Let’s start with that name; it’s not an acronym. Everyone in the audio world is so programmed to see the letters ‘A’ and ‘R’ together and assume they have a meaning that one of the first questions people ask of YAR is, “what does the ‘Y’ stand for?” That’s a bit like saying, “what does the ‘K’ in ‘Kent’ stand for?” Moreover, it’s pronounced as its written, like the extended remix of the German or Sloane Ranger word for ‘yes’, or the universal greeting of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, but without as much growling. It’s not ‘Why-Eh-Ahhh’… it’s ‘Yar’, OK?
A more apposite (if curiously Geordie-sounding) question is ‘why YAR?’ The name comes from the Russian missile test site known as Kasputin Yar, which is also known as the ‘Russian Roswell’ and Giancarlo Sopegno, YAR’s design guru, is a bit of a UFOlogist in his spare time. Normally, that tale – and possibly the products themselves – would be consigned to the ‘space cadet’ end of the spectrum but given the styling of the trio of products in the Yar line up, the back story to the name really fits. And, given Sopegno’s ‘form’ with brands like Audio Tekne and MBL, the products should be taken seriously.
The Yar system comprises of four components; the B-yond integrated amplifier, the Feeld stand that amp sits upon, the tall, multi-way Y-der loudspeakers, and the YAR cables. The four (more realistically, the three and the stand if you need it) are designed to work as a team. Each is interesting in and of itself, though, even before they are considered together.
Let’s start with the obvious, the big guns… the €125,000+VAT Y-der loudspeakers. This is a 160cm tall standmount loudspeaker. That in and of itself is unique. The primarily open Y-der loudspeaker chassis sits in a composite frame with two side outrigger arms and a cross-bar rod that allows a degree of tilt around the acoustic centre of the design. The frame also features a heavy aluminium base plate that houses the crossover network. The more you start to think about essentially a giant standmount loudspeaker, the more sense it makes; it eliminates many of the problems endemic to standmount designs (even the largest are still too damn small to deliver full-range bass and real-world dynamics) and those that plague floorstanders (the point where the speaker ends and the floor begins acting as a timing-shreddring baffle step of sorts). The unique, bold design of Y-der by YAR is not, as you might expect, the result of giving their designers free rein. On the contrary, it’s an example of how form equals function.
As to the speaker itself, it’s unique. The cabinet has no parallel surfaces whatsoever, which all but eliminates any internal resonance. The layout is a three way design of essentially a D’Appolito array within a D’Appolito arrsy (the outer dynamic double bass reflex units flanked by a pair of dipole planar magnetic mid-range units that themselves flank a single dipole planar magnetic treble panel). This gives the large design a vertical radiation pattern similar to a coaxial loudspeaker and placing each unit block in the acoustic centre of the next in line (coupled with the characteristics of planar magnetics in this context) give the loudspeaker a point-source performance, albeit writ large.
If Y-der size is eye-catching, then the €40,000+VAT B-yond amplifier is striking in its design for entirely different reasons. If you hold to the sci-fi theme, then Y-der are the aliens and the B-yond is the UFO itself. B-yond is a hybrid design, combining a valve input in the preamplifier stage, and a beefy Class D power amplifier design. Unlike many Class D models, however, the amplifier doubles its power output between eight and four ohms, delivering a claimed 350W into eight ohms and 700W into four. YAR claims very high damping factor for the amplifier stage, and the switching amplifier with its switch-mode power supply is designed without any kind of ultrasonic attenuation.
A big part of the B-yond’s design principle is the chassis itself. Its shell is made of carbon fibre and aluminium, which is claimed to deliver “better vibration isolation and enhanced shielding of the electromagnetic waves” compared to conventional amplifiers according to YAR. The distinctive middle hump is for the array of valves.
The amplifier also includes both single-ended RCA phono inputs (and a set of preamp outputs) and the provision for a USB DAC. This can support PCM files up to 32-bit-384kHz, DSD 64x to 256x, DoP to 128x, and MQA. There is also full UPnP support.
The €10,000+VAT Feeld is a stand for amplifiers, CD players, and even turntables. It is claimed to offer a significant increase in sound and image quality. Feeld uses a proprietary sandwich of materials designed to reduce vibration and provide greater stability for each device’s electrical circuitry. It uses carbon-fibre inserts that have been carefully positioned to transmit any unwanted floor bounce directly to the damping layer. The special design of the upper surface creates a solid base, which is isolated from the residual vibrations transmitted by the rest of the structure.
Feeld’s central openings – that run the length of the structure – enable air to pass through the base, for optimum cooling of the electronic elements each platform supports. They also prevent resonance between the parallel surfaces of the support surface and the base. The base is positioned on the floor by means of four pivot supports, rather than spikes or decouplers.
The newest addition to the YAR line-up, the €25,000+VAT YAR cables are fully symmetrical for conductor and shield. YAR plays its cards close to its chest here, merely stating that the cables use company’s proprietary technologies to couple with the B-yond and Y-der in a manner rather hard to achieve outside of the bespoke audio world. YAR provides the full spread of cables, from power cord to speaker cable, with all kinds of analogue and digital designs (except Ethernet) in standard and custom sizes.
The whole concept is bespoke. Clients can order a system with personalized finishings to better fit their tastes and home interior design. The overall purchase experience is very similar to that of a supercar, where each element is defined with the client in advance.
Normally, where a product comes from is merely worth mentioning in passing, at best setting the product in context. But YAR – alongside Giancarlo Sopegno and CEO Adriano Marconetto – are from Turin in Italy, and the Torinisiare industrious and stylish people. YAR’s industrial design and engineering smarts are channelling a city that gave us Bertone and Pininfarina. It’s also hard not to think of Turin without thinking of Fiat’s Gianni Agnelli, the grandmaster of Sprezzatura(effortless, almost nonchalant, style). That background sings out loud in the YAR concept, and for all its sci-fi background, it’s pure Turin!
There is something effortlessly, almost nonchalantly, right about the YAR system. While its distinctive style is a function of its innate Sprezzatura, style only scratches the surface of what YAR does so well.
There is a sense of it being the best of all possible worlds, with the ability for a system to disappear in the way really good panel loudspeakers can but coupled to a sense of dynamism and energy that is typically the domain of good box-loudspeaker systems. There is also the scale and drama that typically only occurs with giant floorstanding loudspeaker systems, and the pace and speed of a good stand-mount design. All coupled to an amplifier system that is designed to bring out the absolute best in that loudspeaker and do it with only the merest hint of euphony. In other words, it’s a system that forgives without fogging; it means you don’t need to limit yourself to music from the audiophile playbook and can play anything you throw at it. To wit, staying with the Turin connection Matt Monro singing ‘On Days Like These’ from the soundtrack to the 1969 movie The Italian Job[Paramount]. Actually, most of the George Martin recording is great, with excellent vocal projection, but the bass line and percussion is thin and lacking in deep bass, but the YAR makes it sound like it doesn’t matter and you just enjoy the music.
Naturally, a system of the gravitas and scope of the YAR components should be capable of playing any kind of music properly, but these products do that with such aplomb that it’s hard not to be impressed. Whether that music is baroque harpsichord, Donizetti aria, Mahler at full tilt, or Joni Mitchell at her peak, the music is teased out with a sense of Sprezzatura that few systems do so completely. Imaging in particular is first class, with a true depth and dimensionality to any recording (even ping-pong 1960s pop stereo).
Perhaps what points out the quality of the YAR system beyond all other things is the replay of an audiophile standard piece of music. I find it difficult to listen to the live version ‘Stimela (The Coal train)’ from Hugh Masekela’s Hope LP [Triloka], not because it’s a bad piece of music or because of the musicianship or any other reasons – in fact it ticks the boxes for great music and outstanding musicianship, although I prefer the original from the 1970s. No, the reason for finding ‘Stimela’ so hard to listen is that it has been played and played to death at shows, demonstrations, press launches, and so on for the last 25 years. So, it holds little or no mystery to me. Except there is a little something that is normally held back. Masekela and his backing group sing the middle eight and choruses in Zulu and those distinctive click consonants of Nguni languages are incredibly challenging for many loudspeakers. They can do the job but tend to either blur the transient (not so much a cork popping out of a champagne bottle, more a ‘plopping’ sound) or rob it of its dynamics (perhaps understandable given there’s a lot going on). Through this system, however, the alveolar click is clear and easy to hear, and – unless you speak fluent Zulu like I don’t – comes as a shock. I have heard that particular version many hundreds of times (and the original a lot, too), so I expect the audiophile Usual Suspects, but the handling of such transients surprised me and really showed up what the system is capable of.
Unless you have a fear of alien abduction, there’s not much to dislike about YAR’s products. Currently, it’s difficult to hear one without the others, as the company looks to the products as components in a system and is not too keen on breaking up the team. So, the system should be taken as a complete entity. Nevertheless, I would like to hear the products in isolation. Stylistically though, that would detract from the complete package, which is another minor concern about YAR… placing it with products that don’t look prosaic next to the amp and loudspeakers. This is no small consideration – an otherwise elegant component can look a bit of a bluff lump next to the YAR system. And the combination of that and the Y-der loudspeaker does make for a system crying out for a very high-end setting. Far more so that most high-end boxes.
YAR is an ambitious concept that sits far outside of the norm for good audio, but is up there with the very best audio systems in the world. It’s a one-stop shop for the wealthy music lover who doesn’t want to go through all the usual rigmarole of system-building and comparative demonstrations. There have been other shots at this goal, but few score like YAR, as it has the sonics to more than match the style. The complete system breaks the mould, and does so for some very, very good reasons.
- Drive units: 2x 250mm planar woofers. 2x planar magnetic/isodynamic dipole midrange, 1x isodynamic dipole tweeter
- Impedance: 6 ohm nominal (minimum 3 ohm)
- Frequency response: 26 – 25,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 90 dB
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 68x82x160cm
- Weight: dependent on finish
- Inputs: two line level analogue, digital coax, 2x Toslink optical, 2x USB,
- Bluetooth, network (WiFi with dongle)
- Outputs: tape/preamp out
- Valve compliment: 4 x 12BH7A
- Power stage: 2 x mono Class D modules
- Power output: 350W per channel into eight ohms
- DAC: ESS ES9028S
- Formats supported: PCM to 32bit, 44.1kHz to 384kHz, DSD 64x to 256x, DoP 64x to 128x, MQA decoding on USB, aptX decoding on Bluetooth
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 56x48x16cm
- Weight: 12kg
- Finish: any colour on request
- Dimensions (HxWxD): 690x505x445mm
- Weight: 15kg
- Complete system: €200,000 + VAT
Manufactured by: YAR