Occasionally you get an illustration of the cyclical nature of life, Laurence Dickie must have felt that way when Vivid Audio, the company he designs loudspeakers for, moved into the facility where he was previously employed by Turbosound to do a similar job in the PA world. I suspect that this was not a coincidence, Vivid is not a big company and Dickie will have been involved in selecting the premises. The company is spread between England and South Africa with manufacturing in the latter and R’n’D in West Sussex. It’s here that Dickie has been developing the latest addition to Vivid’s range of sculptural loudspeakers the Kaya, a model whose appearance was created by someone other than Dickie for the first time.
Vivid’s loudspeakers are ‘marmite’ products in terms of styling, some love them others wouldn’t let them through the door. The curvy aesthetic of the fabulous Giya range is clearly not to all tastes so Vivid decided to aim for a more accessible design aesthetic that wouldn’t be quite so controversial and thus broaden their appeal. Kaya is made from a composite material that is formed rather than machined so still has that Vivid style but it’s relatively oblong baffle means it looks more like a regular speaker than its stablemates.
Kaya will be made in 25, 45 and 90 litre sizes and be constructed from a glass fibre composite with a core of Soric foam, the first model to appear is the Kaya 45 which Dickie describes as a “proper three-way” that uses bass drivers from the Giya G4. The midrange is also closely related to that in the G4 and both drivers have the magnets arranged right next to the voice coil to improve the top end extension and reduced distortion. Both these and the tweeter are Vivid’s own metal diaphragm drivers with their trademark computer-optimised dome shapes and tapered tube loading, Dickie, you may recall, designed the original B&W Nautilus; the first speaker to feature tapered tubes behind the drivers in order to negate energy bouncing back to the driver within the box. The bass system is a pair of drivers mounted back to back and firing sideways, a brace between the motor systems ensuring the minimum of energy is fed into the cabinet in what’s called a reaction cancelling arrangement. The mid and treble section are partitioned internally with graduated absorption behind the drivers.
Laurence Dickie with polyhorn horn mould
One of the most radical things about Kaya is that it has rearward facing terminals, a common feature on most loudspeakers but a departure from terminals hidden underneath on other Vivids, practicality it seems is a factor for audiophiles too. There is no concession to normality where spikes are concerned, in order to pass tilt tests this model has six of the things. A brief listen to these speakers with AVM electronics in Vivid’s large room with its caged pebble dispersion panels was entertaining but the space made it impossible to come to any conclusions save that Kaya retains the electrostatic like transparency of the Giya models thanks to vanishing levels of distortion by box speaker standards. I plan to get a pair home at the earliest opportunity so that I can get a better handle on them and dig even deeper into my favourite music.
Where the magic happens
Elsewhere at the facility things are equally fascinating, Turbosound left behind a number of the moulds they used to make horn systems for their legendary sound reinforcement systems. These include pepperpot and dendritic horns that were designed to produce high sound pressure levels without the distortions associated with classic horn shapes. By splitting the output into 36 subdivisions the dendritic horn provides the same path length and shape at across the spectrum that it delivers. I can’t say I fully understood what Dickie was trying to explain but it did make me want to hear one of these systems just to get an idea of what a horn with even dispersion and tonal balance can deliver. In theory it combines horn dynamics with the sort of linearity found in the best conventional loudspeakers.
Dickie also has a workshop equipped with vintage engineering equipment from the solid steel and oil era, including a substantial lathe, milling machine and a beast of a table saw that’s in need of some TLC. This is where he makes parts for prototypes and measures driver responses, it may not be quite as sophisticated as some of the bigger companies but the results suggest that knowing what you are doing is more important than having huge research facilities. There is a partially metal clad Giya in there that Dickie started making for promo purposes, its riveted aluminium construction being reminiscent of second world war aircraft. I hope he gets time to finish it one day, but there is rather greater hope of seeing and hearing the Kaya 45 in the near future, this model will be launched at the Munich High End next month with a price of around £16,000.