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Positive Feedback ISSUE 55
Anat III Studio Loudspeakers
as reviewed by Marshall Nack
There's an aspect of Japanese aesthetics that I find particularly intriguing. That is the value placed on little imperfections in art objects. Regarded as the telltale evidence of hand craftsmanship, they are what make an object one of a kind.
Pockets of the eastern aesthetic can be found in remote recesses of the High-End—I'm thinking of the Single Ended Triode and DIY scenes here—but the main thread of western culture has evolved to consider such defects to be defects, plain and simple.
YG Acoustics, a relatively young company based in Colorado with a young CEO / chief designer, is the epitome of the western way. A speaker coming off their assembly line will be in every way identical to the serial number before or after it. Their production mission is to track down every source of deviation or imperfection and zap it.
The Quest for Perfection
You could probably say the same about any number of high-end manufacturers. What sets YG apart is the relentlessness of their pursuit and the loftiness of their vision.
If you could eradicate all sources of distortion what would result? Or, put another way, if you can identify an imperfection in a product, even one you're not sure is audible, and eliminate it, clearly the result would be more perfect. But would that translate to a better sounding speaker?
The only way to find out is to do the experiment. And if a cost/benefit analysis doesn't push it beyond the pale, the YG tendency is to say, Go For It.
The YG M.O.
The YG modus operandi follows this pattern:
Theory and measurement drives speaker design, sometimes pushing into unexplored domains and throwing off many patents and world-first processes. It has also led YG to make some astoundingly bold claims in their advertising. "The best loudspeaker on earth. Put us to the test!" Indeed, such ad copy can be off-putting.
However, after spending time with Yoav Geva, President, and Dick Diamond, Director of Sales and Marketing, at RMAF 2010 and at their factory, I came to understand the context for that bold copy. It goes back to the western aesthetic. Given the opportunity to rephrase it, I'd edit it to "The most accurate loudspeaker on earth. Put us to the test!"
I've watched my system mature as spurious artifacts have lost ground, replaced by advancing signal purity.
The gains were immense when the Kharma Midi-Exquisite speakers came along. I had lusted after them for years and celebrated when they became my reference. I thought I was done: these speakers were the stopping point, the ones I would take to the desert island.
Time passes—six years, in fact. My ancillary gear steadily improved. Once or twice the prospect of the Midi-Exquisites being bettered passed through my mind, but only fleetingly and I never took it seriously. They were so far beyond anything I was hearing, I couldn't even conceive of an upgrade.
The Sound of "No Sound at All"
But I'd never encountered anything like what's going on here since the YG Anat III Studio speakers arrived. Music refuses to be relegated to the background. Regardless of the volume setting, it has moved to the foreground and stays there; it just won't let you ignore it. It's seriously interrupting my daily routine.
To begin, I'm listening to Carla Bley and her Remarkable Big Band Appearing Nightly (WATT/33 B0011815-02). One of the audiophile tropes is to talk about the particular kind of wavefront created by a muted trombone transient. Typically, we refer to this jagged leading edge as a rim sound. It goes splat and is usually followed by the instrument's bell-like tones.
That's how I've often heard trombones sound on jazz CDs. That's how that instrument always sounded on track 4 of this CD. But now, I snapped to attention and took note of a jagged, splat trombone sound that carried clear through from the transient to the tail.
This was singularly impressive. All of a sudden the obfuscations—resonances, smearing, noise and artifact—were all wiped aside. I got the impression the drivers were engaging the signal with minimal frictional loss; rise time was instantaneous; recovery had no lag. The jump in fidelity was huge.
Accurate tracking of the signal is the most important speaker parameter. It impacts every aspect of performance, from resolution (especially micro detail), to dynamics, to timing, to imaging—everything hinges on it.
I've heard this level of resolution before, but only in systems that were dry and thin. Sure, if you strip off natural bloom and body, all you have left is resolution. For most of us, such sleight of hand is unacceptable. (This voicing was mainstream in the 1990's. It has been waning ever since, although there are still plenty of consumers in this camp and manufacturers who cater to them.)
The Kharma Midi-Exquisites
While the Kharma Midi-Exquisite speakers manage this level of resolution and do it without the sleight of hand, the Anats take it to a whole different level—also without the sleight of hand.
A direct swap of the Anats for my reference Kharma Midi-Exquisites left me with less warmth, sweetness and bloom. However, I could make the Anats acquire those characteristics depending on what I fed them in the way of ancillaries. For example, if my mbl Noble digital separates were in line, the Anat's were exceedingly resolving and refined; the needle on the neutrality meter sitting dead center. (This was when I heard the trombone solo in the example above.) This set-up reminded me of Town Hall, a medium-sized, good-sounding venue here in NYC. When I swapped to the AYON CD-5s, an $11K CD player based around eight tubes in here for review, the sound became warm and alluring. The needle moved past where it would be with the Kharmas. Now we were in an intimate nightclub.
I didn't go into this review blind—I knew my Soulution 710 amp, the Kubala-Sosna Elation! wires and my mbl 6010D were all certified compatible with the Anats because I heard them, along with several other variations in electronics, at GTT Audio. It was there that I got my first taste of this speakers' characteristic colorlessness. The Anats are a neutral platform that you can tailor to your liking.
Another difference from the Midi-Exquisites is that the lowest frequencies are right alongside the midrange and treble in terms of quality. Now that your amp is freed from the difficult burden of driving the woofers—they are self-powered by purpose-built internal amps—your amplifier only has to contend with the Main Module. The result is that the dynamic range explodes… seeming to be limitless in range.
But that would be nothing if these drivers weren't integrated. Everyone else uses off-the-shelf crossover programs that are designed to optimize a single parameter, typically phase or frequency response.
This is the particular expertise of the president of the company. Yoav Geva has developed crossover modeling software that he claims is the only one in the world that optimizes both phase and frequency response.
Subjective listening bears that out. For one thing, I can't hear the crossover points. For a medium-sized, floor-standing three-way, the Anat Studio is miraculously free of integration issues. You'd have to listen to the best of the two-way monitors to do better.
As for phase response, the quality of sound projected from the three drivers is remarkably consistent: Speed is equally fast (in many speakers treble frequencies lead the curve); body mass and image size are roughly the same. YG is certainly out on the frontier with their DualCoherent™ crossover software.
The Anat's soundstage deserves special mention. With good source material, like Stravinsky's The Firebird with Gergiev and the Kirov Orchestra (Philips 289 446 715-2), virtually nothing is at the plane of the speakers. The stage begins behind them and recedes in layers from there. The spread is wide and incredibly well delineated. The speakers disappear as a sound source.
I have to mention the naturalism of this old CD recorded in 1995. (And while I'm at it, I have to thank Pierre Sprey of Mapleshade for recommendation.) Even though the noise floor is below audibility, there are no "deep black holes" between instruments. Dynamics are unhyped and unequalized—you'll have to turn up the volume to hear the pianissimo introduction, but be prepared for the drum thwacks later on that are gonna rock your room. Instruments appear and recede unheralded in the modest way that it happens live.
After playing most of The Firebird for my listening panel, there was an unusually long silence, broken by a single comment: "What aren't you hearing in this presentation?" Again silence. That's how good it was.
For a rundown of the features and construction of the Series III Anat, please link to my YG Factory Tour.
This is a speaker that looks like what it costs (MSRP is $74,000)—you see the expense reflected in the quality of workmanship. Clean and elegant, maybe even futuristic, the look will appeal to people who like modern design. One visitor was reminded of a Star Wars prop, perhaps some accessory used by the Klingon Nation, especially when using the minimalist spider grills, which I consider works of art in their own right. In any case, I don't imagine you'll have much of an issue with the Wife Acceptance Factor, unless she's into traditional décor. Those folks would find them plain.
I can't say the same for the view from the backside. It is bristling with exposed screw heads, binding posts and controls for the sub unit.
Main Module Features
The top-of-the-line Anat series comprises three modules that can be configured to whatever works best for your listening environment. The Anat Studio under review is comprised of the Main Module and the Studio Sub. The Anat Professional adds a third cabinet located beneath the Studio sub containing an additional active woofer.
The self-contained Main Module has a pair of YG's BilletCore™ 6" mid/woofer drivers. The tweeter is a Scan-Speak Illuminator AirCirc motor system modified, or perhaps I should say re-built, by YG. The main module has three physical compartments—each driver has its own.
The mid/woofers are left to run free in their lower range, but employ a crossover on top. All of the crossovers, including the tweeter, are developed in-house using YGs DualCoherent™ software.
The Studio Sub has a 400-watt Class D internal amp, designed with the parameters of the 10" woofer in mind. A multitude of controls allows you to taper the sub's output to meet individual situations. I should mention that, when setup per YGs instructions, 95% of what you're hearing is coming from the Main Module. The sub fills in from about 55Hz down.
There are a couple of ways to wire up the Anat Studio. The subs are straightforward: you need an extra set of interconnects from preamp to sub. (A preamp with two sets of outputs is mandatory.) Also, a pair of power cords is needed for the internal amps.
The Main Module itself has two sets of binding posts: one for the mids, another for the tweeter. You can run your speaker wire to one set and use the jumpers provided, or you can run two sets of speaker wires… hence bi-wiring.
The Benefits of Bi-wiring
Replacing the jumpers with a second set of K-S Elation! speaker wire yielded the expected gains—soundstage support and image solidity—plus some unexpected improvements in overall smoothness and image sculpting or palpability. The treble became completely grainless and utterly purged of any residual stridency.
The Anats were situated exactly where I had the Kharmas, governed by the Rule of Thirds. They sit on TAOC platforms and TAOC spike bases and were given the slightest toe-in. Even though it is a wide-dispersion design with a wide sweet spot, the tweeter should be raked downward to point at the listener.
I'm having a ball with the YG Acoustics Anat III Studio speakers. I knew they were in the top tier, but I wasn't quite ready for a game changer. YG has thought of everything—in no single parameter does the Anat come in less than SOTA. Now, I could also make that claim about my reference Kharma Midi-Exquisite speakers. However, the leap from the one to the other is considerable.
The single most impressive thing about the Anats is their start-n-stop action. Instruments pop onto the soundstage with no perceptible rise time. And they disappear as equally clean. In between the coming and going, there's no smearing, no resonances. What YG has achieved in fidelity to the signal is remarkable.
While other designers have achieved this in their flagship models, none that I know of manage to do it without resorting to some sleight of hand. Typically, they strip off body and tone color and thin out the sound. That is the second most impressive thing about the Anat Studios—they do it without resorting to the anorexic images of the lean and mean machines. On top of that, they manage stellar driver integration and frequency coherency. It is this marriage of cutting-edge resolution, full body and tone colors, plus SOTA integration that leaves a reviewer nearly tongue-tied.
There are two related caveats for this product. First: Are you ready for accuracy? Put on a quality source and it'll sound better than ever, but put on something of lesser quality and you'll hear it undisguised. Second: The Anats give music uncommon propulsion.
These speakers should come with a cautionary label: WARNING! Ignore me—if you can. Marshal Nack
Anat III Studio Speaker
YG Acoustics LLC