I just updated my fifteen plus year old Von Schweikert Vortex Screens to VR-7 Mark IIs. My Screens had been my personal reference for so many years, but it was time to upgrade, as the technology of fifteen-year-old speakers was just not cutting it anymore. It also helped that I finally was not a starving college student anymore either and finally had a “real” job that actually left some money in the bank after the bills were paid.
Mr. Von Schweikert was able to use the old cabinets of the Vortex Screen and replace all the drivers, crossovers, and parts, with the end result being a completely new speaker, but at a substantially lower cost than buying a new set of VR-7’s. This upgrade also included new bases done in a high gloss piano lacquer—a nice change from my old flat black bases. The new grill cloth used by Von Schweikert Audio (VSA) is much more sheer and does not hinder the sound in any way, and it also shows the extremely cool looking gold dust caps on the bass drivers. I also went for the full Hovland Edition, which includes the Hovland caps and the highest quality parts. If you are not familiar with the old Vortex Screens, they are almost electrostatic looking in that they are wide and shallow, as opposed to the current fashion of skinny and deep. Many rooms may not accommodate this style of speaker in addition to an extra wide entertainment center with a big screen TV and multiple components, but my listening room will, and I love the 2001 monolith look (now that is 2001, the movie title is not so impressive). One of the only speakers with this look right now is the Quad. In fact, when VSA were done with my modification, they decided they looked so cool and sounded so incredible, they were thinking about actually bringing out a speaker with this shape, wide and shallow. They would be cheaper because of the lack of the expensive hardwood cabinet. There is no loss in sound though, as the cabinets are multi-layered MDF and have major bracing and damping. As the tweeter is free standing, and the midrange has absolutely no baffle (it is mounted in a box the exact dimension of the 7” mid), the imaging may have an edge over the standard VR-7s.
Mr. Von Schweikert told me that when I brought these speakers home, everything about the sound qualities of the speakers would be there from the start, and it would just get better. Nothing is ever so simple, especially in the world of high-end audio. I hooked up the speakers in the exact place as I had the Screens. As the cabinets were exactly the same, I expected that this would work. My first reaction to the sound was that is was “weird.” I do not mean bad; it was just so different from anything I had ever heard on my system. After reading many of the articles/reviews of VSA products, and some interviews from Mr. Von Schweikert on his web site, vonschweikert.com, I found that an accurate speaker is not what most people are used to. I consider myself a very serious audiophile, but I was not ready for the sound at first. There was too much clarity, and they were very lean sounding. My old Screens were a bit heavy in the 100 hertz region, and that is what I was used to. Let me give you an analogy. When you are bumming around on the weekend, would you rather wear your sweats and your old ratty tennis shoes, or a business suit and dress shoes? I think the answer would be the same for everyone. People want what they are comfortable with. I would like to suggest that the VR-7s give the beauty and class of the best suit and dress shoes, but also the comfort and hominess of sweats and tennis shoes. Comparing clothes to speakers may not be something you do often, but when I was going to sleep after an early listening session, I was thinking of the sound of the system. You know you are really hooked when you should be trying to go to sleep so you are not a zombie at work the next day, but after a listening session that FORCED YOU TO REALLY LISTEN, it is hard to detach and have a clear mind when music is engraved in your gray matter.
For the VR-7s to really open up (especially the bass), they really do need to break in. Back to the clothes analogy—even a new pair of tennis shoes do not feel like your old pair that molds perfectly to your feet. As mentioned earlier, the sound was a bit lean for me. When I called VSA and spoke with Mr. Von Schweikert, he said the woofers need about 80 hours for the surround to loosen up and break in. The bass has been improving every time I listen. The midrange and treble take about 300 hours to break in. Because of these required hours for break in, I am finding that the bass has already where I want it, and the mid/trebles are smoothing out also. The speakers are designed for 100 percent toe in, but the sound was a bit too much in the top region, especially with the rear firing ambience driver all the way up (more about that later). He suggested listening with 50 percent toe in, and also with no toe in at all. I finally finished my current tweaking sessions with no toe in at all. This completely opened up the soundstage and the treble was much finer. I was then able to turn up the rear-firing tweeter to full, with no brightness. I also moved the speakers one foot from the back walls! I was trying to increase the bass, and what was so amazing was that I got more bass, but it never got boomy. There was just more bass. The bass now makes the WHOLE house shake. You may also want to experiment with isolation cones to raise them off the ground. I prefer this sound.
Now that I have the VF-7s nearly completed in the setup process (at least for the moment—I may toe them in a bit once they are fully broken in), let me talk about the sound. I keep hearing the word micro dynamics thrown around in The Absolute Sound. This word never meant much to me until I had the VR-7s. If you do not have a speaker that is totally accurate in all counts, you will miss out on this. I hear the smallest nuances in bass. I never thought this was possible. The Screen bass was a bit too heavy and uncontrolled now that I am becoming accustomed to the VR-7s. Originally, the Screens were designed to sound balanced from day one in the bass, but as they broke in, they may have become too strong. With the VR-7s, the sound will be lean at the beginning, but as they break in, the balance will even out. The slam and impact of the VR-7s bass is felt, with no overhang or sludge. The midrange is smooth and without character. It is hard to describe just what a truly accurate speaker sounds like. The treble is also exemplary. I used to think to get more air, you just needed more treble. This is not the case. The quality of the treble is where the air is. On the VR-7s when a cymbal crashes, you hear the shimmer and decay. It is not just a crash that glares and hurts your ears. The superb air of the VR-7s is enhanced because of the rear firing ambient driver. Engineering excellence! Do you want the clarity and air of an electrostatic, but the bass of a dynamic system? The VR-7 is here, and you can afford it (especially if you do the upgrade). This is the flagship of VSA at the moment. VSA has had many other models at higher costs and weight (two tons for the VR-10!!!!!!), but Mr. Von Schweikert says this speaker is the pinnacle of his engineering. I do not question him on this point at all.
If you own an old pair of Screens, you MUST do this upgrade. This is the first pair of Screens that VSA has upgraded to a VR-7, and it is unbelievable that you can move to this quality for such a fair amount of money. My dad always said, “Don’t ever throw anything away that is already paid for.” You already paid for the pair of Screens, so think of the fact that you are moving to a 25,000-dollar top of the line speaker, for only 5000 bucks. If you have a pair of VR-4s, you can also upgrade to a combo of VR-5/7s. The midrange cabinet of the VR-4 only allows the VR-5 midrange, but the other components of the VR-7 are installed on this upgrade. I have not heard this setup, but I am sure it is worth the money too.
My last thought. The beauty of these speakers does not happen when you are playing your test records, but when you pick out your every day record and hear new things that you have never heard. Gladiator is dynamic and bombastic on any system, but what about that old Paul Simon record I just played last night that sounded so fresh and airy. When your system makes you really care again, that is what it is about.
After running into bad luck in Watertoen, NY where Mr. Von Schweikert’s plant was destroyed in a flood, he is back with one of the finest speakers without price even coming into play, the VR-7 Mark II. If you live in Southern California and are lucky enough to be able to deal with Mr. Von Schweikert in person, please do. If you are not one of the dedicated followers of VSA, you may be soon. If you listen, it will happen.
Note: VSA will also be releasing their own line of interconnects and flat speaker cables. I purchased the interconnects and speaker cables with the VR-7s, so everything is working synergistically. The interconnects are available for phono and standard versions. The phono cables allow the low level information from your LP system to totally come to life. I am using the standard cables for both the CD player and the preamp/amp connection. The speaker cables are made with a special flat single crystal cable. These cables have one connection at the amp, but at the speaker split to allow bi-wiring. Inside each speaker cable are two separate, insulated cables in an outer, black, insulated sheath. Thus, each speaker has two separate cables: + and -. These VSA cables will make your VR-7s sound even better than they already do.
Hi folks, I am posting a follow-up to my original review of the 7's. I am into the fourth month of listening to them and I still have found no flaws. I recently did acquire the Toshiba 9200 DVD-audio/video player. Unexpectedly, the Toshiba has taken my system to a new plateau of CD/HDCD reproduction. Take a listen for yourself. I am comparing the Toshiba to Linn Sondek, Krell KPS-25s, Wadia 860, Levinson 39, Meridian 508.24, and dCS Purcel/Delius from memory. I've had a less than satisfactory experience with the Sony SCD-1 on CD playback. I am glad to have the 7's to reveal the full potential of CD playback with 24/192 DAC's.
Hi all, I am writing a follow-up review since I now own the magnificent 7.
My system--Meridian 508.24, AR Ref 1 pre-amp, Bel Canto Evo 200.2 amp, Synergistic Designer's Ref interconnect with discrete shielding, Evolution power cords, Audiotruth Dragon Biwire, von Schweikert audio VR-7's
"Mirror mirror on the wall, who has the fairest stereo system of them all." Sigh, sometimes, I feel that these products own me instead of the other way around. Well, no more. I am retiring from this hobby. The VR-7's has allowed me to find my musical nirvana. Partnered with the new and sensibly priced Evo 200.2, they are as faithful to the disc as can be. Imagine all the superlatives, multiply it by 3.14. You have now arrived at my plane of musical enjoyment.
Feel free to e-mail me. If you are seriously thinking about the VR-7 and you are in the Bay Area, I would love to share my piece of heaven with a fellow enthusiast.
I've been meaning to write a review for months now. I picked up the speakers from the Von Schweikert factory in late March. Up to that point I'd been borrowing my old B&W Matrix 804s back from a friend. When I hooked my already broken in VR7s into my system, I muttered "Uh-oh." They didn't sound anything like they did at the factory. As a former VR4 owner, I thought I wouldn't be that far off in system set up, since I remebered how the VR4s sounded in comparison to the B&Ws. Assuming the VR7s would sound anything like the VR4s was a big mistake. My system was tuned to compensate for what I percieve as a bit of midbass ripeness and upper midrange darkness in the Matrix 804s. Once I made some adjustments (cones, cables, damping, rotation tube traps etc.) things, began to fall into place.
Unlike ANY other speaker I've had in my system, or -for the most part- heard elsewhere, this speaker has next to zero character. Auditioning cables through the VR7s has been both illuminating and frustrating. Most of the cables sound extremely colored. The nice thing about the VR7s is that although the character of each of the cables is painfully obvious, the listening experience never becomes unpleasant (bright, boomy, shouty etc.) I'm sure it's possible to make these speakers sound bad, but I haven't been able to.
Compared to Albert's earlier designs, the balance seems right on target. To my ears, the VR4s sounded a bit grey and laid back through the mid range, and slightly prominent in the bass region if not carefully matched with the room and equipment. The VR6, to my ears, had wonderfully articulate -albeit lean- bass, that touch of grey-hued midrange with a tweeter that was all silk and shimmer on the very top, but ws hard to tame in its lower and mid regions. The VR7's midrange is much more open, present and harmonically true. The bass has both impact and articulation. The treble, while being incredibly informative, never draws attention to itself. All these squalities would be meaningless if not properly integrated. This is where the VR7 shines. The sound reminds me of a very dynamic electrostat with better extension at the frequency extremes. I could go on with musical examples, but I think you get the idea.