Vandersteen Mod 5 vs Coincident Tech Total Eclipse

With all my reading of reviews and opinions, I've concluded (for now) that either of these two fine speakers will be my next choice. I know about the different amplification issues for the two, but I'm looking for informed opinion about the sound of one vs the other. I listen to all music except hip-hop. I want to be able to enjoy hard rock, then switch to female jazz vocals, dance and even orchestral music all with the same speakers. Please ignore room size issues because I'm moving soon and I haven't even chosen my next house yet, but let's assume "normal" conditions. Thanks for your help,


I can only answer this question from a very personal perspective -- what I would do if making the same choice myself. For me, there'd be no debate: I'd buy the Vandersteen Model 5. I have listened extensively to the Model 5, and I regard it as among the finest speakers available, regardless of price.

The Model 5 is one of a handful of time and phase accurate speakers on the market, and it has a number of excellent features:
1. it has superb tonal balance that works very well with all styles of music;
2. the proprietary subwoofers (with built-in 400 watt amps) are among the finest drivers available in any speaker at any price, and their crossover design allows them to be tuned to any room (something to consider since you are moving to a new home;
3. the Model 5 is built in a modular style, which allows the owner to install future upgrades without returning the speaker to the factory.

One of the factors which you may want to think about is the general impedance curve of these speakers, and what they may require in amplification. The Model 5 has a relatively low impedance curve, while the Coincident has a relatively high impedance curve and was designed specifically for use with tube amplifiers.

Ultimately, of course, one chooses a speaker on the basis of how it sounds to YOU, so you should give both speakers a serious audition (ideally in your new home).
Sdcampbell, great advice. You need to listen to both in your room. Both great speakers.
What are you using for an amp.
One thing about Coincident they will reveal any flaws in the food chain before it.
You better have a pretty good source.
Can you tell us more about the other gear you have.
You cant go wrong with either.
I should like to add a bit of information to the above comments. While each has their own strengths and weaknesses, I would agree with the above choice. There are two important reasons I'd choose the Vandie's: 1) As stated above, they will do a fine joy on all types of music even country music (of which I hate); 2) They produce a more realistic 3D sound stage rather than the 2D sound stage produced by the Coincident. While this is true of the Coincident they do sound more "musical". That (musicality) is very appealing to many and sounds good and well in the show room; but three months later you may ask, why did I purchase these and where is the "realism of the sound stage"? Don't get me wrong, I like both; but feel over the long haul the "musicality" does wear off and all you are left with is 2D music... I know I made the mistake...
PS. Placement of the Vandie's isn't as critical as the Total Eclipse...They are very hard to setup and when done, bets are that the wife will have a fit about the that point the full potential of the Eclipse will not be enjoyed. The Vandie's have larger feet print, they are however MUCH more forgiving when it comes to placement... PSS. The upgrade factor is a BIG plus as Richard Vandersteen is really eager to assist you with the process...and designs them user upgradeable.

Hope this helps...

OH! As a former Vandie owner, I wish I'd never sold them... BIG mistake, BIG mistake on my part...
Touching on some of the other comments, the Vandy's ( or is it "Vandie's" ??? ) offer in-room tuning of the low frequency section. This this is probably one of the hardest areas to get "right" in any installation, i would rank this feature quite high on the list desirable features.

To take this one step further, you can literally change low frequency response and output characteristics to suit individual recordings and then return them to "flat response" at the flip of a few switches. Like it or not from a technical or "accuracy" standpoint, there are some recordings that are just plain muddy or thin sounding and need some help. Being able to do something like this and do it easily can only make your listening sessions more enjoyable.

For the record, the Vandy 5 is capable of pretty thunderous bottom end. I'm not just talking about high output levels, i'm talking about TIGHT bass.

Would you like to guess which speaker i'd be buying ??? : ) Sean

I haven't heard the Vandersteen Model 5s. I've have owned the 3s and the 2CEs. I now own the Total Eclipse. I can agree with the above comment about room placement to a degree. They are not hard to place, but need to be out into the room about 3 feet due to a large rear port. Wifey may not like the placement, but they are beautiful speakers. Mine loves them. You could place them on her head, and she would still love them. They just look great and sound great. Once placed appropriately, these things absolutely disappear. They have great detail, soundstaging, and a perfect midrange that works with about any amp. The deciding factor may be more complicated than just "which is the better speaker", in absolute terms. Cost would be one thing to consider. You can ocassionally find the Total Eclipse speakers used. Not very often, though. I've only seen two pairs in a couple of years of watching. One was from a reviewer, and the second I bought. I've never seen the Vandersteens used. That may say something for the owner satisfaction level of both of these fine speakers. The Totals usually sell for around $5000 used. Don't know about the Vandersteens.

But what really swings it for me is the sensitivity of the Total Eclipse, and their ability to sound good with ANYTHING! They are 94db at 14 ohms. What ever you want to use with them, you can. That can be from a 10 watt SET to 500 watts of solid state. I am waiting for my Wyetech Topaz to arrive. In the interim, I was driving the Totals with an Audion 12w Stering with Seimans NOS EL34s. They were absolutely stunning! The only cavaet was that the low bass response was a bit shelved because of the Sterling's roll off. But this 12w amp could drive me out of the room. I then used a Jolida 1501 RC. Again, great results. Now I have more bass from the hybrid 100w Jolida, but the SET midrange magic was gone, and the mids were dryer, less detailed. It was easy to hear the difference between the two amps, as it should be with a great speaker. The Totals give you versatility in spades. As I change out equipment to satisfy my audiophile insanity, the Totals will always be compatible with just about anything I want to try. Good thing, because speakers are a pain to sell and ship. I can deal with changing out everything else in the system. That's just one of the reasons they were one of Absolute Sound's Golden Ear Award winners.
With all due respect, Mikes, you are not going about this acquisition in the correct manner.

I am always baffled by this type of thread. It is no reflection on you, but when someone puts up two very different products, each with very different requirements, and asks which one should he purchase, I do not feel that anyone in this forum will be able to provide you with the right answer. Compound that with the fact that you have not settled on the room or amplification yet. Recipe for unhappiness.

I do feel that the members here can offer a lot of insight in terms of how something sounds, how it mates to other equipment, or their own personal experience.

One of the most important factors in an audio system is the speaker to room interface. It can not be turned away from. No ifs, ands, or buts. Add in that speakers are so different, just like people's tastes, and I feel that the first thing we need to think about it leading you down the wrong path.

My advice is ultimately this. BUY YOUR HOUSE FIRST. Once you establish where the speakers will be, you will be able to have a much greater opportunity for success. It may not even be these two!

As you are dealing with two world class loudspeakers here, I would say that they will be the pillars of your system. In my opinion, the road to success it to first match your room and tastes to a loudspeaker. From the two you present here, I would consider this a lifetime purchase. That is, if you pick the right one for you, and the room, which should be large and undersquare.

One more thing. NEVER buy a speaker without a thorough audition. That is, unless you just walked into a deal that will not be offered again - i.e. they are rare to the point of almost never coming up for sale, or if you had to sell them, you would make money.

I love both Coincident and Vandersteen speakers. But, they are voiced so different. It's the classic boxer vs. puncher debate. The right one in one sytem will be the wrong one in another.

The Total Eclipse are much more fast, revealing, and light on their feet. The treble is more fast, and at the same time, more airy and natural. The bass goes really deep, but doesn't have 'crack the door jamb' punch. The Vandersteen 5 is more full bodied, authoritative, and harmonically rich. These descriptions are most applicable in the bass and midrange. They will both play classical, jazz, rock, and evn hip - hop(if you needed to) music in a fine manner. They just sound different. Very different. I would say the Total Eclipse is more clear, while the Vandersteen 5 is more romantic. Which sound do you prefer? Only you can answer this question.

Both match well to equipment which is opposite to their nature. And, do not match well, at all, to upstream equipment that is similar to them. In other words, match the Total Eclipse to rich sounding equipment, match the Vandersteen to neutral sounding equipment. If you see either of these speakers in a good sounding set - up, you will notice this. Look upstream.

Amplification cannot be ignored in this debate. Can not. Along with the room, and your tastes, it will be a determining factor in whether you keep these loudspeakers, or not. Please do not paint yourself in the corner of deciding whether you need to find new speakers, or new amplification after this purchase. If you have an amp with a generous amount of power, the Vandersteen is a superior match. The Vandersteen needs a large monoblock push/pull tube amp with superior transformers and at least 4 output tubes per channel, or solid state. The Model 5 will not work well with anything less. With an average to lower powered tube amp of less than 8 output tubes, SET, or OTL amplifier, you had better opt for the Coincident. Driving the Total Eclipse with high power or solid state just does not work well. Especially, solid state, due to the high impedence of the speaker - it's 14 ohms.

So, in a nutshell. Figure out where they will be, what you will drive them with, and whether you like vanilla or chocolate. Then, you will ensure that you will buy the right speakers.

Thanks for the great responses. I really appreciate all this valuable advice.
Excellent comments, Joe. You hit all the important points, and I agree everything. For the benefit of other readers, it might be useful to know that Joe owns a pair of Coincident Technology Total Eclipse speakers (do I have the correct model, Joe?), but he also has good experience with Vandersteen speakers. So, his comments should be given appropriate weight.
Trelja, one of the best posts that I have even read!!! I, too, am considering the Coincident Tech speakers sometime down the road. But for my needs, I am eyeballing the Super Eclipse. Do the Super's have the same acoustic signature as the Total's (other than not as deep bass). Amplification is Atma-sphere amps. Ralph Karsten (Atma-sphere) is very enthusiastic about Coincident speakers mated with his amps! Also, I have always been somewhat hesitant to use a speaker with a powered woofer, due to amp matching problems. Or is this concern just not a valid one, with the Vandies? Happy Tunes!
Joe owns Digital Master's I own Super Conquest's. Both very very good speaker's By Coincident.
I have also heard the Van 5's. Very very Good speaker.
Its like beer we all have different taste's. This is not about which is better they are both State of The Art.
It really depends on what your personal taste's are.
I owned the van 5's for about six months. I found I simply could not get them to sound 'awesome' in my then 13x16 L shaped listening room without bringing them 6 feet into the room which gave them an ungainly placement. Henceforth I sold them. The back wall has wall to ceiling bookcases to absorb the sound. I think those speakers really need a big 20 foot+ room to sound good. I also found:

- They need to be turned up a bit to liven up.

- In close low level listening is not their forte. At the
time I sat about 7 feet from them & I listen at low to
medium levels, so this was a problem for me.

- For a reference grade speaker I would like to hear more
detail. I realize this is part of their voicing.

- They are far and away the most difficult speaker I've set
up. I think this is directly related to my room size and
their overpowering bass/low detail. I spent months of
experimentation with an spl meter and found they
only 'locked in' at a very specific place in my room. The
big problem was that if you moved them 1-2 feet you
would need to recalibrate the crossover settings to
flatten them out again. I don't think this would happen
in a larger room. By comparison I set up my full range
eidolons in 2-3 hours and found they sounded excellent in
almost any reasonable placement. Note that I'm now
using a 20 foot room.

- I found I could only get them to sound good by throwing
ultra high resolution gear and cables at them to
compensate. I didn't get them to sound GREAT until i
put an $8000 vk-50SE preamp and 20K in quattro fil and
double run spm speaker cables on them. Great they did
sound, but I've achieved great sound with far lessor

- Their amazingly powerful bass was a problem in that
pictures and my fireplace grill would shake at virtually
any volume. Perhaps a good thing. I did have the bass
dialed down a bit.

- The highpass filter that goes between the preamp and amp
was a problem for me. I had the balanced version. I
coudn't use my cd player as a direct source. I also
could not use my pass labs gear because pass labs have
differentially balanced circuitry. Audio research
balanced worked well.

For components I found the audio research vt100m2 to be the best amplifier and the bat-vk50se the best preamp match. The vk30se and ref1 were also good. Because the amplifier is only driving the midrange and tweeters you don't need that much power.

I realize I've outlines some negative aspects of this design. These speakers did not work FOR ME in MY ROOM. I still think they are one of the best speakers made at any price. Very natural presentation, and wonderful instrument weight. Best bass I've heard. A must listen for anyone shopping.
I have owned the Vandy Fives for over 3 years and agree with all of the above comments. They work great in my 14.5x22x11 sound-room, I would not want to go much smaller, and I have done a lot of experimentation with accoustic room treatment. I power them with Rowland Model Twelves. Tried the Model 10, but it lacked a certain degree of control over the 8' woofer, so the above comments regarding power seem right on.

I would not trade the Fives for anything. I don't ever bother to listen to other speakers. Assuming that you are willing to mate them with a quality system and spend a fair amount of tweeking, they are unbelievable. I grow more attached to them as time goes on.

Having said all that, I have never heard the Coincident speakers, so I can offer no comparison. I strongly concur with the above advice regarding the need for extensive auditioning before you buy.

Oh, one other thing. Don't even consider the Fives if you are not willing to bi-wire. That additional cost should be taken into account.
Joe, great post and I'm glad someone finally said it with the authority you did. NOTHING is more important in a speaker purchase than room interaction and personal taste. With 2 systems of this caliper there really is no best. This "best" argument really wears thin after a while since anyone who has been at this hobby long enough knows that a good room and synergy of components is the key to long term listening satisfaction. Thanks for driving the point home.
Scott, Natalie is correct. I own the Coincident Digital Master, with Troubass subwoofers.

Think of them as Israel's take on the Wilson WATT/Puppies. Truncated, pyramidal, two way time aligned satellites, using a good sized subwoofer as its stand. A simple, first order crossover makes them very easy to drive. A lot of people who know this hobby much better than I do tell me that they consider this perhaps Coincident's best effort, ever. As I have never lived with any other of his models, I am not sure. But, I do know I will probably never get rid of them. Israel has told me a few times that I would be a fool if I even think of parting with them.

Compared to the newer Coincident speakers, I would say there are some advantages and disadvantages. While they are tube friendly(including SET), they are less so than the 14 ohm impedence, 94+ db/2.83 V sensitive products he has been putting out. On the plus side, they sound richer, and more musical than the other Coincidents I have spent time with. I find the older Coincident line much more interesting, especially in terms of design, than the newer stuff. But, this is a business, I understand. The one thing I need to do is upgrade to the Scan Speak Revelator one day, it is a true upgrade from where I am.

By the way, the little brother of the Digital Master, the Troubador, is sometimes up for sale here on Audiogon. I assure you, you can buy a better speaker, but for the usual $650 I see them for, I don't think you can beat them. They are like a shorter(1/2 as tall) version of my satellite, but they feature a nifty tweeter coincident(ever wonder where the name came from???) with the midrange. Yes, you should mate them with the Troubass subwoofers if you can find any for sale(now they are hard to find) to make a full range loudspeaker system. The Troubass serve as stands for the Troubador. The Troubador may not be the most refined speaker in the world, but a winner nonetheless.

Currently, I am driving the Coincidents with Atma Sphere M60 monoblocks. And, as Fatparrot stated so much better than I will be able to, this match is as good as I have ever encountered.

Now that Fatparrot let us in on Ralph being a big fan of Coincident, and Natalie has told me in the past that Coincident mates splendidly with OTL, it seems as if they should show together. Atma Sphere will certainly benefit from getting away from the horns they normally show with, and Coincident will be at its pinnacle. Incidentally, I must offer my public thanks to Natalie for steering me in the direction of Atma Sphere to go with the Coincidents. Match made in heaven. I am forever thankful!

Fatparrot, thank you for the kind words. I think the Total Eclipse is a big step up over the Super Eclipse. I have reservations about running the metal coned midrange drivers into the treble regions. They are prone to a nasty ringing. But yes, I do think that Coincident speakers across the product line share in sonic signature.

On the Vandersteen side, I have had 1s, 2s, and 3s in my system. And, I have always enjoyed the 4. That is why I am such a big Vandersteen fan. As it stands, I have a local person who has a pair of 4s he wants to part with for an absolutely incredible price. But, I have bought enough audio this year, and I am not sure if I would be allowed to put them in the family room. They are big, Big, BIG!

I would say that at the 2001 Stereophile NYC HiFi Show, the Vandersteen 5 were paired with Cary V12 monoblocks. Please do not think I am exaggerating when I say the sound was positively stunning. The match with the big room and the Carys was perfect. And, so was the sound. It was the best I have ever heard at a show.

I think John_1 hit the nail on the head when he described the Vandersteen 5. Kudos! If you have the right room, taste, and electronics, you may find heaven. Otherwise, you may have dropped a lot of money on something that will not work out.
Joe, great post and I'm glad someone finally said it with the authority you did. NOTHING is more important in a speaker purchase than room interaction and personal taste. With 2 systems of this caliper there really is no best. This "best" argument really wears thin after a while since anyone who has been at this hobby long enough knows that a good room and synergy of components is the key to long term listening satisfaction. Thanks for driving the point home.
Fatparrot, i have spent many an afternoon listing to the Super Eclipse's and the Atma-Sphere M60.This was the Combo Arthur Salvatore had on display at High-End Audio in Toronto.9/10 times when you went into the store this was the combo he had playing. They are a match made in Heaven. The sonic Sig of the Super and Total are the same.Depending on the size of the room.You would chose one over the other.
In my situation the Totals will not work.The super's will work fine.
At some Point I will move into a pair of Super Eclipse's.
I'm really pleased with the level of discussion on this thread -- it's the first one that has really grabbed me in some time. My personal opinion is that the discussion on the forum has become really superficial over the past year, and this thread is the first one I've seen in some time that resembles the interchange found on the forum 2 years ago. Kudos and thanks to everyone who took the time to provide some REAL input.
Tubegroover is proof that some people on this site REALLY know what they are talking about. I think you summed up high end audio in a most succinct manner.

I think sometimes we piddle around, and look too far into the minutiae, but anyone who doesn't talk about rooms, speakers, and tastes, has completely bypassed the fundamentals.

I guess the thing I really wanted to say through all of my blabber is that taste is a big, big thing. I did try to go out of my way to say how different the Coincident Total Eclipse and Vandersteen 5s are, but what I really should have said is that if you know how each of them sound(via a THOROUGH audition), where you will place them, and your amplification, you really don't need to come to anyone here to know which speaker will be the right one.

Me, I would never put down $7500+ on anything audio without having the utmost confidence in what I was buying.

I am not sure why we don't look at this whole game in much simpler terms. It's a lot like automobiles. If someone is asking whether they should buy the pickup or the sports car, I think you need to spend more time learning about their own needs first. Let's say I have settled on a sports sedan, and have narrowed it down to the Audi A4, BMW 3 series, or Jaguar X Type, it would be expected of me to give each a thorough test drive. Otherwise, people would see me as a fool. It would quickly be seen that the BMW would take the most effort to drive, be the most athletic, most spartan, and most harsh. The Jag would be at the other end of the spectrum. Soft, luxurious, more plush, and less tenacious on the road. The Audi would fall somewhere in the middle. Since they are all more or less the same price, the test drive would lead me to the one I ultimately purchase. It wouldn't take much thought. The feel would address all questions for me.

Scott, I agree 100%!

But, then look at who has gotten involved in this thread. When you bring in the heavy hitters like Tubegroover, Natalie, John_1, Fatparrot, and yourself, it just seems like old times. We are definitely getting into the class of Audiogon here, and I feel priveleged to be a part of it.
No, the discussion on the site over the past year plus has not reached the level it did previously, but this thread proves what is possible.

I hope that the trend I am starting to perceive in the site's discussion is actual. If so, Audiogon will be taking a big turn upward

Interesting comment on the 2001 New York show. Richard has told me he prefers Cary electronics, but primarily because they are hard wired and easy to tweek. Don't know if the NY room was that of a dealer or Richard's own room, but if it was his, the Cary units he was using may not have been stock units.

Despite the fact that I used solid state with my Fives (I have my own personal quirks that led me to abandon tubes a long time ago for reasons having nothing to do with sonics), it does seem that the Fives are usually mated with tube electronics. One of Richard Hartley's recommended systems a while back included the Fives with ARC 100s (although he did suggest that one of the higher power ARC models might be preferable).
One of the unique characteristics of the van 5 is that you run it with a highpass filter between the amp and preamp. The filter lowers the subwoofer handled frequencies by 6 db before handing to the amp.

The amps signal hits the van 5's crossover where the 6db is added back then handed to the 400w solid state amp.

When you use a tube amp, this gives the UNIQUE characteristic of a perfectly matched TUBE mid/top with a solid state lower end. I found this to be one of the van 5's greatest strengths.

Note: Don't use pass labs balanced amp/pre with the van 5 balanced hipass filter - you could destroy the speaker. It's a $50 mod at pass labs. Those guys are just SO GOOD to their customers.

I am currently using avalon eidolon's and finding that one of their weaknesses is that you need to have a monster amp on them. If you want tubes, this limits you to huge tube amps such as the premier 8, the bat vk-150SE, and the vt200. There are lots of drawbacks to these monsters - upfront and running costs, HEAT and physical size. I 've gone to solid state right now - an Ayre v-1x. My 100w pass labs alephs could not drive them.
As I said above, I've never heard the Coincident speakers. But as I reflect on the comments above, it occurs to me that while the Vandies and the Coincidents have different sonic signatures (I hope we all agree that every speaker made has a unique sonic signature and that there is no such thing as a perfectly neutral, accurate speaker), they do share at least two things in common.

First, they are both the results of designers who are passionately committed to constantly pushing the envelope with their respective design philosophies, while maintain price points that relate to the real world.

Secondly, both speakers share almost universal respect, even if some may choose other speakers that better suit their particular systems and tastes.