Have you ever wondered if it is possible to get world-class resolution, imaging, and full-range frequency extension in a small-to-medium-sized room from a single pair of speakers? No DSP room-correction system, no large room-treatment devices, and no subwoofers. Just keep it simple with a pair of speakers and still not have bass-overload issues?
Because my listening room is small (12' x 6' x 17'), I have accepted the fact that its limited size precludes the use of a truly full-range speaker. The bass from large speakers in smaller rooms overwhelms the space with added emphases at certain frequencies, accompanied by a reduction of output at others. This highly colored bass pattern tends to mar the entire musical experience, not just in the bass, by “announcing” that something is inconsistent with live music in a fundamental way. A larger speaker also usually needs to be placed at a greater distance from the listener, not to mention from the room walls, to allow its disparate drivers to produce coherent sound at the listening position—distances we simply don’t have in smaller rooms.
There is a solution for those of us with full-range ambitions in smaller rooms, however. In my experience, the YG Kipod II Signature Passive is the full-range, small/medium room champion. It has all of the performance attributes one would look for in a state-of-the-art speaker specifically scaled to fit in less-than-ideal-sized spaces: stunning resolution, tonal neutrality, fantastic transparency to the upstream system, wall-defying soundstaging, deft imaging, seamless blending into the soundscape so that it effectively disappears as the acoustical source, and an in-room frequency response from 20Hz to 40kHz (according to YG). Best of all, it puts everything together in musically compelling ways. And, yes, I can confirm that it does not overwhelm my listening room with lumpy-sounding bass.
Any caveats to this list of fine performance attributes? By virtue of its design brief to perform well in small-to-medium-sized rooms, the svelte 41"-tall Kipod will not reproduce macro-dynamic swings with truly thunderous force or pump out low bass notes with the same amplitude as the big boys—such as its much larger sibling, the Sonja 1.3. Though Kipod does reproduce very low notes, at the same time it sounds as if it has a fairly gradual roll-off in the bass and thus does not induce bloat as a result of the speaker/room interface. The low notes in Rutter’s Requiem [Reference Recordings], for instance, extend almost as low as I have heard them sound with any large, full-range system, but do not have full power at the very bottom of the spectrum. The Kipod’s bass always sounds balanced and integrated in ways reminiscent of how bass sounds at live orchestral concerts.
The Kipod does not have to be deployed in a smaller rooms to perform well. Its bass output is not predicated on close boundary reinforcement; in my room, the Kipod was placed 61" from the back wall (measured at the tweeter). I have heard it in the cavernous YG factory demo room and in larger rooms than mine at trade shows (like RMAF and CES), and it delivered tuneful, extended, well-defined bass in all instances. Other system-integration notes I can add here are that the Kipod really should be partnered with the best electronics, sources, and cabling one can put together to fully maximize its performance capabilities and also because it is quite revealing of upstream system flaws. It should be given at least 400 hours of break-in time. A fairly stout power amplifier (say, at least 150W with a stiff power supply) should be considered over a lower-powered one, as the Kipod seemed to be somewhat low in sensitivity (rated at 85dB). I had to turn up the volume a few more clicks than with any other speaker I have had in my system to achieve similar sound pressure levels, and the speaker just seemed to “come alive” when coaxed with a higher volume setting.
While the Kipod seemed to require more power than usual, it did not come across as difficult to control (stated impedance is 8 ohms, nominal; 5 ohms, minimum), and its macro-dynamic range and transients were better than any other speaker of its size I have heard. At no time did I ever detect any strain from the speaker itself, even during the most demanding musical passages. Both the Gamut M250i and Pass Labs X350.5 (review forthcoming) were well suited to powering the Kipod II Passive. I would think twice, though, about pairing it with a tube amp, unless it’s a reasonably powerful one.
The potential for the Kipod to sound astonishingly good or merely good depends, to some extent, on its placement—at least this proved to be the case with the passive version. YG’s Dick Diamond came out to my house and assembled the speaker by bolting the rectangular main module on top of the larger trapezoidal bass module. The main module is, essentially, a 40 pound mini-monitor (which can be purchased separately as a stand-mounted speaker) with a 6" YG aluminum-cone midrange driver and a YG waveguide-mounted soft-dome tweeter. (The waveguide aids in matching the dispersion pattern of the tweeter to that of the midrange unit.) The bass module is, essentially, a passive, 82-pound subwoofer with a 9" YG aluminum-cone woofer. After assembly, Diamond spent about two hours adjusting its placement in my room—a service all new Kipod purchasers receive from their YG dealers. Naturally, like any audio-obsessed person would, I later moved the Kipods around just to see if I could better Mr. Diamond’s setup. I couldn’t. I returned them to where Diamond had left them and later adjusted toe-in just a hair. The lesson: Let the professional do the setup.