Crutchfield has a 60 day return policy. Should be sufficient time to run in and see if you like it.
I upgraded from a 2.4SE to a 3.7 and have had no regrets. Running in was also less taxing than on my 2.4s which were hard to listen before I had 200 hours on it.
If you're enjoying the 3.6's in your current system, I wouldn't look at Vandersteens. Both are outstanding speakers but at two different sides of the spectrum; Vandersteens tends to be slightly dark and Thiels slightly bright, neither to the extreme. I would think that you probably have a system that tends to balance the Thiels, which means that with the Vandersteens everything will be too dark.
Thiel 3.7 is a major step up from the 3.6's.
I own both Thiel CS6 and CS2.4 as I am a huge Thiel fan, and I have listened extensively to the 5a. If I had the bux I would go with the Vandersteen simply because the bass alone is unparalleled and I do not find these speakers to be dark. They are simply amazing.
I disagree that moving from Thiel to Vandersteen will mean "everything will be too dark". I had Thiel 1.6s. I really liked them alot but wanted more bass as they pretty much didn't have any energy below 50 Hz. I considered Thiel 2.4s but decided to go with the Vandersteen 2Ce Sig IIs. IMO, the Vandersteens are better in most ways, with a full, musical sound the Thiels couldn't match albeit the Thiels wer more transparent and, maybe, a smidge more dynamic.
I've never heard the 5s but have heard the Sevens, Quatros, and Thiel 3.7. These were all in different systems/rooms, so I will not offer comparisons. They all are great speakers, however, and there is no way to make a mistake with these choices. The Sevens are a top three all time speaker in my experience. If I could afford the closely-related 5A Carbons, I would get those. I think that Vandersteens, on balance, are a "better", more musical speaker than Thiels. That said, the 3.7 is a great speaker (that also looks much nicer than any Vandersteen) that I could happily live with.
I think the 3.7 bass response is just not over emphasised and with an upgrade to Electrocompaniet Nemos (1200W into 4ohms), I thought it really came alive. I don't think it's power per se (my last amp was a 1000W into 4ohms Bel Canto REF1000M).
Anyway, I went with dual SmartSub2s to match the 3.7s which extend the bass further down to 15/20Hz.
It's odd that the THIEL/Vandersteen debate still goes on...some 30 years after I opened my Audio Store in Louisville.
Since we all 'hear' so differently its not surprising that one man's 'dark' is another's smooth, or that one man's bright, is another's 'detailed'...which brings me to a well timed 'rant'.
There IS NO right here, except for the buyer...the actual owner in each individual instance, which is why the audition is so critical in the purchase of audio goods.
A sadly, missing link in the whole process of High End Audio these days.
With the decline of Brick and Mortar stores, those evenings or weekends behind closed doors in which a guy and his wife (significant other) could take his and her fav music into a store and listen for a couple of hours in order to make his/her conclusions on which is actually 'right'. And, once again, as we all hear differently, beauty or in this instance, 'accuracy' is in the eye of the beholder. With that important part of buying now in very low availability, what to do.
Back in the day (moan, here he goes with a 'story')...audiophiles would travel on a week end to my store from up to 400 (sometimes more) miles away to make a day of listening to products, to make such a decision.
As the owner of the store I simply tried to add logic and reason to the festivities...because back then (because of corporate competitiveness) almost NOBODY had both speakers in their store...that being THIEL and Vandy.
And to me, frankly the differences are legion...
Auditioning both in a close enough time frame is critical to this decision making process.
Keep this in mind...anything that bothers you, or is an even 'slight' issue, becomes a MAJOR ISSUE over days/weeks/months.
Example, if you hear the THIEL as a bit bright, it'll make you nuts in a couple of weeks...on the other hand a touch of darkness in the Vandy will make you totally crazy with, 'what's missing here, no air'....yada, yada.
My advice...what we give you is a bit helpful, but only YOU can pick the right one...
Are they different from one another?
Night and Day and I ain't singin' Cole Porter.
Your point is well taken. In the past, when it was much easier, I would take my music with me and spend enough time with different speakers to appreciate the differences myself. A number of factors has made that more difficult for me now.
I enjoy my Thiels very much, but I know that I can improve upon them and would want to. I have spent a good amount of time with John at Audio Connection in Verona, NJ listening to the Vandersteen 7's and I was totally amazed by them. I would love to have them, but I don't want to spend that much now on speakers. I would consider the 5a's or possibly the 5a Carbons if they were significantly closer to the 7's. I have not heard the Thiel CS 3.7's and would be interested in the opinion of those who spent time with both. Audio stores that carry the Thiels are not close and I couldn't currently physically handle the travel involved to properly audition them myself. I would make the trip sometime if the comments here made me feel that I should. Also, comparing speakers in different locations with different equipment and then trying to imagine how they would sound in my listening room is a factor to be considered.
How they both handle orchestral music would be most interesting to me.
One reason I would get the Vandersteens if I liked them both is that I would always prefer to do business with John Rutan at Audio Connection. I've dealt with him for many years and besides being extemely knowledgeable, he is 100% trustworthy. Also, if I bought the 5a's, I could always upgrade them to the Carbons.
Also, it says a lot about you if people were willing to travel so far to come to your store.
Larry, you rock man, couldn't have said it better myself!
What kept me from being able to audition Vandy's in my own system (moan, here he goes with a 'story') was that in an unmentionable San Franciso dealership many years ago, I wanted to check out their model 3 sigs. The dealer hooked them up to a system that required the volume control to be almost all the way up in order to listen at about 80dB! I asked if I could home audition them with my system and the dealer told me "no, we don't do that because the speakers will come back torn and tattered." And I said, "even if I give my credit card number and sign an agreement that they will returned in the same condition they left the store?" "No, we can't do that."
So I went to the Thiel dealership and auditoned and purchased.
The brick and mortar demise of the 21st century signals a bygone era. Hard goods as commodity and not instruments of art, they way they were intended, and the attitude supporting this, is why the entire industry is coming undone at the seams. If it weren't for their sheer love of design and execution and music, there would be no Vandy, Thiel, you name 'em.
Thiel now sells through Crutchfield.
Vandersteen dealers are loathe to home loan.
Here's another story. Way back when, I decided to buy a stereo. Did a little(!) research, and decided the best way to go about it was to buy a couple of mini-monitors and a sub-woofer. Went to the local high-end emporium and confidently told them what I wanted, they quickly moved some appropriate speakers into a room (only one pair of speakers in a room at a time there)and proceeded to be disappointed. What I assumed were my priorities, really weren't. They suggested some full range floor standers. I listened to some Martin Logans, Linns, Acustats, Snells and the Vandersteen 2's. The Vandy's wowed me. I left saying I needed more time to think more about it. Did some more research, went to some other stores, liked the Maggies 3's at another store. Took my signifcant other (now my wife) back to first store to buy the Vandys. The origianl store did carry both the Vandersteens and Thiels. They then told me that before I walked out with the Vandy's I owed it to myself the hear the Thiels too. Well, after many hours of going back and forth, I left paying for the Thiels. As different as the Vandy's and the Thiels sounded, they were the ones I kept coming back to. When I naievely asked why, I was told that they shared very similar design considerations. To this day, I think too many talk of the differences between Thiel and Vandersteen, and not enough about the similarities. There's a cut from one cloth, top to bottom balance that these designs share. Sure, I heard other speakers do some individual things better, but not without bigger deficits elsewhere. It's a personal preference, but if I couldn't have one, I could easily live with the other.
The only other suggestion I'll offer is; it's good to have a good relationship with a dealer, and good ones are invaluable, but it's better to date the dealer than marry him. There are (well in NYC, there used to be anyway) plenty of pretty fish in the sea, all vying for your money. You'll see the dealer from time to time, but you'll be living with the gear, day to day for years to come, that's the relationship that really counts.
I own Vandersteen 5A's and don't find them dark at all. I'm using all Ayre electronics and the system is completely balanced. I've also heard the 5A's with Audio Research gear and found that combination wonderful as well. When I listened to the 7's and the 5A Carbons, the sound was so close to my 5A's that I couldn't justify the upgrade. Richard tells me that if I got the other speakers home, I would hear the differences, but in the store, they sound pretty similar.
I have heard the 5A Carbons and I would not hesitate to buy them in an instant, especially from John Ruttan who is a true music lover and who must be the most knowledgable Vandersteen dealer in the country. Additionally, a real benefit to Vandersteens is that they can be tuned to your room.
Agreed! John Rutan is the bomb!
Update. I have an Aesthetix Atlas Signature arriving any day. I ordered the Vandersteen 5A Carbons and they will be here in about four weeks. Delays in the room they'll be going in however means I won't be able to take possession of them for close to two months. I'll report back once everything is in place and settling in.