Vanguard Scout monitors – “the $299/pr Miracle Mini Monitor” by Greg Voth

 

I love the accuracy of a small speaker. In the 1980s and 1990s, I owned and loved both the Spica TC-50 and TC-60, and the ported TC-60 satisfied me through the 1990s and into the 2000s, when we moved on to the Eminent Technology LFT-8b floorstander and then on to the Tekton Double Impact I have today. Bigger isn’t always better – a well-designed small loudspeaker can deliver a realistically convincing presentation if done right.

At just $299 a pair, I was more curious than cautious upon receiving a pair of Vera-Fi Audio LLC’s Vanguard Scout mini monitors for review. The Vera-Fi Design Team, led by Viet Nguyen and Mark Schifter, is responsible for the Vanguard Scout design (xsa-labs.com). Audio engineer Viet Nguyen has established himself as a trail-blazer in affordable speaker design, with both his LSA Signature 50 and 60 among his designs for Walter Liederman’s Underwood HiFi (www.underwoodhifi.com), as well as his own Vanguard speaker (xsa-labs.com). Schifter has been involved at nearly every level of the audio biz for decades, from the Audio Alchemy to today’s Vera-Fi Audio LLC, where he offers solidly performing audio products at affordable prices, many of which I’ve reviewed in these pages. 

With that pedigree, I knew these smaller Scouts would sound good, but how good for $299 a pair? I set the Scouts up as near-field on my desktop to break them in for a while, powered by a pair of Vera-Fi Audio’s Vera-Link TWS Bluetooth Wireless 50-watt amplifiers. I found myself distracted often as the Scouts played daily, breaking in, lured to listen by the imaging and soundstage presented by these small wonders, and upon first hearing the Vanguard Scouts, my wife, Robin, uttered the word “warm,” an apt description of their overall signature. She coaxed me early to set them on stands in our main space, which I did a week later. Once on stands and powered by my main rig, Robin and I were stunned at how well the Scouts performed. The Scouts brought fun into our early evening the following day as Robin read, and I played files into the early evening.

Schifter’s quite proud of his Scouts, as he should be. These mini monitors perform remarkably well for their size, offering a great deal of lower frequencies without needing a subwoofer. Should that thirst for lower lows prevail, the affordable but unheard Vanguard Caldera 10 Compact Subwoofer might be a good match (it’s being reviewed in the next few weeks). Describing the Scouts as “remarkable” this early in a review isn’t my usual MO… I do hope you’ll read on to find out more.

Those of you expecting the subway under-foot bass from Sting’s A Thousand Years from his 1999 “Brand New Day” release (A&M) or any extended deep dive into the low end might be disappointed, but music lovers relishing the tightness, speed, and musicality that a well-designed small speaker delivers will be gobsmacked by the Scouts extended pallet and their uncanny ability to render a trio, quartet or even large scale performance unexpectedly well.

The Scout

Quoting Schifter here, “[The] Vanguard Scout is a compact 2-way bass reflex ported speaker with a 5.25 inch treated paper cone woofer and a 25mm silk dome tweeter in superbly crafted [real] rosewood veneer cabinet with a satin finish. What makes the Scout special is the crossover and how it is voiced to provide a smooth presentation with pinpoint imaging and a wide soundstage. The crossover uses high-quality custom inductors and film capacitors typically seen on speakers costing 10x the price.” With its 8 Ohm impedance and 84.5dB sensitivity, the Scout measures 12 inches tall, 6 11/16 inches wide, and 10 inches deep (depth includes the removable grill). Each speaker weighs approximately 12 lbs.

 

 

 

The Tech

Quoting the Vera-Fi Audio site, “The crossover is a unique asymmetric topology that produces crisp and accurate percussion. The bass extension is deep for its size with a 60Hz -6dB point. The silk dome tweeter provides resolving highs while maintaining a smooth sound that is low in distortion. The treated paper cone woofer has a natural and lively sound with a slightly warm midrange that’s perfect for vocals. The balance and voicing of the Vanguard Scout is optimized for non-fatiguing listening pleasure with all genres of music.”

Many will be as impressed as I am with this inventive pair’s technical ability to coax the Scouts to reach down as far as they do, providing a larger-than-expected aural event, complete with snappy transients and dynamic power. To find out more, I emailed both Schifter and Nguyen and asked for a secret to share. Nguyen responded, “The crossover has both woofer and tweeter in positive phase polarity with an asymmetrical crossover filter that produces crisp transients that are realistic and punchy. Great for percussion, drums, guitar, bass, piano.”

Listening to the Scouts

Popkoral, from the “Lien Trio’s 10″ (2022 Ozella Music), played bold, warm, relaxed, dynamic, and free, delivering a wonderful soundstage with spot-on imaging. The Scouts respond like far larger loudspeakers in the main rig, about 6 feet from the front wall. With the suitable source material and playing just inside my Double Impacts, many a listener would think the DIs were playing, as did fool a visitor to our home.

On Loose Gore, transients were acute, with impressive dynamics and stage depth, as the instrumental body and musical heart remained intact. Big, bold swaths of low frequencies emanated freely from these diminutive dynamos, and 3D imagery was rendered well. In our large room, with the Scouts 7 feet apart and the front wall still 6 feet behind, I did not need a sub to augment lower frequencies. The Scouts carved out a beautiful render with a play of the Lien Trio’s “Krystal” and “Falturill” pulsed with bravado and excitement. The Scouts provided a look into the telepathy that holds this trio together so very well – loose, emotive, and without second guesses, this self-assured trio cut through the air with verve.

Billy Childs’ Map To The Treasure from “ (2014 Masterworks), imaging was tight and snappy, with the speakers delivering an excellent stage with three-dimensional cues. Lisa Fischer’s voice had nice body and the piece offered good instrumental separation and air. The propulsive percussion that drives this piece was presented with considerable energy for this loudspeaker’s size and price. The bass appeared full but had a bit of over-bloom to my ear. As I said previously, the Scout signature is warm, and that warmth is enveloping.

Randy Weston’s Night in Medina, from “Blue Moses” (1972 CTI Records), Night in Medina, was warm and laid back, though a touch veiled. The stage depth was quite good, and incidental percussion and vocal yelps were energetic, though slightly rolled back (more vivid through Nguyen’s Vanguards). The bass was full but less dimensional and a tad boomy, with the acoustic bass less identifiable as an upright acoustic. The entertaining blats and beeps from the horns were rounded and softer, with their metallic signature somewhat diminished. Nitpicking aside, the Scouts presented darn well for their price.

Boa Tarde Povo, from Anat Cohen’s Quartetinho (2022 Anzic Records), continued to be a favorite through the Scouts – they delivered the bass response and lower frequency punch, which drives the piece. The instrumental character sounded natural, and the tune proved foot-tapping and as enjoyable as always. Nguyen’s Vanguard speaker is a sealed box design that rings in at $1095 in high gloss blonde birch, 3X the Scout’s $299 price. Through the Vanguards, the cello was sweeter, vocals had slightly better annunciation, the piano body was fuller, and presentations felt more open and had more air. The Vanguards presented a wider soundstage and instruments rendered with improved realistic timbre…but the Scouts came darn close.

There was also more involvement from strings, and incidental sounds played snappier. The overall presentation had a more realistic sheen. In my experience, such nuances are the attributes of a sealed box, like the Spike TC-50 from the 1980’s. While the TC-50s lacked bass, if not driven by significant amplification like the Krell of the day, they exuded delicacy, fidelity, and musicality.

The Wrap

I have much bigger and better speakers and adore them. The Vanguard Scouts play with enough realism and musicality to scratch that same itch. The Scouts give 80% of what the three times their price Vanguards deliver. The Scout is the perfect introduction to great sound at a stunningly affordable price. Add a pair of Vera-Link TWS Bluetooth amps, and you’ve got one heck of an affordable starter setup to use with any Bluetooth-enabled phone, pad, or computer. I listen to each of these speakers in this fashion.

 

Specifications:

Vanguard Scout speakers are introductory priced at $299US per pair.

Dealers and Distributors wanted.

Contact:

Mark Schifter

Vera-Fi Audio LLC

9025 Crestview Drive

Denton, Texas 76207

Phone: (818) 584-6870

Website: www.verafiaudiollc.com

Email: verafiaudio@gmail.com

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