Questions on Totem Hawks & Von Schweikert VR2

Hi. I am intersted in upgrading my current Vandersteen 1C speakers to a full-sized speaker that more closely matches my musical tastes (rock of all kinds, trip hop). My budget is around the $1500 mark used, and I am very happy with my current amp (Sim Audio I-5) and source (Sim Audio Nova), so I don't want to change them; I'm only considering changing my speakers.

I've done a lot of research here and elsewhere. Based on what I have read, I have narrowed my list to two speakers that I feel would be a good match for my system and my music: Totem Hawk & Von Schweikert VR2.

My living room is 22'x14'x8', but the listening area is more like 14'x14'. Other considerations include having to place the speakers no more than 18" from the long wall, the presence of small kids (ages 7 & 4), and that I live in an apartment. I don't generally blast my music, but do listen to "lively" music, so I want more "punch." I am still pleased with my Vandy's, but think that I can do better match-wise.

My concern with the Hawks relate to ease of being driven by the I-5's 70 wpc (I've read mixed things here), and my concern with the VR2s is the apparent need for them to be placed 2-3 feet from the wall (not possible for me). I am not interested in bookshelf speakers, and my reading has led me to these two speakers because of perceived quality, match with my music/equipment, size (smaller compared to my vandy's), value/price, and sonic characteristics. Any insights or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, - Steve
The Hawks are fantastic little speakers. I have not heard the VR-2 but have lived with the VR-1 and own the VR-4's. I would stick with the Totems, I also own the forests and my friend owns the Hawks. I think the Hawks have some magic to them that the forest don't quite have but they are close. My concern with the Hawks however is that they will not play at the levels the forest will and your talking about a moderate size room with rock and hip-hop. With the music you listen to I would try to pick up a pair of forest or a used pair. If you think the volume is not a issue go with the Hawks. Good luck!
I have a pair of Hawks in a room approximately your same size with the speakers about 18" out from the back wall. My listening area is actually a bit far from the speakers (around 15'). Despite the less than ideal listening set up, the Hawks still impress me with their large holographic soundstage. Though they have good bass for their size, I wouldn't call them full-range. You eventually may want to augment with a sub for bass-heavy music like trip hop.
I own the VR2s, for the best soundstaging and to accomodate the rear firing ambient sound tweeter, I do have them pulled out from the wall about 2 feet. They are very very good speakers for the money good WAF as well. You can get them from a great Agon dealer "Quest for Sound", I would give him a call (trust me you would be happy you did). They don't sound bad without all that space behind them if your not looking for finest detail. My concern is that they are not really "headbanger" speakers, but coming from little vandys they may do the trick with double 6.5 woofers. The totems I have heard are widely variable in terms of a house sound. Some have a lot of definition and presence others sound dead to me. I don't know if the Hawks fall into the flatter sounding group. I agree that volume is key here.
Thanks all for the prompt and informed responses. Much appreciated.

Interesting thoughts on the "volume" issue for the Hawks and the Forests. I contacted Totem, and they said that the Hawks would be a better fit with the I-5 than the Forests -- that the Forests would not be as dynamic sounding as they could be due to the (lack of high) power output from the I-5 -- even though the specs of the Hawks and Forests would suggest that the Forests would be easier to drive.

All in all, my concerns with the Hawks are driveability from my I-5, and my concerns with the VR2s are proximity to the rear wall. If others have heard both and can comment on preferred suitability to my music (which is not going to be blaring, but "is what it is"), then those thoughts would also be greatly appreciated.

In terms of my music, I'm not routinely playing heavy metal or thrash, but often listen to stuff like the Stones, Alice in Chains, Queens of the Stoneage, A Perfect Circle, REM, Morphine, Beck, Doors, Aimee Mann, Coldplay, Dandy Warhols, etc. and various Acid Jazz.

thx, - steve
I'll chime in here since I'm both a Totem owner, and listen to similar tunes.

I think the Hawks will ultimately work better in your room and with your gear. It's not that the Vandys aren't great speakers, because they are, but I find the Hawks particularly adept at integrating into difficult environments, while still preserving their uncanny imaging. Furthermore, I've done a good deal of listening to Sim and Totem gear, and find that the i-5 and Nova with the Hawks sounds great (and the i-5 is ideally suited to drive the Hawks). The bass, while not gut rattling, is indeed punchy and articulated, and you can always augment the low frequencies (of any speaker, within reason) by adding a sub. The imaging/soundstaging is pretty uncanny, and these are great looking speakers (I have the Forests in Maple, and love the light colored wood vs. the sleek chrome legs and dark drivers).

Ultimately, if you're buying the Hawks used, you could probably resell them with little to no loss, because they are fairly popular. I'm sure the same goes for the Vandys. It seems like you're just trying to see what the next step would be compared to your speakers now, and if you wanted earth shaking volume capabilities and low frequency extension, then you'd most likely end up replacing your i-5 anyway. At this point I think the Hawks represent a great purchase, IMHO.


Did you consider moving up the Vandersteen line to the 2c or perhaps the 3A?
I've heard both, and you can't go wrong with either speaker. To be honest, you really should listen to both. They have different sounds - both great in their own ways.

I prefer the VR2 simply because they have a smooth neutral sound and create a better soundstage because of the global axis system (or whatever it's called).

The Hawks are smooth and have sparkle, but my taste is for the VS. It's really a personal thing between these two, and I hope you won't decide based on any opinions here because you could end up wondering if you should have gone for the other one after your purchase.

Both also work great with tube gear, just an fyi.
Thanks Matt, I appreciate the well-articulated reply...and suggestion on the Hawks. You hit several keys of mine on the head, speaking to synergy with my amp and source (and driveability, a potential concern I have based on some other posts I have read about the Hawks here), room size, and my tastes in music. And, you are correct in your assessment that I am trying to see what the next steps would be for me now regarding speakers. Coincidentally, maple would also be the finish of choice for me given my other furniture finishes. All in all, your post was most, thanks!

Drubin: No, I have not considered moving up the Vandy line. While I do like my 1C's (I am not disappointed or frustrated, but am intrigued by a speaker upgrade/change that might better suit my musical tastes), I find the Vandy's to be a bit on the large size (as in width and footprint), and, all things being equal (which I know they are not), would like to have a smaller floorstanding speaker, but also one that has a reputation for being faster and more dynamic. I think the vandy's are more warm, relaxed and musical (all of which is good, but perhaps I'm seeking a different flavor).

thx again, - steve

The Hawks are world class speakers that when treated right, can do things most speakers on this planet only wish they could do. With that being said, the Hawks are not the most versitile speakers on the planet and are very picky with room and electronics. The Sim gear is a decent match with the Hawks and your room size is about right for this speaker.

With that said, the VS VR-2 is technically a far lesser product although it can be the better tool for the job in many instances. It is much easier on room placement and equipment matching and can mask up some of those nasty recordings that run fairly rampid with your musical tastes..

For your listening tastes, I would look at NEAT acoustics or vintage Polk Audio SDA's.

That's funny I would have it the other way around. The VR2 placement is very picky given that it uses the room and rear ambiance tweater. It all has to come together in the sweet spot at the right time to get the benefit of the VR2. Maybe that's why you you didn't hear what they were capable of. The Hawks, in my experience, were much more forgiving with room placement.

Can you explain what is "technically far less superior" about the VR2's? Do you mean crossover wise, or designwise?
Thans Rumadian and Robm321. I appreciate the posts. It seems like I've narrowed down my selection to two recommended speakers, and yet there are always more...the more input, the better, so thanks again. - steve

I hope you accept my apologies as my original response came across too strong and I simply did not take any time to give thorough thought before posting.

Having owned the VR-2 and the VR-1, I have much respect for what Von Schweikert has done with these products! You are spot on, the Vr-2 is not an easy speaker to get right in room, as that rear tweeter can cause some freaky reflections. While positioning the vr-2 can be a challenge for even an experienced audiophile, matching the vr-2 with electronics can be easily done – and might I add, affordably so! This is a major strength to the vr-2’s credit and is a good reason why the speaker is as popular as it is. You do not have to spend a mint to get a lot.

The Hawk by contrast, while more friendly with room positioning (although still requiring a very large space to really breathe)… is much more demanding with electronics. With the VR-2, you can easily match the speaker with inexpensive tube’s (Antique Sound Labs, vintage Dynakits, Rogue)… the Hawks really do need gear from the likes of Lamm, Bat (vk-60 or similar). This is a fairly significant step up in electronics and many people do not like the idea of such a disproportionate investment in their system.

As for technical superiority. The Hawk uses a 5.5 inch Scan-Speak Revelator… a driver that costs over 200 by its lonesome, not to mention a fantastic modified MB Quart tweeter that too, is very expensive. The ‘crossover’ is simply a cap and a resistor (if I remember correctly). Very simple. The internal wiring *silver* and over all cab volume is executed near perfection. This was brilliant design mixed with… honestly… luck. Just so you know, the manufacturers cost on the Hawk is only a few hundred less than the msrp of the vr-2.

Now, with all of that being said.. is the Hawk always the better choice? The answer is; of course not. But it is a speaker that is very mis-understood and very easy to get wrong...and a lot of people (dealers included) simply do not realize it.
Yeah, Robm321, I had also read several posts here and elsewhere that the VR2s were kinda fussy in terms of placement, relative to other speakers...I found it interesting to read from Rumadian that he felt the VR2s were "much easier on placement," as that was one of my major concerns with the VR2s (e.g. distance from rear wall). - steve
Interesting discourse there Rumadian. Thanks. I am learning mucho, and glad I started this thread. From what I have read, there does seem to be agreement that the VR2s are relatively harder to place correctly, but easier to drive (and therefore mate with other components) whereas the Hawks are relatively easier to place, but harder to drive (and therefore mate with other components). thx, - steve
You might also want to consider the Consonance Eric 3 speakers (list is $1795). I own a pair and feel they are a great buy in speakers. Here is a link to a recent review:
I feel the review is very accurate.

Here is what I posted previously on these forums about the Eric 3 compared to Von Schweikert speakers:
To which I would only add that the treble of the Eric 3 have indeed become smoother with break-in and have not lost any of the detail.

I have a friend who prefers the Eric 3 to my VR-4jr. I attribute this to the more forward nature of the Eric 3 (as noted by Soundstage), and the weaknesses of my listening space which really hurt the VR-4jr. The jr should be farther away from the boundaries than I can place them.

Thanks Lowfidelity...appreciate the suggestion and the link...I'll read it for sure. - steve