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BG Radia Z-92 tower loudspeaker

October 23, 2008 By Steve Guttenberg



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BG Radia Z-92 tower loudspeaker
BG Radia Z-92 tower loudspeaker
BG Radia Z-92 tower loudspeaker
BG Radia Z-92 tower loudspeaker

Speed Racers

The night before I started writing this review I was at a party at a chic gallery. You know the scene, painfully hip posers cruising the passing parade of beautiful people. The art didn't do that much for me, but the live music was tasty and incredibly enough the musicians weren't using amplifiers. They were playing really interesting beatnik jazz with a ukulele, vibes, trombone, bass and drums.

The BG Radia's Z-92 tower speakers' was then, as they say, like deja vu all over again.

Nowadays it's a real treat to hear totally unplugged music, but it was the sound of the vibes that initially hooked me at the art show-turned-jazz concert.

There was something about the instrument's metallic shimmer that was simply gorgeous, and I loved the way the uke player was riffing off the vibe's lines. The band wasn't at all loud and yet the instruments sounded clear and distinct.

BG Radia Z-92 tower loudspeakerSo when I started in on the BG's I gravitated to CDs with small jazz groups that featured vibes, like the Modern Jazz Quartet and Bucky Pizzarelli's band.

The Z-92s' sound was fast, crisp, and clear, without any extra edginess or overly hyped treble. The level of nuance and delicacy was impressive and the unassuming speakers somehow presented the "spaces" between the instruments with rare clarity. Obviously the Z-92 was something special.
 
Removing the grilles revealed the speakers' proprietary technology; instead of the usual cone and dome drivers the Z-92 had a 10 by 5 inch rectangular midrange "planar-ribbon" and a 3-inch by 2.5-inch planar-ribbon tweeter mounted directly in front of the midrange unit.

The lower half of the speaker was less mysterious, just a pair of 6.5 inch aluminum cone woofers. I learned later that the woofer is a BG Radia original and features an innovative voice coil design that lowers the driver's moving mass and improves its transient response. The goal was to make a woofer as "fast" as the planar-ribbons.

The ribbons are in fact super-thin and lightweight polymer film diaphragms printed with an overlay of aluminum conductors, and the diaphragms are "suspended" between front and rear magnet arrays. So unlike dome tweeters or cone type midrange drivers the planar-ribbons are "push-pull" designs.

Say what? With traditional dome or cone type drivers, as the diaphragm (the cone/dome part) moves forward, it's also moving away from the magnetic voice coil, and distortion can increase. This "push-pull" arrangement can produce less distortion, because when the planar-ribbon moves away from one set of magnets, it's moving closer to the other set.

Also, the magnets control the entire area of the diaphragm as it moves back and forth to produce sound. With traditional dome tweeters and cone-type midrange drivers the voice coil applies its moving force only to the edge or center of the diaphragm respectively. Greater control can equal lower distortion.

The dual 6.5 inch woofers are housed in a separate compartment from the ribbons, within the heavily-braced cabinet. The internal bracing was carefully laid out to be left/right asymmetrical to break up the cabinet's resonant modes. On the outside the Z-92 is a pretty conservative box design; it's available in real wood veneers with Black Ash and Light Maple finishes. My samples were in the latter, which I found quite handsome.

Also noteworthy, is the lifetime parts and labor warranty included with the speakers. I can't at this moment think of another speaker with that level of coverage.

BG Radia also sent along their 210i subwoofer. Its cylindrical front baffle immediately set it apart from the legions of box subs that have passed through my system. The shape is more than a cosmetic gimmick, with a 10-inch Kevlar-cone woofer residing at each end of the cylinder the reactive forces of the cones' in and out movements cancel.

If you put your hand on the 62-pound cabinet you won't feel it vibrating, even a little, which is a good thing because the sub won't directly transmit low bass energy through the floor. The woofers are driven by 210i's built-in 500-watt amp; connectivity is limited to a pair of RCA inputs and outputs.

Claims of technical superiority are one thing, but does BG Radia's advanced technology/design actually make an audible difference? To find out I popped on the Talking Heads second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food. The Z-92s delved deeper into the Heads jittery grooves, David Byrne's vocal acrobatics seemed even more adventurous than I remembered and his jagged, distorted guitar textures jumped out of the mixes. The speakers projected a spacious soundstage with above-average depth and height.

True, some of the music's foundation and momentum were communicated by the 210i subwoofer, but its sound jelled so perfectly with the towers so it was easy to forget the sub was on. The sub's "speed" and convincing low-end solidity made it the ideal match for the Z-92.

I finished up with the Amy Winehouse Back To Black CD. Oh yeah, that woman can sing and her band sounds like the great soul groups of the 1960s. So much so I got a little carried away with the Winehouse CD and cranked the volume way up and noted the Z-92 handled power like a champ, but the music's dynamic sock was a little restrained. As I played other discs I noted the same thing, the Z-92s lacked the last degree of impact I crave from rock.  

I listened in stereo with just the pair of Z-92 speakers and the 210i sub, but you can put together a sweet sounding BG Radia home theater by adding the matching Z-62 LCR speaker ($999 each).

The Z-62 can be used as a horizontally oriented center or vertical surround speaker, and I like that the Z-62 features the exact same driver complement as the Z-92, so it will provide an ideal tonal match to the tower speakers.

BG Radia is based in Carson City, Nevada and currently offers a wide range of stereo, home theater and professional audio speakers. Kudos to the engineering team that took the high road and developed BG Radia's innovative designs--and held the line on pricing. I just wish other high-end speaker companies would do the same!

PRICE:Z-92: $1,250/each; 210i: $1,499

CONTACT: (775) 884-1900, bgcorp.com

BG Radia Z-92 tower loudspeaker

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