Vandersteen Audio 3A loudspeaker Page 2

Dual-input, screw-type barrier terminals, for either the recommended bi-wiring or for bi-amping, are located at the rear of the enclosure, along with level controls for both the midrange and tweeter. These level controls are limited to a useful range of +2 to -3dB.

So far, the description of the 3A tracks that of the 3 almost down the line. But the 3A incorporates a number of those invisible refinements. The woofer/acoustic coupler interaction has been modified for a more extended bass response (though the specs don't reflect any change here). The acoustic coupler itself has benefited from development research conducted for the soon-to-be-introduced Model 5, and now has an aluminum-alloy cone and an altered magnet assembly. It also has a new, shaped pole-piece with copper end-rings. The latter are said to result in a longer linear excursion and consistent impedance throughout the driver's range of movement.

The midrange driver is unchanged from the Model 3, but now undergoes an extended factory break-in period. Following this break-in, the drivers are calibrated into matched pairs. Though the 3A's tweeter is essentially the same as that in the 3, modifications are said to improve its transparency and resolution. The 3A's crossover uses the same quality-level parts (and internal cabling) as the 3, but has been reconfigured physically, and modified for better phase compensation.

As was the case with the original Model 3, the 3A has LED overload indicators wired across the woofer terminals that become visible through the grillecloth when the loudspeaker is being overdriven. They never illuminated for me—I guess I didn't drive the 3As hard enough to energize them.

Finally, the maximum thickness of the 3A's cabinet has been increased from 1.25" to 2". Overall, however, the 3A is only spec'd at one pound heavier than the 3, so the increase in cabinet density appears to be minor.

Owners of older Model 3s can have their loudspeakers upgraded to current specifications for a reasonable $650/pair, which includes freight costs from the manufacturer to the owner.

I set up the Vandersteen 3As in my (approximately) 26' by 18' by 11' listening room firing on a semi-diagonal—a setup which has produced fine results with at least six pairs of loudspeakers. (It not only appears to result in a smoother room bass-response, but results in the nearest side walls slanting severely away from the loudspeakers, minimizing adverse side-wall reflections.) The floor of the room is a carpet-covered slab foundation, and the room itself has a number of absorbent panels, ASC Tube Traps, and ASC Shadow Casters strategically arrayed.

There's also a 4' by 8' assemblage of Diffusors and a single 4' by 4' Abffusor—both from RPG—on the short wall farthest from the loudspeakers. Three additional acoustic panels are hung from the ceiling just out from the opposite short wall (which has the largest window in the room—covered with closed, cloth vertical blinds). The ceiling of the room is composed of wood planking on round shaved-log beams (known in New Mexico as vigas); the walls are of Sheetrock.

When I began my listening, the Krell player cum transport was not available to me, so I substituted a Pioneer PD-65 and used its digital output through an Audio Alchemy DTI to drive the Levinson No.35. Kimber AGDL cables were used for both digital links.

These early listening sessions—during which I also used the Monster M1500/M1.5 cables—proved somewhat disappointing. The sound wasn't "bad" on an absolute scale, but it sounded much softer and sweeter than life. Sibilants, even on recordings on which they're relatively pronounced, were softened. The best description of the overall sound would be pleasant and polite. Details were present, but never intrusive—as they sometimes are in real life. There was a lack of snap and of microdynamics—the crisp definition that conveys reality. Depth and imaging were respectable, but not particularly riveting. In short, I was enjoying an easygoing sound, but I wasn't being drawn-in to the reality of the performances.