(Review) YG Cairn, Affordable Entry to the World of Ultra High End Audio

yg cairn

Affordable is subjective, what I or you can afford or find affordable is probably different. It is also relative to anything you compare against, to call the YG affordable compared to your typical big box store brands is comical, though when compared to many speakers in the Hifi space, it is quite an affordable speaker. The YG Cairn is part of the new Peaks line from YG and is the entry point into both the line and YG as a whole. The Cairn and its bespoke stand cost $10,000.00 (U.S)(pair), the stand making up $1,500.00 of the price. Like I said, affordable, is subjective. But from a company where a pair of speakers could run you north of a quarter million dollars, 10k is pretty affordable. The real question is though, are they worth it, and that is what I intend to answer as best as I can.

gold note is-10

Unboxing and Setup

I do not know if this is true of other YG Speakers, but the boxes the Cairns come in make for one of the most enjoyable unboxings I have ever done on a pair of speakers. I set them on the table and the boxes just sort of fold away from the speakers as you lift off each part. Revealing the cairns sitting in the last part of the box, being protected by their linen covers. The Stands are a very similar affair and easy to get out of the box. There is no open the top and flip it upside down to slide the box off and hopefully not tip them over. While typically the buyer doesn’t need to keep the boxes and can open them however you want, I do appreciate good packing.

audio technica lp-7

On the back of the speakers, you will see two large covers that protect the binding posts during shipping. These are 3d printed and come right off and then you can screw on the actual binding post nuts. The speaker stands have spikes though my set did not come with any spike cups so you may need to remove them or find cups if you have a floor you don’t want to put spikes directly onto. The Speakers have a spike of sorts, though not the thin pointy type, but rather they are matched to the recesses in the stands as a sort of positive stop or detent to locate the speaker on the stand. They are adjustable to tilt the speaker if you find you need to depending on your listening position. Then on the back, like many 2 way bookshelves, the Cairns have a single set of binding posts, though they accept nearly any type of speaker cable connection.

yg cairn

Placement isn’t as tricky as some speakers as these are sealed speakers so they can get closer to walls than some other rear-ported options. I did find that much like many speakers, they do sound better out from the back and side walls but don’t sound particularly bad against the back wall if that is what you need to do for your space. I did toe these in just a bit, essentially just enough so that I could only see a sliver of the inner sides from my listening position and this sounded the best to me. As always you will likely have to play with the position in your space to get the most out of these or any speaker for that matter.

The fit and finish of the speakers has its pros and cons. The Peaks line is the only line of YG speakers to not use entirely aluminum cases and the wood, or at least the Oak Finish, is not my favorite. I don’t think the grain is particularly interesting and at this price, I would prefer the other two options. The other thing about the wood is that the grain is a bit raised on the sides and I suspect this is from the curvature as the flat top and back are glassy smooth. While it seems nitpicky these are expensive speakers even if they are entry-level. The aluminum work however is perfection. You can really tell metalworking is YG’s specialty as the face and the stands are incredible. The stands are made from 4 separate pieces of milled billet aluminum and they fit together like they are a single peace. The stands and front baffles ooze details like the scalloping in the inner portion of the stand and the ultra-fine detail of the YG logo, as well as the perfect waveguide for the tweeter. I will also mention the woodwork would never stop me from buying these speakers, as you can not really see that grain texture and it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the speaker.

yg cairn


I don’t know how else to say this, but they are the easiest speakers to listen to that I have ever had in for review. They are soft and smooth, not harsh at all. You can really listen to these for hours on end and have zero fatigue. People tend to associate metal with hard and cold and wood as having a warm soft feel so I think some people may be hesitant to buy a metal speaker for fear of them being harsh or bright, but I have to say, these don’t have any of the typical qualities we prescribe to metal objects. I also powered these with exclusively solid-state amps, even a class D integrated from Gold Note. They just do not get harsh. I would love to hear these on tubes but I do not have a tube amp in at the moment. They have adequate bass for the size, though they certainly can benefit from a subwoofer and I used the SVS SB1000 Pro with this pair. They are so easygoing, they blend perfectly with the SVS Sub. Later on, while I had them hooked up to the Goldnote I didn’t run my sub to see how they would perform, and like I said they can hit low notes well but don’t really have the size to get the air moving, and deliver that punch. I played one of my favorite bass-heavy tracks “Northend Nightlife” by Headphone Activist and even without the sub, I was able to enjoy the song. the bass was detailed and controlled and didn’t overtake the mids which can be an issue on some two-way speakers. The Cairns handled the track with no issue at all. The forgecore tweeter may be my favorite “conventional” tweeter I have heard. While its design is not conventional it is still a dome-style tweeter and looks conventional on the surface.

yg tweeter

YG Reference 3 speakers have a new tweeter, the “Lattice Tweeter”, which builds on the tech of the Forgecore Tweeter and offers a claimed better dispersion, lower distortion, and better off-access response. This made me curious about how well the Forecore was off-access as you may have listening positions that are not right in the sweet spot. You have to get really far from the sweet spot in my room to have an audible difference. I also took measurements as I was curious, the first straight on, and the second measurement was off to the inside at approximately 45 degrees. While measuring only the left speaker on a sweep the difference in response is not that much, and probably has more to do with the room acoustics than speaker acoustics, but alas I do not have access to an anechoic chamber so we will have to interpret what we can from these graphs.

Orange= straight on at 30″ Green = 45 Degrees off axis at 30″

The Cairn and we can likely extrapolate the entire Peaks lineup should prove to be a great shared space speaker. Something you can enjoy with friends and family without worrying about anyone being in a bad spot to listen. Granted every speaker I have experienced has a best seating position, however, some speakers are much more forgiving and have a wide sweet spot and the Cairn is just such a speaker.

I tried to find a downside to these speakers, and sonically it just doesn’t exist for me considering they are bookshelf speakers. I genuinely really like the sound of these speakers, they make me want to try out the larger floor-standing option, the YG Summit. I would imagine that they would fill in the bass perfectly as they have a larger woofer and three-way design. Personally, I would take these over the B&W 805 D4s which are about the same price. The 805 is a lot brighter and can be fatiguing with the wrong amp pairing. Speaking of amp pairings the B&Ws are also a lot pickier in my experience. These YGs I have had hooked to my Nakamichi PA5, my Mcintosh MC250, and the Gold Note IS-10 Integrated and they sounded wonderful with each one with some minor change in their timbre. The Mcintosh MC250 is a very warm solid-state and the YGs sounded absolutely lush and sublime, even with my brighter PA5 they were non-fatiguing, and most surprisingly the class D IS-10 still didn’t usher in any harshness to the Cairns.

yg cairns

The Music

For critical listening, I picked a couple of long-time favorites as well as some newcomers. A new, or at least new to me artist I have been enjoying is Sawyer Hill. I happen to come across him scrolling through Instagram reels and he has a voice for the ages. His song “Look at the Time” is probably my favorite and I have been cycling it through quite often. He has music on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, and YouTube. As far as I can tell on his website he does not have any physical media out yet so I have been streaming him on Spotify. His deep and smooth voice sounds natural and clear on the Cairns. The instruments have precise imaging and while the song doesn’t have a particularly wide stage, there is a good depth to it. The high notes are crystal clear but not harsh or sharp. Cymbals and high hats on the drums can be overly bright on some of the harder tweets like Diamond tweeters but the YG is just easy on the ears even with a big crash or ride.

I also listened to “Shores, and the New World” (Instrumental) by Levi Poet. This is the final track from “Correspondence, A Fiction” which is actually a series of poems telling a story about a boy and girl in love. The story was set to music and Levi the Poet created an instrumental-only copy of the album. This track in particular has a powerful crescendo in the middle that slowly builds up and gives me chills every time. The track has so many layers that add on each bar creating a very dynamic and exciting track. The beginning ambiance of waves crashing is slowly taken over by the piano, and then the cello and horns as well as some synths, it is expertly arranged. The song is very dark and moody and reaches low as well as high so having speakers that can play dynamically is important the YGs do extremely well for bookshelves. I will say having a sub helps build the foundation of this song, especially for the drop. The Cairns do give a great sense of space though presenting the song with quite a wide and deep sound stage. As I mentioned before bass limitations have nothing to do with YG or any other brand, it’s just physics and bigger speakers can produce more bass, and these are relatively small, the mid/bass woofer is 6″ in diameter which is why they have the bass output that they do have, but it just won’t compare to a larger driver.

A really fun song to listen to on a good set of speakers is “Leave it Alone” by Caroline Glaser. I do not know a song with more spatial depth than this one. There are these rock slides on the guitar that sound like they are way behind the rest of the song. The drums also have this huge air around them making it feel like you are in a giant hall. In the back panning from to right are all these effects that sound like drumsticks taping together with an echo that makes the room sound absolutely massive and the YGs presented this effect with ease. Caroline’s voice sounds wonderful on the Carins as they are as neutral as can be so the vocals come across as very clear and natural sounding.

While working on this review I saw that Laufey had dropped a new song “Goddess” and knew this had to be part of the review. The song is pure bliss, Laufey has a sound that is unique yet feels eerily familiar. She is the rebirth of the classic jazz club sound. “Goddess” is a rather slow soft song with a lot of fine faint details that need a delicate hand to bring out. Laufey also uses a lot of vibrato in this track that just sounds incredible on the YG Carins. She really opens up in the last third of the song as does the background creating a great sense of space. The outro has a power that makes you just want to turn the volume up and make it feel like a live performance. The YGs just sing when you bring up the volume and fill the room. If you didn’t know any better you wouldn’t think they they were the size they are. They put Laufey there in the room with you, they reproduce vocals with an unbelievable ease.

Manufacturer Specs

2-way passive stand mount/bookshelf speaker
Dedicated stand available

ForgeCore tweeter
15cm (6″) BilletCore driver

40Hz – 40kHz

Average 8 Ohms
Minimum 3.9 Ohms


14.6 x 7.6 x 10.3″ (H x W x D)
370 x 192 x 262mm (H x W x D)

28lbs each
12.5kg each

Pros and Cons


  • Incredible sound quality
  • stunning looks
  • easy to pair
  • easy to place


  • low sensitivity (really only an issue for low-wattage tubes)

Associated Equipment

Preamp: Marantz SR7009
Power amp: Nakamichi PA-5 Stasis
McIntosh MC250
Integrated amp: Gold Note IS-10
Sources: Rotel CD-11 Tribute
Audio Technica LP-7 with Ortofon Quintet Blue MC
Fiio M9 DAP with FLAC files
iPhone 14 Pro
Macbook Air M2
Cables: Audio Quest Evergreen Interconnects
Prosper Cable Custom Speaker Cables
Viborg Power Cables
Audio. Quest Power Quest 3
Subwoofer: SVS SB1000 Pro


To call anything the best is tough, especially when there is no performance benchmark in such a subjective hobby. Speakers are not like racecars where lap times can tell you exactly which car will be the best performer. Audio is a very personal endeavor and what you like is not necessarily what I like. I will say that, to me, out of all the bookshelf speakers I have heard these are the best so far. I would happily take these over any other bookshelf-size speaker in their price range that I have heard in person, which includes some pretty nice speakers such as the B&W 805 D4 and Focal Sopra No1. That is not to say those are not great speakers in their own right, but to my ears, B&W can be a bit too bright and the Focal tends to be warmer. The YG Cairn falls in the middle of the two in terms of timbre. They have wonderful resolution and dispersion and are probably the easiest speakers to listen to that I have had in for review. On top of how they sound, they are not all that fussy about what you use to power them, though more power is better due to the lower sensitivity. The part some may get hung up on is the price for bookshelf speakers, sure you can get a good set of floor standers from other brands such as my Sonetto V for that price, but for a space where bookshelf makes more sense they may be one of the best options out there. These will be hard to send back, I have enjoyed the Cairns quite a bit and look forward to checking out more from YG in the future. If you are in the market for a pair of bookshelf-size speakers, these and the larger Tor should be on your audition list.

For more information and where to buy click the link below.


YG provided Hifi Chicken with a Pair of Cairns with Stands for the purpose of this review, YG nor any affiliate paid in full or part in exchange for this review.

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