Review: Von Schweikert Audio VR7-HSE Speaker
Review of Von Schweikert VR7-HSE speakers.
The VR7- HSEs present a stunning presentation of musical events.
They have compelling musical impact without being assaultive. They are clear but not abrasive; relaxing but never boring, resolving but not hyper-detailed. In this and in many other areas described below, they balance competing characteristics. They take a fairly long time to break in when new. I left them playing all day 5-6 days a week for a month.
The speakers extract unexpectedly fine sound from lesser-quality CDs (even mono recordings) that had been edgy, thin, or compressed on previous speakers I have owned. The VR7s seem to be able to de-compress some recordings that had the sounded small, or to relax recordings that seemed to be somehow pressurized. My Motown and Rolling Stones CDs that I have found hard to listen to for years sound far more open. The Beach Boys Pet Sounds and the early Beatles CDs, even though monophonic, are riveting to hear.
The speakers sound almost driverless, like a planar speaker. It is very hard to detect what driver is producing the sound. (I came to enjoy this quality with the Apogee Stages I once owned and still respect and remember fondly.)
Very natural portrayal of human voices. The voices have real substance and foundation, especially in soundtrack recordings from theater, with complete clarity and, except in really poor recordings, no edginess.
Very satisfying on all types of percussion; exciting and clear but not harsh. Brass is also a strong point, smooth and pure, but retaining enough strength to grab your attention. I make note of these areas because I find that many speakers fall short here.
Strings are silky and have just a touch of lifelike screechiness.
Nicely conveys the feeling of different musical venues, from the grandeur of an orchestra to the excitement of a rock band to the you-are-there feeling of a Broadway stage to the intimacy of a small Jazz group or chamber music group.
Pulls off a delicate balancing act in all segments of the frequency spectrum. This is what I hear:
Sweet highs with no tizziness or abrasion but just the right amount of bite.
Glorious, natural, grain-free, absorbing midrange that has a great presence without any trace of shouting.
Profound and very deep and satisfying bass, which is prominent but not overwhelming, except in some popular recordings that were meant to have souped-up bass. These are large speakers, and in my room the speakers needed to be at least 8 feet apart; and I sit 6-8 feet back from the plane of the speakers for best performance.
Soundstaging is another strong point, consisting of a set of images that are at once unique to themselves but somehow connected into an integrated space. A center image does not sound like a phantom center channel, but more like a realistic entity not connected to any kind of speaker at all.
The VR7s create a set of rounded, life-sized, realistic 3-D images that interact with each other to create a musical experience that draws me in to listen for much longer sessions than I had intended. Each musical component, while maintaining its individual characteristics, remains part of a whole sound that is unique to the performance. I am not saying that the speakers are imposing their own personality here, because the nature of the performance changes, from a large orchestra to a small jazz group, to a rock band or a Broadway stage.
I never thought of myself as bass-obsessed, but the VR7’s bass is deep, warm, solid, and inviting. It gives foundation to thin-sounding recording.
Here are some examples of how the VR7s perform on music I like. Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies carries both a strong bass line and a simultaneous line of delicate woodwinds and strings. The VR7s handle the contrasting sounds with finesse. The Stone’s Flowers Album shows the energy but smoothness of the early Stones, with Mick Jagger’s voice coming through as clear as I have ever heard. (Digression: great but ignored Stone’s song from Flowers: Out of Time, IMHO.) The flute in Monday, Monday (Mamas and the Papas, Creeque Alley double-CD) is airy and substantial at the same time. Also from this CD set, John Phillips’ Mississippi (a wonderful 1970 single, again IMHO) is a great, fast-paced track that can get smudged in lesser systems, but sounds lightening fast and crisp. The original-cast Broadway soundtrack of the Sound of Music is beautifully recorded and is an intense experience through the VR7s; the voices are incredibly realistic. Some of the tracks on this soundtrack are recorded hard-left and right. The VR7s integrate the voices very nicely.
Sometimes a speaker that seems to disappear just creates a set of individual components like a set of little speakers arrayed in front of you. The VR7s do something much more complex and satisfying (to me, at least). Each individual element sounds like it has been woven into a complete musical fabric. This may be the most intriguing quality of the VR7s, and why they are so listenable and addictive.
The VR7s have a beautiful appearance, like the finest woodwork. They are heavy, but very stable on my carpeted floor. While Von Schweikert recommends bi-wiring, I did not. A short jumper cable is needed if they are not bi-wired. (Von Schweikert supplied me with a pair of these.)
Please note that dealing with the folks from Von Schweikert has been a real pleasure. They are knowledgeable and willing to spend a great deal of time answering all of your questions before and after you purchase their product. I have also heard their VR5 HSE, and, although I did not have enough experience with them to write a review, I did hear a good deal of that compelling soundstaging and natural/relaxing sound I have in the VR7s.
Last but not least, my wife really enjoys listening to the VR7s, far more than any previous speaker.
Associated components: Accuphase DP75V CDP; Mark Levinson No. 32 Preamp, Pass X350 Amp, Cardas Golden Reference IC and Speaker Cables (RCA IC from CDP, XLR from preamp to amp). I also use TG-Audio HSR-A power cords.
Previous speakers in this system: Wilson WP6s, Aerial 10Ts.
Accuphase DP-75V CDP,
Mark Levinson No. 32 preamp,
Pass X350 Amp,
Tice 3C Power Conditioner,
Cardas Golden Ref IC & Speaker cables