Thus began YG’s extensive use of machined parts made from high-quality aluminum billet. Machined aluminum provides several advantages as a cabinet and cone-membrane material: good strength-to-weight ratio, relatively high resistance to environmental factors such as corrosion and high temperature (helpful when machining friction heats the stock), and the ability to be machined into a wide variety of custom shapes to very precise tolerances. It also has relatively good resonance damping characteristics when properly constructed. YG uses mostly aircraft grade 6061-T651 billet and some ballistic-grade aluminum for key parts like the tweeter waveguide. I have visited the YG factory outside of Denver in Arvada. Everyone at YG is very focused on delivering high-quality products, and the CNC machines at work are truly impressive. Each “BilletCore” driver cone takes hours to mill on a five-axis CNC milling and turning machine from Germany called Gildemeister CTX Beta 1250 TC. Many parts are machined to within 0.0008" tolerances (20 microns). Which brings me to the subject of the Kipod’s price: $38,800. Given the engineering, parts-quality (capacitors and inductors are top-drawer Mundorf), raw material costs, the nearly obsessive lengths YG goes to manufacture and deliver a high-performing product, and the high level of its overall performance, the asking price is justified.
The current Kipod II Passive incorporates many advances over the model previously reviewed in TAS by Robert Harley in Issue 199. First, the Kipod Studio Robert reviewed had an adjustable, on-board Class-D bass amplifier to power the woofer in the bass module, making the speaker system semi-active. The model in this review is fully passive. (YG is moving toward all-passive configurations, although customers can still get semi-active versions in all models except the Carmel.) Second, the former model used Scan-Speak midrange and woofer drivers with standard cones. The current Kipod uses YG-machined aluminum cones integrated with some Scan-Speak supplied parts. Third, the previous Kipod used a Scan-Speak ring-radiator tweeter. The current tweeter is a YG “ForgeCore” unit with an in-house-machined motor assembly and a proprietary YG soft-dome membrane. (Some of the more standard tweeter parts, like the back lid, are from Scan-Speak.) Fourth, the Kipod reviewed in Issue 199 did not have a high-pass filter on the midrange unit so some bass content below the midrange driver’s bandwidth could apparently cause the speaker to sound stressed at higher volume levels. The current Passive model has a “Signature” crossover package that applies not only a high-pass filter on the midrange driver (expanding the loudspeaker’s dynamic range) but also includes some components to improve the out-of-passband phase-matching between the midrange and woofer. This now brings YG’s DualCoherent technology to both crossover regions, which was not possible in the semi-active configuration.
Fifth, the earlier model had high-quality OEM inductors. The current model uses in-house wound “ToroAir” toroidal inductors, which YG says reduce distortion and, more notably, cross-talk between drivers. Sixth, the two sealed (air-suspension) cabinet modules have been further optimized to reduce resonances; the tweeter waveguide has been improved; and the external cabinet screws have been replaced by internal joiners. The two modules of the earlier version of the Kipod weighed a combined 104 pounds; the current Kipod II Passive weighs 122 pounds.
The only other speaker I had available that came close to overlapping the Kipod’s frequency and dynamic range was the very nice sounding Aerial 7T [$9850, Issue 218], a ported, bass-reflex design. The Aerial 7T seemed much easier to drive, had fuller bass in its low register, but did not extend quite as low in the bass as the Kipod. The 7T also made some recordings sound slightly harsh in the 2–4kHz range if careful attention was not paid to speaker placement, particularly toe-in. Very careful placement was also needed with the 7T to mitigate bass overload in my room; in a larger room, the 7T’s bass output was just right without much placement optimization. The Kipod’s bass was more defined in pitch and better integrated with the midrange.
The Kipod also imparted a good deal more resolution of fine detail and of timbre, and came across as generally more revealing and airy. It also sounded more tonally neutral and threw a larger soundstage. Of course, the price difference makes the comparison completely unfair to the 7T, but it is all I had on hand for direct comparison. I have heard quite a few systems with speakers costing more than the Kipod in people’s homes and at consumer shows. While I hesitate to make definitive judgments based solely on those experiences, there is no question that the Kipod II Signature Passive is a truly accomplished speaker in its own right.
I have no significant sonic “gotchas” to report. Even though the main module is only 7" wide, I heard no power-range-robbing baffle-step issue, which can crop up on narrow-baffle designs, so I can’t fault the Kipod there. Its treble was clear and extended, and had no harshness or graininess—still no glaring fault. All kinds of music were well served by the Kipod, from hard-driving rock to solo classical guitar to full orchestral works, so I can’t call it a small ensemble or rock ’n’ roll specialist. The Kipod’s price puts it out of reach of a lot of music lovers, and it should be mated with high-quality associated gear and a fairly powerful amplifier, further raising the price of realizing its full potential. On the other hand, its build-and parts-quality and, indeed, its sound quality are in keeping with its price. Its low bass may sound just a bit reserved to listeners who are used to the more heavy-handed bass-reflex designs. A minor ergonomic note: The oval-shaped (YG logo) binding-post tightening nuts are spaced too closely together to fit your fingers around the nuts to tighten them, at least if one of the oval knobs is in a horizontal position.
The Kipod II Signature Passive is an impressive speaker all around. It is a detailed and musically engaging vehicle through which listeners can traverse their collections, no matter what kind of music they favor. With state-of-the-art mini-monitor-like resolution and soundstaging, coupled with a dynamic and frequency envelope a mini would envy, the Kipod II Signature Passive offers something I had all but given up on: a high performance, full-range speaker in a package skillfully scaled to fit in smaller rooms. Bravo.
SPECS & PRICING
Driver complement: 1" YG softdome tweeter, 6" YG BilletCore midrange (main module); 9" YG BilletCore woofer (bass module)
Woofer loading: Sealed
Impedance: 8 ohms nominal, 5 ohms minimum
Cabinet: Aircraft-grade aluminum; ballistic-grade-aluminum tweeter waveguide
Dimension: 7" x 16" x 13" (main module); 12" x 41" x 17" (bass module)
Weight: 122 lbs.
Price: $38,800 per pair, available in silver or black
YG Acoustics LLC
4941 Allison, St., Unit 10
Arvada, CO 80002
Analog Source: Basis Debut V turntable with Vector 4 tonearm, Benz-Micro LP-S cartridge
Digital Sources: Ayre C-5xeMP universal disc player, Sony VAIO VGN -FZ-490 running J River MC 17, Hegel HD2 and HD20 DACs
Phonostage preamp: Ayre P-5xe
Linestage preamp: Ayre K-1xe Integrated amplifier: Hegel H200
Power amplifiers: Gamut M250i, Pass Labs X350.5
Speakers: Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature, Aerial 7T
Cables: Shunyata Anaconda ZiTron signal cables, Audioquest Coffee USB and Hawk Eye S/PDIF, Shunyata Anaconda and Cobra ZiTron power cables
A/C Power: Two 20-amp dedicated lines, Shunyata SR-Z1 receptacles, Shunyata Triton and Typhon power conditioners
Room Treatments: PrimeAcoustic Z-foam panels and DIY panels