by Greg WeaverGrumblings down below When I first received the Von Schweikert Research VR-4 Generation II speakers last May, I fell in love with what they did -- almost right out of the box. Granted, the run-in time was unique, with the speakers metamorphosing from ugly duckling to swan, but the journey was exquisite -- they just did so much right. But if you remember my review, you will recall that as much as I was taken with the speakers, I was also convinced that their bass performance, from the uppermost midbass region on down, was somewhat lacking. As a matter of fact, that was the only real fault I could attribute to this stunning overachiever.
While I found the low-frequency performance of the set of VR-4 Gen. IIs that I received for review to be truly full-range, handily surpassing that of the Gen. I, it was not the end-all in low-end quality, or even near the head of the class for that matter. It was loose and poorly defined by those lofty standards. Although the pre-production set of Gen. IIs I received for review were able to provide satisfying low-frequency performance that extended well below the capabilities of my eight-foot-tall ESLs, the bass was without a doubt their weakest attribute. But given the speakers price point and intended market, the level of performance they achieved was truly admirable, and I had just about resolved myself to living with the bass. Just about. Then came the e-mail for New York.
Guess what? It turns out that the gorgeous cherry VR-4 Gen. IIs that I had been shipped for review were not representative of the final production units. Frank Derrigo of VSR was quick to point out this fact after noting my criticism of the speaker. He informed me that the set I had was indeed of an early-production model -- sent in an effort to get me started on the review as soon as VSR could get the speakers off the assembly line. The models I had did not have the final improvements made for actual production. Bummer. Shortly after the Gen. IIs were shipped out to me, a running change was made in ALL the production models, a modification to the bass circuit. Actually, the circuit itself remains the same, but the physical layout has been modified to all but eliminate the significant crosstalk that was still being transmitted between the circuit components.
The New York shuffle
Call tags were issued, and the speakers were whisked away, then actually returned to my home within 10 days, now sporting the latest from Albert, Frank and the Watertown gang. Not one crossover component had been changed -- in either quality or value. In an attempt to avoid inductive interaction and crosstalk, the existing components were instead physically relocated. The only other change came in the form of replacing the original ports and port-damping material with those used in current-production speakers. Cool. Now these babies were like the ones you could go buy in the stores.
Once the speakers were safely back at Gregs Brew Pub and Music Emporium, although I hadn't noticed any significant port noise or leakage before the change, I could certainly hear the difference now. I auditioned many of the same tracks that I had used right before the speakers were shipped back to New York, including "The Invasion" from the Seven Years in Tibet soundtrack [Mandalay/Sony SK 60271], "Tiger" from Paula Coles This Fire [Warner Brothers Imago 9 46646-2], and Saint-SaŽns Symphony No. 3 [RCA LSC 2341].
Detail in the 40Hz120Hz region was dramatically increased. There was less of the "commonality" imparted to sounds in that particular range. Dynamic shadings increased as well, both in range and detail. There is more pitch definition and individuality in the lower midbass and upper bass. The result has been the reconstruction of a much cleaner bass signal, which yields greater efficiency and dynamics. Pitch definition on the double-bass and on electric-bass runs was at an all-time high. And the changes virtually eliminated all of an annoyingly mysterious, if ever so slight, lower-midrange (like 200Hz to 800Hz) murkiness. Considering how finely tuned the VR-4 Gen. II is, I feel these changes represent an enormously important modification, bringing the speakers on par with performance I previously thought unattainable at this price point.
The last point I want to make is perhaps the most important one: Your speakers have been capable of this performance all along. If you thought I was off my rocker for being too hard on the base performance (and bass performance) of my original VR-4 Gen. IIs, please forgive me. You had it better than I -- but not anymore!
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