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. Spoiler: Build, Fit, and Finish 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. Spoiler: My System 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. Spoiler: Speaker Placement Notes 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): Short wall placement with boundary reinforcement: Spoiler: Amp Pairings 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. Spoiler: Sound Impressions 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. Spoiler: Conclusion 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.