Cut to the chase: These Von Schweikert VR-4 SEs ($5,995/pair) are the best speakers I’ve ever had in my home. Period. I’ve auditioned some very respectable speakers in the past few years but nothing matches the balance these suckers offer, from the startling, transparent highs to the riveting subterranean bass.
Articulation is the key here. For an acoustic bass to sound right, for example, the attack of the finger on the string has to be sharp, clean and forward with no smearing of the leading edge, while the subsequent resonant overtones from the body have to be focused, full and appropriately low with no boominess. Many speakers can handle one or the other, sometimes very well, but few can produce the image of a live bass in your living room as well as these do-and the effect is holographic.
It is a very rare speaker indeed that can create this three-dimensional effect with such lifelike authority while at the same time seeming to disappear from the equation altogether, as if the sound were just somehow there on a broad, infinite stage-the speakers themselves don’t seem to be doing anything but an aural magic trick. In addition, the VR-4s have the uncanny ability to reveal all the ambience of the recording venue, almost like painting it on your walls and ceiling, so that the music “beams down,” if you will, in the very well-defined acoustic where is was actually performed.
Using a newly designed tweeter, two nine-inch woofers, a six-inch midrange driver and some Von Schweikert alchemy in the internal electronics, these speakers transmit details others miss. I want nothing more than to stay glued in front of the music and waddle around in its syrupy, warm, exciting blanket. Sweet and syrupy for sure, but with no loss of detail or punch and never colored, muddy or slow. It’s all in the articulation.
Larry Goldings’ Hammond B-3, from his Whatever It Takes CD, has never sounded so rich and thick, so present, so real that I can almost see the Leslie spinning. Lord knows I can sure feel it in the room. His bass pedals are round and jabbing, just like in a club. And Bill Stewart’s kick drum is chest throbbing, resonant and alive, not muffled and dead as so many speakers interpret it.
The bass goes down to roughly 16 Hz, far lower than most musical instruments, which alone puts this speaker ahead of most. But the fact that Albert Von Schweikert, a former jazz guitarist, has also managed to produce a speaker with crystal clear mids and highs with no trace of harshness or aggressiveness. The speakers have a liquid, easy character that temptingly unfolds a note’s qualities rather than etching them into your skull, which places them in rare company.
The VR-4 SE does everything well, as few speakers truly can, opening a new window onto any music it is asked to reproduce. Nirvana might be the name of a rock group, but it more aptly describes the state of any jazz fan lucky enough to find him- or herself listening to these Von Schweikert marvels.