As noted in my November 2003 review of the VR-1, I first heard that minimonitor, the VR-S/1 subwoofer and the subject of this review, the compact floorstanding VR-2, at the 2003 CES. These "entry-level" offerings reflect VSA's approach to marketing in the highly competitive $1K-$3K price range. All three are made in China from Albert Von Schweikert's designs, including custom-designed transducers. VSA's familiar brown cloth-wrapped enclosures have given way to smoothly finished cabinets in a choice of four clear-coated wood veneers: blonde maple (the color of my review pair), dark cherry, black ash or African Hazelwood.
For Detailed Technical Information
The VSA website provides several pages on the VR-2. This includes detailed descriptions of the drivers, crossover and cabinet construction; clearly presented graphs and discussions of the loudspeaker's impedance curves and transmission line characteristics; and comprehensive specifications. Expectedly, these manufacturer's descriptions are entirely positive, and they are obviously intended to sell the reader on the technical superiority of the VR 2's design elements. But the descriptions are by no means egregiously "salesy," and there is much to be learned by reading them. Since all of that important information is only a click away, I see no point in paraphrasing it here. My commentary will focus primarily on audio performance; I strongly encourage any reader interested in exploring the many technical details of this loudspeaker to visit Von Schweikert's website.
When the pair of shipping cartons arrived, they sported several additional layers of cardboard
"end caps" at both ends—an intelligent and economical way to combat the
"let's-drop-it-off-the-truck-and-see-if-we-can-smash-in-a-corner scenario so beloved by delivery drivers everywhere.
From the Bottom To The Top
After about a month of home theater/break-in service in my secondary system, the VR-2s came downstairs to play with the big boys. While they do not in most respects challenge the resident Von Schweikert-custom-modified,
eight-times-more-costly Eggleston Andra Iis, the VR-2s are quite at home in the context of my reference system. They share with their smaller sibling VR-1 and other VSA loudspeakers I have heard an engaging
"personality" that seems quickly and effortlessly to draw me into the music. That quality is particularly evident with the wire-frame fabric grilles removed, and all of my listening was with the drivers exposed.
The VR-2 throws a satisfactorily large soundscape, with good depth. The loudspeakers "turn loose," quite effectively, so that there is little sense of the music being anchored to the loudspeaker cabinets. Interestingly, the small VR-1s — which share the same tweeter and mid/bass drivers produce an even broader soundscape, with greater height. They also "lock" images — individual voices, solo instruments, etc. — with slightly more precision and stability than the VR-2s. That's no big surprise; spatial cues are largely in the upper frequencies, and given the limited bass output of the minimonitors the listener's attention is drawn toward the high frequencies. The differences between the two are not great, and even if they were, the VR-2's far superior bass and dynamics are more than ample compensation.
Compatibilities, Strengths And Weaknesses
The VR-2s performed enjoyably enough in my reference system that I seldom pined for my Andras. Throughout the several weeks of the review period I gave them a very thorough workout, sometimes pushing them with my 750-watt VTL Reference monoblocks to output levels well beyond what they could reasonably be expected to handle. Yes, they can be driven to become stressed and
"shouty," but that requires truly unreasonable playback levels. At robust volumes that do not endanger
one's hearing, the VR-2s can party all night.
ABOUT THE NUMERICAL RATINGS: The reader should bear in mind that the following numerical ratings are intended to reflect ABSOLUTE values, not relative "for the money" performance. Too often there is a tendency toward "grade inflation," leading to the assumption, for example that a $1,000/pair loudspeaker scoring, say, 60 on bass response has poor bass performance. Actually that would be an excellent score. Can we really expect $1,000 loudspeakers to approach the performance of designs costing 5, 10, 20...100 times more? The scoring range is 0-100, not 90-100!
System Type: 3-way, 4-driver system, with Transmission-line woofer design
Woofer System: Twin 165mm (6.5") composite cone drivers
Treble System: 1" (25mm) fabric dome tweeter with soft resin damping layers, low distortion motor, Ferrofluid liquid cooling/damping, and long-throw voice coil and motor assembly
Damping System: Resonance Trap cavity provided for insertion of lead shot.
Crossover: Global Axis Integration Network, 4th order slopes using cascaded 1st order filters at 200Hz and 2.2kHz. Polypropylene caps and air-core inductors are utilized. All drivers are connected in phase.
Ambience Driver: 1" (25mm) soft dome tweeter with wave guide mounted at rear of the cabinet and Dimension Control for effects level adjustment, calibrated
Frequency Response: 25Hz to 25kHz, -3dB (+/- 1dB in the midrange).
Sensitivity: 87.5dB/W/m anechoic, 90dB in room.
Impedance: 8 ohms nominal, 7 ohms low to 20 ohms high.
Power Handling: 20 watts minimum, 200 watts maximum r.m.s., 500 watts peak.
Wire Connection: Five-way binding posts, fitted for 6mm spade lugs, with CE approved sheathing. Twin pairs are fitted, for bi-wiring or bi-amplifying. Jumper straps are supplied.
Warranty: Ten years conditional, excluding abuse and/or burnt voice coils due to clipping. Warranty is transferable to the second owner.
Dimensions: 40 x 8 x 16 (HxWxD in inches)
Weight: 66 lbs raw, 85 lbs with sand, 95 lbs with lead shot
Price: $2,595 per pair
Von Schweikert Audio