VIVID AUDIO
VIVID AUDIO
B1 DECADE
LOUDSPEAKERS
VERY LITTLE SEPARATES THE
B1 FROM THE ‘B1 DECADE’
VISUALLY – THE BAFFLE
RECESS PROVIDES A SUBTLE
CLUE. BUT THE MAJOR
DIFFERENCES LIE IN
THE TECH WITHIN...
038
Reviewer Edgar Kramer
S
ome say that the finest
artistic creations, the purest
objets d’ art, are those that
reflect nature’s paradox
of chaos and order in
combination. Vivid Audio’s
Laurence Dickie might
concur – he has expressed
aspects of this philosophy
in his speaker designs for
Vivid Audio which aim to harness organic form
to serve sonic function. In part inspired by
Dickie’s own iconic ‘snail’ Nautilus loudspeaker
from his days at Bowers & Wilkins, Vivid’s GIYA
speakers seem almost alive, organism-like in
form, while the smaller OVAL series speakers
retain the curves, the inspiration from nature,
but in somewhat more conventional form.
Some years back this writer was impressed
by the original OVAL B1, and the team on our
sister publication Sound+Image bestowed upon
it a Highly Commended award in a field hot
with outstanding designs. Since then I have
also spent enjoyable time in the process of
formally reviewing the GIYA G3 (Judge’s Choice
Sound+Image Award in 2014) and more recently
the G4. Now, ten years on since the original B1
039
VIVID AUDIO B1 DECADE
LOUDSPEAKERS
design, Vivid Audio has released a ‘Limited
Edition’ B1 featuring the ‘Decade’ designation, in a
genuinely limited production run of just 200 units
globally, four of which will be available here in
Australia, two each in gloss red and black.
SPECIFICATIONS
VIVID AUDIO B1 DECADE
CONFIGURATION:
3½-way vented cabinet
CABINET MATERIAL:
Balsa-cored ‘quadraxial’ glass
composite sandwich
DRIVE UNITS:
D26 26mm metal-dome unit
with tapered tube loading,
D50 50mm metal-dome unit
with tapered tube loading,
C125d 2 × 125mm alloyconed unit (coupled) with
new topology rare-earth
magnet design
SENSITIVITY: 89dB
@ 2.83Vrms, 1m
NOMINAL IMPEDANCE:
4 ohms
FREQUENCY RANGE:
34Hz-36,000Hz ±6dB;
38Hz-33,000Hz ±2dB
HARMONIC DISTORTION
(2ND & 3RD): < 0.5% over
frequency range
CROSSOVER FREQUENCIES: 130, 900, 3500Hz
POWER HANDLING
(MUSIC PROGRAM):
300 watts RMS
DIMENSIONS (HWD,
CABINET): 1095 × 265 ×
375mm; base depth 420mm
NET WEIGHT: 36kg
PRICE: $32,000
WARRANTY: Five years
CONTACT: Avation on
07 5580 3300
www.avation.com.au
040
TIME TRAVEL
The B1 and the Decade (B1D) version look
very similar. Place them side-by-side and the
differences are subtle — tweeter and midrange
driver protective mesh grilles replaces the B1’s
cross bars, while the redesigned front baffle is
now in a shallow recess aimed, presumably, at
improving dispersion characteristics. Under the
surface, however, there are improvements in the
driver magnet systems, and refinements in the
crossover implementation, as Laurence Dickie
explains in our interview on page 42.
The 3.5-way B1D is quoted as having
a frequency range spanning from 34Hz to
36kHz at -6dB points, which seems more than
respectable for what is effectively a medium
sized standmount speaker (even if its stand
is inseparable as part of the structure). The
impedance specification reads a nominal 4 ohms
while 89dB offers good efficiency.
The driver configuration is a standard TMW
with the company’s own D26 26mm aluminiumdome tweeter and D50 50mm aluminium-dome
midrange, both loaded by Dickie’s signature
tapered tube strategy. The new C125 driver with
its massive reengineered motor system sits below.
But the B1D is tricked out; it features an added
125mm aluminium cone placed on the rear baffle
which should provide further bass heft while
retaining the mid-sized form factor. This is not a
new idea – we have fond memories of hearing
Sonus faber’s Extrema with its somewhat similar
arrangement – but it’s not used as much as it
might be… perhaps due to the added crossover
and cabinet construction complexity, all adding
costs for something which is visually hidden.
Vivid Audio goes to great length to construct
non-resonant high strength cabinets, and the
company has been using a vacuum-induced
‘Balsa-cored quadraxial glass composite sandwich’
and other composite formula enclosures in all
its designs. Here in the B1D, we have a new
enclosure derived from the flagship GIYA series,
while the integral stand consists of a ‘fibre-loaded
polymer complex’ composite. The cabinet is
finished in a high-quality gloss automotive
paint (available in the aforementioned red and
black) with our resplendent gloss red review
sample looking splendiferous. Vivid persists with
an inconvenient binding post location, within
a bottom indent in the pedestal’s base which
makes it very difficult to use spade connectors
even at the spikes’ highest settings. If you’d like to
keep a full head of hair – should you have one to
start with – use banana connectors at the speaker
end of your cables.
SONICS
The B1Ds are delivered in large timber crates (one
per speaker) which provide excellent protection
against the clumsiest of couriers. Even the accessories box is timber; this contains the high-quality
spiking system and the short bi-wiring connector
jumpers. Setting up the B1D is a breeze, so after
having placed them just over two metres apart
and in a proven position away from the front wall,
I was ready to audition. By the way, experimenting
with positioning reaped some gains, to a point,
but overall this is a non-fussy, very easy to place
speaker (at least it was so in my room).
Now in my fourth Vivid Audio speaker review,
traits that I have found to be shared within the
family are reinforced here but with added gusto.
The consistent diaphragm material common
across the entire driver configuration brings an
astounding timbral evenness, a tonal coherence,
throughout the bandwidth. It’s a thoroughly
seamless driver-to-driver transition which not
only allows consistent tonal qualities but, in the
case of the B1D, enhanced detailing with gains
in musicality and smoothness across its entire
VIVID AUDIO MANUFACTURES
ITS OWN DRIVERS. THE SUPERB
ENGINEERING IS EVIDENT IN
THE DIAPHRAGM MATERIAL,
NON-RESONANT BASKET, SPIDER
SIZE, MAGNET SYSTEM AND THE
OVERALL QUALITY OF ASSEMBLY.
The consistent
diaphragm
material common
across the
entire driver
configuration
brings an
astounding
timbral evenness, a
tonal coherence...
041
VIVID AUDIO B1 DECADE
frequency envelope. Micro-dynamic cues were effortlessly
apparent via the B1D – it’s the finger-on-steel-string or
rosin-on-bow kind of thing. It’s a balanced and refined
sound that does not blunt transient attack in the slightest.
In fact, the speed of attack is a strength of the B1D,
surpassing its already highly competent B1 stablemate.
The baffle redesign has also brought further gains
in terms of imaging and soundstaging. The Vivid Audio
trademark disappearing act is taken to a point where
instrument placement is extremely focused even when
totally outside the speakers’ positions within a large and
deep stage. This last, the soundstage scale, is akin to the
capabilities of larger speaker systems.
Of course, one of the concerns with speakers that
aren’t floorstanding is the limitation in the bass department
commanded by the undisputable laws of physics. While
there’s no law breaking here, the B1D nevertheless packs
a satisfying punch in the bass above the last octave.
And what it lacks in terms of ultimate depth and dynamic
expression in comparison to larger designs, it makes up for
in stunning detail, tonal correctness and tightness.
Talking overall dynamic contrast capabilities, torture
tests such as Joe Morello’s “Take Five” from Morello Standard
Time and Nils Lofgren Band’s “Bass & Drum Intro” from
2003’s live album did not phase the B1D, with the speaker
communicating a large slice of the devastating power of
these superb recordings. And productions of that nature
served to confirm the fact that not only can the speakers
happily accommodate demanding material but they also
like to be played loud.
Another appealing aspect is the B1D’s handling of
the lower midrange response. The speaker communicates
a sense of heft that endows instruments with corporeal
presence. There’s weight and gravitas to certain instruments
– especially the acoustic guitar – and to male vocals. Team
the B1D with a good solid state amplifier with high current
capabilities – or a powerful push-pull valve one – and you
have a superb music playing system. Should you want the
lowest octaves, introduce a suitable subwoofer – though it
would need to be a damned fine one to match the speed
and transparency of the B1D. Such a combo would challenge
many an upper echelon design in terms of performance.
CONCLUSION
The B1 Decade speaker forms a pivotal point in Vivid Audio’s
speaker stable. It marks both important chronological and
engineering milestones for the company, placing it in a
position where a consumer’s substantial product investment now also comes with the safety of corporate security.
What’s more, the considerable speaker-designing skills
of Laurence Dickie assures extensive engineering aptitude
in addition to the promise of outstanding performance.
Of course at $32,000 crisp ones, the B1D swings towards
the top rung of the standmount ladder. Fortuitously, when
it comes to its superb sound quality, it rises to just such an
auspicious elevation.
042
VIVID AUDIO B1 DECADE
LOUDSPEAKERS
VIVID AUDIO’S
SIGNATURE TAPERED
TUBE AS USED BEHIND
THE DOME DRIVERS
ACROSS THE FULL
RANGE OF SPEAKERS.
INTERVIEW – LAURENCE DICKIE
A masterful
balance of
compromises
Edgar Kramer: The B1 has been a consistent
model in the Vivid Audio line-up for ten years
now. What were the aims in designing the B1
Decade (B1D)?
Laurence Dickie: Initially the B1D was to be a
purely cosmetic change, released simply as
a vehicle for a bit of publicity so we could
remind folks that we’re a proper grown-up
company now! So we did the redesign of the
front baffle and all was fine – except it
wasn’t. I found myself unable to release
a product with only a change in its
appearance; I had to do something
to the engineering to justify its
existence. Now it happened that
we had developed a new
magnet for the G4 bass unit
which used the GIYA topology
but which was completely compatible with the standard C125
bass/mid. So putting the two together would be a shoo-in. Honestly,
I wasn’t prepared for just how much
difference it would actually make.
LAURENCE DICKIE’S
ENGINEERING DISCIPLINES
ALSO STRETCH TO PRO
AUDIO AND A BRIEF STINT
AT AMPLIFIER DESIGN.
LOUDSPEAKERS
EK: Can you explain that further? What were the
changes in the magnet system?
LD: All our drivers use radially polarised magnets,
and while they’re a bit of a pain to assemble, the
advantages in terms of flux management are manifold. Originally, the C125 had the magnet element
directly behind the coil with the flux guided round
to the coil by two steel components. The change
we made in the Giya was to move the magnet
around from the rear position to being right next to
the voice coil. This makes better use of the magnet
but also reduces the inductance of the coil, which
improves the top end performance of the driver.
That small difference makes a big difference to the
overall behaviour of the system.
EK: Did this change then spark other improvements
for the B1 Decade?
LD: Inevitably, when you change the drivers in a
system you have to change the crossover. But with
B1D that wasn’t just a restoration of the standard
performance. Because of the extra output at the
higher frequencies we were able to roll off the
rear driver a bit earlier and the net result has
been a clear increase in front-to-back differential in
the mid-100Hz region which has had the
effect of focusing the sound towards the front
of the speaker.
The improvements go further than the drivers;
we’ve also taken advantage of our skills in the world
of composites engineering so the B1D enclosure
is now made using a vacuum-infused sandwich,
just like Giya. Having said that,
there are improvements to the
overall sound which seem to
be appreciably greater than
the sum of the parts – they
honestly defy my rational
explanation.
Voicing is a slightly
contentious area.
My personal
belief is that it
is only really
required when you
have to balance
compromises in
the designs.
EK: Considering an improved
B1 potentially challenges the K1,
are there plans for a ‘Decadeimproved’ K1 model?
LD: There are no plans at
the moment but clearly the
potential is there.
EK: Given your past experience
in high quality amplification
– the B&W MPA series for
example – could Vivid Audio
consider embarking on
electronics manufacturing?
LD: Sadly I let my involve-
ment with amplifier electronics slip when I left
B&W, so my experience there is rather frozen in the
early 90s. I’m greatly impressed by what is being
achieved with switch-mode technology now –
it would be difficult for me to catch up and get
involved directly but I’m not averse to using OEM
modules if it becomes appropriate. We have done
some work with active crossovers, but the truth is
we didn’t find any improvement over our current
passive designs. But that was by simply mimicking
the passive filter characteristics. There’s a whole
world of filtering made possible through DSP and I
look forward to exploiting that before too long.
EK: When voicing the growing Vivid Audio range,
what are you aiming towards, sonically?
LD: Voicing is a slightly contentious area. My
personal belief is that it is only really required when
you have to balance compromises in the designs.
Most speaker designers start by aiming for a flat
response but find this isn’t quite right when they
listen to music.
For example, if your midrange driver exhibits
cone break-up, it may give a subjective emphasis in
that frequency band. To make it sound balanced
you end up having to take down that level in the
crossover – so it has a dip in the measurements
but sounds OK overall. We’ve found that by
engineering drivers and enclosures which are free
of coloration you no longer need to make those
compromises. Another need for voicing arises
when there are changes in the polar response from
the different drivers, so you might have a mid cone
which is beaming towards the top followed by a
tweeter which has excellent off-axis behaviour.
Trouble is, when you put that system in a reverberant room, that off-axis signal will mix into the
overall sound so, subjectively, it’ll sound too bright.
The answer is to drop the lower end of the tweeter
by a dB or two – but then the system will sound
dull in a dead room. Compromises, compromises…
One of our guiding principles has been
‘consistency of philosophy’. That is to say that each
frequency band is dealt with by more or less the
same transducer and enclosure design simply
scaled for the frequencies. So with Vivid Audio
speakers we use alloy diaphragms which behave
pistonically within their bandwidth, and each mid
and tweeter has an exponential absorber to load
the back of the driver. The crossover slopes are
the same between each driver, and the external
enclosure has the same smooth shape throughout.
The net result is that the sound is seamless and
consistent across the spectrum, which goes a long
way to take the speaker out of the equation and
leaves you just listening to the music.
043
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