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Vandersteen VLR Speaker Review

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 218 90.5%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 16 6.6%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 2 0.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 5 2.1%

  • Total voters
    241

amirm

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This is a review, listening tests and measurements of the Vandersteen VLR coaxial bookshelf speaker. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,815 a pair.
Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker review Coaxial.jpg

The VLR is quite dense and heavy. Construction seems nice other than bulging out driver. The cherry finish is to my liking as a woodworker:
Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker review back panel Coaxial.jpg


Seemingly the design has not changed in decades given the screw terminals. The VLR like other Vandersteen speakers uses first order crossover to keep it "phase coherent." I got a kick out of this statement in the manual:
Vandersteen VLR phase.png

And this:
Vandersteen VLR break in.png


Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

Likewise listening tests comply with the latest research into proper evaluation of speakers calling for mono, instead of stereo listening:

Reference axis was that of the tweeter.

Vandersteen VLR Measurements
As usual, we start with our frequency response graphs:
Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements frequency response Coaxial.png


Oh boy! What the heck is going on here? We have rising chewed up high frequency response. Response is much smoother down low but sensitivity drops like a rock to just 80 dB. We have variation of 10 dB between that and the peaks in treble! Did they ever bother to measure this speaker? We also have large directivity error between 2 and 5 kHz.

Paradoxically, off-axis response looks good:
Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements Early Window frequency response Coaxial.png


This results in predicted-in room response which again, is surprisingly better than on-axis:
Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements predicted in-room frequency response Coaxial.png


Slope though is almost horizontal which means the speaker will sound bright. And with sensitivity of just 80 dB, will require tons of power.

There is essentially no directivity control:
Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements horizontal veamwidht Coaxial.png


Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements horizontal directivity Coaxial.png


So room sensitivity will be high. Due to coaxial design, vertical directivity is similar to horizontal:
Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements vertical directivity Coaxial.png


Impedance dips very low at high frequencies:
Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements Impedance and Phase Coaxial.png


Distortion is OK at 86 dBSPL but not at 96:

Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements  relative THD Distortion Coaxial.png

Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements THD Distortion Coaxial.png


Waterfall shows resonances corresponding with those peaks in response:

Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements CSD Waterfall y response Coaxial.png


And here is the step response:
Vandersteen VLR Bookshelf Speaker Measurements Step Coaxial.png


Vandersteen VLR Listening Tests
I started listening without seeing the measurements. The first track was a duet of a male and female. I could barely hear the male while the female came right through! This theme continued with tracks segments with lower frequencies almost producing no volume Yet high pitch sounds would come through, albeit, a bit much. It is like someone constantly changing the volume control on you depending on the spectrum. And not a little, but a lot.

Conclusions
It is clear to me that the VLR is designed based on ideology and not any objective or proper listening tests. In both domains, performance ranges from OK to dismal and does so within the same piece of music! The brand must have strong carrying power to get people to buy flawed speakers like this. I rank the Vandersteen the second most broken speaker I have ever listened to or measured.

Needless to say, I can't recommend the Vandersteen VLR. Company needs to wake up and completely retool its thoughts about speaker design. Customers deserve better.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Attachments

  • Vandersteen VLR Frequency Response.zip
    59.6 KB · Views: 53
Last edited:

Blumlein 88

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Yes, some of these old school speaker companies could upgrade their designs by using REW and a Umik-1. The upgrade could be considerable. Not to mention if they then did outdoor ground plane measuring to get closer to accurate results.

Have you yet measured any speakers with 1st order crossovers that do well at all? I cannot think of any.
 

eddantes

Senior Member
Joined
May 15, 2020
Messages
435
Likes
745
This is an odd speaker. Than on-axis is not that great but the PIR is ok... No bass though... so... What is the point of this speaker? Unless it was designed for surround duty, where on-axis listening is unlikely, and bass is the domain of the sub.
 

alex-z

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"Phase coherent" aka fully bullshit.

I honestly did a double take, these VLR measure worse than the Vandersteen Model 2c produced back in 1980. I imagine half the members on this forum could design a better speaker just tuned by ear...
 

handler

New Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2022
Messages
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11
Per the company, this speaker is designed to be used inside cabinets. IMO, people who love this brand follow it like a religion; disciples of the claimed benefits of time and phase coherence.
 

Maiky76

Senior Member
Joined
May 28, 2020
Messages
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2,775
Location
French, living in China
This is a review, listening tests and measurements of the Vandersteen VLR coaxial bookshelf speaker. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,815 a pair.
View attachment 216239
The VLR is quite dense and heavy. Construction seems nice other than bulging out driver. The cherry finish is to my liking as a woodworker:
View attachment 216240

Seemingly the design has not changed in decades given the screw terminals. The VLR like other Vandersteen speakers uses first order crossover to keep it "phase coherent." I got a kick out of this statement in the manual:
View attachment 216241
And this:
View attachment 216242

The port doesn't have clearance to go straight in so it almost immediate twists to the right and down into the enclosure. Overall the build is very solid making you easily confuse it with a top monitor brand.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

Likewise listening tests comply with the latest research into proper evaluation of speakers calling for mono, instead of stereo listening:

Reference axis was that of the tweeter.

Vandersteen VLR Measurements
As usual, we start with our frequency response graphs:
View attachment 216243

Oh boy! What the heck is going on here? We have rising chewed up high frequency response. Response is much smoother down low but sensitivity drops like a rock to just 80 dB. We have variation of 10 dB between that and the peaks in treble! Did they ever bother to measure this speaker? We also have large directivity error between 2 and 5 kHz.

Paradoxically, off-axis response looks good:
View attachment 216244

This results in predicted-in room response which again, is surprisingly better than on-axis:
View attachment 216245

Slope though is almost horizontal which means the speaker will sound bright. And with sensitivity of just 80 dB, will require tons of power.

There is essentially no directivity control:
View attachment 216246

View attachment 216247

So room sensitivity will be high. Due to coaxial design, vertical directivity is similar to horizontal:
View attachment 216248

Impedance dips very low at high frequencies:
View attachment 216249

Distortion is OK at 86 dBSPL but not at 96:

View attachment 216250
View attachment 216251

Waterfall shows resonances corresponding with those peaks in response:

View attachment 216252

And here is the step response:
View attachment 216253

Vandersteen VLR Listening Tests
I started listening without seeing the measurements. The first track was a duet of a male and female. I could barely hear the male while the female came right through! This theme continued with tracks segments with lower frequencies almost producing no volume Yet high pitch sounds would come through, albeit, a bit much. It is like someone constantly changing the volume control on you depending on the spectrum. And not a little, but a lot.

Conclusions
It is clear to me that the VLR is designed based on ideology and not any objective or proper listening tests. In both domains, performance ranges from OK to dismal and does so within the same piece of music! The brand must have strong carrying power to get people to buy flawed speakers like this. I rank the Vandersteen the second most broken speaker I have ever listened to or measured.

Needless to say, I can't recommend the Vandersteen VLR. Company needs to wake up and completely retool its thoughts about speaker design. Customers deserve better.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

Hi,

Here is my take on the EQ.

Please report your findings, positive or negative!

The following EQs are “anechoic” EQs to get the speaker right before room integration. If you able to implement these EQs you must add EQ at LF for room integration, that is usually not optional… see hints there: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...helf-speaker-review.11144/page-26#post-800725

The raw data with corrected ER and PIR:

Score no EQ: 1.2
With Sub: 4.3

Spinorama with no EQ:
  • Poor
Vandersteen VLR No EQ Spinorama.png


Directivity:

Better stay at tweeter height
Horizontally, better toe-in the speakers by 10deg and have the axis crossing in front of the listening location, might help dosing the upper range.
Vandersteen VLR 2D surface Directivity Contour Only Data.png

Vandersteen VLR LW better data.png




EQ design:

I have generated two EQs. The APO config files are attached.
  • The first one, labelled, LW is targeted at making the LW flat
  • The second, labelled Score, starts with the first one and adds the score as an optimization variable.
  • The EQs are designed in the context of regular stereo use i.e. domestic environment, no warranty is provided for a near field use in a studio environment although the LW might be better suited for this purpose.
Score EQ LW: 3.6
with sub: 4.7

Score EQ Score: 4.0
with sub: 6.9

Code:
Vandersteen VLR APO EQ LW 96000Hz
July042022-104759

Preamp: -1.5 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 72.01,    0.00,    1.04
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 724.61,    -2.33,    1.91
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 1137.24,    1.92,    3.90
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 3811.42,    -2.58,    1.19
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 4300.09,    -3.35,    6.96
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 11691.68,    -1.83,    1.11

Vandersteen VLR APO EQ Score 96000Hz
July042022-104656

Preamp: -2 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 76.17,    0.00,    1.13
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 729.61,    -2.26,    1.91
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 1128.44,    2.14,    5.63
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 3810.42,    -1.93,    0.90
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 4296.09,    -3.55,    6.96
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 10773.96,    -2.74,    0.78

Vandersteen VLR EQ Design.png


Spinorama EQ LW
Vandersteen VLR LW EQ Spinorama.png


Spinorama EQ Score
Vandersteen VLR Score EQ Spinorama.png


Zoom PIR-LW-ON
Vandersteen VLR Zoom.png


Regression - Tonal
Vandersteen VLR Regression.png


Radar no EQ vs EQ score
Nice improvements
Vandersteen VLR Radar.png



The rest of the plots is attached.
 

Attachments

  • Vandersteen VLR APO EQ LW 96000Hz.txt
    343 bytes · Views: 27
  • Vandersteen VLR Horizontal 3D Directivity data.png
    Vandersteen VLR Horizontal 3D Directivity data.png
    422.4 KB · Views: 29
  • Vandersteen VLR Normalized Directivity data.png
    Vandersteen VLR Normalized Directivity data.png
    345.3 KB · Views: 25
  • Vandersteen VLR Raw Directivity data.png
    Vandersteen VLR Raw Directivity data.png
    458.9 KB · Views: 23
  • Vandersteen VLR Reflexion data.png
    Vandersteen VLR Reflexion data.png
    146.4 KB · Views: 18
  • Vandersteen VLR LW data.png
    Vandersteen VLR LW data.png
    152.4 KB · Views: 17
  • Vandersteen VLR 2D surface Directivity Contour Data.png
    Vandersteen VLR 2D surface Directivity Contour Data.png
    295.3 KB · Views: 24
  • Vandersteen VLR 3D surface Vertical Directivity Data.png
    Vandersteen VLR 3D surface Vertical Directivity Data.png
    425.3 KB · Views: 28
  • Vandersteen VLR Vertical 3D Directivity data.png
    Vandersteen VLR Vertical 3D Directivity data.png
    425.4 KB · Views: 28
  • Vandersteen VLR APO EQ Score 96000Hz.txt
    344 bytes · Views: 15
  • Vandersteen VLR 3D surface Horizontal Directivity Data.png
    Vandersteen VLR 3D surface Horizontal Directivity Data.png
    419.5 KB · Views: 29

Blumlein 88

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
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Hi,

Here is my take on the EQ.

Please report your findings, positive or negative!

The following EQs are “anechoic” EQs to get the speaker right before room integration. If you able to implement these EQs you must add EQ at LF for room integration, that is usually not optional… see hints there: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...helf-speaker-review.11144/page-26#post-800725

The raw data with corrected ER and PIR:

Score no EQ: 1.2
With Sub: 4.3

Spinorama with no EQ:
  • Poor
View attachment 216284

Directivity:

Better stay at tweeter height
Horizontally, better toe-in the speakers by 10deg and have the axis crossing in front of the listening location, might help dosing the upper range.
View attachment 216292
View attachment 216285



EQ design:

I have generated two EQs. The APO config files are attached.
  • The first one, labelled, LW is targeted at making the LW flat
  • The second, labelled Score, starts with the first one and adds the score as an optimization variable.
  • The EQs are designed in the context of regular stereo use i.e. domestic environment, no warranty is provided for a near field use in a studio environment although the LW might be better suited for this purpose.
Score EQ LW: 3.6
with sub: 4.7

Score EQ Score: 4.0
with sub: 6.9

Code:
Vandersteen VLR APO EQ LW 96000Hz
July042022-104759

Preamp: -1.5 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 72.01,    0.00,    1.04
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 724.61,    -2.33,    1.91
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 1137.24,    1.92,    3.90
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 3811.42,    -2.58,    1.19
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 4300.09,    -3.35,    6.96
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 11691.68,    -1.83,    1.11

Vandersteen VLR APO EQ Score 96000Hz
July042022-104656

Preamp: -2 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 76.17,    0.00,    1.13
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 729.61,    -2.26,    1.91
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 1128.44,    2.14,    5.63
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 3810.42,    -1.93,    0.90
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 4296.09,    -3.55,    6.96
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 10773.96,    -2.74,    0.78

View attachment 216282

Spinorama EQ LW
View attachment 216278

Spinorama EQ Score
View attachment 216279

Zoom PIR-LW-ON
View attachment 216283

Regression - Tonal
View attachment 216281

Radar no EQ vs EQ score
Nice improvements
View attachment 216280


The rest of the plots is attached.
Commendable work here, but with extensive EQ manipulation it still only scores at the lower end of things. I realize score isn't everything, one this far wrong is pretty sure to be wrong. Says more about the usefulness of EQ done well with measurements to work with.
 

dougi

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Location
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Hey, but it's phase coherent, just look at that step response! I should try and measure my Elipson Planet Ls again, with more rigour, and see how they compare.
 

Blumlein 88

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
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They make the same speaker with a carbon tweeter from their System 9 speaker ($150k plus) for $3291. Probably just needed a better tweeter. ;)
 
Last edited:
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