Vandersteen 5Aa Carbon--any 5a owner's opinions?

I'm new to 5as, having my pair since only 23 April. They're absolutely the best-sounding speakers I've ever heard, and I'm thrilled to have them.

But I understand that some of us V'steenists have raved about the 7's superior transparency, etc. The 5a Carbons use the 7's MR driver and (I think) a better tweeter than the 5a. Has anyone heard them?
Here is what I think. A pair of 7 costs about $28K more than a pair of 5A. Is the 7 "better" than the 5A? That can only be answered by you because at this level, "better" usually comes down to what you like "better". But if I were in your position, I would rather invest the $28K in room treatment. In a acoustically sound room, even cheap speakers can sound like high-end.
Sid, I'm asking about the 5A Carbons, not the 7s. I'm interested in 5A owners' opinions of the 5A Carbons' sounds.

My 5As sound so good I can't imagine anything else sounding better, but maybe in a year, V'steen will be offering 'affordable' upgrades for the 5As.
Remember Jeff...upgrading the 5A to the Carbons will only be done to those that are registered with Vandersteen that they are original owners.
Stan, one has to know something first to be able to remember it. :-)

V'steen performs upgrades only for original purchasers? Maybe that limits the number of upgrades to no more than they're able to do.
With the Vandersteen upgrades to the Model 5 Chassis (5 to 5A and now 5A to Carbons), there is very little margin and very much time/effort. As a straight up business proposition, a normal manufacturer wouldn't even consider it. However, Richard Vandersteen is committed to his original owners, and therefore will be offering the 5/5A to Carbon upgrade for these original owners only.

I've had 5A and now Sevens and can't begin to describe the joy they bring. The 5 Carbon will certainly be worth it, as the new midrange is really spectacular. Enjoy your 5As for now, and rest assured you can achieve even more with the upgrade. - Pete -
I forgot to mention that Richard Vandersteen will be featuring the 5 Carbons with Audio Research electronics at the upcoming T.H.E. Show Newport Beach June 3-5. Here's your chance to hear them (albeit show conditions).
Crap, upgrading 5/5A's means he's probably not working on Vandy 6's.
For the record, the 5a to 5a carbon upgrade will be $8600, but as has been pointed out, only original 5a owners need to apply.
How difficult is it to set up Vandersteen 5As yourself with the equalizer & all that?
((How difficult is it to set up Vandersteen 5As yourself with the equalizer & all that?))

If you are a pre owned buyer you will want to read the
well written manual with set up points.
1 A volt meter to find out the proper dip switch setting
for your amps real input Imp.
2 Stereophile test CD with 1000 hz 100 hz test tone to
confirm dip switch are set correctly
3 A bubble level and laser for proper side to side and
4 A stereophile test CD with the Warble tones to adjust
the in room EQ.
5 Rad shack analog SPL meter works fine.

6 Measuring tape best listening distance

Even if you just leave the all factory
strait up and down but nail the correct input Imp
you will be in for a real treat.
When set up though with decent gear and
Big gun cables they are lighting in a bottle fun.
Cheers Johnnyr
Yeah, the 5s and 5As were always best-of-show for me at the NY Stereophile shows year after year. One of the few I thought I could really live with long term & never feel the need to upgrade.
When buying the Vandersteen speakers new, the dealer always sets it up for reason to buy it new. John Rutan of Audio Connection set mine up and did an excellent job...the reason to buy it from him.
I had 5a after hearing the sevens at Audio Connection I was sold. I bought them 3 months ago, still waiting for them to arrive. I have not listned to the 5A carbon but I know Vandersteen doesn't take upgrades lightly when there is one it is usally wort it. I supect the drivers are a major improvement. Sorry I can't be to helpful there are just not that many 5a carbons out htere yet to listen to.
I heard the 5A Carbon this weekend at THE SHOW NEWPORT. Driven by Audio Research with a the new Basis TT and arm the sound was very transparent and natural as one would expect from Vandersteen. I would say that the sound lands about halfway between the 5A and the Model 7. The midrange was stunning and the bass was very tight and deep in sharp contrast to most of what I heard at the show. The 5A Carbon also has a new midrange driver. Show conditions are difficult, but the 5A Carbon managed to overcome the limitations of the room.The Music Matters records played sounded fantastic.
The 5A sells for about 24K. These are the next best thing to the Model 7 which I have. It was interesting to talk to people in the business who have ordered the Model 7.
From what I can find on the 5A carbon, the only difference is the midrange driver upgrade to the carbon/balsa midrange. $8600 seems like a lot for that. I had thought that all drivers would be changed to the new ones for that price. I guess at that rate by the time you replace all the drivers the 7s start to look like the better move for the money.
As good as my 5As sound, I'm not sure I could justify either one. I need to have a long audition with the 7s sometime.
From what I have read, the 5A Carbon may be worth the upgrade price offered to original owners of the Vandersteen 5's.
I have a pair of 5's with low serial numbers, one of the first 100 made. They still sound great. John Rutan of Audio Connection traveled to Tennessee on his own dime to set them up for me. We had moved after I ordered them and they took about 4-5 months to receive them. Stunning in B Eye Maple.
There is a reason they call John the "Gentleman from Verona" I need to hear the 5A Carbon.
From what I have been told the Carbon upgrade is a no brainer. Original Owners on the 5 to 5A Carbon upgrades are treated well by Richard.
I'm sort of resurrecting this thread to see if anyone has doe the 5A to 5a Carbon upgrade and, if so, what the impressions have been. My 5As are due for the battery changes, seven years really flew by. I can send the components to Vandersteen and change the batteries or bit the bullet and send the whole speaker pair in for the upgrade which would kill two birds with one stone.

The 7s are just way beyond what I could justify expense-wise but if this upgrade would bring the 5A up a notch I would consider the cost of that worthwhile. Thanks in advance for any input.
I have been using my 5A's for a few years and really like them. When I moved from New Jersey, Richard himself helped me with the setup for this house with the additional help from John at AudioConnection. I am well acquainted with the sound of the 5A's. I visited a local (Arizona) dealer who demoed the Carbons. My wife and I could hear no difference between these new Carbons and the 5A's I had at home. Surely there were some slight differences...different electronics, but I could not hear an additional 100 dollars improvement. I also heard the 7's at AudioConnection....unfortunately, they weren't using their absolute first class gear, as their big Audio Research stuff was out for upgrades....however.....I heard a great speaker, but one not much if at all better than those I have at home. When I talked to Richard and John about this, they both said that in my house, I would hear a real difference. As of now, I think I'll just keep what I have. I strongly encourage everyone to audition these speakers themselves. As a company, Richard Vandersteen is at the top of any for consideration. John at Audio Connection is the absolute best dealer I've worked with....and there were many. This post is MY take at what I heard. Others will surely hear differently.
Thanks for your input Stanley. I love my 5As as well. It doesn't really matter whether the 7 is a little or a lot better in my case because, even after selling the 5As, the difference in price is just too much.

I'll continue to consider the Carbon upgrade even though I really have no place to audition them for several reasons.

1. After seven years of steady use, I like the idea of knowledgable workers taking them down and testing every component to make sure it's working as it should. They build it back up as if it were a brand new 5A Carbon. This of course would also take care of the crossover batteries which are due for a change. According to Richard, this labor is a large part of the cost. It's actually more labor intensive than building a new pair.

2. According to my dealer in Minneapolis, the upgrade renews the warranty as for a new pair of speakers. It also includes dealer setup again which wouldn't hurt to recheck.

3. I trust Richard's judgement and doubt he would offer an upgrade he didn't feel was substantially worthwhile. This is a break even venture for him at best, he was actually losing money on it before he raised the price, so I really doubt he has much motivation to try to exaggerate the improvements to anyone. As Richard put it, plenty of people spend more than the cost of the upgrade on power conditioners, cables and the like for much less, or any, benefit.

I don't know why the model 7 drivers were not used for the tweeter and mid bass drivers as well. I suspect it has to do with cost/benefit ratio but I want to hear Richard's take on this before I make the final decision on whether or not to do this.
I had the Vandersteen 5a speaker system in my listening room for about 6 years.
Peter Roth (Ultra Audio) is a member of the LA?Orange County Audio Society where I am also a member. At the time his reference speaker was the 5a. He told me about the new Model 7s that had just had an excellent debut at CES. He had heard them at the show and was impressed. OK, so I called Randy Cooley at
Optimal Enchantment in Santa Monica and set up an audition. Because I had the 5as I asked if they had been set up using the Vandersteen jig/laser plus DVD in order to optimize bass response and speaker placement. Yes, he had
done that. Simply put, what I heard that day blew me away. I had made sure that I had just played some of those same recordings at home with the 5as.
Hearing those same recordings at the dealers store on the Model 7 revealed
aspects of those recordings that I had never heard. And the difference was not
subtle. In all aspects this was a major breakthrough in speaker technology.
Now I have had these speakers for almost three years and my opinion has
not changed one bit. Most of the posts from those who have auditioned
the Model 7s have said the same thing. As I have mentioned in a previous
post, the 5a Carbons perform about half way between the 5a and 7. It;s not
just the driver upgrade that makes this so. It is also the carbon fiber cabinet
that makes it superior to the 5a as great a speaker as the 5a is.
I'm just telling you what I have heard in my own listening room. Friends of
mine in the Society who heard the 5a and then heard the 7 in my room all
said the same thing. To them it was obvious.
I should also mention that the electronics that I have are Aesthetix Io Eclipse
phono preamp with two power supplies plus Aesthetix Atlas Signature mono
bloc amps. I had this set up with both the 5a and 7 speaker systems.
Thanks Chargerfan. If only the 7s were somewhere around the $30K mark, it might be a consideration for me. If the Carbon upgrade would really take the 5A halfway to the same level it would be a steal IMO.

I do wonder though if there may ever be an updated version of the 5A with all of the carbon fiber drivers, 5A Carbon Sig? Pure conjecture of course, and the price would certainly inch closer to the Model 7.
Just wondering, but isnt the 5A discontinued, and now the 5A carbon has taken its place in the line up?
The 5A is still listed on the Vandersteen price section at $19,000/pair. The 5A Carbon is at $24,000. The 7 takes you to $48,000. The slope steepens quickly. This is why if the carbon upgrade indeed gives half the improvement as the jump to the 7 it's a relative bargain.
Don't forget there is always the possibility that you could sell your 5as. I traded mine in when I bought the 7s. This helped put me in the ball park of the
kind of price you are talking about. I'm a retired teacher in California, not exactly
Donald Trump. I listen to alot of live music. When I heard the 7s I was hearing
the kind of sound that I hear at the live event. Yes, the price of the 7s is quite
a bit more than the 5a, but the carbon and driver technology used in the 5a carbon and 7 cost much more as did the research and development that went
into the creation of that speaker. Even without the trade in, I would have found some way to purchase the 7 or the 5a Carbon. It was worth that much to me. Just a thought.
Sonofjim, TY for restarting this.

After almost 2 years, I love these 5As more than ever. I've improved one trio of bypass caps in the very complicated crossovers, replacing one pair of Dynamicaps with MultiCap TRXs pypassed with small SoniCap Platinums, and another Dynamicap with a 1 big Platinum. Speakercable is a 3-size wind of Neotec UPOCC solid silver on the upper freqs. and a 3-size wind of silver-and-copper Neotec UPOCC for the lower freqs. I went thru several quads and pairs of poweramps and quit looking when I connected a pair of McCormack DNA-750s. Of course, I had to improve the '750s, and they sound even better. I've since improved a bunch of IC, too, and my system sounds so transparent, so real, so natural, so you-are-there I can hardly believe it.

Maybe 5A Carbons sound better, but at age 69, I suspect my days of spending big bucks to improve my system are about over.
To my ear, the 5s's were heavier in the midrange than even say, the Quatro which I liked better in the mids. Those same 5a's were upgraded to carbons, and the midrange just took off. No changes in the room, just the speaker itself. The mids were WAY better and more "correct" in timber and weight. The model 5 bass is to die for already, so add the midrange and the speaker is killer for those who have a "spot" in their heart, a spot in a room, and a spot for you in that room.

5a carbons are definitely in the rhelm of truly good speaker everywhere. If I had 5a's, I'd go carbons in a FLASH.
Thanks for your input. You've obviously had a chance to hear the 5A Carbon at some point. I've never had any objection to the midrange on my 5As but if the new driver makes it notably better it's definitely worthwhile. The biggest downside to the upgrade process is how long I'd be without my beloved speakers.

I need to find a pair of 5A Carbons and 7s to audition for myself which for me would involve traveling somewhere. Anyone know which dealers have either set up? It sounds like Audio Connection in New Jersey may be one. Pearl Audio in Portland? I'd rather hear them at a dealer than a show.
Have any of you guys upgraded from a 3/3A to the Quattro?

Anyone upgraded a Quattro to the 5/5A or 7?
Jafant, lots of Vandersteen info on

I think if Richard gets around to a CARBON Quatro, that would be a killer speaker. Where the quatro needs some extra lift in the midrange is right where the carbon drivers are so good. Those carbon driver are really sweet sounding units, and sweet as in good. The 5a color in the midgrange is simply gone, replaced with an even open textured holographic sound that you just have to hear.

I'd definitely look at, and listen to, a Carbon Quatro verses the 5a carbon if it existed. As is, you need to jump to the 5a. The 5a needs a big room to work it's best, and does cost a pricely sum but not that it isn't a speaker that's WORTH it! But the 5a carbon cost stopped me at C4 signatures, which were much less, for the time being.

Still, the Quatro filled a good sized room when I owned them, so they are an under achiever speaker in that regard.

Any of the Vandersteens with powered subs and carbon drivers are going to be very listenable and detailed. Richard knows a thing or two about bass integration and how hard it is to do "passive". I'm convinced after owning the Quatro's that you just can't get here from there in the bass without extra powered subs systems. No powered bass always had me yelling to Scotty to give it you got, but he was...and it wasn't enough. Witness I had to ADD subs to my C4's to get full range bass. So, I did not get there with C4's and as good as the bass is it isn't flat deep enough. Sure, some will say I'm full of something other than bass, but my ears aren't letting me believe it. Some passive speakers are "good" but none are great that aren't bigger than a barn with an all passive system. There is a LOT of energy in music below 40 Hz.

I have possibly one more speaker upgrade to do, and the Carbon 5a's are on my list to listen to again, and again, and again (Speaking of passive...I wonder if the dealer will notice that I'm a passive owner?).

Oh, the carbon upgrade is much more than just a driver swap. Just call and ask Richard!
Well, I do know now that John has a pair of 7s in New Jersey. I'm going to try to set up an audition there this spring when I'm out that way anyway. I think it's the best place to hear them anyway. Many speak of John almost as highly as they do of Vandersteen himself. Probably one of the top Vandersteen dealers in the country.

My fear is I will be smitten with the 7s. Two speaker designers in history have really captured my allegiance, John Dunlavy and Richard Vandersteen. Sadly, we'll never know what else Dunlavy may have come up with. The 7s though embody all of Vandersteens innovations, fusion subwoofer, minimum baffle enclosures, 1st order crossovers, transmission lines, perfect piston drivers and carbon fiber layered enclosures. So much for early retirement. Work keeps us young (and out of trouble).
Bass - Richard's system is really good - maybe the best. However, technology moves on and no stereo pair of subwoofers can flatten out all the room modes encountered in a real world room. An eleven-band analog equalizer can't match the 100's of poles a DSP-based digital filter can provide, and can't alter the subwoofer phase across the passband.

The answer is a distributed subwoofer system like the 4-woofer Audiokinesis Swarm and digital room correction (250 hz down). Through proper (asymmetric) placement it can completely flatten the room response in combination with digital room correction like Meridian's MRC system. With this type of system, the Seven is overkill.

It would be nice if Richard put both the 5a tweeter AND the Carbon / Balsa 4.5" driver in the Quatro Wood CT, because with the Swarm you don't need anything bigger. Also the 7 tweeter is unique - no phase plug. The 5a and Quatro tweeters are carbon monolithic domes without the "C sandwich" construction of the 7's dome. Not sure if this makes a difference, but the 7 is unique in more ways than one.
overly flat at least w just eleven bands of EQ under 120 HZ sounds dull and lifeless....
so says the manual, Richard and for grins I tried it w 5 a..true enuf dialing it in the last .5 DB was lackluster....
no real urge to mess w 7. ' s yet..enjoying staying up most of the nite listening....
When I say flat, I mean with a smooth response over most of the room, such that the room's dominant nodes and anti- nodes ( i.e. suck out) do not dominate the "Rayleigh Region" where the wavelength of the sound and the room dimensions are of the same order. The problem with Richard's approach is that stereo speakers usually end up in symmetrical positions in the room, so the best you can do with the equalizers is to reduce the magnitude of the peaks at the principal listening position. Look at the settings of your left and right equalizers - unless you have a highly asymmetric room, they are probably set the same. This means that the sound may be pretty good in your favorite chair but it is very uneven everywhere else in the room. This causes another form of coloration, reverb, that tells your brain you are in your 16 ' x 22' x 8' sound room, and NOT really at the recording venue.

In addition you can't do much about suck-out, since Richard only puts a 400 watt amp in the 7's and a 250 watt amp in the Quatro's. You would need much more power than this to fill in the suck-out that plagues every normal size listening room I've ever been in, but is notably absent in a concert hall, because of its size.

The only answer is to spread the bass transducers around the room so that you normalize out the dominant room nodes, and then trim it with a really good DSP room correction software calibration with (ideally) individual settings for each woofer, and at the very least for the left, right and .1 channels, like Meridian's MRC. If you do this, (and I have with two Quatros and five distributed subwoofers), the room literally disappears, and you will swear you are at the recording venue.

This is fairly new technology, but the concept has been analyzed by Earl Geddes, Fred Toole, Bob Stuart of Meridian, and Duane LeJeune of Audiokinesis. REG reported on the Audiokinesis Swarm system in The Absolute Sound earlier this year, and stated that the Swarm produced the best, most accurate bass he had ever heard - and he did his audition without any equalization. With digital room correction, it gets even better, but the corrections are much smaller than they would be for 1, 2 or 3 woofers. (With my set-up I have seven woofers which all end up about seven feet apart and all around the room.)

I was so bowled over by this, I decided to upgrade my fabric Quatros to the carbon versions, but I am thinking that the Swarm may make the Treo's sound just as good, since they dominate below 80 hz.

BTW, if I blindfolded you and asked you to point to the subwoofers, you couldn't do it - the bass ambient sound is completely it should be. There is no suck-out and the only nodes appear right in the room corners, but at greatly reduced magnitude. The impression this gives is a much more natural acoustic environment and, with classical music, much like a good concert hall. It is spooky good.
good points..sounds like YOU are getting incredible performance out of your system..which is WHY we do this.

my room is HIGHLY irregular with 3 large and unequal openings, sloped ceiling in two directions peak 20' with a lot of natural diffusion. the two channels of EQ differ somewhat but largest imbalance unequalized is 3 db at 50 , 60, 84 and 100 HZ. Richard has heard the 5 a in my room and he had interesting things to say about dedicated sound passed his ear.
its a one chair gig for me but I can imagine how swarm works and works well. for grins I will rerun Vandertones at the two other seat positions in the room, even tho one is off axis a fair bit and nearfield..
If You could point to the sub woofers in your Quatro Fabric speakers You do not have them dialed correctly. Having the bass corrected for the listening position is the only position that matters. It is a fact that having multiple woofers in a room will automatically measure flatter than one. This is mostly why stereo woofers in a room always sound better than mono. DSP correction with multiple woofers would sound great in the bass except as everybody knows the best systems sound superior with analog sources (records or tape) and people that own them don’t want digital (including class “D” amplifiers) anywhere near their system. Having Vandersteen speakers with the bass tuning supplied is State Of The Art in an all analog system for many a seasoned audiophile.
Best JohnnyR
Thanks, Johnny. Richard says the same thing. The digital reconstruction filter is the key ingredient. I use a Meridian G68XXD which uses their patented apodizing filter and 24 bit / 96 kHz digital processing of all inputs. I honestly can't hear a difference between an analog signal from my Pass XP-15 phono stage going direct to my amps (through an ALPS Black Beauty pot), vs. through the Meridian, except that the Meridian has much more coherent bass due to the Meridian Room Correction (MRC). I have also fooled all the golden ears in the St. Louis Gateway Audio Society, who simply don't believe they are listening to digital when I play vinyl.

This may be unique to Meridian's latest software however, because I couldn't stand digital before I got this setup. The only other system that I am aware of that sounds this good is the dcs stuff the pros use. I got to spend a half day in the DTS mastering center in Calabasas, CA listening to their DTS Neo X software playing digital tracks through an 11.2 speaker setup. Most incredible sound I've ever heard. It was all based on proprietary DTS software and custom dcs digital DSP's and ADC/DAC's. I asked how they did it and they just smiled, but commented that the computing throughput and the reconstruction filters were critical.

The point is, you have to go digital for the best room correction, for multi-channel and for any recording that's not vinyl. (Even for most remastered vinyl, the signal has been digitized in the recording process.). For me that means using Meridian processing - nothing else a consumer can buy compares.
Added footnote - I've had the Meridian DSP speakers in my room and compared them to the Vandersteens. They are pretty good - especially the big ones (7000 and 9000 series), but not as good as the Vandersteens. Even the Meridian techs who have calibrated my room admit that. What Richard has accomplished with his four driver architecture and crossovers is magically. The only way to match what he has is a single full-range, phase coherent driver, but I've never heard one big enough to reproduce an orchestra.
Second added footnote - if you read Meridian's White Paper on Room Correction, the target function they are optimizing (with up to 60 digital filters) is the room's reverberant field - in essence the famous waterfall chart.  Below 250 Hz, the reverberant field is much more important than the direct response.  You can only really adjust the direct response with an 11-band analog equalizer to correct gross errors.

Correcting the reverberant field can make the room disappear.  Richard has always said your ear-brain can do this correction itself, because you can recognize your spouse's voice in whatever room you are in.  He's right, but I'm not sure it applies as well for a complete orchestra in a BIG hall.  A crucial difference is the sound source - the Vandersteen approach works well for point sources, but an orchestra can consist of over 100 instruments, spread out over a "field of view" of up to 90 degrees, (sitting in the 20th row).  In addition, the back wall reflection in a concert hall is 40-100 ms after the direct sound.  In your room, the sound bounces off your walls many, many times in this interval.  As a result, the room modes can completely mask the hall ambience in the recording.  This, I think, is where the Meridian approach, along with multiple, asymmetrically distributed subwoofers (4-7) has a big advantage.  

One final note on where both Bob Stuart and Richard Vandersteen completely agree - room correction above 250 hz is deleterious to the sound.  The Meridian MRC approach makes no "edits" above this frequency.