The Sonja does not add a heightened sense of “bass presence” as many ported (bass-reflex) speakers do. Some listeners have seemingly come to regard an extra bit of bass emphasis as normal and expect it from all dynamic speakers of the 1.2’s size. While the 1.2’s bass does not sound overly damped or constricted, some listeners may find its more taut, agile performance—characteristics often associated with sealed (air-suspension) designs—to lack the “room-loading” sensation of a similarly sized ported design. Like some other listeners, though, I find the more controlled bass of many sealed enclosures, like the Sonja’s, to sound more true to life. The Sonja’s low end was full sounding but it did not overwhelm my 12.5' x 17' room with unruly bass. I was, to be honest, a little concerned that the 1.2 might be too large for my room when initial discussions about the YG arose. YG’s Dick Diamond and Kerry St. James, who set up the Sonja at my house, both assured me that my listening room was not too small, and they went further to say that even the larger 1.3 has successfully been deployed in rooms of roughly the same size as mine. So, audiophiles with the requisite funds and a hankering for full-range bass extension and wide dynamics, but a medium/small listening space, take note; the Sonja 1.2 just might be on your path to audio bliss.
As for the rest of the 1.2’s frequency spectrum or tonal characteristics and at the risk of sounding glib, there is not much to comment on. The 1.2 sort of defies a standard sonic spectrum break-down, as such. Sure, the 1.2 has an accurate bass, a clear midbass, a revealing midrange, and a pristine treble, but the real boon is how it weaves everything together in a very pleasant, coherent, and musically engaging manner. From top to bottom, everything sounds like a complete whole, not a clever mating of slightly different parts.
The Sonja expands the soundscape even more than I noted in my YG Kipod II review. With the Sonja, the soundstage—recording permitting—can extend a few feet beyond my room’s sidewalls. It is as if the speakers were placed 9.5' apart rather than 7.5' (tweeter to tweeter), as they are in my setup, and this helps to alleviate the sensation of soundstage constriction in my smallish room. Soundstage depth and height are also outstanding. On the Classic Records double-LP reissue of Peter Gabriel’s Up [Real World], the song “Growing Up” filled the entire front half of my room with massive, engrossing sound. Even though the recording must have some studio manipulations in it to cause many of the images to sound as if they are coming from places quite far away from the speakers, the listening experience was exciting and fascinating. Some recordings produced in a real space with acoustic instruments, like the Gershwin LP [Slatkin, St. Louis, RR], also filled the front part of my room—and seemingly also extended beyond the sidewalls by a foot or two. The soundstaging and detail-resolving abilities of the 1.2 have the effect of enlarging the soundscape and then allowing the listener to peer into a spatially clarified and realistically focused soundfield, giving the individual images and the spaces around them greater life and realism. As such, a listening session can become more a participatory and contemporaneous experience rather than an academic exercise in observing a past event through a recording. YG’s “DualCoherent” crossovers, its ultra-rigid and lightweight “BilletCore” cones, and “FocusedElimination” cabinet-damping techniques—and other technologies—must have some merit.
Even with its exemplary frequency range and dynamic abilities, the level of detail retrieval is, most likely, what most listeners will notice first. The Sonja just seems to unravel recordings in all their beauty or drama or aggression or whatever else the musicians and producers had in mind. The 1.2 does not give me the impression of being tuned in some way to dazzle the listener with a hyped-up sense of resolution. In some regards, this “unforced ease” can make the Sonja come across as rather calm and unremarkable. But, like a musician who makes a technically difficult piece of music seem to radiate effortlessly from his or her very being, the ability of a speaker to seemingly do very little harm to the signal and to seemingly communicate the essence of the music is actually a great accomplishment. Accordingly, the long-term listenability of the Sonja is simply marvelous, even though it can also deliver very high levels of resolution.
Mind you, if a recording has a particular tonal emphasis or other shortcoming, the Sonja will tell you, but it won’t scream foul and necessarily render such recordings unlistenable. In fact, I found some of my borderline poor recordings to sound less grainy and more musically interesting through the Sonja than through any other speaker I’ve had in my system. I presume this quality has a lot to do with the Sonja’s ability to lower the noise floor. To brazenly borrow from Senior Writer Anthony C. Cordesman’s fabulous review of the YG Hailey 1.2 in Issue 252, “It shows that true resolving power is inherently musical, unless there really is something wrong with the recording.” I wish I had come up with something close to that statement on my own. To my mind, it captures much of what high-end audio is all about and describes much of what the Sonja 1.2 delivers, just as the Hailey 1.2 also apparently did for AHC.
Brief Comparison with the Hailey 1.2
YG demonstrated three of its current offerings in succession with the same gear and recordings for direct comparisons when I visited the YG factory in December of 2014: the $24,300 Carmel 2, the $42,800 Hailey 1.2, and the $72,800 Sonja 1.2. Everything AHC said about the Hailey 1.2’s considerable resolving powers were very much in evidence in that demo, and so I heartily concur with him. As well it should, the more expensive Sonja 1.2 exceeds the Hailey’s already high bar in overall resolution, and enlarges the soundstage and adds some notable heft and bass presence to the bargain. Is the increased resolution, soundstage expansion, and sonic solidity of the Sonja 1.2 vis-à-vis the Hailey 1.2 worth the additional $30,000? If one can afford it, by all means, yes! I was simply amazed by the Sonja’s musical powers in that comparison. The Hailey is a marvelous performer in all the ways my esteemed colleague described, but hearing the Sonja directly after it impressed me more than I initially thought possible.
The Sonja 1.2 is heavy (just under 300 pounds each) and may be too large for some rooms, although as already noted, it is easier to place in small to medium-sized rooms than some smaller ported designs. While it is not as difficult to power as many speakers out there, it is probably best driven by a fairly stout solid-state amp, and will most likely not be a medium-powered tube amplifier’s best friend. The updated, more curved, softer aesthetics YG has applied to all of its current models are a clear improvement over the former boxy look, but I can understand how some folks might still find the “large metallic object” vibe of any all-aluminum speaker of its size leaves their hearts unmoved. The Sonja also pretty much demands the best electronics and cabling you can possibly assemble to fully realize its musical abilities—and so, in a way, this adds further to the already considerable cost of ownership. As mentioned, some listeners may prefer the more “room-loaded” bass sound of a typical ported design, although I find the Sonja’s bass exemplary in impact, extension, tunefulness, and all the rest.
The Sonja 1.2 is revealing without sounding exaggerated. It is dynamically alive without sounding forced. It is tonally neutral without sounding clinical. It can make music playback evoke deep emotional connections and spark your imagination. I certainly have had some wonderful musical experiences with the Sonja in my system. The Sonja 1.2 delivers such high sonic performance, and does so on so many levels, that it leads me with the obvious conclusion of my highest recommendation. Stunning.
SPECS & PRICING
Driver complement: One 1" YG soft dome tweeter, two 6" YG BilletCore mid/woofers (main module), one 10.25" YG BilletCore woofer (bass module)
Frequency response: From below 20Hz to above 40kHz
Sensitivity: 88 dB/2.83V/1m
Impedance: 4 ohms nominal, 3 ohms minimum
Recommended amplifier power: At least 60Wpc
Crossover points: 65Hz and 1.75kHz
Cabinet: Aircraft grade 6061-T651 milled aluminum
Dimension: 13" x 51" x 25"
Weight: 296 lbs. each
YG ACOUSTICS LLC
4941 Allison, St., Unit 10
Arvada, CO 80002
Analog source: Basis Debut V turntable & Vector 4 tonearm, Benz-Micro LP-S cartridge
Digital sources: Ayre C-5xeMP universal disc player, HP Envy 15t running JRiver MC-20, Hegel HD12 DAC
Phonostage: Ayre P-5xe
Linestage: Ayre K-1xe, Hegel P30
Integrated amplifier: Hegel H300 and H360
Power amplifiers: GamuT M250i, Hegel H30
Speakers: Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature, YG Acoustics Kipod II Signature Passive
Cables: Shunyata Anaconda ZiTron signal cables, Nordost Heimdall 2 USB, Audioquest Coffee USB and Hawk Eye S/PDIF, Shunyata Anaconda S/PDIF, Shunyata Anaconda and Alpha ZiTron power cords
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