James L. Darby
I have a lot of respect for Vienna Acoustics speakers. I have heard their larger designs at various audio show and have always come away impressed. VA is distributed in the US by Sumiko, one of the top distributors in all of distributordom. Sonus Faber is another of their lines and we all know how good they are. Sumiko and VA have chosen to parcel out the lower, entry level line to Magnolia which is now incorporated into your local Best Buy chain store. Stereomojo has made arrangements with the local BB to audition and return certain products within their usual 30 day in-home trial period. We could have gone the surreptitious route and just take advantage of the policy, but we did not. We got permission. Our thanks to Best Buy for their agreement.
The Vienna Acoustics Hadyn Grand is the cheapest and smallest main speaker they make, though its price at $1,295 is not all that cheap.
The Haydn is a two-way bass reflex design stand-mount monitor with a nominal 4 Ohm impedance. The tweeter is a 1” fluid cooled silk dome and the woofer is a 6 incher with a novel see-through cone. I can’t tell you what the material is, because nobody at Best Buy knew. VA calls it X3P, but it must be some type of thermo plastic. I had also asked about the sensitivity spec buy nobody knew what that was; not the number, the spec itself. It’s claimed to be 89 dB, but me thinks it is probably a little lower than that.
The tweeter has a trick up its sleeve as well as it is mounted on a bridge in the woofer port. The light gray area is the bridge and the darker gray is foam, but the whole circle makes up the reflex port. It helps make the cabinet smaller at only 14” high.
The back holds no surprises unless you consider the lack of bi-amping or bi-wiring ability a surprise. I know several speakers in this range that provide 4 posts, but if you don’t want or need ‘em, you are all set.
I am not going to spend a lot of time on the details, for reasons you will see shortly, but if you are dying to know more now, here’s the VA link. Warning: Be prepared for a very slooooow flash presentation, even if you have a fast connection. http://www.vienna-acoustics.com/popup.html By the way, one of the advantages of an online publication like Stereomojo is the ability send you to important places right away instead of having to copy URLs down and traipsing to your computer to type them in. We also save a lot of trees.
Technology, cabinet finishes (the Haydn offers a few) and other peripheral factors are significant, but the most vital feature is how the thing sounds, right?
Lets go there.
THE HADYN’S REPERTOIRE
The sound of the Vienna Acoustics Hadyn Grand can be summed up in two words:
Soft and Loud.
Simply put, the top end sounds soft and bottom end sounds loud. This is not good.
I first gave the Hadyns over 100 hours of burn-in as the manual specifies. I then set them up in Room B or the small room, well away from the back and spies walls and in an equilateral triangle position with the listener. 20” stands were used to prop them up. I connected them to the awesome LSA Mk3 Reference integrated I reviewed here via Ray Kimber’s excellent Select cables. These are heavy monsters which the 20 pound Hadyns barely withstood being tipped back. I used a Music Hall CD 25.2 to play my Stereomojo reviewing disk. The first cut shows me the size, position and detail of the soundstage. There are heavy footsteps on a cement floor starting at the left rear and walking across to the right rear amidst a background of outdoor nature sounds like birds and wind. Then you hear a Coke bottle role back across the stage again. The man also whistles a tune as he prepares to get in his car, further illuminating the stage. I should tell you
I very much like the fact that small speakers are capable of throwing a huge image that reaches the ceiling and well beyond the speaker boundaries on either side. They also have a way of disappearing with which larger speakers can struggle. I also am a very visual listener; I listen in the dark with my eyes open. What I “saw” was at once a surprise and disappointment. The stage was only moderately big and much smaller than I am used to with practically any other speaker this size. The image did not extend beyond the edges of the speakers and was not at all tall. There was depth ok and the effects were stable and vivid, but the scratchy footsteps and rolling Coke bottle were both rather rolled off on the top end and something funny was afoot in the midrange. Hmm.
I tried toeing in, towing out, wider, closer, farther. The sound changed, but the bottom end, the top end and the soundstage remained less than what is deemed acceptable today.
The next cut is from Flim and the BBs. When I play this at shows people always recognize it and nod approvingly. This CD has some of the largest, fastest and widest dynamic hits ever recorded – in the neighborhood of 100 db. It also features piano, drums, bass and sax recorded in audiophile approved quality. With the Hadyns, the piano and drums were overpowered by the bass player. As a pianist, I hate it when that happens when playing in a group. But this time, it wasn’t the player’s fault. As I continued playing different cuts of female vocal, classic orchestral, soundtracks (Morricone), choirs, jazz and rock, one theme kept reoccurring – soft, loud – soft, loud. The bass was just something you are most likely to hear emanating from Puff Daddy’s Lexus SUV. But the more I listened, the bass emphasis was more a function of the recessed mids. Simultaneously, the top end was laid back and more fluid, but seemed more than a bit muted where air, space and high-end sound lives. No amount of speaker positioning in that room solved the problem or even reduced it much. Moving it closer to the walls only made it worse. So I moved the speakers again.
To another room.
Same speakers leads, but this time connected to the Halcro MC-20 power amp (my review) and a Triode tube pre with the wonderful Roksan Caspian Phono Pre. Now I had the TW-Acustic Raven One to play with in the system, all sitting pretty in Paul Wakeen’s terrific Stillpoints rack. Room A is a large room with a cathedral ceiling, but guess what? The Hadyns sounded pretty much exactly the same. Even sitting outside on the lanai, the primary sound heard was frequencies below, say, 1,200 or so, no matter what the genre playing.
I played several LPs, but there was just no escaping the speaker’s characteristics. The Hadyns never were engaging, musical, intriguing or even fun to listen to. So I stopped. Back to the friendly if somewhat uninformed folks at Best Buy, thank you very much.
As you will see, our own measurements by guru Danny Richie of GR Research confirms wham we and others have heard and said:
To somewhat salvage this rather bleak epistle, let me throw THIS you way:
See, here is yet another reason Stereomojo has an advantage over print mags; they could never afford this much space for something like this!
Now, before you think this was included out of purely gratuitous, sexist, prurient interests, let me introduce you to Rebekka Bakken.
Rebekka is a singer. A very good singer. And she has several recordings out including one I have been playing a lot lately. Even through the Hadyns.
This is it. It’s jazz, it’s pop, it’s rock and it’s great. Real songs with real words and melodies. It’s not available through the link on our home page for great prices on CDs & SACDS (the logo on the top far right),
but it should be. I recommend you check her out. Her music, that is.
As for the Hadyns..
Based on their overall character of soft highs, compromised midrange and uneven overall response, we cannot recommend the Haydn's for any serious music lovers in search of hi-end sound for reasonable prices. We would not even suggest that you try them free for 30 days. At its price of $1,295, there are too many other outstanding monitors and even full – range competitors that are far superior.
If you do not need the space savings of a stand mounted monitor and can spend a bit more, at $1,995 the Strata Minis from AV123 are unbeatable. See our review.
If it must be a stand mount, the LSA Monitor One at $300 less than the Hadyn's are superb. I have heard hundreds of small speakers at shows and these are still at the top of my list for great sound at a great price. Someone from Absolute Sound heard them at CES and mentioned them in similar glowing terms as ours. You can read our review here.
Others from ERA, Silverline, B&W and EPOS have impressed our reviewers and some of those cost much less than the Hadyns.
To be frank, I would rather listen to Insignia speakers from Best Buy with Danny Richie’s mods than the Hadyns.
Our review policy is to “tell the truth without being harsh or mean spirited”. I have tried to do that here.
As this review was being prepared for the web, two audio magazines from Europe arrived, both featuring reviews of the Hadyn Grands.
From Hi-Fi+, “…with a tweeter that isn’t particularly extended by the latest standards they can seem slightly on the softer side”, and, “while this is not the finest tweeter I have heard… decent response to transient input…they lack a little of that small speaker sharpness.” Chris Thomas goes on, “..a full bodied view of the music…generous and colorful tonality”. Despite those rather damning descriptions, the overall review is quite positive, ending with “What criticisms I have must be seen in their astonishing price and an appearance and performance that suggest they cost so much more”.
Paul Messenger then reviewed them for HIFI Choice. The heading under the review title says it all; “Exceptional enclosure finish distinguishes this pretty standmount”. Interestingly enough, in this case, the speakers were set up by a rep from Sumiko in Paul’s home, something that is prohibited at Stereomojo unless it is normal practice for all customers. Despite that, in the body of the review we find this: “On our measurements, the output level fell something like 5dB between 1.2 and 1.7kHz, and above that the treble stayed flat for nearly two octaves before starting to rise again above 6kHz and increasing by some 4 dB by the time it peaks at 12kHz” …. “a suckout in the presence zone”. And, “The bass and midrange was better…if uneven along the way”.
But then, toward the end we read this; “Listening past the balance, this is clearly a quality speaker…”.
Well, I will not comment on other’s assessments. They do their thing, Stereomojo does ours. You decide.