YG Acoustics Sonja XV Flagship: A First Encounter!
Road trip anyone? Clement Perry (aka CP) called, rounding up a crew to travel out to hear the new YG Acoustics Sonja XV Flagship floor standers premiering at GTT Audio Video in Long Valley, NJ in celebration of YG’s 15th year anniversary in 2017. How better to attend this auspicious occasion than in the company of CP and two world class jazz musicians, audiophiles in their own right. All smiles here.
The car ride out was a legendary joint with CP at the wheel and in his usual great form, regaling all with audio stories and insights. Such events are always special, and often a mix between a wonderful family meal, comedy club and classroom. One never leaves such company without learning something meaningful about one’s friends, audio and one’s self. Along for the ride were Billy Drummond, jazz drummer extraordinaire (r top), and John Hébert (r bottom), acclaimed acoustic bassist. It’s unusual to find musician audiophiles, all too often musicians are hyper-focused on the sound of their own instrument and less interested in the sound of a recorded event as a whole. Both Drummond and Hébert have been interviewed recently in the audio press, so getting their take of what they would to hear could prove enlightening. I was along to GTT for the second time with CP, while this was a first visit for our musicians in tow.
GTT never fails to impress - Bill Parish, Dick Diamond (YG's spokesman) and crew are always an affable and entertaining bunch. After greetings, coffee and small talk in GTT’s spacious kitchen, we meandered down to the big room to hear the YG Sonja XV’s.
Standing at the far end of the big room, the Sonja XV’s are handmade in the USA and handsome. Each set is a four-way, four-tower configuration with a total of 20 drivers per pair of speakers and is a fully passive design (employing no active amps or parts). With a sensitivity of 88 dB and impedance of 4 Ohms, 3.5 Ohms minimum, they appeared reasonably easy to drive with the Audionet electronics which he also imports in the USA. The Sonja XV’s stand 70” tall - being taller than most, I was the only one could admire their tops while standing nearby. At 463 lbs. per channel and a shipping weight of 1.3 tons, the Sonja’s, thankfully will require professional setup which GTT Audio Video also provides. Source component used during the demo was the Kronos Pro Limited Edition Turntable with the Black Beauty tonearm and optional power supply and Air Tight Opus One cartridge. All cabling was Kubala-Sosna Research Elation.
Prior to listening, the four of us watched two video’s entailing the development of YG Acoustic’s BillitCore, BillitDome and ViseCoil technologies showcased in the Sonja XV model. These technologies are also available as an upgrade to the previous model. Tests showing the superior strength of the BillitDome tweeter were enlightening. It was abundantly clear the great time and tech YG Acoustics invests in product development, including their testing software developed in-house.
We heard greatly recorded LPs from the following artists:
Audiophile Legends R. Brown & L. Almeida by Ray Brown and Laurindo Almeida
Fine And Mellow by Mary Stallings (Clarity Records 1990)
Duke Ellington’s Jazz Party In Stereo (Columbia 1959)
88 Basie Street by Count Basie (Pablo 1983)
Mars, the Bringer of War’ from Holst’s by The Planets’ Mehta and the LA Philharmonic (Decca 1971)
Falla: ‘The Three Corner Hat’, Ansermet by L’ Orchestre De La Suisse Romande (London 1961)
Culminating the generous listening session, we heard When The World Was Young from Nancy Wilson’s "Lush Life" (Capitol 1967) at Billy’s request, and Alfie from John Hébert’s own Rambling Confessions (Sunnyside Records 2015) at everyone’s demand, both brought along on CD and ripped into the Mac on hand at GTT. I don’t know what software was used for digital play, but the tracks were reproduced with aplomb and sounded grand.
The Sonja XV Flagship’s sounded extraordinary, filling the big room with ease. The new technologies rolled into this model make them a must hear. The frequencies emanating from these monoliths were smooth and enveloping, and the Sonja’s proved their metal in performance, showing themselves capable of turning on the proverbial dime - from subtle to explosive. The high frequencies rendered were extraordinarily delicate.
With the listening session concluded, we all extended our appreciation for being included in YG’s Sonja XV Flagship’s release, posed for some photos and thanked Bill Parish, Dick Diamond and the GTT Audio Video staff. As we made our way from the listening room, I asked John what he thought of hearing his bass reproduced in such a manner and he responded favorably as most listeners would. Softly. I asked ‘What about scale?’ and didn’t get a response… perhaps he didn’t hear me since we are all exchanging pleasantries. This is more an observation than a criticism, but to my ear, his bass seemed a touch too pronounced (in the lower octave) and slightly over-scaled in size. But then again, I've not seen nor heard any loudspeaker reproduce music with this level of scale and magnitude. No one else seemed to notice. Hmm.
On the ride home we all discussed the incredible sound we all experienced. It was agreed by all - the sound quality presented by the Sonja XV’s was nothing short of astonishing and state of the art - full and bold, fast and light, yet dynamic and possessing great weight when the music called for. The BillietDome tweeter was as sweet and pure as the driven snow, offering a lightness and lilt when required. The music played was involving and the demanding passages were executed very, very well, as one would expect of a speaker in this cost-no-object category. YG Acoustics’ BillitDome tweeter presented high frequencies that were memorable, with subtle passages never heard presented in such a way by this writer’s ears. While listening, time and again my focus returned to the tweeter’s capabilities, as CP observed and shared with me later.
Billy Drummond's take a few days later:
“I enjoyed the way they played the 2 tracks I brought. Nancy Wilson and John Hebert. Very airy highs and gobs of detail. That tweeter is very special and it would be interesting to hear the speakers with tubes in the chain to see how the speaker/tweeter would react. Really great tweeters seem to portray the character of the amplification type in vivid accuracy so the owner can season to taste.”
“… those tracks that I brought and the tracks that Bill played for us via that incredible analog set up, did a very wonderful job of bringing out the details of drums/percussion. Manuel de Falla's Three-Cornered Hat Orchestral piece, the Ellington Jazz Party track, were standouts in this regard. Triangles, snare drums, castanets, etc!
If you have that kind of coin to spend on speakers and the room to best showcase them in then they should be considered at least from my limited perspective on speakers in that category. I really enjoyed them.”
John’s take a few days later:
“I had no idea what I was in store for… what a treat it was to visit GTT Audio Video!
Listening to the YG Sonja XV speakers was a great thrill, once I was able to get over the eye candy and scary price tag, I was really drawn into the sound produced by those beauties. The one thing that stood out for me was their ability to deliver bass in a way that was both heard and felt - the notes were distinguishable and the space between the bass notes was rendered wonderfully. When the bass drum and bass player landed together on a big “hit”, I moved in my chair…as if the bass drum was moving me.
We were able to listen to a track from my own recording on Sunnyside Records, “Rambling Confessions”. Listening to the band’s version of ’Alfie’ (Bacharach), I never heard that recording reproduced in such a way before. One thought entered my mind, “My bass sounds incredible, why did I sell that one? ”These speakers have a way of making great recordings sound even greater.” Engaging? Absolutely. Affordable? Not in sight for this starving jazz musician, but I’ll gladly go out to GTT to hear them again.”
I’m sure we all share that same sentiment. CP’s response to hearing the YG Sonja XV Flagships? “You’ve got something very special in this baby.”