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Joël Chevassus
Source: Esoteric K-03, Lumin, Apple iMac Lion OSX/Audirvana, Trends UD-10.1, MacBook Lion OSX with HiFace USB bridge
Amp/Preamp: Coincident Technology Statement Line preamplifier, SPL Volume2, Luxman C-800f, Luxman M-800a x 2 (bridged), Orpheus Lab Three M, Trends TA-10.2
Speakers: Vivid Audio K1, Lawrence Audio Violin [on loan]
Cables: Skywire Audio 2020 digital cable, Naturelle Audio interconnects Live 8 MK2, Grimm Audio TPM interconnects, High Fidelity CT1 Enhanced speakers and interconnects
Power Cords: Audio Art Power 1 SE, Supra, DIY
Stands & room: Music Tools Alicia furniture & Music Tools bass traps [on loan], DAAD 4 bass traps, Microsorber room insulation, PYT panels
Review component retail: €18'000/pr

Made in Durban. Vivid Audio factory tour & K1 review. It's always a pleasure traveling to South Africa and even better when an opportunity to stay in Durban allows me to report once more on one of the most exciting loudspeaker companies in the world - Vivid Audio.

Durban is a surprising city and a bit of a motley crew. Big oil refineries sit next to nature preserves and beautiful sandy beaches live adjacent to shark reserves. And plenty of temples in what's the largest 'Indian' city outside India. Think tons of spicy curries which destroyed my stomach last time around.

Durban's Hare Krishna temple
In this strange city also resides one of the most advanced loudspeaker companies despite extremely poor domestic demand for hifi gear and the absence of any other significant manufacturer in this niche industry (see my previous factory tour). The Vivid Audio factory looks more like a big garage than hi-tech building. If you've visited a few loudspeaker manufacturers before, you'll already know that they don’t have big requirements in that respect. Vivid's enclosure designs also rely on specialized industrial processes which are closer to automotive panels than classic wood-shop based boxes.
The only wood Vivid uses are the cabinets' balsa grids and stuff that serves Laurence Dickie’s games during prototyping like these adventurous K1 replacement prototypes at right.

Many competitors outsource their drivers and boxes to China to merely handle final assembly in-house like a chop shop. Vivid produce the most important parts of their products themselves. Even their subcontractors are very specific. The main impression I had upon visiting the factory was that these outstanding products were conceptualized literally from scratch and all necessary procedures invented afterwards.

In my opinion this is a very unconventional approach to loudspeaker design. I am also convinced that Laurence Dickie’s engineering is not based on innovation for the sake of difference or showboating but must serve the actual advancement of the state of the art in sound quality. In fact Vivid's is not the strangest approach in this sector. French company Acoustical Beauty founded by Gilles Millot and marketed under the Leedh brand for example pursues even more outlandish techniques but I think that their sound is driven by technology rather than the other way around.

Granted, sound and its technological means of creation intersect. But many unusual designs are more dictated by the need for market differentiation than absolute sonic requirements. My understanding for most of them is that technical differentiation versus common electrodynamic designs is in the end more of a golden jail than a true reset of existing boundaries in loudspeaker design and acoustics. I am conscious that my point of view is influenced by the fact that I am living every day with a pair of Vivid speakers. But at the same time my enthusiasm is what it is. I think it would have been a pity not to one day write up my own speakers. This pair of K1 is the first speaker I've owned that delights me as much with its sound as it does with its industrial design. According to my own view, few companies can combine such outstanding sound quality with such an audacious look. Here I believe that Vivid Audio and MBL are the main protagonists in this particular realm. Since I am personally more attuned to South Africa than Germany, let's discover what's new in the kingdom of Vivid owners Philip Guttentag & Laurence Dickie.

Laurence Dickie and Philip Guttentag

After an entire day spent in the local Shell/BP Sapref refinery, I met Guttentag for a short visit of the factory at night. Hence no pictures of staff and production this time but instead an overview of design features and products with a specific focus on my K1. Durban is clearly not the safest of African cities and the Vivid factory is protected by the usual guards you'll find at the entry of whatever plant or office you might visit in any big South African city. In the office and reception room people here are used to working with music using a minimalist system of two small red V1.5 connected to a small Shanling combo. It's not a big deal but just enough to enjoy music whilst focusing your attention on work.