My New (To Me) Spooky Speakers

My New (To Me) Spooky Speakers

The Tin Ear Reports

Bob “Tin Ear” Guthrie

27 December 2002

Spooky Speakers Surprise Sprouting Audioholic

I am now the proud owner of a pair of Von Schweikert Audio VR-4 Generation 3 speakers. As with any deal involving the audio analyst©1 and a sum of money greater than that needed to buy lunch, you probably do not want to know the details. The CIA calls this “plausible deniability” and it shields both the uninvolved and any former Enron, WorldCom or Arthur Anderson executives in case someone asks questions. However, I still have both arms and legs, and will probably be able to make my house payment this month.

The whole truth is that I have been lusting after a pair of these speakers for over three years, ever since the audio analyst© moved to South Bend and I first heard them as part of his reference system. There was a certain charm to watching the satanic delight dance across the audio analyst’s© face as we installed the speakers and he chortled about someone nicknamed “Tin Ear” having not one but two sets of high-end speakers. Another friend of ours heard these speakers in Greg’s reference system and simply asked, “Do you take Visa?” 

As most Stereo Times readers are true audiophiles, and I am a neophyte, I wouldn’t dream of attempting a formal review of these speakers, especially considering that Greg already reviewed this very pair. And we all know that once the audio analyst©has set forth his views on a subject, nothing further needs be said, right? That said, the first thing that I noticed, even at lower levels of power, is the punchy bass response of the VR-4’s. However, what I’ve found truly amazing about these speakers is the detailed information from the tweeters and how the speakers simply disappear in the soundstage. Furthermore, my listening room is still far too bright. Heaven only knows what taming the room will accomplish.

The Non-review of the Loudspeaker

Mitsuko Uchida’s playing of Schubert’s Piano Sonata in E flat major, D568 [Philps 164-2] illustrates the detailed tweeter response of the VR-4’s. Over the years, I’ve admired Uchida’s delicate interpretations of Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven. The clean, fast response of the VR-4’s has caused me to replay all of my Uchida discs. I’ve realized that she has an amazing insight into, or perhaps better still, a rapport with, the composers she selects. I believe you can offer no higher praise for equipment than to say it has opened to you a new understanding of an artist.

Sailing to Philadelphia [Warner Bros. 47753-2] is an audio treat. Most of us are familiar with Mark Knopfler’s attention to detail and the crisp recording he delivers. On the title cut, James Taylor and Knopfler combine to tell the story of the Mason-Dixon line and of coming to the fair shores of a deeply divided America to survey the line that became a psychological division in the fires of the Civil War and the decades leading to it. The vocal timbres of Taylor and Knopfler play well off each other and the quick tweeter reactions bring out even the small details of breath during the performance. In addition, it was not wholly clear that the performers were not sitting in the room with me.

I had the opportunity to attend a regional symphony’s Christmas program this weekend past and recalibrate my hearing to live music. Today I have played some of the Christmas standbys that I heard last evening, and must say that the VR-4’s have been doing a wonderful job. Christmas With The Academy [Philips, 442141-2] has helped me wrap a few remaining presents and kept me smiling with memories of a fine evening’s entertainment as well as a nice way to kindle some altogether too missing holiday spirit here.

If that is music, I’m a Hottentot…

Paraphrasing President Truman seemed only natural when listening to Brubeck’s Time Out [Columbia, 65122], as I’m sure the Chopin-loving President would have hated the album. The piano is compelling (is anyone surprised?) and I am tapping my feet to the snare drum and those terrific cymbal brushes, which roll off in a way I’ve not experienced before. The room fairly vibrates to the sounds! I was all of 18 months old when Brubeck & Co. recorded Time Out, but now I would have loved to be sitting at Teo Macero’s elbow for those sessions!

Along those lines, Teo Macero also produced Maynard Ferguson’s 1974 Live at Jimmy’s [CBS, 32732] album, with a tribute first cut. Listen to this one if you have it; it knocked my socks off even twenty-eight years after being produced. The VR-4’s bring the excitement in that room into your listening space, and then gracefully disappear, as any loyal retainer would, leaving just the music.

A Non Sequitur…

One of the difficulties I’m having with all of this is that I listened to the music and then wanted to replay selected cuts while I wrote. Alas, I continue to find that the music is so good that I have to play the whole of each album. It is taking forever to write this! The heck with it, I can sense a fine cognac in my future, and uninterrupted listening.

In the past, I’ve seen Von Schweikert Audio advertising that labeled these speakers “spooky” and, in keeping with my native skepticism had dismissed this as the hype of an overly excited junior advertising executive. I was wrong; these speakers were superb in the audio analyst’s© reference system and are nothing short of magnificent in my far more modest rig. Spooky is an adjective that fits the bill. I’m hearing things that I had never realized were available in my music, and Albert v., I’m one impressed and satisfied owner.

The audio analyst© was the name of a small audio publication started by Greg Weaver, The Stereo Times Executive Editor, back in 1989 and he has kept the copy written name ever since. Most of Greg’s work at Positive Feedback still appears with this by-line.


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