Vandersteen's, optimum placement, room limitations

Category: Speakers

I'm thinking of switching from Thiel 2.3's to Vandersteen 3A sigs with their subwoofers, or possibly the new Quatro's (have to demo). My problem is that in my city apartment, my listening room is only 12' 8" wide. I've listened to the 3A sig's under varying conditions (once 20 inches from the walls w/ good results, once the same distance w/ terrible ones. In both cases I was able to sit more than 7 to 8 feet back from the speakers, which is the current/maximum distance in my listening space). I can't afford to put the backs of my speakers more than 18-20 inches from the walls in any case.

I currently have an Ayre CX-7 cd player and Rega P3 Turntable, Ayre K-3X preamp, and Ayre V-5x amp, w/ Ayre and Cardas Golden Reference interconnects plus Cardas Cross speaker cables. I think the sig's might be quite nice in my system, but the distance/set-up thing? I don't know...

I'd appreciate anyone's feedback on this.
I have owned 2 sets of 3As and feel that your room is way to small for them. Try listening to the 2ce's and see if you like them instead.
I too feel your room deminsions will not allow you to get the best out of the 3A Sigs. The closer to the wall, the more bottom you will have but the soundstage will strink.
Your equipment is an excellent match. I too use the V5x with an Aesthetix Calypso preamp. Great stuff.
The best thing to do is try if at all possible. Also, you must sit 8' back to allow for the speakers to come together. This is Vandersteen's minimum recommended distance and I agree with it. Anything closer and the soundstage becomes a little diffused. You might talk to Mr. V himself about your room deminsions and the speaker. He's a straight shooter. Good luck.
As much as I love my Vandy 3A Sig's (with a pair of 2Wq subs), and as much as I'd like to recommend the 3A Sig's to you, I think the advice already offered is probably correct. My room is 13' x 18', and I think it is about as small as I'd recommend with the 3A Sig's. My speakers are about 30" from the rear wall, and about 3.5 feet from each side wall, with my seating distance about 10' from the speakers, and they perform pretty well in this arrangement. Previously, however, my listening room was about 16' x 25', and that really gave the 3A Sig's the breathing room they needed.

I'm not sure that the 2CE's will be much of an improvement from a space perspective, and their tonal balance is a bit darker and warmer than the 3A Sig's. I also doubt that the new Quatro will work very well in your room.

Given the very high quality of the rest of your system, and the size of your room, my advice is to look for a really good stand-mounted monitor-type speaker (such as the Focal/JM Labs 906) and add a good subwoofer.
Very much agree with Sdcampbell's excellent advice in your situation. A good stand mounted front ported monitor is your best bet. Avoid a rear ported design with the distance limitations behind the speakers as that will not be enough space for the rear port to sound as designed. Having owned both the 2.3's and 2Ce's, I think both need space to breathe. Some suggestions in addition to the Focal/JM Labs 906 would be the B&W Naut.805 or Sig 805, Tyler Acoustics Ref Monitors,perhaps the Ref.MM 3A de capo, although not sure if that one a rear or front port. :)
All of your feedback has been quite helpful. I should add a couple of points to clarify my position- my listening room has the speakers against the long wall, which is the only place I can put them- it's a living room about 18 feet wide. Speakers, though only 20 inches from front wall, are about 7 feet apart, and would be about 6 feet from left side wall and 5 feet from right side wall. The only other speaker I've seriously considered so far would be the Von Schweikert vr4-jr's, which I think are actually front-ported. Don't want to go to 2 CE's, wasn't satisfied w/ their sound. I do want speakers that go down to 30Hz or below; want a bit deeper bass than I get w/ my Thiels. My impression has been that stand-mounted monitors don't tend to go that low, or give a great soundstage, all other things being equal, but I'm not too knowledgeable about them. My Thiels don't sound as good as they could in current position (20" out), but are serviceable- my sense has been that Vandy's would suffer relatively more in that position... Any thoughts out there on relative sensitivity of Thiels, Vandy's, Von Schweikerts in that position, plus stand monitors that go low, w/ great soundstage? Sorry for the length here, just have a lot of questions about this...
No, monitors won't go to 30hz unless they're powered like ones from Paradigm or Definitive Technology. Neither of these has a rep for being exactly smooth. Of course if you find 2Ce Sigs dark then maybe you'd like one or both, although your electronics might be a bit better than this.

The problem remains that you're in a smallish room but want big speaker sound, especially at the low end. Whether that will work might depend on how porous your walls are to low frequencies, along with a lot of other factors.

I think small speakers with a sub makes sense for this case, because the active low end can allow you to adjust the bass level somewhat to the room. So I might suggest monitors with sub like a pair of the von Schweikert LCR-15 center channel monitors (reportedly better than the VR 1), the Totem Arros (floorstanders), Joseph Audio RM7si Signature Mk2 (or maybe even floor standing 22 to around 40hz), VMPS 626 with FST tweeters (rear ported, so a question mark). The last three would tend away from the 2Ce Sig kind of warmth you didn't like.

There might be more problems with time aligned monitors since you have to sit so close to them. Even though they can all be adjusted vertically that can begin to change the image height and floor bounce and so forth. Also, their off axis response might be less smooth, including that of the first order crossover VMPS, and that might be a drawback in cramped quarters.

HTH. It's all so subjective....
Thanks, Suits_me-

You gave me some helpful things to consider. Also, I'd like to thank everyone else for their feedback.
Hi, the new Quatros should suit your needs since they will have an ajdustable bass amp. It's similarity in this respect to the Model 5 will allow you to place them where you (generally) want them and then to tune the bass for that spot. Additionally, it's likely that they will sound better than 3A Sigs due to the constant improvements that RIchard makes in his speakers.

Otherwise, the 3A Sigs are probably not a good idea based on the room dimensions you have. A pair of 2Ce Sigs would be great with subs, but not as refined as the 3s or Quatros.

Good luck!
I am going to disagree with the above posters and say that you can get very excellent sound from Vandersteen 3A Signatures in a relatively small room. I have these speakers (without the subwoofers) in a 22 foot x 12 foot living room and I am very happy with the sound.

My system is set up the same way and I get excellent, balanced sound with good depth. The bass is not boomy, and I probably have mine set up closer to the wall behind them than you do. There are some challenges due to furniture configuration which I choose not to address, like a big wall unit between the speakers. This does cut down on reverberant sound and although I wouldn't call the sound "diffuse" at all, other speakers have given a more precise and more laser-like imaging presentation than the Vandy's in my room. They are not "slow" or dull or dark to my ears. I do lose some deep bass, from my room, as I live in a Manhattan concrete box and this does generate an amazing amount of bass energy into the next apt. rather than staying in mine, but you may not have this if the construction of your building differs from mine.

In spite of all the negatives of furniture in the room, speaker placement necessitated in front of a long wall, listening across the width of the room and thus barely sitting 8 feet away, with very careful setup, I was able to make these speakers sing. It was a lot of work and I was frustrated for months. Toe-in, tilt back and positioning changes of 1-2 inches can make a huge difference with these speakers. A very careful setup which relies on trial and error as well as sufficient time to evaluate different placement options can yield excellent results, if my experience means anything.

By the way, besides currently owning the 3A Signatures, I previously owned the original Von Schweikert VR-5 and have extensive auditioning experience with the VR-4JR, but not in my home. I do feel the VR-4JR is a better speaker than the VR-5, although they do share many characteristics. I owned the Vandies at the same time as the Von Schweikerts. Vandies unquestionably went deeper in the bass, although the Von Schweikerts were not a slouch there, particularly for their smaller size. Von Schweikerts had a more transparent midrange. The Vandies had a slightly more laid back presentation, throughout the mids and highs. The VR-5's were definitely more forward in their presentation. Although I liked the VR-5's overall, they were too big for my bedroom and I wasn't so in love with them that I would sell the Vandersteen's. I liked the Vandersteen's better overall. I am in love with the VR-4JR and am pondering trying to make that work someday as a bedroom speaker.

So, I wouldn't give up on the idea of 3A Signatures in a room even only 18 x 12, if the speakers are set up along the long wall as yours and mine are. This may not be ideal and we may be leaving some performance "on the table", but I am confident that my system sounds very good indeed with this setup. With careful placement, even with other room restrictions, excellent sound is possible and even readily attainable with work from these speakers. I wouldn't want a room any smaller than yours to work with and if my living situation changed where I had more room to play with, I would enjoy hearing these speakers in that environment.
After having read all the previous posts,I decided to chime in with my opinions.I'm a Model 3a owner,and have them situated a 18.5L' x 14'w room.I sit 10'away.The speakers are located 24" from the sidewalls to the nearest side of the cabinets,and 32" from the rear walls to the front baffle of the cabinet.My room simulates the L.E.D.E.concept(live end,dead end)with the area behind the speakers representing the dead end.This entire wall is treated with 1" thick slotted foam that was used to ship optical lenses to my place of work.They really don't absorb much,but serve to take a little edge off things,and aid in reducing slap echo.Sidewalls are treated with ASC panels at the reflective points.Rear walls have one ASC panel behind my head,and difussors where the speakers are aimed.I use home made cubicle panels painted on the outside and absorbing on the back as bass traps in the front corners behind the speakers.The net results are superb.Even though the speakers are reletively close to room boundaries,they virtually disappear.Soundstage,depth,center fill,detail,all the audiophile attributes we all desire are there in spades.Yes the room treatments improved things,but they sounded very good in the untreated room before hand.My point is I think they can be made to work in your area also.Follow the placement guide in the Vandersteen manual,as it offers a good starting point.I also belive the use of room treatments is going to enter into play.You may experience an increase in the amount of bass in a smaller room like yours.Last I see no reason to go with the 2ce's.I owned them before I obtained the 3's.If you could get them to work in your room,then the 3's will work as well.