YG Acoustics, known for its high-performance loudspeakers, released a significant update to its lowest priced model at CES 2015: the svelte, floor-standing Carmel, is now replaced by the Carmel 2. I recently had the chance to visit the YG factory in Arvada (near Denver) and was treated to an advanced listen to the Carmel 2, apparently the first audition by a member of the audio press.
Priced at $24,300, a not insignificant increase over the $18,000 Carmel 1, the Carmel 2 now brings some of the same technology from YG's much larger Hailey and Sonja models to the smaller model. (Hailey 1.2 is priced at $42,800 and Sonja is priced at 72,800-$106,800, depending on configuration.) The Carmel 2 has the same YG tweeter used in the Sonja and the same YG 7.25” midbass driver used in the Hailey. Senior Account Executive, Kerry St. James, patiently demonstrated the Carmel 1 followed shortly thereafter by the Carmel 2 so I could hear both versions with the same electronics and music selections—most of which were my own audition tracks. (St. James also demonstrated the Hailey 1.2 and Sonja 1.2 models in the same fashion on the same day.) Now, I have heard some Mark II upgrade models, which were clearly worthwhile, but whose sonic performance increase could fairly be characterized as incremental. The Carmel 2 is not such a case; it sounds more like a whole new model with a dramatic performance jump in all regards. Only the basic cabinet size and its two-way driver configuration remain the same; everything else is new.
Some of the new elements include the following: 1. Every cabinet panel—which are all made from in-house milled, aircraft-grade aluminum billet—has been redesigned to facilitate greater resonance damping. The YG technicians also have better access the cabinet's internal fasteners (through a wider back panel), thus eliminating the need for external bolts on most of the panels. 2. The Carmel 2 has a thicker and more curved front baffle (ostensibly for greater rigidity and better dispersion) and some of the cabinet's other subtle aesthetic touches are now in keeping with the more updated, curved visual cues of the Hailey and Sonja models, 3. As mentioned, the same YG drivers, such as the “ForgeCore” tweeters and “BilletCore” cones formerly implemented only in the upper models, are now also deployed in the Carmel 2. (The original Carmel used a YG-modified ScanSpeak ring radiator tweeter and a YG-modified ScanSpeak treated paper cone midbass driver.), and 4. The crossover has been redesigned to optimize the new drivers in the new cabinet as well as to implement YG's “DualCoherent” crossover technology (which apparently simultaneously minimizes non-linearity in both the frequency and time/phase domains) at a more robust level than was possible with the previous model's drivers. The new drivers, crossover, and updated industrial design now bring greater technological and aesthetic coherence across all of the YG models.
The sonic results are impressive. From the midbass on up, the $24,300 Carmel 2 sounds more similar to the $42,800 Hailey 1.2, in terms of overall resolution, than it does to the Carmel 1. Yes, the much larger, 3-way Hailey is a better performing speaker on the whole—as well it should be (it's dynamically more robust, has greater weight and bass extension, and comes across as more complete from top to bottom), but the Carmel 2's reproduction of detail, dynamic coherence, and soundstage openness—within the two speakers' overlapping frequency range—come closer to the Hailey's performance than I expected. The new YG drivers and crossover really do make a substantial difference. The sonic “family resemblance” between the two models is now more apparent.
Comparing the Carmel 1 to the Carmel 2, I found the Carmel 1 to be a commendably detailed and engaging speaker with notable bass extension for its size, but the new Carmel 2 is considerably more revealing, dynamically vivid, and has even deeper reaching bass. (The published -3dB level of the Carmel 1 is 35Hz; the Carmel 2, 32Hz, and those figures are plausible, by the way.) The Carmel 2 simply sounds clearer and more musically “alive.” The $6,300 price increase over the Carmel 1 is substantial, but considering the higher cost of the YG drivers and other design features, and, more importantly, the rather dramatic jump in overall performance; the Carmel 2's price increase does not strike me as a steep upcharge for merely a step or two uptick in performance.
Current Carmel 1 owners can arrange to have the YG factory upgrade their drivers and crossovers—no cabinet changes—to the Carmel 2 level (for a yet-to-be-determined price) by contacting YG. Carmel 2 debuts at CES 2015 (January 6 - 9, 2015) in the Venetian Las Vegas Hotel, Venetian Tower room number 34-309. Contact info: website http://www.yg-acoustics.com; Tel. 801-726-3887; Fax. 303-420-0156; email email@example.com