Vandersteen updates and amplifiers

Seeking experience and advice. I have the Vandersteen Quatro Wood (non-CT) and have enjoyed them on a large variety of music for the past 7 years or so. I have been able to hear changes with improvements in upstream gear and tweaks. I use a Pass Labs XP-27 phono - XP-22 Pre and the good ol XA 30.5 to power the Quatro. Balanced M5 boxes.  

Two things recently elevated the performance of the Vandersteen's in my room. First was the addition of Isoacoustic Gaia I footers. I was pretty skeptical about using these as Vandersteen designs to couple the speakers to the floor. These footers are supposed to decouple. But I felt is was worth trying because the speakers are positioned on a suspended wooden floor above a storage area in my house. I had to use the more expensive Gaia I because the 110 lb Quatro has to be supported with just 3 footers. Also, I had to buy 8 not 6 footers. It was not difficult to maintain the appropriate tilt angle by adjusting the footers. Be aware that the rear spike threads are different than the front. After many weeks of use, I think they are a significant improvement. The quality of the imaging and the tonal richness of the midrange expanded to my ears. More palpable presence in the room, better separation of instruments so that you can hear into the recording better. The bass quality changed almost like adjusting the Q. The bass may be a little less high impact and certainly less is transmitted into the floor, but overall bass better integrated into the music.

The second change was the addition of an HRS S platform under the Pass XA 30.5. This is the only component of the system that is near the speakers and in the high acoustic energy zone. Improvements in detail and clarity were not subtle. Very impressed!

So, fellow audiogoners, what might be the next steps for me if I choose to stick with the Vandersteen sound. I hear good things about Vandersteen M5 HPA mono's. This would eliminate the M5 boxes and the Pass XA 30.5. For the same price I could probably trade in the XA 30.5 for a more powerful .8 series amp.  Anyone with experience want to share? I would also consider updating to the Quatro CT if that would be a similar jump in performance. The Quatro seems to be the right size for my medium/large room. 
Thanks Erik. I would surely benefit from both a real acoustics eval and a Vandersteen setup expert. I have employed real traps (absorbers)  in places that seem to help, like first reflection points and front corners.  But I certainly have peaks and nulls in the low frequencies.
@karl_desch ,
I know Mr. V. believes his speakers sound better on a granite block.
I have my Treo's on maple butcherblock at the moment.
I was going to try Townshend Podiums, but the outrigger feet made that unusable due to my limited floor space. (They went under my preamps- and made a noticeable positive difference).
In any case, I think the Gaia provide much the same 'uncoupling' as the Townshend Podiums. And, I think your observations to be much the same as my experience using the Townshend Podiums under my preamps.- A cleaner, more defined sound, with the bass tamed but not muted.
Overall, better.

Hi Karl - sounds like a fantastic system and room treatments - fixing low bass w passive treatments in living rooms is difficult- hence the invention of the model 5 and Quattro, etc w 11 bands of analog EQ. You will still have lumps and bumps but many fewer. IF you listen in one place a scales played on acoustic bass don’t vary much ( Soular energy is a great test )
you have it dialed in ! You could add a model 3 sub or two and have a fantastic swarm
system - better bass all over the room but maybe not in the sweet spot chair.
your experience with HRS mimics my own - I have a variety of their excellent products. Your phono and TT are on ????
i believe Vandy has improved the midrange, tweeter and crossover since you got yours - I perswould do the CT before the amplifiers ( I do have the M7 amplifier )
yes I have heard the M5 driving the new Kento - stunning
best to you
Thanks @tomic601 and @gdnrbob. Had a good talk with John Rutan today and I’m trying out a couple things. He encouraged speaker placement off the Gaia and on thick granite blocks given the wooden floor. Also recommended trying the speakers closer to the front wall and sides. This was unexpected but maybe this will position the speakers on a more stable part of the floor?

My TT is on a solidsteel with a Vibraplane isolating the table. Might try the Gaia screwed into the solidsteel racks if I like them off the speakers better.
Definitely want to try both the CT version and the M5 HPA in my system. Probably too much $$$ to change both at once... Nice short speaker cables and mono blocks might be an advantage over my longer shotgun biwired Kimber 12TC.

those are some good looking Quatros  I have Quatro woods also power with the Aesthetix Atlas if I was change my amp would be Aesthetix Atlas Eclipse stereo or mono blocks 

He isn’t actually my dealer!  He was just nice enough to think about my room and system with me.  I blame you guys for spreading the lore of his zen master abilities.
@tomstruck.  Thanks for the thought on Aesthetix. A good friend has one of their integrated and loves it.  As far as tubes go, I am not opposed as long as it sounds right!  I used to have a BAT VK75 SE, but never on the Quatro. Another pal is going to bring his Marantz 8b around soon.  I’ll report on how the Quatro likes vintage Marantz.
Noted an interesting, but I guess not surprising, change in the way the Quatros present music with some dramatic positioning changes.  I had been using the golden ratio method to position the Quatros out into my room.  They were a couple feet from the side wall and about 5 feet from the front wall.  This position really optimized the imaging that these speakers are capable of at the expense of tonality and bass response. On John's suggestion, I removed the front corner bass traps and got the speakers far back into the front corners. Instead of the triangle being 8' apart and 11 from the listening position, they are now 10.5 apart and 13' from the listening position. In this position, the bass is much more powerful but still articulate.  Upright bass playing with more presence and resonance like a real bass. Improved tonality across the spectrum. Also the overall soundstage has gotten more enormous which is great for a lot of recordings but weird for some small group recordings. I am working on positioning that will get back some of the precise imaging that is now missing.  Trying to find the correct balance.  
When you try the Marantz 8b amp make sure you use Vandertones and adjust the High Pass with a Voltmeter to nail the 100 HZ point correctly Track 27 and track 30.
Glad you chatted w Johnny - I ran my 5a for a bit with my highly modified 1961 McIntosh MC240.... Vandersteen powered bass like the Quattro takes such a load off your main amp - be prepared to fall in love w tubes !!!

You can check out my placement and ARC and Aesthetix gear on the virtual system page: Poverty Bay Sound

and Zen,  Seattle style
If anyone knows how to position Vandy's, it's Johnny.
As well as setting up the correct crossover values.
As far as amps go, I run my Treo's with Atmasphere MA-1's in the winter and Ayre MXR's in the summer.
A bit of overkill, but I always wanted to compare Tubes vs SS.

@audioconnection Ive got the Vandertones and will measure things out. Thanks for the advice on Marantz 8.

@gdnrbob. I have always wanted to hear Atma-spheres.  I am planning a trip up to Brightonto listen to some Classic Audio Loudspeakers. Should be fun.

@tomic601 beautiful system.

I am also heading to Classic Audio Loudspeakers at the end of the month. Getting the T1.5s. 
I have always been intrigued by the Vandersteens and their technology. What type of amplification do the Vandersteen Quattros like? High power Solid state, low watt OTL or SET, or high watt tube amps? Currently have McIntosh MC2301s. 
I’ll let other Vandersteen users chime here as well.  Upper level Vandersteen’s have powered subwoofer sections and roll off bass below 100 Hz before the power amp. This combined with a nominal impedance of 8 and no nasty phase angles makes them relatively easy to drive.  However they are not efficient speakers like the Classic Audio.  I think owner’s generally have good luck with higher powered tubes like Audio Research or solid state.  I have used Pass Labs and older Threshold amps on the Vandersteens that I’ve owned. More recently Vandersteen has designed their own monoblock amps that use bipolar output transistors and no global negative feedback.
Just an update.  I hooked up a pristine old Marantz 8 (not 8b) and swapped out the Pass XA 30.5.  I had to do some XLR to RCA conversions in order to use the amp with my current M5-HP crossover. I used the multimeter measurements to get the appropriate voltage drop at 100 Hz.  JohhnyR @audioconnection has described the method in these forums in the past. The Marantz 8 needs a good hour to warm up and start sounding balanced. This is a very easy to listen to amplifier and I can totally see why people have described it as musical.  It has tones of tone and individual instruments are presented with more body and presence than I remember hearing with the Pass. The highs are extended enough without ever sounding etched. The bass is definitely different and a touch slower than with the Pass. But extended and distinct in a very musical way. The amp had some trouble when pressed into high volume service where the normally distinct and clear images get slightly jumbled. But this was rare.

Overall, although I don't think this is the answer for my system, I would really like to explore tube amplifier options now.  I am looking for suggestions for mono blocks that accept balanced inputs (and are preferably actually balanced amps). I currently use a 25ft run of XLR cables between the Pass XP-22 pre and the XA 30.5. Power doesn't have to be super high.

Atma-sphere M60 or Novacron?
Quicksilver V4? (not balanced correct?)
Doshi V3.0?

Anyone with experience driving Vandersteen with tubed power amps? I still want to hear what the newer Vandersteen M5-HPA sound like too.

The Quicksilver V4’s can be purchased with balanced inputs. I used a pair for 15 years before moving to Aesthetix gear. 
@joey54. Thanks, I saw that they do this for a charge, but I'm also assuming that this is a transformer coupled converter, not balanced circuitry throughout.  What did you move to in the Aesthetix line and what did that change do for you soundwise?
I moved to the Aesthetix Atlas amplifier and Calypso preamp. Just my opinion, but I think Aesthetix amplifiers bring out the best in Vandersteen speakers. The Atlas also has a built-in high pass filter for use with the Vandersteen's. Punchy bass, amazing midrange and a musical presentation that works best for me! I was using Quatro's at the time. I use the Aesthetix Mimas integrated now.

You should ping JohnnyR at the Audio Connection to talk about the Quickies and the Aesthetix gear. Quicksilvers are still my favorite tube amps. He also knows a lot about Pass as he used to sell them. Good Luck!
@karl_desch ,
I would opt for a higher power Atma amp for the Vandies.
The M60 would probably work, but I think the MA-1 would be a better choice. I would PM Ralph Karsten (Atmasphere here on Agon) and get his opinion. His phone number is on his website, and he does pick up (or his assistants).
For SS amps, if not Vandersteen, then Ayre would be 1st on the list.
Frankly, anything with zero feedback seems to make Vandy's sing.
I have the Vandy 7 amps w my 7’s and a fantastic Music Reference RM-9 with my Treo... you really should hear the M5 power amp
the Ayre VXR/Twenty or MXR is a super amp w Vandy as are both Aesthetix and VTL
Maybe a little off-base, but I am running my Vandy 5As with a Music Reference RM9 SE, with a Music Reference pre.  I love this combo.  
I had a great time listening to the T1.5s driven by Atma-sphere Novacrons a couple nights ago at Classic Audio Loudspeakers. Man those things are huge!  The sound was just totally effortless at all frequencies.  Never listened to a stereo that gets piano and upright bass so right.  Very alive sound. I think this was mainly the field coil speaker but I’m sure the Atma-sphere amps were also a major contributor.

Today I will audition the M5-HPA at Ultra fidelis in Milwaukee.  

I want to share with you my experiences when I was looking for my next speaker. I was also there (Classic Audio Loudspeakers) on the 27th. Your right, the T1.5s are superb in bass, piano, and voicing. The stereo imaging is absolutely incredible as well. My T1.5s get delivered next Friday. Prior to me deciding on the t1.5a, I owned B&W 800s, auditioned Legacy Aeris, Klipschorn, Avant-Garde Duo’s, Spatial Audio X5s, Magnepan 3.6 and 20s, Klipsch Jubilees with custom DSP crossovers, B&W 800 series diamond, and many more that I forget. 

At the end of the day, your selection is obviously based on your listening tastes and synergy with your equipment. 

My selection criteria was for a speaker that had better efficiency, more dynamics at lower volume, and better and more robust bass. My 800s provided me with great voicing and piano, but it was when I wanted to play louder that the power inefficiency’s shined. Naturally, many speakers out there can be dynamic either as a horn, DSP and powered bass, or a hybrid. I love the efficiency of horns, but felt that the ones I listened to lacked something organic sounding that I had with the B&W 800s I owned. The powered bass in the Legacies and the Duos seem to give me the heft in the lower bass regions, except they both use DSP controlled bass power amplification. I have a pretty much an all analog signal path from vinyl through all tube phono and preamp, and large 300 watt mono tube amps from McIntosh. When I heard the t1.5 at CAF, I was floored by the sheer quality in the music and how easily bass and vocals were presented. I was sold on the spot after having heard all of what I mentioned above. I knew this was what I was looking for as soon as I heard them. After listening to them at Classic Audio this past weekend, it only made me more anxious in waiting for mine to be delivered. I have been looking and researching my next upgrade for the last two years, so take your time and happy listening. You will know what is right for you as soon as you hear it. 

@audioquest4life Thanks for that perspective.  Congrats on your impending 1.5s.  You must have a nice big listening room. In my living room, I think I could shoehorn a T3 and remain married.  John suggested that the T3 was similar in its sound just scaled down.  
I’m still a Vandy fan and very much looking forward to listening today (mask on). Will definitely take my time and enjoy the possibilities.

Your welcome. Yes, my room is sort of large, 33 feet deep x 19 feet wide. I still think I will be shoehorning those mammoth T1s into the room. Vandersteens are great speakers and I am sure that certain models in the  series has appealed to you. That’s what great about this hobby; there’s something for everyone. Sharing your experiences and listening impressions for others to use for there research and analysis when on the same journey. Way back when Vandersteens where on my list but I went in other directions. Goof luck.

Had a great 3 hours at Ultra Fidelis today.  My first time in the shop even though I grew up in Milwaukee.  I listened to the Quatro CTs fed with the M5 HPA.  Preamp was ARC Ref 6SE and digital was Qobuz streaming but I don’t recal the DAC. Cables by AQ including the new William Tell Zero. 
Others have noted this but Jon has this room setup very nicely with a great focus on speaker placement.  This is a basic size living room with some furnishings and no fancy absorption panels or bass traps.  So very real living room.  
The sound was just stunning.   Locked in imaging, plenty of meat on the bone and very much showing me what was in the recording.  Excellent musical flow and dynamics even at higher dBs.  So much information coming at you. I learned a lot about what this amp/speaker combination can do when properly set up in a real world room.  Got some great ideas about how to alter my current setup and things to try before pulling the trigger on new speakers or amps.  I know I would be very happy if I could get my stereo to sound as good as Jon’s setup.  
I’m sure other Vandersteen users know what I mean when you get the speakers locked in.  It was fun!
Locked in = very long fatigue free listening late into the night :-) enjoy the journey 
@tomic601 ,
What is your opinion regarding the Vandy M5 amp and the Ayre MX-R?
Does Mr. V's amps offer a significant improvement?
Agree about Ultra Fidelis. Jon is a terrific guy. Bought my Treo CT's from him in that very same room. That was five years ago, and I couldn't be happier with my purchase. I also augmented my Treo's with two Vandy 2Wq subs. I believe I'm getting near Quattro performance. IMO.
@mr_m ,
 I have the same combo, but non CT Treo's.
I am going to upgrade to the new Sub 3's, as soon as I can sell my 2 wq's.
I think that will definitely put me in the Quatro level.
Like you, I am extremely happy, but the pursuit of 'better' sound keeps me changing things. 
Pretty sick, eh?😜
@repulso I think your post is spot on :-) much mutual respect and admiration between RM and RV, RM was a very early Vandersteen dealer on the East Coast. The RM-9 amp in its variants is an superb pairing - I have the RM-9 w RAM tubes EL-34... running the Treo CT...

Bob - I have been pondering your question... I have heard MX-R non twenty in a variety of rooms and systems over the years including them running the 7’s. I myself ran 5a with the VX-R and then 7’s ( Mk2) and ultimately upgraded to the Twenty. I have about 1k hours on the HPA-7 amps, which in some sense is unfair on two dimensions: price and optimization for load. I have very slowly been working on a review of sorts of the M7 amp, but never get to it because I am listening not writing..
I think your going to have to go have a listen....
all fun :-)))
Hey Bob, that's a perfectly good idea going for the pair of Sub 3's. I talked to tomic601 about this and he seemed to think it's a great idea.
I want to do this also, but being retired creates some financial limitations.
Although it's not out of the range of possibility. It's a work in progress for me. lol.
I am lucky in that my house sits on a concrete slab....the floors are travertine tiles on the slab and don’t vibrate. I tried replacing the spikes of my 5A’s with similar gizmos....they absolutely ruined the sound....flattened the sonic picture, removed the bass, decreased the width. I quickly returned to the spikes. ...just shows to go ya.
Thanks @stringreen. @stringreen. I ended up screwing the Isoacoustic footers into the feet of my equipment racks.  I think getting the Quatros back near the side walls reduced the effect of the footers.  I just have the speakers on little Herbies audio picks so I can position them without destroying the wood floors.
@karl_desch ,
I have my Treo’s near the middle of the room (front to back), and near the side walls (left/right)-unfortunately the only place I could put them.
It was a significant improvement over having them near the rear/back wall. YMMV.
@mr_m .
Considering you get a decent price for the 2wq’s, It almost cuts the price in half.
And, for me, I sold a lot of stuff I bought, but wasn’t using, so my purchase is entirely funded by all the things I sold.
@tomic601 ,
Thanks for responding.
Not to rush judgement, but did you notice any significant change when you moved to the Vandy amps?

As some might know, I run Atmasphere in the winter ( to warm the living room), and Ayre in the summer to keep the AC from increasing my electric bill.
Though not a scientific or well done comparison, I will say the Ayre KX-R (non Twenty) sounds ’better’than my Atma MP-1.-Sorry Ralph.
Though not by much.
The Ayre seems to offer more detail and cleaner bass than the Atma.- What the Twenty upgrade will do, makes me nervous.
I was very surprised by this discovery as I think Ralph’s products to be some of the best out there. In fact, I hope to get a pair of his Class D monoblocks as soon as they are available.

tomic601, although we do not know each other, and chances are we will never get to meet, I always look forward to your comments, there is never a hint of envy, jealousy, anger in them just a joy in sharing with others here.   Quite admirable.  I have even taken to purchasing wine from Davis, and I hope I have it right that you once invited someone/everyone over to listen to some great music, and you would supply the wine.  If I have the right (or even if there is some error there), thank you!  You are so non-judgemental, its a revelation in these times.  
@repulso - wow !!! Thank you. I printed this out and taped it to the fridge door and Dogs bowl in the hopes of improving my standing in the pack order !!!!!
Yes and the invite stands !!! The Davis came about unexpectedly on a sojourn in wine country and stumbled across Davis tasting and barrel room on the river in Healdsburg- I claimed long lost family and they asked for my share of the back taxes ! We fought them to a draw by joking the Reds only wine club ! So the Syrah and Old Vine Zin is our House wine... fun

@rpeluso ,
+1, Jim (Tomic) is rare pleasure here on Audiogon.
And, I really have to find time to visit him and his systems.
I have been personally invited to Jim's home for some of the finest listening of great music that I have ever experienced. Jim's systems are beyond reproach and he sets them up to professional standards. He lets you sit in his personal "sweet spot" and lets you control the sound. 

Talk about a great host, he has the best reds you will ever taste along with cheese, crackers and fine Italian dry sausage. I haven't known Jim all that long, but it seems like I have known him forever! What a Great guy!
I just spent an enjoyable two weeks of evenings listening to the 7’s and 7’s and will look at my listening history and try to finish those impressions I have of the 7 amps. I just posted A lp photo of unboxing them on my Poverty Bay Sound page
I had the pleasure of being able to spend more time with Jon at Ultra Fidelis this week.  This time the Kënto's were setup with the same electronics as my last session with the Quatro CT. The speakers were in similar but not identical positions as Jon spends a lot of blood sweat and tears to get the positions of each speaker right. The M5-HPA were again driving the loudspeakers.

The Këntos certainly look a lot more like the Quatros than the 5 Carbons they replace. They are slightly taller and have a wider base to accommodate the larger bass drivers compared to the Quatro.  They have an integrated platform with three spikes to couple to the floor. Although not as clean from a design standpoint, they certainly look very well constructed and will not dominate a living room.

Although they look like the Quatros, I think they sound much more like the 7s.  This was immediately apparent in the clean and controlled presentation. Imaging and bass integration was spectacular. My avatar friend David Bowie's voice was just hanging right there in the center of the room on several tracks from Hunky Dory. You could hear all the intonations in his singing and all the supporting instruments even when things got busy. Like the quatros, I felt I was hearing another 30% of the recording that I had been missing. Really kind of hallucinogenic!  

These Këntos come across as more mellow than the Quatros.  I had the urge to keep turning them up.  I have no idea what decibels I was hitting but the pre level was comparable to the Quatro setup if not a little higher.  Maybe these are less efficient speakers than the Quatro but it also may be the lower distortion coming out of the carbon/balsa midrange driver.  This allows a listener to just increase the volume till you get the level of information you want.  Never heard anything like this before. I felt like the Quatros got the information but also had more edge and energy in the midrange and upper frequencies relative to the Kënto, especially as the decibels got higher.

This demo was helpful to me as I was able to listen to how the M5-HPA perform on an even more transparent speaker like the Kënto.  I have to say that I am very impressed with these monoblocks. Would have been interesting to sub in a different amp, like my Pass, to really hear what each adds (or doesn't add) to the sound. But I think the best way to do that is to get a pair of M5-HPA into my own system at home.  

@karl_desch ,
Great post.
The Vandy amps are on my dream list, but owning not only the Atma MA-1's, but the Ayre MX-R's, I feel truly blessed.
If at all possible, I would try to audition the Ayre KX-R preamp.
I have no experience with the ARC preamp you listened to, but my experience with the Ayre really floored me.
@gdnrbob.  Preamp!  Oh no!  I got to keep this search to amps and speakers.  I would love to hear the Atma MA-1, the Ayre MX-R and the Aesthetix Atlas. All Amps with “A”s. Just not sure how I make that happen in Ann Arbor.
@karl_desch ,
I hear you, and, no, I don’t want to scramble your brain
But, preamps can make a huge difference in what you hear.
Cables, too.
For me,
I just trust the great information John Rutan gives me.

So, for the present, I will use my Atma’s and Ayre’s until I can score a Vandy amp.
With AQ cabling, too. (Read my other posts on William Tell and Thunder). Of course, you can also PM me.
After chasing this dream for over 40 years, I feel I should acquiesce to those with more experience.
It saves me time and money.