Want something more forgiving than Vandy 3a sigs

I think Mike Fremer's comment about the Vandersteen Quatros, in his Stereophile review, applies to the Vandersteen 3a sigs: "...treble performance may strike some as being too honest...". I'm one of those "some." We all know that a lot of source material out there suffers from some degree of treble emphasis. I listen to a wide range of classical and jazz recordings, and, even after a fair degree of experimentation with cables, pre-amps, and amps, I've been unable to come up with a combination that is sufficiently "forgiving" to allow me to listen, easily and comfortably, to as much of the source material that I want to hear on my Vandys. In particular, I'm often disappointed with orchestral string sound...and indeed, have figured out, with this experience, that massed strings are quite difficult to record well. My system starts with a Linn CD12. I've tried PSE, GNSC-modified ARC LS-15, Cary SLP2002, and am working with a Cary SLP98 now on the pre-amp side; and have tried a VTL ST150, a BEL1001, and an ARC VT100 MKIII on the amp side. I've used various Audioquest, Kimber, BEL, and Purist Audio cable, and am happiest with Cardas Cross and Golden Cross (to which I was led by things I read on this Forum). All of that is good gear, some of it more top-focused than others. None of it has been able to give me as consistently as warm and "lush" a listening experience as I think I ought to be able to find, and this is especially true with orchestral music. Probably not surprisingly, the Cary 2002 combined with the ARC VT-100 has leaned closest to the right direction. (Let me hasten to add, though, that a really well-recorded chamber music or jazz CD will often sound terrific with most of this equipment and the Vandys.) (I should also add that I came to the 3a sigs from the 2ce sigs, which I also felt were capable of being a bit unforgiving, frankly.)

Within Texas, where I live (and where I would prefer to buy), I've figured out that some options include Sonus Faber Cremonas, Audio Physic Scorpios, Wilson Benesh Circles (I think) and not much else (of which I am aware)that will fit into the room without creating domestic discomfort. (My wife thinks the Vandy's are too big as it is.)

Any ideas out there about the speakers mentioned, other speakers, or possibly electronics?
I think Sonus Faber might be a good direction, the Scorpio was a huge upset, I made a special trip to NYC to hear them and was not impressed, to me I heard the cabinet and they sounded stressed,might not have been broken in or any number of other issues. My dad just bought the Quatro Wood and is running ARC pre and Audioquest Niagra and Mont Blac cables, I hope when they come his experience does not mirror yours as he listens only to Classical, Opera and New Age..he is also a trained Organist, he replaced his Legacy Focus 20/20 because of brightness and somewhat sloppy bass, good speaker that served him well but it was high time to move on. You have some awesome gear. Good luck in your search.
I suspect you're in for disappointment if you feel the Vandersteens are not "forgiving". I've never heard them described in this manner. If anything, they are considered veiled.
Audio Physic sounds right for you. I had a pair of Proac 3.8's that were very forgiving.
I've auditioned Sonus Faber and Audio Physic speakers side by side. I think AP has a more revealing sound and SF a more lush sound, slightly colored on the warm side imho. I ended up getting AP Virgo IIs, because it just sounded right to my ears. But you may actually prefer the SF speakers based on your description of the sound you're trying to achieve.

My response to the harsh treble of cds is to listen mainly to LPs. The treble range, like the high notes of a violin, usually sound much better on an analogue recording.
I would also suggest ProAc's for lovely highs without harshness, esp when running with tubes as you are doing. The floorstanding models are quite slim and simple with beautiful wood finishes. The 3.8's (newest iteration of these is the D38) are a little wider than those below it in the line but to my ears they all sound wonderful, even the little Tablette Reference monitors which are only 7" wide. Here's a ad for a beautiful pair of 3.8's in California:
Wow, I am very suprised to see your comments. As a 3A Sig owner, I find their treble response to be among the most natural sounding of any speaker I've heard with the vast majority of "audiophile" speakers being much too hot in the treble.

Anyhow, this may seem obvious but have you tweeked the treble level controls on the back of the 3A's? You can effect up to a -3 dB drop in tweeter level by that adjustment alone.

Secondly, do you have any hard reflecting surfaces on the side walls that may be adding treble energy at the listening position? Thirdly, you may also want to try toeing the speakers out so that you are sitting more off-axis at the listening position.

Good luck,
As a former 3A Sig and 2ci owner, I am also surprised. Laid back and forgiving are both terms often applied to VAndys, the former in criticism and the latter in praise. I would look elsewhere for the problem (or double check the tweeter controls as noted above.)
I knew there was one brand available in Dallas that I was forgetting, that being the ProAc, and I'm grateful to be reminded of that. From what I've read, and now see from the responses above, the ProAc and the Sonus Faber appear to be the most obvious speakers to really audition closely. But I'm also open to other ideas, if there are any out there, and I'll give some time to the Audio Physic as well.

I suppose it is possible that my ears are just very sensitive to high frequencies. Frankly, I find that most high end systems I've heard seem too bright, and that's been a bugaboo for me since I started getting into high end gear years ago. I know that the Vandersteen "buzz" is not in that direction, which is why I was almost relieved to see Fremer's comments in Stereophile about the "too honest" highs in the Quatros. I auditioned the Quatros with my own CDs and was disappointed for that very reason. Yet I'll be the first to admit that, with certain combinations of gear and CDs, the 3a sigs sound "right there"-- very involving and exciting.

Thanks again for the comments, everybody. Look forward to others.
In response to a couple of comments: Yes, I do have the treble control all the way down (as I did with the 2ce sigs), and, yes, I have a window in one of the side walls to my room. (Room is about 20'x17' with the speakers about 4 feet out from one of the short walls, slightly toed in.) I've got rugs on the floor and used to have fabric covered walls, now dry-wall, but no difference in sound. I'd be more concerned about the window, except that the "too honest" high problem is something I encountered in the showroom as well.

I am very interested to note that Krisjan's 3a-sig system is somewhat like the most satisfactory version of my own, but with Cary amplification, and their top end pre-amp. (As noted, I seem to be happiest with the Cary pre-amp and the ARC VT100 amp.) Perhaps I should take that as a form of advice that I should explore the Cary line further, on the amplification side, as I also consider other speakers. Sounds like we're listening to similar repertoire.

Thanks again.
Quad & tubed c-j?
Hi,I'm a Vandersteen owner(3A's)and agree with the other Vandy owners who have already replied that these are not a bright sounding speaker at all but rather a very natural sounding one.That being said,if a speaker with a forgiving treble is what you desire I'd suggest you give the Spendor line a listen.Models in the prior Classic or S series more laid back than the current SE series.
If your ears are indeed that sensitive to high frequencies, you might want to consider one of the many popular single driver speakers, i.e. Cain and Cain,etc. Go to the search engine and type in the two words "single driver". Lots of information.
Are your AC plugs in pre amp, Cd player etc in the same AC phase leg as your amp?
Could there be any other component tied to the pre amp that could be on a dissimilar ac leg?
What is your CD player?
What about tilt back with washers?
Do you have an area rug on the floors 1st reflection point??
Whats the Bias set on the ARC 65MA?
Hows the small driver tubes in the ARC?
Is your equipment on Glass shelves?
Is there a TV in the middle?
Cheers Johnnyr
One more thing comes to mind - try tilting the 3A's back some more. This should help.
Verity Parsifal,used around 7K. Rockport Mira, new around
13k but have never seen them used. There is something
utterly right sounding with the upper frequncies of the
Parsifal. I have heard some of the more expensive Rockports
and they also had that effect on me. The Mira may not have
the Esotar tweeter though, so I am not sure there as I
have not heard that one. The only thing that made me sell
the Parsifal was wanting more speaker as far as filling
the room with sound , moving more air... I have no direct
experience with the 3A but own the 5A. I am in the process
of trying to get the most from them. I have not yet equaled
the sound of the Verity as far as texture in the vocals and
just kind of falling in to it and forgetting the system.
In fairness to the 5A, I am not using the Tenor 75 which
may very well have everything to do with this. I hope this
helps as I do think it would be hard to go wrong with Veritys. I definitely foung them to be too warm with the
likes of Cardas GC and C-J amplification. They are a first
class company as well.
Let me suggest the Harbeth line of speakers. Yes, I'm a dealer for Harbeth, but only because they are marvelous speakers. They sing like music and are supremely musical while still being resolving, transparent with very open 3D imaging. In addition, they display incredibly natural tonality and are perfectly suited for acoustic jazz and classical music.
Sounds to me like Sherod has a good idea. What I've heard from Vandersteens has never been the least bit shrill or unnatural in the treble. And if you already have them at -3db and still find them harsh, your HF hearing must be highly sensitive. Better to go with something that just doesn't go over 12khz or so.
You may want to consider treating your room acoustics. A little fabric on the walls isn't enough to say "been there, done that, didn't help". Room treatments will help with nearly any system you end up with, so there isn't a downside. Cost of 4-6 panels is modest.
Why don't you just get an EQ that you can switch in and out for those particular recordings that most annoy you?
Your first mistake was lending credibility to a Fremer comment. As someone else said, look elsewhere if your highs seem unforgiving and then ask the Vandys for their forgivenesss.
I agree that there isn't a lot of hope when you find a Vandersteen 3A Sig too aggressive. But here are some thoughts:

-You may be listening to some recordings that are never going to sound the way you want them to on any system, so trying to make your system "fix" those is not a good idea. Bad recordings can't be fixed, and skewing your system in an attempt to make them more palatable will ruin all other good recordings.

-Try tilting the Vandersteens further back than recommended in the manual. This will make them even more forgiving.

-Install some (four or more) Echobusters or similar large panels 2'x4' fiberglass insulation panels in your room to change the tonal balance and stop strong reflections from sidewalls. Be sure to cover any hard surfaces behind or between the speakers anywhere near your eye/ear level.

-Add a 2Wq subwoofer (or pair) with the correct value high pass filter. This will make the system sound more effortless, more open and relaxed.

I’m a dealer for Vandersteen, Linn, Audio Research, ProAc and Audioquest.
I'll look into the single driver speaker concept, and thank you for the suggestion...that's a new idea for me.

I have tilted the speakers back so that I am not in direct axis with the tweeters.

My equipment is on 2 separate circuits, the amp on one, and everything else on another, which is a dedicated circuit separate from the rest of the household current. The amp circuit has only a few lightbulbs to power, other than the amp. I have no current conditioner/treatment in place. I have isolation stands, and all of the way between me and the speakers is an area rug.

I wish I could experiment with acoustic treatment of the room, but I've got domestic issues (as many of us do). That's part of why I concluded I just needed to look for another speaker. But, to be honest, I've heard the 5's, for example, a number of times at the dealers, and I just plain don't like them, or the Quatros (also heard at the dealers). Fremer put it very well re the Quatros...they suffer from "Too Much Information" distortion--and that's how I perceive the 5's and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the 3a's. But let me emphasize again: with a certain kind of recording, I am in complete agreement that the Vandersteens sound superb. However, too much of what I listen to does not fit into that mold...depending, in part, on what's driving the speakers. And, along those lines, I think the most interesting advice (other than to try new speakers, which I will do) is to look further into the Cary direction. As mentioned, the Cary pre-amp has been the best addition to the system that I've made, in terms of warming up the sound and easing the highs a bit. I don't want to lose ALL of the detail, but I want soft, easy-going highs. Maybe Cary amplification would do what I want.

Re the equalizer, I confess that I was "brought up" (if you will) in the school of thought that you put as little between the signal and the ear as possible, so I haven't really considered that direction...but if I can't resolve the issue in other ways, that is one potential solution. It would just have to be a darn fine equalizer, I guess.

You've all been very kind to write, and I appreciate it. Now I've definitely got some new ideas. If somebody has others, I'm glad to hear.
I would suggest you try out BAT gear, say one of their pre-amps. I am fairly sensitive to overly bright sound as well and when I was auditioning, it was always the system with a BAT pre-amp that made music to me. Nothing else I tried (ARC, NAIM, Classe, Blue Circle) clicked the way BAT did. I ended up with Vandys, a BAT pre-amp and an Ayre amp.
Some of my music are not the greatest recordings in the world - pop music from the 80's, Salsa music from the 70's. Therefore I find most high-end speakers just too bright and analytical.

I am suprised you find the 3A sigs too bright. They seem just right for me. But that's me, we all have different ears.

I have Spendor SP2/3. You may want to consider the Classic Spendor series SP100, SP2/3, or SP31/P. You probably don't want the Spendor SP1/2 (two tweeters) or the S series since they are less forgiving (but not bright to my ears). Note the Classic series is getting replaced the "P" becomes "R". Don't know when they will be available in he US though.

I used to have Sonus Faber Concerto. Loved them. They are more lush and forgiving than the Spendor.

Others to consder: Gershman, Vienna Acoustics, Harbeth, Living Voice, Audio Note.

I find bringing wood into the room adds some natural warmth. Maybe something to try?
consider a speaker with the manger driver and also consider the aerial 10 t.

you might also consider toeing the vandersteens out and using room treatment on the side wall as well as covering up the window with an absorbing material, if possible.
I recently heard some Audio Note AN-Ks that were much less bright than all the speakers I've heard recently. However, if something is mixed really badly, you will hear it, but my impression was they announced the "badness" of the mix without making it painful. They did not screech on well-recorded violins for instance, but a track with a lead vocal that had way too much "brilliance" on it was clearly audible as such.

I listened to ProAcs in the same session and by comparison they were certainly more analytical than the Audio Notes.
I appreciate everybody's contribution. I've got the Cary SLP98 up and running, and with it in the system, the top end is certainly more relaxed. So I'm going to look at the speakers described, and if that doesn't work, consider some Cary amplification.
Further report for anyone curious: I worked out a trade with a buddy and now have Harbeth M30s, at least on a temporary basis. I prefer their mids and highs to the Vandersteens, personally...lots of musical sounds, though perhaps somewhat less detail. End result is easier on these ears, nice and warm, and not as rough with the inevitably problematic recordings that come along. Still experimenting with the right electronics among those I have. Also auditioned the Scorpios (pretty good first impression, nice bottom end), the Cremonas (strange sizzle with sibilants, but otherwise very rich), and Wilson Sophias (which I mostly avoided, even though they sounded nice, because my wife said they looked like something out of Star Wars and otherwise exhibited, shall we say, extreme disinterest). Probably will spend a bit more time with the Scorpios and also found some Spendors to listen to...and ProAcs and a smaller Wilson Benesch. Would love to hear some Harbeth Super HL5's and M40's.

It's a real pain, but trying some different speakers in one's own system is really worth it, in terms of figuring out issues with the electronics, the room, and the realities of what's available. Obvious, perhaps, but something I avoided for a long time because of the hassle factor.
I'm glad to hear that you were able to make a mutual trade with your buddy and that you found something more pleasing to your ears.
I have much the same problem. I am really sensitive to harshness in the upper middle and highs. This is despite the fact that I can't hear anything above 12KHz. The biggest problem in my opinion is the quality of recordings. So many of my favorite CDs are really poorly recorded.

The Vandys are on my short list to audition. It should be interesting. I'll have to add the Harbeths if they are available locally. Personally I have found a Behringer equalizer/RTF to be real boon.

I found the treble on the Acoustic Zens to be real sweet, but a bad recording is still a bad recording.
This has been an interesting thread. My sensitivity to a quality sound system that produces irritation in the higher frequencies is, no doubt, similar to others who have posted here, and, like so many others, my reaction to Eweedhome's description was one of amazement or disbelief.

I've never owned a Vandersteen speaker, but one of my closest audiophile friends has been using the 3A Signatures for years. My reaction to hearing them for the first time was that these were far more reticent than most speakers in their price/performance range, but I've modified my opinon on this quite significantly over the years.

It has been useful to read of the equipment used with these speakers, Eweedhome, but I never once read any specifics on the software that exacerbates your displeasure with the sound, and that, IMHO, could go a long way for others to "walk in your shoes."

I wouldn't presume to make any recommendations on new equipment, as I, unlike most audiophiles, found the speakers and amplifier I could live with more than a decade ago. Since then, the changes I've made have been small but usually very positive, and I spend most of my time seeking for the best recordings.
I'm happy to oblige with additional information about source material. Here are some "torture test" discs that I like very much, but that I do not favor on the Vandersteens--either at my home, or the dealer's: Delius by Barbarolli on EMI 65119; Delius V Con, etc. by Titner on Naxos 8.557242; Joseph Marx, Nature Trilogy for Orch., ASV 1137; Telemann, Orch Suites, Schneider, cpo 999994-2. The problem is in the massed strings, especially as the strings play louder. They can sound somewhat thin and edgy, and generally unpleasant (and not "real") on the Vandys. As noted, I got the best results at home with the Vandersteens coupled with the Cary SLP 2002 coupled with the ARC VT 150 MkIII (but on the 4 ohm tap...the 8 ohm tap was unpleasantly bright on almost all source material). This was using Cardas Cross or Golden Cross cable (prefer the former, frankly).

These recordings all sounded better on the Wilson Sophias and the Scorpios. They sound better, also, on the Harbeths. When I say "better", I mean the strings are warmer, generally fuller, and generally without harshness.

My reference comparison comes from having played a great deal of music (I have a degree in music) and, in the course of my travels for business, having heard some wonderful orchestras in some of the great halls we have in this country: Carnegie, Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Symphony Hall in Boston, and others. (Most of my orchestral listening has been in either Orchestra Hall or Carnegie Hall in the last 15 years.)

This has, indeed, been an interesting thread, thanks to all the considered responses. I admit that I have had an issue with "brightness", or whatever you want to call it, that has been a bear to deal with since I've been playing around with high end gear, on and off, since the mid-80s. I am coming to believe that it is possible to have too much detail in the high end, that makes some recordings sound really good, but others not so good (even though they are not necessarily bad recordings). I also completely agree that there are some recordings that are just so lousy, nothing with make them sound good.


My next project is to listen to various of the Spendor speakers.

Well, I was hoping that there would be something familiar among your list of recordings, Eweedhome, but, alas, I have none of these. Nor have I ever had the good fortune to hear the legendary Linn CD 12, but its reputation would have me thinking that that the culprit futzing with your string tones has to be something quite simple. Given that the 3As have a reputation for showing low impedance in the bass frequencies, I'd gather that the 4 Ohm setting on the ARC would produce the better sound.

If there are any similarities between our systems, they would be in our choices of amp and preamp. I run a 23 year old Quicksilver that makes 95 watts per channel, and a highly modified tube preamp that's based on the Marantz 7 design. This pair develops considerable dynamic range and good sound, but can sound a bit strident with many audiophile "sacred cow" accessories. I solved the string tone issue years ago by doing several things, including rolling literally scores of tubes through my components, then finally finding the solution by replacing the vaunted Telefunken 12AX7s with some Sylvania 5751s and replacing my speaker cables with those offered by Monarchy Audio. These might work for you as they are extremely smooth but open in the highest frequencies.
I appreciate your thoughts, sgbaird, and, in fact, I just picked up an old ARC SP-8 for the fun of it to see what it does to the sound to go back in time, so to speak. I may well send it to Great Northern Sound for mods later. I felt that GNSC did a fine job with a my 2nd hand ARC LS-15. In the LS-15, I have some Amperex Bugle Boys, which seem nice. The Harbeths are certainly "easier" in the highs than the Vandersteens. I'm antsy to get my ARC VT100 back to see how it works with the Harbeths and my growing collection of pre-amps. I remember when those Quicksilvers came out...that was big news, and I almost got some, but ran out of money during a divorce in '89 (was I paying to much attention to my audio gear?) and lived with the same set-up after that for 10 years, happily...I know it can be done!
Hi - I'm new to audiogon but have really appreciated the level of intelligence and experience in this community evidenced by so many threads. I do not have the breadth of experience most of you do, but I wanted to add a comment -- forgive me if someone else has addressed this and I somehow missed it -- but have you considered a really good tube amp to warm up the sound of strings? (I'm sensitive to this issue myself, and as a musician am constantly comparing various systems with the sound of real instruments in the room.) I would also say that the Manger speakers, driven by a tube amp (I know, the company recommends solid state --mostly for power, as the small zeroboxes are quite inefficient -- but I much prefer them with a tube) are downright miraculous with chamber, vocal, orchestral, etc.

(The system I'm most familiar with comprises mostly Linn components, with the exception of a Mark Levinson pre-amp and, for a while, a nOrh SE tube amp.)
Thank you for commenting, Limbic. When I did the original post, I noted my system, which includes an ARC (Audio Research) VT 100 Mk III, which is a tube amp. But I didn't SAY it was a tube amp...we get so caught up in our shorthand, you know. I agree with you (also as a musician) that tubes, whatever their irritations, do some things really right, and one of them is strings. Even though I changed from the Vandersteens to the Harbeth speakers, I'm still using the VT 100, and I haven't found anything I like better.

Now, to be honest, I have no clue what you are talking about when you say "Manger" speakers. I believe someone else mentioned that name, and I wasn't sure what it was. Can you tell me about them (off line if you wish).

If you are able to audition Silverline Audio speakers, you might like what you hear. They are designed with a slightly lower output in the upper-mids/lower treble, and I liked what I heard from the Bolero model very much. I too am extremely sensitive to any emphasis or distortion in the brightness range. My modest Vandy 1Cs are likewise a bit "too honest" in this range, although I cannot rule out a contribution from my room and associated gear.

Also, although I have not heard them, Magnolia (inside many Best Buys) carries Vienna Acoustics. The reputation they have is for a very warm presentation that is easy on people with ears like ours.

Oh, and if you're in Texas, I can strongly recommend you hunt down Roman Audio. Their Centurian model (~6500/pr) would work well for you. I loved them the two times I heard them. Very smooth, transparent and liquid. Tube-friendly, too!

One last thought: I always thought that ARC tube amps had a rep for soomewhat coolish sound, despite the tubes. Although Vandersteens are often demo'd and paired with ARC tube amps, what about something warmer, like the Moscode?
Bondman - Thank you for your ideas. I've not heard any of the speakers you mentioned, and I will keep them in mind.

You're certainly correct about the ARC reputation. Two things: My LS15 was modified by Steve Huntley at Great Northern Sound. It is no longer "cool" sounding. I bought it (unmodified) 2nd hand because I wanted to try the ARC "sound" knowing that Vandersteens were often paired with ARC. In stock condition, I really disliked it. I sent it to Steve on a lark, essentially (well, he has a great reputation, and told me he thought after he was through with it, I would feel much differently about it). He was right; it was an amazing difference.

Also, with the VT 100 amp, you get quite a different sound from the 4 ohm output tap than you do from the 8 ohm. Significantly warmer.

I've enjoyed the ARC equipment--used as described--more than I expected and more than several other pieces I've tried, including 2 Cary pre-amps.

I also like the Harbeths that I'm using now, instead of the Vandersteens. I may be too lazy, at this point, to change.
Let me add my 2c.
I used to have the 2CE Sig, then powered by a 50w tube amp with lots of current. It sounded greated, but I couldn't get ride of an irritating ringing from the tweeter. My understanding was that the 3A Sig tweeter was supposed to be an improvement over the 2s. Anyway, I later sold them off and purchased the Cabasse Baltic/Thor combo which I am very happy with till now.

Many moons later while at a dealer/friend's shop, I again heard the 2CE Sig II(new model) which supposedly has the upgraded tweeter from the 3A Sig and it sounded surprising smooth and good, no irritating sounds from the well-behaved tweeter at whatever frequency it was. Further investigation reveiled that it was the amp powering the 2CE SigII which had such good control over the speaker even when pushed loud.

I therefore advise that you consider the Sanders ESL amp for your 3As.

Another point to consider is power supply. Some have raised it already, but I'm not sure if it was fully considered, especially with CD playback. Till now I have always used the PS Audio P300 in "sine" mode to power all my source equipment. While the multiwave has always been recommended by the manufacturer, I've found, after extensive listening, that while it does enhance detail, it does this to the detriment of the music's flow. The pure sine wave let the music flow more naturally and smoothly.

If a lot of users claim the 3As are laid back, its hard to image that it is at fault unless you have a lemon. So chances are the fault lies somewhere else - ie the power amp or the power supply.

Of course these are just my "guesses" based on my pass experience with Vandy speakers, but I think you should not give up on them so easily. Going to an all warm setup may not be the best solution as it will tend to mask detail. As a musician, I think musical coherence in terms of tonal accuracy and musical timing are paramount to your enjoyment of the music.
Thanks, CMK. Actually, the Vandy's are gone, in favor of Harbeth M30s. Yes, I lost a bit of detail; however, that was in favor of musicality--to my ears, anyway. It took me months to get used to the idea of giving up on the Vandersteens, mainly because so many people said "But everybody else says they're laid back!" (though I wonder how many of those folks had actually lived with them, day in and day out--though I know a few did, and you lived with the 2's). But the person I finally listened to was the one who said "Trust your ears." I finally did, and never looked back.

In fairness to Vandys 2's and 3a's, compared to a lot of speakers, they are less aggressive. (I don't feel quite that way about the Quattros.) They just weren't "less aggressive" enough, for my ears.

Reproduction of high frequency information is one of the toughest duties of stereo gear. I happen to be very sensitive to that area, for whatever reason. I used to be a musician, have an undergraduate degree in Music Theory, and played jazz, and listen to lots of classical music, and have spent a lot of time in the great concert halls of this country. This has nothing to do with not knowing how live music sounds like. It's just an ear preference/taste issue. (It also was not an electronics issue. I auditioned plenty in my home and stores. I just couldn't get the sound where I envisioned it. Now I'm a bit closer.)

I appreciate your thoughts.
Dear Eweedhome,
Thanks for the clarification about your amp -- you're correct, I didn't realize the ARC VT100 was tube. Always good to learn something new!

About the Manger speakers.... happy to describe them a bit. They're German-made (and thus rhyme with "longer" as opposed to "danger") and use a unique bending-wave, full-range (80-33,000Hz!) transducer. The plentiful technical details are available on the Manger web site (I tried copying the url into this message, but it's too long for the English-Language version, so I'd just Google "Manger speakers" and poke around what comes up. Manger UK is one of the first hits, and you can download pdfs with all the technical information).

If you want to audition them, the U.S. dealer will ship them to you for an in-home workout, along with a demo CD produced by Manger bearing an extraordinary range of sounds, from church bells pealing to Livingston Taylor whistling to orchestra, etc. I have never been so astonished as when I first hooked up these speakers (and many friends had the same reaction): I could have sworn there was someone right in the room whistling -- and it didn't matter if I was in the "sweet spot" or not. They sound just as realistic being overheard from the next room. They capture the woody, organic feel of live instruments (John Eliot Gardner's Bach cantatas never sounded so full and stirring); they are lush and smooth, crystal clear, there is no roll-off in the upper treble. And all this with the smallest speakers they make, the zerobox 109's!

I've compared the Manger zeroboxes side-by-side with a number of much more expensive speakers, including horn Trios, and to my ears they outshone every one of them except the $100+K horns for a fraction of the price (around $7K now, I think). Granted, they were also being driven by a variety of high-quality components, but still...

Speaking of other components, I've heard these speakers with a number of different amps, both solid state and tube. Despite the fact that the U.S. Manger dealer (and Daniela Manger herself) recommend solid state amps because the zerobox 109's are relatively low efficiency and sensitivity (4 ohms and 88 dB), and the reviewer at tnt-audio.com speculated that tube amps might, with their warmth, be too much of a good thing (though he didn't listen to that combo), my then-husband and I found that quality tube amps simply allowed the speakers (and the music) to sound the most real, immediate, moving, involving. (It was during these tests that I discovered the glories of the Wavac $20K tube amp.... sigh!)

Strangely, the company seems to suffer from bad marketing decisions, kind of like Apple before the iPod (superior product, small market). They've done little to promote their product, even hurting sales by weirdly recommending some rather low-end component accompaniments that don't do the speakers justice. (They started out, years ago, selling the driver by itself to DIY-ers who would make the speaker boxes, and this early history of frugality has persisted, to their detriment.) But the vast majority of people who have actually heard them, both professional reviewers and "laymen", are blown away by them. I think those of us who listen primarily to acoustic music are the most appreciative of their qualities.

Hope you get a chance to thoroughly test them out some day.