Vandersteens have better bass. Meadowlark are more transparent with better highend extension.
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No disrespect intended toward Narrod, but in comparing the Vandy 3A Sig to most other speakers, some listeners may tend to think that the "other speaker" has better transparency and/or high-frequency extension than the Vandy.
Listen carefully during speaker auditions and I think you will find that the Vandy 3A Sig has excellent transparency and high-frequency response. The 3A Sig has very flat frequency response from about 30Hz to 20kHz, and is only down about 3db at 25kHz. The tweeter in the 3A Sig is the same one used in the Vandy Model 5, and is one of the best tweeters available. Further, the mid-range in the 3A Sig is identical to the one used in the Model 5, and it is a patented, proprietary design that has superb soundstaging and timbral accuracy.
In comparison to the Vandy 3A Sig, many other speaker manufacturers design their speakers with a "tilted-up" high frequency response, which tends to make listeners think the speaker has better extension. This can be attractive at first listening, but tends to become wearing during extended listening sessions. Alternatively, some speakers are designed to have a very slight depression in the upper-midrange, which gives the psycho-acoustic impression of more extended highs.
The current issue of TAS has their annual "Golden Ear" awards, and reviewer Shane Buettner nominates the Vandy 3A Sig (with 2Wq subwoofers) as his "Golden Ear" choice (see page 67 of the Dec 2002 issue).
I personally regard speakers as THE most important single choice in one's audio system, for the simple reason that speakers are transducers (devices which convert electrical energy to mechanical energy, or vice-versa). As such, transducers are the most subject to non-linearities of any component in your system (unless you have an analog front end, which also involves a transducer).
The best suggestion that can be made is to extensively audition the speakers that interest you, using music that you know very well. If possible, try to audition speakers in your home, since your room will substantially impact the sound you hear.
There have been a lot of threads about Vandy 3A and 3A Sig speakers here on Audiogon over the past year, and I suggest you look in the archives for those commentaries.
I don't know anything about the Meadowlark but as a owner of Vandy 5, I can tell you that the Vandy 3A Sig + W2q sub will be a much better buy than the Vandy 5. You will get at least 80% performance for 50% of the cost. In some situations they will out perform model 5 because 3A Sig + W2q will be far more flexible in terms of positioning. Yes having an equalizer in the sub is a good idea but its effectiveness is limited and it is very difficult to adjust correctly. Equalizer simply cannot substitute for good speaker positioning. If I knew what I know now, I would have bought the 3A Sig + 2Wq instead of the 5.
Sdcampbell: I can tell you've talked to Richard Vandersteen. Actually, so have I (and 99 percent of audiophiles), and I've owned the 2Ci and 3A -- along with about a dozen other high-end speakers, so I'm not new to this game. I'm also a fan of phase- and time-aligned speakers. I prefer Dunlavys to Vandersteens, but both are obviously well-designed speakers. I just think the Dunlavys do a better job in the area of transparency and realism. And the Vandersteens do indeed add some warmth in the mid-bass and lower midrange. Still, they're very easy to listen to for long periods.
For this discussion, though, I wondered about the Meadowlark Osprey because it, too, is supposed to be phase and time coherent and is priced at $2,995 -- $500 less than the Vandy 3A Signature. It's also using high-end drivers, according to the manufacturer's hype. And Meadowlark speakers have drawn a lot of praise from the audio rags, too. Thanks.
Having listened to the entire Meadowlark line at some point, I bought the 3A Signatures. The Meadowlark's didn't seem to get the midrange right and the "Transparency" was a little off. If you listen to very familiar recordings on both speakers, you will hear this. I think the Meadowlark's are good speakers but to my ears, are not up to the level of refinement you hear with the Vandersteen's. For comparison purposes, I am using a 4-ch Theta Dreadnaught to biamp, an Audible Illusions L-1 and a Meridian 508-24 ( I also use a pair of 2WQ's) but for comparison, turned them off.. Make sure, if possible, you compare both speakers in the same enviroment with the same equipment. Room acoustics can make the best speaker stink. Be careful with transparency. As Sdcampbell says, speakers are tilted up in frequency. The Meadowlark's are not as flat as the Vandersteen's. Accurate speakers usually sound dull compared to inaccurate ones. It doesn't take much to give false impressions. However, over time, it will show itself.
I have had a lot of speakers over the years and I have found that over the long hall, Vandersteen's just sound right to me. It is a combination of a lot of things.
Another good comparison, although off the subject, was the Meadowlark Kestrel Hotrod. It got a lot of good press but having had access to it for 6 months, it is not as good a speaker as the Vandersteen 2CE Signature for the same money. I think this follows up both lines with the same ultimate result.
Bigtee: The Osprey is a brand new speaker. I'm thinking it might be better than the previous Meadowlark speakers, which didn't impress me all that much.
As for listening to speakers in the same environment, that's very rarely possible. Almost never, in fact, unless you're fortunate enough to live in one of the major markets.
As for accuracy, as noted already, I'm used to accurate speakers -- Quad 988, Dunlavy SC-IV/A, Dunlavy SC-II, etc. I'm not talking about JBLs and the like with tizzy highs meant to impress people new to the hobby . Thanks.
9rw, Who said anything about JBL's or the like. There are so called top notch speaker manufacturers that are guilty of this. Since you are not "New to the hobby", you of all people should know it is not just intended for the uninitiated. Manufactures do what it takes to sell in the show room. It doesn't have to be accuracy to create this effect. Off axis response, phase alignment and a myriad of other things can accomplish the samething. We ALL get seduced by certain sounds at times.
I just don't believe you can honestly compare speakers unless they are in the same acoustical enviroment with the same electronics. I have heard Dunlavy's stink at times as well as Vandersteen's and every other speaker out there. If I used one audition to choose a speaker, I would be confused. Also, I do my own listening and come to my on conclusions. Nobody can decide what I would like and other people's comparisons are really a moot point.
I have heard the Osprey. They sound basically like the rest of the Meadowlark line. They are good speakers but still have that something I don't care for. But then my comparison would be based on the premise that they were broken in, that the room acoustics were ok(which they weren't)and quality electronics were used and formed some sort of synergy. I'm saying based on what I heard and what I felt were the possibilities, I'm not rushing out to sell my Vandersteen's. By the way, I knew the speaker had just hit the market. A friend in Atlanta bought the speaker. I too am not new to this. I've been at it 35+ years.
Bigtee: The majority of us rely at least a little on other people's opinions -- some of those in the magazines and some of those we read here. You can tell a lot about someone's listening preferences by looking at their system and their points of reference.
Ultimately, I trust my own ears, but before I bother to drive 200 miles to hear a pair of Ospreys, I just wanted to hear what other people had to say about them. The fact you think they sound pretty much like previous Meadowlarks is valuable information to me. Thanks.
I find this thread interesting as Meadowlark only shipped their first pair of Ospreys 3 days ago to a dealer in Atlanta and they should arrive today 11.27. If anyone has heard them, then they clearly are not burned in yet. As for their sound, you may find similarities as they are still voiced by Pat McGinty, but the new technology, new drivers and new cabinet designs means they will sound different. Just listen to Swift and Swallow, which are out. They are different then either Verio or Kestrel.
You will find a difference. If there was none, then why would Pat McGinty go to the expense of introducing an entire new line of speakers?
I am not criticizing anyone, just commenting on the facts that I know. Also, I am not affiliated with Meadowlark.
Follow up on Ospreys: After talking with Pat, his opinion, and one that will be confirmed in a forthcoming review, is that Osprey out performs Shearwater in almost every aspect. More dynamic. More bass extension. More believable. However, it is a bit larger. Ron, I hope this feedback helps. If you need more input, I suggest that you call Pat. Cheers!
Cellorover, If this is true - the Osprey being better head and shoulders over the Shearwater, it kind of seems like perhaps the Shearwater is 'done' i.e. perhaps it will be discontinued. Who will buy it if the same price Osprey is significantly better?
As far as some of the comments above that the Meadowlarks are missing that certain something... I disagree. Any one of their speakers that I have heard from Kestrals to Blue Herons easily compare to same cost competitors and often trounce them thoroughly. Ron, I would suggest you still keep the Ospreys as a potential candidate until you give them a good audition. I am also in need of speakers and am eagerly awaiting my dealer getting these in. Should be interesting.
I am a little puzzled by comments above about many manufacturers tilting up the treble on their speakers. My understanding of the conventional wisdom is that just the opposite is true. For example, Jim Theil, whose speakers are often criticized for being too bright, adheres strictly to a flat treble response despite the criticism, while many other manufacturers roll off the highs somewhat to achieve a sound that most of us prefer. Who's telling the truth?
I'm not sure this discussion is going anywhere positive; nevertheless, let me put my 2cents into the fray, because I am also interested in the Ospreys in the hope they will "ultimately" solve my need for a very hi-end speaker for not a lot of money. (I am hoping I can buy them for 15% off of list) I have heard the Vandersteens several times; sorry, only the 2CE's and the 3's; both were good sounding speakers, driven by Krell the first time and then Bryston every other time. They sounded, I believe, better with the Bryston. Overall, they sounded warm, generally neutral, with deep bass that became blurred rather than remaining clear. Their sound to say the least was "romantic" They almost reminded me of the old IMF line, whose Studio Master was one of the finest speakers I have ever heard---nevertheless, that is irrelevant to this discussion because of the amount of time that has elapsed since IMF was in business. As much as I liked the V's in those auditions, I wasn't running home to get my credit card and the wife's approval. They just did not sound transparent enough, or more importantly, coherent enough. I have never heard any of the Meadowlark speakers, though they come highly recommended with one caveat--- they tend to sound a tad laid back, and also forgiving. These are just the observations of other GON members, and a few owners on Audioreview. Overall, I get the impression they are generally neutral, dynamic with good bass extension. I have rarely seen adjectives, like coherent (from top to bottom)unboxy, highly transparent used to describe many of their speakers, like the Kestral or Shearwater, or the HR series. I don't know about the Heron "i", or Nightingales,because I have seen little to no press on them. The issue of Pat M's new design producing a new and different sound must be taken with a grain of salt. Speaker designers improve their products in areas of bass response, accuracy, soundstaging but the fundamental sound signature remains the same. B&W speakers which I owned for 10 years beginning in 1991, sounded very similar(but,also better) to my friend's B&W DM607 which he purchased in 1977 and still happily uses in his basement family room as a second system. I am sure this is true for Thiel, Vandersteen, and Meadowlark.... I wish the Ospreys are cracked up to be as great as the company is claiming, and possibly a bit more. For me, that would be a speaker that is accurate , but also highly musical. A speaker whose high end shimmers and is quick and open, with mids that are almost electrostatic in their presentation. More than likely, the Ospreys will be just good to very good, not great, awesome, killer, etc, etc, and have refined the musical and sonic qualities that its designer continues to believe live music possesess and is its spirit.
Sunnyjim-- I think the thread has done what many do, get people talking and thinking. No one has gotten rude and this is excellent. Thank you everyone! It is hard to draw a lot of attention to a thread like this because it is impossible to compare speakers when one is not yet available. I think your comments represent good closure and adds some food for thought. I have heard every Meadowlark made to date, except the new Osprey and current prototypes. They become progressively better. I have also heard many other speakers from numerous other manufacturers, even some that never made it out of the factory. There are a lot of good speakers out there. But until someone comes up with an amp that becomes a standard and affordable so that we all are familiar with its sound, we will all continue to have our diverse opinions about speakers and everything else. We simply need to share these opinions and respect them, possibly even qualify our comments. Thanks for your input.