Vandersteen Audio Treo CT Loudspeaker

Uncommon Musicality

Equipment report
Vandersteen Audio Treo CT
Vandersteen Audio Treo CT Loudspeaker

The Treo has such an expressively wide color palette and fine resolution of timbral contrasts that it almost seemed constrained within the musically narrow confines of a typical, studio-sired rock production. In fact, the more musical complexity I threw at the Treo CT, the happier it seemed to be. Whether I was listening to a brass ensemble, or a classical chamber group, or a percussion section, each note was unique in time, fully differentiated in micro-information. The Treo was equally sensitive to the resonances of string instruments, easily distinguishing the unique accents of violin or viola, or the scale of different guitars from auditorium-size dreadnoughts to smaller parlor instruments.

As I listened to Copland’s majestic Fanfare For the Common Man, I encountered bass response that excelled in pitch definition and tunefulness. Although the raw dynamic energy and extension of the percussion section’s timpani and bass drum didn’t leave craters in my listening room (see the Quatro Wood CT for that), the Treo CT performed without port noise, chuffing, or the sensation of overhanging notes clinging to the fundamental as if trying to catch up with a performance that had already moved on. During tracks from Appalachian Journey, cello and bass viol consistently exhibited a fine body of warmth and detail, though to my ear they did not quite fully ripen with the weight and resonance I know this recording has in abundance. As I’ve mentioned, the Vandersteen, while touching on the bottom octave, begins to run short of breath in the lower-30Hz range.

Throughout this evaluation there was one trait that, like an addiction, continually fueled my excitement for the Treo CT. It was the speaker’s of-a-piece coherence. This is not always a given in the high end. Many multiple-driver loudspeakers—primarily designs with three or more transducers—fail to speak with one voice. Instead, the listener can identify each driver as it jockeys for prominence up and down the front baffle. In contrast, the Treo CT was like a top-drawer two-way compact—a segment long celebrated for its ability to reveal three-dimensional space while remaining invisible as a sound source. Similarly, the Treo CT (far better proportioned across the frequency spectrum than a two-way) projected a vast image of the legendary Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing the Beethoven Ninth. Its spread across the soundstage was replete with height cues that reached well above the speaker, and depth cues that drew my eye to the back wall of the hall each time the percussion section lit up and the vast chorus rose in intensity. Much of the credit for this level of spatial precision is certainly owed to Vandersteen’s time-and-phase-correct philosophy, but it’s also due to the inert cabinet and well-controlled port. You don’t need the classic “knuckle rap” test to determine that the Treo’s cabinet doesn’t appear to be a source of (mis-)information. You just need to listen to Dick Hyman’s “Moonglow” (From the Age of Swing on Reference Recordings) to hear how each instrument rings true, utterly free from the common cabinet-borne colorations encountered in lesser designs. Piano, brass, random bass lines, lone ride-cymbal…each instrument seemed physically engraved into the soundspace.

There is a visual analogy that further describes my experience with the Treo CT. It reproduced the panorama of symphonic music with the kind of deep color, dimensional presence, and soundstage continuity of classic widescreen films. It did so with an edge-to-edge, corner-to-corner imaging precision that few loudspeakers at any price have achieved in my room. It cleanly defined and delineated player after player, elbow to elbow within each section of the orchestra, as if they were being photographed through a lens of unparalleled clarity and infinite depth of focus. It balanced the dual imperatives of image and ambience in much the same naturalistic manner that (I think) is still unique to film. Compared with the slightly cooler, harder, edge-enhanced super-reality that often defines digital technology, the Treo CT conveyed a more fluid and realistic representation of the symphonic experience in a real hall. Not softer in resolution, but more attached to the air and atmosphere of its surrounding environment.

Even though I think the Treo CT’s charms were more fully appreciated in the classical and acoustic arena, the speaker, without question, provided a highly satisfying pop/rock experience. As I listened to the opening bass and drum groove of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” there was a rewarding sense of unalloyed midbass punch, drum fills, and concussive forward-leaning drive that was riveting. As penetrating and electrifying as another personal favorite, the similarly scaled Wilson Sabrina? No, not quite, but competitively close and less costly. Sabrina, of course, has other charms not the least of which is greater low-end extension and dynamic output, but for overall transparency and resolution these rivals share more similarities than differences. The last pop track I played on the Treo CT prior to submitting this review actually turned into a double farewell. That morning I learned of David Bowie’s death from cancer at the age of 69. I thought it was fitting that I should see him and the Treos off by playing one of my favorite LP remixes, “Let’s Dance” [EMI]. The Vandersteens seemed to rise to the occasion, digging deep into the heavy dance groove, launching wave upon wave of kick-drum pulses, driving Stevie Ray Vaughan’s searing guitar solo through the air, handily reproducing the screaming saxophone work and, above all, Bowie’s sly, richly resonant vocal, sensually massaging a lyric so very much about being alive and in love.

When all is said and done, there are speakers we’ve all encountered that, however admirable, are more about quantifying information than reproducing a moving, organic musical event. They might sound lively for a spell, but they lack the heartbeat of musicality. It’s a rookie mistake that only years of experience can ameliorate. Vandersteen Audio, however, is an old-guard veteran, and it shows. It takes just one listen to the Treo CT to recognize that you’re in the presence of a speaker that superbly balances these twin essentials, but never loses sight of where its loyalties lie. In my view, you cannot get a more purely musical loudspeaker in this price range than the Treo CT. A true delight.


Type: Four-way, bass reflex
Driver complement: 1" tweeter, 4.5" mid, 6.5" mid/bass, 8" woofer
Frequency response: 36Hz–30kHz
Nominal impedance: 7 ohms (4 ohms)
Sensitivity: 86dB
Dimensions: 10" x 43" x 15"
Weight: 80 lbs.
Price: $7990

116 West Fourth St.
Hanford, CA 93230
(559) 582-0324

Associated Equipment
Sota Cosmos Series IV turntable; SME V tonearm; Sumiko Palo Santos cartridge, Ortofon Quintet Black, Ortofon 2M Black; Parasound JC 3+; Esoteric K-03X; Lumin A1/L1 Music Player; Synology NAS; MacBook Pro/Pure Music; Cables: Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4, WyWires Platinum, Nordost Frey 2 & Audience Ohno; Power Cords: Audience Au24SE & Kimber Palladian power cords. Accessories: Audience USB, AudioQuest Carbon firewire; VooDoo Cable Iso-Pod

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