YG Acoustics – Anat Reference II Studio Loudspeakers
|Fulfilling the Promise – Musical Magic from YGA
The Journey Begins
This review actually had a rather low-key beginning and basically resulted from one of my random telephone/email inquiries to our publisher and guru, Clement Perry. Instead of my having heard something either at CES or Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) and getting all excited about the possibility of a review, this pursuit was more a matter of my curiosity regarding possible access to any number of emerging and so-called “great” speakers that were being heralded as the next best thing to sliced bread, the discovery of fire or something on that level. Additionally, at that time, I was still somewhat in mourning over the tragic loss of a pair of absolutely beautiful and gorgeous sounding speakers that had been within reach of becoming my new reference loudspeakers.
Shortly after these initial conversations, I found myself in the middle of discussions with a manufacturer that had issued a bold statement proclaiming development of the “Best Speaker in the World!” Not that I felt a desire to either challenge or confirm this claim but I was certainly intrigued. Also, at this point, I had not heard, nor even seen for myself any speakers made by this manufacturer. In fact, I had only heard brief comments and/or minimal feedback from a few friends/audiophile colleagues who had actually heard them at any of the various shows. However, what I didn’t get from these remarks was a consensus as to the proclaimed greatness of these speakers, so I found myself in somewhat of a quandary.
As such, it was decided that the best thing for me to do would be to start this project by visiting the factory where the speakers were made. A few more phone calls, a flurry of emails, and finally, arrangements were made and I soon found myself flying to the Mile High City (i.e., Denver, Colorado). Once on the ground, I was picked up and warmly greeted by Dick Diamond, Director of Sales & Marketing for YG Acoustics, and off we went to even higher ground where the factory is located just outside of downtown Denver. Once there, I was given a full tour of the facility and had an opportunity to see for myself a very sophisticated and high-tech manufacturing process.
What I saw was a very clean and very well organized factory environment where there were large sheets of aluminum being milled and precision cut. This critical task was being performed by robust German CNC milling machines (Portatec and Kuhlmeyer) that were driven by sophisticated software developed by none other than Yoav Geva, the owner of the company and designer of the Anat Reference series loudspeakers. Additionally, there was a high tech measuring lab (i.e., echoic vs. anechoic chamber) where every speaker was individually tested and the measurements archived. Essentially, each driver is replaceable and with this approach, replacement can be precise. Beyond that, each speaker had individualized crossovers to compensate for minor differences and to insure consistency of performance. Internal speaker wiring is provided by Kimber Kable with the ends strip twisted and held in place by special connectors.
All in all, the trip was very productive, informative, instructive and also quite enlightening. By this time, I was totally psyched and ready to get started. Hard discussions soon started regarding which model would likely be the most appropriate for me to review. Naturally, the flagship, top-of-the-line loudspeaker caught my fancy but I was actually looking for something not quite at that level. After a few more discussions, it was finally decided that the model one step down from the top would be the speaker of choice for me. However, as does often times happen, the product wasn’t available so I would have to wait. In fact, the review pair was out on assignment and delivery did not occur until many months later.
Delivery was finally arranged for me – it was like Christmas all over again. Clearly the speakers presented a significant challenge and due to their weight, getting them into my listening room was a real chore. Extra manpower was required and once I had the speakers removed from their special shipment cases, we were able to get the full speaker array assembled. With this particular model (Anat Reference II Studio), the Main Module (two-way speaker) is placed atop the powered subwoofer. Once aligned properly – these are bolted into place with the special tools provided. Instructions are very straightforward and in a fairly short period of time we had the speakers in place and ready to rock and roll.
However, due to the significant weight of the full speaker (more than 250 lbs per side), we made no attempt to install the spikes until later. Even without the spikes in place, repositioning these speakers was a challenge. Once in place, the overall visual aesthetic of these speakers, in their nicely finished brushed silver aluminum, was actually a pleasant surprise. Their overall dimensions and profile fit very nicely into my listening space.
Let the Listening Begin
Anxious and very excited to finally get a chance to crank these up and get started with the listening, I soon realized that I didn’t have all of the necessary cabling required to connect the subwoofers. Interestingly, or should I say, shockingly, I found the sound from the two-way main modules to be well beyond my expectations. The sound was full with good extension top to bottom and not particularly lacking in the bass region. In fact, there was solid punch, drive, dynamics and impact in the lower midrange, upper bass and down to a reasonable depth. Additionally, the sound was very open, clear, highly resolved and with absolutely outstanding imaging. As I continued to listen, I really had to ask myself, “Just how much more did I really need in terms of full range sound?” The sound had become a very complete sonic picture of the music that was quite surprisingly good and considerably more than I had anticipated.
However, that was just the beginning and soon I was able to secure a long run of interconnects for proper connection to the subwoofers. Once that was done and after making the appropriate adjustments for level and phase (thanks to Dick Diamond for his timely and very helpful visit to my home), we were finally getting to the sound I had hoped for. All I can tell you is that once the music started, my jaw literally dropped. So compelling was the sound that it was hard to believe that simply adding the subwoofer module completed the loudspeaker system and enhanced the sound so significantly. In addition to the increased power, dynamics and drive to the music, there was now also control and articulation from the very deepest bass to the highest octaves. Additionally, this was all done with a superbly seamless and coherent sound. In fact, the subwoofer module did not have a sonic character of its own; it simply extended the sound and made it full and complete. Tonal balance and accuracy were immediately evident and as I listened to a wide variety of musical styles – the sound was authentic, exciting, full bodied with appropriate warmth but also a very high level detail and resolution. Listening to Diana Krall’s CD, Only Trust Your Heart [GRP], provides excellent examples of a pure vocal presentation along with wonderful acoustic bass of Christian McBride. Slight fingering changes are easily heard, along with a very nice projection of warmth and detail. Similarly, listening to Shirley Horn’s wonderful CD, Here’s To Life [Verve], brought chills to me – the sound being so intimate and so real.
Now that the bass region was performing in full effect, I immediately turned my attention back to the Main Modules for observing even more closely their performance through the precious midrange and higher frequencies. Initially I thought that the superb bass performance would possibly overshadow the sound in these important frequency ranges but I could not have been more wrong. In fact, I quickly became very much aware of just how crazy good the sound was through the midrange and beyond. Instruments such as piano, trumpet, saxophone and especially vocals were reproduced in an absolutely stunning manner. The sound was clear, transparent, open, and pristine, yet with lifelike realism and palpable body along with harmonics galore. Additionally, the sonic picture was full of color with a naturalness that was well beyond anything I’ve ever heard throughout my many years in high-end audio. One of my favorite recordings was put into action at this point with outstanding results. The Yellow Jackets CD titled, The Spin [GRP], offers some exhilarating music. The YGA speakers embraced it with sound pouring out with unlimited dynamics and impact.
In terms of soundstaging, the depth was very convincing along with the sound expanding well beyond the sides of the speakers. Additionally, the focus was rock solid along with outstanding layering and image density. This created a very impressive wall of sound, laid out behind the speakers but the surprising thing was also how the sound simultaneously projected into the listening area with outstanding the dimensionality. The sound simply came forth and poured over me with a near wrap around effect. Interestingly, this wasn’t some type of artificial hyped up sound but much more a realistic presentation that was very similar to what I’ve experienced at live concerts. Listening to certain selections from Kirk Whalum’s, The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter III [Rendezvous], put me in a totally euphoric state. In fact, the hall ambiance and holographic effect were truly stunning, not to mention the riveting music.
Transparency and resolution from these speakers was about as good as anything I’ve heard and enhanced the magic disappearing act they produced. Also, the background silence allowed me to easily listen deep into the soundstage with little subtle ambient clues emerging separate and apart from the music, but very much a part of the whole. This effect made the music just that much more authentic and real. From all that I’ve heard and read, this appears to be one of the signature traits of the YGA speakers. They don’t just push out a lot of hyper-detail but provide the listener with musical information that is natural and lifelike. These speakers do this in spades and it’s not as though they are adding anything to the sound. Instead, they allow whatever was on the recording to come through in a striking manner. Never once during all my time with these speakers did I ever feel the sound was aggressive or fatiguing. In fact, I’ve become ravenous for what they provide and thoroughly enjoy the full effect of the sound emanating from them.
Another fascinating performance characteristic of these speakers is their ability to play loudly and with power, dynamic drive and grit. But they also present the music with lots of finesse and quiet beauty, when the recording calls for it. Along with this, there is excellent control and speed with no overhang, other than the natural decay of transients like you experience when listening to live music. Check out Steve Turre’s latest recording, Delicious and Delightful [Highnote Records] for a good example of this. At times, the music comes at you full force and then backs off to some beautiful ballads. Overall, the YGA speakers put forth the reproduced signal with minimal intrusion or alteration allowing the sound of your components, cables and other ancillary equipment, to be the deciding factor. For instance, during the review period, I also had an opportunity to experience the positive effect of changing my equipment rack and also installing different cables throughout my system.
My previous equipment rack had always provided solid anchoring for my components, so I didn’t expect this change to make any sort of big impact. However, I was wrong on this and it likely contributed to the high resolution of the sound coming from the YGA speakers. Putting in the new rack (Matrx Systems) not only provided additional isolation, anchoring and support, it also allowed me to lay out my components a bit better along with improving how I was able to dress my many cables. The net affect of this was noticeably enhanced quieting that further improved image focus along with clarity, subtle detail and transparency. With the YGA speakers, anything and everything in front of them had an impact on the sound in my system.
Another change had to do with cables. Thanks to Dick Diamond’s relationship with the folks at Kimber Kable, arrangements were made for me to audition some of their newer cables from their Kimber Select series. Introducing these cables into the system produced a somewhat different sonic palate from what the other cables produced. However, all cables involved produced high degrees of musicality. What the Kimber Select cables did was create a wonderfully smooth, yet highly detailed, sonic picture that was very intimate and engaging. In particular, their newer outrageously good all silver speaker cables further opened the sound, creating a superbly natural and convincing musical presentation. As I made other improvements in my system, the sound just kept getting better and better, giving me just that much more appreciation for the speakers’ total capabilities. Hopefully you get my drift.
Technical Description – Design Approach
The speakers are a floorstanding, three-way design using the D’Appolito MTM – Midrange/Tweeter/Midrange array configuration (but not a D’Appolito circuit). They’re mounted in sealed enclosures and are 48” tall without the spikes. There are several different spikes available and after careful comparison, including what worked best for my carpet, I opted for the more substantial and slightly taller spikes. The Main Module features two 6” mid-woofer drivers, modified Scan-Speak Revelators, and one single 1” soft dome tweeter, a special YGA design. Each subwoofer utilizes a single 10” driver; especially designed by YGA with Scan-Speak derived magnet system and powered internally by special YGA specified amplifiers producing 400 watts with minimum negative feedback. Both single-ended or balanced connections are possible with controls for level, crossover point, phase and EQ.
The cabinets are constructed from a combination of aircraft grade and ballistic aluminum panels. Everything is fastened together for maximum rigidity through special construction techniques in the factory with comprehensive internal bracing. The overall fit and finish of the final product is quite impressive with a nice finish provided by the in house grinding and polishing machines.
The Anat Reference II Studio loudspeaker is without question a truly outstanding loudspeaker and one that sings with greatness. Its performance level was a shock to me and one that I will not likely forgot anytime soon. Additionally, these speakers essentially speak the truth and their overall redeeming quality seems to be their honest presentation of the signal that comes through them. I believe this is the ultimate goal of high-end audio and as it should be.
Throughout the review period, these speakers provided me, my wife and numerous visitors, with immense listening pleasure. Also, as both a music lover and long-time audiophile, this has been an exciting adventure and I congratulate the folks at YG Acoustics for designing and developing such a wonderful speaker. As a reviewer, it has allowed me to clearly hear the impact of making even minor changes in my system but never losing the musicality. These speakers are special and should definitely be on the short list of anyone looking for a world class speaker. Yes, they cost a lot, but judging from both their build quality and the pure joy they’ve brought to my enjoyment of music, I can fully appreciate the benefit they provide. Highly recommended!!
Size: 48”H x 13”W x 23”D
Weight: 280 lbs/each
Impedance: 4 Ohms nominal, 2.7 Ohms minimum
Filters: Acoustic 4th-order Linkwitz-Riley crossover at 1.75 KHz
Deviation: Less than +/-0.7 dB in the audible band; less than +/-0.2 between left and right channels; Usable output from below 20 Hz to above 40 Khz
Amplifier (Woofer module): 200W, Class A/B with extensive protection mechanisms
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