Roy Gregory of Hi-Fi+ Reviews Baby Grand Reference
Tue, 19 Jan 2021
Amidst all the marketing, mechanical and materials mayhem, Vienna Acoustics has long been and island of reliable if singular sanity. Their designs have always been long on proven approaches and carefully chosen materials, cost-effective construction and niceties that actually matter – factors that combine to create finished products that offer performance that’s as exceptional and deliverable as the fit and finish is understated and remarkable for the price. But even by their exacting standards, Vienna’s latest offerings are more than just a little bit special.Vienna Acoustics have managed to advance the performance of their in-house drivers significantly. Also, they have hiked the performance bar in what is arguably the most competitive area of the market as a whole.Where thing get really interesting is in the centre of each diaphragm. The drivers feature large, 5cm voice coils, meaning the central area becomes a major contributor to the driver’s output. Rather than a conventional dust cap, Vienna has opted for a carefully calculated inverted dome to create a symbiotic extension of the radiation surface, two elements that mechanically and acoustically act as one… making the transition between different frequency ranges far smoother and more contiguous, easing the job of the crossover and minimizing the single biggest flaw in all multi-way, dynamic loudspeakers – irrespective of price.What makes the Beethovens so unique is that these clever drive units are mated to cabinets and crossovers that embody Vienna’s already superb attention to detail. The enclosures might be essentially conventional, but the materials are exactingly selected and exhaustively optimized.What you end up with is a potent combination of careful innovation, proven engineering, attention to detail and sheer practicality that doesn’t just promise performance, it actually delivers it. This cocktail of musical capability and sheer practically is what Vienna Acoustics seems to nail so effortlessly – and is what has always allowed their speakers to deliver so impressively. In terms of pound for pound performance, the Beethovens are their most impressive achievement yet.Their characteristic family sound has always been long and smooth, integrated sound and a rich tonal palette underpinned and filled out by extended bottom-end extension. It’s a balance of virtues that cost you efficiency but reward you with natural warmth, weight, scale and presence.The Baby Grand delivers superb, seamless integration, a quality that contributes directly to a more natural and impressive sense of weight and musical coherence. Considering its modest cabinet dimensions this speaker has a greater sense of power, scale and musical purpose than it has any right to deliver. Yet deliver it does. It has an uncanny ability to sound like real people in a real space, but that doesn’t mean it shies away from synthesized sound or studio effects.The Viennas’ overall balance and natural tonality are remarkably convincing, their dynamic response sufficient to bring immediacy and impact to musical interjections, intimacy and body to vocals. However, they do not allow these musical moments to break free from and shatter the coherence of the acoustic space, the illusion of the live event. Not so long ago, this level of spatial and dynamic control and coherence was the exclusive preserve of much more expensive designs. Now, the Baby Grand achieves it with the sort of nonchalance that allows it to pass virtually unnoticed, just another part of the natural musical fabric.If you want a single phrase to encapsulate the Baby Grand’s character and achievement, then you could do worse than ‘punching above its weight’. It captures both the way the speaker has jolted the price/performance equation and the manner in which it’s done it. Feed it properly and it will reward you with a performance that is as satisfying and musically compelling as it is astonishingly impressive.The best speakers do enough of everything to actually convince. They bring the performance to you and you to the performance. They have always been few and far between and invariably somewhere on the wrong side of expensive – until now. All of the sudden, a few genuinely exceptional speakers have hit the market, shattering the glass ceiling that’s restricted affordable speaker performance. Vienna Acoustics’ Baby Grand is the tip of that wedge, setting the pace and setting the standard. Very impressive indeed!Roy Gregory, Hi-Fi+, Issue 189, November 2020.