Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, the “Pastoral,” is a good illustration of what I mean. As performed by the period orchestra Tafelmusik with Bruno Weil conducting [Analekta CD], this recording, with my deHavilland electronics back in, produced the most beautiful string sound I’ve ever heard from any system. The first movement had violins that were beautifully lyric and delicate, demonstrating with a fine and audible clarity the inner details of period instrument performance. There were harmonics and micro-dynamics galore and an overall sweetness like the real thing. The cellos and basses put down a warm, lush foundation so that the woodwinds could pipe purely and horns provide a jaunty punctuation. And when the score called for a blending of strings with woodwinds, it sounded seamless, orchestral swellings into tuttis very natural and grand. Within the soundstage, there was an extraordinary feeling of space and an illusion of the expanse of the entire orchestra. But it was in listening to the third to fourth movements, the Allegro-Lustiges-Gewitter, that I became thoroughly convinced that the VR-44s and the integration of their complement of drivers were very special. In this movement, about the approach and sudden arrival of a rainstorm over the land, a dancelike accelerando in strings gave way to punctuated swellings alternating between strings and woodwinds that were then joined by brass and horns in a fanlike and grandiose crescendo. Then cellos, contrabasses, and rattling, rumbling timpani came in a succession of triple forte mallet strikes. The musical effect was as though I were standing on the shore of an inlet, beguiled by the increasing amplitudes of an incoming tide and, across the skies, the spectacular arrival of an accompanying storm suddenly conjoined with pitching waters to converge violently at my feet. Awesome!
Because I had the advantage of an extraordinarily long review period, due, in great measure, to Albert Von Schweikert’s generosity in accommodating my spring sabbatical teaching at the University of Florence, I was able to enjoy the VR-44s for some months and explore every question they called to mind, admiring their precision and versatility with a variety of contemporary and vintage tube electronics, interrogating what I initially felt to be shortcomings, and coming to a decided opinion about them.The VSA VR-44s acquitted themselves completely well and take a legitimate place in the brave new world of contemporary high performance speakers. I found Albert Von Schweikert’s approach to creating such a speaker inventive and elegant, employing an ingenious triple-wall method to dampen his cabinets, combining it with the latest in Scandinavian driver technology, adding the genius of power to the woofers, integrating them with a unique crossover design that preserves phase relationships and maintains signal purity across the full bandwidth, and governing it all with lessons learned from nearly forty years in the trade. To tell the truth, I felt as though the speakers schooled me, and I’d had to adapt my default methods of setup and even improve my system (with addition of the Audience aR6-TSS line conditioner) in order to take advantage of all the VR-44 Aktive speakers had to offer. I ended up loving them and they are now my new reference, lending to my listening a bold, expressive beauty and the capacity for delicate shadings of nuance, bringing together a complex acoustic design with an aura of magic that I will not give up.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Five-driver, four-way floorstanding speaker, quasitransmission line
Frequency response: 16Hz–40kHz
Impedance: 8 ohms
Power rating: 20W–500W
Woofer amplifier: 300W RMS (600W peak)
Crossover points: 100Hz and 4kHz
Dimensions: 13" x 41" x 27"
Weight: 165 lbs. uncrated; 240 lbs. with the shipping crates (per speaker)
Von Schweikert Audio
1040-A Northgate Street
Riverside, CA 92507
Analog sources: TW-Acustic Raven Two turntable, TWAcustic Raven 10.5 tonearm with Zyx Airy 3 cartridge (0.24mV), Ortofon RS-309D tonearm with Ortofon 90th Anniversary SPU (0.3mV) and Ortofon GM Mono Mk I (3.0mV)
Digital sources: Cary 303/300 CD player, Apple iMac with Eximus DP1 USB DAC
Preamplifiers: deHavilland Mercury 3, Lamm LL2.1, and Citation 1 line stages, VAC Signature IIa preamp (with phono); Herron VTPH-2 phono stage; Music First step up
Power amplifiers: deHavilland KE50A monoblocks, VAC Phi-200, VAC PA-100/100, Dynakit Stereo 70, McIntosh MC240
Speakers: Von Schweikert Audio VR5 HSE Speaker cables: Siltech 330L, 330L jumpers; Shunyata Zitron Python with jumpers; Audience Au24e with Au24 jumpers
RCA Interconnects: Siltech 330i, Shunyata Zitron Python, Audience Au24e, Auditorium 23
USB cables: Wireworld Silver Starlight
Power cords: Siltech Ruby Hill II, Siltech SPX -800, Cardas Golden Reference, Harmonix XDC Studio Master, Silent Source Signature
Power conditioner: Audience Adept Response aR6-TSS with Audience Au24 PowerChord and Siltech Octopus Signature 8 with 20A Siltech Ruby Hill II power cord
Accessories: Box Furniture S5S five-shelf rack in sapele, HRS damping plates, edenSound FatBoy dampers, Winds VTF gauge