Von Schweikert VR33 or JBL K2 S5500?

I'm debating between these two speakers, at roughly the same price, the JBL's being a bit cheaper with partial trade-in and backed by the shop that offers them, which includes being able to eventually trade them in or sell them back, though at substantial loss.

The VR33's are brand new, shipped direct from the factory, but would need to be imported to my present country, where there is no local dealership or after-sales service, and no brand recognition to speak of.

I've heard both, and like both a lot, for different reasons, the 33's more, but the importing and resale factor looms somewhat darkly over them. The VR33's are substantially more clear and have much deeper and more refined bass, overall a more refined "high-end" sound, while the JBL's seem more forgiving of old or bad recordings and have loads of punch, and are also very enganging and put that "grin" on the face of listeners.

The speakers would be in a room of about 5X10 Meters (15X30 ft), with lots of placement freedom except no solid wall to be near. This is supposedly not a big issue for the JBL's, according to their manual.

The 33's are designed to sound great with a wall close behind them, which they absolutely do, but I have no such wall to place them against. Albert very kindly personally offered a bass equalizing circuit option to compensate for the 33's being away from a back wall, but I haven't actually heard this implementation, though after visiting his factory and seeing and hearing some of his great work first-hand, I tend to trust im on it.

I would be powering with a McIntosh MA6800 (about 150 W/ch) or Luxman 509u (about 175 W/ch) initially, but that can be changed later. Current main source is digital files (FLAC, WAV, etc.) from a MacMini via Chord64 DAC through my own homemade Bottlehead Foreplay preamp (very nice item!).

I listen to a hugely wide spectrum of music, dominated by jazz, blues, and Western classics, but including loads of stuff from around the world. As examples, I'm particularly fond of Rachmaninoff, Beethoven's late string quartets, Pandolfo, Coltrane, Hendrix, Eliane Elias, Vinnie Colaiuta, Marc Ribot, Joan Baez, Eva Cassidy, Stacey Kent, Cassandra Wilson, Classical Indian and Chinese, etc., etc...

Has anyone heard either or both of these speakers and can offer any quick opinions, positive or negative on either?

The JBL opportunity will fade quickly if I don't act on it.
speakers are not really an investment. buy what sounds best to you.
@Larryken - Thank you for your comment, but I think by "investment" you seem to imply a way to make money. I don't believe anyone here expects the price of these things to increase; however, in my own financial realm, resale value is one of many factors to consider with any large purchase, just as for a home or car. It was not meant to be the major gist of my post. Perhaps I didn't write my post clearly.

I was hoping some people could freely offer comments on sonic and/or workmanship qualities, driving and placement issues, etc., that I am probably overlooking with either or both of these speakers. Any such advice would be most appreciated.
Hi Deaf. I've not heard the JBLs, but I have heard the VR33s. I thought they sounded pretty good (though they did not make my short list), but I think it would be a shame to buy a speaker and not use it as designed. The most conspicuous feature of the VR33 is suitably for near wall placement, something few speakers are designed to do. But you can't take advantage of this feature, nor do you need to. You've got a big room, and lots of placement flexibility, why not take advantage of it? For example, lots of folks don't have the room to try Maggies, and wish they could; why not consider the 1.7 or 3.7?

My guess is that it will in general be much easier to get an impressive soundstage with speakers that place well into the room, and I say this as someone who very happily used a near-wall design (the North Creek Eska) for 5 years. Why not look into a broad range of spreakers, and take advantage of your room?

My 2c,


Hello John. Yours seems like "sound" advice regarding the VR33's, their design, and my room conditions, though I haven't given-up on them yet. They really are good, and I have lots of time to consider those, and also other places to put them if I do get them.

The JBL's, on the other hand, are a single minty-conditioned pair of rare speakers in a high-turnover used shop where we have to act fast or lose the chance to purchase anything, so I felt urgent about them. I imagine they would sound really good in the big room. I went back again today to attempt a last listen while my name was still on them (we only get a few days each max), almost impossible to do in that noisy shop with really bad set-up conditions, competing with several other people listening loudly to other systems, people talking loudly 2 feet from your ear, shop people stretching packing tape and testing amps and speakers, and the front doors wide open facing a major busy boulevard with icy air blowing in, and while I still like the K2s a lot, under those conditions they just didn't ("couldn't"?) have that "WOW!" factor that most of my components gave me at first listen, so I'll probably just let the JBL's slip by.

I am very curious about Maggies, but in spite of all the great reviews and testimonials around, they are not yet popular in Japan at all, probably because of room size limitations, for one. I absolutely loved pair of Quad ESL 63's I heard once (astonishing!), but the only Maggie I've ever seen or heard here was a so-so conditioned "SMGc" model in the same used shop. It was not set-up well for listening at all, a single speaker up against a glass front door at the store entranceway, its mate not on display, driven by a lower model amp, and my impression was not great based on that. Based on your post, I looked and found only two sellers of new Maggies here, both selling the 1.7 model only, at 2.2 to 2.6 times the US price. These are selling only online, with no way to listen first.

Your point was well-taken, and I'll try to continue searching for my speaker upgrade in a more relaxed and considered way.
Hi Deaf. My hunch is you were right to pass on the JBLs.

You're in Japan, eh? That's a wrinkle. If you gave some ideas about what you can readily listen to there, folks might have more ideas about what things might be worth full consideration for you.

Hi John, and thanks again. Among vintage lovers, McIntosh, Luxman, and Marantz among amps, and JBL, Altech, Rogers, and Tannoy among speakers are especially popular here, along with all Japanese items, but many others are available, and most of the things I read about on Audiogon come-up here at least sometimes.

I've got three basic systems in three rooms, two of which I'm happy with, and one of which I hope to upgrade. The sets I'm happy with match well with the rooms they're in.

The system that lacks something for me is out in a mountainside farmhouse, which I spend a couple of days/week in, generally. I'm a bit hard of hearing on one side, and prefer 4-speaker systems over two.

Here's my current set-up there:

Source: iMac, MacMini, or MacBook (alternately) feeding mostly lossless files through VOX or Amarra

DAC: Chord64
Pre: Bottlehead Foreplay III
Amp: McIntosh MA6800 (150W/ch into 4, 6, or 8 Ohms)
Speakers: B&W 805N on one short end of the long room; Yamaha NS-1000XW on the opposite short end.
Sub: Entec 1000LF

Yammies drop off at about 37Hz, which I sometimes supplement with the sub. The clean and clear highs of the 805's supplement that weakish point of the Yammies.

Upgrade wish:
I want to replace the Yammies with another full-range speaker that's at least equally clear and with equally wonderful midrange and clear tight bass, but with much better highs, lower bass, and especially a deep and linked sense of space; a more coherent soundstage.

The qualities of soundstage space and tonal coherence are attractions to me of both the VR33's and the JBL K2's. The bass tone from the VR33's was especially wonderful to me, while the bass was a weak point of the K2's, which sounded a bit muddled even compared to my Yammies, and would have also needed the sub.

I'm not partial to old vintage or new technologies. I just want it to sound clear, rich, full, and deep.

Some other equipment I have available that could be swapped to that system are:

Luxman L509u Integrated (about 150 W/8; 300 W/4 Ohms)
McIntosh MC-30 Monoblocks (30 W, unused and in storage)
Manley Stingray Integrated (20 or 40 W)
Hegel HD10 DAC
Sonus Faber Minima Amators or Spica TC-60's could be swapped for the B&W 805's in that room if the Yammies are replaced.

I don't know if anyone will be interested in offering advice for the upgrade, but I will appreciate any well-intended input.
Have you considered any Japanese speaker manufacturers? Yamamoto makes an interesting one (www.yamamotosoundcraft.com).
Hello Gsm18439. The link doesn't work, but I found the company via Google. Are you referring to their YS-500 line at 3 times the price, the YS-605 at 6 times of those discussed, or some other model? Have you heard any speakers made by this mfr? What did you find "interesting" about them?

Of course I've tried many Japanese mfrs, and as I've described, I own 2 sets of Yamahas. I often try others when I go to the shops, too. Many old classics are very good, but none have "WOW"ed me yet, since the Yammies did that 10 years ago.