Vandersteen 7 at Audio Connection
I thought it would be a good idea to share my impressions on this past Sunday's New Jersey Audio Society monthly meeting here. While most of the time, get togethers take place in member's homes, this month's meeting was held at Audio Connection in Verona, NJ.
Not to go too far off on a tangent, but in the day and age where there aren't so many brick and mortar dealers left, John Rutan's Audio Connection remains among the cornerstone dealerships of the high-end audio business. For good reason, I might add. I have no (and never had) relationship with John apart from the friendship and respect I've developed for him over the past several years. He's most definitely a guy I would recommend folks to investigate doing business with.
I was regretful of not being able to make the recent (annual?) Vandersteen focused open house at Audio Connection. So, having this additional opportunity present itself was a fortunate turn of events.
Over the decade I've involved myself in high-end audio web forums, I do not often discuss Vandersteen. Since first encountering the Model 2 in the mid-1980s, I've vacillated on the brand. Most of the time being in the middle when it comes to the lineup, neither strongly liking nor disliking the products. The general nature seemed a bit more warm or ripe than I favor. But, as things have gotten utterly ridiculous, especially, over the past five or so years, the value quotient of, and with my respect for, their traditional Model 1/2/3 loudspeakers has greatly increased. Perhaps, I've grown to welcome a richer sound. Perhaps, it could be the revisions of the speakers bringing a bit more of an open, alive, and natural sound. Or, maybe, it's a little of both? At any rate, along with the new offering from Zu, how many loudspeakers can you name that are Made in the USA and cost $995?
The focus of the meeting was the newest member of the Vandersteen lineup, the Model 7. If I didn't know much about Richard Vandersteen, with its $45K pricetag, I might call it a "keeping up with the Joneses" high-end audio product so commonplace today. And, perhaps, it actually is. Admittedly, I'm not very close to the company or the man, but I've listened to Richard enough to know that he's not going to go about building a product just to match someone else or because someone tells him to build something expensive. Value for money has always seemed central to how Vandersteen operates the company. The cosmetics and cabinetry of the aforementioned traditional products perfectly illustrate that.
This was the one and only experience I've had with the Model 7. Ancillary components were a hybrid Ayre power amplifier and Wadia CD player. Cabling appeared to be my favorite (not) Nordost.
I'm quite smitten with the Vandersteen 7. Before going any further, I'll address the cosmetics. Obviously, they're on the other end of the spectrum from the traditional Vanderseen loudspeaker. While the high grade automotive finish (the pair under discussion a bold, dark red) is not so rare today, the company has come a long way. The finish does look good, if not up to the standard set by Wilson. But, it's the sound that's supposed to be important, yes? Yes. And here is where the Model 7 really shine. This speaker features a top to bottom coherence the company likes to talk about, and the ease of listening that the brand's devoted following seem to love. Apart from that, the most apparent sonic aspect is the big, muscular sound. The sort of weight and guts so lacking in the age of what I refer to as The Tube Renaissance. I'd almost describe them as what most audiophiles typically, though wrongly, think of as what a real Fried would sound like. Due to the number of folks present, and what I would not call the optimum room for them, the one area I could not accurately gauge was the imaging of the Model 7.
It might appear obvious, but the Model 7 seems to have used both the Model 5 and Quattro as a springboard to take us where we are here. To put it bluntly, the Model 7 is so far beyond what I've previously heard in the lineup, it's difficult to put it into words.
Summing up, though the number of folks who can make the purchase seems to be decreasing in equal proportion to the number of high priced high-end audio products coming to market, considering you most likely won't be getting any more loudspeaker, I would state that there is little reason to spend any more. The Vandersteen 7 are definitely worth your consideration.