by Rafe Arnott
The Vandersteen Model 7 MK II speakers ($62,000 US) are Stereophile ‘Class-A’ recommended, but at only 83.5 dB efficiency, they never really held much interest for me because I’m one of those people who loves SET tube amps and high-efficiency speakers and less crossover just means more music to me.
I hear many of you out there already: “I mean c’mon Rafe. You’re practically a dinosaur or some kind of yeti. Who really likes that stuff?”
So despite my obviously lacking credibility (I did own 85 dB rated Harbeth M30.1s, so there’s that), I ventured into the Vandersteen/Audio Research room at Newport and plunked myself down for a listen.
I was surprised.
The speakers were very dynamic and seemed to have limitless headroom to my ears, helped no doubt by the unique pairing of the MK IIs with the new Vandersteen 600 watt (into 4 ohms) M7-HPA liquid-cooled mono blocks ($TBA).
From Vandersteen’s website:
The M7-HPA (High-Pass Amplifier) is designed and built from the ground up to maximize the performance potential of Vandersteen’s powered-bass speakers, and represents a radical, ground-up rethinking of what a power amplifier and speaker system can be. (And should be!) Vandersteen has pioneered the use of subwoofer amplifiers custom-tailored to each speaker design in its powered-bass loudspeakers in conjunction with passive 100Hz high-pass filters for the ultimate performance. When paired with a Vandersteen powered-bass speaker like the flagship Model Seven Mk II, the M7-HPA monoblock forms a complete powered-bass speaker system in which the entire frequency range is driven by perfectly-tailored amplification.
Audio Research was doing their groovy tubed best thanks to the stunning REF10 Pre-amplifier ($30,000 US) and REF 10 Phono ($30,000 US) – each with separate power chassis – passing along everything the Basis/Lyra combo was sending them.
Perhaps not as tonally rich as I prefer, with the timbral textures I seem to relish slightly lacking in the upper mids, but highs were very extended and non-fatiguing and the bass made me go “Mmmmm.”
For me, the jury is still out on speaker designs that put emphasis on uber-stiff enclosures, or chassis-within-chassis designs meant to to hold drivers in a vise-like grip. I really vibe on natural wood enclosures where the approach is holistic in the sense of tuning along the lines of an instrument’s body, like a violin or guitar. Resonance is not the enemy in my books.
Your mileage may vary.