Vandersteen 5a vs. B&W 802D vs. Maggie 3.6 vs.?

I've had this addiction for over thirty years and am ready to purchase my "last" set of speakers. I currently have Vandersteen 3A sig's. with v2q (pair) driven my Mac c2200 and mc402. I'm looking for the best MUSICAL speaker I can find. I've owned a ton of stuff over thte years and know that I want to stay away from anything bright or even remotely tilted in the high end. I listen to mostly rock although I don't like to listen at terribly loud levels.

I know my choices seem diverse in cost as the 3.6's are signifigantly lower but I would retain the Vandersteen subs with these.

I'm looking for advise from fellow A'goners as I believe I can trust your opinions far better than any dealer. I have heard from way too many dealers a promise of musicality only too find a product that may be rated highly but sounds like sand paper to my ears.......Thiel 3.6's!

Unfortunatley, the only high end dealer near me sells only B&W. I must travel three to four hours to find any other brand.

I'd love to hear others thoughts and input and I thank you one and all in advance!

Tim, the best I can do is give you my personnal opinion of the three speakers you are interested in, but remember that so much of anyone's prespective is a personnal taste along with system synergy and the size/type of acoustic space the system is located in.

I have listened to the three above mentioned speakers and my personnal favorite among them is the Maggie 3.6's. I have a dear friend who about six month ago went from his 3.6's to B&W 802's, and still wishes he had his Maggies back. If you love the sound of music and are not looking for a "hifi" perspective, the di-polar panels and ribbon tweaters of the 3.6's offer magic, if you have enough power and space behind and on the sides of the speakers. I have always found all the Vandy's I have listened to, to be very good, but not as realistic in their ability to "float" a large and naturally layered soundstage as the big Maggies. Well, that's my opinion, but remember I'm quite enamored of planer speakers and have had my MG-20's for over 14 years as my reference speakers, even though virtually all the upstream gear has changed I have no desire to replace the 20's.
Don't buy the Maggies. I've owned 3.6's and I loved them, but they were unable to play rock convincingly, they had a small sweet spot, and the treble was on the bright side.

I auditioned a lot of speakers and I ended up with Aerial 9's. I really like them a lot.

If I could have two full blown systems, I would own the Maggies again in a hearbeat. They do things well that most other speakers can't do at all, and I'm talking about comparisons with Wilson Watt/Puppy, Aerial 20 and some really expensive Dynaudio gear. But they have shortcomings that made them impossible to stay with (for me).

The 802D and the 5A are hard to beat, but I think the Aerial 9 and the Sonus Faber Cremona are equally good. If you have a local B&W dealer, I would go with the 802.

Nice problem you have!

I own a pair of 3.6R's with two 2Wq Vandy subs. It's a great match. But if my tastes were mostly rock, I'd probably go with the 5A's. I like my Maggies more for Jazz, Blues and Vocals. Not fantastic with rock, probably because so many of the recordings suck.
I have owned the 802D's with the McIntosh MC402 and C46, I still have the Mac gear. I have been told by others that the 802D's sound great with the MC501's and that may be, but they didn't do it for me with the 402, or the numerous other amps I used.

From my experience, I'd look elsewhere. Following suit with others offering other suggestions, I suggest the Wilson Sophia II's, I have heard these side-by-side with the 802D's, it was an easy choice; also, the Usher CP-8571's are well thought of.

You cant trust us anymore than any other source.We all have different systems on different power grids in different countries.We all like different types of sounds.We would like to help you but cant.All we can do is present you with our likes/dislikes as posted above which will do nothing to help you.To test my theory,buy all above recommendations and report back after listening to them.We cant even help you a choose a car or type of peanut butter or religon.We want to,desperately,but cant.Good luck,were all in this together,Bob
all are excellent, but you may be wise to stick with the vandy line.
i had maggie 3.3 r's and given enough power they rock fine add two subs and the 3.6's will rock great plus you wont regret your choice. Maggies are a speaker you can live with for a long time!
The Maggies don't do rock. The B&Ws need some juice to make them sound best. The 5a's sound about right. However, given your requirements, you may want to also check out a pair of Green Mountain Audio Calypsos.

You're gonna have to work to beat what you've already got.
I'm with Jaybo, stick to Vandy - to me you appear to have already become atuned to them given that Thiel's sound like sandpaper...
I used to own the BW 802D speaker and for certain applications and tastes, they could be great. I thought they had a wonderful midrange that made especially made female voices sound magical, albeit at the expense of a bit of coloration and warmth. The diamond tweeter is smooth and seductive, though not as extended as I would have preferred. I think the 802d is great for jazz, vocal jazz, and small ensemble chamber or acoustic music. To my ears, they are not the most dynamic or fastest speaker out there which may not be a good fit for your musical tastes. In my room, I also had an issue with the bass which was a bit boomy and flabby (i.e. slow and uncontrolled). Good luck!
How about Egglestonworks Andra II's? Awesome speakers. There's a used pair being sold by a dealer on Audiogon right now for $12,900 that you could maybe cut a deal on. They do sound best above around 85 db though. They're a bit bloomy and soundstage great. They're hard to beat in their price range. I own a pair and listen to old rock and jazz.
If you did like your Vandersteen 3A Sig...........
You gone LOVE 5A or Quatro.
(you know the sound.......already, so no risk there + huge improvements over 3A will love it !!!)

Maggies...DO NOT ROCK !!!
B&W......?????? not my cup of tea.
I 2nd Wilson Sophia II suggestione. Heard'em - like'em.

If you have the room, I would add the Quad 2905's to the list, especially if you do not listen at ear splitting levels.
I was more than unlucky with my Maggie 3.6 experience: bought used right here, down most of the time, sold for a song to an engineer who had the technical skills to rebuild them. More power to him.

Vandersteen 5s are some of the best speakers I have heard and they have it all: deep taut bass, a beautiful midrange and very good performance for normal dynamic tweeters and delightful imageing. My two cents worth: a great all around speaker.
If you like Vandies then why not go with the 5As or Quatros? They sound great on all kinds of music and they can rock.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the 802s, like the poster above I didn't find them very dynamic (ompared to other options (I listen to a lot of large scale symphonic BTW).

I do like Maggies, but you'd want to augment them with subs for rock, plus you need to bring them out well into the room.
If you mostly listen to rock, I hope you have a vinyl rig.
As your post says "the best musical speaker" out there, I would suggest that you look into the Harbeth Monitor 40.1 as it becomes available this month. They are the most musical and natural sounding speakers I have ever heard.They play great at low levels as well. I currently have the Monitor 40's and think it's one of the best speakers I have ever heard.
I have owned many Vandersteen speakers as well (5's, 3A's Quatro's, 1C's) The Vandersteen 5A's are very musical speakers and would be another good choice. I am not a fan of B&W speakers so I can't really comment on them.
Try to hear the Harbeth's before you make a decision.
Not knowing anything about your room and given the three models you mention I would vote for the Vandy 5A's. Given their design features that allow you to tailor the system to the room I could see living with these speakers for the long haul. They are, in my experience, one of the best speakers out there regardless of price. I also second the view that the Maggies simply do not rock and since that is what you listen to most I would cross them off the list. One speaker that I would strongly suggest you look at is the new Daedalus Ulysses, which I have not yet heard. I've got a pair of their smaller DA1.1's on order and am convinced these are far superior to other well regarded speakers out there up through the 15K price point. The Ulysses are better still in terms of pinpoint imaging and on-axis listening.
I did own the Maggie 3.6's and agree with some of those poster's, that they are not the best for rock music. Since that is what you listen to mostly you're better off with cone's. They are great speakers but listen to some complex electric guitar play, like Santana, and you'll be left scratching your head.
For what it is worth, same music (mostly rock), similar priorities (Musicality good, brightness bad), also an old fart, bought 5a's a couple years ago & am very happy with the choice.
I'm not sure if your local dealer has the mac, but my local dealer sells both b&w and mac and they sound great together. I haven't heard the other speakers you refer to. Also the manager of my local dealer is a rock/classic rock guy and he has mac paired with b&w 802d. for what its worth he loves it.
good luck
Another vote for you to stick with Vandersteen. The B&W will probably not be to your liking in the top end - they can be bright, although McIntosh amps are about as good as I have ever heard on B&Ws. But I still think 5As would suit your tastes the best.

Thanks for the response. I do have the space and I think my Mac 402 has enough juice. I am very sensitive to soundstaging and my brief experiences with Maggies have enamoured me. I was always worried though about the dynamic ability and slam that they could provide. I don't listen that loud but I still want the viseral impact of a cresendo.
The brightness really scare me. I owned numerous Thiel's and all had some excellent attributes but I could never get past the brightness. This was regardless of associated equipment. I used ARC and c-j.
Yeah, many rock recordings do suck. I have extensive vinyl and that helps a bit but it's such a apin to use. The best system performance I get is with later recordings. I do listen to a lot of jazz and find they offer far greater results.
I'll check them out
I own Martin Logan Oddassy and am thinking of going with the 5a's. My question is. Will they sound good with my all Krell gear?
I just heard the 5A's this week in a great setup. They were very musical and I believe would yield alot of enjoyment across a wide range of music and recordings. I liked the biamp concept where you put ahigh pass line filter in to ease up the burdon on your amps. It seems liek the 11 bans EQ should really be set up and voiced by a dealer with the right tools and experience to tune them to your room.

Though I dont have much experience with them, I have never heard a B&W that I liked, though the diamond tweeter seems to shine well but is discontinuous with the rest of the spectrum.

If you are serious about finding your "last" speaker - then I think a 3-4 hour trip each way is worthwhile. Maybe make it an overnight thing - this is a big financial commitment.
All I can say is Emerald Physics CS-2's! I got my entire
system today...Wyred4Sound 4 ch amp...PS Audio pre amp
and Emeralds.
Fantastic is all I can say. Only 5 hours on the system
so far, and yes I have a ton of break in to go through
but it still sounds awesome.
I have owned a lot of Maggies (3 pair of 3.6R's alone)
and can tell you the Emeralds have a Maggie (esk)sound
being very open with speed & air, but also do what
Maggies cannot. Bass & dynamics!!! WOW!!!
These speakers rock! I can't wait until they are broken
in. (With the rest of the system also, including all cables)

I tell you people, please hear these speakers before you
buy anything. They have to be bi-amped and the system
runs balanced only, that may be the only drawback
for some people, that is why I had to buy everything
new. But it was worth it.
Telescope -

If you have the PS Audio gaincell preamp, and you like it (please comment on it)- you should consider geting the external power supply if you can find one (its discontinued) Or better yet have Rick Cullen mod the power supply and put rebuilt premium gain cells in your unit - It will be substantialy better. I have always liked PS's gain cells transparency - but thier preamp didn't seem to become popular.
Hi Emailists,

Yes it is the P-200, and so far, I love it. Cannot
really comment on it specifically as I never have
heard it on it's own with other systems. Plus it's BN
so still breaking in.
But, what I am hearing now as a total system it is very
transparent & detailed & taut.
I also love the build quality of the unit...very
solid & well built for the price. Will have to check
with Rick later if I feel the need, but not as of yet.
I dumped my 802D's and got the 5A's. The Vandys are much more musical, have greater air, depth, clarity, etc.etc. There is no comparison. The 802's were stodgy in comparison. You should have all the ancillaries in place, or any speaker will not work well.
Well, after reading everyones input........and thank you one and all..........I've decided to make the necessary trips required to listen to my choices. I am also adding the new Harbeth 40.1's to my list. The overwhelming feedback has been for the Vandersteen line. I actually had a knowledegable dealer recommend I stay with what I have and make some adjustments and xover changes. His advice has helped my system. I have spoken with a couple of dealers that sell all of my choices except Harbeth. Two dealers sell them but did not mention them in our conversations. The positive press and some feedback on this site has opened the window to me listening to the new Harbeth 40.1. I am a little tentatibe here as my speakers just prior to the Vandersteen 3A's were Spendor SP100's. Very pleasant but also very bland in my opinion.

To hear all I need to travel to Indy and Chicago. The good news is I can tie in my listening in Chicago with the Chicago auto show! Not a bad way to go!

I remain a bit perplexed in that I think that the Vandersteen 5A's will provide what I am looking for but I have a strong distaste for having to rely on a dealer for set up. I have always set up all of my own systems and don't like having to rely on any dealer for this. I think Vandersteen is missing the full market by not allowing owners to have his set up discs and instructions. I understand he like to protect his dealers and I appreciate that but his end consumers should be the highest concern. Just my opinion and I would probably feel different if I had a local dealer.

I'd love to hear more from others about the Harbeth 40.1's and how they compare to my other choices as well as the Spendor SP100's.

Again, thanks to all!
I can't say enough good things about the Harbeth's. I owned a pair of Compact 7's for a long while and loved every minute with them. I also owned a pair of Spendor S-100's a while back--also a very musical sounding speaker. While I've only heard the Monitor 40 briefly (not the new 40.1) it struck me as more transparent and revealing than my old Spendors with much greater inner detail and better imaging. There are many similarities as well--the boxes are about the same size, as is the driver configuration. Both have the same BBC house sound with the slightly recessed midrange and lightly rolled off treble (though the Harbeth not so much). I'm a big fan of the M40 though with the current exchange rate and innovative design features I think the Vandy 5A would be my choice in a head to head. (Again, I haven't heard the new 40.1) I just think you get more speaker for your money with the Vandy--one that can adapt to any room and one which pushes the limits of what a dynamic speaker can do. I think it would be interesting to compare the two and would encourage you to do so. I would, however, again suggest you check out the Daedalus Audio Reference series Ulysses or new DA1.1. Either will rival the Harbeth and certainly give the Vandy a run--for less than half the money.
Hey Timball, if you want to sell your 3a sigs, I may be interested. How old?, what town/state?
I have reset up my 5As a couple times with a Stereophile test disk (1/3 octive bands) and a Radio Shack meter. A little time consuming but its not that hard. Trick is to run through the adjustments a couple times to smooth out the overlaping interaction of the eq bands.

The dealer who had to travel a ways to deliver and then again to adjust the bass eq brought a disk with tones and used the same meter. I was a little underwhelmed and my subsequent adjustments sound a tad better to my ear.

I think it could be done better. Have not doug too deep but I think there is free or cheap software that one could use to create a test disk with test tones centered on the 5A eq bands. And there are better sound meters that one may be able to buy, borrow or rent. I have read claims that Vandersteen provides/uses such a custom disk while others say thats not true. One can call Vandersteen.

Each time I make adjustments (done it 3 or 4 times) I feel that I can tweek a slight improvement based on measurements and what I have been hearing.

Even if I am only 80% of the way to being fully optimized using the eq, my system is much better through out the bass than my previous Dunlavy SC4A/REL Stentor III combo.

If you tackle the eq process with a RS meter be shure to go to the AVS subwoffer forum and find out about the bass frequency adjustment tables for that meter. It under reads the level at very low frequencies, e.g. if you get a 0 db reading at 20 HZ you need to add a several dbs to that reading to estimate the real level. How many db depends on which version of the meter you have.