Von Schweikert DB99 or Vandersteen 5A ??

Dealers in my area don't carry these models.

I'm sure they're both excellent, but how about some feedback from folks that heard both or owners of either ?
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I've heard the '99s extensively and used to own the Vandy 5s (not the 5As--though I've heard those too). In my experience, the 99 is going to give you a more detailed, dynamic sound, while the Vandy is going to be a little more lush and forgiving--like most Vandy designs. The VSAs, because they're 99dB efficient, can be used with a broader range of amplifiers, which is nice if you're part of the SET crowd. The bass quantity and quality are pretty equivalent, IMO, but the '99's bass seems a TAD tighter and quicker. Overall, it depends on the type of sound you're after. Personally, I think the DB-99 is one of the best speaker values in the entire industry. The Vandy is excellent as well, but I think the Von Schweikert is a little more accurate and truer to the music. Just my opinion, of course.
While the Von Schweikerts are fine speakers, I don't think there is a dynamic speaker in the $15k range that beats the Vandy 5A's (although there are several electro-static and planar magnetics that offer their slightly different glories). The 5A's simply do everything extremely well.
I listened to both and have the 5a's I can't make the decision for you but the 5a's just had many more advanges like being tuned to the room working well with tubes because of the powered sub doesn't suck all your amplifer power more open sounding. Both are good speakers The Von Schweikerts are a little more harsh I think but some people like that.
I have heard both.

If I were to choose between the two, I would go with the Vandy 5's because of their ability to use whatever amp I wanted for the mids and highs and still have perfect bass (provided by the adjustable built in powered sub).

A friend in my music group owns Vandy 5's, powered by Wolcott Presence 220 watt mono blocks (tubes) for the top. Amazing dynamics and transparency and you can listen all evening without thinking about the gear.

What else could you ask for?
For those who have auditioned the VSA dB99's and know, its 10" magnesium woofer is driven by its own 300-watt Class A/B SS amp and can be adjusted (using its bass volume control knob) to any room or system. A 15wpc SET amp or 500wpc SS amp (or anything in between)to drive this speaker will do! See the VSA VR9 drivers as they mirror the 99's minus a 15" woof. The dB99's now come with optional 3" ribbon tweeter module. Contact VSA to find the nearest dealer stocking the dB99's and compare them to the Vandy 5/5A's if possible. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. You'll have a few bucks left over too! Nothing beats a personal audition.
Much has been said about the virtues of the 5As. One thing that sold me on them is that I could not "hear" any artifacts of the cabinet, drivers, or crossovers. These speakers are very natural - and the music is incredibly suspended in space with total tranparency and absolute coherence. Many who are used to artifacts like cabinet resonance, cone distortion, crossover nonlinearities, phase reversals, etc., believe something is missing when they don't hear them in the 5As. Many report their first reaction to the 5As as "too layed back". However, once you are acclimated to the 5As, you will start to really notice these objectionable artifacts in other speakers and wonder how anyone could tolerate them. The end result is you are better able to be with the music, since you are less aware of the system. I do appreciate a variety of speakers and can enjoy them for their strengths, however, the only one I want to listen to for any extended period is the 5A.
AlbertPorter & Programmergeek: As Bornie points out the DB99 is very similar to the Vandy 5a in regard to the powered and adjustable woofer. You might have been talking about some other speaker in the Von Schweikert line like the VR4jr.

I think both speakers are great values and although I do not sell Vandersteen speakers, I have a great deal of respect for Richard. Solid designer, solid product.

Even though the 5a's have a powered woofer, they do actually require a bit of power. They are only 87 db efficient. I know for Albert that seems like "high efficiency" coming from those Ultimates :)

As a VSA dealer I am also extremely familiar with the DB99's. Being as objective as I can, I would say the the extension in the highs with the Vandy's is better than the standard DB99, but when you add the "super tweeter", the edge goes to the Von Schweikert. Midrange clarity, transparency and detail is better in the DB99, with the 5a's having slightly more warmth and forgiveness.

Bass is exceptional with both speakers, but the Vandy's are a little tougher to get right. Setup is tough. When they are properly dialed in, the bass is terrific. Both kick like a mule.

Again, both speakers are fantastic values. It is a real matter of taste and I would think if you have 20 people listen to both, you would have a split right down the middle. It really depends on what you value most in a speaker.
I want to thank all you folks for such a fine array of answers !!
Not to intentionally hijack this thread but there are some similarities--price/ quality/ easy to drive/--Wilson 7's---How do these compare??
I agree the set up on the vandies is tuff. I get it's the price you pay to adapt it to different envirnments. It is a laid back speaker more so than the other 2 above. Depends if you like that. As for efficiency maybe I should reword that. They do suck some power you are not going to run them off a 100W tube amp but the amount of sound you got per whatt is much better than 80% of the speakers out there. The watts puppies I also like. I think they are a bit bassy and not nearly as a refined sound as the vandies but if I had to buy a pair of speakers to rock a house I would pick the whatts easy set up and good sound. Depends on what you like to listen to.
Before I go into this I'd like to say I have not heard the Vandies- So I only share my personal experience, and I suppose taste, with the 99's.

As an owner of the 99's I can say they are an amazing speaker and VERY versatile with the amps which can be used. We hooked both SS and tube amp up to them and to our surprise both sounded very good. Since the 99's are 99db efficient (hence the name) you do have to watch the gain with high watt SS. With 16 watt tube amps the speakers get plenty loud for my room.

The separate bass amp volume for each speaker is very effective and helpful as I listen with kids upstairs at night and simply tame down the THUMP. The bass is tight, full and seamless through the mid range. In fact to me the speaker as a whole is very balanced across the frequencies. They also have a built in rear firing tweeter which helps add to the sound stage and lifelike feel. The ambient tweeter is also adjustable with it's own controller as is the bass

If I could summarize their sound in one word I would use "alive."

As I said I have not heard the Vandies but for a perspective I have heard B&W 800 series so I will contrast with the 802. The 99's seem to give a more personal feel to the music space to me-it's the old analogy but one that fits "it's as if they are in the room." I think this is due to the front row/with the band sense I get from the 99's where as with the 802 I felt mid row back. The 802's are smoother and definitely more laid back with a "grander" feel to the sound.

The 99's to me are more fun. With the pop of the drums, the brass of the horns- The sax seems to vibrate me in the way a live sax can but with no fatigue. The guitar, piano, drum, all are in the room with appropriate dimensions for each instrument AND for the style of music being presented. With some speakers the song seems to have only one rhythm based off the drum or guitar. I think because the 99's are so dynamic I can both hear and feel multiple rhythms in the music which is why I just can't keep still when listening to these babies.

But make no mistake, "in the room" is not all this speaker can do. This is what I struggled with with other speakers. Hearing a "grand" speaker with classical is wonderful but hearing this same grand smooth sense with rock, acoustic, solo voice etc. becomes repetitive and tires me. I don't know how they do it but the 99's seem to work well with every style. Do a search on the 99's and you will see I am not the first to say this.

Listening to Cincinnati Orchestra via the 99's gave me the feel of the hall, the space, the black, the energy as well as the texture of the woodwinds, the vibration of the strings and the presence of the orchestra. I was appropriately placed back in the experience and it did feel both spacious grand and alive. With a switch of the CD I was intimately in a smokey hide away bar listening to Miles Davis. The 99's take me to different venues with every new album.

Anyway- enough eh? Just like to end to say that I am not a dealer and I don't mean to imply to any that the 800 series is not a great speaker also- just the 99's are more attune to my ears.

Best luck
I own the DB99 with the ribbon tweeter and have spent quite a bit of time with the 5A. The two speakers are similar in design in that they both have powered adjustable woofers and adjustable rear fining tweeters.

The 5A design integrates the sub by allowing you to adjust not only volume, but also Q, and lots of other settings. This will allow you to match the sub amp signature to your power amp as well as flatten out in room bass response. The DB99 only has volume control because their design is to boost the woofer output, but keep the signature of you existing amps. I have found the DB99 approach to be better. I own Lamm ML2 SET amps and Tenor 75 OTL amps and I can easily tell the difference in the bass signature of these two amps. Yes that means I need to move the speakers around to get flat bass response, but this is a much better scenario. The 5A's I've heard were driven by BAT tube amps and even though the bass could be made flat in any location, the integration of SS bass with tube mid/top never really worked.

As for the rest of the speaker, the DB99 is fantastic. Prior to the DB99's I had a pair of Kharma Midi Exquisite speakers in my system. I spent much time comparing the two with both Lamm and Tenor amps and 3 other audiophiles. I can say that all 4 of us agreed that the DB99 was the better speaker. This may have been the amps or my room or my front end, but in this case a 15K speaker out did a 85K one. Nothing against Kharma as I owned the CRM3.2 Enigma and thought it was an execpetional speaker.

The DB99 is a must audition if you are spending that kind of money. Also, I would suggest being weary of people who say they have "heard" this speaker because many have it confused with the other VS items as evidenced here. Finally, since the speaker is 99DB efficinet, it is very sensitive to upstream problems ranging from components, resonance control to AC line noise. However, if you get all the details right this thing is a giant killer. Best money I have ever saved to get better sound.
Hi Delancey- As an owner of the 5As, I would argue that if the integration of the subwoofer/ main amplifier did not create a seamless blend, the dealer did not have them set up properly. The amplifier input impedance needs to be set correctly on the external high pass filters for the correct -3dB rolloff at 100Hz for a truly seamless transition. Also, the signature of the main amplifiers is absolutely passed on to the sub amp on the 5A. I used three different amplifiers on the 5A- Rowland 201s, McCormack DNA-500, and best of all- the VAC Phi 220 monos. All three amps had different characteristics in their bass.

I'm not sure why moving the speakers around to get flat bass is the best choice either. What if the best spot for flat bass response creates terrible soundstaging or imaging? The 5As allow for optimal room placement with respect to imaging and soundstage among other things. This is done with the subwoofers unplugged. When the best location is found in the room, the sub can then be adjusted to help reduce any problematic bass peaks caused by any room modes due to that specific location. The 11 band eq is very helpful in that regard. Final adjustments on the sub level and Q allow for truly spectacular bass when set correctly.

The rear tweeter of the 5A is normally not activated unless the room is overly dead or extremely large. It is out of phase with the rest of the speaker and goes against Vandy's design philosphy of maintaining time and phase coherence.

I'm sure the DB99 is truly a special speaker and one I would love to hear. I really like Von Scweikert designs and have been duly impressed with the VR4jrs, the VR4srs, and the VR9SE. Another VS speaker I really want to hear in the VR7SE.

It sounds like you are extremely happy with the DB99s which is all that counts- happy listening.
The 5As were run at HE 2005 in a very large room with Pathos InPower 80 watt Class A hybrid monoblocks and the sound was plenty loud. Vandy also paired with the Tenor 75w OTLs at a past CES show with great sound. Another great match are the Quicksilver V4s which are 120 w/ch.
So yes, they are relatively inefficient at 87 dB, but I think you can get great sound with 100 tube watts.
Sorry Delancey- you never said you heard the 5As at a dealer. That's what happens when you make posts at 2:30am!
The 5A's I heard were at a dealer who sold Vandy and BAT. It was not my system so I cannot comment on the filter setting etc. However, I will say that this dealer is a meticulous audiophile. I agree the best scenario is to maintain amp signature and have placement independence. However, if you have to choose one the the former is much better to have than the latter. I'm having the same experience with the rear tweeter on my DB99's. I hardly ever use it. As for 2:30am posts, we are all crazy about the hobby. Best....
I got a 2 hour listen to the *VR-4 SR's* a couple days ago (at the dealer who didn't carry the DB-99's) nice sound, smooth, balanced, good imaging, etc.

I know they're a different design, but could the DB-99's be considered a somewhat higher league than the VR-4 SR's. ?
With respect to the DB99s VS. the VR4SR question...

In my opinion, the DB99s are *definitely* in a bigger (and better) league than the VR4SRs (I would say there is no competition at all between the two)... I loved the DB99s when I heard them earlier this year, while the VR4SRs heard on the same day left me unimpressed and disappointed (as they are the only VS speakers I haven't cared for). I can't really say the two sounded very much alike either. Soundstage, imaging, bass extension, midrange purity, sensitivity -- all were heavily in favor of the DB99s. The DB99s pulled me into the music, and just let me enjoy the performance, while the SRs just left me cold... I would describe them as lifeless.

The speakers the DB99s sound more similar to actually are the Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signature System speakers... They also had a very similar sound to the top VS speakers like the VR-9s and VR-12s (but obviously on a smaller scale)... Pretty good company in my book. I definitely encourage an audition before buying the VR4SRs.

Thought I might try to revive this thread as I'm pondering the same decision - DB99/5a/(Verity Parsifal?). My room is 18x30 with wood floors and lots of glass, also open to other areas. Currently have an Art Audio Jota 24w SET (no preamp, running direct from Modwright 3910) and Devore Gibbon Super 8 speakers. Listen to everything but lean towards acoustic, jazz, world, classical, not a lot of cheese grater guitar/hair band stuff. But would like to crank up Steely Dan/The Band/Raindogs sometimes. System sounds a little boxed in and congested at times so I'm thinking about a larger speaker. I'm also considering the new Verity Parsifal Ovation. My one concern about the VS DB99 is that I heard it can sound forward. My Jota/Gibbon combo certainly couldn't be accused of being laid back (it doesn't feel like a mid-hall presentation to me) and I wouldn't want any more of the InYourFace quality. I'm aware that the Vandersteen 5a would require an amp change also. I'll be able to audition the 5a but not the DB99 or Parsifal (short of a couple of plane rides). Any wisdom out there (I'm sure there is)? Thanks
I forgot the Parsifals, good choice in speakers.
Another favorite, if you can find a pair, is the Avalon Ascent Mk.2's, simply awe-inspiring, if you have the room.
I'd give a holler to Jonathan Tinn at Chambers Audio, he's well versed on all these, and a straight shooter, nice guy to talk to and very easy to deal with, tell him I sent you.
If you can get a couple large area rug(s) and hang some drapes over the glass, your sound will improve substantially.

Perhaps others who have heard the 99's sound forward may have heard them in improper set ups. When I first got the 99's I did think they sounded forward. What I discovered was that placement was key. Once I got them positioned in my room (my room is tricky due to an unfortunate sophit) the sound stage opened up to amazing levels and the forwardness went away with the exception of instruments which were mixed to sound clean and present from the speaker positions.
The 99 is a dynamic speaker which I think some also may confuse as forward due to there not being used to so much detail and impact in the sound.
I own 99's and they don't sound forward....they reproduce what you feed them.

Thanks for the pm Rx8man-

To avoid any confusion in my above thread I was responding to Samcclark not Rx8nman. Too much holiday eggnog.
Howdy! Given the price of the speakers you're considering you need to make a trip to listen to them. We can tell you all about the speakers in question, but in the end it's your money. I travelled to hear the 5s prior to purchase deliberately. I heard them in 3 totally different systems and that was what convinced me that they were for me.

It's worth it. Plus, you'll have a relationship with the dealer you purchase from. That will be worth a lot if you ever need anything like tuning on the 5As.

Good luck and happy holidays!
To those thinking Parsifal vs 5A, I'd bet that your preference will be clear pretty quickly, though which choice you make will reflect your priorities. I own Parsifal Encores and have extensively auditioned 5As. Verities can't begin to touch the power, extension and pitch definition of the 5As in the lowest 2 octaves. Then again, I'm not sure I've heard any speaker that does (Vandy's room tuned bass system works far better than any such alternative I've ever heard.).

However, the Parsifal sounds much more dynamic and open through the mid-range. Until you get to very high levels, the 5As sound polite and laid back by comparison. Also, the Parsifal is amazingly seamless, the dynamic mid to dynamic mid bass to dynamic bass. As you get lower in pitch, you'll hear the speaker's shortcomings only in ways specific to deep bass reproduction. Conversely, as you get higher in pitch, you'll hear the 5A get less convincing unless you get the volume really cranked.

Both are great speakers. Neither is perfect. Choose your poison.
Thanks everyone for the responses - they are very helpful. I wonder if the DB-99 is a compromise between the performance of the Parsifal in the mids and upper ranges, and the 5a in the bass? I'm also wondering whether the DB-99 is more susceptible to line noise - I have a tubed CDP and a tube amp (no preamp but if I added one I was thinking of a tubed preamp). I do have 2 dedicated lines but I've had to roll some tubes to reduce tube hiss.
As for bass, I'd rather have a tight 35 Hz than a sloppy 20 - how does the Parsifal sound down to its dropoff point? Maybe I'd better find a pair of Verity and VSA to audition somewhere.
Another question for the experienced: will my large room mitigate any tendency of the DB99 to sound forward (my term)? It sounds like the consensus is that the DB99 is a lively speaker - "lively" sounds appealing, "forward" not so appealing.
Thanks for keeping the thread alive.
The DB99 does not sound forward at all to my ears. I really don't think that should be a major worry.

That said, as you and others have indicated, your own ears will be the final judge. Auditioning the speakers in question is the best way to find out.


Dynamic and alive instead of "lively" and there is no consensus which I am aware of that the 99's are forward. Any moderate to large sized room will be fine for the 99's IMO. It's about placement, as any speaker is. Find the right placement and the 99's will disapear- provided they are fed good gear up stream.

To clarify my comments on the Parsifal's bass:

On most music, you will probably find it absolutely satisfying down to the lowest registers. However, certain recordings will reveal the shortcomings of the underdamped Verity approach versus the powered, highly damped Vandy bass system. Specifically, you may want to listen to these speakers with African pop music featuring tuned drums. (Peter Gabriel's Last Tempation of Christ Soundtrack features descending drum patterns at the conclusion of several tracks.) The difference will be obvious. Also, any well recorded kick drum will probably highlight the Vandy's advantage, albeit less dramatically.

I personally would recommend auditioning the speakers with this material (or other similarly revealing music) before spending this kind of money.

On balance, I still prefer the Parsifal. They sing with one voice - one that is tremendously satisfying from the mid-bass up, and a bit less satisfying below that ...but ONLY when you have chosen music that shows off these specific shortcomings. For my listening habits, that is a pretty rare event.

Incidentally, you may prefer the Verity mid bass sound on some material - the speaker imparts just a touch of mid bass warmth that can be addictive on small jazz combos and other small scale acoustic music. While Vandy's also have a reputation for warmth, I found that the 5As sound a bit "dry" in this region (by comparison to either the Parsifals or, for that matter, any of the passive Vandersteen speakers). One man's "warm" is another's "euphonic", just as one man's "tight" is another's "dry".

If this description troubles you, absolutely AUDITION FIRST!

good luck,


No "tight vs. dry" jokes please. In retrospect, maybe a less than ideal choice of words. :<{

Have fun shopping!


P.S. If you're expanding your options beyond the 5A and the DB99 as originally posted - there are other interesting choices in the price range. Although space limitations precluded Soundlab in my listeninig room, I thought they presented another apealling "flavor" vs. the Vandy and Parsifal.
Thanks - again, a lot of useful information. I can't find anybody within a couple of hours of driving (from Ann Arbor MI, 50 miles west of Detroit) who has a DB99 to audition. My local VSA dealer offered me a reasonable price if I committed to the DB99 so that he'd get to hear them. A little bit frustrating.
Has anybody compared the Verity Parsifal Ovation to the VSA DB99? I suspect the Parsifal might need more than the 24w from my Jota. Sounds like the Parsifal is really smooth though.

PM me- the guy I bought the DB99's from is in MI he may be able to help you with listening to a pair.
>My local VSA dealer offered me a reasonable price if I committed to the DB99 so that he'd get to hear them. A little bit frustrating.<

A little bit indeed. If he is serious about selling this speaker, he should not balk at getting a pair in to demo. Sounds like more of a hobby for him than a way to pay the mortgage.

So NOW my local dealer says he can get a DB99 demo in after CES. Am I obligated to but from him (I'd say not necessarily)? I also just heard about a new horn/hybrid from Consonance:
Any thoughts? I'm happy to keep drinking from the wisdom pool out there.