a sufficient basis for a solid assessment of the Sonja XV statement loudspeaker system.

Having said that, I can cut to the chase here:  The YG Acoustics Sonja XV statement loudspeaker system is a real mountaintop achievement at the highest level in the audio arts.

In my mind and to my sensibilities, there's no doubt that the combination of the Sonja XV's with the Audionet reference electronics, the KRONOS Pro SCPS1 turntable/Black Beauty tonearm/Air Tight Opus 1, and Kubala-Sosna Elation! cables was simply magnificent in every way.

The sense of scale in the GTT Audio reference room was immense. I can only think of three or four of other times in my whole audiophile life when I heard anything like this…and even then, the Sonja XV's were incredible. From my listening position, orchestral recordings were enormous, stretching high, wide, and deep, with proportions that wow'ed you in the depths of your soul. BIG, BIG, BIG, and yet uncolored, detailed, fast as lightning, and completely organic and natural.

If you shifted gear to a jazz ensemble or solo performer, it was simply there. No mismatch. No discomfort. Nothing felt lost or too small by comparison with hall-sized sound spaces; the smaller group was comfortably placed.

In fact, I'd have to say that this system put the "there" in there!

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The Sonja XV's took LPs from the KRONOS/Audionet/Kubala-Sosna chain and oozed ease, naturalness, and dynamic effortlessness. At no point was there any sense of this system having to break a sweat with anything that we listened to…and we listened for hours. I sat there with a big smile on my face, exclaiming in delight from time to time…and couldn't help it. The sense of musical fulfillment was so complete that you felt it down to the soles of your soul. This was special, really special.

No coloration. No congestion. No missteps with imaging…which was spot on…or tonal integration. The whole system, a very large footprint in a big, well-designed room, was seamless. Whenever I closed my eyes or moved my head, I had absolutely no sense of "Oh, there's a speaker!" or "Aha! I hear where the midrange is camped!" Those large bass columns didn't stand alone; they permeated the entire space, quite integrated with the array of drivers in place. Nope. This was a complete envelope of fully integrated sound, impressing with a combination of awesome delivery and effortless music.

As a matter of fact, in the hours (all too few hours given this mind-bending experience, damn it!) that I spent listening to the Sonja XV's in this setting, I could not come up with one single nit that I might pick. No, not one. Zip. Nada. Not a caveat; not even a tiny twitch of doubt.

No, the Sonja XV's in the GTT Audio reference room was stunning. Simply gob-smacking, fall-down, wowee! stunning.

"Stunning" is a word that gets overused in high-end audio commentary, but in this case, it applies in spades. The YG Acoustics Sonja XV, supported by the rest of the audio chain here, is a new titan in the world of the best of the audio arts. It changes the benchmarks, and shift the paradigms in the audio arts. If you have the budget and the space for the Sonja XV's, and can supply superior associated electronics and sources (Audionet, KRONOS, and Kubala-Sosna synergize fiercely with the Sonja XV's), then you can hardly better what I heard at GTT Audio at this event.

I'm still reeling after this experience.

For those looking for né plus ultra, you can take it from me:  You'll find it here.

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After the event, I got an opportunity to visit Howard Sosna and Joe Kubala of Kubala-Sosna at their offices. We had a great time...this portrait is one of the results of my time there.

Price:  USD $265,900 for the Sonja XV Reference Loudspeaker System

For all other prices, contact GTT Audio.

Manufacturers listed:

YG Acoustics LLC

4941 Allison St. Unit 10

Arvada, CO  80002

U.S.A.

+1-801-726-3887

info@yg-acoustics.com

www.yg-acoustics.com

Audionet

Alboinstrasse 36-42

12103 Berlin

Germany

+49 (0) 30 2332421-0

http://en.audionet.de/

KRONOS

4035, rue Saint-Ambroise, suite 414

Montréal (Québec)  H4C 2E1 

Canada

 +1-514-939-5770

info@kronosaudio.com

www.kronosaudio.com

Kubala-Sosna

www.kubala-sosna.com

[All photographs and image processing by David W. Robinson; cartoon by Dan Zimmerman; Lewis Carroll drawings by John Tenniel, in the public domain.]

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