Select members of the audio press were invited to GTT Audio for the YG Acoustics Sonja XV speaker press event. Over the course of a week, each of us got to experience a personal listening session. Lynn and I were scheduled for the afternoon of the first day; Dr. David Robinson, ye olde editor at PF, had the evening slot. In between, we all went to dinner. It was nice to have some face time with da boss.
The invitation contained a note that caught my eye: "We encourage you to bring a couple of LP's or CDs you are familiar with." Important product unveilings usually have a set playlist and don't allow deviation. You brought along some of your own records? Oh, well—too bad. Come to think of it, who ever heard of each reviewer getting an individual block of time? This product launch was not following the usual play book.
Bill Parish of GTT Audio-Video and YG Acoustics Director of Sales & Marketing Dick Diamond
Here is a description of the speaker (excerpted and edited from the YG Press Release):
The Sonja™ XV is a four-tower version of our top-of-the-line Sonja speaker. The "XV" has dual meaning. It signifies our 15th anniversary. Secondly, it refers to an eXtreme Version of the product.
Two new technologies are introduced in the Sonja XV: the BilletDome™ tweeter and ViseCoil™ bass inductors.
The BilletDome™ tweeter is YG Acoustics'™ most complex mechanical invention to date: a resonance-free soft dome supported by a stiff, light airframe, machined from aluminum billet. This tweeter ends the age-old debate of hard versus soft by combining the best of both.
The ViseCoil™ inductors in the bass crossover are machined to new tolerances and result in better control over the woofers and far greater bass impact.
The Sonja™ XV is a four-way, four-tower system with a total of 20 drivers per stereo pair. It is fully passive (no powered sub). Each channel weighs 210 kg (463 lbs.) unpacked. U.S. MSRP is $265,900 per pair.
The Sonja XV is a statement product; it exists to push limits. With so many drivers, the challenges will be frequency integration and time alignment. Any issues in these critical domains will defeat the purpose of the project.
If, on the other hand, these areas are spot on, you will hear edge-of-the-art fidelity. Have you ever noticed when playback quality is really good it makes the musicians seem like better players and lifts up the performance? Conversely, when it's not so good, the performance suffers unjustly from problems that are not even in the source. A system with bad timing, for example, can badly compromise the artistic statement.
I brought along some CDs, including the Alfred Schnittke Quasi una sonata, with Gidon Kremer (DG 429 413-2, a live recording from 1988). As if Schnittke's composition wasn't abrasive enough, it is "enhanced" with early digital sound. A real torture test—it had better sound ugly.
Ouch! Wow! It was great! Early digital and ugly music—I expected people to run out of the room. Instead, I'm beginning to actually like parts of Quasi una sonata.
The Sonja XV did a magic trick. Discrete instruments appeared as if they were right there in front of you, fully fleshed and fully alive. You saw how each contributed to the score and how it all fit together. The dissonant clangor was untangled; the composition began to (sort of) make sense.
Those upfront concerns about integration and coherency? They never surfaced. The bass, in particular, was so well-timed, it actually drove the beat. YG has opted to use four 10" woofers per side because they can keep the 10" cone time aligned. A larger cone would introduce smearing. Remember this is YG. The designer/proprietor is perhaps best known for his ground-breaking advances in multi-way crossover design and vanishing distortion measurements.
Audionet electronics and the Kronos Pro LE turntable
When we speak of a soundstage, mostly what we are referring to is a collection of images. Soundstage width is defined by the farthest images on either side. The XV soundstage, by virtue of its density and accuracy, did it differently. If all of the instruments were silent and the images went away, there would still be enough hall reverberations, audience cues and stage presence left to define a "space" in front of you. The soundstage itself was an entity, apart from the images.
Dick Diamond, YG's Director of Sales & Marketing, wanted to know how the system made us feel. In a word: envious. With nearly lifelike soundstaging and real acoustic dynamics, the Sonja XV can pressurize the room and generate visceral sensations that feel like the real thing.
I'll cut to the chase. The Sonja XV as experienced in the GTT showroom advances the state-of-the-art for reproducing music.
GTT Audio & Video