- Manufacturer & Model
- Vivid Audio Kaya S12 Speaker
- $6,500.00/pair in standard finishes - $7,150.00/pair in custom bespoke finishes – Matching Stands $2000.00/pair
2-way Speaker System Housed in a RIMCast Polyurethane Resin Cabinet
26mm (1") Tube Loaded Aluminum Alloy Dome Tweeter (D26)
100mm (3.94") Aluminum Alloy Cone Woofer/Mid Bass Driver (C100L)
Unique Exponentially Tapered Tube Enhanced Bass Reflex Cabinet
D26 Tweeter First Mode Breakup – 44kHz
45Hz ~ 25kHz (-6dB) Frequency Response
Nominal Impedance 8 Ohms (5.3Ω Minimum)
Sensitivity: 87dB @ 2.83V (1 Watt) at 1M
The latest offering in the Vivid Kaya lineup, the Kaya S12, is a modestly sized speaker featuring a beautiful flowing and stunning industrial design aesthetic and a flawless, lustrous finish. According to Vivid, the new Kaya S12 should be equally at home in pro-audio production studio applications, home stereo and multichannel audio systems, and home theater environments. The uniquely shaped and acoustically loaded cabinets are sleek, rounded eye candy. The cabinets are built of a rigid and dense yet relatively lightweight RIMCast Polyurethane Resin. The Aluminum Alloy dome tweeter and Aluminum cone mid-bass drivers are custom designed and built by Vivid to extremely tight tolerances, and sport high-gauss radial magnet motor structures. The Kaya S12 speakers are packed with technology from Vivid's high-end Giya line of loudspeakers. All Vivid loudspeakers, and components, are designed in England and assembled/built in England and South Africa from various parts sourced worldwide.
AV NIRVANA asked if I would be interested in reviewing a new product from Vivid Audio. One look at the Vivid Kaya S12 on the Vivid website, and I hurried to say YES! And as I did some quick research and explored the background of Vivid Audio, there were other things that certainly piqued my interest and peaked the amplitude of that YES as well!
The acoustic and component design of the speaker, including the drivers, are courtesy of storied UK speaker designer Laurence Dickie. The stunning visuals of the Kaya range are a product of the industrial design team of Matt Longbottom and Christoph Hermann. The unusual and "piece of art in and of itself" speaker stands were a collaboration between Laurence Dickie and industrial designers Matt and Christoph.
Many an audiophile will recognize the moniker of Laurence Dickie, and for a good reason! Mr. Dickie was the lead speaker designer of the fantastical Bowers and Wilkins Nautilus speaker! After exiting B&W in 1997 and a few short stints with other companies, Vivid was founded in March of 2001 and showed their first product at the Heathrow Audio Show in September 2004.
Fast forward to today, and three distinct and award-winning ranges represent the expansive Vivid lineup, the Oval, the Kaya, and their highest expression of audio perfection, the Giya range of loudspeakers. The Kaya S12 speaker is placed right where the Kaya range starts its journey upward in performance, features, and size.
From left to right – the 3-way, 4-driver Kaya C35 Center Channel Speaker, is coming soon to give us a timbre-matched center channel solution and to better position Vivid in the home theater/multichannel audio world. The 2-way, 2-driver Kaya S12 on the matching stand (Reviewed). The bigger floor-standing siblings, the Kaya 25 (2-way, 2-drivers), the Kaya 45 (3-way 4-drivers), and the largest in the range, the Kaya 90 (3-way, 6-drivers) are the next in the lineup.
Vivid has no plans to manufacture a subwoofer, preferring to make suitable recommendations to customers needing or wanting a subwoofer.
After setting up and listening to the Kaya S12 for three weeks, I had the privilege and pleasure of speaking to key members of the Vivid Audio team via Zoom. The cast included lead designer Laurence Dickie, PR Chief Jim Noyd, and Vivid’s U.S. Brand Director Keith Dowd. I'll do my best to roll some of the information gleaned from our forty-minute conversation into the body of this review and note it as we go along.
The Kaya S12's arrived via FedEx in two oversized cardboard boxes (not pictured). In one box were the speakers, each in a separate printed cardboard box, while the second box held a single printed box containing both speaker stands.
The speaker was firmly bolted to a wooden platform in each speaker box and locked securely into place with a cardboard collar. In addition, each speaker was covered with a drawstring hoody for extra protection. An instruction manual and a polishing cloth were included in each speaker box.
The speaker stands were also well packed, bolted both top and bottom to ¼” clapboard sheets, securely locking the stands within the box. The only other thing in the speaker stand box for my review samples was a small accessories bag containing two sets of feet for the stands, six small rubber feet, and a set of six metal spikes. I opted to use the rubber feet for my setup.
The packing seemed to be up to the task of protection from the vagaries of shipping.
As I pulled the drawstring-secured "sock" from the speaker, I had to pause and just say, "WOW!" The soft flow of the speaker and the perfect, lustrous Pearl finish was beautiful to behold and to the touch.
The weight and feel of the speaker were substantial and solid. In addition, the fit and finish of the cabinet elements, drivers, port, binding posts, and other hardware were perfect.
The perforated grille in front of the C100L attaches via six teeny-tiny magnets embedded in the grille and the speaker itself. The perforated tweeter guard appears to be a press-in/friction fit.
The artfully designed tubular metal, epoxy-coated stands, although lightweight, are well put together, and the welds are smooth and seamless. The finish on my review stands was flawless. Bolting the speakers to the stands went as it should, and the assembled unit presented sturdy and secure.
Construction and Design
There is a lot of technology and innovation packed into these small speakers and across the entire Vivid line, for that matter! Vivid has published an excellent informational piece that details the treatments, technologies, innovations, and design philosophies used throughout their product lines, and that information can be found HERE.
I'm going to endeavor to briefly cover some of, what I consider, the most exciting and critical design elements that contribute heavily to the sonic signature of the speaker. These are the elements that set the Vivid Kaya S12 speaker apart from the crowd in my opinion.
Hallmarks of the Vivid "house sound" are transparency and clarity.
Much of that comes through the precise and careful design of every element of the speaker. According to designer Laurence Dickie, the cabinets are made with an acoustics first mantra. A true "form follows function" approach.
In the case of the Kaya S12, the cabinet construction uses a RIMCast process (Reaction Injection Molding Casting). It is composed of structural Polyurethane Resin for strength and rigidity. The cabinet is indeed dense and seems very inert, easily passing my informal but highly scientific (not) "Knuckle Rap Test" (AKA my "little rubber mallet test"), with no evidence of hollowness or ringing.
This type of construction and material allows for the softly flowing, rounded lines of the cabinets realized by the industrial design team, but only after the design team allowed for the required internal and external acoustic properties as specified by designer Laurence Dickie. Examples of those requirements include the precisely calculated and shaped shallow waveguide (external) that holds the tweeter, and the required allowance of space internally for the Tapered Tube Loaded backwave absorber. The tube, nestled sight unseen inside the cabinet, acoustically loads the tweeter, acting as a closed chamber that absorbs, contains, and isolates the backwave energy produced by the tweeter from the cabinet interior.
The cabinet's soft, rounded exterior shape serves, by design, to eliminate diffraction issues caused by the hard edges and corners of conventional box designs and internally works to eliminate resonances and standing waves by eliminating flat reflective surfaces and "corner traps."
Also housed inside the S12 cabinet is what Vivid calls an "Omni-Axis-Absorber." This device is molded into the cabinet construction and further stiffens and eliminates internal resonances and backwave issues with the Mid/Bass driver. The "Omni-Axis-Absorber" is covered by an "Inner Liner" that has the "Exponentially Tapered Tube Enhanced Bass Reflex Port" molded into it and creates the channels used to "absorb" the sound from the back of the C100L driver. The "Omni-Axis-Absorber" eliminates the need for additional internal "damping material."
The drivers, also designed by Mr. Dickie and manufactured by Vivid, are an interesting technology.
D26 tweeter - 26mm (1") Tube Loaded Aluminum Alloy Dome Tweeter
The D26 tweeter utilizes a Catenary shaped anodized aluminum alloy dome structure for additional strength and rigidity. The uniquely shaped dome, combined with the stiffness of the high-modulus carbon fiber surround and the added control of the very powerful radial magnet array and the extremely close tolerance motor structure, pushes the first mode breakup frequency to well above audibility (44kHz!) with an efficiency of 97dB/watt.
To eliminate backwave interference and maximize coherent forward radiation, the tweeter is connected to the "Tapered Tube Loading" device mentioned earlier. The concisely calculated and formed tapered tube is filled with a wool fiber damping material compressed to a greater degree as the tube narrows toward the rear. The Tapered Tube Loading device is designed to contain the backwave energy and absorb and eliminate it. The result, according to Vivid, is a cleaner, better defined, transparent, more developed front wave.
D26 Tweeter with Integral Tapered Tube Loading Device
This same Tapered Tube Loading Device construction is used throughout the Vivid lineup for the tweeter, mid-range, and mid-bass drivers.
C100L - 100mm (3.94") Aluminum Alloy Cone Woofer/Mid Bass/Mid-Range Driver
The C100L is a high-excursion aluminum alloy cone driver with a large aluminum dome structure in the center where a dust cap would normally be to aid in dispersion. The motor assembly is built to extremely tight tolerances. The very high gauss radial magnet structure surrounds the isolated (by extension/distance) bottom of the former, where the edge-wound voice coil is located. This arrangement is said to increase linearity and excursion while decreasing distortion by enabling a near-perfect pistonic movement path for the speaker.
The back of the C100L is open into the cabinet. The cabinet is divided and channeled by the previously mentioned "Omni-Axis-Absorber" and the "Exponentially Tapered Tube Enhanced Bass Reflex Port." Designer Laurence Dickie said during our conversation that “the absorber cutoff frequency is roughly four times higher than the port tuning. This tuning ensures all enclosure resonances are absorbed while leaving the port output unchanged, so ultimately, what you hear is a completely clean output from the C100L combined seamlessly with the bottom octave from the port.”
No "First Mode Breakup" frequency is given for the C100L. While there is undoubtedly such a frequency, strictly speaking, such a disclosure is not needed with drivers sitting below the tweeter. A well-designed crossover will eliminate any energy sufficient to cause breakup before it happens.
The C100L is used in other models of the Kaya range as a mid-range driver. When used as a mid-range driver in the larger models, the C100L is coupled to an appropriately sized "Tapered Tube Loading" device, just as the D26 tweeter is in the Kaya S12.
This CAD drawing (below) from the Giya series shows the "Tapered Tube Loading" design used for every driver above low bass.
During my conversation with the design team, I asked Laurence Dickie to tell me about the crossovers used in Vivid speakers. He indicated the crossovers are a 4th order Linkwitz-Riley design. The complexity and difficulty of a 4th-order crossover design are legendary. But Mr. Dickie laughed a bit while explaining this difficulty is mediated by using computer-aided design modeling applications coupled with experience and experimentation.
All crossovers used by Vivid are designed and built in-house and include hand-wound air-core inductors. In addition, the highest available quality of film capacitors and precision resistors are used throughout the crossovers.
The crossover point in the two-way Kaya S12 is 3000Hz. The 4th order Linkwitz-Riley design offers a 24dB/Octave slope that gives the speaker a tiny crossover dip where the two filters (High and Low Pass) cross. That slight dip is then naturally filled in by the latent acoustical energy of the optimized drivers interacting and results in a nice flat transition from one driver to the next.
But wait! There's more! Yes, there are a whole lot more technology and design points packed into the Vivid line of speakers that deserve mention and discussion. But, in the interest of brevity (I know, I know… That boat has already sailed!), I will once again refer you to the resources available from Vivid. You can find more technical information here and here.
The design, attention to detail, and technology are indeed impressive (and fascinating to a Tech Nerd like me!). But, as we all know, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that ability to swing!"
As usual, I did some measurements as a reference point to see if the speaker’s performance was on par with the specs given by Vivid.
My somewhat limited test setup consists of REW used with a MacBook Pro and a MiniDSP UMIK-2 microphone. Of course, the other part of my test setup is MY ROOM. So, now in full disclosure mode, these are measurements performed in my less-than-perfect room and within the limitations of my modest test equipment. These measurements are not meant to supplant the measurements given by the manufacturer.
With that in mind, here we go!
Starting at one meter, I measured the full-range response on-axis (Figure 1) and found it was very smooth (for my room) from about 110Hz to beyond 20kHz. The frequency response given by Vivid is 45Hz to 24kHz (-6dB). There was a small bump in energy around 300Hz and another soft 3dB rise at around 15kHz that tapered off at about 20kHz. In looking at the low-frequency response and the average of the rest of the curve, I'd say that the Vivid specs are confirmed. The dips at 53Hz and 180Hz are known room interactions.
I measured off-axis response by starting on-axis in line with the tweeter and with the microphone at a one-meter distance. I then went on to repeat the measurements from the centerline axis at 15˚, 30˚, 60˚, and 90˚ (literally to the side of the speaker) off the centerline while maintaining the one-meter distance. (Figure 2)
I noted nothing unexpected with this measurement. The waveguide is doing its job, and the high-frequency drop-off was smooth as the off-axis angle increased. One interesting note was the clear, but of no real consequence during normal listening, crossover notch around the 3kHz mark develop as the microphone continued past the 30˚ off the center axis measuring point. A simple walkabout confirmed that the transition was smooth, and the playback sounded natural to the 60˚ mark.
Standing at two meters with my head well above the tweeter and then sitting on the floor to get below the tweeter produced no change in the perceived high frequencies.
Setting up the UMIK-2 at my listening position, I performed full-range measurements with and without the subwoofers (two Rythmik F18 – 18" Aluminum Cone – 900 Watts RMS) engaged. (Figure 3)
The specs given by Vivid closely matched what I measured, given the limitations of my room and equipment.
I started by replacing my right/left speakers with the Kaya S12s in my usual setup positions. The speakers were powered by my Parasound Halo A21 amplifier (250 WRMS into 8 Ohms) using twin runs of Belden 5T00UP 10-gauge speaker wire (about 7 Gauge equivalent). The speaker wires were terminated with stacking and locking banana plugs. The sturdy 5-way binding posts on the Kaya S12 appear as if they would easily accept a 7 or 8-gauge bare wire without issue.
Since my regular setup positions coincided (mostly) with the Vivid recommendations for distance from the front and side walls, I thought that would be a good starting point. I initially set toe-in according to the Vivid guidance pictured below.
Vivid recommends the speakers be well "run in" (as the Brits would have it) before any serious listening or judgments be made, suggesting that between 250 and 300 hours should be adequate. Since these speakers were review samples, they had some unknown number of hours already logged. I let them play as my front channels for ten days before fine-tuning the placement, setup, or critical listening, to increase the run hour count.
Before going further, I quizzed Vivid's Jim Noyd for any additional setup suggestions. He graciously forwarded a neat setup routine penned by Vivid Audio’s U.S. Brand Director Keith Dowd that covers speaker burn-in (Run In) and fine-tuning the speaker placement. After following the setup instructions, I ended with the speakers about 24" further into the room and about 6" further inward from the sidewalls than my regular setup positions. This new positioning noticeably “opened up” the sound. In addition, I experimented with the toe-in, and I found I preferred a slightly less severe angle than suggested by Vivid, where the sound crossed somewhat behind the listening position instead of aimed right at my head. This arrangement gave me a wider, more open soundstage while maintaining a solid center image. If you are interested in taking a look at, and trying Keith’s setup instructions/technique, I have placed this link to a PDF, with Vivid’s permission!
Following the fine-tuning of the speaker placement, I ran an Audyssey calibration to eight different positions. After using the Marantz/Audyssey MultiEQ app to tweak the curves and limit the Audyssey effect to 300Hz and below, I promptly turned off Audyssey, disabled the subwoofers, and set the front channels to "Large/Full Range" to get a better feel for the Kaya S12’s raw and unsupported on the low end.
I found the Kaya S12 a solid performer down to around 40Hz (give or take). The low E (41.2Hz) on a four-string bass guitar was present and accounted for, and kick drum was punchy, present, and had a solid connection with the bass. The lower registers were well represented by the solo Kaya S12s and presented with appropriate weight and authority.
However, missing in action was any direct representation of the ultra-low frequencies (B string on a five-string bass, some synthesizer ultra-lows, artificial sub-sonics on the bass drum, and so on). A good example would be "The Light" by Spock's Beard from the Spock's Beard – The First Twenty Years compilation (CD). I knew low-frequency energy was abundant on and off, from both bass and synth, throughout the tune from past listenings. However, while the Kaya S12s would play cleanly at any volume I asked of them (and I sometimes ask a lot!), the extreme lows although clearly present (harmonics?), were subdued. However, this is so much better than the "Buckets of Bass" approach taken by some, at least in my humble opinion. The bass that was there was balanced, punchy, and accurate right to the lowest limits of the Kaya S12's real-world capabilities.
Continuing in this musical vein, I queued up the Primus insanity of "Bob" from Pork Soda using Amazon Music Ultra HD (24bit/96kHz) streamed directly via HEOS and my Marantz AV7706 Pre/Pro. As with most things from Primus, the music is bass-centric with lots of slam. "Bob" was perfectly listenable but lacked the impact and slam that should be present at higher volumes.
I listened to a few more selections on CD, SACD, and Amazon Music with the restricted bass range (no subs) before reengaging Audyssey (300Hz and below only), leaving the Kaya S12s running full range and relit the fire under my subwoofers (crossed over at 80Hz and set to LFE/Main).
I relistened to "The Light" and "Bob" and found the slam and impact had returned to the music (as expected).
Forging on, I gathered the usual suspects from my media pool and prepared for some serious listening.
Listening To Music
Sources for this listening session were my OPPO UDP-503 (CD, SACD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray Audio), Apple TV 4K(YouTube, Amazon Music HD, ATMOS Music, Movies, and Video), and Amazon Music Ultra HD streamed via HEOS through my Marantz AV7706.
I started with the 1985 release Picture Book from Simply Red. This well-recorded CD has a big open and airy sound with beautiful reverb tails that hang on forever using the right speakers. The Kaya S12 speakers did not disappoint, delivering a smooth sweet high-end, coherent, clean mid-range, and solid, articulate bass. I worked my way through my favorite tunes on this release, "Sad Old Red," "Heaven," and "Holding Back the Years." In every case, the sound was open and airy on the top end, with a perfectly balanced and nuanced mid-range. The snare drum had great weight and snap, and the hi-hat and cymbals were crisp with an excellent presence without being harsh. The bottom end was solid, with a good connection between bass and kick drum. Wanting to see how much of the low end was a product of the subs, I disabled the subwoofers temporarily and listened again. The bottom end only faded a small amount in intensity, and the bass remained solid and impactful. This minor reduction in bass impact was not a surprise as the instrumentation throughout is conventional, with four-string bass and kick drum supplying most of the lows.
Reengaging the subwoofers, I queued up the 1993 solo release from Donald Fagen, Kamakiriad (CD). Like the Simply Red CD, Kamakiriad delivered a clear open high end, fantastic, concisely rendered mid-range, and a solid, well-connected low end. Unlike the Simply Red CD, the Donald Fagen effort is considerably drier, and the sound is less ethereal and more "together." The drier nature of the recording delivered a different vibe, more concise, more forward, intimate and controlled. The drum sounds were fantastic, and the bass and kick drum were solidly connected with impact and slap. Vocals were organic sounding, highlighting the subtle irregularities of Donald Fagen's distinctive voice. Keyboards and guitars blended into the mix perfectly, popping out at featured moments. The horns when present, sounded full, with a nice "brassy" edge that was very appealing. Switching the subwoofers in and out produced the same effect as before, with some loss of low-end punch. But even sans subs, the sound produced by the small Vivid speakers was solid and satisfying.
To get a feel for how the speakers performed with something a bit more classical, I queued up my CD of The London Baroque Chamber Music Ensemble performing Canon and Gigue and other Chamber Works (Harmonia Mundi – 901539) by composer Johann Pachelbel.
The cello and violas were warm, rounded, and "woody," while the violins were appropriately bright with nice edgy overtones. The harpsichord, when present, had a shine and fullness beyond the typical harpsichord tinny-ness.
The "symphonic poem in four movements" Standing Stone (CD) is the second full-blown orchestral work composed by Sir Paul McCartney. Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and recorded in 1997 at Abbey Road Studios in Studio No. 1, Standing Stone is a modern symphonic work with massed choir.
As one would expect, the recording is stellar, and the 80-piece orchestra and 120-voice choir certainly sounds massive when in full swing. However, more impressive to me was the Kaya S12's ability to render the softer passages with such definition, clarity, and delicacy and then jump without hesitation into the huge dynamic swings of the eighty-piece orchestra running full-tilt. The S12s rendered everything with startling clarity and presented an extensive and lush soundstage. The woodwinds were sweet and smooth, while the massed strings were warm and woody sounding from bottom to top, with that typical violin "edge" riding on top. The horns were "brassy" and forward, and the massive percussion was striking (Ha!) and full, with appropriate weight and impact (Ha! Again!).
To get a feel for the female voice, I listened to audiophile favorite Nora Jones on her inaugural 2002 release, Come Away with Me (SACD). I listened to this multichannel SACD initially in stereo to highlight the Kaya S12s only. The vocals presented with a clean natural sound, and with that Nora Jones breathy-ness, but not a hint of congestion or chestiness. The piano was clear and defined throughout, while the acoustic guitars had a beautiful open and organic sound. Electric guitars were nicely defined while remaining subtle and suitably restrained in the mix. The upright bass had a deep, warm, rounded, and woody feel, with a sound so well defined I could picture bassist Lee Alexander hang, drag, and plucking his fingers across the strings in my mind's eye. Drums on this laid-back recording were mainly in the background but clearly defined. The brushwork used on several of the tunes was delicate but clearly defined.
I replayed this SACD in multichannel and found the sound stage expanded by the ambiance pumped into the surround speakers. As is usual for me, I reduced the center channel volume significantly, preferring the vocal duties to be more focused through the right and left channels. The Kaya S12 speakers blended just fine with the other speakers in my system.
I continued listening using the Marantz "in-box" steaming solution, HEOS. Artists featured included jazz pianist Keiko Matsui and the band Hiroshima, pop/rock from Michael McDonald, Toto and Peter Gabriel, and a bit of prog-rock from Genesis, Porcupine Tree, and Gentle Giant.
The Vivid Kaya S12s sounded fantastic regardless of the genre at any volume played.
As Part of a Home Theater
The Kaya S12, as the front speakers in a home theater, frankly, shined bright. For their home theater duties, I made sure the front speakers were set to "Small," and the crossover was reset to send everything below 80Hz to the subwoofers.
My taste in movies and videos tends to run toward spectacle, action, and adventure. That means explosions, gunshots, ray guns, bright lights, and Loud… LOUD noises! To me, this is the end reason for home theater, or why I go to a theater, for that matter. And while I know that opinions vary widely on the subject, this is MY idea of what a home theater should be capable of delivering. The loudness, the extreme dynamic swings, and the intelligible dialog (well, that last part is secondary to the loud and dynamic part, of course) are absolutely necessary for a premium home theater experience!
I watched three episodes of the new Halo series on Paramount+. The S12s easily kept up with the Sci-Fi action without any complaint, and effects tracked seamlessly across all speakers. The action sequences were well conveyed and were brash and in-your-face loud yet effortless.
Also, on Paramount+ and equally at home on the Kaya S12s, were season two episodes of Star Trek: Picard. While not as dynamic and loud as the Halo series (more cerebral?), there are plenty of excellent Sci-Fi action sequences to test the surround sound envelope. The Kaya S12 speakers handled it all with aplomb and composure. The second season of Star Trek: Picard is certainly more dialog-driven than the Halo series. The Vivid speakers never got in the way of the center channel dialog and played a smooth, supportive role when the dialog shifted right or left of the center.
Continuing with the streaming, I watched two episodes of the new Marvel series, Moon Knight on Disney+ (4K, Dolby Vision, Dolby ATMOS). Slow to build, the action suddenly becomes extreme and hits hard, only to fade again. However, the Vivid Kaya S12s never faltered in their delivery or got in the way of the dialog (center channel) and solidly anchored the action and ambiance through the front speakers.
Next on the watch list was the new release of Spider-Man: No Way Home using my Apple TV 4K and streaming via iTunes (4K, Dolby ATMOS/Dolby Vision). The many intense bits of action throughout the film, and the eerie oddness of the Multiverse, were perfectly conveyed and connected to the screen by the Kaya S12s while working with the rest of the speakers in my system.
As usual, I listened to some YouTube content, mostly in stereo, and found the Kaya S12s the perfect conveyance for the notoriously variable quality of YouTube sound. Male or female narrators were free of any chestiness or congestion (if the recording was of good quality). Well-recorded YouTube music also fared very well overall.
The Vivid Kaya S12's kept up with whatever I tossed at them, no matter the material or the volume I demanded. At no time did the Kaya S12s call attention to themselves when used as part of a surround system or run out of gas when pushed hard in the home theater environment.
A Change of Venue – Nearfield Monitoring
I was intrigued by a comment on Vivid's website. "The small footprint (of the Kaya S12) makes it the perfect studio monitor or a sophisticated loudspeaker for use in a multichannel system."
That the Kaya S12 would be equally at home in a home theater, stereo system, or in a recording studio environment is a rather bold statement, I had initially thought. With that statement in mind, I shifted the Kaya 12s downstairs to my office, where I could use the speakers in a near-field monitoring scenario.
I replaced my PreSonus Eris 5 self-powered nearfield monitors with the Kaya S12s, positioning the speakers on foam speaker isolation pads. For power, I used a Pioneer VSX-LX305 Elite receiver that I had on hand for review, using Belden 5T00U 10-gauge speaker wire for the connection. The front end for this experiment was my MacBook Pro and my MOTU M2 computer interface acting as a DAC. Music was supplied either by streaming Amazon Music HD or via a Blu-ray/DVD/CD player attached by Thunderbolt to the computer.
I listened to different music in different genres and used the two sources mentioned above. I repeated a good part of what I had listened to upstairs in the big room for CD listening. For the Amazon streaming sample, I started with some Gipsy Kings and, along the way, somehow fixated on a prog-fest of Gentle Giant. After making my way through Free Hand, Octopus, and The Power and the Glory albums, I paused to reflect on what I was hearing.
As expected, because of what I witnessed in the big room, the sound was tight, concise, and balanced. However, the bass was much more potent in the nearfield/smaller office space environment, even when unsupported by subwoofers.
The Vivid speakers certainly displayed the characteristics I would associate with the best studio monitors: slightly forward, highly resolving, and revealing.
When used as nearfield monitors, the speakers were only about 3' from my ears (6' spread) with a sharp toe-in directing them right at my head. In this environment and placement, the sound was etched and very headphone-like (picture the best headphones you have ever experienced perched on your noggin). The most minor differences and location cues were easily identified in the nearfield listening, while the center image remained rock solid.
So, is the claim that they would be at home as studio monitors brag or fact? FACT, in my opinion.
Summary and Closing Thoughts
I want to clarify upfront that considering the design of the Kaya S12 (4" woofer and the cabinet/port tuning), one can't expect the speaker to deliver overwhelming low-frequency performance (I didn't and it didn’t). But what it does deliver is frankly astounding! And, when properly positioned and shored up by a decent and musical subwoofer, you can genuinely expect "audio nirvana!"
In every case, regardless of bitrate and bandwidth, the Vivid speakers rendered tunes in an eminently listenable manner. That is, of course, if the original recording was worthy. The Kaya S12 is no different in this respect from any other decent speaker. Excellent speakers should be and usually do reflect the original recording engineers, producers, and artists' vision, hard work, and collaboration. But, of course, if one part of that triumvirate falls short, then trouble ensues. We all know that even the best of speakers is not a "Magic Bullet" for lousy performance, production values, or recording technique. And in fact, may even amplify the "badness" of any of these elements when they go awry.
The Vivid Kaya S12 is a chameleon of sorts, adapting to and disappearing into the environment in which it is placed. I feel this is one of the most vital characteristics any speaker can aspire to, the ability to simply disappear from the room and to just deliver the music/audio transparently and believably. The Vivid Kaya S12 is undoubtedly a master at this.
So, trying to assign a "sound character" to a speaker this good is difficult, perhaps even unfair. As a reviewer, however, I feel I must try.
I felt the Kaya S12 to be eminently neutral in overall character, never emphasizing one part of the audio spectrum over any other. The Vivid speakers were open, inviting, and involving, with clear, sweet, and extended highs, a concise, articulate, uncluttered mid-range, coupled with a solid, present, and well-defined (controlled) low-end right down to its design limits. The imaging was outstanding with a slightly forward character with a wide and detailed soundstage. The speakers are low distortion and capable of high output when called upon to do so.
One hallmark of low distortion, balanced output speakers is that, is that they can play LOUD without causing the dreaded "listening fatigue." I would check the SPL from time to time and found I was listening much too loudly without realizing it or experiencing any discomfort. We are talking average listening levels of 96dB to 98dB and peaks of 104dB! Now, I'm an old rocker (emphasis on old), but I'm trying to be a bit more careful these days. A testament to the Kaya S12's smoothness and balance is that they sound equally good at higher levels or lower more reasonable volumes.
I would describe the "sound" of the Kaya S12s as akin to some of the best studio monitors I have heard in the past. That is, a slightly upfront and forward sound, with a hyper-detailed and highly resolving mid-range and high-frequency sound character, and a low-end that is present and extended but tightly controlled. In a single word, Balanced!
The Kaya S12 is a superb speaker and should function perfectly in just about any role into which it is placed. Factor in those beautiful, head-turning looks and superb sound quality, and this just may be the speaker you have been lusting after without even knowing it. The speaker includes a five-year warranty when purchased from an authorized Vivid dealer. Recommended without reservation.
Vivid KAYA S12 2-Way Speaker Specifications
Configuration: 2-way 2 driver system
Cabinet Material: RIMCast Polyurethane Resin
Standard Colors: Piano Black, Pearl White, Oyster Matte
Bespoke Color: Available upon request
Drive Units: HF: D26 – 26mm Tapered Tube Loaded alloy catenary dome LF: C100L – 100mm alloy cone driver
Bass Loading: Exponentially Tapered Tube enhanced bass reflex
Sensitivity: 87dB@ 2.83VRMS at 1 Meter on-axis
Frequency Range: 45Hz – 25,000Hz (-6dB)
Nominal Impedance: 8 Ohms (5.3 Ohms Minimum)
First D26 Break Up mode: 44,000Hz
Harmonic distortion: < 0.5% over frequency range at 1W
(2nd and 3rd harmonics)
Cross over frequency (Hz): 3000Hz
Recommended Amplifier Power: 25W – 125W
Loudspeaker Dimensions: 400 mm (H) x 237 mm (W) x 254 mm (D) - 15.75” (H) x 9.33” (W) x 10” (D)
Net Weight: 6 kg (13.22 lbs)
Shipping Dimensions: 480mm (H) x 250 mm (W) x 270 mm (D) - 18.9” (H) x 9.84” (W) x 10.63” (D)
Shipping Weight: 8 kg (17.64 lbs) each
Vivid Audio Contact Information
Vivid Audio BV
Kaap Hoorndreef 66
3563 AW Utrecht
+316 2677 6787
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Vivid Audio LLC