Audio Alternative, Vandersteen, VTL, AudioQuest | RMAF 2019

Audio Alternative, the highly-regarded dealer from Fort Collins CO, featured an impressive room that included the debut of the new Vandersteen Kento Carbon loudspeakers ($37,500/pair), as well as the new Vandersteen M5-HPA monoblock power amplifiers. The Kento, which will replace the Vandersteen 5A Carbon in early 2020, uses a carbon tweeter, the midrange driver from the Model 7 Mk. II and a powered side-firing 9″ subwoofer. Richard Vandersteen says the Kento has a “more open and expansive soundstage and greater bass authority” than the 5A Carbon. I’m not familiar enough with the older model to confirm, but I will say one thing–great sound!

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Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019 coverage sponsored by Core Power Technologies A/V

That’s what my notes on the Audio Alternative room say, anyway. “Great sound!” I remember the moment where I scribbled that vague accolade in my notebook. The Audio Alternative system also included VTL amplification, an Aurender digital set-up, AudioQuest cabling and an AMG turntable/Lyra Atlas analog rig that was exceptionally quiet in the groove. The sound was so balanced and satisfying that I simply couldn’t focus on one attribute or another. The overall sound was a happy sound, meaning that I could listen for hours and hours with a stupid grin on my face. Open and expansive soundstage? Greater bass authority? Absolutely, but the whole of the system seemed almost flawless in its handling of musical textures and inner detail.

Over the last few shows, I’ve been assigning myself the Vandersteen rooms on purpose. I can remember the first time I heard a pair of Vandersteen speakers, back in Philadelphia at the now defunct Chestnut Hill Audio. It was a pair of the legendary 2Cs, which were still $1295/pair back in 1989 or 1990. Those were magnificent loudspeakers, with deep bass and incredible imaging, and I can remember starting a fund to buy these. $1295/pair was within my reach back then, and I’m not sure why I never pulled the trigger. I think about that with a modicum of regret whenever I walk past the Vandersteen rooms at high-end audio shows. Now I make sure to go in and sit down, as I did in the Audio Alternative room.

Here’s the thing about the Audio Alternative room at the 2019 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. Vandersteen, to me, always meant an affordable speaker that sounded like it should cost at least twice as much. While models such as the 1 series and the 2 series still exist, I’m thrilled with the idea that Richard Vandersteen now seems to focus on the other end of the range, and he’s excelling at pushing the envelope with his state-of-the-art designs. While $37,500/pair is far from affordable for most people, it’s amazing what Richard Vandersteen accomplished at this price. The Kento is a truly impressive design, and you owe it to yourself to check them out.