A listener’s room should always be a strong consideration when selecting a reference loudspeaker. Size, as I’ve been told in a variety of contexts, matters. I’ve always been inclined -- and I suspect I’m not alone in this -- to buy the biggest speakers with the biggest bass drivers I could lay my hands on. That’s not always advisable, however. Sticking a pair of such obelisks in a small listening room just won’t work. You probably won’t get enough stereo separation from massive cabinets, speaker height could be a problem, and the bass will assuredly overload even the most damped and treated space. Normally, as you move down a given line of speaker models, the cabinets get smaller and less complex, the driver arrangements simpler, the drivers perhaps less capable. The smallest is usually a three-way, maybe even a two-way. Each of these compromises leads to concessions in terms of dynamic range, ultimate output ability, and, likely, powers of resolution. For me, the smallest speaker was never an option. Then again, I don’t like getting the smallest of anything. Maybe it’s because I’m American.
The baby Giya
Vivid Audio’s new G4 anchors their Giya line -- it’s tiny for a four-way speaker, let alone one with two woofers. At $30,000 USD per pair, the Giya G4 costs less than half as much as Vivid’s flagship model, the Giya G1 ($68,000/pair). My review samples arrived with a lot of miles already on them. The “production prototypes” against which every Giya G4 produced will be measured, they were completed in Durban, South Africa, just before being shipped to Japan for their unveiling at the 2013 Tokyo International Audio Show, last November. From there they were shipped to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, in January, before arriving at my modest Philadelphia apartment on a snowy Monday afternoon. They showed up packed into a single, rather uncooperative crate. Get help to unpack and position these little guys.
Finished in an automotive-grade paint of purplish blue, with a high-gloss finish, the G4s certainly looked distinctive. (A variety of colors is available; check with your dealer for a complete list.) The speaker’s shape, too, is distinctive, and while it might not please everyone, I found it pretty interesting to look at over time, and certainly more so than a generic tower speaker. The metallic paint was flawless, and the flared side ports look more organic than mechanical. The bottom of the speaker is fitted with a carbon-fiber shell, which has six screw holes for the brushed-metal feet. Recessed in the carbon fiber are the binding posts, with a rear-facing half-moon path snaking out the rear for cable connectivity to your amp. As with the G4’s larger, older Giya siblings, magnetically attached grilles are included to protect the drivers. In fact, other than size, there’s little to differentiate the G4’s appearance from that of the larger G3.
Vivid Audio's chief designer, Laurence Dickie
The Giya G4 is small for a four-way, five-driver design, measuring only 39.4”H x 11.7”W x 18”D and weighing 70.4 pounds. The glass-reinforced composite cabinets sit so low to the ground that they were demoed in Tokyo and at CES sitting on solid-wood platforms, which Vivid sent along to use during the G4s’ brief stay with me. They have yet to decide if they’ll sell these platforms, or other sorts of stands, along with the speakers. While I could probably get away with not using the platforms -- my low-slung couch left my ears level with the Giyas’ tweeters -- the additional elevation helped cast a larger soundstage, so I used them.
Peter Roth reviewed the Giya G3 here last year and duly covered its salient features and technologies. Instead of repeating all that here, I’ll focus on how the baby Giya differs from its siblings. The D26 1” (26mm) aluminum catenary tweeter found in their “entry-level” model, the Oval V1.5 ($7500/pair), is the very same one found in the Giya G4 and the flagship Giya G1. To make a smaller Giya, Vivid had to design a new, smaller lower-midrange driver, the 4” (100mm) C100S. The chassis of the driver is brand new, but the diaphragm material and motor are identical to that of the C125S (which is used in the larger Giyas). The new driver is claimed to perform identically to the old, but is crossed over to the twin opposed woofers at 250Hz -- 30Hz higher than in the Giya G3 -- and to the 2” (50mm) D50 midrange at 1kHz.
Speaking of those side-mounted woofers -- the 5” (125mm) C125L drivers -- they, too, are brand new. Whereas the woofers used in the rest of the Giya line share a common 76mm motor system, these were incompatible for this application. Here, a smaller, 50mm copper-ribbon-coil system is used, with a magnet topology directly descended from the massive C225 woofer used in the Giya G1, and which maximizes the excursion available in the G4’s rather narrow chassis. To this end, a new, longer-throw suspension and motor were designed to reproduce the low frequencies, but on a chassis identical to Vivid’s other C125 variants. At the upper end of the audioband, the G4 is nearly identical to its siblings, with a D26 tweeter loaded with a tapered tube, and a D50 midrange driver of aluminum alloy. The only difference is the frequency at which these hand off to each other, which in the G4 is 4kHz.
The G4 is specified as having a sensitivity of 86dB when fed a 2.83V signal and measured at 1m. The speaker’s nominal impedance is 6 ohms, dipping down to a minimum of 4 ohms. The claimed frequency response is 39Hz-33kHz, ±2dB. The -6dB point in the low end is 36Hz, and second- and third-order harmonic distortion is rated at less than 0.5% over the entire frequency range. Perhaps most significant, Vivid states that the G4 can handle 400W of power, which indicates just how loudly the speaker can play.
Setup and system
The diminutive floorstanders were seemingly made for my apartment, which has an open area roughly 30’L x 18’W x 12’H, my system placed off-center at one end. While not ideal for first reflections and not equidistant from the sidewalls, it’s a very real-world arrangement in which I bet a fair number of G4s will find themselves. The Giya G4s stood in roughly the same positions as have most of the speakers I’ve reviewed: 2’ and change out from my front wall, toed in almost to my listening position, the right speaker uncomfortably close to a couch.
I used a wide variety of integrated-DACs with the Vivids, from NuForce’s DDA-100 ($549) to my reference Hegel Music Systems H300 ($5500) to, at the top end, the Devialet 110 ($6495) and Wadia Digital’s Intuition 01 ($7500). While each drove the Giyas without problem, the Devialet and Wadia saw the most use. Speaker cables were by Dynamique Audio: the copper-and-silver Caparo and the reference-level Celestial, the latter made with significant amounts of pure silver.
The problem I’ve had with smaller, non-full-range loudspeakers is that they sound small. Maybe it’s a psychological thing, but I can’t shake the feeling that something fundamental is missing. Bass is a funny thing -- too little, and the listener will forever find that the foundation of some music is missing. Too much, and the music might sound bloated, as if the speaker is overcompensating. The designer of small speakers has a delicate balance to strike: how to get a small cabinet volume and modestly sized drivers to reproduce frequencies low enough and amply enough to make music sound real.
There is also the tradeoff between sensitivity and low-frequency extension to manage. Descending the models in Vivid’s Giya line, it’s easy to see a direct relationship between these factors, with bass response decreasing in direct proportion, nearly lockstep, with decreasing sensitivity. This was a deliberate design choice, in an attempt to keep the shapes of the frequency responses of the four Giya models similar and thus to retain the fundamental Giya sound. I’m not sure many other companies in the high end can make such a claim. I can say that the G4 sounded neither small nor bass shy. In a remarkable feat of design, Vivid Audio has contrived to create, for smaller listening spaces, a loudspeaker that is of reference-level quality in all aspects of sound short of the deepest bass frequencies.
Neneh Cherry is the stepdaughter of the late jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and the half-sister of Eagle-Eye Cherry, a one-hit wonder of the mid-1990s. “Across the Water,” from her Blank Project (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Smalltown Supersound), is a starkly simple track. Cherry croons atop a fulsome kick drum. While kick drums don’t extend down to 20Hz, they can dip below 40Hz, and the G4s were more than up to the challenge. My worry about the baby Giyas sounding small or lightweight all but vanished -- they produced substantial amounts of low-end energy. The drum thwacks were articulated in nearly all of their glory, with terrific slam and impact, with only the very lowest contours of the drum abbreviated. The G4’s -6dB point is cited as 36Hz, but with room gain taken into consideration, I suspect they’re at almost full voice at this frequency. I was taken aback at the quality, volume, and depth of bass on offer from this total of four 5” woofers.
So, too, with “Air,” from Hans Zimmer’s score for the film The Thin Red Line (16/44.1 ALAC, BMG Sony), a track I’ve unapologetically used again and again as a bass torture test. The taiko drums in this track are struck with ferocity in what sounds like a very large recording space -- they resonate for seconds at a time, and challenge a pair of speakers not so much for how deep the pitches go but for their expansive, voluminous sound. Long woofer excursions are a given, and in my room, even at low volumes, the G4s were more than capable of producing prodigious amounts of bass weight. The Vivids’ delivery was punchy -- as I scaled up the volume, the little guys had no problem energizing my large living space. In fact, some care should be taken with positioning the Vivids near room boundaries. It shouldn’t make much difference for many types of music, but it was a greater consideration for me, whose music collection is dominated by bass-heavy electronic trash.
The Giyas’ imaging was first rate. “Pompeii,” from Bastille’s Bad Blood (16/44.1 ALAC, Virgin EMI), is a rhythmic mix of synthesizers, percussion, strings, and voices -- it’s a fun, dynamic track. But it doesn’t include much deep bass; I suspect that the larger G3s or G2s would not have yielded any greater insight into the recording. As it was, the opening chorus rang through with ridiculous specificity -- I could differentiate the individual performers with ease, while the image of lead singer Dan Smith was as perfect as I’ve ever heard it: concise without sounding edgy, three-dimensional without being vague or amorphous. With the sublime Devialet 110 in play, this was the best rendition of “Pompeii” I’d ever heard.
Building on this, the Vivids threw an enormous soundstage that was not only broad and deep but complete. Many speakers have little trouble generating a big sound, but eliminating a cabinet’s contributions to that sound is very hard to do. The Giyas look the way they do for sonic rather than aesthetic grounds. Nonparallel surfaces, composite construction, tapered-tube loading -- all contributed to the seamless tapestry of sound I heard. With big, boxy cabinets, especially ones made of MDF, you can tilt your head from side to side and hear a coherent soundstage fall to pieces. When I played “A Victory of Love,” from Alphaville’s Forever Young (16/44.1 ALAC, Atlantic), and despite this being a mediocre mid-‘80s recording, the G4s had no difficulty reproducing lead singer Marian Gold’s voice among a variety of other instruments and bass synth lines, its aural image remaining intact even when I listened reasonably far off axis. The Giyas may be visually arresting, but to my ears, they contribute to the music little or no coloration. Job well done, Vivid.
Perhaps the most impressive characteristic of the Giya G4 was that the outputs of its drivers were superbly well integrated from top to bottom. Everything was utterly evenhanded. I’ve heard a number of rather expensive speakers whose frequency responses are geared toward a prominent midrange, or a top end that is either lively or a little dark. But assuming the G4s are positioned in such a way that they won’t accentuate a room mode, I’m confident these little guys will offer seamless sound in most settings. Tonally neutral, smooth, refined -- but never boring to listen to, even after hours of listening -- the Giyas were supremely easy to live with. And when I listened to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” covered by Jeff Buckley on his album Grace (16/44.1 FLAC, Columbia)? Forget it. It was so thoroughly immersive that to offer comment on it would be fruitless. I don’t have a lot of hi-rez recordings, but HDtracks’ version of Daft Punk’s Grammy-winning Random Access Memories, was exceptional. But don’t feel you have to ditch your library of Red Books if you buy speakers as revealing as the Giya G4. So long as a reasonably powerful -- say, 50Wpc -- amplifier is available, I can’t imagine anyone being displeased with the sound of CDs through the Vivids.
A few months back I reviewed Vivid’s smaller, two-way Oval V1.5 ($7700/pair), and everything I heard in the Oval I hear in the Giya G4, and then some. Both speakers just sailed in the treble, with a fast, electrostatic-like speed. The V1.5, however, struggled to maintain that absolute coherence and speed lower in the audioband. The midrange, while still very good, and excellent for a sub-$10,000 loudspeaker, seemed not to have the agility and extreme articulation of the treble. And the Oval’s bass, while admirable in both amount and reach, was just not as tuneful -- no doubt because only a single 6.2” midrange-woofer is responsible for reproducing everything below 3kHz. The four-way Giya G4 could output significantly more sound, and with a coherence that extended across the entire audioband. Unlike the V1.5s, the G4s also had no problem as the volume rose, producing sonic portraits that scaled perfectly, without perceptible strain. With sounds cut from the same cloth, the Oval V1.5 aspires to true reference-level performance, while the Giya G4 actually attained it.
Cabasse’s Pacific 3 loudspeaker ($16,000/pair) provided a different point of comparison. For roughly half the price of the Giya G4, the French speaker offers gorgeous cabinetry and woodwork, a coaxial driver, and 8.25” woofers. These unique loudspeakers have impressive sound, with excellent imaging and near-full-range bass output, and can play properly loud. Their sound was altogether different from the Giya G4’s, however, with a more colored, vibrant character. Whereas the Vivid soared in the treble with seemingly infinite extension, the Cabasse had a darker, more romantic personality, with rolled-off highs but bass that was more fulsome than the Giya’s. This made for a very intimate sound that tended to favor voices and instruments while somewhat shrinking recording spaces. Beyond that, while the Cabasses’ imaging is excellent, I think the Giya G4s’ was better still -- and the Pacific 3s are not, ultimately, as resolving or as transparent. While the Giyas likely can’t energize as large a listening space as the Pacifics, the G4s were more bluntly neutral, honest, and accomplished.
There is stiff competition for similarly sized loudspeakers, with contenders at far lower prices than the Giya G4’s $30,000/pair vying for attention: e.g., Magico’s S3 ($22,600/pair), Rockport Technologies’ Atria ($21,500/pair), and Wilson Audio’s Sophia 3 ($17,900/pair). I’ve briefly heard the Magico and Wilson at various audio shows, and have also heard the larger Rockport Aviors. I know that the Magico is an excellent speaker in many respects, and that Editor-in-Chief Jeff Fritz thinks highly of the Atria. The Wilson, too, offers a lot, and has found countless homes around the world. There’s no question that each of these speakers, in terms of physical size, peak SPL level, and deep-bass output, will give you a lot for your money. I also find that each of them looks, to me, somewhat ungainly and pretty uninspired. That, of course has no bearing on their sound quality, but size and appearance will inevitably be parts of deciding to buy any costly loudspeaker.
What’s noteworthy about these speakers is that each occupies a lowish point in its manufacturer’s product line, with less sophisticated cabinets and drivers and, ultimately, sound inferior to each company’s flagship model. Besides, those state-of-the-art models are behemoths in both size and weight, making them impractical for the average reader’s listening room, not to mention the average bank account.
The Giya G4, on the other hand, is almost literally a miniature Giya G1 ($68,000/pair), offering identical sound on a smaller scale. That is what makes this elfin, bluish speaker so significant. Of the speakers listed above, I’ve found Magico’s S3, in particular, to be excellent in terms of overall sound. It must be conceded, however, that it’s 9” taller, twice as heavy, and is a good bit more difficult to drive than the Giya G4 -- to say nothing of its utilitarian appearance. For what it does and the flexibility it brings to the table, I think that Vivid Audio’s newest Giya stands, if not taller than, then well apart from its competition.
Short of absurd volume levels and the deepest bass response, the Vivid Audio Giya G4 offers everything offered by the larger and far more expensive Giya G1, for less than half the price. It’s difficult to call a $30,000 pair of speakers a bargain, but in light of the Giya G4’s flawless, reference-level sound -- and keeping in mind the concessions mentioned above -- it’s difficult to arrive at any other conclusion. Bass fiends should have no complaints about the baby Giyas’ reach or impact down low (if they do, they can simply set their sights higher in the Giya range). Those looking for a more contoured sound -- warmer, crisper, whatever -- look elsewhere. This looker of a loudspeaker promises to deliver only the music in your collection -- nothing more, nothing less. Given their size, what they can do is nothing short of extraordinary.
. . . Hans Wetzel
- Speakers -- KEF R900, Vivid Audio Oval V1.5, Cabasse Pacific 3
- Integrated amplifier-DACs -- Devialet 110, Hegel Music Systems H300, NuForce DDA-100, Wadia Intuition 01
- Source -- Apple MacBook Pro running Songbird and iTunes
- Speaker cables -- Dynamique Audio Caparo and Celestial
- USB cables -- DH Labs Silversonic, Nordost Blue Heaven
Vivid Audio Giya G4 Loudspeakers
Price: $30,000 USD per pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
Vivid Audio Limited
The Old Barn
Rosier Business Park, Coneyhurst Road
Billinghurst, West Sussex RH149DE
Phone: +44 1403-78-2221
North American distributor:
On a Higher Note
P.O. Box 698
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693
Phone: (949) 488-3004
Fax: (949) 488-3284