Manufacturer: YG Acoustics LLC
t already happened a few times before - a test that you're reading now is a result of several years of effort. For the first time I asked about the possibility of receiving one of the products for a review, if I'm not mistaken, four years ago. I received a polite email from Kerry St. James, head of European sales and marketing (Senior Account Executive), who's taking care about YG Acoustics loudspeakers to be presented in the best possible conditions. Kerry thanked me for the contact, apparently he knew "High Fidelity", because the answer was positive, with one caveat - before they could deliver loudspeakers for a review they needed to find a proper representation in our part of Europe who would properly take care of potential customers.
YG Acoustics, a North American manufacturer that included the initials of its owner, Yoav Geva, in their name is not just "another" company of an amateur designer who wanted to enter this already crowded market. It is a company that needed only a few years to make a lot of fuzz in the high-end audio industry and become its “full-time” participant. It was founded fourteen years ago in Israel (2002) and did not immediately achieve the level they represent today. Only two years later, after moving to the United States (Denver, Colorado), company took the course they stay on till today, both in terms of production, and applied technologies.
It belongs to a small group of hi-tech loudspeakers manufacturers, for whom - at first glance – I'll get back to that in a moment - the opposite type would be a company like, say, Spendor and Harbeth, that, in contrast, could be called vintage manufacturers. If you have ever seen any YG loudspeakers, you know exactly what I mean – these are brilliantly, extremely precisely made loudspeakers so that in comparison a vast majority of competitors look like they were made by a 12-year-old preparing his creation for some young inventors contest.
But... and I use this "but" with pleasure, because it allows me to escape for a moment from a routine, to look at things from different perspective. This “but” concerns company's approach to the construction of the speakers. YG Acoustics was founded using a grant from the Ministry of Industry of Israel. It was awarded to Mr. Geva for developing a crossover and the designer managed to design one with a flat frequency response and at the same time with minimal phase shifts. He based his works on what he had learned at the university and later working for the Israeli high-tech industry. YG was in fact largely established with the public money and it is an "engineering" company in the best sense of the word, i.e. the starting point for it was the vast knowledge and original idea. Its development followed this path and today it is one of the most modern manufacturers of speakers in the world, having its own specialized machinery and research department, which most of the advanced laboratories in the world would be proud of.
And here comes "but": in exactly the same way at the beginning of the twentieth century, the first loudspeakers came to be. Their designers were men of science, focused eg. at Bell Labs, and the works were often sponsored by the state. The solutions they developed were used by the military, industry and public institutions, but also by entertainment industry, mainly in theaters. Thanks to further research carried out, eg. by the BBC other, today considered classic, brands were established - in UK – it was Harbeth and Spendor, that utilized ultra-modern for its time, plastic drivers.
What was the hi-tech then today no longer raises such emotions. Not without reason, however, classic loudspeakers by Western Electric, JBL, Altec, KEF, Spendor, Harbeth etc. are still considered by many music lovers as the pinnacle of loudspeaker technology. Both - them, and YG Acoustics based their developments on the same principle: technology, technology and technology again. And listening session. Time has proven that this was a right choice.
TECHNOLOGY x 6
Mr Yoav had his own idea about practical use of the principles recognized by loudspeaker industry for years but rarely put into practice mostly because of so called cost-efficiency. No wonder his lineup includes only four models (three until recently), with the cheapest of them, Carmel 2, priced at 125 643 PLN, and the top-of-the-line Sonja XV at 1 370 183 PLN (prices for Polish market per pair).
At the heart of these designs lays a crossover – an element Mr Yoav started his audio adventure from. While working in Israeli he specialized in digital signal processing techniques.While there is no DSP in YG Acoustics speakers, the technology carries over to analog passive circuits as well. He used his experience to create a crossover with a flat frequency response and phase coherent (which is unique), and he called his solution DualCoherent.
He also uses a solution called ToroAir in his crossovers – in his factory he wounds toroidal coil on CNC machined cores. These coils offer some unique features, for example, any impact they might have on other elements were eliminated.
In his factory he manufacturers also midrange and bass drivers. Of metal. But it was not always so. Initially, all drivers were sourced from Scan Speak. YG used units from Illuminator series (tweeters) and Revelator (other ones). The new, independently produced drivers have be utilized in recent incarnations of Kipod and Anat.
The starting point is a flat billet of aircraft-grade aluminum (6061-T651) which is milled (not extruded) cone is reinforced with ribbing, forming a very light, uniform and rigid piston. The technique has been called BilletCore - the making of a single driver takes up to four hours, and the accuracy is 20 microns. Drivers are made using German machines Gildemeister CTX beta 1250 TC. The first idea to create your own drivers dates back to 2007 but to develop the right technology to make took the company long four years - the first driver was actually manufactured in 2011.
The tweeters are purchased from Scan Speak. The predecessor of the Carmel 2 model, Carmel, used the Dual Ring with characteristic “spike” in the middle, now is a large dome with a thick fold. Since recently, for the flagship model Sonja XV (for the company's 15th anniversary) YG makes their own drivers with a soft dome reinforced from behind with a metal "spider", that combines an idea of hard and soft membrane. Other models still use a classic, soft dome, for which drive and fixing elements are made in-house by YG on CNC machines. Now it is part of the front baffle - a sort of acoustic lens, which is to improve the phase coherency at the crossover point. This technique obviously has a name: ForgeCore.
Such precise transducers need proper fitting to present their full potential. Therefor the cabinets are also milled of aluminum – of thick, large panels, and their walls are up to 35 mm thick. The fitting is extremely precise – these are closed cabinet loudspeakers. Proper shaping of the walls and the rigidity of the whole structure allows to eliminate any damping inside cabinets. This anti-resonance technique is called FocusedElimination.
For the Carmel 2 model manufacturer had to optimize the low and mid frequency vibrations of the cabinet, which turned out to be challenging. For the first time YG applied a three-chamber cabinet, which behaves differently for mid and low frequencies. Other models feature two-chamber cabinets. The vibrations of one chamber are damped by the vibrations generated in anti-phase in the second chamber. Carmel 2 required a different solution, unique for YG Acoustics.
As one can read in the company materials, the loudspeakers "were not voiced". The only determinants were results of numerous measurements, and how these translated into sound. It is a rare case, because most companies do not know exactly what to measure and based on the results of such tests they offer poor sounding products. Exactly the same can be said for the group of manufacturer with a different but equally extreme approach who base their designs only on what they can hear.
Speaking about the materials in question – all the information given by YG Acoustics on them and the way it is presented is impressive and meaningful. Few other manufacturers could match that. Both the Internet website and printed information set a bar very high for other manufacturers.
Until recently the range offered by the US company included just three models of speakers: Carmel 2, Hailey and Sonja. On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the company, however, they prepared a special version of Sonja - model XV. Although, to be honest, it has little to do with the basic model beyond the mid-treble module (with the revised dome tweeter) and sub-bass module. The main low- midrange section is new, as well as the powerful sub-woofer towers that make the Sonja XV a 20-driver, four-speaker sound system. Compared to them Carmel 2 look really small. This is a two-way, not much higher than 1 m loudspeaker with closed cabinet.
Although they seem a simple design, it is a sophisticated simplicity. Making a pair of Carmel 2 takes 34 hours of CNC machines work, of which milling takes 20 hours, lathing another 11 hours, and the other three are used for polishing and winding coils. Each speaker consists of 1,020 elements, almost all of which are made in-house in the YG Acoustics factory. The company is preparing even the screws for screwing cabinets together. As Mr Geva says, it is the only way to maintain high quality.
The loudspeakers were brought to me by Kerry St. James with people from Polish distributor. We had some time to listen to music and talk. The second joint session took place when they came to pick up speakers - I wanted them to listen to some music after speakers were properly set up. A spoiler - Carmel 2 require a lot of attention from their owner during initial setup. They are extremely transparent and will point out every mistake made by us, expose all omissions we allowed to happen.
Initially we placed Carmel 2 in exactly the same spot as my Harbeth M40.1, because it had been an optimal spot for majority of speakers I had reviewed. During subsequent listening, conducted already alone, I found a better placement for them moving them maybe 10cm from the spot. These 100 mm yielded a significant improvement in focus, spacing and tonal presentation. The loudspeakers were ultimately placed 130 cm from the rear wall (measured to the front baffle) and 210 cm apart from each other (from their inner edge). They were toed in so that the tweeters targeted ears of the listener.
The technical parameters tell us that these speakers should be relatively easy load for the amplifier with their 87 dB efficiency, and the minimum impedance of 3.5 Ω. So one would assume that they should be a perfect fit, especially in small rooms, for low power tube amplifiers (presumably - with 300B triodes). I do not want to discourage anyone to experiment, as experimenting is the essence of our "way of life", but the reality is different: Carmel 2 is a true challenge for an amplifier. So they crave for a high power, low impedance and high current efficiency.
My tests were confirmed by measurements carried out by the "Stereophile". Impedance actually is constant and quite high. As John Atkinson confirmed, it drops down to below 4 Ω only between 150 and 400 Hz, and the minimum is 3.68 Ω at 220 Hz. High requirements for power and high current efficiency come from something else – the measured sensitivity of Carmel 2 is 84 dB (B) / 2.83 V / 1 m, so it is very low (more HERE). I think it's but natural that the small speakers in a closed cabinet and medium-sized woofer digging quite deep into bass may not offer high efficiency.
During the test they were matched with Soulution 710 power amp, which was - in my opinion - a great combination, but Audionet, Vitus Audio, Naim Audio, Accuphase, Mark Levinson – these are the brands I'd suggest looking among for a great match for these speakers. Also, the source should be of a sufficiently high quality. MSB Technology, dCS, Vitus Audio, Ancient Audio, CEC, totaldac, Audionet (model Planck) would be great choices. Each of these players will play differently, but it is the level where one has to look. But also - within the limitations of these loudspeakers and compromises established for them – the Reimyo system, consisting of CDT-777 transport and DAP-999 TOKU High Fidelity Edition DAC sounded great.
Recordings used for the test (a selection)
The YG Acoustics brand is one of a few that were included in the prestigious magazine "The Absolute Sound" monograph titled: The Absolute Sound's Illustrated History of High-End Audio. Volume One: Loudspeakers ed. Robert Harley, Nextscreen, Texas 2013). It's an exceptional achievement that was possible thanks to uncompromising approach to production, but above all, because all these theoretical knowledge, all the time and effort and invested money translated in a unique sound.
On a model's leaflet one find the slogan „Pure Clarity” and this catch-phrase is a perfect match. I have not had other loudspeakers at house that would deliver such a perfectly pure performance. And I sure as hell wouldn't declare this sound bright. We are talking about a black background, quiet "between" sounds, smoothness. Purity I experienced came from the low distortion level and it lead to more information being present in the presentation. The sound is more detailed, but I didn't perceived this way. Other loudspeakers delivering such pure performance are also “detailed”, but if we perceive them as such, it means that they are missing something. How detailed the sound of Carmel 2 is is showing by fullness of the sound, its richness, the "meat" around the "bones" so to speak. A “detailed” sound that is not properly rich, full at the same time is a defect, mistake. If, however, it is of such a nature as here – it become information.
These speakers sound extremely coherent, seamless. I could not find a moment where one driver “handed” the sound to the next one. It was also difficult to point out sounds that came directly from drivers. Everything took place between the loudspeakers, in front of them, behind them - depending on how the particular album was recorded - but never directly from speakers. They generate a large space full of information, a holographic rendering of a very convincing character. Although the overall message is not as large in volume as the one delivered by Harbeth, JBL and other speakers with properly extended bass. Some things can not be changed and a small speaker in a closed cabinet has no chance to go down as deep as a much larger competitor.
With Carmel 2 in the system one might have an impression of listening to a large monitor, but without a limitations in the lower range region - focus on the middle of the band is evident. Only one monitor, I know, sounds so flawlessly quickly, purely, consistently and as resolving – I mean the old, already long out of production Sonus Faber Electa Amator (I). A bigger cabinet of Carmel 2 offers some advantage. YG Acoustics are even purer, and the bass dynamics is articulated in a better way. As if by a larger cabinet volume and its closed design the rear side of the woofer's diaphragm was able to deliver a cleaner, smoother bass.
The smoothness is a feature that nicely describes this product, just like the purity and precision. Probably you have experienced that more then once, but I'm sure that every time, just like me, you have witnessed the following phenomenon: if the speakers sound smoothly and cleanly at the same time, you can play the music loud for a long time without a hint of fatigue. So it was also this time. In a joint listening with Kerry we listened to music really loud for a long time, and no one even moved, no one got bored or tired. When increasing volume level my attention was focused on this or on another element of presentation. As if the system worked like a magnifying lens.
Comparison with a magnifying lens is not accidental. I've never experienced such a unique differentiation of the sound as I did with Carmel 2. A reviewer's reference system should be able to do it, but I have to admit that I chose its individual components, so that the music sounded not only distinctively for particular recording, but so that every recording sounded good . In short - I wanted to like what I heard, and at the same time I to know what I was listening to - in that order. The problem of many well differentiating components is in fact that they lose sight of the big picture focusing on its elements; they sacrifice the essence of the music in the name of its technical correctness.
Carmel 2 stop somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, they actually go very deep into the recording and accurately show its own characteristics, and the other they do not get to the point where it ceases to make sense. There are musical in the way usually attributed to loudspeakers using full-range drivers such as, for example. AudioMachina Pure NSE or those of a "vintage" type, like JBL, Spendor and Harbeth .
But this is a completely different type of performance. All above mentioned brands focus on going into the mix by creating a kind of "fulfillment", even where there is none. Carmel 2 are extremely linear and they do not “fill” anything anything in it that "something" is not in the recording. They allow you to appreciate the input of sound engineers, for example, with the first Polish Jazz albums, they nicely presented the above-average quality of these recordings but also allowed me to immediately assess the Pet Shop Boys Super, pointing to the “shallow” bass and huge compression. But even in such conditions they delivered a nice, coherent performance.
The above mentioned differentiation manifests itself with the bandwidth, resolution and dynamics. The tonality, timbre are excellent, but their changes are not the most spectacular ones. Although it is a small loudspeaker with a limited bass extension, it is fully capable of unmistakably telling us about how this part of the range was recorded, actually they do it in a better way than my Harbeths. The British speakers introduce some coloration to mid-bass which makes everything seem bigger and nicer, even if it is not.
YG, although much smaller, two-way and featuring a small mid- low-range woofer deliver a better structured performance, they are more "vigilant" about changes of music genres and component being replaced in the accompanying system. This is great news, but I think it can sometimes be problematic. Sound-wise Carmel 2 behave like twice as expensive designs minus bass extension. This is something they can't do and that's why they are priced as they are. But what above requires electronics and wiring as good as if the columns were much more expensive. Look for devices with clear sound, dynamic, filled with the diameter. Soulution, FM Acoustics, Audionet, Reimyo, Mark Levinson - is the first of what I listen to them. In this quest more than once to disappoint, because it turns out that the company considered moving in those aspects of the compromise. But to achieve the maximum level of performance one needs as good electronics and cables as one would for more pricey competitors. One should look for particularly pure, dynamic sounding devices with rich midrange. Soulution, FM Acoustics, Audionet, Reimyo, Mark Levinson – I would start with products of these brands. While looking for the best match be prepared to be disappointed more than once, because you'll find out that even renown brands tend to compromise in these areas. Don't be discouraged though, because in a mid-sized room with a proper accompanying system Carmel 2 will offer a remarkable performance.
The smallest model in YG Acoustics range offer a perfect make&finish, is based on a solid engineering and made in a truly hi-tech production process. Equally important, however, is that they communicate with us “above” the technological level, beautifully conveying emotions stored in the recordings. They are very differentiating which will show us well know recordings in a new, not always favorable way. They are also very demanding toward accompanying system. They do not tolerate compensating one error with another one. This is an uncompromising design that require us to abandon compromise and making a decision about what exactly do we expect of our system and of music played on it: a pleasure for the price of averaging the performance or truth at the cost of experiencing true nature of our favorite recordings. This is a remarkable design for those who know what they want and are willing to accept limitation of bass extension.
Carmel 2 is a small loudspeaker opening YG Acoustics' range, yet ale the above described proprietary techniques and technologies were applied also here. So there is a 7.25'' low- midrange woofer with the membrane milled from a single billet of aluminum, rigid basket and a powerful magnet. From the top it is already filtered at 1.75 kHz, where a soft dome tweeter with a wide roll surround takes over.
The enclosure is made of aluminum, black anodized plates, fixed together with multiple screws. The fitting must be as accurate as possible because Carmel 2, like the other YG Acoustics loudspeakers, is a closed-cabinet design. Inside it is reinforced by horizontal aluminum braces, which resembles design of another American specialist company, Magico. The front baffle as well as side one are slightly bent. The cabinet is placed on a small metal plate-base, where one installs four spikes the cabinet stands on.
Nothing in these speakers is left to chance, including speaker terminals. Carmel 2 feature double terminals with solid, copper, gold-plated jumper plates for those who use a single speaker cable. The terminals are also made in-house of copper and aluminum.
The crossover is mounted on two printed circuit boards, with separate sections for low- midrange woofer and tweeter. Both are bolted to the back wall. The former is closed in a sealed chamber to prevent any influence/interference. Both use high-quality Mundorf M-CAP capacitors in their both versions - Supreme Silver/Gold, and MKP. The design of this crossover is far from minimalism – it features core and air coils, a lot of capacitors and several resistors. Mr. Yoav says, however, that only few elements are actually in signals path and the rest of them are used for impedance linearization.
Specifications (according to manufacturer):
Usable output: extends from 32 Hz to 40 kHz
- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE
- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4
- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One