Vandersteen's new affordable mono blocks at the CES 18


Just got an email that his new amps will be unveiled at the CES.  Here is what I got.  I can't wait.  He has adjustable crossovers so you can use them on any speaker that doesn't go down to 20HZ, which is 99% of teh speakers on the market.  Here is what they said:

Vandersteen Audio Introduces the Next GREAT Amplifier at CES 2018!Venetian Suite 29-203
Vandersteen Audio shook up the audio world with its liquid-cooled M7-HPA monoblocks, a radical advance in power amplifier design and loudspeaker performance that is Stereophile Class-A rated as a true reference.Vandersteen is doing it again at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, where you can get the first look and listen at a pre-production pair of the upcoming M5-HPA (High-Pass Amplifier) monoblocks! The M5-HPA is a solid-state design descended directly from the flagship monoblocks. It will be substantially less expensive, but will offer an astonishing amount of the flagship's sonic magic. While the M7-HPA is designed specifically for Vandersteen's Model Seven Mk II speakers, the M5-HPA will work with a much wider variety of loudspeakers and Vandersteen powered subwoofers. To accomplish this goal, while the M7-HPA's high-pass is fixed at 100Hz, the M5-HPA's internal high-pass filtering is adjustable to any of the following five settings: 20Hz, 40Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz, 200Hz.Vandersteen for years has employed high-pass filtering with powered subwoofers for the ultimate in powered-bass performance. When paired with a Vandersteen powered-bass speaker like the Quatro Wood CT the M5-HPA forms a complete powered-bass speaker system in which the amplification is perfectly optimized over the entire frequency range.
Richard Vandersteen is responsible for the M5-HPA’s overall design and architecture; the amplifier was developed and is built in partnership between Vandersteen Audio and Dean Klinefelter, a talented designer and engineer in his own right. 
Vandersteen powered-bass speaker systems are the ultimate expression of Richard Vandersteen’s philosophies on design and performance, formed over decades of industry-leading design & research & innovation.
M5-HPA's technical attributes:
  • Zero-Feedback Solid-State Design With Dual Single-Ended Circuits Connected By The Speaker Load
  • All Signal Transistors N-Channel Bipolars 
  • No Emitter Resistors
  • Minimal Circuit Path- Only 5 Parts In Signal Path Per Phase
  • 10 Separate Power Supplies
  • Adjustable High-Pass Filter (20Hz, 40Hz, 80Hz, 100Hz, 200Hz)
  • 300-Watts Into 4 Ohms / 150-Watts Into 8 Ohms
  • Made In The USA


ctsooner
I got that same e-mail this morning. Very interesting, but I doubt I’ll bite. One thing not mentioned, how much will they cost? If they are under $10K they may be competitive, but more than that they would have to be pretty impressive. I’ve got a PS Audio BHK 250 which works quite well with Model 5s, but I do have to use the crossover boxes. The BHK amps are pretty damn good, were designed by a legend in electronic design, and is said to be his best work to date. All that for $7.5K. Richard is a legend in speaker design, but electronics? Not knocking Richard, just saying there is some tough competition. Vandersteen also states that the M5-HP amps are aimed at a much larger market than the M7-HP amps which are really just for the Model seven speakers. The M5-HP was almost certainly designed with Model 5, Quatro and Treo in mind, but not specifically for them. I’ll wait for the reviews (if I am still reading audio mags then) to see what they have to say (most likely a gushing review).
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Judging from what I heard of the 7HPA, I think that these should be excellent amplifiers.  But I would suggest you title your post "more" affordable--the price hasn't been set and even if they are half or even a quarter of the price of the 7HPAs they still will be very expensive. 
Agree that price is a big open question here. When JA reviewed the 7HPAs, he pined for a version with broader applicability....let’s see what he says when he gets his hands on these.

Also, the nitty gritty of the 7HPAs (and I assume the 5HPAs too) was deigned by Dean Klinefelter, who's no schlub.   I think RV set the design parameters and DK implemented.
I'm guessing in the 15k range.  I know how Richard designs and he took 30k amps and made one that he and the other designer felt was better.  He's been working on this one for a while now.  I have spoken to someone who's heard these and said they are a game changer for the price range they are in.  

I'm currently using the Ayre AX5/20 integrated and I like it a ton. I got it over most of the 15k amps out there as I was also willing to get a used Audio Research or Aesthetix preamp to go with it.  For me, the difference in SQ wasn't worth it, so I went with the Ayre.  I have a feeling that this one will be for me as I know and trust the person who shared with me. 

I personally may share reviews on forums, but I never audition based on them. The are just fun to read.  There are only a handful of folks who I know and trust who review, but that's me.  I get out and audition a ton, so I have a great idea how they will sound to my ear, compared to teh competition.  

BTW, Richard is a great designer. Just because he has designed only speakers up to now, don't think he can't design great electronics.  He even brought in another designer to help out.  He's packed a lot into these amps.  I'm pretty stoked to get to hear them once he gets teh full production models out.
the new amps are factually $15 K the pair, the CES flyer will say preliminary pricing but if any of you have ever built anything of substance with hundreds of parts and a complicated supply chain that should be understandable. I have not heard them yet but I have spent the last three very enjoyable days and evenings ( very late sleep deprived listen all night kind of evenings) listening to his M7-HPA in my system. They replaced a no slouch Ayre VX-R Twenty.....

i will write a detailed review at some point but so far on no parameter would I go back to the Ayre.

on the point of amplifier chops. Dean is the man behind PSE which were giant killers, try to find one - people dont sell them for a reason. i think RV’s unique speaker and amp designer experience ( where do you think all the feed forward, power factor corrected sub amps came from ? ) drove some very unique engineering solutions into the M7: liquid cooling, no emiter R, cyclotronic SS topology, tube front end, built in power conditioning, DBS and HRS isolation....the list goes on

ya i am biased...

but wow am i happy listening...

now back to The Wayfaring Strangers - Shifting Sands of Time....sounds like microphone feeds off my high speed Revox



great music choice!!!  Thanks for sharing thoughts on your amps.  They really are special. I owned PSE for a spell, but needed to make a change adn the money was right, lol. I didn't realize Dean's masterful pedigree.  I can't wait to get a pair in my room to listen to them.  Smart move on their part to also have a 20hz crossover so that it's basically a full range amp that anyone can use since hardly any speakers go lower than 20hz and if your's do, I"m sure that you will be using amps at 30k or more most of the time.

I like the look too.  
I’m interested in anyone’s long term opinions of running the Vandersteen M5-HPA’s with the 5A Carbons, especially, or the other high passed models. Are they significantly better in this application than any other amplifier, tube or solid state?
Thanks for asking.  No time to answer right now, but I will in a few.  
Ok, I have a moment. I have not had enough time to listen vs other amps.  I do know that those who have auditioned them love them.  They are voiced for the speaker.  It's Richards way of basically making a fully active system.  Teh amp itself sounds great running full speed on other speakers.  I know of a few folks who like them better than many of the 25k plus amps on their 5's and Quatro's and they auditioned most of the contenders which are awesome amps that I'd die to own.  

They will not sound 'fast' or 'highly detailed' like many amps do.  Not saying they aren't these things, but they are on the slightly warmer side of the equation compared to some amps that folks feel are 'high end' amps.  I like a bit of meat on the bones personally.  

My personal thought is that there are plenty of great amps on the market.  Your pre is going to be HUGE in the equation.  That's probably more important than the amp is.  I am hoping to hear the KXR pre amp with a pair of Richards amps as I bet that would be a killer set up. I know they play GREAT with the AR preamps (which I also love) as well as Aesthtix's preamps (a true Best Buy in high end audio for MY money).

I have spoken to a few dealers who sell them and feel they are an outstanding value for a true high end set of mono's.  Richard is a serious designer and the person he brought in with him to collaborate with him is the same one who helped with his big amps.  Those amps, for my money, are KILLER amps in their own right.

I'm hoping to get a longer audition.  Do you have the 5CT's? What are you running now?
I’m running my 5A Carbons with a set of Pass XA 60.8s and a Pass XP-22. The latter is quite neutral, I think, and certainly the best preamp I’ve heard. The amps are very good or great, I’m not sure. I suppose it depends on the setup. One thing I’m not looking for is more warmth, as I think I have a tad too much of that, especially in my smallish room. I would kill for a way to directly tame the midrange on the speaker. I do have an excellent solution on my digital chain, because I have a Roon setup, with some curves that drop the midrange at the crossover points by 1,2, or 3 dB, depending on my preference. But that leaves my analog setup at the mercy of my cartridge loading, which is imprecise. The bottom line is that I feel strongly that the 5As needs lots of room width and height to breathe. Their more revealing midrange over the Quatro CTs is both good and bad, again depending on the recording. So, with all that said, if there’s a chance that my amps aren’t quite the right match, then I want to check out the M5-HPA’s, 
Another question is how much better the M5-HPA’s internal high pass circuitry is over the external crossovers. I have set of late model balanced with fresh batteries.
I personally find the Pass amps a bit warm.  Again, that's my ear as well as a few I listen with.  That's great on so many high end speakers as many are tipped up on top and or forward in the midrange.  

The amps are made for the speakers and are a perfect match for what Richards wants them to sound like.  If I was in your situation, I'd have to give them a listen.  I am saving for a pair if I get them home and love them.  I have the Ayre AX5/20 right now and moving to separates adds a lot more to my system in cost and new cables etc..., so I can't just make that move.

I had Ayre build my crossover into the preamp.  I know they used the highest of end components (with silver leads not stainless like most use) and I love it.  I assume Richard made that crossover to be as seamless as the one's he uses in the 7's or maybe even better, but you'd have to listen in your own system to really know. 

I spoke a little while ago with a friend who Is intimately familiar with all the Vandy products and likes the amps better than the reference amps that they are normally shown with.  He said that they have even more micro and macro detail than the other electronics he often uses in his systems.  I texted about the crossover and he said that may be a reason he loves them, but he says he sits and listens even longer than normal.  not sure if that helps or not.  
I trialed them at home with my Quattro CT’s and they seemed to be a big step up from my ARC Ref 110. I used them with an ARC Ref 6 Pre. They were way more dynamic than the Ref 110s and to me seemed pretty neutral on a wide variety of musical genres and sources (vinyl vs digital). They were definitely more detailed than the REF 110 which I liked. I want them and am saving. 
Curious if they will ever be reviewed alone on their own merit, or as a part of Vandy speaker review. With the new model 5 replacement coming out I suspect they might be reviewed together. I always like to compare others opinions to my own. 
@blaven2, 
Welcome to Audiogon!
And, thanks for posting your impressions about the Vandy amps.
Ctsooner, and I are Vandy champions. (I bought his Treo's and think it was one of my better purchases).

I would be interested in comparing the Ayre MX-R's with the Vandersteen M5. I own the former and think they really are quite amazing with my Treo's-Though I just paired them with an Ayre KX-R and was so impressed as it smoked my Atma-Sphere MP-3. Now I have Ralph building an MP-1 for me.
I know, I need help🥴.
Bob
Bob, I'm so happy that you love them.  I was worried as I always am when selling.  I will tell you that you will ike them better than the non 20 version of your amps.  The 20 upgrades were that large IMHO.  Everyone I have spoken with who had auditioned the new amps put them up against 30k amps. 
Sorry I missed contributing to this thread since my post way back in January of 2018, when I first started running the M7-HPA amp. I have a thousand ish hours on them now and absolutely LOVE them. Zero issues, musical from day one, certainty no harsh midrange or treble and in fact I have been pushing speakers out into room and creeping a bit closer to side walls w no I’ll effect. In conversation w Richard he and Dean set some very ambitious goals for the smaller and much more affordable M5 amps. I believe they attained them. I can’t comment about 5a carbon driven by Pass other than to say I have deep respect for Nelson, his gear is always rugged and top notch. I still have a 400 A :-)
as to Quatros driven by a REF110, I have heard that and the M5 certainly should better it, a more direct comparison might be the REF150 se, Magic midrange like the 5
finally in filters, those of you using outboard high pass consider the model 7 high pass, better caps, more DBS juice and a non resonant case with WEL pigtails... I ran those w model 5a before getting the 7’s
have fun
enjoy the music
But I will comment a bit further, the M5 amp and Quattro CT are reviewed and measured in this month Stereophile.JA keeping amps to review as stand alone as the high pass is switchable.

RV calls his approach an “ unfair advantage “ in that he can optimize the amp to work with a known load ( his speaker) and avoid the issues with trying to build an amp flat to zero and also allow for some additional features unique to his shared DBS patent like 128 V
non technical ???? Just freakin listen :-)))

ah.....
agree. just listen.  I also agree on using the better high pass.  Mine was built into the Ayre integrated and they used the better parts.  
Curious about the Stereophile Quatro Ct/M-5HPA review. It seems that John Atkinson slightly preferred his Lamm M1.2 amps. Are these amps (Lamm M1.2's) actually better than the Vandy amps, or is it just Mr. Atkinson's preference? Don't know the price difference between the two. Not trying to start an argument here. Was just wondering....
All of audio is subjective.  Lamm makes some nice stuff.  That amp is north of 27k.  That's a huge difference in cost and shows what a great value the Vandy amp truly is.  I'll personally go with the 15k amp if it's close to the 27k plus amp.  As I said, audio is subjective as we all know and love.  
I think JA addresses it nicely saying each amp has strengths, he prefers the Lamm at 2X the cost ( $31k )
I have heard Lamm products before in a variety of systems and they are quite good and hyper well engineered and robustly built. An amp that comes close at half the price ( think of it as getting the Quattro CT for free) is quite an achievement. Richard is hyper frugal and efficient, everything must earn its way into the product.
my buck fifty...

I have always been a fan of Vandersteen speakers, but I do find it bizarre that you need to liquid cool a pair of 60,000.00 solid state amps that are only putting out 300 watts.  Bryston and Pass can produce triple this without any liquid cooling and at 1/3rd the price.......

As to the smaller one, same story......I can buy a pair of Bryston 7bsst3s or a Pass X350.8 for less that churn out twice the wattage.....for the same $ in the case of Pass and far less in the case of Bryston

Not saying they're not excellent....not saying they're not the ideal match for Vandersteen speakers.....just saying that I cannot see any probability of any sane consumer paying this kind of money per watt if they were looking at an amplifier on it's own merits, not part of a high pass solution for a certain speaker.....
It's still pretty crazy to think that any product in audio can even compete with anything costing twice as much.
Per my last post, I haven't heard the Lamm monos or Vandersteen M-5HPA, but now knowing the price difference, I concur the Vandersteen amps are a great value by comparison and I'm sure they sound great. I'm looking forward to listening to them the next time I go to Stereo Unlimited in San Diego. Maybe somewhere down the road, RV might make a nice affordable (for me anyway) integrated amp to power my Treo CT's.
Regarding cost of amps, liquid cooling, and wattage. 
I don’t think it is as simple as a linear equation with cost directly proportionate to wattage. There’s more to an amp then maximal wattage output. 
Cooling an amp is an issue. Pass amps are no doubt great but can be huge w all the heat sinks and do run hot. There may be a number of reasons he chose liquid cooling but one advantage is keeping size down and avoiding noise of fans or bulk of heat sinks. It may also afford other proprietary tech and design choices we are not privy too that might generate more heat than other amp designs. It could just be a gimmick, but that has not been Vandersteen’s MO — very against his design principles. 
About 10 years ago I learned a lot about liquid cooling for computers and server centers and even military tech. It has some cool applications and can cool far better and faster than other techniques. So who knows- but it is unlikely to be a gimmick. 
By the way-just went to the newstand to get Stereophile to read that review-what month is it in? Is it November??
@blaven2 November 2019
@stewart0722 why consider Vandersteen speakers using your logic ? Lots of db available for a whole lot less $$$ with a set of Peavy PA speakers. Bryston is high $ per watt vs Crown , etc.... 
quality per $ = value is the point.
bryston has economic scale for ampliers Vandersteen will never have. Also Vandersteen hand solder because they believe it sounds better than wave solder or SMD.... lots of subtle design and execution differences.
btw my mobile recording rack has a pair of Bryston monoblocks, fine amplifier for it’s intended purpose.
OK let’s cover liquid cooling in some detail.... and frankly the reviewers are iMO a bit remiss in missing MANY of the hyper unique innovations in the amps... but the performance of many circuits and devices is temperature dependent and in particular drives the amount of bias needed. IF you look at my virtual system page ( poverty bay sound ) you will see a rare under the hood photo of the M7 and the cooling collar - physical heat sinking is SLOW and results in the heat sink lagging or leading the device or sinking BACK to the device. Hence coolant/pump/radiator solution and bias is rock steady independent of load so the amp sounds the same at any volume or transient...... complex , ya, for a purpose, yes!!!! Now let’s talk attention to details that matter .. if you own an Aesthetix or ARC product you know you can defeat the display for better sound due to the digital chips causing hash.. the M7 and M5 have a complex analog regulator circuit to manage pump speed for coolant and bias. Would been easy to buy an off the shelf chip to do that and SQ would suffer...

enjoy the music and the journey 

jim
I do love how Richard pays so much attention to detail.  He's a frugal guy (like me) and cares about value...He is one of the few to give value at all price levels.  Aesthetix and Ayre are two others.  Many do, but not at the most of the price levels. That's very hard to do. Can't wait to see a pre amp, lol...;) 
@ctsooner ,
Did Richard ever mention building a preamp?
It seems like a good move after all the hard work in designing speakers and amps.
B
@gdnrbob yes, he runs his own design at home, i have heard it  w Ayre MX-R so a bit dated but it is awesome and when I heard it was not the new circuit Dean and he came up with....

BTW did you see the pair of MXR-R twenty for $14 k ?
I would love to get out to Cali and visit his home.  Road trip?  lol....  
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but in my travels round the globe, the one thing that Crushes, absolutely crushes scale is innovation.....

small stuff like no emitter resistor, five parts in the signal path....
a radiator and liquid cooling for rock solid bias...built in HRS isolators 128 v DBS, etc..
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Tomic, that's the part that most don't realize.  Richard is one of those guys who is so innovative, yet doesn't really share too much of what he's doing.  He just feels like folks need to audition and then make up there minds rather than worry about etc engineering.  Heck, even the cabinet inside a cabinet was pretty innovative.  I never realized who much goes into his products until I was 'taught' by Richard and Rutan at Audio Connection.  

It's pretty cool stuff.  I'd still love for him to offer your choice of fully active speakers or semi active (as they are now).  I know he loves the idea of fully active.  Electronics manufacturers don't though lol...
hi Pete, I might be the only guy on the planet with Vandersteen, Nelson Pass ( 400a ) and Bryston power amps, and I certainly get musical joy out of each...

in musing about this thread, i think scale is almost completely irrelevant when a designer seeks to push the state of the art. IF scale was such a big concern the high end as we know it would certainly not exist.  Its clear to me that RV can afford any amplifier and he has access to some if the best certainly he tends to show with Brinkmann, ARC, Aesthetix, DAG, Ayre and VTL, but certainly there are others. My understanding is he built the 7 because he wanted more. The 5 is an attempt to bring the price down and deliver most of the 7 capability. Is it a niche product ? with absolute certainty. Is it sweet sounding with Quattro, etc..sure. Ultimate value is in the eye of the beholder.

back to the music, I got an absolutely fantastic direct metal master Buddy Miller disc to spin....

Ah, @tomic601, one of the Buddy Miller albums issued on LP by Bear Family? Bear Family is a great German label, known for their very high quality Roots music releases on both LP and CD---1950's Rock 'n' Roll, Rockabilly, Country & Western, Hillbilly, Bluegrass.

Many of Buddy's albums were originally issued on CD only by Hightone Records. I've been wondering how the BF LP's sound in comparison. And I wonder if they are digitally sourced. Let us know, ay?

I have a friend who wasn't 100% about the amps for the first month or so. Said they are really good, but maybe a touch too laid back for him.  Then I spoke with him last week and he said that they are so good, that it took him time to truly realize what they are doing it and how.  He said that once they fully burned in, that he fell in love with them. Said they are better than any of the under 35k amps he's had and he hears a lot of gear on a daily basis.  

To me, that's telling.

This is from Rick who owns Audio Alternative in Ft Collins, CO:

Johnny winters sessions off Hot Winter Blues:   Mannish Boy ...  you have to listen for Johnny screaming at Muddy to play harder.  Just freaking awesome.  Hard album to find, but worth it.  Great stuff.


@bdp24  Eric the DMM Buddy is sublime, I will post up complete thoughts later this weekend over in the Music section, you know where I hang out 99% of the time....
I just put in an order for a pair! It’s going to be a long next three weeks.
@earthtones congrats, how wonderful!!!!! Enjoy the music !!!!!
@tomic601 ,
How would you describe the differences between the Pass, Ayre and Vandersteen amps?
I have never heard the Pass or Vandy amps and am curious as to how they perform.
Bob
That's awesome earth tones.  Can't wait to hear your thoughts.  What is the rest of your system?

Pass is all over the place from what I have heard.  It depends on which line of theirs you are listening to.  Most are a bit warmer and very nice.  Good dynamics and a fair amount of detail.

Ayre also changes a bit depending on which model.  The 20 series takes them to a different level in my book.  They are detail monsters and can be a bit let warm than the Pass amps.  They are very very fast and match up well with most speakers.  Some feel they are too neutral, but I like that with many speakers.  I personally enjoy how 'fast' they sound and how much detail they give you.

Sounds like the Vandy's are a bit of both.  Musical, fast, engaging, large sound stage or smaller if that's what the signal calls for.  I'm sure Jim will have a much better review, lol. ;) 
Well.... only a comparison between the Ayre VX-R Twenty and the Vandersteen M7-HPA possible in my system and that is somewhat problematic because of the external filter required for the Ayre and a cable change I made to AQ wild Blue Yonder ( necessitated by mono blocks )...

the other amps are single ended and in the case of the Bryston underpowered for the task and I am not going to buy a SE Model 7 high pass filter to do a test for them nor the 400a.  Any excellent Vandersteen amp dealer will have the needed gear and a wide variety of amplifiers to try :-)

i am not much of a review writer, but I will put some summary thoughts together...stay tuned...

A partial listing of the equipment in my system includes: Vandersteen 5A Carbons, Pass XP-22, PS Audio Directstream DAC, PS Audio P20 power regenerator, VPI Classic 4, a Roon server and currently one gaping hole because I have no amps since I sold my Pass XA60.8s. I’m going to be getting a loaner amp in a day or two to tide me over.

Compared to the XA60.8s, I felt that the M5-HPAs sounded smoother and instruments sounded more natural. I had mentioned somewhere else the saxophone on the "The girl from Ipanema". When it hit, it just sort of jumped out at me as sounding like it was weightier and almost right in the room with me. Massed strings are less emphasized and more as part of a cohesive top to bottom presentation. I was pretty happy with XA60.8s when I had my Quatro CTs, but the more open midrange on the 5ACs made me feel something was amiss that no room treatment, positioning or Roon DSP tweaking could ameliorate. Essentially, there was a glare in the upper midrange - at times. On good days, when I wasn’t too fatigued from other things and perhaps the AC quality was good, (P20 is only on upstream components), I could be floored with my setup. At other times, trying to get through an extremely difficult piece to do well on a system - for example, Brahms 3rd symphony, especially the opening, was a bit fatiguing. RV himself chalks this up to the XA60.8s having global negative feedback, which causes time smear and is especially evident with his time and phase correct speakers. Also, I’m sure something could be said for the simpler circuit path in his M5-HPAs. All I can say is that once I heard the M5-HPA’s, there was no going back. Now, my Pass XP-22 sounded great to me and I plan to keep it in the system. It is exceedingly neutral and very low in distortion. Is feedback an issue with it? I can’t say, but I’d be curious to know what others think. I suppose some would say for a system like mine especially, that you should banish all traces of it.