YG Acoustics at RMAF 2010

YG Acoustics speakers of various sizes were found in 3 different rooms [at least].

There are a few interesting things to say about these rooms, I think, but in the future we will likely not talk much at all about YG Acoustics because they, or the rooms and people that use them, are too often just going for Practical or Boy Toy systems – and these just do not interest me, no matter if the speakers are worthy of much more [as many other speakers are as well].

At their best [on big old Krell amps, which I heard them with several years ago and I hear they ran them with again at the Dagogo show], these are speakers with a very linear response. Not perfect in all aspects, but speakers very worth listening to. Put something soulful up front [instead of the Krell Pre and dCS they usually use] and a person could well achieve a Drug-like intoxicating soul-expanding sound.

None of these rooms gave any indication that the speakers might be able to do this. Kind of like Wilson in that respect; if you were to go by the sound in most rooms that use Wilson speakers at most shows [and I guess most if not all dealer showrooms], you’d think they were a bad sounding, in-your-face, its-all-about-marketing speaker.

ROOM 1: This was the best sounding room with the YG Acoustics if you value musicality, listenability, and to a large degree accuracy and true-to-the-source realness.

The MBL integrated amp used in this room was relatively modest [100 – 150watts range if I remember correctly], and the fallout from this choice in amplification (a choice made in order to keep this a modest, balanced system [but there is no law that says the amps can’t be larger and several times as expensive as the speakers :-); MBL makes many beefier and very heavy amps which would be very interesting to hear on these little speakers]) was that the dynamics of the midrange was quite a bit less … dynamic… than that of the self-powered bass. So there was a disconnect between the mids and bass and it was much like a satellite speaker with a very tightly controlled subwoofer [subwoofers with aluminum cabinets like these… now THAT is subwoofering :-)].

One of the more interesting things at the show this year was the source in this and the next YG room. They recorded LPs [a few scratches and pops too :-)] onto digital and were using this pre-recorded digital music as their source.

It 1) DID retain some of the analog magic and 2) the ways in which it was not exactly like the original analog showed exactly how far digital recording and playback has yet to go if it is going to be at all convincingly like the music it is recording.

The quality of the pre-recorded LP playback is way better than the iPod playback components (which I saw NONE of this year – hurray! – and we instead saw a lot of reel-to-reel tape decks [Yay! but is this cheating? How many people have R2R in their systems?]). The LP playback was not as good as good CD playback, but it did manage to reproduce a little of the natural bloom and some of the PRaT [not exactly what I mean. There was a dynamic flow between the notes that was LPish, but there was also a stark discontinuousness that was unlike CD or LP] and a little of that harmonic richness that is found on [most] LPs.

ROOM 2: This was the GTT Audio room with big YG Acoustics and Soulution electronics and the LP-on-digital source we talked about above.

This system was much the same as last year, with the exception of the source now having pre-recorded LPs instead of… pre-recorded CDs(?) last year. This is your standard Boy Toy system [as we talked about many times before, amps like the Soulution, despite its name, are not useful outside of the Boy Toy type system because of their lack of micro-dynamics etc.].

Maybe someday we will rank these but for the present they are not all that interesting to me. Sure am curious why SO MANY of these types of systems are foisted on us – it is like as a group the high-end audio industry has decided that only Boy Toy-loving audiophiles want big dynamics, or perhaps it is that most have decided that ALL audiophiles are looking for Boy Toys, and those that have limited funds get small Boy Toy systems and those that are more wealthy get BIG Boy Toy systems.

The Soulution front end.

The equipment used to record? and playback the pre-recorded LPs

ROOM 3: The Veloce room also had small YG Acoustics speakers.

The Veloce electronics has a sweet, pleasant family sound. What was interesting, to me, here was that the sound was so … ordinary… by which I mean it sounded like your typical room at the show. Much of the linearity and resolution of these speakers was not in evidence [I believe many of the people who favor Practical systems think that this is probably a good thing].

Close up of the equipment rack.

Close up of the little YG Acoustics speakers.

RMAF: Venture / FM Acoustics (Audio Limits)

Venture speakers

This is the best sound Audio Limits has had for a few years, since their show system with the Acapella Campaniles speakers (also on FM Acoustics, I believe). However, this is not like that system in several key ways.

The Venture speakers are laid back and ultimately very polite [and very attractive] speakers. They are also reasonably hard to drive. The vast majority of the systems we have heard them in the speakers have sounded very under-powered [which we can live with if there are other, redeeming aspects to the sound. But in these cases there weren’t].

These are the largest Venture speakers we have heard (Venture Reference III) and in this system the FM Acoustics woke them up. The sound was big, macro-dynamic, well-separated, accessible, and under no strain at very loud volumes in a very, very large room.

However, the sound was also lacking micro-dynamics to some extent, lacking air to some extent, and sounded a little dense and slightly compressed. These sonic characteristics are predictable given the family sound of this line of speakers.

What is neat about this system, and why I thought it was interesting, is that it is on the border between a Boy Toy system, a Practical system and a Drug-like system. Most Boy Toy systems are aggressively unlistenable [my spell checker suggests ‘untenable’. That is a good description too :-}]. This system is listenable.

Does this system have a Drug-like sound? Can this system be pushed further into the Drug-like sound category? Hard to tell. Right now it is a little laid back and missing a lot of color. Not sure what cables were in here but everything else in this small system is in the A+ to B+ kind of quality [HRS, Weiss, Sound Applications, ISOTEK].

Right now, I would say this system, at its best, might be akin to a 12oz bottle of Guinness Stout. With a lot of work [mostly trying to preserve micro-dynamics at each step in the signal chain] one should be able to get it to a glass or two of heavy red wine [some large amount of hand waving here – this is the first time I thought these speakers were at all interesting and we know very little about their behavior in this kind of system. For example, what they sound like at a much lower volume on beefy amps like this].

For those interested in more powerful drug-like sounds [like me!], I wonder if speakers that are on the hard to drive side of the ballpark, and almost as a side-effect micro-dynamic limited, will be able to satisfy our hunger.

Walker / Technical Brain, (small) TAD room

This is the 2nd Walker room that I visited. The first, with the larger TAD speakers, had too much uncontrolled bass and was not interesting.

This room here, however, WAS interesting. [and not just because this was where Lloyd Walker was hanging out :-)]

Walker at RMAF

The smaller TAD speaker’s sound was filling the room quite well without overloading it. Lloyd was playing an LP with the famous track from the Burmester CD about the diamond mine trains in Africa. OK. We’ve all heard this track like a million times, right? The singer’s voice is a combination of showman, stylized story telling and real [spooky] anguish sometimes slips through.

Well, not with this system. There was hardly any micro-dynamics or inner-detail – hardly any note attack and decay at all. There was NO emotion to the voice. You could understand the words, but not much was accessible beyond that.

This is much more interesting to me because we are very familiar with most of the components of this system.

The Walker turntable is one of the, if not THE [which I can argue I think convincingly], highest resolution turntables in the world. No problem with micro-dynamics here.

The AirTight PC-1 Supreme cartridge, Neli tells me, is highly regarded and retails at the $9,000 range.

The Silent Source cables we used to carry here, and we are somewhat familiar with them. In addition, recently [well, this year some time] we did a shootout here with their speaker cables. They are not bad at all [they seem to like to be warmed up a little, more than most cables, so if you do a shootout, play some music through them before the shooting begins], and in the same stadium as, say, the Nordost Valhalla. Perfectly capable of decent micro-dynamics.

But there was like NONE in this system.

[I am ignoring the rack and amp stand.. even the most terrible micro-dynamic-absorbing but quite popular racks and amps stands could not do THIS much damage to the micro-dynamics… and they would do it in an uneven fashion across the freq spectrum, causing tonal anomalies but leaving micro-dynamics alone at various frequencies for us to hear, for the most part]

So we are down to the Technical Brain TBC Zero Pre-Amplifier and a Technical Brain amp… and the TAD speakers. One of these two brands is INcapable of rendering micro-dynamics, and I would say, incapable of rendering any fine detail at all.

Which one is it?

Don’t know for sure, but let’s look at both for a second. We heard Technical Brain electronics at CES in the big Magico room. This is inconclusive because that system had a lot of problems – and close listening [beyond gross evaluations] did not seem to be of interest given the limited time available at these shows.

We’ve heard TAD speakers at these shows many, many times. But I’ve just realized in the last few days that I’ve never heard them on anything but muscle amps – designed to produce loud impressive noises. Never with an amp designed to reproduce music in its entirety [see list below for possible candidates if we must stick with solid-state i.e. because the speakers need a lot of power].

My guess is that it would be hard for a speaker to be designed to have no micro-dynamic capability, esp. speakers that are so lovingly designed [I do not hold for that “TAD is just a Pioneer” talk, anymore than I do for Lexus being just a fancy Toyota or Esoteric being a fancy Teac.].

On the other hand, it is in fact quite common for amps to only be capable of the brute force, “let’s go for the note magnitude and none of its structure” approach.

So we are going to put Technical Brain amps [and Levinson by special request :-)] into our list, last found in the thread at:


// MICRO DYNAMICS < - less .... more ->
VTL – Soulution – Technical Brain – McIntosh – BAT – Levinson – CAT – ARC – Pass – Boulder – Krell – FM Acoustics – Spectral – Halcro – MBL – Ayre – Sanders – Goldmund – Edge – Vitus

Again, this is somewhat inexact; we are stereotyping an entire brand, which means it is more or less true but that there are probably exceptions – and you could probably swap any 2 or 3 adjacent slots in the list with each other and still be more or less on the money.

Let’s talk about what Micro-dynamics is so that everybody knows what we are talking about. Micro-dynamics is related to inner detail which is related to fine detail. It is how we can listen to a voice and hear what kind of feelings they are trying to communicate…. peevishness, loss but hope for the future, love with hope for passion someday… simple and complex emotions like these are communicated through very subtle voice [and instrument cues by the best musicians] – and are an integral part of real music.

It would be my guess that most people who buy high-end stereo systems want this – and I know for sure that very few get it. The muscle systems they are sold instead are great for keeping the more sensitive spouse out of the listening room, and great for showing off to people who do not have to buy or listen to the system day in and day out.

Here are some graphs I drew in photoshop. They look like poop but they, hopefully, help illustrate what we are talking about

The original note in all its glory [OK. I know. But use your imagination :-)]

Hardness: a loud note that does not have enough micro-dynamics to relieve the impact of pressure on the ear drum. [I think what we call shrill, Jim, is hardness at high frequencies]. Note that to avoid shrillness, most amps without micro-dynamics are rolled off severely in the higher frequencies.

Brightness: too sharp of note transitions, especially in the upper frequencies.

Inner Detail: We will define this as micro-dynamics that has too little magnitude [i.e. just a hint of micro-dynamics] [agree? disagree?]

Micro-dynamics: The actual way notes appear in the wild, with lots of bumps [abrupt changes in magnitude – and other things like freq and related freq (harmonics) all with lots of bumps]

Lack of detail: note transitions too rolled off, soft, rounded,…

Too much detail: note transitions too abrupt [but not sharp], note envelopes rise and decay too quickly.

As these charts indicate [well, they TRY to indicate] micro-dynamics is really all about accuracy.

The fact that the industry describes ‘accuracy’ as having the measured magnitude [the top point? or weighted average most likely] of a reproduced note being within a few dB of the original note – is a wildly gross simplification that causes no end of grief to people who want their reproduced music to sound like music, and not simple sin waves [which have no bumps, hence no need to think about micro-dynamics]

Concluding… this system is a Muscle output section on a wonderfully high-resolution, perhaps Magical, front end. Lowest common denominator rules in system design, and the overall result is a Muscle system.