Inside the YG Acoustics Factory

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Inside the YG Acoustics Factory

Inside the YG Acoustics Factory

Robert Harley

YG Acoustics is a relatively young company (founded in 2002) that has made quite a splash in the upper-end of the loudspeaker market. The firm has attracted some fervent proponents along with controversy surrounding its key marketing slogan: “The Best Loudspeaker on Earth. Period.” This statement, along with the products’ pricing and unusual build, tends to polarize audiophiles, exemplified by the thread on our forum “Are YG Acoustics Hype or the Real Deal?” http://www.avguide.com/forums/are-yg-speakers-hype-or-the-real-deal

            To cut through the noise, I visited YG Acoustics’ factory in Arvada, Colorado (a Denver suburb). I learned that Yoav Geva, YG Acoustics’ founder, based the loudspeakers’ design on an analog application of a digital-signal processing algorithm he developed that allowed simultaneous optimization of signals in the amplitude and time domains. When used in loudspeakers, this technique reportedly results in flat frequency response and nearly perfect phase response. The “Best Loudspeaker on Earth” claim stems from what YG claims is the flattest frequency response and best phase response of any loudspeaker.

            YG builds the loudspeakers from scratch inside its 6000-square-foot, seven-employee factory. The enclosures are all made from solid blocks of aircraft-grade aluminum. (The baffles of the Anat Main Module are ballistic-grade aluminum, which has some titanium in it.) Aluminum is an ideal material for speaker enclosures because of its stiffness. The company owns the very expensive (and reportedly top-of-the-line) milling and grinding machines for working the metal. Raw aluminum sheets, some of them weighing three-quarters of a ton, are moved via an overhead crane system. The panels that make up the enclosure are cut and drilled, and then ground to create the finish you see on the final product. The panels are then anodized by an outside facility.

An overhead crane picks up sheets of raw aluminum

Baffles ready for anodizing

Panel grinding

            One model loudspeaker is built at a time with drivers that have been individually tested and measured. The data on each driver are archived so that if a customer needs a replacement driver, one of nearly identical characteristics can be substituted. Each speaker’s crossover is tuned to match the set of drivers going into the enclosure. The crossovers use the huge (and extraordinarily expensive) Mundorf capacitors. All the drivers are sourced from ScanSpeak and are either custom-made for YG or re-built by YG to its specifications. The tweeter in the Anat, for example, uses a diaphragm from Germany and ScanSpeak’s motor structure, with final assembly performed in YG’s factory.  

ere            

A Mundorf capacitor

The facility felt more like a craft shop than an industrial factory. There was a perfectionist attitude toward every aspect of production, and the pace was slow and deliberate. The metalwork was exquisite.

The YG line starts with the $17k Kipod, a small two-way that can be stand mounted or turned into a full-range floorstanding speaker with the addition of a woofer base. The full-range system is called the Kipod Studio, and sells for $38k. The woofer enclosure can be ordered as a passive system, or an active woofer driven by an integral power amplifier.

Kipod Studio

            The Anat Reference II line begins with the $33k Anat Main Module. As with the Kipod, the Anat Main Module can be used on its own or mounted on a woofer. This configuration is the $70k Anat Reference II Studio, and can be ordered with a passive or actively powered woofer (the price is the same). The top-of-the-line is the Anat Reference II Professional, which adds a second woofer enclosure. The price is $107k. A customer can add woofer modules at any time.

YG's top-of-the-line, $107k Anat Reference II Professional

            I heard the Anat Reference II in the company’s factory showroom. The playback system included a Krell Evolution 202 preamp, Krell FBB 400CX power amplifiers, and a dCS Scarlatti stack as the digital front-end, all connected with Kimber interconnects and speaker cable. A pair of Wilson X-2s (Series 1) was on hand for comparison, although I don’t know how well they were set-up and optimized (the X-2 Series 2 in my listening room sound vastly better.) I’d heard YG speakers before at shows, with mixed results. The ballrooms at the Venetian are not kind to any loudspeaker, and the Anat’s best qualities tended to be obscured by the room. On the other hand, the Kipod Studio sounded fabulous at the most recent Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. This small speaker had tremendous clarity, dynamics, resolution, and a sense of life and presence that brought the music out of the speakers and into the room.

YG's listening room

            The Anat Reference II Professional in YG’s showroom sounded very much like what I heard from the Kipod Studio at the Rocky Mountain show, but taken to another level. The Anat’s best quality was a clarity in the midrange and treble that was the antithesis of thick, smeared, or confused. Instruments hung in transparent space, completely detached from the loudspeakers. Dynamics were also this speaker’s strong suit; it started and stopped on a dime in the midband, infusing instruments with visceral palpability. The two acoustic guitars on the wonderful self-titled disc Rodrigo y Gabriela were lightning quick, but without a trace of etch or hardness. Similarly, the Anat has, in spades, what Jonathan Valin aptly calls “action”—the sense of bloom expanding around an instrument’s dynamic envelope. The most vivid example of “action” that I know of is the trombone solo on the track “Soft Winds” from the Dick Hyman From the Age of Swing on Reference Recordings. With the right loudspeaker, the trombone fairly jumps out of the soundstage right into your face, much the way the instrument does in life. It had a tremendous “blat” without the glare that can make the sound painful when played at a lifelike level. These qualities added up to a presentation that was extremely lively, detailed, and viscerally engaging. It is impossible to evaluate a loudspeaker—especially one of this ambition—in a couple of hours of listening, and in a less-than-optimum room (the room had a drop ceiling, for example). Nonetheless, I concluded that the Anat is a serious product from a serious company.

            Watch for a full review of the Kipod Studio in an upcoming issue.

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