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.
I was also present for this meeting. Although I spent more time listening to the Quatro Woods (a very impressive speaker in its own right), I agree with the OP that the 7 is quite special. I won't comment extensively, since I was unable to get a seat in the sweet spot. However, I will note that at one point, I was standing to the right of the right speaker, about 5 feet away, and only a few feet in front of the plane of the pair of 7s. From this angle, the Elvis Presley recording of Fever presented a startling image of Elvis smack in between the two speakers. Remarkable.

I was told by one member that the 7 is selling well, especially for a $45K statement speaker. After hearing them, I am not surprised.
Joe, you must have come in after I had to leave (church choir obligations), sorry I didn't get to talk with you. I got to listen to the 7s before everyone went in to hear them (privilege of being the Prez and a long-time friend and customer of John's) and can tell you that the imaging was precise, both left to right and in terms of depth within the soundstage, and as good as the best I have heard from any speaker. As you noted, another thing I noticed about the 7s that stood out was the smoothness in transition between the various drivers--the speaker spoke as one voice throughout the frequencies. Maybe not the last word in transient snap and dynamics compared to a ribbon, but then again I didn't really listen to anything that tested them in that area. As a correction (unless John changed amps), I believe you were listening to an Aesthetix amplifier. Would have liked to hear tubes on the top end--John likes the ARC amps with the 7s.
I like the remark 'little reason to spend any more', but much better would be 'a big reason to spend less'. I've heard the 7's and really don't think it is in the class of $45K speakers, may $10K. It is easily bested by JBL Everest speakers at its price point.
Russ, you are 100% correct, it was an Aesthetix amplifier. Not sure how Ayre came out in my typing, they make no hybrid products to my knowledge. I apologize for such a glaring mistake.

Thanks for adding your insight on the sonics, I agree with you.

Yes, Violet and I arrived after you'd gone, our church obligations were in the morning - maybe we need Father Richard to coordinate? I just (wrongly) presumed you weren't able to make it that day; not that I asked, but one told me otherwise. Hopefully, we'll catch up with each other next month.

Not that anyone may care, but Russ is the person who introduced John and I to one another.

By the way, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Bondmanp, I also spent a bit of time with the Quatros which were paired up with the Quicksilver Mid Monos amps. That pricepoint is where I have to live.
I agree John and Audio Connection are an increasingly rare breed. Great idea to bring a bunch of folks together to assess what is one of the most talked about speakers to come out in years. Wish I could have been there to share the experience.
I am interested in hearing the 7s and envey those of you that have. The reviews suggest these are a significant step above the 5As and quite special in the Vandersteen tradition. Where did you hear them? Were you able to A/B the 7s with the JBLs? What were the electronics?
Buconero117, where did you hear the 7's?
I was lucky enough to get to listen to the Vandersteen 7's at Audio Connection for two hours a few weekends back. It's hard for me to describe the sound because I kept finding myself laughing as I listened. It was the first time I had ever heard a speaker that didn't sound like a speaker. It just sounded like music. I listened mostly to Sinatra, Luka Bloom, Mary Black and some reverb heavy Surf music as well as some classical like Witches Brew and Clair De Lune. I did not play them extremely loud as I don't listen that way anymore, but I could find no fault with them in any area. Now if I only had a spare $45K laying around!
I agree there is something about V7s that just gets out of the way of the music and passeth understanding. I've heard them at three shows with Aesthetix and ARC. I believe Richard V. mentioned in a magazine that when he first heard the new balsa laminate drivers he knew he was onto something *different*. On a first listen their movement in the direction of neutrality may be confused with blandness. But this is the real thing-- a very natural presentation.
I was also at the NJAS event, hosted by John Rutan @ Audio Connection in Verona, N.J. John and the staff are indeed a rare breed and Kudos to John for hosting. Even though I am not a member, I met some very nice and interesting folks at the event.
The Vandy 7's are wonderful sounding speakers. I think that once more owners begin to report on their observations, their many attributes will be divulged. The speakers just get out of the way and play music IMHO. I just wish I had that much coin to spend on a pair of loudspeakers!
@buconero117. I haven't heard the Sevens or the JBL Everest but I have heard 3A Sigs and K2 9800 (with similar electronics) and I would pick the little Vandies. They are, to my ears, more coherent and overall better.

If I had unlimited $$, the Sevens would be on my short list along with Avalon Isis. The TAD Ref Ones are the best speakers I've heard but I'm not gonna pay $60K for something not made in US.
Can anyone comment on the dynamics, both micro and macro?

I have heard the sevens but didn't play close enough attention to this aspect.
I won’t repeat myself from another thread but being an audiophile for many years and after spending some time with the Sevens I unexpeccally purchased them. First time I herd them it was wow these are nice but not $$$ nice. Then after hearing them back to back to some 5a and some other speakers I changed my mind. I have always been a long time fan of the value of Vandersteen speakers but the Sevens are a new benchmark in sound. To put it in simple terms it is so much smoother yet has punch some of the other Vandersteens are missing. It is also so much clearer in the mids than just about any other speaker I have herd. Again I did not relise this till I herd them back to back how dramatic the difference is.