RMAF 07: Vivid/Luxman Super System

Bookmark and Share

by Josh Ray on November 10 '07




If you've ever heard or read about Vivid speakers, know that the sound at RMAF was completely different. At past shows, Vivid has demoed with a variety of gear (Pathos is the one I can recall), but this time, Vivid was matched up with Luxman equipment, both companies now under the wing of On a Higher Note by Philip O'Hanlon (whose past projects saw the launch of Halcro into the big time).

Talk about synergy. The Vivid K1 speakers ($20k/pair) with the Luxman L-590A II integrated ($9000) were simply out of this world good. Flushed out with a Weiss Jason CD player, the total system cost comes out to roughly $40k.

Philip is one man who loves the system-centric approach. He picked up these two brands simply because of the amazing synergy. Philip is packaging the smaller Vivid speakers and a Luxman integrated for a package price of $15k and marketing it to doctors, lawyers and rockstars everywhere.

MusicGiants, of lossless downloading fame, was a joint exhibitor in this room. After I played my demo track, Philip smiled and said, "You have to hear this." The sample tracks he put on simply blew my mind. What was the deal? Hi-rez tracks downloaded from MusicGiants and burned onto a DVD-A. Philip wanted to have a direct computer connection to play these hi-rez tracks, but the rig didn't arrive. While SACD and DVD-A may be dying a quick death, computer-based hi-rez playback could very well be the glorious future we've all hoped for.

As for the system sound, everyone I talked to said this system was unlike anything they've heard from Vivid before and, while past Vivid rooms weren't anything to talk about, most everyone I talked to raved about the new Vivid/Luxman super system. Interestingly, Vivid/Luxman is placed in the Vivid group on the Sonic Circle. I didn't name the categories with Vivid in mind and the speakers could very well be in another group. But the Vivid/Luxman system together provided one of the absolutely best Vivid-type demos at the show.

Vivid, if you know anything about this South African company, has its roots in famed Brit company Bowers & Wilkins. While some of the Vivid tech is derived from the B&W Matrix/Nautilus stable, to me, the Vivid speakers, both at this show and shows past, sound nothing like the B&W 800 series. B&W has a very distinct sound, and Vivid exhibits none of these characteristics.

Luxman is a classic Japanese company, recently revamped with new lines of solid state and tube components. I've heard the new Luxman MQ-88 amp (KT88 tubes) outside of the show and the sound is, upon first blush, a really great and unique Vivid-style sound. It's unlike any other tube gear I've heard before and, to play Nostradamus for a second, will really appeal to a lot of the new school American hi-fi fans who are gravitating towards this kind of rich and powerful sound.

Vivid has some very interesting tech behind it. First, the driver compliment. The Vivid K1 is a 3.5-way speaker with all custom aluminum drivers. What you can't see is the two additional woofers on the back side, putting out frequencies below 100Hz. The front woofers mirror the back woofers, but run all the way up to 900Hz to mate with the midrange dome (which, in turn, runs up to 4kHz).

As for construction, the "cabinets" are "carbon fiber loaded polyester compound." While I'm a little rusty on my polyester compounds, this method creates a cabinet with walls that vary in thicknesses to kill cabinet resonances. Additionally, like a sports car shaped in a wind tunnel, the Vivids are shaped to virtually disappear from driver reflections that would otherwise be bouncing off of the hard edges of a traditional box cabinet.

Interestingly, the Vivid K1 speakers are rated at 89dB sensitivity (6 ohms) while the Luxman pure class-A L-590A II integrated amp puts out all of 30 watts into 8 ohms. The system had no right to sound as powerful and full as it did. I hung out in the Vivid/Luxman room on two occasions and people would come in and say, "Wow! So how many watts is that amp?" And Philip O'Hanlon would tell them, and then smile as their faces contorted in confusion. There's something funky going on inside the Luxman amp. Check out the website for all the tech talk you can handle and expect to see the L-590A II winning all kinds of awards from around the interwebs.




Josh: Hey I love the look and focus of your new web design. It pushed this reader out of his sofa and to think about audio a little differently. On another note, and please excuse me for being a potato head, but Vivid is a South African company. Good luck, I'm enjoying reading your writing.
I've admired, enjoyed and even sold Luxman as a retail salesman eight lives ago. For aficionados not old enough to remember their previous presence on these shores, you're in for a real treat. Admittedly, they had a few clunkers before exiting, regrouping and now reappearing here. But I chalk that up to a learning experience for them: Don't try to out-Sony, Sony. This new line looks much more like the Luxman I first drooled over in the early 1970s. And if that's truly the case, try and get a look at their innards; beautiful and meticulous was their trademark -- Swiss-watch type stuff. Make that expensive Swiss-watch stuff. And now that they've learned their lesson about sticking with their niche, this is indeed a welcome addition to the audio landscape. P.S.: This is not a paid advertisement. I haven't been "in the business" in more than 20 years. I'm just another hopeless audiot always on the look-out for good product from companies that have been around longer than me.