Review: Von Schweikert Audio VR-5 HSE Speaker

Category: Speakers

Von Schweikert Audio: VR-5 HSE

Never in my audiophile lifetime have I found a product that completely exceeded all of my expectations and preconceptions--until now. The Von Schweikert VR-5 HSE speakers have virtually transformed my audio reality. In fact, if you didn’t already know, the V R stands for Virtual Reality which is exactly what they create.

I must admit I was not completely prepared for the addition of these speakers to my system. The VR-5’s have forced me to make some fundamental changes to my equipment rack. Not because the equipment was bad. It simply was not up to the task of letting the musical information flow, unaltered, to and through these uncannily revealing speakers.

As everyone knows the complete system is only as good as the speakers. In this case, the VR-5’s are so transparent and revealing that they let you see through the speaker all the way to the source. Not the source component - the source of the musical event itself. Anything and everything in the path between the event as recorded and the VR-5’s is going to alter your sonic view of the performance, anything and everything in the signal path; components, cables, tweaks, record engineering equipment, microphones, venue, whatever. I cannot stress this point enough. These speakers create a solid, tangible, physical image of the entire event. If your system is not up to this task: Beware! The VR-5’s will precisely pinpoint your systems inadequacies. Are they too revealing? Maybe too much of a good thing is still a good thing.

It has taken me over a year to write this review but it has been worth the wait. My two channel system had consisted of the Sony 777ES SACD (with and without a Monarchy Audio/Musical Fidelity jitter reduction/DAC combo), Adcom GFP-750 PreAmp, Rotel 1090 Stereo Amplifier, w/MIT and Alpha-Core/Goertz interconnects, MIT MH-750 Magnum speaker cables and finally Sonus Faber Grand Piano Concerto loudspeakers. After installing the VR-5’s in my system I immediately knew this was going to be a life changing experience. The potential was all there, the change was dramatic and distinct. The bar had been raised but was my system existing configuration up to the challenge? Yes and No.

I first started by reevaluating the amplifier. The Rotel RB-1090 stereo amp had been superb with the Sonus Grand Pianos but the VR-5’s HSE’s presented a much bigger challenge. They needed clean, accurate, abundant POWER without limits or concessions. After auditioning amps from Carver, Classe’ and Macintosh I tried a Bryston 14B-ST stereo amplifier. WOW! Now the Von Schwiekert’s could more easily breathe, they inhaled and exhaled, they came alive. Still, I wanted more and I knew the VR-5’s had more to give. They had briefly flashed the overload protection lights on the 14B’s during extremely loud and dynamic passages. The amp never clipped or switched off but it was nearing it’s limit. My local Bryston dealer recommended the new Bryston 7B-SST mono-blocks. When they arrived - lightning struck. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein. I had created an Audio Monster. A living, breathing, beautiful, musical entity.

After a few changes in interconnects, the addition of another set of MIT Magnums for bi-wiring, speaker positioning/repositioning and numerous small audiophile tweaks, the system came together, almost. I plan to upgrade the Adcom PreAmp, (my weakest link?) However, I feel that I am near enough to sonic perfection that I can now deliver an adequate and deserving review.

All I can say is: "You Must Hear This To Believe It!!!" This system is a living thing. Reality barely sounds better. Is it transparent? No. INVISIBLE! Open and airy? No. WIDE OPEN AND STRATOSPHERIC! Micro-dynamic and macro-dynamic? No. OUTSTANDING REPRODUCTION, FROM THE MOST MINISCULE, DELICATE RING TO THE MOST GIGANTIC, DEEPEST BOOM!!! TOTALLY BELIEVABLE SOUND!

These speakers are incredibly fast, uniquely accurate, and unbelievably dynamic. Each driver has it’s own unique voice; completely separate and distinct from the others. When music plays you can put your ear to each driver and seem to be listening to a separate and individual speaker. I have heard this phenomenon, to some extent, with other high-end speakers, but never to this degree or with this precision. As you move you ear away, the sound from the drivers blends together seamlessly and flawlessly. Albert Von Schweikert attributes this to the proprietary crossovers he has designed and integrated into this series of loudspeaker. It works--honestly and realistically.

Caution! What you put in is what you get out! If you play an inferior CD or LP that’s exactly what you’ll hear. INFERIOR SOUND!!! These speaker do not mask, they do not warm, they will not cover up; anything. They give you what is there to be heard, exactly as it was performed and recorded. Nothing more and definitely nothing less. When you play a superior CD or LP... You will hear SONIC SUPERIORITY! I guarantee you will listen to that recording over and over again. And when you play an outstanding recording... Be prepared to listen to it for days or weeks at a time!!! I have listened to some of my all-time great recordings on repeat play so many times that I now know every single note, every sound and each individual beat of music and when it ends; I play it again.

I have heard few speakers that can do this. Most speakers of that caliber are priced beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest few. And while the VR-5 HSE’s are not exactly cheap, they produce a sound that is so real in audio nature the cost seems almost inconsequential. They put the performance in your room. They virtually place you at the performance. Reality is yours to behold.

Okay, enough already. Go to the website ( Read the specs and reviews. Go and hear these speakers for yourself. See the superb fit and finish. Audition a pair in your system if at all possible.

Warning! Be prepared to meet the challenge. Make adjustments. Upgrade where necessary. Then Enjoy Virtual Reality.

Some music used for this review: Ray Brown Trio-Black Orpheus, Great Jazz Trio-Autumn Leaves (SACD), Jackie Mclean-Nature Boy, Ron Carter-Piccolo, Norah Jones-Come Away With Me, Jerry Goldsmith-The Film Music (London Symphony Orchestra) both (SACD) + Star Trek Nemesis Soundtrack, Hanz Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard-Gladiator Soundtrack.

Mark A. Barbour

Associated gear
Bryston 7B-SST Mono Amplifiers
Adcom GFP-750 Preamplifier
Sony SCD-777ES SACD Player
Rega P25 Turntable & Benz Micro M09 Cartridge
Musical Fidelity X-LP2 Dual Mono Phono Amp
MIT MH-750 Maugnum Speaker Cable
MIT Interconnects

Similar products
Sonus Faber Grand Piano Concerto Loudspeakers
I've been getting this same Wow-Factor with the Rotel RB-1090 and the Klipsch RF-7, if not better. Nothing beats it.
I'm sticking with Rotel RB-1090, but thanks anyway.
I have VS VR4 Gen III HSE loudspeakers and used a Bryston 14B SST with them for a while, and I know what you're talking about. Great synergy. At one point, I added a First Sound Presence Deluxe II preamp instead of the Bryston BP-25, and the change was very nice; open, liquid, and very musical. Emmanuel Go, the designer and builder of the First Sound preamps is extremely proud of his product and very friendly. If you're curious about what the First Sound might do in your system, you might give Emmanuel a call and see if you might be able to arrange an in-home audition. My guess is he might do it for you.
I have had the VR5's for around 2 years. I spent a lot of time researching and listening before I bought the Von Schweikerts. To me, the VR5's are as close to a perfect speaker system below the $20,000 level as possible. They really have no weaknesses if set up properly. They take a long time to completely break in, and need plenty of power. I have an all tube system, and these speakers are a terrific match. Fantastic dynamics, wonderful deep, textured yet very fast bass response, clean crisp detailed highs, gorgeous blooming mids, imaging, 3-d soundstaging, etc. The ambient tweeter system is a unique and very useful feature that helps compensate for some listening room problems. The VR5s are also much better looking in a conserative way than the VR4s. Great speakers!

Audio Research V100 Mk. II amp
Audio Research LS8 w/ Amperex tubes
Njoe Tjoeb 400 CD w/upgrades an Amperex tubes
Herron Audio phono stage
Merrill Heirloom turntable
Morch DP6 tonearm w/ Benz H2o cartridge
Straightwire Crescendo interconnects and speaker cables
I concur with the above observations. It is interesting that the more expensive Von Schweikert's do not get the review coverage from the major publications. I have lived with my VR5HSE's for over 3 years and have challenged myself to upgrade if I could justify it. After extensive auditioning of WATT/PUPPY 7 and Avalon Eidolon, Verity Audio Parsifal, among others - I cannot find any deficiency in the VR5's. At this price point I have a complete speakers encompassing and surpassing the strengths of the above mentioned. Only the Wilson Audio Maxx II and the Dali Megalines best the VR5 in terms of low frequency extension, and overall coherence...not in speed, transparency, or soundstaging, mind you. My audio nervosa has me craving the new VR7 or VR 9 design..time will tell.

Best wishes, PK. Das.
Hovland HP100, Parasound JC1 mono's/MF Nuvista integrated M3, Bel Canto universal, Basis audio TT setup with Lyra Helikon. Acoustic Zen, Analysis Plus, Shunyata power everything.
Mark, what are the dimensions of these speakers? Ah, yes...preamps. I love the passive/active switch on the Adcom and think it is one of the most neutral preamps on the market, at ANY price. I've owned the McIntosh C-46, the Levinson 360s (both were expensive -- $4200 and $6500), the Audio Synthesis "Passion" (completely passive -- nothing but a volume control with Vishay resistors), the VTL 7.5 (which I use with another system that includes the Dynaudio Evidence speakers), and the Musical Fidelity A308cr (which I use with the Triangles I reviewed here on Audiogon). The VTL cost over ten grand and probably isn't worth that, even though it DOES sound superb. The Adcom was NOT embarrassed by any of this ritzy company. Some of the more expensive preamps sound a bit more dynamic, but no more neutral, distortion-free, or spacious than the Adcom in its passive mode. I don't know the sensitivity rating on your VR5's, but you MAY need an active preamp to goose your Bryston monoblocks into their all-out performance mode. If you can, listen to the Musical Fidelity. It won't overload, puts out HUGE voltage for a preamp, and is clean as a whistle. It is spacious, detailed, and neutral, with NO solid-state glare or etch. And it is relatively cheap. I used to room with Robert Harley (back when we were broke young pups finishing school)and I bought the Musical Fidelity on his review in The Absolute, sound. I got a demo for $1800. It is as good as any active line stage I have ever heard, BUT it doesn't have a balance control (part of the reason it's so clean), nor does it have a second set of "pre-out" RCA jacks. It does have a tape loop you can use if you need to drive a second amp. After all my experience with this stuff, I tend to think expensive preamps are overrated, as a factor in the system's sound; as long as they are COMPATIBLE and have the features you need, and are neutral AND QUIET, you don't have to go broke. Be sure to listen to some of the cheaper Cary and Audio Electronic Supply tube preamps, as well as the lower-priced CJ's (if you are thinking tubes), because I don't think you need to spend more than 2 or 3 grand to get great performance...the Adcom and Musical Fidelity prove that. Good luck!
Thanks for the heads up on the Rotel RB-1090 amp and Klipsch RF-7 speakers combo, I can't even believe how these things sound, just incredible. I've had so many speakers and amps over time that I've tried and this really blows me away, I've finally hit total nirvana sound and finally going to keep this setup for a very long time. It sounds so live and so real that I just can't believe it and family and friends hear it and just get star struck and can't believe how great my setup is and I still can't, now I can't wait to get off work and come home and listen to music for hours on end. Thanks, I love this setup so much!!! I could swear the music and singers are performing right in front of me, the speakers totally disappear like they aren't even there!
I own now the VR5 mkII speakers. They are super good. A good match with amplifier is not automaticaly. The KR P150 pre-amp is very good. But with the KR VT20 power amo the VR5 sounds clinically, not warm. I'm now playing with a Meridian 556 powe amp of only 100 watt, and is sounds warm and very musical. I know the VR's can do better so i'm looking for a better poweramp such as Rotel 1090 or Bryston 4b SST. Then i can enjoy more the quality of the VR5. But i'm now also enjoying with a rather simply power-amp. The VR5 is much better than the new Von Schweikert models, they are too big and have to much bass, at least in an average Dutch living room, the VR5 is the maximum size speaker without resonation.

Greatings M. Meijer, Netherlands
i have not heard the VR5 mkII speakers, or the original VR5 HSE speaker either. from my experience with other Von Schweikert speakers i expect that they are excellent as you relate.

i do have lots of experience with the new line of 'SE' Von Schweikert speakers; as i owned the VR-9SE for 18 months and i used the VR-7SE for the last 6 months (they are currently crated up in my garage). previously i spent a few days with the VR-11SE. i have not heard the VR-5SE speakers.

i disagree with your comment......

"The VR5 is much better than the new Von Schweikert models, they are too big and have to much bass, at least in an average Dutch living room, the VR5 is the maximum size speaker without resonation."

the newer line of Von Schweikert speakers have much better cabinet construction than the older models and have higher resolution drivers. the crossovers are better and overall the newer line is more coherent. the '9' and '11' have considerable bass adjustment systems that allow tuning for any room. the '7' and '5' have a rear port which is tunable also. the newer line is also much more expensive.

i'm not saying that the older series of VS speakers is not excellent. but the newer series goes to another level and can be made to work in modest sized rooms.