Yar hifi: close to concert-hall sound

Exotic Italian stereo system with pivotable speakers

Image: Hugh Threlfall

An audiophile physics professor explained to me recently that there are two approaches to building hifi. You can do the maths and make something that should sound good; or you can experiment until you find a sound you love, then see if the maths explains its excellence. “Remember,” the prof said, “Stradivarius never did equations or studied the wave structure of the wood he worked with.”

I was thinking of this while listening to an extraordinary and beautiful hifi created by a group of music and audio obsessives at the prestigious Polytechnic University of Turin. Their system, Yar, was born of passion first, calculations second. It comprises two 80kg wood, metal and carbon-fibre speakers that can be pivoted to suit whether you are sitting or standing. They are big but don’t dominate a good-sized room. There’s also a preamp and power amp unit, which combines valves and solid-state electronics and looks a bit like a UFO – especially since the interior glows blue in the dark. You can provide input from a CD deck or directly from a computer.

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Yar sounds amazing to me, and Sandro Laffranchini, an audio enthusiast and first cello at La Scala in Milan, agrees. He turned up to a demo and opined that the sound was the closest to a concert hall he’s ever heard. I tried it with everything from high-quality files of George Harrison’s Beware of Darkness to Maria Callas to Coldplay’s wonderful last album, in particular the complex and testing track Adventure of a Lifetime. It is simply one of the best systems I’ve experienced.

Yar is expensive; €250,000 (possibly minus the Italian VAT, possibly plus your own country’s taxes) will see it delivered and installed anywhere you choose. I have a feeling, however, that the audiophile community may well largely ignore this exotic new Italian hifi, which is a shame. Buying into Yar requires a leap of faith in a startup and reviewers tend to be suspicious of newcomers to an audio world in which there’s no shortage of established highest-end brands. But mindful of the fact you could buy a small house for the same money as a Yar system, I can certainly vouch for the integrity and passion of the guys in Turin. You can decide for yourself, though; Yar is currently organising demos in London, LA and New York and I heartily recommend you give it a listen.  

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