Newport 2012: On A Higher Note presents Vivid, Luxman

It’s easy to write a room report when that room was put together and demoed by Philip O’Hanlon of distributor On A Higher Note. The man himself is dapper, charming, gracious, and perhaps most importantly, has a brogue as rich as Irish butter. His rooms are always well put-together and inviting. In terms of what you’ll hear on a visit, without question, his rooms are also the only ones giving Zu Audio a run for their money.

Today, Philip had a great-big room with real walls — which meant that, almost from the get-go, great acoustics were a serious possibility. He showed with some Vivid Audio B1 speakers, an unusual choice in an unusual brand. The B1s are about $15k for a pair, which puts the B1 square in the middle of the low-end “Oval Line” offerings from Vivid. The aesthetics in this entire line, have perhaps more WAF than their top-of-the-line “Giya Series”, which is good, but that said, my wife still gave me that sideways look when I showed her a picture, as if she was asking me if the brain damage I suffered at some indeterminate point in her past was really that extensive.

But back to my comment — I was surprised to see the B-1 here at Newport in a room this big as I thought that the new Giya G3 would have had plenty of space to breathe. Well, it goes to show you how little I know — the B1 here was extremely impressive. Some quick specs — the B1 is a 4ohm speaker, 89dB sensitive, 3.5-way speaker with an F2 of 30Hz — actually reaching lower than it’s upmarket sibling, the K1. Weird? No, not really — this speaker has two 5″ drivers, one on the front and one on the back.

Below is the rear of the B1.

Here’s a fun thing — did you know that the port on the Vivid B1 actually goes through-and-through? Me neither!

Speaker terminals are built into the base plinth of the integral stand. Very tidy.

Power came from one of the Luxman integrated amplifiers, their entry-level Class A L-550ax. This is an award-winning $5,400 amp with a built-in headphone amp and world-class MC/MM phono stage — and puts out a whopping 20wpc in 8ohms, doubling into 4ohms. It’s not much — but contrary to audiophile received wisdom, this power output was more than sufficient to drive the levels coming off the tape deck spooling out the Dark Side of the Moon into blissful, full-immersiveness.

I actually own a L-505u, their entry-level Class A/B integrated. I love that thing — functionally, the two units are identical, but sonically, the differ on presentation. Most folks I’ve talked to tend to prefer the 550/590 Class A amps to the 505/507/509 Class A/B amps, but whatever, YMMV. In my experience, the Class A integrateds are tonally warmer, with a smoother and meatier presentation, but all have markedly extended, rich, robust bass.

If the sound in the room could be taken as a test-case, then, the Class A amps may be a near-perfect match for Vivid speakers. The sound here was stunningly good.

A Luxman PD-171 was spinning the vinyl. This $6,400 table, with integral arm and here fitted out with a $2,700 Brinkmann Pi cartridge, sports one of the most useful things I’ve seen on a turntable lately — a cueing light. Seriously — how hard is this to do? Not. How handy is it? Extremely. How common is this? [Insert crickets here]. Yeah. Anyway, it cast a warm, red glow over the LP, too, which is as nifty as it is attractive in those sultry, low-light, love-cave conditions.

Some final notes — the entire system ran through one of the new $8,600 Audience A/V AR12-TS power conditioners. The new TS models “now incorporate Teflon capacitors with mono crystal copper wire leads, and a large ground plane with all wiring secured by heavy-duty welded connectors in a star-ground configuration.”

I’ve never actually had the pleasure of playing with the new Teflon models, so I can’t directly report on their awesomeness or efficacy. Perhaps someday that gap will be rectified …  In the meantime, you should know that there is a lot of good stuff in there. Also note that the main power cord, a 6 ft. 10 AWG Audience powerChord (with Neutrik 20A PowerCon® and Marinco power connectors) is included. Other features of the AR12-TS:

  • Low resistance, heavy duty magnetic circuit breaker power switch
  • No high resistance type series inductors
  • Ultra-high efficiency filter components on every outlet
  • All hand wired; no printed circuit boards
  • Double filtering between outlets for maximum component to component isolation
  • Dynamic range performance maximized by partial power factor correction
  • Entire audio and/or video system can be powered by a single Adept Response power conditioner
  • Audience Auricap high resolution or Aura-T ultra high resolution capacitors used exclusively in filter sections
  • Digital incoming voltage readout on front panel
  • Entire electrical circuitry cryogenically treated

An Audio Aero Capitole CD player was on-hand for digital playback, but wasn’t in use while I was in the room.


  1. And what about that terrific Audience power conditioner (aR12-TS) through which this entire system played?

Comments are closed.