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Wow. This is an interesting comparison because these speakers are so different. They are both exceptional in what they do well but they have different strengths. The Vandy's are extremely dynamic, have a warm sound with a high end which is there, but not very prominent. They can have somewhat of a bass bloat unless set up very carefully. I feel that they have absolutely the best bass extension of any speaker anywhere near there price. I have heard, particularly with some amplifiers which I assume could not deliver enough current, that they can sound a little "slow" (I hate that word but I don't know how else to describe it) and congested. In other setups, I have not heard that slowness or congestion. The Proacs are definitely brighter than the Vandersteen's. I don't much like bright speakers but the Proacs have another worldiness in their upper mids to highs which is very seductive. It is like no other speaker which I have heard. I am not sure about their bass extension since I have never tested them in that way, but I am sure the Vandersteens would walk all over them in that regard. Vandersteens are more dynamic but the Proacs make up in midrange to high end beauty what they lack in slam and drive. Both spread the soundstage widely but they sound different in how they do it. Both are smooth, but the Vandy's are balanced toward the warm side and the Proacs are more balanced slightly to the bright side. I think you have to hear both and make up your own mind. We each assign different weights to what we hear and noone can tell you which sounds better. Given that, at least as I see it, here are two speakers which I respect which couldn't be more different, you shouldn't have any trouble determining which you like best.
I also give a significant edge in detail to Proac. Even though Vandersteen is not the most detailed, it is a more natural sound than most hyperdetailed speakers. The only way I can liken it is if you go to a concert, you never leave saying "Wow, those violins or that singer was so detailed". The violins or the drums or the singer is just there. You get more of that sense with Vandersteens than most hyperdetailed speakers. Sometimes that detail which they provide is beyond natural. Even though overall I wold prefer Vandersteens, particularly the 3A Signature, don't get me wrong. I could satisfy myself with either speaker. Very interesting contrasts. Thanks for the opportunity to expound.
Good thread Yangsp. Rayhall, a couple of excellent posts above as I've been considering this very question myself, and as you probably know I have 3Asigs. I like the 3As a lot, but was wondering if I could achieve a worthwhile upgrade by going to the Proac 3.8s. I would be looking to keep all the Vand. good qualities, but get some increased mid-range detail and bass "speed". But it sounds like I can't have it all in the Proacs. Another on my "short list" are the Vand. 5s, which in other threads you have praised and made excellent observations-- sounds like we have similar tastes in speakers. BTW the big 300/600 wpc McCormack DNA-2DX does an excellent job of controlling the bass in the 3As. As I live in a pretty remote area, the only practical way I can really audition is by actually purchasing (hopefully used) and then selling what I don't like. Articulate, in depth posts like yours really help me out, especially since we both know and use the 3As, I've come to trust your ears. I tried to give you a couple of + votes! Thanks, Craig.
Craig, Thanks for the kind words. I think a Vandersteen 5 would be a great "compromise" between these two speakers. I have to put compromise in quotes because I don't think a Vandersteen 5 is much of a compromise in any way. But man, that's too much money to spend on anyone else's say-so. Why not take a road trip some weekend so you can hear them both? At $9800, even if you have to get on a plane, that's a cost effective decision. Thanks for the info on the DNA-2's. Ray.
Garfish, if you like the Proac 3.8 and the size is not an issue, then listen to the new Total Eclipse from Coincident. I have listened to both and the Proac, as good as it is, can't compete with the Total Eclipse. A bold statement for sure but I believe any open minded person would have to agree. Not only is it a better speaker, the Total Eclipse out performed the 3.8 in every area. I am using a 12 watt amp on the TE and most times I have power to spare. Garfish, Check this one out.
I have 3.8's and would never describe them as bright. I find them to be laid back, with rich midrange. Very musical. Have not compared them to Vandys but have compared them to Coincident Total Eclipse. The Coincidents just don't have the midrange magic of the Proac's. Coincidents are great speakers, but they prefer tubes, 3.8's prefer solid state, so unless you are changing amps, these should not be on the same list.
For what it's worth I'm a former 3.8 owner, Super Eclipse owner, VSM-SE owner, Dunlavy SCIVa owner, Tyler Ref Monitor owner, and have listened at length to the Response 2.5's and Vandersteen Model 5's. The Coincidents were musical and sweet, but lacked overall coherence (and can be problematic if your room is too small because of their tremendous bass output). The 3.8's offered a level of refinement over the Coincidents, but I felt the 2.5's were an overall better balanced speaker (and a much better buy). The Tyler's were definitely the best bang for the buck (at less than 1.2k), The Dunlavy's did everything well, but are huge and never completely satisfying musically. The Vandersteen 5's are similar - they do everything well, nothing wrong, but as hard as I've tried, they never let me get involved emotionally with the music - it's hard to explain. I don't think I had the right equipment driving the Merlin's - I may need to try them again because they did exhibit exceptional speed and imaging. But for me the Maggie 3.6 at only $4k blow them all away. How's that for objective observation?
Hi Garfish, I completely agree with your observation. I also listened to the Vandy 5's. Some how it sounds a little boomy and a little more mechanical ! Don't know if others hear this or if I am just biased. Maybe the Vandy 5's require even better upstream equipment to really come alive. To improve on current 3a sig. set up, I am also considering adding two 2wq subs...do you have this experience ? I hear this greatly cleans up everything. Just that you do need one more pair of cable and Xover and more room ! By the way, I read the soundstage review on Sig 3 A and the reviewer used Nordost pulsar points under the speaker. Do you have these...Have you played with spikes under the speaker ? my current setup is vt130, audible 3a, linn lp12. Audioquest throughout.. mostly emerald x3, opalx 3. and cobalt speaker cable. Maybe you can make recommendations to make my system quicker with even more bass control.
all the posts above have good things to say - i tink ya really gotta listen to these speakers, as they really are different, in many of the ways described, and ewe may really not like one or the other.
for me, personally, i've never liked any of the vandy's - they always sounded kinda lifeless, veiled, no soundstage to speak of. perhaps poor setup? dunno, i heard 'em in many different places, & they always struck me the same way.
proacs, on the other hand - well, i've never heard a proac i didn't like! ;~) great soundstage & very transparent. they never struck me as bright, yust accurate & musical. thiels are wery similar in these regards, to me, also. some folks say they're bright, i've never found that to be the case, & for a while, my system consisted of a pair of thiel 3.5's driven by an adcom gfa555, which *also* had a reputation of having a crispy hi-end.
don't purchase new, unless ya *know* it's what ya like,or yule risk losing a lot of money, having to sell & getting something else. that said, i'm saving for a new pair of newform research r645's - based solely upon what i've read of others' experiences! :>) i honestly believe that they will be nicer than anything i can get for their delivered-price of $2265, even if i buy used. *but*, they have a 30-day in-home trial, & if i don't like 'em, i'm only out shipping.
Yangsp; I have not used subwoofers as I don't think think my 14 X 22 room really needs them. The 3As come with McCormack Tiptoes (cone feet), and they seem to work fine so I have not experimented with others. I would expect that with enough room, a good sub would help clean up the 3As mids. My listening biases are toward rich/warm rather than thin, cool, analytical, and the 3As do rich/warm very well-- especially with my amp pre-amp. They also image and soundstage very well in my room. Cheers. Craig