The 5's are very nice indeed. To check to hear if the sub amp is working, plug it in and you should hear a low pitched "Woomp". There are batteries in the attached silver boxes, and in the crossovers themselves, but are inexpensive (though a pain in the behind) to replace. You should really send the components back to Vandersteen, and I think its about 40 or 50 dollars to replace all the batteries. Download the instructions from Vandersteens Website.
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Ask the owner if you can open up one of the M5-HP cross-overs (just 4 screws on the side with the label). If they have the Duracell battery in them, it will have a date on it in Sharpie when they need to be sent back in and replaced. If you have the serial numbers of the Speakers, this will tell you how old the speakers are. If they are in good condition and at a reasonable price, I don't think you can go wrong with them. The sub amps just don't go bad unless they have been abused. One nice thing about the Model 5, they can be upgraded or repaired for as long as you own them. Vandersteen doesn't come out with a new model ever 6 months because of what a marketing department tells them to do. The line has been stable since forever and parts are and will be available. The tweeter in the B&W seems harsh to me and I personally would prefer the Model 5 to them. Plus most of the money in the B&Ws goes into the cabinet where most of the money in the Vandersteen goes into the drivers. Which in my minds means more of my hard earned dollars are going into the sound then into the cabinet department at B&W.
If you did buy them, the first thing you should do is to replace all the batteries.
There are three inside each speaker and one inside the M5-HP, all 9 volts. Don't
just take the seller's words for it unless he has prove that batteries are still fresh.
If they aren't fresh, the 5 sounds like crap. Also, replace them with lithium
batteries. They last a lot longer.
I own a pair that I bought used. They are superb sounding with Audio Research electronics and do not require a powerful amp. But the fact that they are upgradeable is irrelevant. I would have to pay several times what I paid for the 5s to have them upgraded. If you want the 5As it's much cheaper just to buy them used. (I haven't heard the most recent 5a Carbons.) In summary, I have no desire to upgrade and I plan to keep these for a long time.
While the Vandersteen 5 are great speakers, the Krell 400xi is no where close to the musicality of the class A Krell amps. In fact 400xi is a wannabe and highly compromised. Krell wanted an entry level player which doesnt sound harsh and thats all the 400xi is. I am saying all this because you are getting into much higher league with your speakers and this amp has every potential to disappoint you.
Doen't disgard the Krell yet. It has received some excellent reviews and is not suddenly going to sound deficient with the 5s. (I have tried some high-end but not megabucks amps with this speaker. You probably won't have any issues.) In any event, the gentlemen above are correct about trying both the amp and speakers together. But it may be a pain because you need to open up the high pass filters and set them to match the input impedence of the amp. Hopefully your local shop has already set up the subwoofers for the room and is patient.
So where are these Vandys you say? And definitely don't buy them! Just give me the address and I'll handle everything.... :-)
But seriously, these are amazing speakers. I used to have a 7-channel Vandersteen system and can attest to how wonderful a designer Richard Vandersteen is; as a person, OTOH, he's a complete dick, which is why I am a FORMER owner (sold all seven). My main concern would be that if you do run into trouble and have to deal with him you can expect him to get pissy if he feels you are abusing 'his' speakers; shenanigans like that. However, despite my personal dislike for the man, his equipment is top notch and I've even considered buying another used pair. I think that's a testament to how good the equipment is, so I don't think you'll go wrong with the 5's.
Ljs_fin, as far as Krell and the reviews are concerned, a review is worth something only till you have not auditioned an equipment. Once you have had extensively listened to an equipment, no reviews hold nothing.
I have heard the 400xi in at least 5 different setups extensively and thats how I am able to say something about them. BTW, none of those 5 setups have the 400xi today.
Pani, I agree with you regarding the reviews but cited them because they raised no obvious defects. Regarding the audition in 5 different setups, I don't challenge what you heard for yourself but it is no useful information for anyone else because there are too many variables -- room, speaker, front-end etc. I am simply suggesting that the OP try his Krell before committing resources to another amp over something more important such setting up the room properly.
Stringreen, as always, YMMV. Actually, I'd met him twice before that episode for a Vandersteen audio event at a local retailer and actually found him to be brusque then as well. Interestingly, before he arrived the first time I asked some of the Vandy-veteran folks what he was like and, to paraphrase, the opinions I got were basically that he was an genius, but a real ass. So far, both meetings and every phone call has borne that out. However, as you noted, the dude may just not like me.
Still, I'd argue that ANY customer calling for service should never be verbally attacked. He did this to me multiple times (I wrote about it here recently with somewhat greater detail HERE ). Apparently having burned out a tweeter on one of his precious model 3's was enough to earn this sort of ire.
As I've said, wonderful product, lousy human being; but I'm glad that your experiences are better than mine. And the 5's are wonderful speakers.