Audio Ramblings - The Vandersteen Audio Quatro Wood CT Loudspeakers
Positive Feedback 07.2016, Dave Clark
A couple of years ago (wow, make that like 3 years and you can read it HERE) I had the pleasure of reviewing the Vandersteen Audio Quatro Wood loudspeakers here in our home. Yeah, we both fell head over heels for the speakers with the review being as positive as one could ever expect. Shortcomings? None that I could find other than by nature of their design, the speakers will sound their best when sitting in the right spot. For sure they could and did sound very good sitting off to the side, but being time-aligned and phase coherent… well the sweet spot is rather defined as being "right there… sit right there!"
We wanted to buy them but things just would not fall into place financially for us to swing it. Yeah, they were that good with our music. Fast forward to 2016 and we have the new(er) and way improved Quatro Wood CTs. Have had them here now for a little over two months. Damn… Richard! What have you done?
The CT is a true trickle-down product in that it now features carbon drivers similar to those found in the way bigger 5 and 7 loudspeakers. That is, the tweeter is now a 1" aerodynamic dual-chamber, transmission-line loaded carbon dome, the midrange is a 4.5" reflection-free tri-woven composite cone featuring a die-cast aerodynamic basket and magnet system, and the woofer is a 6.5" woven-fiber cone and precision-formed magnet assembly copper faraday ring. The speaker uses two 8" carbon-loaded cellulose-cone drivers with long-throw motor assemblies getting their power from their own 250-watt amplifiers. The subwoofers are "tune-able" to any room via their 11-band EQ controls on the rear and the ability to not only set the contour, but the level of the bass. Carbon as opposed to whatever… faster, harder, lighter… and they sound that way.
ichard has tossed the kitchen sink and anything else he could find into the CTs to insure that they are the best he could do at the price. Actually at a price several times their $13900 asking price. For example the speaker features a cabinet inside a cabinet with non-parallel walls so that nothing could cause a sonic blemish to the sound. Beautifully built, the fit and finish is way, WAY good. And why did Richard have to deliver a pair in the exact wood finish we would fall in love with… already loved the sound of the earlier Quatros and so expected the improvements in not only the drivers but the crossovers as well (needed to work with the new drivers) to push our engagement with our music via the CTs even farther up the ladder… but matched Birdseye maple? Richard, you are killing us here!
So what do they sound like? How do they compare to the older versions? The non-carbon run-of-the-mill Quatros? Which were hardly a run-of-the-mill loudspeaker. Come on man! Give it up.
Well… if you have been reading my previous few Ramblings on either the Entreq or PS Audio BHK-250 amplifier… well the Quatros… they sound like that. Like what I wrote about with respect to these two products. So I have been giving it up. These speakers are revelations. What I wrote about in those reviews is what these speakers do to our music. They go way low and way high—not only in terms of frequency, but volume. And in either direction the music stays true. You lose nothing. The Quatro CTs appear to have no ceiling or basement, if you want to go that way… I mean in the sense of not only bottom-end, but like I said above—volume. Play them loud and you experience no compression, no hardening of the music… things get loud, but are clean and open. Easy and tactile. Smooth and articulate. Play them quietly and they play quietly… but you lose nothing. It is all there. Toss in products like the Entreq or Telos and they just magnify what the CTs can do.
To plagiarize someone, since that seems to be the what is popular right about now in politics… back in 2013 I wrote that…" Pretty much like Richard Vandersteen, the man himself. Besides, what do you mean Richard's calmness? Friendly and cordial, Richard is a man of a few words. He presents calmness while eschewing excitement or aggravated engagement, unless of course you get him to open up, then you realize that not only is Richard crazy smart about loudspeakers, but also about a lot of other things. Like airplanes (he built his own and flies everywhere) and anything else requiring an engineer's intellect on how best to make something 'work' better. Richard is a loving family man with a keen wit and big sense of living life right. Open-minded but with a strong opinion on what is what, Richard is a cool guy."
"Just like his speakers! The Quatros are so thoroughly engineered, so tweaky in how to deal with the room and upstream electronics, so well thought out with respect to working 'right'… that they sing as one piece. One piece of musical 'completeness'… a loudspeaker lacking seams, colorations, or anything that I could put my analytical finger on and say this about that."
"They can play as loud as any sane, or insane person, would ever want while never faltering. Believe me when I say I pushed them really hard… hard enough to get to the Quatro's limits (with Richard's assurances that I would not hurt them in any way) but nada. They played loud I tell 'ya… the bass held tight and controlled, the Quatros never got hard or glary… they retained their coherency and dynamics … damn! The two 8" subs were seamless and loaded the room like no other speaker I have had here; a 'complete' speaker with no discernible identifiable transitions between the top and the bottom frequencies… way cool. A true rattle and roll experience. No bottom or limit to their excursion… they play bass deeply and are controlled. Fully integrated, fully realized. Toss them some Hecq or Ben Frost and see what real extension is all about. Scary neat."
"As I mentioned earlier, the Quatros due to their respective design (time and phase coherent) are so… so ribbon-like from top down… all the way down into the lower midrange. Each speaker is fine tuned in an anechoic chamber… measured to a standard. The result is a killer sense of dynamics and resolution… that seamless togetherness (er… cohesion) that only such a design will produce.
Not that other speakers can't get close, and many are scary close, but dude, the Quatros do it right. The Quatros are silky right with all the definition and resolution one would ever need, let alone desire… and without a hint of grain, edge, brightness, or whatever to make one look away. Vocals, individual instruments, all the little things, all the subtle hidden things… nothing was missed, nothing was forced on you… the Quatros gave you the space, the ambiance, the dimensional air that made my music so engagingly fun."
The carbon drivers and matching crossover has taken all that I wrote about earlier considerably further. Of course my system has changed considerably as well. Back in 2013 my amplification was the Clayton M200 monoblocks, cabling was PAD Proteus Provectus, and I was using a tweaked MacBook as a means of getting this to that.
Today things have evolved a whole lot… to the Auralic Aries or Aurender N100H, the Certon Integrita NAS as opposed to a Drobo, the PS Audio BHK-250, and numerous changes in terms of power, AC, tweaks, and room treatments. All covered in various Ramblings since then. Toss in various best of speaker cables from WyWires and Skogrand (ran single wired with their jumpers), and Purist Audio and Audioquest (both cables ran as true bi-wired)… and things get really good, really fast. As a side note, the Quatros, as do all Vandersteen speakers, use a barrier strip for wiring. Sadly, the spacing between the screws is rather small, meaning that while some spades fit just right, others are simply too wide to fit. That is the issue with the Skogrands, though Knut made me some jumpers with the narrower spades so I could use his cables. Way cool. The WyWires Diamonds were terminated with narrower spades, ditto the PAD (Neptune) and Audioquests (Castle Rock). I did run the speakers with and without jumpers (meaning single-wired with jumpers using either the WyWires, Skogrands, Sablons, or my older PAD Proteus, or bi-wired without the need for jumpers with the new PAD or Audioquest) and other than differences in the cables, I heard little if any difference to worry about between single runs and jumpers versus bi-wiring. The bigger differences came about as a result of using different cables. For sure the various cables used here all brought something to the table—each with a characteristic that made them fun to have here in the system. Preferences? Well… yeah, for sure. But that is another article, one about cables.
Okay so back to the task at hand. Our music in our current system is considerably better than before when I first reviewed the Quatros. More musical in all aspects… and respects. But slide the Reimers into the other room and set-up the CTs… wow. This is a major upgrade in every way. With the Reimers we had to use the DEQX PreMate+ to get things just right. I wrote about that HERE if you are interested. If you are not, then shame on you as the DEQX unit is such a killer DAC, preamp, and speaker/room correction all in one, that you owe it to yourself to give it a listen. It made our Reimers, which were really good, into something really way good.
Anyhow, with the Quatros, not sure I need to do any corrections. The bass is working just fine whereas with the Reimers we had issues everywhere we listened. And while the DEQX did wonders to the articulation, timing, phase, and whatever else was amiss with the Reimers… the Quatros sound rather "just right" running sans-DEQX. Now I am not saying that the DEQX might not be the icing on the cake with the Quatros, but all my listening has been with the Quatros minus the DEQX and damn if I am at a loss to point any fingers at anything that stands out as a "gee if only that could be better". Yeah, the Reimers with the DEQX sound in so many ways like the Quatros without the DEQX. But the Quatros sound even better. Way better. In every way we can think of…
Like the bass is amazingly good… as one would expect with two 8" subs per speaker that are tuned to the room. The room really is alive with any tracks from say Lustmord, Aleksi Perala, or Haxon Cloak; tight, deep, articulate, tactile… bottomless without a hint of strain or compression. With the Reimers I always felt we were approaching a threshold where "this is it… don't go any further or things will not turn out well for the speaker's drivers". With four 8" woofers in dual isobaric chambers, the Reimers played loud and deep; tight with the room being filled with air… heck, on some tracks I could feel the air from the ports a good 10 feet away. But the Quatro CTs play on a different field. A field that is way bigger and simply better. You can push these as far as any sane, or insane, person could ever want with what appears to be no limit. They just get loud, go deeper, more oomph and slam… no sense of a limit or a concern that anything is getting close to the edge. The room does not overload… it just gets real fun real fast. For sure they do not load the room as the Riemers (front firing woofers as opposed to downward firing subs). No the Reimers hit you in the chest whereas the Quatros wash over you in the lower registers, filling and shaking the room like never before.. All this while never losing anything from there on up.
That is, everything from the sub bass on up retains its richness, its tactileness, its realness… the resolution and presence are all there. Never in your face or the least bit laid-back or restrained—these are speakers that put the music out into the room in a way that says, "Here is what you have been waiting for." "Here is your music… done right." Your right? No idea. But clearly our right. At any volume level. With any of our music.
The Quatros are also as open and airy as all get out with a soundstage as wide as the room (hell, the room fills with music as never before, though I know for a fact that the Atmosphere and such from Synergistic Research helps dramatically in this area). This way cool. Spooky good on many tracks that are more ambient and soundtrack-like.
And clean too. Not sterile clean… not crazy nutty bat-shit clean. No the Quatros' "clean" is heard in their resolution. Their truth to tone and decay. Their presence and scale. The timing, rhythm, and pace. Tactile and palpable. Texture. Sounds are there in a wonderful sense of being natural and real… even though they were created by a machine or via electronic manipulation—at least on our music. For sure real instruments sound real… well I guess as real as anything recorded and played back in a defined space can sound real. I mean we hear what we feel things should sound like… what we want them to sound like. And for sure our music sounds more musical and less artificial or reproduced. We hear more of what we want and get into it way more than before. Which is what it is all about.