Vandersteen Model Seven loudspeaker Page 2

The fully balanced crossover network—with crossover frequencies at 100Hz, 600Hz, and 5kHz—uses the highest-quality, best-sounding components Vandersteen could find. Richard V. said he was surprised by the differences in sound quality different types of connectors made; after trying all of the types commercially available, he decided to make his own. His biwirable terminals, mounted in a barrier strip with machined Teflon insulation, are positioned so that the connectors can be soldered directly to the crossover board, which is located directly behind the terminal panel, inside the cabinet.

The rear-panel controls include two for the rear-firing tweeter, for adjusting its level and crossover point, as well as subwoofer-level and Q controls. With the last, the owner can adjust the bass quality (Q): underdamped for bigger, fuller, but less-well-defined bass; overdamped for tighter, more detailed bass.

Put it all together and you have a speaker that promises better performance than the Model 5 while being smaller and far more graceful-looking—if at a significantly higher price.

Remarkably fast setup
Using a laser pointer, Richard Vandersteen and his wife, Eneke, set up the Model Sevens in my room, precisely positioning and toeing in the speakers relative to my listening position, and using the beefy floor spikes (supplied) to adjust each cabinet's height and rake, thus ensuring time alignment of the drivers' outputs.

Like the Model 5 and Quatro, the Model Seven requires that a high-pass filter (supplied), balanced or single-ended, be placed in circuit before the system amplifier. You plug your preamp output into the filter box, and the box's output (via a hardwired AudioQuest cable and plug) into your power amplifier's input terminal. Rolling off the lower bass before the amp presents the amp with a load that's easier to drive, and lets it coast on the upper frequencies. Inside the speaker, the subwoofer amp produces an inverse curve of the filter's rolloff. Having both the subwoofer amp and the rest of the speaker driven by the same power amplifier increases the chances of achieving a seamless blend between the two halves/modules of the Model Seven.

Richard V.'s familiarity with my room, based on my review of his Quatro in July 2006 (Vol.29 No.7), made choosing the speaker locations easy. Setting the 11-band room equalizer also went quickly, as my room's acoustics are pretty good. For example, before EQ, the left channel was ±2dB between 20 and 60Hz, with a pronounced suckout of about –10dB between 72 and 100Hz. But better a suckout than a honkin' big hump!

Rather than trying to flatten bumps and fill in suckouts, Richard V.'s goal was to gently reduce bumps and modestly lift dips. When he was finished, the right channel was +2/–4dB, 20–120Hz—excellent by any standard—and the equalized left was almost as good. Listener preferences are involved in the lower-bass level and Q settings, but I let Vandersteen set his preferences, then listened that way before readjusting them to my own—which turned out to be not all that different.

A different kind of Wow!
While tonal balance, harmonic integrity, and rhythmic certitude are ultimately key to the success of any speaker design, my first sit-down listening session immediately demanded that I pay attention to the Model Seven's unprecedented ability to throw a soundstage. Given a good recording, I found myself peering into a vast, deep, wide space, within which were presented layered, palpable, three-dimensional images of unparalleled precision, perfectly sized within the context of the overall space. Such descriptions have appeared in many reviews by many writers of many loudspeakers, many of which I've heard. Perhaps they're all best forgotten. The Vandersteen Model Sevens did this part of the job better than any of the many I've heard, regardless of technology.

Aiding and abetting that illusion of alternative live universes staring back at me was the Seven's equally astonishing resolution of low-level detail. Even with the records with which I'm most familiar, this resulted in the delineation of reverberant tails and wall reflections in the decay structures of musical events where previously I'd heard none, or where they'd been buried so deep in the backdrop as to be noted without being notable.

For better or worse, the Seven had the ability to effortlessly lay bare every studio trick, effects gimmick, punching in or out, overdub, hiccup, cough, sneeze, and clam on my most familiar recordings, where previously there had been none. When John Atkinson came over to measure the Sevens in situ, I played him Neil Young's "Out on the Weekend," from a new edition of Harvest on 180gm vinyl (LP, Reprise). At one point, in the right channel, someone knocks over a microphone stand. When the song ended, John Atkinson, who'd heard this track many times but had never before heard the noise, asked about it. I'd known about that mistake and had heard it through other speakers, but through the Sevens it was obvious, unmistakable, almost three-dimensional.

Throughout my listening sessions, including the playback of very familiar recordings, I kept asking myself "What was that?" As an analytical reviewer's tool, the Model Seven granted unprecedented access to the other side of the mixing board. Not everyone will hear this as a positive development, just as not everyone likes to see their favorite porn in hi-def. This level of resolution was once available only with electrostatic loudspeakers—along with a host of well-known negatives not in need of repeating here.

Vandersteen Audio, Inc.
116 W. Fourth Street
Hanford, CA 93230
(559) 582-0324