I had the opportunity to make this comparison when YG Acoustics removed the Hailey 2.2s that had been in my system and replaced them with the Vantages. My reference system consists of a Rega Osiris integrated amplifier and Isis CD player, an AURALiC ARIES wireless bridge and VEGA G2 DAC, a Vertere Dynamic Groove turntable and Phono 1 phonostage, an Audio-Technica phono cartridge, Furutech cables and power conditioning equipment, and Auralex, RPG, and Vicoustic room treatments. As he had done for my earlier Hailey 2.2 review, YG’s system set-up wizard Dick Diamond positioned and dialled-in the Vantages in my room. This time, though, the process did not take long as Diamond almost immediately found the Vantages’ ‘happy place’ and then sat back to admire how beautifully the speakers coupled with my room.
Coming in, I had suspected/expected that performance differences between the Hailey 2.2 and the Vantages might be pretty obvious and not work to the favour of the less expensive speaker, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, in my medium-sized room and at my typically moderate listening levels, the speakers sounded almost identical, which proved a very pleasant surprise indeed. If I listened very carefully and with volume elevated a bit, I could just pick out the Hailey 2.2’s slightly purer, smoother highs and upper midrange, while down very low I could just discern the Hailey 2.2’s ‘nth’ degree of deeper bass extension, but that was about it for discernible differences. However, for most listeners, most of the time, I suspect the two speakers would seem almost interchangeable—wherein lies the true magic of the Vantage. The Hailey 2.2s are without a doubt the superior speakers, but the Vantages come so very close in most musically important respects, and at a 30% lower price, that one cannot help but admire the sheer value for money on offer (even though the Vantages are by no means ‘inexpensive’ loudspeakers).
One album that shows several of the Vantages’ strengths is Grzegorz Krawiec’s Journey-Podróz [M•A Recordings, 16/44.1]. The recording capture’s Krawiec’s classical guitar as heard in the reverberant interior of St Mark Church in Kraków, Poland. On the three movements of Hans Werner Henze’s ‘Drei Tentos (aus der “Kammermusik 1958”)’, the guitar sounded wonderfully immediate and alive through the Vantages, and was positioned front and centre near the front of the sanctuary. The YG’s perfectly reproduced the resonant acoustics of the church, while serving up almost blueprint-precise imaging and intensely three-dimensional soundstaging. Transient sounds on the guitar notes were razor sharp (yet never edgy or overly aggressive), while the speakers faithfully rendered the golden-hued and seemingly self-luminous tonal qualities of Krawiec’s guitar. It was a hi-fi moment that stopped me in my tracks and led me to marvel that this (or really any) loudspeaker could so faithfully render the beauty of the music at hand.
Another track that revealed important aspects of the Vantage’s sonic persona is the ‘Calliope’ from Al Di Meola’s Scenario [Columbia LP]. This track is something of a jazz-rock fusion classic from the 1980’s and it features an all-star cast: Di Meola on electric guitar, Jan Hammer on keyboards, Bill Bruford on electronic drums, and Tony Levin on bass and Chapman stick. What struck me was the sheer grace and ease with which the Vantage teased out the track’s intricately interwoven musical lines and phrases and effortlessly ‘decoded’ Bruford and Levin’s at times wildly syncopated rhythm passages. Most of all, though, I was struck by the way the Vantages consistently captured the song’s sometimes mysterious but always exuberant and high-energy vibe, which given the four high-powered soloists at play was no mean feat.