Volent Paragon VL-3 Loudspeakers
Spirit, presence and deep bass.
Review By Neil Walker
here to e-mail reviewer.
these speakers has been an adventure. One of my favorite audio friends
said to me, "Sure, some of the Chinese speakers sound great, but they have
no soul." With that in mind, I listened to these speakers expecting to be
uncharmed, disbelieving and otherwise prepared to say that for $9,650 you
could do much better with something crafted in the Black Forest or the
Allegheny mountains or your local speaker garage.
Was I ever wrong.
My only cavil is that these speakers have gorgeous,
expensive looking, high-gloss burled walnut cabinets. I wondered as I
unpacked their 86 pound weight (with some assistance: reviewing speakers
is a bit of a neighborhood project) whether the pretty part detracted from
the sound part. I began my serious listening and what a joy that was. My
30-watt tube amp had no trouble driving these loudspeakers. These speakers
presented me with recorded music that possessed clarity, openness,
precision, musicality, internal detail, accurate phasing, deep musical
bass (25Hz) and a realistic, deep soundstage.
technical aspect of these speakers deserves mention. The 25mm ribbon "twin
ribbon" tweeter (Volent's patented design) reproduces frequencies up to
100kHz. Your hearing may reach, if you are young, about 20kHz, but the
ability to reproduce sounds to frequencies five times higher is, according
to the company, "able to produce the harmonics and high frequencies which
‘lift the curtain' on musical reproduction to give the listener a sense
of presence as never before." Its low mass provides it with the ability to
reproduce tiny high frequency waves with greater precision and speed. A
Volent-prepared chart demonstrates the wide listening angle they achieve
with twin ribbon technology. The result is to provide the qualities of
both ribbon and dome tweeter technology.
seven-inch bass driver crosses over to the mid range at 630Hz. It is a
titanium and graphite sandwich cone woofer with a patented "Air"
system. Volent does not elaborate on the Air system online or on the
details of titanium and graphite sandwich, but its importance became
important later in my listening.
The three-inch mid-range speaker uses an aluminum cone
and covers the range up to 5700Hz at which point the dual ribbon tweeter
takes over. The nominal impedance of the speaker was
given as six Ohms, and I found it worked best when I attached it to the
four Ohm terminals on my amplifier.
do all the high tech and artistry do for the listener? I started my review
with one of my standards, Shirley Horn's "If you leave me" [You
Wonÿt Forget Me, Verve, 847 482_2]. She was there, piano and all.
Same thing with Patricia Barber, another piano playing chanteuse on
several of her beautifully recorded CDs.
When I moved to vinyl, I started with Elvis's great
rendition of "Fever" on the LP Elvis Is Back [DCC Compact Classics
LPZ_2037]. It put his voice front and center better than any speaker I
have reviewed with this track. The bass and percussion accompaniment has
the kind of tactile presence good reproduction demands. Interesting that
the high tech tweeter and woofer of the VL-3 gets so much attention. Once
you listen to something like a single driver Cain and Cain running off a
300B output tube, you realize that so much of your sense of hi-fi reality
is in the midrange. Granted that the tweeter's harmonics make the sound
real, but the heart is in the midrange. A significant part of this miracle
(it sounds miraculous the first few times you hear it), comes from the
single driver's lack of a crossover network. The more between you and the
CD or record, the more the result with the VL-3's aluminum cone midrange
driver is straight forward: tactile realism is very high when you listen
to these loudspeakers.
Therefore, it went record after record. A new album, Raising
Sand, made by the seemingly unlikely duo of Led Zeppelin's Robert
Plant and the great bluegrass fiddling and singing artist, Alison Kraus,
revealed a lot of music. They perform with skill and feeling, and, for the
purposes of this review, they produced a record of exceptional sonic
If you have heard the iPod song one time too many on
Apple's TV ads, you should listen to it on these speakers. Canadian singer
and songwriter Feist (Leslie Feist) released The Reminder in 2007
to great critical acclaim. All tracks are enjoyable, sometimes ironic, and
sometimes romantic "1234," the song that Apple used and that brought
Feist a huge audience, is a new song when the VL-3s bring you her closely
mic'ed voice and banjo. As in orchestral recordings, opera and choral
works, the loudspeakers' ability to reveal the inner structure of the
music enlivens this CD, too.
Then I moved to vinyl and some Strauss waltzes, in
particular the "Thunder and Lightning Polka" on Strauss Waltzes,
performed by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestrain 1962 [RCA
Victor Red Seal LSC-2500]. The bass drum takes a walloping in this piece,
and the VL-3s never faltered, all the time maintaining inner detail,
woodwinds that breathed in my listening room and solid strings that sat in
their assigned places. The other cuts demonstrated the same kind of
internal clarity while carrying out their heavy bass and tweeter jobs
Back on CDs, the VL-3s reveal aspects on every track of
Nikolas Kynaston's recording of Liszt music for organ performed on the
Klais Organ of Ingolstadt, Münster [Organ Works, IMP
Masters/Carlton Classics, 30366 00032]. I had not heard until now. The
capture of resonance in the church opens a new dimension of listener
placement. The bass notes took on the life that one would expect from a
great recording of such a superb instrument. At the same time, I heard the
interior of this music, a rare experience. But that bass caused shivers:
not only is it in balance with the rest of the music, but the VL-3s offer
a musically satisfying bass that surrenders no detail to the demands of
major excursions by the speaker cone.
When I asked company representative Ben Lau to elaborate
on the technical aspects of the woofer, he explained, "It is a special
woofer tailor made for Volent from Italy. The cone is built with a
sandwich structure. The inner layer is made of Syntactic Polymer Hardfoam,
[while the] outer layer is graphite with titanium ionized on its surface.
The merits from both materials are therefore maintained, [using]
graphite's elasticity and titanium's stiffness.
I was glad I asked. Although knowing the technical
details matters little to one's listening experience, they satisfied my
curiosity. As I listened to this CD and several other records that placed
great demands on the system, I felt that either these folks were smart or
I was having an undeserved out of body experience.
And that is where the magic lies in these speakers. Have
I heard more coherent sound from other speakers? Yes. The use of a series
crossover in a two-speaker system can provide a serious advantage here.
But the VL-3s have many compensating features. Have I heard speakers as
good as or better than these? Yes. However, they cost significantly more
and, although they had hi-fi qualities galore (more and louder "ting and
bang"), they did not possess the depth of immediacy and detail that the
The VL-3s have musical magic. Their clarity and
lightness comes from the fast response and rapid deceleration of the
individual parts that good engineering and careful manufacture provide.
And they have the sum of parts greater than the whole. In all my dealing
with Volent, I sensed that they are determined to satisfy an international
customer base that takes music very seriously and with great emotional
attachment. In all my listening to these speakers, I realized that they
are doing a very good job of satisfying that base of musical connoisseurs.
The VL-3s promise and deliver on in unusual combination: transparency,
immediacy and intimacy simultaneously at both low and high volume.
Finally, a word on the quality of these loudspeakers.
The Volent VL-3 are technically advanced, to be sure. They are also
stuffed with a lot of real lamb's wool, as the SL-3 website states.
Nevertheless, I had occasion to open one of these loudspeakers and can
report that they have meticulously built crossovers, very high quality
terminals, a lot of lamb's wool and excellent manufacturing standards
disassembled one of the speakers with the permission of company
representative Ben Lau as one of the mid-range speakers was not
functioning because of frequent, long distance shipping. When I first
began listening to the speakers, I wondered at the sudden incidence of
right channel dominance in my recordings. I thought that perhaps my
amplifier was in trouble or that my hearing was failing on one side, but
when I investigated further, I discovered the real problem. Opening an
expensive speaker fills me with some dread, I procrastinated as long as
possible as other jobs and chores required my attention. After finally
peering into the works of the speaker, and stating that I could see no
reason inside the box for the malfunctioning driver, I received a new
panel containing a mid-range and tweeter. Again, the terror of messing
with an expensive speaker made me hesitate until I finally got out the
soldering iron, some silver solder and did the whole job in about ten
minutes. I did not even drop any solder on that beautiful walnut finish.
So much for procrastination as the product of procrastination.
Most importantly, my exploration inside the VL-3
loudspeakers taught me that their build quality is very high. If you are
going to spend close to $10,000, you deserve an excellent product and the
Volent VL-3 loudspeakers easily qualify. While the VL-3s sell for a price
where there are many other fine loudspeakers, these hang with the $10,000
crowd very comfortably.
Ariston RD90 turntable
Sumiko MMT tone arm, Cardas internal wiring
SAEC cartridge shell
Benz Micro L2 cartridge
Cardas Golden Cross Phono interconnect B tone arm to phono pre-amp
Audiomat Phono 1 pre-amp
JPS Labs Superconductor 2 interconnects, phono pre-amp to amplifier
Vecteur L-2.4 CD Player
JPS Labs Superconductor 2 interconnects
Audiomat Prélude Référence integrated tube
Type: Three-way floorstanding loudspeakers
Frequency Response: 28Hz to 100kHz
Power Handling: 250W (RMS)
Impedance: 4 Ohm
Crossover Point: 630 and 5,700 Hz
Dimensions: 10.24 x 38.5 x 14.7 (WxHxD in inches)
Weight: 172 lbs per pair
Volent Corp. Ltd.
A: FT, K&L, 17/F, Blk 1,
Golden Dragon Industrial Centre,
152_160, Tai Lin Pai Rd, Kwai Chung
Voice: (852) 3427-2308
Fax: (852) 3427-2309