Reviewer: Joël Chevassus
Financial interests: click here
Source: Esoteric K-03, Lumin S1, Apple iMac Lion OSX w. Audirvana, Trends UD-10.1, MacBook Lion OSX with HiFace USB to S/PDIF interface
Amp/Preamp: Coincident Technology Statement Line preamplifier, SPL Volume2, 2 x Luxman M-800a bridged, Trends TA-10.2, Angstrom Research Stella [on loan]
Speakers: Vivid Audio K1, Magnepan 20.7 [on loan]
Cables: Skywire Audio 2020 digital cable, Naturelle Audio interconnects Live 8 MK2, Grimm Audio TPM interconnects, High Fidelity CT1 Enhanced speakers, Triode Wire Labs interconnects [on loan]
Power Cords: Supra, DIY, Triode Wire Labs 10+
Stands & room: Music Tools Alicia furniture, DAAD 4 bass traps, Microsorber room insulation, PYT panels
Review component retail: Europe €49’790/pr, US $68’000/pr

Context. After having tested and lived with many loudspeakers, one might find the right one which completely fulfills all personal requirements and expectations. The only way to be sure is to have a good idea of what you really expect; and what will offer you the most of speakerdom’s available options. Of course there are many choices. It takes a long time to amass sufficient experience in that field. But let’s imagine that one day it happens. Perhaps you listen to a specific loudspeaker that represents complete evidence of all your personal requirements.

I had already found my personal evidence in complete loudspeaker design with Vivid Audio speakers. Before making long statements about their design, performance and listening impressions, I first would like to share the personal reasons for my choice. Evidence doesn’t mean perfection. Hence I will also highlight the few aspects that might eventually be improved to design an even better loudspeaker. So, what distinctive features of my oval K1 make me so happy each time I return to them?

The list is anything but short:
Neutrality - the K1, thanks to the impressive work performed on its enclosure and drivers, has no colour of its own. It also provides a sense of great linearity. I've heard many tonally balanced speakers. Yet most made me feel not completely involved over the long term. This is not the case with the Vivid. Each day it demonstrates an amazing lack of compression at any level.
Speed - the Vivid Audio speakers are the fastest speakers I know of. Whatsoever musical genre you prefer, transients are simply outstanding. That accounts significantly for my own listening pleasure.

Dynamics – the K1 delivers a highly involving rendering of pace, rhythm and timing. Vivid speakers are aptly named. Due to the ultra-light weight of their drivers and enclosures associated with powerful magnets and sophisticated filtering but also aerodynamic shapes, Vivid speakers could be described as Formula One race cars compared to most civilian loudspeakers.
• Transparency - every little thing you change in the setup of your playback chain is immediately brought to light. The tapered tube drivers obviously account for this. The Vivid speakers are a very useful tool for an audio reviewer. This becomes a great enjoyment too when your system is carefully implemented.
Spaciousness - these dome drivers and rear-firing woofers are a fantastic combination for a very open sound that expands effortlessly into the listening room. This contributes to the very enjoyable sensation of a liquid natural sound free of any harshness. Many big speakers deliver a big soundstage. How many succeed in maintaining energy and precision so freely and effortlessly?

Holography - that’s a very uncommon feature of Vivid speakers. When you listen to them correctly set up, there’s a very strange sensation that each instrument expands from a single point as if it were really there. One day someone described this precise feature as though little ghosts materialized in space. That’s exactly how I feel each day when I listen to my pair of K1. In my opinion that’s unique to the Vivid experience. It’s in fact the cause of my greatest addiction to this South African brand. I would add that you won’t really know what sonic holography means until you have heard a pair of Vivid Audio speakers.
Energy - that’s another difficult feature to be defined on paper. Thanks to their impressive speed, accurate attacks and decays, my K1 are able to express the complete magnitude of string vibrations or drum kicks with stunning density and focus. This particular skill contributes to materializing the musicians and their instruments with three-dimensional density.  As far as my own experience allows me any notion on the state of the art in loudspeakers design, there really are very few speakers able to deliver such energy.

In short, I understand the intrinsic features of my Vivid Audio speakers to reside at a kind of crossroad between electrostatic and bass-reflex designs. As far as I am concerned, it’s a squaring of the circle. But despite having sometimes the sensation to get ever closer to perfection, it’s still a never-ending pursuit. Try another loudspeaker and it’s nearly predictive that it’ll do something better than your favourites. The K1 is no exception even if it becomes fussy to point at salient weaknesses. Here I must still admit that they do not have the most detailed tone in comparison to bigger emissive surfaces. For instance big panels like Magnepan or Soundlab offer more richness and gradation of timbre. Switching over a very short time (less than 10 minutes) from the Magnepan 20.7 to the Vivid Audio K1 created a very strange feeling. Turning back to the K1, I had the sense of listening to a defective speaker that produced a very sharp and squeaky sound.