Vera-Fi Audio Vanguard Speaker Impressions

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by yotacowboy, Dec 30, 2021.

  1. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    First off, I want to express my sincere gratitude to @xrk971 or making this loaner possible. It was a pleasure to make his acquaintance, and to get a brief tour of his lab. Those Dayton RS backloaded horns were pretty awesome! And thanks to @rhythmdevils for herding cats.

    Anyhow, this will be a pretty straightforward review. Build/fit and finish comments. Then a bit describing the system, positioning, etc., then some different amp pairings. I’ll then attempt to run through my subjective opinions of the speakers’ sound. Unfortunately I haven’t owned a pair of stand mount speakers since I had a pair of Rick Craig’s Anarchy’s. (An aside: Interestingly, these Vanguards use a very similar tweeter to the original RS28F’s used in the Anarchy). Prior to the Anarchy’s, I had a pair of Von Schweikert VR-1’s. I could be pressed to compare the Vanguard to my current speakers, but they’re kind of a different take on things, so I’m not sure how useful that would be. Either way, I’d be happy to oblige if there’s a desire from Friends.

    The finish I was loaned is a simple matte black finish for the top, bottom, sides, and rear, with an exposed-screw mounted birch-ply baffle. The cabinet is perfectly solid for its size and use case, however, from the pictures in the first post, there's no heroic bracing, which is likely not needed. There is a single set of satin nickel binding posts.

    The driver complement includes the new version of Dayton’s 1-1/8” silk dome tweeter, the RST28F. The woofer appears to be a Dayton Classic 5-1/4" unit. These speakers were designed to be a modern, affordable take on the venerable LS3/5a licensed by the BBC. If you’re unfamiliar with these speakers, here’s a cool history which includes a link the the Occasional Podcast where Jerry Bloomfield (of Falcon Acoustics) offers some further insight to what it takes to make an LS3/5a sound like an LS3/5a.

    This review is quite timely for me, as I’ve never had a chance to listen to a pair of LS3/5a’s from any of the several different licensed manufacturers, or derivatives of their design over the years, in my system. I was planning to purchase a pair of the new $2k MoFi/Falcon LS3/5a’s to fiddle with in the main system (figuring if I hated them, there's a 30-day return window). So when the Vanguards popped up for the loaner, and at less than half the MSRP of the Falcons, I figured the Vanguard would be worth a listen.

    For the price, I found the fit and finish to be quite nice, completely convincing of the cost. It's good to know that there are some smartly spec'ed, reasonably priced drivers, but certainly not cheap, included in the BOM. I look at similarly priced stand mounts from the bigger names, e.g., ELAC, PSB, etc., and considering their retail pricing model markups, and you have to know that there's no way they're using a $40 retail priced tweeter. In addition, based on the first post pictures, and knowing if the design objective is to keep some of the (kinda strange) crossover features from the original LS3/5a's, it's likely not a cheap x-over in the Vanguard.

    Sources—Roon/Qobuz to RPi+Pi2AES, Technics SL-1200 w/ DL-103r to iFi ZEN Phono, Sangean HDT-20, Audiolab 6000CDT
    DAC—Yggdrasil A2 (AES/EBU RPi, Coax 6000CDT, Optical Sangean)
    Preamp—Freya S
    Amps—Elekit TU-8600S
    Speakers—Audio Note AZ-Two (Hemp drivers, silver VC tweeters, upgraded x-over)

    In addition, I also used a Trends TA-10.1 Tripath amp as well as an Ayima A-07 TPA3255 Class-D amp.

    I tried these in a few different positions in my living room (decently well damped with some compressed fiberglass high frequency absorbers, a big thick rug and careful placement of typical non-dungeon livable items).

    I tried a short wall placement adjacent to the main system, which allowed me the ability to play with boundary reinforcement at the sake of imaging and space. Hot take: if you're not using a sub with these or are expecting output below about 80Hz, keep them within about 6" of the rear wall, and you'll get a healthy 3dB boost below about 100Hz. This isn't rocket science, but its a necessary caveat.

    In my normal (long wall) arrangement, the Vanguards did well (i.e., imaged best) pulled out into the room, about 3 feet from the front wall, spaced about 8 feet apart, and 8 feet from my ears to the midpoint between the tweeter and the woofer on the baffle, sitting on 24" tall stands.

    I also tried them in the near field, listening about 3 feet away and about 4 feet apart while doing some work at the kitchen table.

    Out in the room (note, I switched to some 24" stands after taking this pic, and used them for the rest of the time I spent with the Vanguards):
    [​IMG]

    Short wall placement with boundary reinforcement:
    [​IMG]

    I first tried the Vanguards using my Elekit TU-8600. At first blush, this wasn't a great pairing, as I'll get into in some specific impressions below. I quickly moved on fearing the sensitivity/impedance mismatch might not be the most flattering for either amp or speakers. No bother.

    Next was the Ayima. This little POS $80 amp has been my backup/transportable amp for a little while now. This pairing did much more to convince me there's some specialness with the Vanguards. Disclaimer: I'm saying this knowing only that these retail for $799, not that I've spent a ton of time listening to a bunch of similarly priced speakers - that price point is hotly contested and I'm not interested in doing a 69-way shootout on my own dime. I'm more interested in hearing what a speaker like an LS3/5a is all about.

    Next was the Trends, which did admirably well considering it's a bit long in the tooth. I keep this little pecker of an amp around mostly to see if it's consistently good enough to continue to keep around. Something of a "work for your dinner" proposition. With speakers like the Vanguards, the Ayima has earned its dinner, sorry Trends. Near field though? It's slightly better than the Ayima. It has a touch of bloom and sweetness that is more apparent in the near field.

    Like I mentioned earlier, I've never had a chance to hear a "proper" LS3/5a. Looking at the Stereophile measurements of both the original Rogers and the new Falcon versions, I'd expect them to sound a bit lit up, perhaps bordering on "chesty-bloom-tizz" with the measured 200-800Hz suckout. So, with that qualification in mind, my biases are what they are.

    These are quick, highly resolving in the midrange, and have a transient snap that makes almost anything I listened to jump - sort of in a pseudo-macrodynamic way. These are small speakers, playing (at least in the midrange) like much larger more dynamic speakers. No, the response isn't dead neutral, but I don't think that was the design intent. The Vanguards are vocal-centered, and intelligibility is their (to me) main selling point. It's a very fun sound, especially if you're not interested in audiophool dick-wagging.

    The highs don't draw away from this resolve in the midrange, again, as I believe was part of the voicing of the speaker. The slight downward tilt is apparent, but I'd take this over any kind of 5+kHz fuckery any day. The Vanguards tip-toe that line between lacking treble resolve, and mildly fatigue-inducing highs quite well. In the treble, the Vanguards are balanced between mids and treble similarly to the balance of HD600s. I know comparing HPs and speakers is dumb, and I'm not comparing the overall tonality of the Vanguards to HD600s, only the balance between mids-to-treble.

    Imaging is precise, with a medium sized sweet spot and great center image solidity. Depth is okay-to-good depending on the recording, and the amount of space and air is adequate. In my room, they image slightly outside of the bounds of the speakers, left-to-right. However, considering these are only $800, I'd say the choice to use the mostly smooth and well-extended RST28F could be the greatest differentiator from other similarly priced big-brand speakers. However, this is complete conjecture on my part as I've not played with any other stand mount/bookshelf speakers lately. To put it another way: come for the mids, stay for the goldilocks treble.

    The midrange is where the Vanguards excel. The quickness and transparency pulls vocals forward in the mix. Now, the microdynamic shading isn't the greatest I've heard, but on albums like Rhye's "Home", the midrange speed and delicacy make it effortless to just get lost in the vocals. The Vanguards make picking through multi-tracked/overdubbed vocals so easy to the point where I'm not catching myself thinking some audiophile bullshit like, "WOW!! I CAN HEAR SO MUCH DEEPER INTO THE MIX!!!" but rather, I'm not concentrating on the mix at all. Massed strings also benefit from the midrange clarity of the Vanguards, and piano tone is even and convincing, aside from the lowest registers. Playing some Polyphia, while lacking some bass drum heft, was still very satisfying. The play between clean and crunch in the guitars becomes the star of the show, rather than the outright bombast of the more electronic/trap stylings. The pickwork, finger plucking, and tremolo work jumps right to the forefront and is convincingly percussive. All the nuances in tone and all the different guitar effects and tunings come right through, too. And for anyone who hasn't heard Polyphia, please, right now, stop reading this dumb review and go take a rip through New Levels New Devils.

    In the bass, the Vanguards aren't going to wow any members of the BWC. But that's fine, that's not the point of these speakers. The do fine down to about 100Hz away from room boundaries, and being that they're not ported, the roll-off doesn't include any weird dips or peaks in my room. A slight bump around 120-200Hz is noticeable, but not to the point where I'd criticize the Vanguards as being too chesty. It's only a few dBs, and the boost does well to make the speakers sound a bit bigger than they are.

    My only gripes are minor. I tend to listen to NPR most of the time I'm not listening to music. So, NPR was the first thing I heard with the Vanguards hooked up to the Elekit. Unfortunately with this combo, the clarity in the midrange reveals a bit too much of the compression scheme HDRadio uses for the Vanguards to be "all day radio listening" for me. They expose a slight nasality that becomes something I can't hear past. Fooling around with EQ, a slight 2-3dB notch around 1.2-1.5kHz fixed this. Listening to music and using the Aiyma, however, for me, EQ-ing wasn't necessary. The other minor issue is one that I had noticed when I had my Anarchys that used the similar RS28F tweeter - the RST28F still shows a slight graininess in the sibilance/presence region when the volume is pushed above 85dB at the listening position.

    In conclusion, the Vanguards have a fairly specific use case, which, if you're looking at something like an LS3/5a, you know what that use case is. What's the saying? Know WTF you want, and WTF you're doing? One of the tracks that really got my attention during the quick demo I had at @xrk971's lab was Sohn's "Signal", off the album Rennen. The "rimshot", i.e., a covered cross-stick, was just utterly convincing, so quick and well defined, that it really gave me reason to investigate the Vanguard's voicing more in depth. So, maybe that's my biggest take away: if transient speed matched with the tonal clarity in the mids, and complementary high frequency response that does not ruin the show by drawing too much attention to it is your bag, then the Vanguards are worth auditioning.
     
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  2. xrk971

    xrk971 MOT: Lead Audio Designer for LSA Audio

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    Thank you for your very thoughtful review and listening impressions, @yotacowboy. The cabinet does not have massive bracing but does have internal battens on all 12 edges like the original LS3/5A and 9mm Baltic Birch plywood panels on all except the front which is 18mm thick to permit better purchase of the mounting screws and improved rigidity of the baffle. Your astute observation that the tweeter is what will set this speaker apart from other big name brands, is spot on. The RST28F is smooth, highly resolving and low distortion without fatiguing breakup peaks in the ultrasonic region. You are also right to point out that the transient snap and midrange clarity are the other key strengths. For me and many of the other people who have listened to these, the common thread is how they found the sound easy and natural to listen to all day. Non-fatiguing was another common observation but I guess they were not listening to NPR! The midrange all comes down to the midwoofer and the crossover and how it integrates with the tweeter. The crossover combines the two drivers so that the step response function is almost a perfect right triangle (ideal shape for a step response). This step response matches what the BBC LS3/5A does but for a whole lot more money. It is interesting that you found the “Signals” track by Sohn to be convincing of the transient snap. It helps to have a good powerful 100w capable amp for transients as they can require some voltage that a higher power amp can reliever. Most listening is done at 4 to 6W but those peaks can be demanding sometimes. You happened to be listening to a new tube buffered Class D amp I was developing for Emerald Physics that has 600wpc on tap! Not that you need that in anyway but it made for a lively snap I think. :D

    Thanks again for review. Hope you had fun with the speaker.

    edit: If you plan on getting the Falcon MoFi LS3/5A soon, feel free to keep the Vanguards a bit longer for a side by side comparison. No rush.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 30, 2021
  3. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Just to clarify, what I was referring to was an issue with the source material, the HD radio stream uses compression, and the artifacts of that compression became more apparent using the Vanguards as compared to my Audio Notes. So, that likely reflects more poorly on my personal speakers and my much greater time spent listening to them than the Vanguards.
     
  4. Inoculator

    Inoculator Friend

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    King of the LS3/5a Clones?

    [​IMG]

    I have been in the market for another pair of LS3/5a or a comparable speaker for a secondary setup, so when @xrk971 shared that he was working on these after I auditioned his stellar Warp 1 amplifier, I was chomping at the bit to get my ears on these. Thanks to @rhythmdevils, @xrk971, and Mark Schifter of Vera-Fi for arranging this tour. When I reached out to them and express interest, they were stellar and accommodating.

    I am going to structure these impressions largely as a comparison to my Graham Chartwell LS3/5a and assume folks have a base familiarity with these legendary mini-monitors. For folks that need to come up to speed, I would suggest this article by Art Dudley (RIP). https://www.stereophile.com/content/listening-199-falcon-graham-ls35a Art does a masterful job of providing context/history to the speakers but also gets to what makes them so special. For me, it all comes down to the purity of tone and unabashed realism. With the right gear synergy and recording, the LS3/5a can be the most emotional, captivating speaker I have ever heard.

    Does the Vanguard live up to that heritage? Bottom line, yes. A speaker for LS3/5a purists? Probably not. But for folks chasing the LS3/5a tonality and experience while being open-minded about a slightly different take, will find this is a very special set of speakers.

    Let's start off by sharing some measurements to get that out of the way. I am not super skilled at reading measurements, so these are here for those that are. The Graham Chartwell LS3/5a measurements (1st photo) are from Graham Audio and are measurements of my exact serial number. The Vanguard measurements (2nd photo) are supplied by @xrk971

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Build

    I normally don’t dwell on build in my impressions/reviews, I mean folks can look at pictures right? This time though I think it is worth talking about because there is a sonic effect to some of the build decisions. The LS3/5a comes across as such a small little marvel due to its small footprint and shallow depth. This does mean though that its bass reproduction abilities are extremely limited. Since Vera-Fi does not have to adhere to BBC spec (part of having the license to make an official LS3/5a) he made the decision to make the cabinet deeper, and the bonus is you have significantly better depth to the sound of the bass. It still rolls off early and needs a sub for bassheads, but I found that extra depth/presence to be very welcome and made these sound a bit more well-rounded.

    [​IMG]

    The downside I found to this decision is these feel a bit more like a full-size monitor, it feels significantly bigger. LS3/5a are a speaker that just exudes sophistication. Vintage but with a modern sensibility and ultra-clean lines. The type of thing you would see sitting in some leather-clad study where you plop down with a glass of scotch in your Eames lounger. The Vanguard on the other hand is no slouch but just takes a different approach. I think the bamboo is really slick and makes these feel ultra-sturdy. I was worried as I associate bamboo with lots of more budget audio products, but these seem very nice. I likely would lean the birch plywood version, but I am glad to see some options being offered here. The Vanguard is more the type of speaker you would see in a concrete floor hipster coffee roaster. Minimalist, clean, and modern. I think my favorite build decision is the exposed screws on the front baffle. It is very much in the BBC tradition and screams LS3/5 to me. (example photo below) Whether a conscious decision or not, it makes what would otherwise feel like a simple bookshelf speaker into something with a BBC pedigree.

    [​IMG]

    Listening Round #1

    Chain: Rega P8 with Zu 103r/Pi2AES and Roon -> Tavish Vintage with NP Tung Sol/Yggdrasil LIM -> Khozmo Passive Preamp -> Sugden A21SE

    I did a lot of casual listening with these speakers, I had them at the end of the holiday break with the family so used them when hanging out with the family. The beginning of January is literally the busiest weeks of my job every year, so I was a bit limited in the critical listening I was able to do. I carved out a few evening sessions though to really take some good notes. Those are presented below, but I will draw some conclusions/final thoughts if you want to jump past my listening observations. The order of impressions below is in the order in which I listened, all listening done nearfield.

    I decided first to A-B compare the Vanguard and the LS3/5A with two stellar albums. LS3/5a excels at vocals and jazz, so I figured these would be a good place to jump in. The Art Blakey album is a sonic feast of an album, AAA pressing, just so much nuanced fun stuff to listen to. Julia Jacklin has such an amazing voice, and I have listened to her countless hours/attended her KEXP session, so I felt would be a good point to jump in and compare vocals.

    Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – “The Freedom Rider” https://www.discogs.com/release/14125951-Art-Blakey-The-Jazz-Messengers-The-Freedom-Rider

    [​IMG]

    Graham Chartwell LS3/5a
    • Drum impact slightly lacking, but sounds very realistic and is well delineated in the stage
    • Trumpet solo hangs in space, speaker truly disappears.
    • Keys are triumphant and deep in the mix.
    • All the little crowd chant stuff/microdetails are really well presented.
    • Saxophone solo is stunning, visceral, real, hear every bit of air and inflection. Worts and all
    • Double bass sounds nice but not surprisingly very polite. Super deep in the mix, sounds behind the piano, which sounds like about a foot into my front wall
    • Drums have a bit of sizzle, and sound cabinet size a bit. Toms break free of mini-monitor restraints and are very dynamic.
    • Snare drum and top hat, holy moly breathtaking. 1st row at a jazz club, reach out and touch it type stuff
    • Love the low honkey notes on the saxophone and then how dynamic the trumpet is when it comes back in.
    • Stage almost so wide and deep on this record that I need to change my speaker position for nearfield. Bit of a blob effect in the stereo mix (Sax to the right, trumpet to the left)

    Vera-Fi Vanguard
    • Piano sounds slightly more bloomy
    • Things are less incisive and a bit more lush
    • Percussion has a warmer/fuller sound
    • Simultaneously more in your face when it comes to midrange stuff, but also more laid back/warmer.
    • Maybe 5-10% less realism. Slightly more sense of listening to a recording vs spooky realism with the LS3/5a, but really splitting hairs
    • Not quite as smacked up the side of the head by the sax solo, but still sounds very well sorted
    • Double bass is a tad fuller, and still nice and deep in the mix
    • Blessing and curse sort of deal, in comparison much more approachable, smooth, even sounding…but lose a bit of the razzle-dazzle of the LS3/5A.
    • Can tell it has a deeper cabinet. Bass doesn’t really hit harder, but you do get a sense that percussion is less flat. Maybe a bit less “living within its means” than the LS3/5A.
    • Percussion is a little less delineated. Big cymbal crashes sound just a bit flatter
    • Doesn’t have the thinness/dryness you get on some stuff with LS3/5a

    Julia Jacklin – “Don’t Let the Kids Win” https://www.discogs.com/release/9133177-Julia-Jacklin-Dont-Let-The-Kids-Win

    [​IMG]

    Vanguard
    • A little bit of thwack and twang on instruments, I am remembering this can be a harsh sounding album at times that does not shy away from distortion. Above it all her voice is stunning and really hangs in space
    • The album has lofi fuzz/haze that sounds particularly inviting from the Vanguard(that sort of stuff can get a bit fatiguing sounding from the LS3/5a). Julia’s angelic voice transcends above all the haze and is fully realized.
    • Impressed by how busy sounding passages sound open and not congested. Was listening to the track “Coming of Age”, which has rather harsh sounding instruments in it, and gets a bit raucous, but the Vanguard made me love this track more than ever.
    • Guitars on “LA Dream” is just like a warm fuzzy blanket. Really puts you in space, close my eyes and I swear I am listening to a person on a stage with just a guitar and an amp in a little dimly lit underground lounge.
    LS3/5A
    • More incisive, but a slight bit more resolving/refined sounding.
    • 10% more sultry than the Vanguard for lack of a better way to put it. Like vocals have this swing/ charisma to them that pushes these speakers into legendary territory.
    • Cymbals sound slightly more natural, like the sizzle as they trail off has more realism
    • Bass is slightly more impactful/punchy, but way less realistic sounding. Extra cabinet volume of the Vanguard clearly gives drums and such their appropriate depth.
    • More visceral, while the Vanguard was lusher.
    • Overall on this record, things sound just a bit tizzy from the LS3/5a after first listening to the Vanguard

    Listening Round #2

    I felt I had a really good sense of these speakers after these two records and some casual listening time. But selfishly, I was not quite done with these. I really was targeting these speakers for a 2nd setup to use at my in-person work office. So I wanted to try these out with a setup reflective of what I might use a budget speaker like this for. I setup my Akitika PR-102/GT-102 stack along with a Modi Multibit with Pi2AES, and put the Vanguards on some Isoacoustic stands on my desk right next to my LS3/5A.

    [​IMG]

    Is it really fair to compare my reference LS3/5A chain (about $10k if paying retail) to the Vanguard with a DIY stack and a Modi Multibit/Pi2AES (about $2500 retail)? No not really, BUT it was super enlightening and reflective of my use scenario. I suspected that the Sugden A21SE in my reference chain, while having great synergy with the LS3/5a, might be making the Vanguard sound a bit too warm and mushy. Hypothesis tested and confirmed, I REALLY liked how the Vanguard sounded from the Akitika setup, probably even more than from my reference chain. Cheaper gear and less careful placement yet sound better…what?! Well, I think this is the most important strength of the Vanguard to me. The LS3/5a is incredibly picky about gear synergy and placement. I have been through lots of different amps (favorites being Naim NAIT 2 and the Sugden) and constantly tweak placement with the LS3/5a, and find minor adjustments seem to really mean the difference between world-class performance, and being pretty lackluster/fatiguing. The Vanguard does not seem to suffer from that, no need for bespoke class A or tube amps to make them shine. When comparing the LS3/5a and the Vanguard hooked up to the same Akitika stack, I actually almost exclusively prefer the Vanguard.

    Anyway, I took a different listening approach for this round, and over the course of a few hours just had my Roon collection on shuffle, grouped both Pi2AES, and volume matched so I could quickly switch between the two setups. DISCLAIMER: Impressions could be somewhat due to using a different amp/DAC during this testing, so everything here with a grain of salt. Should be seen more as comparing the full chains.
    • Vanguard sound bigger while the LS3/5a sound more real but sound their size
    • Vanguard doesn’t quite pierce the realism veil so to speak. Maybe slight haze to midrange that is virtually non-existent with real LS3/5A.
    • Instruments have better depth from the Vanguard, while the LS3/5A has a deeper stage. A good example came when I was listening to a Josh Riter track. Vanguard allowed the guitar to have a superb sense of reverb/decay as I could really make on the body of the guitar.
    • Hot Chip “Love is the future” is the one track in this listening session where the LS3/5a was a true standout. Seems the Vanguard is more forgiving overall, while the LS3/5a shines with top-quality recordings. If you have an ultra-dynamic, very well recorded/mixed track the LS3/5a can hit world-class strides.
    • Matt Berninger’s voice on The National “Lucky You” was fuller/smoother/nicer sounding on the Vanguard. Some the National stuff can always be a bit bright/fatiguing on the LS3/5a, so this was a welcome discovery.
    • Bass is frankly way better from the Vanguard, fuller, more fun, and at times, showstopping. Really struck me on the track “I Can’t Wait” from Georgia. Deeper overall has a dig and grunt that is not there with LS3/5A.
    • Would forget which speaker I was listening to when switching because they both sounded so good. Kept finding myself pressing the wrong mute buttons when switching. Both really had the ability to throw sound and a stage that are way outside of their footprint and cabinet size when used nearfield.
    Conclusion

    So what did I think of the Vanguard? An absolute slam dunk that comes close enough for a true LS3/5a for most people. It is clear this is a product that was made with a lot of love and care by a truly talented craftsman. I appreciate that @xrk971 took a baseline that a lot of people chase in the LS3/5a tuning, and mixed in a bit of modern sensibility/approachability, all at a crazy good value. Considering most true BBC license LS3/5a are over $3k and the Vanguard is $800, the Vanguard is a no-brainer for most people unless they have really deep pockets or just NEED to have a true BBC spec LS3/5a.

    Vanguard vs LS3/5a Final thoughts:
    • Vanguard is 90-95% of an LS3/5a but with more mainstream appeal/approachability.
    • LS3/5a prioritizes being ultra resolving and incisive to draw you in and create jaw-dropping realism. The Vanguard seems to take the same overall tuning and mostly the same technical ability but draws you in by being warmer/lusher. I have never heard a P3ESR, but that is always how I have imagined it sounding. Would be a fun comparison.
    • Vanguard is very forgiving and easy to synergize gear with. Placement seemed to not make or break the speaker. During the test listening to records, I put them on sand-filled monolith stands sitting on Herbie’s gliders in the same relative spot as my LS3/5a. Sounded good that way, sounded good on the isoacoustic stands on my desk too close together/to my monitor. Not nearly the game of adjusting by millimeters like the LS3/5a can be.
    • Both the LS3/5a and the Vanguard have very similar vocal accuracy, LS3/5a just has an ever so slight edge in true realism that is hard to quantify.
    • LS3/5a narrowly wins in the PRaT category. Things are just very immediate and captivating. The downside is that can get old for long listening sessions/with poorer recordings.

    Thanks again to everyone that worked to organize this loaner tour. I think anyone that is looking for some passive monitors deserves it to themselves to hear these. Especially if you have been thinking about something like a P3ESR or LS3/5a but you don’t want to blow your whole budget. I have not heard any of the Chinese LS3/5a clones like the Sound Artist, but I cannot imagine they are made with the care or attention of the Vanguard. I owned an LS50 Meta for a while which is another relatively affordable monitor that is popular these days (maybe not around here), I would choose the Vanguard every time. Hard to imagine anything else in this price range I would pick up over the Vanguard. Regardless of price, the Vanguard is a very natural, well-sorted speaker that gives truth to what you are listening to. I cannot wait to pick up a pair of my own once they are available.


     
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    Last edited: Jan 24, 2022
  5. xrk971

    xrk971 MOT: Lead Audio Designer for LSA Audio

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    @Inoculator Thank you for your kind review. I am glad you enjoyed them and appreciate that you were able to compare them to your Graham Chartwells. Your attention to detail in the listening setups is evident and very thorough. I knew there was something special in how they sounded and your side by side comparison with a BBC spec LS3/5A confirms this.
    Thank you again!
    Viet
     
  6. jlucas

    jlucas Acquaintance

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    Is there a link to point people to these for purchase?
     
  7. Justin S

    Justin S Friend

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    Thanks for introducing these speakers to me. @yotacowboy and @Inoculator your reviews paint a detailed picture. These sound to be really excellent. I am super into the small, sealed monitor speaker. I currently run the new P3ESR XDs to great effect and have previously owned the P3ESR standards. If there is any way to hear these up in Canada (Toronto), I would be super interested. @xrk971 - do you have any dealers up here?
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    That 1.25" tweeter is awesome sauce. I've actually got it sitting in a 3-way BWC design (which is 2.5 years later than I intended, COVID, supply-side, etc.). It's not the most resolving, not the most mature, not the smoothest sounding; but it's damn dynamic, fun, and energetic. My kind of sound.
     
  9. xrk971

    xrk971 MOT: Lead Audio Designer for LSA Audio

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    We do not have a link for ordering these yet as they are just about to start production. We will get a link as soon as one is available. I don’t think Canada will be a problem for purchase. For the regular SBAF tour, you will have to work it out with @rhythmdevils to arrange shipping.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2022
  10. Greg121986

    Greg121986 Almost "Made"

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    Great! I’m ready to impulse buy. Where do I get a pair?

    OK well the previous post wasn’t there when I replied so I will just wait patiently until they become available.
     
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  11. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    very impressive! I know nothing about speakers but is this custom painted cyclocross bike with Easton EC-90 SL carbon wheels?:bow:
     
  12. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Eagle eyes! It's my girlfriend's CX race bike, S-Works Crux, Easton EC90 cranks, SRAM Force, Easton EA90 rims. Her race tubulars are on a pair of Nox Composites Zolders. okay, enough off-topic.
     
  13. xrk971

    xrk971 MOT: Lead Audio Designer for LSA Audio

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    Don’t forget the half and half cross/radially laced pink spokes!:punk:

    Back on topic, I have been enjoying the brown espresso / gunmetal stained ones in the bedroom. They are off in Texas now at Mark’s place. The traditional look is quite easy to integrate into home decor.



    edit: strange but I can’t seem to post any photos. It shows on preview but when I save it, it’s gone.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2022
  14. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Very good reviews from @yotacowboy and @Inoculator!

    considering these were meant for broadcast monitoring, any comments on how they are with dialogue from TV/movies?
     
  15. xrk971

    xrk971 MOT: Lead Audio Designer for LSA Audio

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    I would say vocals intelligibility and clarity and ease of presentation are their strongpoints. The sound is extremely natural and this is especially true of vocals and dialog.

    Here are the brown stained Baltic Birch plywood versions.[​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2022
  16. ergopower

    ergopower Friend

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    I will comment on this when I post my impressions, I did a lot of TV watching with these. Aiming to post before the weekend.
     
  17. Gazny

    Gazny Friend

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    Pics or it didn't happen

    RenderedImage.jpg
    Musical while still presenting larger atmospheric presentation.

    I have to say I really enjoyed my time with these, some music was absolutely addicting. Even on very modest equipment TPA amp and a bus powered interface. I have to say it is the best I have heard this chain.

    AF4973D6-23A1-4654-B114-29731E5291A6.jpg
    Picture of the finish and binding post is not done justice but it looks GREATT! I gotta say, these are freaking heavy. just about 14 pounds each.

    Music that I was absolutely enthralled by was Steve Gunn- "Protection". Incredible ability to created a stage. I was constantly hearing this that far exceeded the width of my desk.



    Another great Track is Danny Malone - Suger Water. The so difficult to escape the rhythms of the guitar body
    Thanks @Erroneous

    My general impression is the fliting is nice and welcomed. The little bump at the end made me feel so happy with everything I threw at it. I really loved the Lightnin' Hopkins Track Houston Rock. Great mid range clarity and a nice and comfortable at the higher frequencies for this track. Normally it is struck by sharp distortions from the tape and the overdriven speaker amp in the venue. sometimes I wish I could just be at that live show.


    but what I was really addicted to was more modern music records, while not everyone would agree. I loved this with almost every Ye track I threw at it. The bass bump from the filter and the mid range, Damn. I was able to clearly understand all the vocals and inflections that are normally lost.



    Huge shout out to @xrk971 and @rhythmdevils for setting up to loaner. You are missing out if you are looking for something for a desk standing or not.
     
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  18. xrk971

    xrk971 MOT: Lead Audio Designer for LSA Audio

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    Hi @Gazny
    Glad you enjoyed the Vanguards and appreciate the thoughtful review. These are indeed special speakers and I hope more folks get to hear them.
    Thank you!
     
  19. ergopower

    ergopower Friend

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    TL;DR – the Vanguards weren’t a good match for my system. But there are a lot of caveats here I will try to explain.

    I made the decision 12+ years ago when I moved to this house to have a single system for music and TV. Originally 2.1, later 3x Emotiva ERM-1 bookshelf speakers and 2x ERD-1 surround speakers. Front left and right were on stands 2+ feet from the rear wall. Used Audyssey to set levels, delays and some EQ and called it a day. I was pretty satisfied with the sound, but honestly wasn’t listening to music much if at all at the time. TV programming and movies took over.

    Eventually decided speakers and TV on stands in front of a bare wall were ugly, and designed a built-in cabinet and shelf arrangement that I had a guy build for me, and removed the carpet and put down an engineered stone floor at the same time. I bought a Rythmik L22 sub that would sit under the TV in the center of the cabinet. The whole project took a couple months; and during it, I decided to upgrade to a Yamaha RX-A1060 AVR.

    With everything done, moved all the speakers into place, cabled up and turned it on. Jeebus it was horrible. Everything smeared, couldn’t place anything. This was as apparent on TV nightly news or sports programs as movies or music. I played a bunch of different music that I was familiar with and knew had pretty good placing of voices and instruments, and it was all shite. Eff me. I had used the Yamaha’s YPAO for relative levels and delays of surrounds, but not EQ. Whatever was going on had to be fixed first, which I figured had to be reflections.

    I went to a Joann fabric shop and bought foam and batting in different thicknesses. Taped stuff to walls and insides of shelves and got a carpet for the floor. Wow, dramatic difference. Wound up with a placement that was noticeably better to my ears than the bare room version with regard to location of voices and instruments. Played with speaker toe-in a bit to see if I could reduce reflections even more, but that sounded a little too bright to me.

    The current set-up is a little dark, but it is very enjoyable, and I’ve been playing just music a couple times a week for a couple hours at a time and digging it. Spotify is part of the reason, just so easy to use. Of course, then I wonder, well if this is quite good, what’s the next step up and how big is it? I have researched tons of speakers that might be an upgrade, but there’s nowhere near here where you can audition, and I don’t know if it’s even worthwhile given how much the room contributes. Years ago I remember reading somewhere that the LS3/5A could work well on an actual bookshelf, which made this loaner appealing.
    https://imgur.com/mheSnAK
    https://imgur.com/faRVeXG
    I use a phone app from Armstrong Ceilings to check listening level, so I know what volume is 85 dB avg. The Vanguard is between 5 – 6 dB lower than my Emotivas, so I did all listening with the sub connected, but I adjusted the trim up the same amount to compensate. I crossover the sub high, 120 Hz, because the ERM-1 impedance drops like a stone starting at 80 Hz and gets down to just over 3 ohm. I can get away with this without having location issues (at least none I perceive), because the sub is exactly between the front L and R and in the same plane.

    So what did I hear? Right off the bat, the Vanguard sounded fairly bright to me. I played probably an hour of music the first session, having first listened to my speakers for a half-hour or so for reference. It was most noticeable on male voices. Tilted up a little. Kenny Chesney, Sinatra, Jimmy Vaughan, Tracey Chapman (yes I know), Guy Clark, Keb’ Mo’. On instruments, I heard cymbals and such more clearly, and I really liked that, none of those sounded overdone so I do see that as an area where my rig could be better. But sometimes snare drums sounded a bit emphasized if that helps you gauge what frequencies I’m talking about. And horns could be a little shouty, Buena Vista Social Club for example.

    I did a few sessions like the above, laptop/Spotify > RX-A1060 > speakers. I love 90’s Madchester, but it is uniformly poorly recorded, and the Vanguards make that really apparent. I did play a lot of what I consider well-mastered music; the slight brightness is mostly still there, but instrument and voice placement is really good. A surprise, maybe – I played a couple tracks from Doug MacLeod’s Come to Find. Wow, fantastic, better than my rig for sure. Hearing the guitar strings more clearly, and the brushwork. I would also say better sense of the size of the room, the reverberation. What’s the difference? My theory is his voice doesn’t have the same higher harmonics for a given note as most others. Is this called resonance? It can be almost like a growl. Whatever, some of those songs really had that feel of being in a somewhat bigger room with a few musicians in front of me.

    Another way to try to triangulate where the difference comes from – I toed the Emotivas in 4°, which I know from experience sounds a bit brighter than straight ahead. If I remember, I did a couple of measurements with test tones and a Rat Shack analog sound level meter and got ~ 2 dB louder, somewhere above 1 KHz. This sounded much closer to how the Vanguards sounded to me, so maybe we are only talking about a couple/few decibels. With more space around them, these probably sound quite different, but I built a room as much for appearance as utility, so I’ve got to live with actual shelf placement.

    And for @Cspirou,
    I also watched a lot of TV while I had them – the Olympics and the Superbowl notably. Again, the voices just didn’t sound quite right to me, didn’t have the correct weight. Chris Collinsworth a prime example. But remember, I have been listening to my rig in its current configuration for 3+ years now, and it’s the only speaker system I listen to other than the car. So I’m really used to it, and likely it’s a little dark.

    Fit and finish are really good, no veneer ; they look like a quality speaker and have that BBC DNA, which I quite like.

    Huge thanks to @xrk971 and @rhythmdevils for offering up the speakers and organizing the tour
     
  20. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    One you might like to try is the Vandersteen VLR, which was designed for cabinet and bookshelf placement. Richard Vandersteen comments about it during an interview here (at 57:20).
     

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