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Vandersteen 3A Signatures


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I have been an owner of these speakers for what seems like forever. I purchased the pair new as 3A’s  shortly after they were released from The old Chestnut Hill Audio in Philly. I upgraded them to Signature status in 1997 and they have been providing me with total musical enjoyment ever since.  I know Steve McCormack used them for years to evaluate his designs and still owns a pair. Who am I to argue with Steve?  These speakers have great tone, rhythm, bass and depth. Sure they are now old in the tooth but I rarely ever hear other systems and think it is time to upgrade my speakers. In fact, several audiophile friends in visiting my room to listen have told me that whatever I do, do not get rid of these speakers. They are an awaesome value.

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I've been there too.  I lived in the 80's in San Diego for the Navy, but the ship pulled into Philly ship yards in '87.  I was already back in CT at that time, but started dating a woman from downtown Phllly the whole summer of 87.  Sorry, but the memories are with her, but I did get to Chestnut Audio more than a few times that summer, lol.  

As great as those 3's are, if you ever do get the itch, the Treo CT's are a big step up in refinement etc... Some like the volume of bass in the 3's better, so many do stay with them.  As value goes, the whole line offers that as they all scale and punch above their pay grades.  Heck, the new 2 sig 3's seem to be a GREAT speaker that has plenty of refinement and tight bass.  All the Vandy line has great tonal qualities as that's what Richard strives for.

 

It's one reason why many listeners may not be into Vandy's. at first listen.  they are not used to hearing what proper tone sounds like.  I was one of those just 7 or so years ago.  

 

What do you run them with?

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It is all about the bass. Can’t give that up. These babies put me right back into the jazz clubs where I have spent too much time over the years. I have been driving them with a McCormack DNA-1 which I have upgraded  to  GT 20 status with the phenomenal Gravity base. Working on an article at AudiophileStyle.com on it.  DAC is the Schiit Yggy 2 with Unison USB. Mr. Moffat understands bass too as well timing. It is funny when audiophiles come in here and can’t believe what these speakers are capable of. Perfect tone, pace, drive, open and detail without the brightness that passes for detail with far too many high end speakers these days.

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  • 5 months later...

I moved to San Diego few years ago after living in Philly for 18 years and the mention of Chestnut Hill audio does bring back memories. Ironically, I didn't buy my first pair of Vandersteens from that place. I went to a Magnepan dealer with the intent of auditioning and buying the smallest Magnepan available back then and unfortunately the dealer (David Levitan @ Audiolab) didn't have them. He did however demo one of the bigger ones and when my wife saw it, she asked him 'do you have any speakers for normal people?' and he turned us towards the 1C and that's when my addiction to these speakers began. Several years later I when I wanted to upgrade, I learnt that Audiolab had stopped carrying Vandersteens.

It's a bummer that a lot of these audiophile places are either scaling back or have closed down. Stereo Design in SD is another example....

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I agree on the closing of stores.  I just spoke with a couple of owners I know just yesterday about this.  The Centerville, VA dealer, The Gifted Listener has now closed.  I just was in that store in Oct.  The owner said he was thinking of getting out of the business.  I guess he did.

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  • 4 months later...

I had my 3a-Sigs for about 25 years too!  They started out as 3s.   A fantastic value! I finally switched up to Quatros recently.  Also an amazing speaker.

25 years allows you to save up a lot cash for your upgrades.  😄

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HI Bill,  This is a subject the continues to elude me as the person in charge of Sales and Marketing at Vandersteen.  The Model 1, Model 2, and Model 3 are often paired with a system that represents 10 times their value or more.  I saw a system worth $150K + with Model 3A Signatures.  I love the legacy products too, but Richard's speakers with carbon tweeter and mid-ranges deserve more upgrades I believe.  Please share your thoughts if you feel comfortable. 

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Hi Brad, that's a good point.  From my perspective there was a period of time from the 90s through the 2000s where Vandersteen seemed like kind of a sleepy brand (especially in design appearance)  I'm just not certain how many legacy Vandersteen owners are even aware of the Treo/Quatro/Kento lineup. Much less how much it outperforms the legacy product line, while remaining true to the Vandersteen design ethos.  For almost 10 years my only thought regarding Vandersteen was whether or not to get some subs, and I my immediate association was Vandersteen = Sock.

If I knew someone who had a high end rig and was running legacy Vandersteens I would tell them they NEED to at least audition the new line. 

Anyway those are my thoughts.  I'm sure others can provide useful insight as well.

 

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I agree with you Bill.  Many of the legacy owners have zero clue of the upper line of speakers.  I had read about the 5's for many years, but never heard them.  It wasn't until I went to Audio connection to get a new pair of ProAc's that I was 'forced' to listen to the Treo's.  My family and I were blown away by how much better they sounded than anything we had heard from ProAc.  I have a decent ear and I am confident in knowing what I enjoy to listen to.  Going with Treo's was an EASY choice for me.

 

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As I am the one who bought @ctsooner's Treo's, I will add that they outperformed the 3a sigs that I had before them.

Despite not having as deep a bass capacity, they definitely showed a significant refinement in sound reproduction.

The 1,2, and 3's are bareboned speakers. They deliver quality sound at an unbelievably low price point.

The Treo. Quatro, Kento, and 7's are the refined versions. And the cabinetry show it, as well as the drivers and crossovers.

Not as inexpensive, but you get what you pay for...

Bob

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The 3's go to 26 hz -3db and the Treo's go to 36 (very very deep).  The Treo's are just more accurate all the way around.  The 3's will fill the room and some like them better for rock, but I never felt let down by the in room bass response of the Treo's.  I never felt they were lacking and my room is large as it's an open space that opens into the whole house.  Teh powered subs on the Quatro's make a huge difference as they are tuned to the room and are so accurate.  You pay for the detail etc... that the Treo on up do.

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@ctsooner,

Well put. I never knew the 3's could go down to 26hz.

The addition of subs to the Treo's seemed to 'flesh out' the bass. They hardly seem to output anything, but they do make a difference.

I had the 2's, 2wq's and now the Sub 3's. I have no plans to 'upgrade', at this point.

B

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I will try to audition the Quatros this year if a friend and new dealer gets in a pair. Until then I will stick with my model 3 A Sigs.  The Kento may be a fantastic speaker but that is about the cost of two more trips to Antartica for my wife and I, while we can still do it physically.  If I only had stupid money......

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I promise that if you love the Vandersteen 'sound', that the Quatro's will be a must purchase (if you are able to).  They are a special speaker that to me, is the best value proposition in their line.  They have kept scaling when I install a new piece of gear that I feel should be an upgrade. So. far so good, lol.  Where will the dealership be?  Is Brad talking to them about repping Vandersteen?  Cool stuff.  

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Yes Brad is. I really have no interest in going up to North Jersey to listen as it is a long and tedious drive.  So I can wait till my friend is a dealer. I am a very happy camper as is. I can afford the Quatros but not sure I can get it past the finance committee at this time.  The issue isn’t really cost if you catch my drift.

Edited by Joe Whip
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@Brad O I have often thought of upgrading to Treo/Quatro series but it’s a little challenging to dispose of the current set of speakers. Although there’s a certain level of demand, it’s not predictable unlike speakers that have some wooden cabinetry (B&Ws, Sonus Fabers etc). The 1c, 2ce, 3a’s look is not for everyone and for most part the speakers have to be sold locally. Not to mention, moving up the speaker line also means that you need to have the space to accommodate the larger speakers in your room and that means they need to be able to eliminate the need for subs and that comes back to the challenge of selling the 2wq’s since they need a certain kind of audience who know how these work and how they can be setup. 
 

With constraints like these, it becomes easier to drop your dollars on electronics and upgrade them and pursue audio perfection through a different route. If you don’t like a specific piece of equipment then disposing off amps/preamps etc is way easier and you can continue experimenting. I think that’s the reason why you find the lower range speakers mated with electronics costing $150k+  .....

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That is true Stratocaster.  You also can’t really audition speakers in your space very easily, at least of this size, weight and cost, unlike an amp or DAC. My dedicated audio room is on the 4th floor of the house and it will not be fun getting something the size and weight of the Quatros up here. Hey, maybe Richard can help me move them!🤪

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Just a little perspective.  (I'm not a Vandersteen dealer, employee, or otherwise connected to them - aside from occasionally posting to this forum.)

Quatros are listed as 120 pounds each.  FWIW, I was able to move them up the stairs in our house by myself.  You just have to be creative.  And careful.  The guys who recently brought in and installed a new washing machine to our ground floor had a similar challenge.

By comparison, 3A's are listed at 90 pounds and Treos at 80 pounds.  Not much difference.

The floor space taken up by each is pretty much the same.   If you rotate either the 2 series or the 3 series 90 degrees, they have pretty much the same frontal profile as the Treos and Quatros.   So, in my view, the Treos and Quatros actually are less visible than the 2's and 3's.  (Pun only noticed after reviewing this comment!)  The volume for all is pretty similar.

My opinion is that people prefer to change electronics more because it's easier to do so.  Placement for best sound isn't nearly the consideration it is with loudspeakers.  Most electronics are easier to carry, both within the house and to and from the dealers.  UPS delivers most electronics, too.  The other significant stake holders in the household may not notice much difference when you change one 17 inch wide amplifier for another.

Selling or even giving away used loudspeakers is a real challenge.  I've yet to solve that one - still working on it.  Higher end stereo gear is a specialized interest - see how the brick and mortar places are doing.  Not many people seemingly are interested in gear that's more than a decade old, unless it is a classic from their youth, like Japanese receivers from the 70's or older Marantz gear.  

When we first purchased the 2Ci's that are now sitting in boxes somewhere, we visited a store looking for a new amplifier.  This store was not only a Vandersteen dealer but also sold Wilson Audio products.  They even had a set of the original WAMM's on display for demo.  The nice young fellow helping us there told me - after his boss was out of sight and earshot - that Vandersteen loudspeakers often were used with electronics costing far more than the speakers themselves.  Unlike, well...  They just were that good and merited that treatment.  This was even before the 3 series was introduced.

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2 hours ago, Joe Whip said:

 My dedicated audio room is on the 4th floor of the house and it will not be fun getting something the size and weight of the Quatros up here. 

@Joe Whip Hauling any Vandersteen speaker to the 4th floor is certainly a hernia inducing activity. I had a similar house in Philadelphia and singlehandedly moved the sub and the 2CEs to the attic from the basement. I must have burned 3000 calories doing that but my kids ended up hearing my entire repertoire of four letter expletives.

 

@BKDad I have had friends who have given away their speakers to religious organizations, local fire department as well as Rotary, Lions clubs. They are always in need of equipment to help them with meetings, parties etc. Of course you are not going to get any money but can claim deductions on the tax return 😀.  

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It's all about how badly you want something.  If you aren't into it, then it make sense to keep and upgrade elsewhere, but I sold the Treo's to Bob and it was easy to move down the stairs etc...  The boxes slide easily (easier goign down than up).  It really wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.  Place an ad on US Audiomart for free and see what response you get.  I have been lucky to sell anything I've offered up there.  Good luck.

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