Vandersteen 5A or Sonus Faber Stradivari Homage

I am trying to decide between the Vandersteen 5A and the SF Stradivari. I have been into this CRAZY hobby for about 25 years and have owned speakers such as the Revel Studio V1, SF Cremona M and currently own Magnepan 3.7s with Vandersteen 2WQ subs. I listen to a variety of music, but mostly Rock and Pop music. I love a warmer sound to handle the poorly recorded Rock and I enjoy being able to listen fairly loud at times. Of the above I have owned, the SF Cremona were the best all rounders. The maggies although very good bloat at higher volumes. I should mention I use Levinson Mono blocks and Bryston processor. Any help is appreciated. Thanks
I have not heard the Stradivari's , but was at a dealer the other day and he had the Carbon 5A's playing. Although not fully broke in, I was really impressed with what they were doing. He has the 7's set up in his main room with D'Agostino front end and I have heard these many times. As much as I love what the 7's do, I felt the 5"'s we're performing on the heels of the 7's. The 5's were in an ARC front end using an LS27, and sorry I don't recall which mono locks. But I really thought, if I could, I would be hard pressed to spend the extra for the 7's based on what the 5's (not yet fully broke in) we're bringing to my ears. I guess in short, the 5's present a tremendous value in the price range and nip at the heels of speakers costing 20-25K more.
Just my opinion of course.
If you are looking for something that sounds warm/forgiving, the SF will probably be a better choice. The Vandersteen uses an aluminium tweeter and is a more detailed speaker overall. That said, the 5A has a lot going for it in other areas. It may be a safer choice. The Vandersteens are very transparent speakers in that you can do a lot to change the sound of them. They're very revealing of the components upstream. For example, if you find them too bright, you can get different electronics to completely change the way the system sounds. I know people will say that changing electronics will alter the sound of just about any speaker. I agree, but the point I'm trying to make is that with the Vandersteens, its a much bigger change. Either way, you're still going to have to listen to both pairs of speakers before you make a choice.
Prolly should go with the Vandersteens, I have heard them and thought quite differently than Zd542 in that they were on the warmer richer side of the scale. They are fantastic with analog if you have a turntable.
That said you already favor the Sonus Faber "house sound" so you should listen to the bigger ones you want and see if they retain the sound you like so much. It's your set up so go with what really pleases you. Sorry for stating the obvious.
Apples to oranges: The 5As are time and phase coherent with a bass response to 20Hz. The Sonus Fabers are neither of these. For me, the choice of Vandersteen over Sonus Faber would be easy.
Thanks very much for your responses. I kind of think the Vandersteens are the way to go too. It is also cheaper than the Stradivari, and does go deeper. There is one concern I do have with the Vandersteen 5a, however. I tend to play my music loud at times, and I have read that the 5a does not play loud. I don't need Rock concert levels, just like to "FEEL" the music sometimes. Any thoughts?
I have 5As, not carbon, and they certainly can and do play loud in my large room, the rumor is a myth.
Sonus Faber has never been know for sounding good played really loud either

You find Vandersteen at probably 2x -3x as many retailers, if that makes a difference to you.

P.S. I like both SF and Vandersteen. If I didn't have my stand mount SF Signum + REL sub for aesthetic reasons, I'd have the 2ce SigIIs.
I have 5A and they play very loud. As rRepuloso,said, it is a myth.
Actually the Vandy's don't use an aluminum, they use a ceramic coated tweeter. This thing is amazing. Yes, it's detailed and it's extended, but it's natural. I have Proacs and love their staging and imaging, but they can be forward and a bit hot on specific recordings, but the Vandy's from the Treo up are unreal. Best I've heard for price and the 7's are the best I've heard adn I've heard many 100k plus speaker systems. I think the Vandy's do EVERYTHING good. They sound best on all types of music, but can be forgiving enough. They are easiest to set up too due to their subwoofer controls. You can put them right up against the wall. Just set them up for their best staging etc and then dial in the bass. That's a huge deal for any room to me. Good luck and let us know.
Please forgive me if this is viewed as stealing the thread but I would like to ask this question. Can you compare the Vandersteen 5A and the Coincident Pure Ref Extremes? They are both very close in price. My current speakers are the Infinity 1-b's and my amps (2) and v5 Mac 275's.

Rick (RWD)
All you have to do is go listen to the Vandys and crank it up if you want. They just always sound right regardless of volume. I've heard every speaker he makes right now and they are all like that.

I always wonder what 'loud' is to so many people now. Is it really a question of dynamics or is it db's? It may be my age, but my system plays loud enough without changing sound to hurt my ears. I have a small Ayre integrated and Proac Supertowers as I wait on my Vandy Treo's....Plenty loud, lol. I know I've upset all three of my Yorkies at times.
Thanks for your responses. I am using Mark Levinson 434 monoblocks. They are only 125 watts but double with each halving of impedance, they are not like the ratings show. I was wondering however, if more power would be needed to make the 5A shine. Any thoughts?
I have a Luxman integrated (509U, 110 watts per) and it drives my 5As as loud as one would wont them played. Not an issue. Used to use a pair of Classe DR8s in monos, about 200 watts each, and there is nothing lost by going to 110. You will be fine, it is all a myth. You are not driving the subs, they have their own amps.
I have heard both of these speakers. To me, the Strad's are in a different league than the Vandy 5's. BUT and this is a Biggie....they need a fairly powerful tube amp upstream. Feed them with ss and you won't hear what they can do. OTOH, the Vandy's are quite happy with ss gear. Since the OP owns ML gear, i would suggest that the Vandy's may be a better match.
I've heard the 5A's driven with 125 Ayre watts and they sang. The nice thing is that you are only using the amp to power the mids and above as they have self powered subs. That's why you use the crossover. I totally agree with you on the SF's....they must have powerful tube amps. Davey, most don't get it, you certainly do. Vandy's just sound so right and aren't fatiguing. I have heard them kick on Quicksilver, rogue, Ayre, AR, Krell, ML, Classe and Aesthetix and they always sound awesome, but you can always tell the difference of the upline components. If you feed it crap, it will sound like better crap, but feed it great amplification and you'll be rewarded and want to listen all day and night.
Thanks again for the responses. My 5A's are on their way. I should have them in a couple of days. I can't wait!! My dedicated room is 17.5 x 26 long. I have high hopes on what they can do. I just recently sold SF Cremona m's and Maggie 3.7's, and I felt they were good. They just didn't do enough for me.
Troy. congrats. I'm sure you're very excited. Who's your dealer?
When you get your 5A's, post your feelings. If you need setup question, etc...we're here to help.
Excellent choice!!!
I've had my Vandy 5A Carbons for about 18 months now; they replaced my beloved Maggie IIs which were coupled with an ancient Vandy 2W powered subwoof. Given the right source material, the 5s just seem to disappear from the room, leaving only the music. Setting up the high-pass filters to match your amp's input impedance is a matter of setting a few DIP switches and takes about a minute to figure out and do. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish emplacing and angling the speaks for a single sweet spot to take advantage of Richard's efforts to provide perfect imaging, or just muscle the things around till they sound right in your room. Mine are toed-outward about 30 degrees and about 18-inches from the long wall they're on, and from my off-center listening chair the imaging is perfect - and nearly as perfect at the other end of a 7-foot couch.
As for power, I run a pair of Vacuum Tube Audio M-125 monoblocks (each with four KT-88- 6550-type tubes in push-pull configuration) and Roy Mottram tube preamps. In triode mode the monoblocks step down to about 65 watts per side and I am able to rattle the dishes three houses down the street with cannon-fire on 1812 Overture; however the true joy is hearing the difference between the "tink" of a cymbal most speakers give you to the "ding" the Vandies deliver.
Agreed with all above posters, it's GIGO. Feed the Vandersteen 5A Carbons fresh lobster and they'll serve you fresh lobster. Feed 'em canned tuna and that's what'll come out. They neither add nor subtract anything from your playback media. Therein their beauty.
Not mentioned by others here, but IMO vital, is that these wonderful speakers be discreetly bi-wired as the manual recommends. I was bi-wiring through a single four-conductor Canares cable and was quite content. One bored afternoon I doubled-up with some extra cable, nothing fancy, for true bi-wiring and "WHOMP!!" the backside of the soundstage just fell away. An unbelievable improvement over what I already thought was perfection. Don't ask my why; it makes no sense electrically. (I've since upgraded the speaker cabling and connections a bit, none of that $1,000 a foot crap, but nothing made the improvement of the magnitude that discrete bi-wiring does, even if you have to use lamp cord.)
One caution if you're going to spend Lamborghini money on custom cables: Be sure the speaker ends are spades that will fit the rather smallish connectors on the back of the speaks. For DIY cables, Audioquest makes a silver spade that fits just right for 10-12 gauge wire; otherwise you'll likely spend a few hours on a grinding wheel.
Bottom line is: the 5A Carbons have eliminated one baffling and very expensive variable in the hi-fi equation. They are, to my ear, invisible.
Thanks again for all the responses. I unpacked and wired the 5A's last night, but did not have time to do any adjusting. I will say, without the necessary setting up, I was not impressed. I sure hope the set up and fine tuning is that important, or I will be extremely disappointed. i did not touch the pots, but did move the control knobs at the back around a bit. I am sure a speaker with many great reviews will be great once dialled in.
The adjustments are hugely important. Take the time to get it right. You'll be amazed.
Hello Troyseaward
Did you purchase used Five As?
Did you insert the High Pass units?
How did you determine the proper dip switch settings for x 5 High pass?
Open up and check the date on the batteries to make sure they are good.
Laser check tilt.
Did you spike the speakers?
Are the cones tight.
Cheers JohnnyR Vandy dealer
I purchased them used from a reputable dealer. they are 5 years old in like new condition. Batteries were changed 2 months ago. I used the chart to tilt them and installed the cones finger tight. I installed the filters and my Levinson mono blocks have 50 kilo ohm input single ended and it shows to have NO dip switches on. Have have no idea what to with the tone test cd or the 11 bands on the back so I have them at straight up default. I do have a SLM. After doing all I could do by ear, they sound good but not quite what I was expecting. Bass not as powerful as I thought it would be. I find I need to turn the setting high and it seems like the subwoofers make a bloating sound at a higher volume on certain tracks.

Is it just the way they are or have I done something wrong?
Any help is greatly appreciated. I am going to have a chat with my dealer over the phone to get some help.
Do what JohnnyR says. I can PROMISE you that there is none better in setting up a Vandy set up. I've been to nearly all the dealers in this country that do high end over the years and he's as good as anyone.

Time for me to get my own list together to sell everything off so that I may get my Treo's, lol.

The 5's are as good as advertised, promise. Just natural sounding and not etched or too 'detailed' which often is just distortion. Promise that once dialed in, you'll love em.
(((Batteries were changed 2 months ago speakers 5 years old))
Were the Inside the speakers3 9volt X over batteries in each speaker done also?
You will need a voltage meter to confirm you have the dip switches set correctly as in the manual. track 27 1 v ac
trk 30 .707 confirm
Only after that can you begin to get the target numbers to set your in room compensation properly.
You can call me at 973-239-1799
Wow, that is very nice of you. i would like to call you. I do have a volt meter and sound level meter. When can I call you?
Go head and call
You first impressions are probably correct, they usually are.
Don't go through all the trouble of adjustments, etc., just to
be more disappointed. You will kick yourself going through all
this and you will still not be happy. You know, toe in, toe out,
replace batteries, dip switches, yikes! High pass filters, you
don't need no high pass filters! Laser checking, tightening all
those cones, oh no not those cones! Calling Johhnny R, god
why bother with all of this? Johnny's a real nice guy but he's
got better things to do with his time then help you with all
this. He could be out with his lovely wife buying her a real
nice dinner for Pete's sake. So, here's a better solution to all
your worries. Pack them up now and forget the day you
purchased them. Go back to what made you happy before
purchasing them. What's a Vandersteen anyway? It's like
meeting someone new and after the chase is over, the trill
never really lives up to your expectations. My solution is so
easy and simple you are gonna say to yourself, hey, why
didn't I think of this first. So just pack them up like you
received them, slap my name and address on the boxes and
send them to me. I feel your pain Troyseaward, and I'm just
a nice guy to make sure you are completely happy in your
life. No need to thank me, just box'em up, label them and off
they go. I'll even send you the shipping label. I know, I
know, you're saying to yourself, why didn't I think of this
first. You will just need to learn from your experiences. So,
when can I expect them? I will just have to suffer to make
you happy. I think my system and room dimensions are up
to the challenge. Don't forget to let me know when your
birthday is so I can send you something nice for boxing them
up and shipping them out. I'll take care of you man, no
worries here. I've got your back. I'm here for you! You can
count on me! What are friends for anyway? No really, I don't
mind a bit. You scratch my back I'll scratch yours. No need
to thank me. We're good to go. One good deed deserves
another. What's yours is mine.

"Calling Johhnny R, god why bother with all of this? Johnny's a real nice guy but he's got better things to do with his time then help you with all this."

Why not let Johnny R decide what he wants to do with his time?
I think Bigkidz's tongue was planted firmly in his cheek, Zd.
Zd542 I hope you really did not miss my point. See Rcprince's comment. I was posting a funny I think (hope).
Troyseaward, Just follow what Johnny Rutan from Audio Connection suggests and you will be very happy with your Vandersteen 5As. John is a good guy and he knows his Vandersteens!
Let us know how it works out for you.
I am very concerned over the plopping/distorted sound coming from the subwoofers with certain music, especially punchy music. I am actually very surprised that a speaker costing this much, with supposedly fantastic bass does this. What in the world do I have done? OR is this normal for the 5A?

Note: the music does not have to be very loud for this bloating sound; maybe 75-80db with techno/dance type music.

Please enlighten me here. I beg you
And what does the user manual say?
Troy call me so we can find out what's up with the pre owned speakers you
Bought nine seven three two three nine one seven nine nine
You obviously have a problem johnnyr
Troy, John Rutan's store is located in Verona, NJ. If you are close by, maybe you could offer to pay him to come to your house and do the set up. John may know more about Vandies than Richard V himself. :)

I'm optimistic that once your 5As are properly dialed in, you'll be happy. Gotta tell you that from a limited personal experience auditioning Vandies and based upon what I've read on A'gon, I gather they are a PITA to set up. I'm sure Bigkidz was pulling your chain when he quipped "toe in, toe out, replace batteries, dip switches, yikes! High pass filters, you don't need no high pass filters! Laser checking, tightening all those cones, oh no not those cones ...."

Ironically, when I auditioned a pair of Vandies a while back, the poor dealer went through similar aggravation setting up his display speakers. The guy almost passed out when I was about to move his display Vandies to make room for another brand to audition. Funny thing is I schlepped the other brand to a spot that looked like it would work, and bing, bang, boom, ... there was music.

Look, there are too many folks who swear by their Vandies to get upset. I'm sure John will get those 5As humming for you. I mean it.

Btw, did you carefully read the set up instructions? I recall they are pretty detailed, but Richard V knows what he's saying.
973 239 1799
Holy Cow
Ya studerin prika ya
John, how about 3:30 your time tomorrow?
Fine or Call me ASAP
Cheers John
I think your bypass filters are not working
Troy ... was John Rutan able to help you sort through your 5A set-up issues?
You bet he was able.The man knows what he is talking about!! Filters were set wrong and I did not use the Volt meter to test proper impedance. The Levinson manual said 50k, when in reality the volt meter showed 75k.

Just that alone with some room placement and the room compensation pots not even adjusted left me in awe.

Can't wait to start the fine tuning.

Thanks everyone!!!!
Very big time COOL! Really glad to hear that John Rutan came through.

Kudos John!!
Can hou post how you used volt meter. I took my input impedence value from amplifier manual.
Can you post how you used volt meter. I took my input impedence value from amplifier manual.
I love to hear happy endings to stories like this. Also, my hat is off the John Rutan at Audio Connections...he is a PRINCE!!!!

Rick (RWD)
I agree...John is the best
At the risk of excess ego inflation(!), I have seen John in action and his expertise is immediately apparent. He's also 100% real. Fun to work with. Non-abrasive. Genuine. A trip and a half and he loves to turn on others. Great legs, too!
John talked me through using the volt meter by putting the positive lead on the positve speaker terminal lead and negative on the other. Then using the test CD he found my amp impedence on tracks 27 and 30. I do't even know how he figured it out. He did it pretty quickly. Either way, the amp has 75kohm impedence not 50k, which caused a dip switch change, and huge difference in my 5A's. thank you John.