ReMusic interviews Laurence Dickie and Philip Guttentag by Vivid Audio

Visits and Interviews
27.05.2014..
Vivid Audio miniatura
Vivid Audio miniatura

ReMusic has had the double chance of meeting Vivid Audio a young company founded in 2004, that can boast an unique history, by place of origin, South Africa, and by the noble pedigree of designers and people in charge.

 

The first meeting was in Rome, with Philip Guttentag, for the presentation of the GIYA series at Ethos.

 

The second one in Monaco, where the GIYA were performing at best thanks to the amazing match with the TechDAS Air Force One, behind which there is Mr. Hideaki Nishikawa, former director of Micro-Seiki, and the legendary Lars Engström's creation, The Lars II. The system deserved to be mentioned as one of the best sound of the show.

 

In the DNA of Vivid Audio there is much inherited from B&W: Robert Trunz was its president, Laurence Dickie, one of the main designers, inventor, in 1987, of the Matrix system and father of the legendary Nautilus.

 

On ReMusic you can find an article on this topic where we argue about the existence of genealogies of concepts and objects. One of the examples concerns the genesis of the big Vivid Audio from the legendary B&W Nautilus.

 

The story of Vivid Audio exemplifies two key concepts:

  • The best audio projects are, like the artworks, direct expression of the men who designed and made them.
  • Also the objects, with their underlying ideas and key elements, can be classified into family trees, showing evolutionary phenomena.

 

The exceptional richness of the Vivid Audio site has led us to an in-depth interview rather than to the exposure of basic concepts.

 

Vivid Audio is an extraordinary reality with outstanding results since its debut: not many newcomers can exhibit a similar palmarès let alone those one chosen as an absolute reference in an experiment made by Live Versus Recorded. An experiment that afterwards will lead John Atkinson to go deep in assessments on the very concept of recorded and played back music.


Hereunder our questions answered by Laurence Dickie under the supervision of Philip Guttentag.

 

Question: In the GIYA design we can clearly see an important evolution of concepts that have already proven to be successful in the Nautilus. Together with similarities, differences are evident: the original tapered bass-reflex loading, the push-pull architecture both of the bass drivers and the reflex ports in order to cancel the reactions (and, I add, in order to cancel the acoustic architecture of the even-numbered harmonics), the passive crossover rather than the active multi-amplification. Is it correct to say that the GIYA represent the future of the Nautilus?


Answer: The starting point for Giya was back in ’97 when I had just set out on my own. I wanted to create a professional studio monitor which had the quality of Nautilus but much greater power handling and efficiency. So my first research was into improving the magnet design of the 50 mm upper mid-range and the 26mm tweeter which gave an extra 10 dB of efficiency. Then the power handling was more than doubled giving another 3 dB, so together this was a 13 dB increase in SPL over the Nautilus. But also I used a computer optimization to improve the shape of the dome to give a further 40% improvement in break-up frequency over that of the Nautilus, so overall there is no question that these drivers are the evolved drivers from Nautilus.

Lower down the spectrum, the 125 mm low-mid driver also has a much greater efficiency and break-up performance, but it is the bass where improvements to the motor design have resulted in a driver which has a much great linear travel than my previous designs.

I will quote the words of one of the world’s most successful Nautilus dealers who also sells Vivid: “Nautilus was a "stepping stone" to complete GIYA.”

 

Question: we would like to better understand one of the most original and qualifying points of the design: any explanation about the bass loading system?

It seems that switching from one model to another of the GIYA series, more than the extension in the low range what it is sacrificed is the sensitivity...


Answer: when we decided to make our flagship loudspeaker, I wanted to improve the bass performance and remove the resonances in the same way as Nautilus by using an exponential absorber, but also wanted to use bass reflex loading to gain power output without requiring active filtering and extra amplifiers. Simply venting Nautilus does not work because the horn absorber takes away the bass energy which should come from the port. But experiments and computer modelling showed that it is possible to have both if the horn is chosen correctly. Giya enclosures are the first to use this patented system and have an exceptional bass quality.

Switching to a smaller enclosure always means losing something: either bass extension or efficiency or a combination of the two. As you switch from one Giya model to a larger one you gain about 1.5 dB and 4 Hz extension but in other respects the sound is the same.

 

Question: from a manufacturing point of view, the designing and productive effort to make and realize at home the drivers seems exceptional.

The drivers are absolutely state-of-the-art both in the materials (here is evident the divorce from the B&W tradition that today chooses the diamond for the highs, the interweaved Kevlar for the mids, and a complex architecture based on Rohacell for the lows), and in architecture (catenary* profile, damping with carbon fiber peripheral rings, aerodynamic frames, radial neodymium ring magnets).

How could an autonomous company with compact dimensions get a result that would be striking also for one of the planetary top players?


Answer: because we were starting from new, we had no investment in old methods and no brand association with old materials so we could do what we felt was best. We did approach some well-known driver manufacturers with our designs but they rejected them as being too difficult to make!

We have no doubt in our minds that our dome mid-range is the most crucial step forward in the mid-range performance of our loudspeakers. Many manufacturers still use a cone mid-range but, despite excellent work which has been done to improve the surround behavior, they still have a characteristic coloured sound which I believe to be absent in the Vivid mids.

Diamond is an excellent material but was not available at the time because of an exclusivity deal with DeBeers. But it was this which prompted me to research the improvements in our own dome using the carbon stiffening ring. The result is a break-up of over 40 kHz in the Vivid tweeter while the diamond is nearer 70 kHz. Both these frequencies are comfortably beyond the range of audibility and in blind listening tests the diamond was not judged to be an improvement so we are very content with our position and have no desire to change our materials at this point.

The Rohacell bass cone does not offer any improvement in symmetrical break-up performance but does help to prevent asymmetric cabinet resonances coming through the cone. Because we have removed these resonances through the use of the absorber we do not require that feature.

Radial magnets offer the possibility of greater magnetic flux in mid-range and high frequency drivers but also longer linear magnetic gaps for the bass units. For an established company to switch to radial magnets would be very expensive because the assembly technique is so different to flat disc magnets, but for us it made no difference as we were building up our equipment from new.

 

Question: bboth the design and the study of style show at the same time an inspiration to the shapes of nature and to symbolic aspects: all the Vivid Audio speakers seem perfect in the most recent ethnic/ethic interns.

Vivid Audio claims its culture and appears universal: it doesn't disowned its roots but it doesn't imitate anyone. We can imagine that a lot of courage has been taken, probably more from the investors part than from the designers. Have you ever imagined a so big and quick outcome?


Answer: I’m glad you think the progress of our company has been big and quick, but for us it has sometimes seemed a long hard road!

A great benefit for Vivid was that we never turned to outside investment so we have been free to follow our hearts and do exactly what we believe to be right. It means that at the beginning we had to do other work to sustain ourselves but this was not always a bad thing. For example; I was engaged in professional loudspeaker design and this gave me insight into working with high power drivers.

WE like to stress that we are an engineering-led company and that the designs which result are quite logical when viewed in these terms. There is frequently beauty in a scientifically, mathematically or functionally correct solution to a design and indeed, nature is the finest example of this, where design for aesthetic beauty is very much the exception and optimal functional design the norm.

 

Question:Vivid Audio's systems are the result of a systemic approach: an authentic assault to the state-of-art has to count on the complete designing control of all the components (drivers, loading, making of the system, crossover). Operators know that it's the same with the "whole" system: the whole transfer function cannot prescind from the behavior of amplification and cables. Laurence Dickie starts designing MOSFET amplifications and Robert Trunz is the promoter of the B&W professional experiences.

Has Vivid Audio implemented proprietary amplifiers for the fine tuning of its systems of drivers? Does it plan to enter the market of the electronic devices? If it doesn't, can we know the systems through which Vivid Audio has made the fine tuning of its products?


Answer: my university education was in electronics and I had been involved with amplifier and active loudspeaker design which was why B&W gave me a job in the first place. But my interest in science and engineering is much broader than this which is perhaps why I was always more interested in the loudspeakers than the electronics; because loudspeakers involve so many different disciplines, from materials science to psychoacoustics, and electronics is just a small part. Audio history is littered with electronic engineers who think loudspeakers will be simple to design…

I was very happy with the M800 amplifier I designed at B&W and still use it, but clearly the art has moved on and, while I might have ideas about amplifiers, I have more than enough to occupy me in the world of loudspeakers so no, we have no plans for in-house designed amplifiers. Of course there is always the possibility that we may enter a partnership or bring in the work of others.

We do not have an allegiance to any particular amplifier maker at this stage. Our loudspeakers may reveal the subtle differences between different electronics but the choice is for the listener. There is no one system which we find is a particularly appropriate match to our products.

 

Question: Vivid Audio 's future; the current line is complete: from the reference floorstanding system to the budget monitor, through a central channel for the most refined Home Theater systems. But Vivid Audio seems very tied to the pro: any projects in this direction?


Answer: there is a large matrix of possible products and Vivid Audio occupies a thread across that matrix and there are many sites for us to fill. I would, personally, very much like to supply the professional field since this was my reason for setting out on my own before I met Philip, but it is quite a conservative market and does not adapt quickly and at the moment we do not have the resources to market and support this area. I’m quite sure we have much to contribute, however, so I believe it is only a matter of time.

 

 

* In physics and geometry, a catenary is the curve that an idealized hanging chain or cable assumes under its own weight when supported only at its ends. The curve has a U-like shape, superficially similar in appearance to a parabola (though mathematically quite different). It is often said that Galileo thought the curve of a hanging chain was parabolic. That the curve followed by a chain is not a parabola was proven by Joachim Jungius.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catenary

 

A final note. At the moment of the interview I was already sure that the former president of B & W (Trunz) and the designer of the Nautilus (Dickie) had sufficient credentials to convince any investor, especially if we think about the in-house realization of the drivers. The fact that behind Vivid there is only an exceptional expertise and competence, along with an extraordinary passion, confirms what I said in the first of my articles on the music machines: the men are not machines. But the machines are men. Chapeau!

Vivid Audio Giya, Philip Guttentag and the Italian distributor Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus.
Vivid Audio Giya, Philip Guttentag and the Italian distributor Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus.
Vivid Audio Giya, Philip Guttentag and the Italian distributor Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus.
Vivid Audio Giya, Philip Guttentag and the Italian distributor Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus.
Vivid Audio Giya, Philip Guttentag and the Italian distributor Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus.
Vivid Audio Giya, Philip Guttentag and the Italian distributor Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus.
Vivid Audio Giya, Philip Guttentag and the Italian distributor Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus.
Vivid Audio Giya, Philip Guttentag and the Italian distributor Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus.
Vivid Audio Giya, Roberto Rocchi and Philip Guttentag.
Vivid Audio Giya, Roberto Rocchi and Philip Guttentag.
Vivid Audio Giya, Roberto Rocchi and Philip Guttentag.
Vivid Audio Giya, Roberto Rocchi and Philip Guttentag.
Vivid Audio Giya, Roberto Rocchi and Philip Guttentag.
Vivid Audio Giya, Roberto Rocchi and Philip Guttentag.
Philip Guttentag, Vivid Audio's designer and Roberto Rocchi.
Philip Guttentag, Vivid Audio's designer and Roberto Rocchi.
Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus, Philip Guttentag of Vivid Audio, Roberto Rocchi of ReMusic.
Giovanni Spinelli of Audeus, Philip Guttentag of Vivid Audio, Roberto Rocchi of ReMusic.
During the interview: Philip Guttentag and Roberto Rocchi.
During the interview: Philip Guttentag and Roberto Rocchi.
Listening session of the Vivid Audio Giya at Ethos in Rome.
Listening session of the Vivid Audio Giya at Ethos in Rome.
Vivid Audio Giya.
Vivid Audio Giya.
Vivid Audio V1.5 of the Oval Line series.
Vivid Audio V1.5 of the Oval Line series.
At the Munich High End 2014 the Vivid Audio were driven by the monoblock with the 300B tubes, 36 watt by Engstrom.
At the Munich High End 2014 the Vivid Audio were driven by the monoblock with the 300B tubes, 36 watt by Engstrom.
TechDAS Air Force Two analog source at the Munich High End 2014 in the exhibiting room of Vivid Audio.
TechDAS Air Force Two analog source at the Munich High End 2014 in the exhibiting room of Vivid Audio.
by Angelo N. M. Recchia-Luciani
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