Quatro Wood Impressions.

In the search for better speakers, thirty years to be exact, I finally found a worthy product to fit my needs. More than likely, this product will fit yours, too. I went through ADS-810’s, Dahl Quist DQ-10’s with two DQ-1W subs and then B&W 801’s (1983 models) before I purchased a new set of speakers. This is a long review, on an expensive and complex to understand product. I would imagine, someone spending over $11,000.00 on a set of speaker, would enjoy some insight. If that’s you, read on. Here is why I bought this product. Speakers are probably the hardest component to purchase, and I enjoy everyones comments

After the 801’s I ran out of candidates on several fronts, or money on about all of them! Stereo just got WAY expensive in the intervening years, so the B&W 801’s soldiered on. Not a bad speaker, but not really the plateau I was looking for. The ADS-810’s were fast, but bright and had poor imaging. The DQ-10’s mirror imaged with KEF tweeter mods, stereo DQ-1W subs with Kenwood LO-7M mono amps had great bass transients but again, lacked soundstage detail. OK, the DQ-10’s tried to ALIGN the speaker driver voice coils, but I’m not sure to what extend it helped, imaging was only OK. The B&W 801’s imaged better, but the bass fell off substantially over the DQ010’s and lacked the POP of the ADS-810. The B&W 801’s do have a silky smooth sound that wasn’t fatiguing, however. Probably far flatter in response than either of the two previous efforts are responsible for that.

Then along comes the Vandersteen Quarto Wood Signature III speaker. OK, I read about it, and it was priced fairly considering the alternatives at thousands to tens of thousands more (really), and then I had to listen for myself. $10,700 isn’t cheap, and you need to add the balanced or unbalances low-pass filters for the subs at about $599.00 each. But, the product is more remarkable for how it sounds than how it reviews. Why the Woods verses the standard Quatro? I went for the newest driver design, cost be damned for better sound. You see, the newest signature woods use upgraded model 5A drivers from the mid bass on up and that coupled with the stiffer case structure material stolen from the 5a net an improvement in over all sound and looks. The firmer cabinet materials were deemed necessary by Richard Vandersteen to eclipse the cloth Quatro in performance, not just looks. So, the work didn’t stop at the finish until Richard was satisfied that it exceeds the standard Quatro in spectral performance. The mahogany and black grill cloth versions I picked are outstanding to look at, and seamlessly blend into my room decor.

The 43” tall 110 pound rectangular speakers are VERY easy to fit in a room for a darn near full range product (they go to 30Hz verses 20Hz). The attractive sloping front seamlessly blends in a tapered shape from the base to the top of the speaker. There is nothing “strange” looking about this speaker. The upper third of the speaker, where the mid bass, mid range and tweeter are placed is covered in a grill cloth, color of your choosing. The balance of the surfaces is wood finished and several options are available. Where are the subs? They are vent loaded out the sides and back bottom of the speaker. The base is flat, and easy to slide the speaker around for initial placement. Once placed, you attach the three “spikes” that hold the speaker firmly in place. The rear spike uses simple washers to adjust the tilt, which tunes the high-frequency arrival times based on seating distance from the speakers. The spikes really do improve the mid and upper frequencies as the speaker play rock and roll, but don’t rock and roll, like you! Small tweeter motions significantly disrupt the arrival times of the music, something this speaker design worked hard to perfect. The footprint is smaller than my 801’s and the 43” height is less an issue than the base footprint in most rooms. I can argue performance all day, but if I can’t fit it in a normal home, why bother? True 20Hz base will generally make you design a room first, and the rest of the house second, those product can be pretty BIG. The smaller foot print makes it easy to the Quatro 3.5 to 4.5 feet away from the rear walls (critical on most speakers for imaging) and not feel like two elephants are in the room.

There are a lot of speaker designs on the market and most are really modifications of a singular theme. Take a number of drivers and use a cross-over that keeps all the speaker drivers from interacting at the same frequency. This is done because it is very hard to make drivers that are different materials and sizes, sound the same. It isn’t any different than your tonal balance in your own voice. Imagine of your voice was composed of three peoples voice all cutting in and out as you talk or sang. If two voices were going at once, that were of different fundamental timber, it would sound odd. So, the current, and most popular, solution is to keep the speaker drivers from crossing over into the next drivers range. You have color, but it is blue, light blue, then white for bass, mids and highs. There is a sharp transition between the colors. A speaker like this is also referred to as a high-order cross-over design, which is a fancy way to say one driver never plays music where another driver is playing music. 12, 18, and 24dB slopes attenuate out the drivers sound so there is essentially no overlap. This type of product can sound pretty good, but it has the deficiency that time and phase alignment of the music can’t be done for electrical reasons in the cross-over. But steep crossovers do have advantages. Each driver plays less music (no overlap) so they can play louder, play a larger dynamic range, and drivers that can’t see one another can’t resonate and make ugly sounds. This makes drivers easier to design and / or cheaper. Yes, good version of this philosophy can match the drivers well, too. But, they can’t match a phase and time aligned system for sonic placement. This is simply by design.

The Vandersteen Quatro is an unusual first order cross-over speaker. This uses a mild 6dB per octave slope between all the drivers. What this does, is require all the drivers to be of the same “person” as two drivers are playing at the same time at the cross-over points and up or down about one octave. If this speaker was color, it would fade from blue to light blue to white in one smooth continuous transition. The gradient overlaps have to be near invisible for this to be done. So, special care has to be taken on the driver design and materials to prevent unwanted resonances and such between the two active speaker drivers. The advantage to this approach, although harder to do, is a more seamless sounding speaker, that seems as if it is but one driver. A high level of integration of all the components is required. This isn’t a design by committee product where one person buys or makes a tweeter and the next person makes another driver and the X-over keeps them from fighting one another. The Quatro is a seamless sounding speaker, with excellent phase and time alignment. The power handling of this design is largely irrelevant at home. This speaker plays PLENTY loud with a 150-200 watt amplifier.

Is time a phase important in music? THAT is the question. Few do it, so it can’t be worth it, right? When I cross a street, my brain is tuned to hear WHERE traffic is FIRST, and what it is SECOND. Time and phase alignment tells you that. Once I KNOW where it is, only then do I care if it is a truck, bus, or car. If I need to get away, I need to know where it is and how close. I’ll worry about identification after it whizzes by. Your brain is wired this way from eons ago to escape predators FIRST, and THEN maybe see what it was AFTER. Knowing your being hit by a car or eaten by a lion is a small advantage to getting away and maybe not seeing the threat at all. Your ear wants to hear time and phase alignment for this reason. It is NATURAL.

What is harder to understand than that is what a speaker is really doing. Well, it is really doing NOTHING if it can. Analog recordings already has all the time and phase captured, the speakers job is to send it backwards again to you in front of it, with no coloration and proper arrival times of all the sounds. Digital mastering is more hopeless as technicians mess with the data so bad as to remove most phase and time coherence for “sound” verses locality of the sound. Some digital music has no real sound stage at all. But proper phase and time alignment is not easy to do, or people to understand. Imagine a piano in a musical setting with support instruments all around it. In my example this is about the piano. It is “center stage” and defines the center of the “sound stage”. The mics capture the piano as “center” and all the other mics are secondary, tertiary and down the line in general amplitude and placement. What is missed by people listening to speakers is that the location of the center stage microphone is where the true reference of the recording is. This is the “sweet” spot. If I move around the piano, the sound will change along with the balance of every instrument around it. When you listen to this recording on good phase and time aligned speakers, the sweet spot SHOULD exist as it did in the original performance. In reality, and at home, you can’t take the “center” mic and walk around the stage with it listening to a speaker. Speakers that try to maintain correct and required, in my opinion, time and phase accuracy will indeed sound different as you move left to right in front of them. There is an optimal spot, and one that was created when the recording was made. Does an orchestra sound the same seated to the far left, the far right, or up high or too low? No, it doesn’t. Why would you expect a speaker to? Speakers that try to be “sweet” everywhere never has as well defined “stage” presence. They can’t. A piano has a very specific sound dispersion pattern, as do all the other sounds and that are only correct when you converge where the center mic was is in your living room. If you change a piano to disperse in a fully uniform pattern, it won’t sound like the recording meant it to, or even a piano so much. Quartos are designed to give you that realistic sound stage. Does this mean that seated to the far left or right of one of the speakers is bad? No, not at all. I’ve sat through plenty of live music off to one side and it was great. But it can’t be as good as the original “center”. The Quatro’s are better sounding than the “even” dispersion pattern sounding 801’s, for instance. The 801’s sound “good” everywhere, but not much greater than that anywhere. The Quatro’s left to right sound stage is very strong, but best at the alignment center. This is as it should be, just like being seated in front of the orchestra. Few speakers try to capture this “accuracy”.

The last general point is a design should evolve to a specific end (perfect reproduction) and not change dramatically on model to the next. Vandersteen products have been around 30 years, and upgrades have been offered to older speakers to move them along the development path. It is nice to know that a product is not made to catch your attention today, and do it fundamentally differently tomorrow. That this single order approach has taken awhile to be as good as it is today, and compared to ANY speaker on the market, shows that fundamental development has its advantages. No one will argue single order speakers are not harder to make. But make them Richard Vandersteen has.

The DQ-10 experience taught me that the musical foundation provided by good sub woofers is really nice, and the B&W 801’s taught me that again when they took that aspect away from the music. They just don’t go deep at all, not the 1983 model, anyway. The response graph of a B&W 801 is flat to 40Hz, but sound far worse than that in any room I’ve had them in. The Quatro’s use a very sophisticated set of 250 watt CLASS B amplifiers in each speaker sub woofer that make sure that the sound can never be distorted as the electronics moves the lowest end response to mitigate clipping (running out of powered and adding just distortion). So if you’re inclined to be too aggressive with the volume, the subs will help prevent system damage. It can happen in a hurry with low-frequency music, too. The speaker’s overall 87db 1-watt measured at 1-meter (I think that’s the right distance) sound pressure levels is plenty good for home use. Over 90dB extended SPL can hurt your hearing so realistic home room SPL’s are fine.

Each sub woofer amplifier has an eleven band equalizer for sound below 100HZ. Your ear can’t really tell room reflections from direct sound below 100Hz, so the room tends to “blend” into the signal and can cause some lumpy responses. The more direct sound above 100Hz is easily filtered by your ears and the room so it is less a problem unless the room is way too live or dead. The eleven adjustments allow a not too aggressive smoothing of the bass response to match the speaker to the room after you pick the best spot for sound imaging. This is a super advantage where it really helps. EQ above 100Hz just doesn’t really work. Trust me, I used a Soundcraftsman EQ pre-amp in the day and EQ flat response was Mr. YUCK. You can’t fix a bad room by making your speaker bad, too. Above 100Hz is better suited to fixing the ROOM. The Quatro speaker is already good. But bass, it’s the rare exception to the rule. But even here, it is best to smooth not flatten the response curve. The last two controls are the Q-factor (damping) and level. The level is used to adjust the overall bass sound level if your room is very dead or alive. The Q-factor adjusts the bass to suit your taste to the amount of overhang (boom) or tightness. But, once you set everything use your tone controls on your pre-amp or you’ll tweak yourself to death. Set it right per the set-up by the dealer, and just remember that these speakers will vary depending on your source material. The source material is at fault, not the speaker.

The use of true bi-wire really helps, too. The Quatro’s upper frequency amp is relieved of the bass amp current, and subsequent distortion that clipping (running out of power) can cause. Every 3dB of volume increase, about the minimum you can say, that’s louder, takes about twice the power. The special cross-over filter also insures that the “tone” of your upper frequency amp is provided to the lower frequency amp to blend the subs tone to the upper drivers. Again, this is done to make all the drivers sound like the same “person”.

I listen to about all types of music, and the speaker had to get out of the way of the performer as much as possible. The more real an instrument is, the better the Quatro’s allow you to hear THEM, and not your speakers. Electronic music is a hard call. I don’t know what it was supposed to sound like, so how do I judge it? Some like speakers with a little color, but this can get distracting over time for my musical uses. The Quatro drivers are extremely neutral compared to what I’ve used before. Yes, all speakers will sound like the materials they are made of, so you better make sure the materials are sounding off quietly. Each driver tapers off into the next driver with a single order slope X-over so two drivers are playing more so than most speakers. Again, this requires some pretty sophisticated drivers that sound like they are in the same cohesive sounding family at the X-over points. Since Quatro’s use four drivers, the limitations of the single order X-over are far less than the advantages, which are superior phase and time alignment. Quatro’s will reveal detail like no other in a time and space location in a well defined space between and well behind the speaker and across the listening area.

Some will say that the listening area is restricted in time and phase aligned speakers. Yes and no. It only suffers limitations if you lie on the floor, or stand up listening to your music. The sweet spot is about 30-40 inches off the floor, and can be adjusted with tilt (owners manual allows easy tilt amount on a simple to use chart). The sound stage is wider than the spacing of the speakers. I can sit on a couch off to the side of the left most placed speaker and hear excellent center speaker imaging that eclipses any speaker I auditioned straight and center. You do lose that incredible front to back imaging that is fantastic in the more or less center position, but hey, nothing else I listened to gave me a BONUS in the sweet spot like these speakers do! I get both front to back and the standard left to right imaging. Time and phase aligned speakers can only provide this benefit to the level I hear in these speakers. In short, I hear no issues with the listening sound stage with these speakers.

What do they sound like aside from the fantastic imaging? Detail. Strings of any sort are simply wonderful. The sound off of the wood resonance with the string itself to from a vibrant and alive sound that few speakers at any price can match. Piano, violins, guitar, string bass ETC are hard to believe on Quatro speakers. Vocals are precise and never “blended” with other instruments. Minute detail of voice inflections is amazing. I hear vocal textures that my 801’s just flat don’t play. The 801’s are not terrible speakers, either. But the Quatro’s simply take-off and go where the 801’s can’t even get to. The sound can be descried as “fast”. Nothing gets left behind the driver type of sound, yet they are SMOOTH. Fast sound is usually synonymous with bright treble. The Quatro tweeter is pure bliss on the high-end. The bass extension is tight, and isn’t just one note. It isn’t a note at all; it is the extension of the instrument that started the whole harmonic structure of the tone you are hearing in the first place! This is simply NOT what people think of as “bass”. Quatro’s go where the music goes in a fluid natural way that is 100% enjoyable.

When you listen to the speakers, use your CD’s FIRST. The Quatro’s are so good that source material variation will curse your audition. The difference between good and bad sources is dramatic. My older 801’s compressed bad (radio) and good (records) towards a common centroid that masked their limitations with a sweet air brushed sound, not so the Quatro’s. The Quatro’s, on the SAME source material, were ALWAYS were better sounding than the 801’s, the frustration is that your ears hears the larger DIFFERENCE between the source material on them. Once you hear a record, CD’s won’t due anymore. CD’s are much harder sounding than records. Yes, there are crappy records, but a good CD is a far cry from a good record. I used an OPPO BDP83SE CD player and the Saber D-A chip helps, but in no way does it steal the thunder from my Accuphase AC 2 moving coil cartridge and a record.

What we have, is a speaker that pulls my entire past speaker purchases efforts into a tightly run harmony. Considering what even the Quatro woods cost compared to alternative speakers and this product about HAS to be auditioned. Speakers have to be judged by what they do, and not what we say about them. Grab some records and go!

Critical Associated Equipment
McCormack MAP-1 pre amp
McCormack DNA-225 amplifier
Ariston RDIIS turntable
SME Series III tone arm
Moon / Sim Audio LP-3 Pre amp
Accuphase MC phono cartridge.
OPPO BDP-83SE Blue-Ray player.
What a terrific post. And you have put together a great system. Congrats!

When I last re-caught the upgrade bug about 1.5 years ago, the Wood Quatros were the first of four speakers I auditioned that day. I loved everything about them, musically and esthetically, except the tweeter. For me, its sound was somewhat harshly bright, and after extended listening, I realized the listening fatigue I was experiencing was from the upper frequencies. If not for that, and until I heard the DeVore Fidelity Silverbacks, I probably would have bought the Wood Quatros. They image better than any other speaker I have heard.

Enjoy! And thank you again for your post!
I do hear that comment, but the newest Quatro has a very different tweeter than earlier vesions. So maybe I shopped at the right time? I auditioned the "sock" version, and found that they sounded very nice,too, and also have a different tweeter. Compared to my 801's, which are also pretty laid back on the high-end, I can listen for hours and even with CD's, and not notice any fatigue on these speakers. I like a more cool crisp high and these speakers deliver just that.

When I auditioned the Wood Quatro's, as I recall, the tweeter was a metal dome variant. What can you tell us about the new tweeter's composition? Would you happen to know if Mr. Vandersteen changed any of the other drivers and/or crossovers?

Sounds like you did shop at the right time. I suppose I might have shopped at the wrong time, but on the other hand, I am really happy with my Silverbacks. Still, an excellent soft dome tweeter in the Wood Quatro's would have narrowed the gap some between the WQ's and the Silverbacks.
This tweeter is a ceramic dome unit with the resonance out to 40KHz, so it doesn't "ring" like most hard domes in the audible band.

"The driver in the center of the picture is the 1-inch ceramic coated, alloy-dome tweeter. It is a dualchamber,
transmission-line loaded design to improve range and linearity. Critical acoustic dampening and a precision phase plug extend the high frequencies pas audibility without the excessive ringing associated with open or under-damped metal dome tweeters."

I do know what you mean about "hard" dome tweeters, though. Usually, Vandersteens get panned on not being bright enough! I was wondering where the high's went compared to my 801's till I realized the 801's "shimmer" everything. Oh the Quatros have highs alright, but just when they are in the recording.

Even on CD's this 2010 model sounds very good, and CD's have notoriously hard edged sounds compared to a record. But, the Quatros hande this assault pretty well.
Thank you for this-
Great review!!!! I too just purchased a pair of Quatro Wood's from my local dealer and could not be more pleased. Great post.


Do you mean Quatro Wood Signature II or III? I have heard of the II version but am now curious whether there has been an update since I purchased my pair. Thanks
He meant the Vandersteen Quatro Wood 2 which is the latest
Cheers Johnnyr
Yes, I stand corrected, they are signature II models. I guess I'm over anxious for upgrades?

One last thing, I seem to find that these sound the best pointed straight ahead (no toe-in). Whan I toe them in, I lose the front to back it seems, but they do have a more solid left to right. Is this my room, or are you Quatro owners finding this, too? All-in-all, I don't find them too hard to place in a room, though. They do deem to "sound-off" when they are placed the best. You just have to slide them all around and bingo, you'll find the spot pretty fast.
Concerning toe-in, I found they sounded best with a fair amount. At first I had them pointed almost straight ahead with good results, but after toeing them in and finding that "stereo magic" the Quatro's imaged incredibly. Some of this maybe due to sidewall proximity or listener distance from speaker, but if you have tried all of the other variables of toe-in and like what you have then this is what matters most.
After room EQ, I have my Quatro's going to 20Hz very well. The bass is indeed as good as I have read elsewhere. It is AMAZINGLY deep and effortless. Never fat (unless you make it that way on purpose) when you set them up right and super smooth. I had only two peaks worse than 6dB out of eleven EQ set points in my room, which is very good for bass response. The balance are less than 3dB from 70dB reference.

Also, they do improve in smoothness with many hours on them. Mine took a jump in sound quality after the mentioned 100 hour break-in period. I can say I only heard it in the mid range, as that's what I guess I'm most sensitive to. It gets much more open and sizes up some relative to the sound stage. No, it isn't bigger than life sound, just a slightly more forward and vibrant sound.

I'm still very happy with the purchase after the somewhat frustrating set-up. This isn't a bad comment as they are the only speakers I've owned that reward placement and set-up so much. You are always messing for a little more!

So for the money, this speaker is still an exceptional value as it provides both a neutral frequency response and just plain thrilling imaging. It is just too hard to let go of the imaging when I listened to other speakers. It is that good. Some speakers may have more punch, or BIG sound. Many had BIG prices, but the imaging stole the show with the neutral nice sound the Quatro woods have.
Wow! what an amazing wall of text! Personally i like the look of them, and i love the tight and deep bass they have. Still want to spend more time auditioning them.

Excellent review. Everything you have said about the Quatro is equally applicable to the 5As and probably the 7s as well. I'm glad you are enjoying them.
Great review
We have installed dozens of the Wood Quatros in the field
and have never had them sound bright
Perhaps they could of been way too far out into the room
maybe an improperly set High pass or improper tilt back comes to mind.
Cheers Johnnyr
How much of a difference is there between the regular cloth-only version of the Quatro and the Wood version? Would you go as far as stating it's a different speaker, or simply improves upon what the cheaper Quatro already does incredibly well? The Wood version's price is for many reasons beyond what I could ever afford to pay for a speaker, but the cloth demo version can be had for $5000, which is reachable. Curious to hear what those who listened to both versions have to say.
My father has the Wood version, I would say they may be at tops 10% better and thats a big deal IMO but its also fair to say it is a cosmetic premium you mostly pay for.
I think Richard V himself said at one point the Signature was in his opinion about the same percentage better when talking to him via phone but I dont want to give the impression I am quoting him.
The Signatures are very attractive in a understated way, sound fantasic and always are both pleasing and surprising what they can produce. My father has not felt the need to go to the 5A and I cant say I blame him as the Quatro Signature is a excellent all around performer. When he paired it with a Aesthetix Atlas amp (with better tubes over stock) the speakers really shine.
I actually auditioned the sock version and was 100% impressed. I own my products for YEARS so I went to the slightly better looking, or a lot if you really like wood, wood version. The mahogany and black grill cloths blend into a room seamlessly and look very tuxedo classy. And yes, they have the 5A tweeter and upper midrange driver for better clarity. And the bass cabinet is also the super stiff composite used in the 5a for firmer bass extension. These speaker have nuts good bass set-up right.

But, for the money, and if you are on a budget tighter than mine, the sock version with a better MC cartridge and pre-pre amp may be better sounding and at a lower overall price point. This stuff is EXPENSIVE!

I was still trying to be reasonable about all this, and bought used McCormack MAP-1, DNA-225 and LP-5.3 pre pre amp. I ended up around $18,000 for everything (I kept my RDIIs Ariston and SME 3009 series II tonearm).

I'd compare the sock quatro version with a good MC cartridge, and then compare the woods with a cheaper MC cartridge at the SAME overall price point and see what you hear. The cloth version with a Denon DL-103R or DL-103SA would sound very good for the money.

As is, I'm looking at a Denon 103SA cartridge, which is a smooth and musical cartridge that is a very good value to replace my Accupase AC-2, which was always very clinical and dry sounding to me. I'll be using a Moon LP-5.3 pre-amp, I traded up from the LP-3, which still sounded good. I would not be afraid of this unit if you are on a budget.
I've since abandon the 103r, could never get it to sound anywhere near as good as the AC-2 Accuphaes. It just won't clear-up enough to sound "open".

I now have a Benz Micro RUBY 3 that sounds fantastic. So, was it worth the 1,750.00 bucks (factory re-tip piece)? Yes, it was. The Quatro woods are too revealing for a "stock" 103r. This product may work on less detailed speakers, or in seriously modified form, however. But, once you go there, I saw better choices for the same money (Ruby 3).
These were over priced speakers to my ears. Guess were all different, and thats a good thing.

OK, and your reasons and comparisons are? This thread is intended to be educational so some sort of guidance as to why you make a criticism is fine. I didn't make these speakers, so I won't take it personally. I too keep litening to other things! So far I'm still very pleased.