i've had these speakers up and running for a tad over a year now and am still amazed every time i sit down to listen. the framed art on the wall in front of my listening couch seem to eminate music. the imaging and sound stage on these speakers is nothing short of spectacular. i've had friends that are just casual music listeners say that "i've ruined them". music of all genres come thru so pure with the time and phase correct aspects of these speakers that my vinyl collection is seemingly growing exponentially, much to my wife's chagrin. only lately have i come across a few tracks where the bottom end of bass, i mean really, really low cycles, was a bit muddled. i will soon remedy this with the addition of a pair of 2wq subwoofers from vandersteen. the soundstage is almost as deep as it is wide. depth layers from well mastered recordings (like "aja" from steely dan) are there in front of you...watch out for the floating saxophones!! i simply don't listen to my music in the same manner, i keep finding nuances that just were not apparent before played thru other speakers....
There is not much that needs to be added to the already glowing reviews. I listen mostly to classical music and I have never heard such clarity, neutrality, soundstage (both wide and deep) and control. There are notes where other speakers including the aerial 5Ts produce smudges.
I found two things helped a lot.
(a) positioning .. these were VERY positin sensitive. if you like to experiment and play with the speakers you will be surprised with how great they can sound, and how they can be hollow 12 inches away.
(b) they need time to break in - at least 120 hours.
Finally. One last thing. Dont even try bad recordings with these speakers.
The most natural and seamless speaker Ive ever listened to.
I paired these up with a pair of 2wq's and it sounds dramatically better than my B&W setup.
Better sound stage deeper bass and the detail is out of this world. The sounstage is both deep and wide.
I've owned my 3A Signatures for about 3 months now, and everything I heard them do right at the dealer is starting to emerge.
I finally own a REAL pair of floor-standing, full range, no BS, reference grade speakers, and I can't be happier. The sound is as big as I want it to be, with everything in it's place in the soundstage (a credit to being phase and time correct).
The speakers are flexible with placement (just follow the included directions), easy to amplify and easy to live with. The included 'third leg' Sound Anchor stands are super-easy to adjust.
I think they sound much more 'right' in the middle & upper frequencies that the Paradigm Ref Studios I used to have (and liked very much). That shouldn't be hard to do at this price point, but they also get it right where the Martin Logans sounded smeared and indistinct. The B&W line nearly drove me from the room with their ultra-forward, in-your-lap sound.
These speakers are not bass shy. In fact, they include two big woofers to fill in the lower range with good, tight sound. Finally, a speaker the gets down without being ashamed.
Note that you must bi-wire these to get correct results. Go ahead and build that cable cost into your budget now. Also note that the terminal strips used require a specific spade width; not bananas or pins or anything else.
Overall, I think I've finally found the stereo and front channel speakers I can keep for a while. I'm off the audiophile merry-go-round. I knew they were keepers as soon as I heard them.
Krell 300r as an amp (rep. by Bryston soon)
Yamaha RXV2095 doing Pre/Pro/DAC work
Pioneer DVD and CD transports
A mix of Kimber (where it counts) and Liberty wires
Monster Power 5k for pwer mgmnt
A side note:
A recent call to my dealer to resolve a problem with requesting one finish (on a different speaker) and receiving another was really disappointing. Several weeks of delayed response lead me to work with the Vandersteen factory directly, and even then Mr. Vandersteen himself offered only a pay-to-resolve option or using a can of spray paint on it!
I have owned the 3A sigs for a year and have waited until now to submit a review of this
First, a little about me. I've been an audiophile for 30 years and have been listening to and playing music ever since I can remember. My tastes run to classical and jazz, but I've got quite a bit of rock, from classic to alternative, in my collection. I came of age with the "West Coast Sound" of JBL speakers, moved through more gear including Cerwin Vega noisemakers, maggies, original B&W 801's, and EPOS ES14's. My systems are generally what I would call "Value" audiophile given that I cannot afford the expensive stuff, but I think I have been able to put together musically satisfying systems.
Two years ago, after shelving my audiophile hobby for about 5 years to have kids, buy a house and so on, I got back into the gear and the music. My EPOS ES14's (great speakers) couldn't perform well in my large living room so I dusted off my ears and ventured out on a qwest to find the next best thing. My wife was understanding and let me foray into high end stores to listen over the course of several weekends spread out over months. Since there is no way for any normal human to listen to all the great speakers out there, I had to make my decision based on what I could actually listen to within a reasonable distance from my home.
I auditioned the B&W nautilus range, dynaudio speakers, Totems, Audio Physic models, some monitor audio speakers, and a smattering of others informally auditioned. This was not an easy task. The hardest thing was to maintain the "sonic signature" of a particular speaker from one dealer when trying to compare it to a speaker at another store. I could not A-B speakers so had to gradually listen for specific elements in the sound to eventually determine which speaker(s) did things I liked.
Certain patterns emerged as I did my listening. The B&W nautilus line was almost uniformly "tizzy". It is unfortunate that this fine brand seems to have degraded its quality. The sound was quite hard in the midrange, even in the Nautilus 801. Another pattern I observed was degraded low bass performance in speakers with ported designs.
A few things made the 3A's standouts compared to the other speakers I auditioned:
1. Bass performance is excellent. The Vandys have had a reputation for boomy bass, Not so! The speakers produce bass when its there, and don't when it is not. The 3A's go very low and maintain the tonal character of the bass instrument better than any of the other speakers I auditioned. They actually produce a "resonance" below the tonality of the instrument, creating a much more realistic and believable reproduction. For example, the very low bass drum hits in the early "Gladiator" soundtrack resonated beautifully with the 3A's. The clincher for me was the descending bass line in Led Zeppelin's "dazed and Confused" track. This is a very powerful bass line that goes quite low. The Vandy's handled it and I could define the bass as a fretted instrument even on the lowest tone. Every other speaker (with ports) turned the bass into more of a low bass "tone" as it descended. The 3A's go low, but maintain instrument definition. Plucked accoustic bass sounds incredibly real on the vandys.
2. Midrange. Very smooth. While some complain of a "laid back" quality to Vandersteen speakers, I think it is just the absence of distortion coupled with a flatter reponse than that found in many other speakers. A lot of manufacturers brighten up the mids and highs to improve definition and create a sense of "presence". This also creates listener fatigue. The 3A's incorporate very low distortion drivers. Everything is there, its just that the 3A's don't hit you over the head with the detail, as many other speakers do. I experience almost no listener fatigue with the 3A's.
3. "Musical" preformance. I frequently listen to classical music at moderate or low volume while I do something else. There are times when the Vandys simply produce an extremely realistic representation of an orchestra. Also, vocals, jazz, and piano all come across with superb tonal accuracy and realism. Again, detail is there, but in a real way. For example, when the orchestra is playing at moderately loud levels, it sounds like an orchestra, not a collection of overbright instruments - midrange detail is present, but not exaggerated as it is in so many other high end speakers.
4. Sound-stage. This is very good, although many of the other speakers I listened to also performed well here. The Vandys work well for me because of my large living room - the drivers are placed fairly high up so the speaker produces a nice "tall" soundstage.
5. Non-fatiguing. My ears never hurt with the 3A's. With some of the other speakers I auditioned, the fatigue was very bad and I couldn't listen more than 25 minutes or so.
OK. Are they perfect? Well no, nothing is. There are a few things to note about these speakers:
a. Overall, they tend to have a warmer tone. If you love super detailed sound or "sizzling highs and thunderous bass" the 3A's may not be for you. They are accurate speakers that sound their best, in my opinion, with classical music, jazz, and acoustic instuments. They can go high and low and produce good bass output, they just don't do it all the time as many "forward" speaker designs do.
b. Rock and Roll. This is a tough genre to reproduce on any speaker because of the stress of the music and the horrible engineering and production values on so many rock sources. The Vandersteen 3A's change their sonic character dramatically to reflect what's coming off a CD. Since Rock is frequently compressed and otherwise mangled by engineers, some rock CDs sound horrible on the Vandys since the speakers are completely unforgiving of low quality source material. If you have a big collection of unremastered rock cds and listen primarily to rock, audition these speakers very carefully. Of course, I tell everyone to buy a PA system if you want your rock CDs to sound like rock played live - PA systems are great for playing rock!
c. Size and weight. Each speaker weighs 90 pounds and they are tricky to move because they aren't made with wood cabinets so one has to take care not to puncture the grills when moving them. Logistically they are difficult to set up because of their weight and dimensions.
Overall, it is difficult to find a full range speaker with the performance of the 3A's especially at their price point. Leaving wood cabinets off the speaker helps to dramatically reduce their cost. Although this is an overused phrase, the 3A's do sound as good or better than many speakers costing 2 or 3 times as much. My system is modest, so I have a long way to go to really tap into the sonic potential of these speakers. If you have the room and want a high performance full range speaker, you should listen to the 3A's
- they produce a very "musical" experience with a wide range of material.
Preamp - Adcom GFP-750 Amp - Rotel 985 MK11 CD - AMC CDM7 with tube DAC