Fine Tuning Vandersteen 5s An offer gone missing

Awhile back I purchased a pair of Vandersteen 5's and I inquired regarding placement, etc., etc. As anyone who has these knows, there are a host of room contour adjustments that can be done. There are 11 adjustment "pots" for bass contour which generally require the use of an SPL meter and test CD to set accurately. One fine Audiogonner said in an e-mail that he had a very good way to accomplish these adjustments by "ear" and that I should contact him once I was fully satisfied with the speaker placement, cables, etc. Now, the e-mail (and address) has gone missing. Would that member be so kind as to contact me again? Of course, I would also welcome comment and advice from others. Thanks
the easiest and most accurate would be radio shack analog spl.meter with rives audio cd.their cd has section calibrated for this meter.this what i used for my 5's,very easy and effective.i have a brand new r.s.anolog meter avail.if you are interested,also.rives claims the analog version is slightly more accurate,but not as "cool" looking.the meter should aviod human error.
Pay the nearest dealer some $$$ and have it done right.

I have the 5As, and have set them up personnally along with a number of other similar hi end 5 or 5A systems in the area. In doing so, I have used a number of approaches including the RS meter, a Behringer RTA, and laptop SW called "Room EQ Wizard".

First, in my opinion, these speakers offer tremendous performance if set up properly. They can be totally coherent across the 4 drivers such that you can not hear the speakers, and you can not hear any cross over effect between the drivers, including the subs. I believe you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you tried to do this by ear.

That being said, I don't know what penchant you might have for aquiring the equipment and knowledge to do it yourself versus getting a professional to do it.

Currently Richard Vandersteen is recommending a procedure for how to do it with a RS meter in the instructions that go with the Quatros, and it would apply equally to the 5As. It is very straight forward, and if your room is not particularly problematic, it could get you quite an acceptable solution. However, I have found that real additional improvements can be made with either the RTA or Room EQ.

The RTA provides real time measurement in typically 1/3 octave bands and you can adjust each sub while playing pink noise while looking at the display. It is best to use an RTA plus a good quality calibrated microphone (total about $350). However, the nature of pink noise is such that the amplitudes of all bands are continually varying, make any precise setting an averaging at best.

Room EQ is shareware SW running on a PC augmented by a USB external sound card driven by a RS meter as the microphone. This combination is only a little more expensive than the RS meter alone ($50 for the sound card assuming you have a laptop). It works by calibrating the sound card and microphone and then sending a sweep into the room and capturing the response. A measurement can be taken in a couple of seconds and saved as a plot to the disk (unlike most RTAs). This method is very precise and very repeatable, and is capable of showing the difference in response when moving a speaker by as little as 1". It also reveals those very narrow peaks or dropouts that an RTA cannot see. There are other similar SW products that will do this as well, such as ETF version 5 etc.

I have gone into rooms where dealers have "set up" 5s and made noticable improvements with the Room EQ approach. It is very obvious to me that getting the bass right affects the mids positively every time. I have shown graphs of this approach (before and after) to Richard and hope to have more dialogue on this with him during the upcoming HE 2006 in LA.

I hope this is helpful and not discouraging. A little patience and extra effort here is well worth while. Let me know if I can be of further help.
You absolutely can NOT tune the Model 5s or Quatros by ear. Read the manual and follow the procedure there. You'll get 80% of the tuning done right there. A qualified and practiced Vandersteen retailer/installer is the only person who will get you 100% of the way there. It's mostly science...80%. The rest is art and experience. You have some very fine speakers that cost a fair amount of money. Go ahead and pay to have it done right. You won't regret it.
Ditto what machine said. Vandersteen would tell you that after all the adjustments are done, a careful listen to something like Ray Brown's Solar Wind is in order.
FWIW, I had a dealer set mine up initially and he really screwed it up.
Thanks for the mostly very well considered advice. My local dealer wants something like $300-400 to come out and tune mine. Because I will be in this house only one more year while another is being built, and after discussions with him, I'm left fearing Jeff's experience. So, I'm not going to waste that kind of dough. Based on the constructive comments here, it looks at though I should buy some tools and do it myself (story of my life, actually). :o) OTOH, if I could just remember that other member's name......
Not to discount the advice of others, but a special thanks to Zargon for not only being so knowledgeable about Vandy's but for taking the time to share experiences. This is what this site is (or should be) all about. My interest is piqued regarding the Room EQ software. Wish you lived near me!
fwiw,meant to say "not as cool looking as digital".
So basically for a $1 per day you are unwilling to learn how to do this and give up all that listening pleasure? Amazing

So you didn't read where I said it was time to buy some tools and do this myself? Amazing. Try Reading101! :-)
Doing it yourself only works if you do it right. In the long run, it might be better, both sonically and financially, if you acquire some test equipment and have the dealer walk you through the steps. Assuming the dealer has performed the setup a number of times in varying acoustic environments their knowledge and insight should prove well worth their nominal expense.
Well, of course, I would not purchase the equipment and do it myself without having someone like Zargon, who has done this before, at least walk me through it, first. Again, given my discussions with the somewhat local dealer, I believe that this would be the better route to go. But, at least I have someone with 100 miles of me who is a Vandy dealer at all. Many don't, and many others may have one but it is one who posseses the skill level as the dealer Jeff mentions.
BTW, Charlie, I'm not giving you the satisfaction of returning the filthy, childish, and totally ridiculous message you sent me through this site. You really should be ashamed of yourself and banned from the site, if I had my way. Given other people’s reaction to most of your posts, I am not alone. Too bad some people don't have the guts to speak with their own regular names and have to create another to be so despicable.
Well, so that people don't think I am totally insane, some guy that I gather was supposed to already be banned made a smart-mouthed post in this thread and then sent to me a filthy and rather psychotic message through this site. Audiogon has removed his post without explanation, which leaves my earlier comments somewhat meaningless. In that sense, nothing new! ;-)
I am more than willing to assist you in the SW/laptop approach, and I'm sure it can be done coast to coast, via email, or depending on the interest, here online. Another AGON member recently assisted me in a rather complex AC system of dedicated lines and isolation tranformers, and this would be a way of passing on the favor. Feel free to contact me.
I was under the impression that Mr. Vandersteen recommended the use of warble tones to help setup his line of speakers due to their time/phase corrected design. If this is the case, does that mean that the Rives CD would not fit the bill?
Warble tones are useful for two reasons, and apply equally well to any type of speaker. At low frequencies you lesson the chance of measuring directly on top of a specific room resonance and overcorrecting in that region. At high frequencies you lesson the chance of measuring directly on top of a specific comb filtering narrow peak or valley and again overcorrecting. While the phenomina are different, the result is the same.

Using pink noise for measurement can also be useful because it excites all room resonances simultaneously, including those harmonics which add together at any specific frequency. If you have an RTA, play a single bass note down around 63 hz on your test disk, and observe the resulting frequency distribution on the RTA. It will be bell shaped from 31.5 to several hundred hz, due to a combination of the instrument harmonics and the room resonances that are excited.
If you can afford Vandersteen 5's you can afford True Audio, True RTA, the full suite is $99 and is an accurate professional level tool.

Microphone and preamp for computer interface $200

Then you can tune the speaker properly from bass to treble
mre2007 - Rives will work, a cd from Vandersteen with 11 frequencies matched to the 11 potentiometers makes the job easier. Also, time alignment goes out the window for the bottom firing bass (low frequency = long wavelength = even if the bass was time aligned you couldn't tell it).
I am lucky enough to live near Zargon and he was kind enough to fine tune my 5As. The improvement was like getting new speakers.
Oh, you would have to add that Agaffer. .. :-( Ha!

Jeff, the obvious question (for which I probably know the answer) is, can a guy lay his paws on one of the Vandersteen-produced CD's?

Thnaks for the new info regarding True Audio D. I will look into that software. I come from a staunch background of trusting only one's ears and am a bit reluctant to admit that tools like this can help optimize room sound. But, I'm getting there.

I will be in touch, Zargon. Thanks again for your kind offer.

OK, I am listening to your plea, and despite my better judgment, and the admonitions not to do this in the 5A user manual, lets give a try at a very simple “by ear” setup (Richard, please forgive me). I will leave out all of the complicating iterations, rationale, subtleties, and second order effects, to make it as simple and straightforward as possible.

Some of you with lots of test experience may be horrified by the compromises and potential inaccuracies in the approach below. I am trying to respond to 4yanx, so please don’t attack like vampires. If he tries it and likes the change, then he is better off! If not, no harm done. Let 4yanx be the judge.

All you need for this procedure is a test CD with 10 test signals from 20 to 160 Hz, and your ears. Recognize that determining audio levels across test signals by ear is a challenge and potentially frustrating experience – just do your best. All listening is to be done from your normal listening position. Also, following this procedure will not optimize the subs in your room; only potentially improve their performance in the current location.

“By Ear” Procedure

1. Set the low-frequency contour controls to minimum, the bass levels to “0”, and verify that all 11 room compensation bands are set straight up for both speakers (12 o’clock).
2. With both speakers playing, set the volume at a comfortable listening level for music you enjoy.
3. Listen to each of the 10 CD test signals on both right and left speakers individually, by moving the balance control back and forth. Try to determine if one side sounds “on the average” louder or softer than the other. If so, boost the bass level on the sub amp for the weaker side, or reduce the stronger side, or both until they sound the same. If it is not obvious, leave the bass levels at “0”.
4. Center the balance control, and disconnect the right speaker at the amp.
5. Starting with 160 Hz as a reference, play each test signal and take notes on whether it sounds louder or softer than the reference. A code like zero, one, or more +’s or –‘s for each band is a good approach. Pick the one signal you determine best represents the middle level (some louder, some softer). That signal is your new reference.
6. With this new reference, repeat the step above recording the number of +’s or –‘s for each of the other bands. You now have a rough profile of the sub performance over the 10 test signals, and are ready to adjust the 11 room compensation controls. These adjustments are meant to reduce, not eliminate the variation. A complete flattening of peaks and valleys may cause a non musical result. (Note, the 11 room compensation control frequencies do not match up to the 10 standard 1/3 octave test signals on a test CD.)
7. Pick the highest signal (most +’s), find the closest control and reduce its setting to 9 AM. If it is between controls, adjust both to 10 AM. Take the 2nd highest signal and reduce to 10 AM, and the 3rd highest and reduce to 11 AM.
8. Pick the lowest signal (most –‘s), find the closest control and increase its setting to 3 PM. If it is between controls, adjust both to 2 PM. Take the 2nd lowest signal and increase to 2 PM, and the 3rd lowest and increase to 1 PM.
9. Now reconnect the right speaker, disconnect the left speaker, and repeat steps 5 to 8 above. It is very likely that the sub profile and corresponding room compensation control settings will be very different for this channel, depending on the non symmetries in your listening room and its decorations.
10. Reconnect the left speaker and set the low frequency contour control and each speaker to 7. Play a CD with a good bass track moving up and down through its range, and centered on both channels. Adjust the low frequency contour controls jointly to your preference. Up will make it bigger and boomier, and down will make it tighter.

Listen to a variety of music and see if the bass is better balanced and more uniform, whether the mids have cleaned up, and whether you can hear more detail etc. If it is worse, just back out the changes, and appreciate the difficulty of what you have attempted, and the potential value of more rigorous test methods using RS meters, RTAs, and acoustic SW.

Good luck!
4yanx - "the obvious question (for which I probably know the answer) is, can a guy lay his paws on one of the Vandersteen-produced CD's?". I'll bet you know the answer too, Vandersteen might sell you one and a manual if you don't have it, else somebody with 5's might clue you in to what frequencies to burn from a rives cd (I've got 5a's and do not know if the sub amps are identical to the 5's). If your room/speaker position is abnormally bass friendly you might end up starting the tuning process a second time with the pot's at less than their 12 o'clock starting position, fwiw.
No shot at Zargon, but I'd really reccomend buying the Ratshack spl meter, seems like they were about $60.00 US +-and I thought it was money well spent. Besides set up for the sweet spot it is interesting to see what is happening with SPL at different points in your room (at least if you are a bit nurdy like yours truly).
Wow, thanks, Z. I may give this a shot just to see what happens and how changes in one place effect another as a learing exercise. Then, I will break down and buy the good and do the job correctly. Obliged