Vivid B1 with Devialet or Spectral?

To Doug Schneider,

Thanks to SoundStage! Hi-Fi, my four-month journey to upgrade my ancient but still commendable audio system is nearly over. After extensive reading and selected auditions, I have decided to purchase Vivid speakers, likely the B1, but I am still undecided about electronics. I had an audio epiphany at a West Coast dealer when I heard the B1s supported by entry-level Spectral gear (DMC 15SS/DMA 200SS) and an Ayre C-5xeMP player. The musical presentation was nothing less than exhilarating. The goal of uniting the listener with the performance was achieved better than with any other combination of gear which I have heard. I checked out a few other great speakers but quickly returned to the Vivids, supported by a recent brief audition of the V1.5.

My questions are the following:

1. Should I be really concerned about setting up the B1s in my 23’ x 13' (9' ceiling) listening room? Your review noted that set up was more difficult than usual. If so, I could either more seriously consider the V1.5 model or use another room in my home (I could use, for example, a 24’ X 19' room with an 11' pyramidal ceiling).

2. I am having difficulty choosing electronics; I have narrowed my choices down to the Devialet D-Premier or a Spectral-based system plus a standalone DAC (likely the Weiss DAC202) and/or disc transport (Esoteric?).

I recently had the great opportunity to compare the Devialet D-Premier with the Spectral DMC 30SS/DMA 260SS. I was even more fortunate to have the mighty Magico Q3 as the reference speaker. In order to compare apples with apples, I thought, I mostly compared the Devialet with the Spectral gear using the analog input of the Devialet and the Spectral CDR4000 CD player, but I also used the Devialet D-Premier digital input with a Krell transport. Unfortunately for me the results were mixed: The Devialet excelled at low-level data retrieval, and the presentation of less complex music such as piano and voice was fantastic -- very transparent and never harsh. The Spectral gear had a wider and taller soundstage, which seemed to fill the room. With complex orchestral music, the Spectral kept clear the proper dynamics of each instrument and was also very smooth and slightly warmer than the Devialet. When I tried the digital input of the Devialet the sound seemed to improve in essentially all parameters, but time did not allow me to run through all the music I had played all over again. Perhaps I missed some of what the Devialet could do. In a perfect world, this same great dealer would also carry Vivid speakers and I could simply listen to one source then the other, but, of course, this is not possible and the shop was nearly four hours from my home.

As you have reviewed both the Vivid B1 and the Devialet D-Premier, would you please comment about potential synergy regarding electronics and the Vivid B1, particularly regarding Devialet and Spectral gear and a standalone DAC.

Michael Mathieu

Vivid’s B1 is an amazing speaker, and if I could afford to own a pair to just have them here, I would (or, better yet, the Giya G2s, which I have in right now for review, although they’re far more expensive at 50 grand per pair, so they’re really only for the super-wealthy). The B1 has been one of the world's best-kept secrets in high-end loudspeakers. It was introduced in 2004, but over here in North America the press has only recently started writing about it, including us. So don’t consider stepping “down” to the V1.5 because of my comments about setup -- the issues surrounding the B1s might be no issue at all in your room, or quite easy to fix.

The main issue surrounding the B1 is the front-and-back woofer alignment and the cancellation at about 400Hz in front of and to the rear of the speaker that results, which showed up in the measurements of the B1 that we did in the anechoic chamber at NRC. All speakers with this kind “bipolar” woofer alignment exhibit this behavior, so it’s not really so much a flaw with the B1, but a tradeoff in the design. The benefit of having two woofers is higher output and lower distortion in the bass

That said, that energy around 400Hz is not lost. If you look at the measurements you’ll see that when we measured the B1 at its side, the two woofers summed nicely. So the energy is still being put into the room, just in different directions than a typical front-radiating loudspeaker. What this means is this: If you hear less energy around 400Hz than you’d like at your listening position, then you might have to use the wall boundaries to reflect more of the sound from the sides back to the listening position. To do that you'd likely have to move the B1s closer to the side walls. But before you do any of that, just listen to the B1s first set up as you’d like them in a room to know if that cancellation effect is even an issue at all. I suspect that in many rooms it won’t be because you'll naturally have a lot of reflections. In my room it was because it's larger than most. The rest of the B1’s response is astonishingly smooth.

As for which electronics to partner with the B1, that’s really difficult to say. I reviewed Devialet’s D-Premier after the B1s left and before the G2s arrived, so I have no idea how it would work with either of those speakers. And I have no real experience with Spectral gear; only what I’ve heard at shows. But anyone who’s read my Devialet D-Premier (or talked to me since that review) knows that I think the world of that product, not only for how many super-high-grade components it packs into one slick-looking box (DAC, ADC, phono stage, preamplifier, amplifier), but for how well it performs. I’m also of the notion that it performs best through its digital inputs. As a result, I’m not surprised that you heard excellent low-level detail, as that’s one of the areas I found the D-Premier to excel over all other components and system combinations that I’ve heard, not just in my room but anywhere. Its control in the bass is also state of the art, and it’s neutrality throughout the frequency band is riveting. But whether the overall sound of the D-Premier will appeal to you as much as what results from mixing and matching other components is another story.

In summary, I wholeheartedly endorse the B1s still, but despite my equally high praise for Devialet’s D-Premier, I can’t say with any certainty that the two would be a perfect match, since it will depend on your own preferences and it’s only you who can really decide. But I do suggest you try it because the D-Premier, despite being about $16,000, is still much cheaper than what comparably performing separates might cost. And like the B1, if I could afford the D-Premier, I'd also own one of those. . . . Doug Schneider