I've had the Vandersteen 3As for about a year now and the one thing I can say about them is that they've forced me to upgrade most of my equipment because they showed up the flaws in what I had. These speakers live by the garbage-in/garbage out mentality. If you feed them great sound, you'll get it. If not, you'll know it.
Incredibly clear sound, solid but not the best imaging, can reach incredibly deep and controlled bass IF you have an amp that can drive them.
Bought Vandersteen 3A's in my first foray into high end sound. Coupled them with a Classe CAP-151 integrated amp, a Classe 1.5 CD player, and Audioquest Forest/Indigo biwired speaker cables. I found that while the Vandersteens have a beautiful wide open sound, the bass and lower midrange dominates. I understand this is how they are supposed to sound but I just never felt the magic of a stinging guitar solo or majesty of a winding sax. Also felt that voices didn't sound totally natural. I thought it might be the electronics but I borrowed some very high end Audio Research electronics from my dealer but it didn't help much. You should also know that Vandersteens are extremely room placement sensitive. have to be at least 2-3 feet off back wall to sound good. Have decided to trade in for some Pro-ac 1.5's.
It took me 6 months to find a pair of speakers that I could afford and that met my criteria for a great music speaker. In moving upward from the NHT 2.5, I auditioned all the speakers on the list above. All but the B&Ws did great things with my music. But only the Vandersteen 3A Signature did it in a way that made me completely forget about the speakers. I borrowed a pair and had them at home for 2 weeks.
After the audition, I decided to buy a pair of slightly used 3As, with the goal of getting them upgraded to Signatures. That was 6 months ago, and I haven't upgraded yet. Why? I haven't been compeled to do so. The 3As sound great the way they are. Albeit, the Signatures sound noticeably better, and I will likely pay for the upgrade.....someday.
What makes them so good? The bottom line is that I listen to the music and am moved by IT, not the equipment. But if I have to analyze...they, as the cliche goes, do nothing wrong and, conversely, don't do any one thing vastly better than another. They are solid, consistent performers in all categories.
In contrast, the Shearwaters image like nothing I've EVER heard; they were absolutely uncanny. But the low end was limited, flabby, and lacked continuity down the registers.
Both Maggies were unbelievable in the shear size and fluidity of their soundstage. Detail was impeccable. But they don't have the dynamic punch I liked in my NHTs.
Both Aerials had an open, clean, sweet sound, but they did not play enough low bass for my tastes.
The Vandy 3As don't image as well as the Shearwater, but they image very well and have a clean bass. They don't have as lush, silky, and huge of a stage as the Maggies, but they throw a large, spacious stage and have plenty of snap and punch. Their high end is slightly darker than the Aerials', but it's thoroughly sweet and detailed with all the deep bass I really need.
From rock to jazz to salsa to new age to orchestral(even an occassional visit from Jonny Cash!) they make great music. And they're never fatiguing, like my NHTs were. Tonight I absolutely cranked Pearl Jam, non stop, for 1 hour and 20 min. I relished every second, never feeling the need to turn it down, never wandering mentally from the intensity of the moment. To me, that's the mark of a great speaker! Happy listening - indeed.
Eqpt: Audio Research CDT1 transport, EAD 1000 Series III dac w/HDCD, Classe DR6 pre, Proceed Amp2 power, Audioquest cables throughout.
I found that I must post a follow up to my original review. I have added a Sony SCD 777 Super Audio player, new Svetlana tubes to my amp, and Transparent Ultra XL IC's and Speaker wire. My listening impression...Hoooollly Shhhhhit. The 3A's now have real bass slam, image much deeper and wider and have a presence that sounds much more real. They are the best speakers I have ever had the opportunity to own. Bought these used for $1250 and you should see the smile on my face tonight. Been listening all afternoon and evening with no fatigue at all. My setup consists of a PS Audio 5.5 preamp run in passive mode (about $300 on the used market) and a 20 year old Audio Research D-90B tube amp (available used for $800-900. Although the entry price is cheap the sound is world class. To anyone interested in these make sure you Bi-Wire with good cables and can provide 90-100 watts/channel. If you are rich enough for a SACD as a source these speakers will not dissapoint. I have them in a well damped medium size room with 8 foot ceilings. With the lights out it becomes hard to tell what size room that you are listening in...yes, they soundstage that good. I think I will be keeping these for quite some time.
Of course, for those of us in the know, not much needs to be said about Reference 3A.
I have available to me, for $60.00, a vintage pair. They have no model number however I have some info on them. They are 26 lbs each, 25" * 12.5" * 10.5", 50 watt RMS continuous, 30 - 35Khz. They were manufac ... Read More »
I have a pair of Reference 3a La Suprema that are in excellant condition but have not been used for many years. I am putting together a new system and not sure if I should spend the money on new speakers as well. Can anyone give their opinion on these old speakers vs new speakers say in the 50 ... Read More »
I've got 2 pair of Reference 3a speakers from my father since 1995, however, I'm gonna to moving overseas, I can't keep both of them anymore, and I would trying to sell both of them.
But I don't know any specification and the value of them.
Is there anyone can help? What model ... Read More »
Hello... I have a Nakamichi Receiver that has been a pride and joy for (wow) almost 20 years now. Granted, it's needed repairs more than once, but it's well worth it.
So my latest problem is the tone control button seems to be broken such that it causes the volume in the whole system to fade in ... Read More »
I'm looking to get an amp to power some vintage Acoustic Research AR-3a speakers in a second zone (another room from my receiver). My receiver has multi-room capability.
This is the amp I'm looking at:
[URL="http://www.oaktreeent.com/Stereo_Amps_and_Pre-Amps.htm"]http://www.oaktreeent. ... Read More »