Vancouver Audio Festival: B&W, YG Acoustics and Naim, Sonos with Sonus Faber

When you live in a city like Vancouver that has a number of bricks-and-mortar hi-fi shops, it’s easy to forget that not everyone can hop in car, climb on a bus or a train and check out world-class gear within 20 minutes of their home.

But, that was on my mind as I drove downtown from our place to take in the Vancouver Audio Festival that Hi-Fi Centre was hosting for the third year in a row. Door-to-door was about 15 minutes and another five had me chatting with Kevin Wolff from Bowers & Wilkins about the company’s new Formation Suite of wireless gear.

Bowers & Wilkins

The first set up of the day consisted of the B&W Formation Duo wireless standmount two-way loudspeaker ($5,300 and stands $1,000 – all prices quoted in Canadian dollars) which was being fed a mix of TIDAL and Qobuz via Roon through an Apple Airport Extreme, a MacBook and an IPad.

The sound was breathtakingly clear and precise, with plenty of midrange muscle and a surprising amount of bottom end considering the size of the Duo – a fact that Wolff said was all part of the design and that because B&W was working in the digital domain with DSP to fine tune the Duo’s two onboard amps (2x125 watts) to work in harmony with the Carbon Dome tweeters and Continuum Cone technology mid/bass drivers, allowed engineers to wring every possible ounce of performance from the chassis. The Duo has a rated frequency response of 25Hz~33kHz is Roon Ready, supports AirPlay2, Spotify Connect and needs only to be plugged into a power source to deliver 24/96 true wireless playback.

Sound staging was deep, tall and wide with plenty of breadth in presentation well beyond the speaker’s physical boundaries. If you’re familiar with any of Bowers’ latest speaker designs you know how articulate and transparent to source their designs have remained over the years. Of note was the steady stream of people poring over the Duos after being told they were wireless and the cords coming from the base of the stands were power cables – most couldn’t believe this level of sonic prowess and imaging coupled with accurate timbre and tone was possible from a wireless system.

YG Acoustics and Naim

This room had exceptional sound and visuals because Naim gear, like YG, is so minimal in its physical presentation, but that’s just the reason one’s eyes linger so long on their form factor.

Consisting of the YG Acoustics Sonja 2.2 ($105,000) loudspeakers being fed the ones and zeroes via the new Naim ND555 ($25,000) reference network player, a Naim NAC552 ($40,000) preamplifier, NAP500 ($40,000) power amplifier, NAPS 555DR ($14,000 x 3) power supply and Super Lumina interconnects and cables ($4,200) this room had the cajones to go loud and have no one suffer any consequences other than a distinct revelation of concern if you don’t own Naim and YG gear yourself. Naim’s legendary PRaT (Pace, Rhythm and Timing) were in full effect with the big Sonja’s pulling no punches and completely getting out of the way of the music.

The sonic impact of this combination was memorable and I kept waiting for this setup to put a foot a wrong somehow, but it never did and I found myself entranced by what I was hearing – regardless of whether it was complex classical, electronic, jazz, blues or rock. This Naim/YG pairing had the chops to take on all comers and never did I ever feel that bass, midrange or treble was at some point being sacrificed to payoff the other to maintain coherence, or balance to the music. Ditto for timbral and tonal capabilities as piano always sounded lifelike with weight and scale commensurate with what one would expect if one was being played in front of one. Wood-bodied instruments and voices had flesh-and-blood presence that put performers as spooky in-the-room as one would hope at this price point.

Sonos, Sonus Faber, Transparent Cable


If simple is your jam, then the Sonos/SF/Transparent system the Hi-Fi Centre curated for the Festival should tick your boxes.

Consisting of just a Sonos Amp ($800), Sonus Faber Sonetto III loudspeakers ($5,500) and Transparent Plus Speaker Cable ($1,200) this system was a little tipped towards the end of the circuit path price-wise.

Streaming Redbook (16-bit/44.1kHz) files off Roon through the new Sonos Amp (Class-D, 125 watts/8 Ohms, HDMI ARC, Optical digital inputs, RCA analog inputs, subwoofer output, banana-plug speaker connectors capable of stereo or dual-mono, dual Ethernet ports) to the Sonetto IIIs showed off the Sonus Faber’s ruthless transparency to source. To me, this new Amp was in a league of cables and speakers above its pay grade with the sound here featuring more compression tilt towards frequency extremes than I like, but there were plenty of people in the room who were vibing this combo, so with all things hi-fi – YMMV.

There’s no denying the Sonos’ ease of use and connectivity to other Sonos players and music zone creation. This is the company’s bread and butter; bringing wireless music to the masses. I’d bet that many people will be buying this new Amp to pair with whatever speakers they have on hand and getting years of enjoyment from it.

Check back for more coverage from the Vancouver Audio Festival.

Hi-fi Centre

Everclear's picture

Waiting for a review of B&W Formation Duo :-) ..........

volvic's picture

Love their products, own and have owned Naim in the past. I can only hope they have solved their teething service issues that have plagued them in the past. It was quite a disappointing, it was clearly not the Naim I grew up with. Nevertheless, with the good folks at Plurison now morphing into the Naim unisphere, hopefully things should be able to improve. Great coverage Rafe, as always.

Rafe Arnott's picture
Appreciate the positive vibes!