You’d be forgiven for looking at Vivid Audio’s Giya G3 Series 2 loudspeaker ($43,000 per pair, $45,500 per pair as reviewed; all prices USD) and thinking it seems more like an exercise straight out of a design student’s sketchbook than a serious attempt at creating a state-of-the-art loudspeaker. But lead designer Laurence Dickie—the brains behind former employer Bowers & Wilkins’s Matrix cabinet-bracing system and the English firm’s iconic Nautilus loudspeaker—wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s always easy to draw parallels between the automotive and audio sectors, and if that’s fair, I like to compare Vivid Audio with Citroën of the 1950s and 1960s,” Dickie told me. “The Citroën DS was a very curvaceous, aerodynamic design with an awful lot of engineering innovation, and its shape really did divide people. There are those who dismissed it as a frog on wheels, but I like to think we’re [like Citroën]. We’re not afraid of sticking our necks out.”
How seriously should you take a loudspeaker that bears more than a passing resemblance to a treble clef, and has shapelier curves than a supermodel? Though it may not convincingly look the part, the G3S2 is very much a case of form following function and not the other way around. Every design choice is approached with grave intentionality, something I’ve observed in my previous reviews of Vivid’s Oval V1.5 and Giya G4. The G3S2 measures 45.7″ H × 13.5″W × 22.8″D and weighs 92.4 pounds. Like the G1 Spirit and G2 Series 2, which sit above the G3 in the Giya range, and the G4 Series 2 below it, the G3S2 is a four-way design. The 1″ D26 tweeter and the 2″ D50 upper midrange located just below it on the swoopy front baffle remain unchanged from Vivid Audio’s original design, launched back in 2004. I asked Dickie how this was possible, given the advances in computational power, software, and materials science that have occurred in the past 19 years. “I believe we pushed the envelope on what was possible with drivers with aluminum diaphragms. And the result is something we still don’t feel we need to upgrade. It ticks all the boxes. We have extracted, I really do believe, the most you can get out of humble aluminum.”
Like all Vivid Audio drivers, the D26 and D50 are bespoke designs, developed in the period between Dickie’s departure from Bowers & Wilkins and his founding of Vivid Audio with business partner Philip Guttentag. The magic of these drivers is that the domes leverage a catenary profile, which helps keep them pistonic well beyond what a traditionally shaped dome could otherwise muster while also broadening dispersion. Fun fact: the D26 is more efficient and has significantly greater power handling than the tweeter used in Bowers & Wilkins’s Nautilus, yielding 13dB greater output in the process. The 4.9″ C125SE lower-midrange cone has received upgrades over the C125S used in the first G3. While the original driver was an adaptation of the driver used in one of Vivid’s first products, the B1, the C125SE features an upgraded motor system, that—like all of the G3S2’s drivers—uses a radial magnet structure. Rounding out the four-way tower are a pair of side-mounted 5.4″ C135 woofers connected to one another via a steel rod in a force-canceling arrangement. Each of the G3S2’s drivers is mounted to the cabinet using a silicone O-ring for isolation purposes.
I should note that the listed diameters of the C125SE and C135 drive units are conservative. Unlike every other manufacturer, Vivid omits the driver’s rubber surround from that measurement. When I asked Dickie if Vivid runs the risk of losing customers on purely philosophical grounds by doing so, he replied,
I have wondered if we shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes by being so brutally honest. It may be true in the short term, but I think in the long term, it stands us in good stead. I hope people understand there’s no bullshit with Vivid Audio—we really intend to be as honest as possible.
In the sea of superlative marketing copy surrounding ultra-high-end gear, this comes across as a refreshing view. Dickie added that he has heard the comment that Vivid’s products aren’t expensive enough, laughing at the absurdity of this and noting,
I refuse to gold-plate just to raise the cost, or diamond-encrust, or whatever. If [a Vivid loudspeaker] is going to cost more, it will be because it has more performance. We have lost sales because we’re not expensive enough. And, of course, it’s agonizing because, on the other hand, there are people who say, “My God, [your products are] stratospherically expensive.” We charge an honest price and we’ll please some and not others.
The G3S2’s cabinet is—as Laurence Dickie himself concedes—polarizing. I find it a beautiful design when viewed head-on and fascinating in its proportions when viewed from other angles. My wife, however, stopped halfway down the stairs as she entered my basement listening room when the Vivids arrived, gaping first at them and then back at me as I stood grinning stupidly. When her gaze returned to the G3S2s, she stated matter-of-factly, “They’re hideous.” So, although their looks may be divisive, the G3S2s certainly aren’t boring to behold—a claim you can’t necessarily make about a great many loudspeakers. The tapered and curved “head” of the speaker is distinctive, as are the tapered tubes that capture rearward energy from the tweeter and upper midrange drivers. The newer G3 features a color-matched Vivid logo on the front of the cabinet—a subtle, classy touch, in my opinion—and both the tweeter and midrange units have new, built-in black grilles. Magnetic grilles for the entire front array and side-mounted woofers are also included, but I refrained from using these.
The cabinet itself is fashioned from a glass-reinforced balsa-wood composite material; this contributes to making the South-African-built enclosure super stiff without making it crazy heavy. While the original G3 used an off-the-shelf glass fiber reinforcement grid, in the G3S2, Vivid uses its own composite, which has increased stiffness so resonant modes are pushed higher in frequency. Also new to the Series 2 version is a significantly longer and larger bass reflex port on each side of the cabinet, which results in less port noise. At its base price, the G3S2 is available in three standard finishes: Piano Black, Lexus Pearl White, and Oyster Matte. My review samples were a gorgeous shade of Land Rover green that looked fantastic—an automotive grade finish feels appropriate here, and any automotive color from the PPG catalog can be optioned for a $2500 premium over the G3S2’s base price.
The Giya G3 Series 2 has a listed sensitivity of 87dB (1W/m) and a 6-ohm nominal impedance that dips to a 4-ohm minimum, so while the G3S2s don’t present a terribly difficult load to drive, partnering them with an amplifier with at least 100Wpc is probably a good idea. The G3S2’s frequency response is listed as 36Hz–33kHz, ±2dB, and harmonic distortion is reportedly less than 0.5% across the entire frequency range. The crossover makes use of fourth-order (24dB/octave) Linkwitz-Riley slopes throughout, with crossover points at 3.5kHz, 880Hz, and 220Hz. The Vivids come with a five-year warranty.
My review samples were hand-delivered and set up by the kind folks at Vivid’s North American Distributor, GTT Audio, so I can’t share what the full unboxing experience is like. But having two people for setup is probably a good idea, as each speaker’s four binding posts are attached to a recessed carbon-fiber base, and you need to push the speaker forward to access them. I futzed with their placement a bit, but they weren’t particularly fussy, and they wound up within an inch or two of where most speakers land in my room: 10.5′ apart, 11′ from my listening position, 2′ from the front wall, and around 3′ from the side walls.
Standing in repose, the Vivids looked squatter than they do in pictures, with a bottom-heavy design that provides sufficient cabinet volume for the horizontally opposed woofers to thump out the dreck in my electronic-heavy music collection.
The G3S2s were partnered with two amplifiers in my system that couldn’t be more different. Devialet’s Expert 140 Pro is my current reference amp, and this svelte, chromed French integrated amplifier-DAC generates a meager 100Wpc (8 ohms). By contrast, the Audionet Humboldt integrated amplifier that I had in for review was a hulking, 134-pound, 300Wpc (8 ohms) Teutonic anvil. While the Devialet is a one-box solution in my digital-only system, I partnered the Audionet integrated with Hegel’s HD30 DAC. The speaker cables, XLR interconnects, USB cable, and power cords that wired everything together were from Siltech’s Classic Legend range. My source was a battle-weary Intel NUC running Roon and Tidal HiFi.
I can probably count the number of formative listening experiences I’ve had in my life on two hands, but Vivid’s Giya G3 Series 2 certainly ranks as one of them. The G3S2 is not a loudspeaker that creeps up on you after several hours of listening. Rather, its myriad talents become apparent mere seconds after you make its acquaintance. My first impression was that the Giya was shockingly agile. The pair made my reference loudspeakers, a pair of KEF Reference 3s, sound downright lumbering by comparison. The G3s also demonstrated spectacular transparency. My heart skipped a beat. Was this love at first listen?
“Painter (Valentine)” from English artist Låpsley’s 2014 EP Station (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, XL Recordings / Tidal) is a butterfly of a track: airy, delicate, and whimsical. The G3S2s didn’t paint my room with sound; they did their best Harry Houdini impression and vanished entirely. Closing my eyes, I experienced the soundstage as broad, incredibly deep, and impeccably defined, with Låpsley’s somnambulant opening vocal and subsequent xylophone strikes twinkling as they hung in space before me. I’ve reviewed a couple of other $40,000-per-pair-plus loudspeakers this year, neither of which could render a stereo image this convincingly. And that tweeter, my god. The D26 driver may be old enough to be in college, but it’s every bit as accomplished as the finest beryllium alternatives I’ve heard over the years from the likes of Focal and Magico; it marries a remarkable turn of pace with uncanny effortlessness that allowed the artist to pop from the soundstage. This is a greyhound of a loudspeaker, with lithe athleticism on full display from the top of the frequency range all the way through the mid-bass, where the kick drum was both well controlled and virile, delivering the ball-kicking sensation that most listeners will find deeply satisfying. On that last point, I share Laurence Dickie’s impression of the G3S2 as a “naughty teenager—the G3 [Series 2] can bop.”
It’s worth mentioning that the G3S2 can play at absurdly loud volumes without strain. And it’s a howitzer in the dynamics department, making it a prime choice to deliver a track like “Spitfire (05 Version)” from the album Spitfire by English electronic icons The Prodigy (16/44.1 FLAC, XL Recordings / Tidal). It’s a frenetic bomb of a cut—high tempo with explosive drums and growling electric guitar chords—ripe for a drug-fueled mosh pit at a big music festival. And the elfish little Vivids casually crushed the track when partnered with Audionet’s 300Wpc Humboldt integrated amp. It’s telling that the G3S2’s woofers have beefy rubber surrounds, allowing for lots of excursion. Indeed, the little guys were fighting for their lives when I hit a personal Vmax in my large listening room. But they scaled immaculately, with no bottoming from the woofers, port chuffing, or treble glare to emphasize, perfectly illustrating something Dickie had mentioned to me: “I want people to be able to party with our loudspeakers one night and the following morning [play] chamber music through them.” The only limit I could discern was in the G3S2’s ultimate bass extension: I heard it down to about 30Hz, with healthy slam in the all-important 40–80 Hz range, although it seemed to trail off quite quickly below that point.
While their output isn’t chamber music, Icelandic ambient masters Sigur Rós provide a strong counterpoint to The Prodigy. Their eighth album, Átta (16/44.1 FLAC, BMG / Tidal), feels less quirky and more like a soundtrack than the albums that put them on the map in the late 1990s. “Ylur” is representative of the album, with a dreamy string-and-piano melody providing the backdrop to Jón Pór Birgisson’s soprano musings, which sound as boyish in 2023 as they did 25 years ago. Tonally, the Vivids were as neutral as you like through the ever-important midrange, but with the G3S2’s speed, Birgisson’s voice came through with an airiness that tended to emphasize trailing edges, which seemed to reverberate out into infinity. The cinematic cut favored the Vivids’ expansive, wide-dispersion sound.
Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, performed by the Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin under the direction of André de Ridder (16/44.1 FLAC, Deutsche Grammophon / Tidal), provides a real showcase of what the G3S2 is all about, and “Spring 1” is a personal favorite. Daniel Hope’s solo violin was spellbindingly good, with delightful three-dimensional spatial definition, addictive immediacy, and an organic airiness that sounded divorced from the composite loudspeaker cabinets from which it sprang. Whatever your thoughts are about the Giya G3 Series 2’s distinctive looks, its cabinet is an acoustic masterpiece. It quite literally gets out of the way of the music. The dancing strings surrounding Hope only reinforced that characteristic, as I could pick out each and every note with ease.
I’m fairly confident that Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz’s 2002 banger “Get Low,” off the album Kings of Crunk (16/44.1 FLAC, The Orchard / Tidal), has never been played through a pair of Vivid Audio loudspeakers. It’s not a great recording. The lyrics are . . . let’s go with suggestive. Really, this is a song meant to be played at frat parties and clubs on PA speakers. In fact, there’s a non-zero chance that I got drunk to this song as a freshman in college back in the fall of 2003. I suspect that most audiophiles have similar guilty pleasures in the dark recesses of their music collections. And what good is a statement-level loudspeaker if it can’t let down its proverbial hair once in a while? So, I maxed the volume of my Devialet Expert 140 Pro—0dB indicated—and hit play. The G3S2s proceeded to push out some of the most satisfying bass I’ve ever heard. The intro bass line straight-up pressurized my large listening room with subwoofer-like grip and slam. The Devialet-Vivid tandem proved supremely taut and supple, with meaningful—albeit attenuated—output below 30Hz, and a biblical sense of mid-bass power. There’s no doubt that the G3S2’s mid-bass is goosed a decibel or two, which means it could be too much of a good thing in a small room. And even though my modest little 100Wpc Devialet amp was running out of force, the G3S2s were unfazed, with no audible distortion or compression to speak of. This should be comforting to anyone who regularly plays music over 90dB.
Vivid’s Giya G3 Series 2 isn’t short of competitors at its price point, and I recently reviewed two that provide good sources of comparison.
The Kharma Elegance dB7-S ($40,000 per pair), built by hand in The Netherlands, is a more traditional-looking design than the Vivid. It features a 1″ beryllium dome tweeter and a pair of 7″ carbon-fiber woofers in a 2.5-way arrangement. With their super high-quality paint job, and a rear-leaning, time-aligned profile that lends them an almost automotive appearance, a pair of Kharmas are luxury audiophilia. Sonically, the Kharmas are notably less neutral than the Vivids, with an emphasized top end that—for better or worse—imbues every track with crystalline sparkle. They have terrific midrange clarity to go along with that. Like the Vivids, the Kharmas have a boosted low end, from what I experienced in my room, making the notably shorter Dutch speakers sound bigger than they actually are. As the volume increases, however, it becomes apparent that their low end can’t keep pace with their sailing top end; the resulting sound is a little boomy and uncontrolled. By contrast, the Vivids did not exhibit the Kharmas’ treble emphasis. Their top end sounded utterly natural, and there seemed to be no limit to their upper extension. The Vivids also had a more open overall sound in my room.
T+A’s three-way Solitaire S 530 ($44,900 per pair) is a different proposition—taller, heavier, and more traditional looking, with a raked rectilinear cabinet. Each speaker in a mirror-imaged pair marries a 33.5″-long planar-magnetic line source to a line array made up of seven oval-shaped midrange drivers, mated to a pair of side-mounted 8.5″ woofers. Like the Vivids, the T+As are a sonic tour de force. But while the Giyas wow with their incomparable detail retrieval and precision, the Solitaires are akin to an aural dolly zoom, focusing sound at the listening position in a way that creates a headphone-like wraparound effect. The T+As’ presentation is so fundamentally different from that of traditional dynamic loudspeakers that it’s difficult to suggest they’re any better or worse than the Vivids at delivering the sensation of live music in your listening room. I was bowled over by the S 530s’ magical handling of simple acoustic tracks—it seemed as if each vocalist was singing not just at me, but directly into my consciousness. That said, living with a pair of T+As is a solitary venture. Whereas the Vivids sound coherent from almost every seat in the house, the S 530s minimize vertical dispersion, rendering them unlistenable when you’re standing and suboptimal when you’re seated outside the sweet spot. Still, sitting in the sweet spot is a borderline-religious experience. While the S 530s can’t unearth quite as much inner detail as the G3S2s, their projected illusions are highly convincing. Both are truly reference-level loudspeakers. In my review of the Solitaire, I called the S 530 “the best loudspeaker I’ve ever heard.” In many ways that remains true. But I can now say the Giya G3 Series 2 is my favorite.
As an aside, Laurence Dickie shared, “The watchword from the beginning for our company has been freedom from resonance and reflection. It is what defines the non-sound from Vivid Audio.” Having spent several months with Vivid Audio’s Giya G3 Series 2, I can confidently confirm the former, but would qualify the latter. There’s no such thing as a perfect loudspeaker, and the Vivid is no exception. That said, the G3S2 is the closest thing to perfection I’ve heard. This loudspeaker does everything well, from macrodynamics to microdynamics, transparency to the source, you name it. It’s also impossibly fast and has exceptionally holographic stereo imaging. Combine that with a superbly well-controlled, punchy bottom end, and it leads me to the inexorable conclusion that Vivid Audio’s Giya G3 Series 2 is more than just a superlative loudspeaker. It’s a dream machine.
. . . Hans Wetzel
- Speakers: KEF LS50 and Reference 3; Kharma Elegance dB7-S; T+A Solitaire S 530.
- Integrated amplifiers: Audionet Humboldt; Devialet Expert 140 Pro.
- Digital-to-analog converter: Hegel Music Systems HD30.
- Sources: Intel NUC computer running Roon, Tidal HiFi.
- Speaker cables: Siltech Classic Legend 680L.
- Analog interconnect cables: Dynamique Audio Shadow (RCA), Siltech Classic Legend 680i (XLR).
- Power cords: Siltech Classic Legend 680P.
- Digital interconnect: Siltech Classic Legend 380 USB.
Vivid Audio Giya G3 Series 2 Loudspeaker
Price: $43,000 per pair, $45,500 per pair as reviewed.
Warranty: Five years, parts and labor upon registration.
Vivid Audio UK Ltd.
Unit 6, Star Road
Partridge Green, West Sussex RH13 8RA
England, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 1403-713125