The YG Acoustics Hailey 1.2 can be summed up in two words: precision and performance. It is another successful assault on the state of the art in speaker design and manufacture, and one of the most revealing speakers approximating a point source I’ve ever heard. Its outside appearance may make it look like a relatively conventional three-way cone design: It’s housed in an understated “form-follows-function” cabinet. In practice, however, there is nothing conventional about its components and cabinet, and nothing conventional about its sound quality and truly outstanding resolving power.
Let me get the one piece of bad news about the Hailey 1.2 out of the way early on. It costs $42,800 a pair. While there are some great speakers at the entry level such as the Golden Ear Triton One, true state-of-the-art performance still costs a pretty penny. The Hailey’s cabinet and its drivers and component parts involve some of the most expensive tooling and manufacturing in the business—YG notes that manufacturing a pair of Hailey 1.2s requires 61 hours of in-house computer numerical control (CNC) milling/machining, and involves some 1640 parts per pair, with critical tolerances tighter than one thousandth of an inch (20 microns). Moreover, the design is the product of a long, costly development process that has to be paid for over time.
The Hailey 1.2 may have the look of a smaller floorstanding speaker, and it only measures 13" x 48" x 21", which, coupled with its sculptural styling, makes it one of the best high-end speakers around for wife or partner acceptance. The Hailey is, however, a 170-pound speaker with an all-aluminum cabinet featuring a sculptured front panel engineered to preserve phase coherence and to provide wide dispersion. Its interior has extraordinary bracing and is designed to get the best sound out of each speaker module.
In any case, the good news is that you get an outstanding amount of performance for your money. Simply put, in sheer realistic musical detail, the Hailey 1.2 speaker comes close to, or outperforms, the best full-range ribbon and electrostatic speakers I’ve heard. I’ve learned the hard way never to underestimate the improvements that always come in the best designs, but, today, the Hailey 1.2 is about as revealing as a speaker can get.
Technology and Features
It should already be clear that this is going to be an enthusiastic write-up, but, first, a word about the prejudices I brought to the review process before I actually listened to the Hailey and began to judge its sound quality. I approach any product that has well-written marketing literature with instinctive distrust, and even a brief look at the YG website will alert you that someone at YG knows how to market a product.
I am particularly skeptical of any literature that uses proprietary terms to make claims about improvements in audio technology. YG uses a lot of them. In fact, YG describes the six key technologies in the Hailey 1.2 as follows: BilletCore drivers that are slowly carved (machined) from solid billets (blocks of) aluminum into precision shapes and are the most rigid drivers currently available; a ForgeCore tweeter that has “innovative internal geometries and offers vanishingly low distortion for pure, natural high frequency reproduction”; DualCoherent crossover technology that is designed with a proprietary (one-of-a-kind) algorithm—the only algorithm that is optimized for perfect relative phase and perfect frequency response, which results in the “flattest frequency response and the best relative phase ever seen in independent measurements” (in tests performed by numerous labs around the world); ToroAir in-house-wound toroidal inductors unique to YG that prevent the cross-contamination of electromagnetic energy from spoiling delicate high-frequency details and musicality; Focused Elimination technology that eliminates mechanical losses from internal enclosure resonances; and YG’s aforementioned cabinet technology that involves CNC-machined enclosures constructed of aircraft-grade alloy (aluminum) and pressurized assembly processes with extremely tight tolerances that allow the company to produce speakers with the lowest resonance (vibration) on the market.
That’s five proprietary sets of buzzwords for six key features. Worse, YG actually publishes detailed comparisons of how these features affect performance by making direct comparisons to other speakers. Any reviewer who has been exposed to decades of competing technical claims learns to call into question manufacturer “specsmanship,” almost as much as manufacturer literacy.
And yet, several months of listening have convinced me that the Hailey 1.2 really does deliver outstanding performance in the areas where YG makes technical claims and provides comparisons with other designs. In short, this is an extraordinarily coherent and transparent loudspeaker.
As I mentioned earlier, the Hailey 1.2 at least rivals the best electrostatics and ribbons in both regards. This may be largely due to the fact that I’ve never seen cone drivers made like the ones in the Hailey 1.2. What YG calls “Billet Core” technology results in some of the lightest diaphragms for their size that I’ve ever encountered. They are also among the stiffest and most piston-like, with fracture-free surfaces and supporting ribs that make them incredibly strong along their main axes. YG claims this construction helps push all resonances out of the passbands and greatly improves linearity. The Hailey’s drivers certainly sound like they are benefitting from these characteristics.
I can neither confirm nor challenge the merits of features like “DualCoherent” and “ToroAir,” but I can say that the Hailey’s sonic performance is on par with that of the Wilson Audio Alexia in coherence, focus, and detail. It is, as noted, also one of the only cone speakers I’ve heard which sonically rivals or exceeds the Quad ESL-63, the Quad 2805, and the Quad 2812 in these areas. Moreover, it has far better low-end extension and dynamic headroom than the Quads, as well as flatter bass in most actual listening rooms. It is a little hard not to credit YG’s claim that it has designed and produced some of the most phase-coherent and least distorting speakers around.