Have you seen the VR9SE Review?

There is a new review that has been posted on Positive Feedback Online (http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue26/lavigne_vr9.htm) about the Von Schweikert VR9SE speakers. It is very different than any review I have read in the way it chronicles the experience of Mike Lavigne over the past year and a half's experiences with these speakers.

Jtinn, thanks, beautiful humbling review by Mike. As
usual you could sense Mike passion on audio on His
meticulous findings on the VR9SE, AMAZING.I learned
a lot on this review.
a review of a 75k loudspeaker that took a year to write, is like writing a review of a $200m movie that 20 people are gonna see.
Right on Jaybo. You hit the nail right on the head. I have a 20 year old pair of Duntech Sovereigns designed by John Dunlavy while he was in Australia and there's not a heck of a lot of speakers out there that are as musical and dynamic. The big Dynaudio speakers are basically the same type of speaker as the Duntechs. You would have to spend $30,000 and up to possibly get a few improvements. Just my 2 cents worth from a lifetime audiophile.
"...a year to write, is like writing a review of a $200m movie that 20 people are gonna see."
Jaybo, good point. You may be right and here's how I see that: A year's worth of time and $200m reflects the value one places on those 20 people. What a world it would be if everyone was valued like that. A Heart felt Thank You to folks like Mike, Jtinn and Von Schweikert for caring enough to invest huge amounts of time and resource even if it makes a positive difference for only 20 people. I Think that's quite a thing.

Nice review !
Question: Will the VR-4Sr. or VR-5 give you the same substantial slice of audio quality ?
( On a lesser scale, I have a smaller room)
While I thought it was a fascinating story about an audiophile's pursuit for high quality sound, it really wasn't a very good review. The was much writing about swapping equipment and tweaking settings, but very little about how the loudspeaker sounds. Sure there was talk about bass linearity, detail, air and depth, but was there a single mention of how a specific piece of music sounded? Although he mentions at several times that he has a custom designed room I wish he would have gone into more detail about the design goals of the room and its effect on the speaker's performance. I suspect one of the reasons he had so much trouble coming to grip with the speaker's sound was due his unfamiliarity with new room and the near total turnover of the rest of his system. Finally, I would have liked a comparison with other statement oriented speakers.

It's not really a review, but a story.
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Thanks for pointing out this article. Mike did a fantastic job of describing a wonderful journey to achieveing what must be absolutely amazing sound. I am in awe.

Two-thirds of the way through the article, however, I was troubled that all these adjustments seemed to be chasing something as elusive as the end of a rainbow.

Just as there is no perfect speaker, there is no absolutely perfect audio recording (which would be mixed and mastered with the same perfect equipment and room that you use for playback).

In fact, many recordings are mastered on systems in rooms far less impressive than Mike's, some on Yamaha NS10's, for example. Naturally Mike's fantastic set up should reveal the source for what it is....not only in all its glory but also the warts.

I could be totally wrong, but I feel that the over-abundance of speaker adjustments on these speakers might lead to a temptation to try to fix some of the warts...a worthy but elusive goal that ends up forever going in frustrating circles (given the warts are different on each recording).
Wow, so interesting! That is one of the most thoughtful reviews I have read. Makes me wish I could afford to spend that much money on speakers. Maybe if I pinch my pennies I can afford to buy a pair off of http://higherfi.com/index.html#anchorspkrs, looks like they are selling all the VS speakers at 40% off!!!!
Thanks for your hard work and excellent review Mike. Thanks to Jtinn for bringing it to our attention too.

Some day I am going to visit Mike and give these a listen, perhaps when work slows down.
i'm not sure what you would call my collection of thoughts either......as my first paragraph states.

i agree it is not a review in a strict sense.

likely a better title may have been; "Adapting the System to the new room.....featuring the VR9's"......as the focus is on the VR9's in the context of the room and the changing components as opposed to the VR9's by themselves.

to be clear; the review did not take a year to write. there simply was no conclusion to express until things sorted themselves out......which took a year. then i wrote the article in a couple of nights.

as i stated a few times in the article; the adjustability of the VR9 had it's dark side; but once mastered it is IMHO far superior to any 'one size fits all' design......in the same way that some talk of the very best audio components they have yet heard are not commercial products. there is nothing like properly executed truely custom built stuff.

there was a time that i did adjust the settings for different friends and even different software. but that was when i was lacking confidence in where i was at......and you do run the danger of getting caught up in adjustments for adjustments sake. i'm past that point now and now only in vary specific situations i will make very small adjustments when i know the musical involvement gain is significant.

over on my system thread i have detailed many of the design decisions that i went thru in the last year with component changes that i glossed over in the article as i felt that more detail about those would just get tedious (or more tedious:)) if you have questions regarding the room design itself please follow the link provided in the article to my previous room design and construction article.

i have done a good bit of listening to other 'Statement' speakers but felt that (other than the Kharma Exquisites) i really did not want to get into that. i will just say that i state at the beginning of the article what my target speaker performance was.....there are ZERO other speakers that i have heard that fit that bill in my experience.....particularly after my experience.....but i have not heard everything.

yes; i could have got into particular cuts of music; but i think i made my opinion clear on the sonic attributes of the VR9 in my summation at the end. the VR9's sound like music if your system does.

you need to understand that you can actually choose how you want things to sound......almost without limit. so what characteristics do you then assign to the speaker? the only valid characteristic is that the VR9's serve the music in your tastes.

to my ears voices sound like voices; pianos sound like pianos; trumpets sound like trumpets......to the degree that the software can render them.

the VR9's are limited by software, the characteristics of the supporting gear and little else.
Rx8man, I have heard the VR-5SE and VR7 sub together.Amazing! I believe VSA will offer the ribbon tweeter with the 5SE.There are numerous adjustments that can be made to the system-hope someone has a good frame of reference.
i also have a pair of VR-9's. my previous speakers were eggleston andra-2's, which are very musical and simply a joy to listen to hour after hour. so i simply adjusted the 9's to sound like the egg's-the 9's kinda sound similar to the egglestons anyway; this took about 2 weeks to accomplish, and then i was done fiddling around for the most part.
the von schweikert midrange driver is, for me, the most outstanding feature and upgrade over the egglestons- transparency and speed similar to magnaplanars; the egg's have an esotar tweeter which for me is as good as it gets, and excellent bass extending to 20Hz, which again is totally adequate. since other von schweikert speakers possess the same midrange driver and, i would assume, an excellent crossover array, you don't have to spend alot to get alot. however, the 9's are meant to portray a full symphony orchestra effortlessly in your own living room (or sound room if you're fortunate enough to have one). since i do NOT have a dedicated room, the adjustments on the back let you taylor the sound to good effect- in my case, although i have some echobusters (on the ceiling!) and a thick carpet, that's all i've done, as i wanted to keep my furnishings and my artwork intact. the speakers do the rest. now, having 2000 watts and two 15 inch subs in the room do require that you keep the bass end of the spectrum in check. this is more speaker than i need, but they still integrate themselves very effectively into the room that i have, with it's various limitations.
i've heard the wilson alexandrias, and i feel the VR-9's possess the same level of accuracy, produce the same sense of scale, have even deeper bass (not that "I" personally have need of that subterrainian level). the wilsons are adjustable as well as the von schweikerts, but in a different way. either speaker deserves professional setup with measuring equipment. but that i was able to adjust the 9's all by myself with minimal effort isn't such a bad thing either. one more thing- i don't have nearly the level of equipment mike l. has, but the speakers sound very, very good just the same.
I thought the most interesting thing about the piece was that it got the context right. Mike didn't pay $75K, drop the speaker into his system, and pass judgement. Reading the article, you can appreciate that the particular choice of hardware was a relatively small piece of his puzzle. That certainly mirrors my own experience.

Thanks for the effort Mike.

best regards,

PS That is one great looking listening room.
Onhwy61, did you read the whole review of Mike? It
appear to me, you only read part of it.I think, He
mentioned many times,How the speakers sound over
and over again every adjustment,He did.Do you know
how much time needed to do that?How stressful it is?
You said its not a good review?The review is 5 times better than most audio reviewer on any major audio magazine.
When Albert said, Its a good review,I agree 100%.Lastly
Onhwy61, I dont mean any disrespect to you at all, just
my 0.2 cents.
Mike, thank you for sharing all of your experiences with the VR-9s. You invested a huge amount of effort in sharing your experiences with us, and I really enjoyed reading your article. As always, I found your comments thoughtful and very well articulated. I learned a lot from what you had to say.


In the review you have placed alot of emphasis on how utilizing the VR9 bass/tweater EQ improved integration into your listening room. If you had chosen a speaker that didnt have built in EQ do you think you would have been able to get satisfactory results ?
Many statement speakers do not offer EQ, would you recommend using standalone EQ (for example the PARC)for improved speaker/room integration?

Great review of an interesting audiophile journey. Many thanks for sharing it with us.
Rum, first thanks, i'm happy you enjoyed my musings. i do know you seriously considered the VR9's and i wish i had had a better handle on them back then to relate.

to be clear; i don't view the adjustments that are provided with the VR9 as an equalizer, although maybe in a strict sense any gain adjustment on a driver can be viewed as a sort of equalizer. there are gain adjustments on 4 drivers; the three tweeters and the subwoofer. none of those gain adjustments changes the slope of the crossover or the frequency. there is the adjustable crossover on the subwoofer which allows the sub to crossover anyplace from 50hz to 100hz (my article said it crossed over at 80hz which i have realized was wrong). i don't know if the crossover slope changes as this crossover is adjusted; but i doubt it.

also understand that my room presents big challenge/opportunity due to the extensive bass trapping and very reflective but diffusive surfaces including the hardwood floor. most speakers are not designed for a room like mine as far as the retention of high frequency energy. the adjustability allowed the speaker to project a maximum of energy without overloading.

in any case; it would be difficult to say whether a speaker with a non-adjustable crossover between the lowest bass driver and the next driver up (woofer or mid-range) could be as 'perfectly' tuned for my room.....but i seriously doubt it. i also doubt whether other non-adjustable speakers could have the bass integrate so perfectly. or whether the tweeters could be made to sound so natural and yet so extended. or speakers without an adjustable rear-firing tweeter could get the bed of air the music has just 'right'.

and practically speaking; the fact that things can be continuously adjusted 'on the fly' allows much more incisive adjustments to be done compared to other adjustable speakers that may require a diferent resistor or other less user friendly adjustment scheme. OTOH it does make the process more 'work' and less simple.

there are other great speakers that have adjustments; and it's possible that you may find the perfect speaker for a room by luck. i have not heard any speaker/room work together like i am now hearing.

EQ or a PARC can be the right thing for some rooms; but that is a band-aid to other issues that is a compromise which exacts a price if SOTA is your goal. it would not be my choice of solutions......and at the risk of starting a 'brawl' any digital EQ considerations are really not an option if ultimate resolution and naturalness in a system is important (that is essential for me).
Just the simple fact that a guy like Mike is willing to spend the time writing such a review,regardless of results,and then be nice enough to spend "additional keyboard time" following up hobbyist comments,speaks to the "good intentions" of such a person!......Kudos!!


This was a great review. Congratulations.

I believe a review which took one year of listening (not one year to write) carries considerably more credibility than somthing written based on quick impression which is usually arbitrary. Of course, you have to live with a component long enough to know it well and how to bring the best out of it, before passing a verdict.

I guess if every reviewer put in that kinda of time no one would ever read a review of an out of date speaker. Most speakers dont have the number of tweaks that the reviewed speaker has. Should an engineered room that is treated to the nines have these issues? A treated room should allow you to hear the speakers, not the way the speakers sound in the room. Thats my opinion. Not to say anything bad about the reviewer or the speakers, it sounds like the guy has a great situation and many great experiences.
Holenneck (btw, nice moniker), the speakers were personal purchases and not review samples. the review was not central to my direction. i purchased the 3rd retail set built of these speakers so it wasn't going to be out-of-date anytime soon.

i happen to disagree with your premise that the room should be adapted to the speakers.....even though most of us are stuck with that program. rooms are forever (at least relative to speakers) and are way more spendy than a speaker when done right. if one has the opportunity to design the perfect room first; and then find the correct speaker for it.....there is a much better chance of success. this thinking is basically my whole premise for building my room and then choosing the VR9's. also; you won't really know whether the speaker actually works correctly until the room is measured with that speaker playing in that room. if there are then 'issues' there becomes lots of finger pointing. it was much easier for me to figure out what sort of speaker i needed for my new room after hearing and measuring the Kharma Exquisites in the new room.

some rooms are designed for particular speakers; but after going thru the design process my perspective is that that approach would end up being quite frustrating in the long run but maybe easier in the short run.

i respect your right to disagree.

i went thru 9 years of quite intense efforts to adapt my existing room to my speakers. it was a success on some levels but ultimately had clear limits of how far i could go and frustrated me.

i am frustrated no longer.
like i said, you have the ability to do these things due to a larger bank account. my post wasnt addressed towards you as much as the guy who posted before me.

You personally dialed your speakers to your room and thats what it is all about.

Whats up with VS, is he selling speakers online now?
Yes I did read the entire article and I stand by my earlier comments. I certainly didn't mean any disrespect towards Mikelavigne (and I don't think he took it that way), but even he describes the article as less than a review.

One think I wish he would comment on is the after purchase supports from both Rives and VS. How did they assist him in getting the performance his system is capable of delivering?
Holenneck, I actually consider your above statements as very valid and at one time thought very similar, but I have changed my mind on Room vs. Speaker, Vs. correct in the first place vs. Tweaking vs. Etc. .. Let me say why, I have had excellent crossed over speakers in just Okay rooms in the past with pretty good but never perfect results.
Now look at these von's they are VERY complicated and have many user corrections needed no doubt, Not plug and play.. but people would think the opposite at 75,000 should be a near perfect speaker without you having to adjust a damn thing. This is wrong, and actually now I see at 75,000 I want every knob and adjustment possible in the world to sink these things in, because at that kinda money it better start to sound How you want it too and it should in the given environment whatever it might be. I commend a speaker manufacture going to the extent now to give the User full control for the most part after finding out its easier to let someone with a little knowledge and great patience tune their product to taste if you have the tools and higher cost components installed into the speaker to do so, rather than try to sell the Perfect crossover and straight drive system that is supposedly perfect archetecture and you have no right to correct something you don't like attitude. I only believe this now after several months with my new speakers I found there is no other way to this kinda nirvana and perfection within any room.. If it is done right there are far less negative effects to having some adjustments especially in Multi driver systems(which some you nearly need to be a pro engineer) with the payoff of positive and incredible tuned sound overcomes those negatives. Yes it takes TON's of time and thinking out of the box to test and adjust every incriment, but it solves things you never would have believed a speaker could do if you find these little advancements. Anyway its tuff to go back to a "This is how it is" conventional design with a couple of binding posts that only correction is, Buying a different preamp, or the latest Magical midrange sounding cable for 500 or 1000 dollars to act as tone controls, I have been thru it, and now after finding what needs to be adjusted I just enjoy the music and not the system. So now I connect completley with the Mikelavigne experience and revalations of such control over your audio once you understand the ins and outs of such a complex yet simple concept, but you will not totally understand it withoug going thru it for some time and learning the results that is all. At 75 k its better to have the options and tayloring ability than not.. I think that many of the very big systems use even better with adjustable electronic crossovers, and multi driver arrays, which is why they cost so much, are they always practical, No but what is in this hobby?
Onhwy61. Maybe you didn't notice that the article is listed under Audio Discourse not Hardware Reviews.
Mr. Lavinge has certainly been on an odyessy with that room and all of the various equipment changes. It's very generous of him to take the time to share his experiences with us.

One thing that bugs me about those speakers is that traditional hifi logic suggests that having all of those adjustments in the signal path would have some affect on the overall transparency of the speaker. Of course Mike's room probably allows him to hear more detail from a boombox than most of us hear from our systems but still, I wonder if the system could be improved further by going fully active and using something like DEQX or a Lake Contour (http://www.lake.com.au/) to handle the crossover. Of course these solutions would introduce extra a-d and d-a conversions, but I wonder what would be the lesser of to evils: having additional circuitry in the signal path after the amplifier, or having the additional digital conversions but thereafter maintaining a direct path from the amplifers to the drivers?

An extremely thoughtful and well-composed article. I await a future review about your next speakers with anticipation.

Tim, thanks.

my previous speakers to the VR9's were the Kharma Exquisites which were a prime example of simple signal path. they had a very simple 'serial' crossover and the mid-range ran free. when i had compared the Kharmas to most anything they had that mid-range clarity and open naturalness that was so important to me.

when i initially looked at the VR9's i had a similar reaction as you.....why would i want all that 'stuff' in the signal path? then i heard them at CES back to back with Kharmas and clearly i was hearing as far (maybe farther) into the music as the Kharmas. i can tell you that as clear, open and uncolored as the Kharmas are the VR9's are another level or two beyond that.

the key is in the execution and component choices not in the overall circut scheme. all things being equal simpler is cleaner....but all things are not equal. Von Schweikert choose some very expensive autoformers (over $500 each x 3 for each speaker) for attenuation for the tweeters and similar for the woofer. these autoformers maintain the same impedence at all positions. from my conversations with Von Schweikert these components were transparent in the signal path thru the design stage.

the proof is in the listening. every time i listen i find it hard to believe i am listening to a 6-way 7 driver speaker with 4 attenuators.....but i am.

as far as ANY digital crossover i have NEVER heard one that is transparent.....and if you can do the room and speaker correctly they have no purpose. i will never dumb down my sources by digitizing (or re-digitizing) them.
Tim916, Lake contour would be excellent, it will not skew anything as long as you have a preamp that feeds it correctly and with the right tone in the first place.. I have done some near Cost no object crossovers, and then now since the last few years things like the DBX PA and your mentioned lake contour, PARC or any of this type of digital correction has become available at resonable cost, electronic proves superior with good cables and tuning over any Passive devices, not to mention you can simply make things happen and have infinate adjustments vs. a standard passive built crossover with a couple level knobs on it. Just in my experience. Passive always seems to still soak up something more, electronic normally will pass with no power loss and have the capability to even boost it without added color or distortion if its a good unit.
Thanks, Mike, for that great essay ;-)

Some of us 'normal' people wonder how one comes up with (or borrows!) the $250K or so to spend on a room/speakers/source material? ;-) It's amazing how much wealth is out there, despite people saying, "the economy sucks"...

Though I have no doubts as to the fine performance of the VR9SE(I was amazed as to how good they sound in a small room),the comparison as to clarity,compared to the wonderful Kharma EXQ REF cannot be made to the degree stated here.Sorry!!Even by the owner of both systems!Because components differed,and to be able to discern being able to hear deeper into one design,the VR9 over the Kharma,would simply have to be made in a side by side comparison,with exact supporting componentry.I'm kind of suspicious as to the "emotional factor",which was most probably at play here.It's normal.
We are all guilty of this,a bit,and it is human nature.After all,how many of us have spent big bucks to upgrade componentry(sucessfully),and then did NOT want to reinforce a favorable observation.Big or small!
Was the Kharma in as perfect a "room match" as the VR9SE?Wasn't that the reason for moving to the VR9?It mated better to the larger listening space.No?That's how I interpreted the change.
Please understand,I mean no disrespect,but my own "audio pal's" do this all the time.

Sirspeedy, i know you are a Kharma fan as am i. i have spent many hours listening to Kharmas in many systems. i have owned the Exquisite Ref for three years and had the Midi Exquisite (with Diamond tweeter) in my system for 4 months.

my opinion is that the Kharma Exquisite Ref amd Midi Exquisite were optimized in my room for clarity. yes; i have upgraded my racks and power cables since the Kharma's have left my system. i did switch from the Placette passive to the darTZeel pre but i listened to the VR9 for 6 months with the Placette. i did upgrade the EMM to the Signature Edition but listened mostly over the last year to the standard EMM, the same as with the Kharma.

i did use both my Tenor Hybrids as well as the darTZeel with both Kharma speakers as well as both amps with the VR9's.

i have listened to the Kharma's and VR9's back to back at three different shows in various systems.

with my extensive experience with Kharma's as well as the commonality of the room, amps, cables and sources i am confident that i am in a position to give a pretty solid judgement on the relative merits of the Exquisites and the VR9's. i stand by my comments.

i respect you for your typically well thought out viewpoints, i respect your Kharma Experience as well as your listening time with the VR9's....and.....i respect your perspective but don't agree with it.

i'm just one guy with an opinion...and that is all it is.
Mike,my intent was not to shift you to a defensive position.I'm sorry if it seemed that way!
Sirspeedy: I know your intent was that of question and not an accusation. I also firmly disagree with your theory, but appreciate your position.

I too have owned the Kharma Exquisite 1A Ext Enigma. The speaker is just not capable of doing what the Von Schweikert VR-9SE's can.

I am a big fan of Charles' work and have owned almost every speaker in his line. Their strengths are as obvious as their weaknesses. Strong micro dynamics and inner detail, good textured and detailed bass, poor depth of bass and mediocre macro dynamics. The highs are good, but not near the VSA's. The bass in the VR9SE's is just in another league and the clarity is remarkable. The adjustability of the speaker makes it incredible for most any room.

I used to be a dealer for Kharma and really feel strongly about Charles' speakers, but I carry Von Schweikerts' now, because they are simply the total package.
I posted this in the other thread before I realized there was one for this review.
I read that article at positive feed back and I must say that it was fantastic. If I can be honest, yours is one of the best systems I have seen. It is sort of a driving force for me to want to make my system as good as it can be. I can only imagine what it must sound like. Right now I have an intigrated HT/2ch system but I would love to get a dedicate 2ch system some day. Speakers that would be on the top of my list would be VR4SR, and VR5SE. But that wont happen for a long time. Right now I am just trying to get my setup sounding as good as it can. Once again, thanks for sharing your systems transformation.