Break-in time also played a larger role than I anticipated. The Kipod sounded fantastically detailed and dynamically alive when first set up in my system, but the sound tended to be localized around the cabinets themselves if too much toe-in was applied—and it didn’t take much—which, in turn, gave me the impression that some loss of center image focus was sacrificed when only a little toe-in was applied. Also, before sufficient break-in occurred, there was a bit of upper-midrange hardness; the bass seemed overdamped and constricted; and there just wasn’t the sort of “musical flow” I expected. Then, right around the 400-hour mark, everything improved, and not subtly, either.
Fully broken-in, the Kipod’s overall performance is like that of a first-rate mini-monitor with great bass and expanded dynamics added to the package: an expansive soundscape (very deep, very wide, and with an apparent increase of height), a peer-into-the-recording resolution and transparency to upstream gear, well fleshed-out images (without etched image boundaries), and a corporeal solidity coupled with bass weight underpinning the entire presentation. The Kipod recreated a soundscape that, recording permitting, extended beyond the listening room walls. On the LP Gershwin [Slatkin, St. Louis, Reference Recordings], I could close my eyes, point to the outer edges of the soundscape, open my eyes again, and find I was pointing to positions about one foot beyond the room’s sidewalls. On the studio-created soundscape of “Di Se Re” from the Bollywood soundtrack Di Se [A. R. Rahman, Venus], the soundstage was even wider. The same sort of performance applied to depth as well. This means the Kipod’s effective soundstage extends considerably beyond the speakers’ outer edges and as deep or deeper than the distance from the speaker to the backwall.
The feeling of soundstage constriction, which too often accompanies listening in a smaller room, is thereby greatly reduced because the Kipod made it seem as though I were listening in a much larger space, one that would allow the speakers to be placed about ten feet apart instead of seven and a half—as is the case in my room.
Images were so well fleshed out that I could easily discern the locations and relative sizes of the various orchestral sections—in some recordings—as well as hear enough of the individual instruments in massed string sections to avoid the perception of a homogeneous string sound. The recent Reference Recordings LP re-issue of Exotic Dances from the Opera [Oue, Minnesota Orchestra] was captivating with its realistic spatial portrayal of a full orchestra arrayed in a large hall. The Kipod made this recording sound so engaging and “present” that I stopped listening for reviewing purposes and simply listened more as I would at a live concert— always a good sign. Apparent listener perspective was generally neither forward nor recessed, but would change somewhat depending on how some recordings were made—an example of the Kipod’s transparency to sources.
Resolution? The Kipod has it in spades, and it doesn’t hype up a particular aspect of audio reproduction to give you the impression of heightened resolution or make you suffer through poorly-made recordings as a price for all its resolving power. Its resolution comes across as pure, direct, and low in coloration. Somehow, the Kipod sounds neutral and “accurate” without sounding clinical or as though it is leaching out the human “give-and-take” of music-making in order to deliver its accuracy. This is one of those high-performing audio products that gives you the audiophile goods while still letting you enjoy a good deal of your music collection. You will hear recording flaws—and brilliant engineering, too, of course—but your less-than-stellar recordings won’t necessarily be rendered unlistenable by the Kipod’s even-handed resolution.
Sometimes, three-way floorstanding speakers with the sort of bass extension and dynamic range of the Kipod’s can’t quite deliver mini-monitor-like delicacy on small, intimate music. The subtleties in a piece like the title track from the Bobo Stenson Trio’s Indicum [ECM] can escape lesser speakers and thereby sound lackluster or just plain uninteresting. The Kipod (especially together with the fabulous Gamut M250 monoblocks) dug deeply into this slow, moody, mysterious work and brought to life its subtle yet compelling sense of yearning and resolve. The percussion work of Jon Fält can sometimes sound a little too “free form” and detached from the other players on some systems. Here, the kind of detailed and coherent reproduction the Kipod brought to the equation seemed to imbue everything with musical intent, with human meaning—including Fält’s slightly elusive percussion style. I could also clearly hear bassist Anders Jormin tap the body of his upright bass with his fingers (using it as a percussion instrument) at the beginning of “Indikon,” adding an interesting resonant quality to Fält’s percussion intro.
The whole reason YG’s founder Yoav Geva got into the speaker business, in 2002, was to make speakers that simultaneously had good frequency vs. amplitude behavior and inter-driver phase (time) behavior. Geva found that most speakers at that time optimized either one or the other but usually not both. Through Geva’s background in digital signal processing, he was able to develop an algorithm which he applied in the analog domain, specifically to crossover design and speaker-system modeling. Geva entered a speaker prototype, based on his algorithm, in the Israeli Ministry of Industry’s annual Tnufa competition. (Geva is half-German and half-Israeli and split his time between the two countries before incorporating YG in Colorado in 2004.) He won a Tnufa grant, which he then used to pursue his basic technology, called DualCoherent, into a commercially viable product line. Based on his extensive modeling of his concept, Geva knew he needed to build speaker cabinets from a more precise material than wood, or he would not be able to achieve the very close tolerances involved.