What’s up, Vandersteen?
Vandersteen Audio is one of the most enduring and respected speaker companies in the current scene, so a new model would tend to arouse one’s curiosity. Especially considering that they are a company that does not release new models lightly, tending towards refining its existing products.
So I decided that a visit to my friend (and Vandersteen dealer) John Rutan of Audio Connection in Verona, N.J. to give the new Treo a listen would be in order. But first, a conflict of interest alert. Years ago, I did repairs of tube audio gear for his store. That said, the real conflict is that I like John personally and enjoy hanging and listening with him. If you are one who believes that the world and everyone in it is basically corrupt, I won’t be offended if you take these musings with a massive grain of salt. And if you believe that one should only talk about gear that you have listened to under controlled conditions in your own system, I’ll point out that I am just some dude with a blog, so relax. With that said, let’s continue.
The Treo, despite the three-ness of its name, does not replace the Vandersteen 3A Signature (which continues in the line). In fact, I would say it compliments the 3A. The Trio is smaller and with its greater expanse of wood veneer, more attractive than the 3A. This happens to result in the 3A’s having deeper bass and being $1500 cheaper than the Treo. But the Treo compensates with a bit better midrange and a more exacting soundfield. I would also suspect that it would work better in rooms that the larger 3A tends to overpower.
This does not mean that the Treo is bass shy. It actually did quite well and the bass seemed well aligned, but it doesn’t have the bass depth that the 3A has. I could understand some preferring the 3A for this reason, but to me, the Treo sounds better than the 3A overall. The Treo is an intriguing speaker I hope to hear more of and another well-judged Vandersteen design.
Next up was the revision of the 1C, the 1Ci. The Vandy 1 series may be one of the more unjustly ignored speakers in audio, being overshadowed by the 2 and 3 series over the years (though it got an excellent review in TAS many years ago). It’s also Richard Vandersteen’s idea of a minimonitor! His concept is, why put a small speaker on a stand and waste all that area that could be used to add to the enclosure volume and give the customer more bass and more efficiency? Hard to argue…
I gave them a short listen and found them to be quite good. Whether you should buy a small stand mount or the 1Ci is a matter of taste, but to me they had most of the finesse of small monitors in their price range with better bass and the ability to play louder. They do not have the detail, imaging or overall precision of some of the premium priced small monitors out there, but I don’t suspect that many people are trying to decide between a pair of 1Ci’s and a pair of, oh let’s say, Magico Q1’s anyway…
Next was a trip to hear the Vandersteen 7’s in the large listening room. This room has a quite nice system with Aesthetix Atlas Signature Mono blocks and Aesthetix CD playback. The 7 is Vandersteen’s flagship and retail for $48,000. A lot of money but, in this age, not unreasonable for a major company’s flagship.
The sound was excellent overall. Especially noteworthy was its performance on piano which was, to me, absolutely first-rate. Right up there with a pair of Focal Utopia’s I heard at a Stereophile show years ago that fooled me into thinking a live concert was happening inside from outside the room. A speaker like the MBL Radialstrahler 101 may do more imaging “tricks” and my old pair of Bill Legall rebuilt and modded IRS Series V had more authority, but the 7, in its own way, sound to be fully competitive with the other flagship/big buck systems I have heard over the years.
So John, thanks for the “taste” of the latest from Vandersteen.