I find myself in agreement with both of the prior reviews, to an extent. I am always pleased with these speakers. I am frequently suprised by their performance. And I am sometimes shocked at how well they deliver the musical signal.
These speakers are the fourth pair of "quality" speakers I've owned, (Klipsh, Boston Acoustics, ADS). I've listened to dozens of others in showrooms. Even those in the price range that I can only call ridiculous. I've owned these for about a year and have listened to them almost daily since purchasing them used, ($1,200).
The qualities I was looking for in what I intended to be my final set of speakers were simple. 1. Full Range-I've never found a pleasing combination of sub-woofer/monitor. 2. They must be affordable on my fairly meager budget. 3. They must allow the emotional content of the music to come through.
The journey to identify speakers that met these qualifications came down, ironically, to the VR-2s and the Vandersteen 2ce Signatures mentioned in Signal67's review. While I absoutely loved the mid and lower bass of the 2ce I ultimately chose what I felt to be the more neutral overall presentation of the VR-2.
During the demo of the VR-2 the amplification was hybrid, (dk integrated amp). (I think if money allows this is the ultimate way to go). During the listening test my typical and very familiar CD, of various male and female vocalists along with challanging instumental music, was as musical as I've heard it. The bass was strong and clean. The midrange was clear and palpable- almost real, the treble was extended and natural. But there was another quality that kept tugging at me. I hadn't noticed it on these recordings before. Then came a track by Johnny Cash- "The first time ever I saw your face". And it hit me. As tears welled up in my eyes I realized that what I was hearing was emotion. An artist who genuinely felt what he was saying and was saying it from a place that truly meant something. It's the connection to the music that I was looking for. I paired these speakers with a 50 watt EL34 based tube integrated amp and a modest CDP/DAC. I've never regreted the purchase.
The most striking thing to me besides the often sublime music is how sensitive these speakers are to placement. Even toe in and out of 1/2" makes a sometimes huge impact on the sound. Beyond that, these speakers are as another reviewer mentioned, VERY revealing. Every disc is laid bare with the recording quality easily realized. This results in the previously mentioned sublime music when the care and quality of the recording is first rate. And on less than well done recordings that too is quite obvious. Fortunately, with the tube amplification these recordings are still listenable, just not impressive.
If you have the opportunity to listen to these speakers do. But be aware that these are not speakers for the set it and forget it crowd. After a year of ownership I still find ways to improve the system's sound. The effect of every change in wire, interconnects, tubes and placement is easily heard. Those that are improvements I keep and enjoy. Those that are not I quickly discard. I can, without hesitation, recommend these speakers to those who enjoy the discovery of music. They allow this to be done both in the quality they are able to reveal in the music as well as the ability to uncomver improvements through interaction with the hardware itself.
these are awesome! but tricky, very tricky to set up. consider this- due to wide despersion, they need to be 8ft apart. also, since they go down to 25hz, they need room to breathe, otherwise bass will sound 'slow' and midrange will get congested and muddy on involved passages. obviously, that puts restrictions on minimum room size and speaker placement. thats why a lot of people sell them- people just cant get these speakers to perform to 100% of their potential. here's what i discovered about vr2s:
1 - they love to be parallel to one another. you can tilt them in slightly, but then the rear-firing tweaters will point out. fortunately, since they have very wide dispersion, you do not need the tweeters to 'cross right behind your head' despite what the manual says. and because the drivers are so close, driver integration is great. so nearfield listening works out nicely without speakers pointing at the listening position.
2- since the ports are in the front, you can place vr2s close to back wall (despite what the manual says). that simplifies placement a lot. just make sure to not overdo the rear tweeter in this case. i have mine at 1 (out of 10).
3 - since they go down to 25hz, they like to be placed at least 2 feet from sidewalls. getting them away from sidewalls is much more critical than back wall.
4- regardless of what the manual says, they want high current and plenty of power. solid state seems to work good. adcom, parasound, dk - amps like that. my 60 watt yamaha just wimped out. so i would guess at least 120 watts of high current power should do it for the rockers. i have 200 watts. i like metal. :)
of course these current/power requirements make sense given their average sensitivity and high-order crossover.
5-spikes that mine came with just sucked! i hear now they ship with good spikes. but still, these speakers SHOULD, HAVE TO BE, ABSOLUTELY MUST be coupled to the floor. otherwise, even medium carpet will mess up the sound. get big spikes or put quarters underneath the crappy little cones. you should hear the bass become fast, midrange bloom and the whole soundstage open up. if you have carpet, and you THINK vr2s are coupled to the floor, you should still try placing quarters under the spikes just to see how sound changes.
6- biwiring these is silly. they are 2.5 way, not 3 way. so the top cable will only drive the tweeter. you will get a much better sound if you buy a really good speaker cable as opposed to 2 crappier ones.
7-filling the resonance control chamber with lead shot is pretty much mandatory.
do not use sand.
8-they take a long time to break in. 300 hours probably.
so if you grab an almost-new pair on audiogon (around $1300) from some poor soul who could not get them to work, and you follow these suggestions, you will have a gloriously transparent speaker that disappears, does all kinds of music extremely well, has a magical crossover, beatiful midrange, that makes watching movies a blast. it has a huge sweet spot, and has tonality just spot-on. from the next room it sounds like a live band is playing. from piano to death metal, from clerks to jurassic park - these are awesome. but beware-they are so transparent that you will immediately hear flaws with other components and cables.
I traded up my Revel F30s for the VR2s because they offered a more compact package with similar dynamic range. Perhaps it's not totally fair to compare the VSs with a speaker that costs about $1000 more, but they were seriously lacking by comparison. What I missed most was the F30s absolutely serene midrange. On the other hand, the VR2s were much more managable in a small room; much easier to get the appropriate imaging effect. I didn't have much luck using the "virtual reality" rear firing driver, though. It always made things too bright.
Over time, I found the VR2s to be a little forward and occasionally fatiguing; even when used with tube amplification. They brought to mind that beautiful girl on campus; you know, the blond with the perfect hair and great curves - yet there was something unreal and unengaging about her personality. You like her, but she's a little too teflon to fall in love with.
The fact that company is called VS RESEARCH tells you a lot about their philosophy. There seems to be a great deal of emphasis on design and science and less on sound aesthetics. So the VR2s come off a bit dry for my taste, but they're a banquet for propeller-heads who enjoy hyper-accuracy and over-blown dynamics. It sort of represents the great divide in audio geekdom: one side wants to take full advantage of digital technology to hear every detail from their source; the other side is less concerned with dynamics then they are with recreating a more analog, "laid back" sound. I'm of the latter school. I replaced these with cheaper Vandersteen 2ce signatures which - to my surprise - sounded better.
The VSs are a quality product, but in my opinion don't live up to the hype that crested about a year ago. Now I see a lot of their speakers for sale used. Many of the owners say the same thing: I couldn't fall in love with them.