meadowlark nighthawk/ vandersteen 3a sig

wasn't looking for speakers but out of the blue a friend offered to buy my vandersteen 3a sigs. i enjoy the 3a's alot only wish the bass was a little tighter, and a larger front to back soundstage. how do the 3a's compare to the meadowlark nighthawks? they are really gorgeous. do they sound as good as they look? room is 14x18x9. if no direct comparison, any impressions of the nighthawk will be most helpful. going to try to arrange audition in a few weeks.

aloha keith
I'm not familiar with the Nighthawks, so I can't respond directly to your query. However, I am curious about your comment that your 3A Sig's seem to lack tight bass. I also own the 3A Sig's (plus a pair of 2Wq subs), and I would not characterize the 3A Sig's as having loose bass.

The dimensions of your listening room seem good for your Vandies, so there could be two possible factors that explain your sense that the 3A Sig's lack tight bass:
1. rooms that are constructed with dry wall over studs, or having a crawl space below the floor, can often be resonant, thereby making the bass sound boomy or loose;
2. amplifiers with inadequate power reserves, or low damping factor, may lack adequate bass control.

If either of the two factors I just outlined are true for your system, you may find that ANY dynamic speaker will sound somewhat loose.

It would be helpful to have a description of your system and your listening room. Before you sell your 3A Sig's, it would be a good idea to determine if the loose bass you are hearing is due to the room or the amp. By all means, check out the Nighthawks (Meadowlark is one of the very few companies other than Vandersteen that make time-accurate and phase-correct speakers), but since you like your Vandies you might consider adding a pair of 2Wq subs. I found that having a pair of 2Wq's not only make a significant improvement in the low frequency reproduction, but also yielded better mid-range transparency and dynamic response.
the vandys will have more bass than the meadowlarks but the amp must be suitable
thanks for the responses. scott, you're correct that the bass problems are caused by the room i have a large peak at 50hz. i really like the vandies and they sound excellent in my room. i was just nitpicking about the bass. i'm currently experimenting with room treatments. still considering the 2wq's. it's just that the offer came up and for some reason i'm intrigued by the meadowlarks. i figure that i can always switch back to the vandies and\or add 2wq's later. my biggest want is more front to back soundstaging/definition. by the way i'm using bat vk3i preamp and vk200 amp with ayre cx-7 cd player and audioquest cables. i have a couple of months to make up my mind. hard to find much info on the meadowlarks.

aloha keith
Keith, I did hear the Nighthawks once. They were in almost a warehouse type of room. Even so, they sounded quite good.

Just out of curiousity, is the slope responsible for the time/phase accuracy? If so, how do vertical speakers address that issue?
Hello Keith-

I may have some input for you... Your room size is actually a decent size. The Vandies are actually one of the other speaker manufacturers that I really considered, as I liked their time & phase aligned design as well. I currently own the Meadowlark Nighthawks, and have previously owned the Osprey's, so I feel I have a fairly good frame of reference as to their "new cabinet design" and sonics - compared to their older enclosures as well. It is odd you mention you wish the bass was a little tighter. This is the primary reason I chose Meadowlark over the Vandies. Don't get me wrong, if I was using the Vandies in a home theater/stereo combination, or perhaps had a much larger room I may have opted for them. However, with their larger woofer, it didn't seem to have the control available that I personally like in my bass. The Vandies I would say have more "slam" effect, however I think both the Nighthawks and the 3a's go equally deep. The Meadowlarks employ a transmission line bass using dual 7" woofers per speaker, coupled with the fact they are 91db efficient, you are greeted with very, very aticulate, tuneful, deep bass that feels more "real" to me in my auditions. I have not tried the Vandies at home, and all auditions were done using all tube amps on both speakers. Soundstaging was good on the Vandies from what I remember. The Nighthawks imaging and soundstaging is excellent. If you get a chance to look at them in person, notice the custom router work between the midrange and tweeter on the front baffle... I personally think this is partly due to the very "open & airy" soundstage presentation they give.

Impressions on the Nighthawk would be: musical, effortless presentation. they allow the music being fed them to effortlessly eminate from the speakers in their defined area in the soundstage. Extremely natural timbral accuracy and harmonics. Attack and decay are both excellent. Midbass and bass attack is tight and articulate, not even remotely loose. Listen to Keb Mo - Just Like You cd when you audition them. The stand up bass sounds extremely realistic. The fingering, the slide, the pluck, the acoustic thumping, the attack, the resonance... all very acurate and realistic. Some other speakers with larger woofers tend to smear a lot of this information to me, in which diminishes the realism for me. I want a stand up bass to sound like a stand up bass, not like a bass line in a club downtown... You also mentioned soundstaging... I would think that is dependent upon cabling and electronics, however I can assure you that the soundstaging capabilities are first rate. In my current setup they extend well outside of the speakers and quite far behind, I would say on good recordings almost seemingly through the rear wall.

If you have any other specific questions, feel free to email me.

CAUTION: if and when you audition make CERTAIN they have at least 1,200 hours of break in / play time on them. NO, I am not kidding. They sound fair at 500, decent at 800, and I honestly don't think they have that "natural, effortless" presentation until well after 1200-1300 hours on them. I know the book states 300, and I have talked to Pat about this, however he does state he does prototype with broken in drivers, and once he builds new, he doesn't know how long true break-in takes. I am sure he may not also want to scare people off stating a 1,000 hour plus break in time. Personally I am quite sure that is why you see ads for Ospreys up for sale that state "just broken in, 450 hours on them...." when they too took well over 1,000 hours, in which most that purchased them new can also confirm. The ONLY caveat I have with the speakers, but they are well worth the wait.

Good luck & your current speakers are also very good.
I really don't hear anything wrong with the Vandersteen's bass as long as a high damping factor amp is used capable of delivering high current into the relatively low impedance of the speaker. Tube amps are nice in the mids and highs but leave a little to be desired in the bottom. One of the only tube amps I have personally heard that gives a solid bottom is the ARC VT200.
Set up is of the essence. This plays a bigger part than anything into how the bottom ultimately sounds on any speaker.
As for the Meadowlark's, I would like to set the two speakers side by side with the same amp and same source, etc. and make a direct comparison. The two 7" woofers may increase speed a touch but they have their problems also.
You know, it's funny, but I was talking to Steve McCormack and guess what speaker he personally uses? Yes, the Vandersteen 3a Signatures. It seems the speaker must be accurate enough to satisfy some very discriminating listeners. Doug Blackburn on Soundstage uses them as a reference as does one of the contributors for The Absolute Sound, Shane Buettner and also, Richard Hardesty of the Audio Perfectionist Journal just to name a few. Now how many reveiwers use Meadowlark? Think there could be a reason for that?
At the price of the Meadowlark, it would be fair to compare the 3A Signature with the 2Wq subs since this combination would be still be a little less at $6500 than the Meadowlark at $7000+. This combination easily passes the Nighthawk in my opinion.
I have owned several pair of Meadowlark's and I can say without reservation that in each comparison, they have fallen short of the Vandersteen's.
My point is, don't go jumping ship just for something different. You could ultimately regret that move. Make sure you know what you're comparing and do it yourself. If you decide the Meadowlark is for you, then I wish you the best.
What are the chances that what you don't like about the bass in your system has a lot more to do with the room than it does the speakers?
as stated earlier, i'm sure that most if not all of the bass problem is caused by the room. i'm currently experimenting with room treatments to fix this. any suggestions to help get rid of a large peak at 40hz are appreciated. i think that i may not have been clear in my original post but i'm very pleased with the vandersteens, and nitpicking although i would really like to get a bit more soundstage depth. as bigtee suggested, i'm sure a pair of 2wq's would work great. basically, i want to use this thread as a sounding board for comparison between the meadowlarks and the 3a's, because there's not alot of info on the meadowlarks. thanks for all the input guys.

aloha keith
For what it's worth, I have Vandy 3A sigs. and was also frustrated that I wasn't getting the quality of bass that I heard when I paid a visit to Richard Hardesty. Thinking that the difference was the 2wq's that he used I bought a pair. Helped a little but, still not even close to what I heard at his house. Then I visited a new friends house who had a older pair of Vandy 2's. His bass was much tighter and musical than mine. That was when I realized how important the room was. I toyed with the idea of treating my room as discribed at Mr. Hardesty's website. Especially after seeing it first hand.
After reading all that I could find I went with a commercial product instead (Realtraps). I know we have all heard it before but, let me be the next one to say it, it was like buying new speakers. It is hard to beleive all the hype about the room being as important as any other peice of gear but, unfortunatly it is true. Treating a room isn't as sexy and exciting as getting a new peice of audio gear but, it can make a more positve contribution to your system than most other upgrades.
Hey BigTee, as I stated above, "your current speakers are also very good." I agree if you have a high damping factor tube amp the Vadies sing. I was reflecting on personal experience and his equipment. Most likely it is room interaction...

Many reviewers ought to have the 3A's... they are an overachiever at their price point, and have been out for MANY years. I would think it would be a bit unfair to make the comparison on the Nighthawks that have just come into production 5 months ago as to how many reviewers have more of each. However, I too chose this speaker on the premise I felt it was an overachiever for it's price point.

The time and phase aligned speakers of these two companies are much more appealing sonically after having owned and auditioned many other speakers that left you wanting.

Best advice for Keith would be to try to correct the room resonance issues first, and see if what you own (and are paid for!) satisfy you. Room treatment is a major factor in sonics and can really raise your listening satisfaction to the next level. Auditioning is free - however may lead to excessive spending... :)
Also wanted to mention I was seriously considering purchase of these speakers years ago based upon sonics as well as price/performance ratio. However, some of us have to deal with "other" significant factors as well. When my wife saw the Sig 3A's the reply was something along the lines of "there is NO way those ugly square black socks will find a place in our home." Now, I don't always agree with my better half, however I have also become more wise as to which battles are worth the arguement when they have a "definate mind set." This was not a battle I chose to have. Unfortunately some of us must also rely on aesthetics to play a factor in the purchase as well...
Audiofankj, Sometimes I get confused, are we looking at which speaker looks good or one(s) that sound good in this thread. In the looks department, I would certainly give the nod to the Meadowlarks. However, how much of the production cost goes into those cabinets and how much into the drivers and crossovers? Maybe I deal too much in absolute terms. My point of view is the Vandersteen's offer better performance overall for the money in comparison.
In my reviewer blurb, I'm not just talking about the Nighthawks here but any Meadowlark speaker. Time will tell if reviewers swing to the Nighthawk if and when it ever gets reviewed. I do wish they would review more of Meadowlark's speakers.
You know, I heard all of this about the Meadowlark Osprey. What has happened to them? They were touted as a better alternative to the Vandersteen's.
I do feel Meadowlark makes a decent speaker and I'm sure Pat has thought it out. I also feel that the Vandersteen's HAVE benefitted from the years of refinement that comes with a mature product since new models don't come out very often and usually when they do, it's an upgrade. I have always thought that if you design something well to begin with, then small refinements as technology advances is all that is needed.
Sorry, at the price point of the Nighthawk, I don't believe I could throw them in the class of "Over achiever." $7000+ is getting into some pretty spiffy company and with the Vandersteen 3a Signature running at less than half the price ($3495), well, I just don't see it.
Anyway, I do believe any speaker that addresses time and phase is ahead of the game. I'm glad this issue has been addressed by Meadowlark. Time will tell if and when this speaker will take a place as a timeless classic.
I also have Vandersteen 3A signature speakers and would like to emphasize what agaffer said about room treatments. I added Realtraps to my room and heard a more pronounced improvement than any upgrade I ever did. Not only is the bass tighter and cleaner, all frequencies seem to be less muddy. I put six of them in a 14x20x8 room, 3 at wall / ceiling junctures (1 at the front center of the room, 2 at the back), 2 at the front corners of the room and one at another corner in a irregular shaped room. In a dedicated room like mine it works fine, but in our house neither my wife or myself would probably like them in the living room or family room downstairs. In my upstairs listening/theater room, we put up a ceiling to floor black curtain at the front about two feet out from the front wall. This hides the 3 Realtraps at the front of the room.
I grew up around the Vandersteen 3, in various incarnations. In many ways they are my reference for speakers. I really don't hear them as speakers at all unless I listen to something else and directly compare the differences. They'll keep you off the upgrade path unless you already have a chronic case of that disease.

FWIW, I was in Audible Arts in San Jose when the owner was breaking in a new pair of Nighthawks. First off, the speakers are even better looking in person. And as much as I like Vandies, I have to say that even without accounting for break-in issues, the sound of percussion through the Nighthawks was alive and dynamically exciting in a way that edged out the 3a's in this regard. I can't address other types of music as it was a track of strictly percussion instruments, but the attack and subtle dynamic variation was VERY involving.

As far as parts quality goes, I think that Meadowlark has the upper hand in two areas: the nod in the crossover has to go to Meadowlark--they have a low parts count with (what seem to me) extremely well chosen parts and an extreme focus on isolation.

Also, while the quality control and driver matching in the Vandies is world-class, and you definitely get your money's worth, the Nighthawks start with a better tweeter, IMHO.

So, in any case, I haven't heard enough of the Nighthawks to know if they even suit MY tastes better than the Vandies, but I know that I'd give the Nighthawks a serious audition before I bought anything in the price range.
One issue hear is the price difference in these speakers. You can buy the 3A Sigs with a pair of 2wq subs cheaper than the Meadowlark's. I guess it is good that a speaker that retails for $3495 can be compared to one at $7000+.
I realize looks are better in some cases to some people. However, that cabinet accounts for a big chunk of the cost.
I also must question how the Nighthawk tweeter is superior to the 3A Sig. It is the same tweeter-exactly-used in the Vandersteen Model 5 which sales for $11,000+
The increase in crossover parts in the Vandertseen has to do with phase issues rather than purely crossover.