One of the original G1’s attributes that had always impressed me was its relatively high level of transparency, and by extension, its distinctive resolution of musical detail. I was pleased to find that Spirits really deliver in this regard. They are even more revealing of details and nuances than the G1’s, with no aggressive glare or any fatigue over long listening sessions. This sense of shining an elevated degree of illumination into staging and spatial cues, as well as their enhanced accuracy of tone color, texture, and focus, was apparent on discs as varied as the cacophony that commences the first movement of Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite [Mercury] and the driving “Metropolis–Part 1” from Dream Theater’s Images and Words [ATCO], a recording that exemplifies some the best-recorded material of its genre. The Spirits were able to throw all into sharp, crisp, clear perspective.
Excellent imaging and staging attributes are hot buttons for me. If a speaker can’t portray the soundstage accurately, well, it won’t matter to me how well it does anything else, ’cause I won’t be listening long enough to find out. While I have heard speakers with more holographic and dimensional layering than the Spirits, they did manage to come in near the top of the list in terms completely vanishing from the room. Depth and width were portrayed with great accuracy, with vertical size suffering only slightly in comparison to the very best presentations I’ve experienced.
One of my decisive tests can be found on Harp Attack [Alligator]. In the opening cut, “Down Home Blues,” the four voices and harps (harmonicas) of blues legends Carey Bell, Billy Branch, James Cotton, and Junior Wells are lined up, left to right. While I have heard more realistic sizing of the human and instrumental voices on this cut, the Spirits’ ability to reproduce their placement within the soundstage was noteworthy.
As expressive and balanced as they are, man, can the Spirits rock! I heard stories from Philip O’Hanlon of absurdly loud SPLs with no distortion, and I have no trouble believing them, as my own rocking-out test had them playing briefly at 110–115dB peaks with absolutely no sign of stress or strain. During this experiment, I kept turning them up, certain that at some point they would start to distort. Good sense took over long before I ever found a breaking point; they do have a 1600-watt power-handling rating, after all! With clean and dynamic power amplifiers (the Audionet MAXes deliver 400 watts into 8 ohms and the CIA Audio D500 MkII’s bring 500 watts to the party), these speakers seemed utterly bullet-proof.
While the Spirit can clearly boogie, and believe me, they revel in playing Dream Theater, AC/DC, or Led Zeppelin at full tilt, they have no difficulty being equally engaging at much lower SPLs. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they were remarkably well informed as to hall ambiance and size, as well as to microdynamic events, with Bach cello suites and a Beethoven violin concerto or piano sonata at levels one would consider almost background listening. They seemed equally expressive at these diminutive volumes, maintaining vibrant tone and tremendous texture. That sadly cannot be said of all loudspeakers in this highly competitive class.
Finally, there was no question that they need a large room in which to come alive. At times I felt as if my 535-square-foot room might be just about as small a space as one might expect to successfully integrate them into. If you have a smaller room, you likely will never realize the Spirit’s potential, and would be better served by the G2, or even the G3, depending.
Getting into the Spirit
The Spirit easily represents a new zenith for Laurence Dickie’s unique and inspired concepts and designs, first brought forth in the Nautilus. The combination of a squatter enclosure fitted with his newly enhanced drivers clearly elevates the Vivid Audio design concept to a much more sophisticated level.
While I detected no biases or disadvantages with any pairing of gear or cables I had on hand, like most well-designed and well-executed loudspeakers in the $100k price range they are highly revealing of changes in sources, electronics, and wires. I will say that, while they are an efficient design (at 92dB), they do seem to flourish with more power.
Highly transparent, with excellent resolving abilities, they blend musically relevant detail with almost lush tone, credible texture, and dynamic and rhythmic coherence. Detail is finely rendered, and in all my auditioning, never etched or glaring. Their microdynamic sensibilities (save for the top-most registers), pitch definition, and near lockstep recreation of pace and rhythmic drive, combine to yield an overall sense of tempo and articulation that is addictive. If you have a big enough space, and love to feel the drive and power of your music, then you most definitely will get into the Spirit.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Four-way, five-driver loudspeaker
Cabinet material: Glass-reinforced, balsa-cored sandwich composite
Drive units: HF, D26 26mm metal-dome unit with Tapered Tube loading; mid, D50 50mm metal-dome unit with Tapered Tube loading; lower-mid, C125-75s 125mm alloy/carbon diaphragm with 75mm voice coil; bass: 2 x C225-100 225mm alloy diaphragm with 100mm voice coil in 45mm gap
Bass loading: Exponentially tapered tube-enhanced bass reflex
Sensitivity: 92dB @ 2.83VRMS at 1m on axis
Frequency response: 29Hz–33kHz –2dB on reference
Harmonic distortion: < 0.3% over frequency range
Power handling: 1600W rms
Dimensions: 17 5/16" x 63" x 32 ¼"
Net weight: 176 ¼ lbs.
Price: $93,000 including external crossovers
VIVID AUDIO U.S. (U.S. Distributor)