Vandersteen Seven Review

Vandersteen Seven: The Ultimate Disappearing Act

Utilizing advanced technologies to render an object virtually undetectable is one definition of the word STEALTH. Stealth is not commonly used, but became a household word during the Gulf War. The U.S. military used advanced technologies in aircraft to make them virtually undetectable to the enemy. We all watched in awe as bombs and missiles were dropped with incredible precision and obliterated the Iraq military machine.

It seems as though Richard Vandersteen of Vandersteen Audio had the Stealth Fighter in mind when he set out to design the appearance of the Model Seven loudspeaker. My personal pair of Sevens are black in color and during low light listening sessions they disappear in my room. The clean design lines of the Model Seven remind me of the aircraft after which it was designed.

That being said, the ultimate disappearing act of the Vandersteen Model Seven loudspeakers has nothing to do with their outward appearance. Instead, Richard Vandersteen utilizes test of time proven design principles, as well as innovative and cutting edge technologies and materials, that render them undetectable in the production of music in your listening room. This rare combination of proven design, cutting edge technologies and materials, and the Seven's ability to be tuned to any room, sets them firmly at the top of an elite group of world class loudspeakers.

I’ve enjoyed listening to music my entire life, and since the age of 14 had my own audio system. In the last 20 years my system has continually evolved into a true high end audio system. Four years ago my wife and I purchased a new home which has a large 33’ x 23’ family room that I have converted into our listening room. Through that move I began to realize how important both the room and speaker placement are to the reproduction of music. Two years ago I was fortunate enough to have Jim Smith of Get Better Sound fame come to my house and conduct a Room Play session. Because of the Sevens' room tuning ability, Jim and I were able to place the speakers in the room for the best imaging, soundstage, and aesthetics, and then adjust the bass response to the room and my personal tastes. This capability is unique, and to my ears makes a significant difference when done correctly.

So the answer to everyone’s "how do they sound?" question. In a word the Sevens sound fantastic. The first thing I noticed with them is their ability to flush out all the inner level details of the human voice and instruments. The tonal quality of the presentation is so life like and real. A few months back we went to Blues Alley in Washington DC and heard Ramsey Lewis perform. The venue there is very small with minimal amplification of the performance. It was in that setting that I realized how true to the source the Model Sevens truly are. No, its not live in my listening room, but closer than I ever thought possible. The three dimensional soundstage, instrument decays, and space around the performers draws me into long listening sessions. But it’s the presentation of the human voice that sets them apart from any speaker I have ever heard. So lifelike, the small inflections and nuances that are unique to every singer are jaw dropping. I’m continually surprised by the lifelike size and shape of the presentation in my room. I could go on and on but I think you get the idea. I’ve purchased my last loudspeaker. High end audio is all about squeezing every last detail and potential from the source material. The Vandersteen Model Sevens are as true to the source as any loudspeaker I’ve heard.

In conclusion I challenge anyone to take an objective look at what makes a world class loudspeaker, and see if you agree with my opinion that the Vandersteen Model Seven stands alone at the top of an elite group of speakers that most would call world class. The factors below when considered causes them to have no peers.

- Proven design principles that have stood the test of time

- Cutting edge innovation, technologies and materials

- Aesthetics that blend into and home décor (look like they belong in a home not a recording studio)

- Room tuning capabilities for seamless integration in any room

- Settings that can tailor the sound to individual tastes

Evaluate these attributes when making your loudspeaker selection and you will find few if any competitors that can match the Model Sevens total package of value.

System Components:
Vandersteen Sevens, BAT VK 600SE with 655SE Caps, Audio Research REF 5SE with Super tubes, PS Audio DS and PWT, Bricasti M1, Music Vault M7 Server, Pass Labs XP 25 Phono Stage, Basis 2200 Signature TT w/ Vector 4 w/VTA Tonearm, Dynavector 20X2H, Synergistic Research Power cell 10UEF, Synergistic Research CTS speaker cables Synergistic Research Speaker cells, Synergistic Research CTS XLR interconnects, Synergistic Research Transporter Ultra SE, Synergistic Research ART acoustic System, Synergistic Research FEQand HFT's. Rack of Silence stand.
Thanks for your review. I have the Treo's and have heard the 7's at Audio Connection on MANY occasions. They really are special. I can't wait to hear the mk II's. I realized a few years ago that Vandy's done WOW the masses on first listen. They are not tipped up in the high end like some other's so they don't scream at you in the store or in a show setting. I think that's a big reason many say bad things about them on internet boards. Those of us who have gone the extra length and given them a true fair shot and listened to them for a few hours, get it. They are so detailed with no smearing and they are true to the signal. I have more than a few hot recordings and thats what they give me. Up and down his line they are still very good values.
I've heard a fair amount of speakers that break the 100k mark and they are no better and many are not at good as the 7's and that's not even the 7 mk II. There is a reason he wins awards regardless of what high end electronics he pairs with them. I do LOVE his new amp with them though, lol.
BTW, LOVE your system.
I doubt I'll ever have 7s due to the cost but I agree on the design principles creating a total package that's true to the input signal and doesn't exaggerate selected parts of it. I got interested in the 5As after reading the Audio Perfectionist's review article explaining all that went into the design. I've loved my 5As going on 10 years now without a single problem. The 7 takes the same principles to the next level and I can imagine they must be quite special. It's really about the only speaker I'd consider giving up the 5As for. I think it's likely one of the best speaker designs ever. You've put together a wonderful system there.
Johnny R at Audio Connections recently installed my Model 7s, replacing a pair of 5As. As much as I enjoyed the 5As, the 7s are in a different league. The are detailed from top to bottom but there is never any harshness. They seem to handle all different types of music with ease. And, as the OP says, if positioned correctly, they disappear. Nothing images like Vandersteens and these are the cream of the crop.
No one is as good a John @ Audio Connections. I bought my 5A's live in Arizona. I was going to revise my 5A's to carbons, but after hearing them (carbons)...I couldn't justify the money. I really found the Carbons so close to the 5A's. I heard them here in Arizona, so John's magic touch was not in evidence....but still.....
Johnny sets up the Vandy's as well as anyone can. He just gets it. The guy really is a servant, lol. I'm being serious here too. He really does get it and he cares. Hard to find that.
There seems to be a common theme here with John from Audio Connection setting up all our speakers. I reallly appreciate his knowledge of what it takes to make a room and a system sound good. He really has been instrumental in helping me to build the system I have and get the most out of it.
I have also heard the 7's at several shows and I think they are one of the best speakers I have ever heard. I am always surprised that guys will drop 50k on a Wilson speaker and not even bother listening to the 7's. To me the 7's are much more refined sounding than the Wilson's.
There are a couple of dealers who frequent the boards who don't get as much positive pub as Johnny gets. He doesn't ask any of us for this either as any of us will attest to. That's a sign that you are doing things correctly I think..
Thanks! for sharing Richfield-

very nice over-view of this loudspeaker. You have quite a system. I do not think that I have read about any other audiophile using B.A.T gear mated w/ ARC gear. Would love to hear that combo. On several demoes, I have heard the ARC Ref 5SE in action, it is one of the very best on tubed or ss
power amps. Additionally, I do not think that I have read about SR cabling mated w/ BAT/ARC gear. Very interesting selection of gear indeed. Happy Listening= JA.
Guys, do the 5's and 7's still have that strip that will only accept small spades ? Kept me from considering Vandies.
5A Carbon

Barrier strips, 7/16" max width


Barrier strips, 1/2" max width
The Sevens strip accepts the large spades now.
I've never let a connection type prevent me from a purchase. Interesting to see. Vandersteen feels that a screw connection is by far the best physical connection you can get. I had MIT 770 MH for my Proac's, but when I recently switched to Vandy Treo's, I purchased the Castle Rock AQ cables as they were bi wired and a better match for the speakers. If you spend this kind of money for a speaker, I'd think just getting the proper cable would make the most sense, but that's just me. If you liked the Vandy's enough to purchase, you should listen to them with your cable as well as what the dealer would recommend and see which one you liked best. JMHO
"We all watched in awe as bombs and missiles were dropped with incredible precision and obliterated the Iraq military machine."

When I read these words I could not help but wonder if any of the OHB's -Obliterated Human Beings in the 'Iraq military machine' were audiophiles or merely MMC's - Military Machine Components who likely deserved to be obliterated.
Model Seven owners it would be nice to see you weigh in on this discussion and help support and grow the brand of the Sevens. It seems like we are a more passive group and not nearly as vocal as other brand owners are. There have been almost none of these for sale on the used market so once they are purchased the owners keep them. Let's trumpet the praises of these glorious speakers so more are sold and we all get to benefit from others componenet choices etc.
So you wanna form a cult, or something like it? I doubt any words you or others can write, here or elsewhere, will make it likely that someone will be willing to spend more than 60 thousand on these, or any other loudspeakers.
I agree on the Vandersteen Treo's on up. Very few compared to how many are sold show up used. I think cult is a strong word for audio folks who are loyal to a brand. I have actually had that discussion with a few non audiophiles along with audiophiles. Neurotic? Of course, lol.

I too would love to hear from other Vandy owners are even recent past owners to get their thoughts. If for no other reason to maybe pick up a tidbit or two on tweeting etc.. It's just fun to do.

I can't own the 7's myself, but have heard them plenty of times and am blown away by how subtly accurate they are. They don't scream at you, because they don't tip up their treble like many other designers do. The new carbon drivers don't come off as 'making a huge difference' when you compare them to the ceramic coated tweeters, however I bet if you gave someone the CT versions for a month and then replaced them for the regular ones, they'd be very upset with what they are hearing.....I have the ceramic tweeter in my Treo's and they sound awesome, but I know how great the CT version sounds.

There are plenty of 7 owners who do post, however it's often on digital or source component threads. The one commonality is that they all love their speakers and have no desire to 'trade up' to more expensive models of another brand. I have personally heard a lot of 100k plus speakers that are set up incredibly well and they all sound great, however I always compare them mentally to the 7's (not accurate, but I've been listening for years and years and know what I like) and nothing has beaten them. Some have come very close, however they cost more than double their price and still aren't quite as involving IMHO.

I appreciate your posts on this thread. I really like the Treos like you have and am considering a pair for the fronts on a new home theater system. Its great we have a dealer like John to support us on our systems. Maybe next time he has an event we might both attend and get to meet you. I likewise enjoy talking to Audiophiles and learning from them.

Enjoy the Music
Thanks for your thorough review.

Based on the fact that we do not see many 5s leave alone the 7s in the used market, I also wonder if owners tend to hang on to them longer than other brands or is it because not so many were sold in the first place. Guess the only way to find out is to compare the sales number of the 5s and the 7s to the likes of Wilson etc.

I also would like to hear from those who do not find the 7s to their likings. What are the areas that the 7s fail or lacking in comparison to competitors.
Jeff, I have been swamped with a project (I'm building a set of dining room chairs) and hope to be done within the next few weeks. Then I can get down to John's.
I own 5A carbons and I plan to upgrade to the model 7 as soon as I can write the check. Sooner or later they will be mine :-)

I settled on Vandersteens after a lot of listening at shows and some at dealers. For comparison, the 5A carbon has the carbon clad balsa wood driver but only for the midrange, while the model 7 uses them everywhere except the powered bass unit. The powered bass units are the same in the 5A and model 7 except the cabinets are different.

I am grateful for the current popularity of trade shows or I might not have “discovered” Vandersteens. There are no dealers nearby. I was expecting to like some other lines more; you do really have to find your own taste. After attending RMAF and other shows a few times the model 7s distinguished themselves – they sounded fantastic and they managed to do that in the hotel rooms most everyone else blames for bad sound. Relaxed, unforced natural sound, phenomenal bass and “no loss of fine detail” (sorry to steal your line Audio Physic, but it really fits).

Perhaps the best tribute I can give the 5A carbons is how my wife reacted shortly after John Rutan of Audio Connection set them up in our living room. For 25+ years she has been mildly interested in my hi-fi thing. Sometimes we listened together but mostly she used the system for background music. I came home to find her in the sweet spot with the lights dimmed and a candle going. She then proceeded to tell me about all of the music I just “had to hear on these speakers.” No previous upgrades *ever* elicited *anything* like that kind of interest.

I don’t know of another full range speaker (other than the model 7s) where the rear of the speaker could be 18 inches from the narrow wall in our 11x22 foot living room and produce what I’m hearing. By that I mean unbelievably good bass all the way down and a holographic presentation that sounds alive with a good recording. The 11 band equalizer evens out in room bass response and I think the fact that it’s a powered bass unit helps the system sound like it has unlimited headroom. The balsa wood midrange is amazing and it does give you a taste of the model 7. I thought the 5A carbons sounded more like the model 7s than the Quattro Wood CT (which is itself a nice speaker). The key thing is that I didn’t think I could get this kind of performance in a non-dedicated listening room without DSP given the limited speaker placement options. John assured me it could be done and boy was he right!

Subsequent listening with the model 7s shows them to be more of a piece and even higher resolution. Comparisons are difficult of course since the electronics were better than mine. They sound “softer” at first until you hear a rim shot or cymbal or brass instrument. They have the advantage of using the same super low distortion balsa wood drivers everywhere and a better cabinet so it makes sense. Now to just keep saving up….

Some tracks for your enjoyment:

Scala & Kolancy Brothers, Nothing Else Matters (ladies choir covering Metallica)
Lorde, Pure Heroine, Tennis Court
London Grammar, Hey Now
Ludovico Einaudi, Time Lapse, In a Time Lapse

track# 2 from
So I have 5As, also bought from and installed by John Rutan. I use a small system, Lux 509U integrated with tone controls (a necessity for me) and Lux DO-6 SACD player. Also have a TT, rarely ever use it though. I love my system and the pleasure it brings me. Could not do without the tone controls, just taking a small amount off the high end of many many CDs makes all the difference to me. Nothing more I will ever need from a stereo system. The music, my music, the music I love, sounds great to me played thru the system, and I smile each time I listen. So, even though I think this thread has evolved in a strange way, I am a fan of RV. And JR.
Probalby my fault on the way the thread has gone. Sorry...Funny, but I have never heard bad things about Vandy's from folks who hear them set up properly at a store or in their homes. I can't say that about Wilson, Thiels (especially the new ones, Focals and many others named speakers). That says so much to me. There are a lot of good speakers out there, however too many are just not that good regardless of cost. This is why dealers are so important as you need to hear things side by side to figure out what you really want to listen to
Great thoughts on the whole line. Thanks for sharing. I"m hoping that soon he will upgrade all the line with more carbon as he sure has it down at this point. The Quatro is the sweet spot in the line for those of us who can't afford the 5 CT;s or 7's and never will. I have the Treo's that I'm ready to sell in order to upgrade to the Quatro. Even though the speakers share the same drivers at times and the same DNA, I'm always amazed at what you get for each step up in price. Bass is very expensive to do correctly, but when you do, it seems like everything else also gets better and better. Once he went to that Carbon Fiber type of cabinet, it was all bets off for the other higher priced speakers.

We all know Johnny knows how to set up a room without voodoo. He has those 5's absolutely cooking in front room, but you hear so many subtle differences that take things steps further in that back room with the 7;s running AR, Ayre or Aestetix gear. I will also say AQ cables play a big part in those systems. I also find it interesting that he doesn't use much, or any power conditioners, just juice from the power line on the street in a busy business grid. Can't wait to hear the new AQ Niagara power conditioner with that big when he gets it in and cooked. lol..
Thanks for the comments on the Vandy's. Its great when our spouses join in on this hobby and enjoy the hobby as we. The 5A carbons are amazing at their price point and even more so speak to the value of the Vandersteen brand. It great you have a goal to purchase the Sevens. When they arrive and get them set up in your room you will be amazed how much better they sound in your room than shows or dealers showrooms. It always amazes me what the normal items in a home do to the sound quality.

Funny, but my spouse NEVER has listened with me. She'll enjoy the background music, but tonight we have spent the last many hours just listening to my Treo's with OSDE and Ayre AX5 Twenty and she's loving it. It's because there is just NO listener fatigue and the noise floor in my system is nearly non existent with everything I've done. I still need to hang the two quilts on a side wall that I got a couple of weeks ago. That will really help the sound of my room (thanks Johnny Rutan as Audio Connection). It's amazing how easy it is to make small improvements with inexpensive changes to walls etc...
Agree we tend to love our steens and keep them !

I am parting with my beloved 5a rosewood (from Randy at Optimal) and moving to 7 mk 2 in black.(alan at Hifi Buys).

I will say if you want to hear world class 5aCarbons go see Bruce in SD. The soundstage he gets is massive..big sense of air which i partially attribute to Nordost.

Heck, I used to buy from Bruce when I lived there with the Navy in the 80's. He was a great dealer and I have some NAD gear and Stax gear I got from him still. Met Ricahrd Vandersteen there for the first time too. He had the Sota vacuum TT that I wanted, lol. Great memories.
Bruce is a terrific dealer. I bought my 5As from him years ago. I live closer to LA than San Diego so I switched to Optimal Enchantment and Randy Cooley. I purchased my Model 7s from him. He gave me a terrific trade in on the 5As.
The top of the Vandersteen line all use an outboard high pass filter that allows the built in speaker amps to restore the low frequency information. Both the new Vandersteen amp and the Aesthetix Atlas amps have built in high pass filters which are charged at all time in stand-by mode. I have the Atlas amps which were upgraded with very high quality teflon caps (4 per side). I would highly recommend this upgrade if you have the Atlas mono blocks. The improvement was amazing.
Well, I'm off to Audio Connection tomorrow to listen to the new 7's, but also the Quatro for me. I can' wait to get down there to see everyone. Anyone who wants to come down, it wold be great to meet up.
The teflon cap upgrade is for the high pass filter built into the Atlas monos.
Ctsooner, how was your audition. The new Seven mk2 versus old Seven that is.
Ok, was at Audio Connection yesterday. Met up with a new friend who is looking for speakers in this range. It was first thing in the morning and the systems wasn't fully set up, but we went back to listen for an hour and it sounded good with the analog, but not with the digital (IMHO). By the end of the day I realized HOW good these speakers are. The emotion was there once the electronics caught up with the speaker. It was the digital that needed to catch up. I do hope this person puts these on his last cut list and gives them a serious listen in his room as I think he will be very happy as it's still the only speaker I've heard that gives the emotion with the detail etc.... It all starts and end with the mids. By nailing the mids, he then went on to nail the bass which helps, not hurts the mids and then he got the highs right. No it won't 'stand out' like some speakers do. It really is about being flat and letting your gear shine through. What a fun day listening to the whole top end of Richard's line. I was listening to the higher end of Wilson's line the day before on the same Ayre Ref/Twenty gear being fed AR digital and there as NO emotion at all. It just left me not wanting to listen and grabbing for the headphones. With the Vandy's, I kept going back as I wanted to hear specific songs that I love to listen to #thanksJoeBonamasa
Honestly, I won't say anything yet as I want much more time with components I know. I am not familiar with the AR digital stuff. I will bring my Overdrive SE in to listen next time. The other thing is that I liked the speakers first thing in the morning, but they didn't grab me like they have in the past. Once I heard them around 5pm, I was blown away by the layering and texturing. Thats what always draws me it. I will do a full review between the two once I get more time with the 2's.... I will say that what I heard later in the day was some of the best sound I've heard out of components. We were playing some records then too ;)