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Thread: Visit with Jack D and the Von Schweikert VR-11SE Mk. II

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    Site Founder And Administrator Ron Resnick's Avatar
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    Visit with Jack D and the Von Schweikert VR-11SE Mk. II

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    While I was visiting my wife in Tokyo Jack D invited us to visit him in Manila, Philippines, just four hours away from Tokyo.

    I enjoyed making Jack's acquaintance on WBF, and I was very curious to meet him in person and to see his legendary, state-of-the-art listening room and hear his Lamm-driven Von Schweikert Audio VR-11SE Mk. II speakers. So with a little pushing from my spontaneous wife, off we went!

    Jack suggested we stay at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, which is near Jack's house. The Shangri-La was luxurious and beautiful. We loved the myriad cuisines of the elaborate breakfast and the dinner buffets. (All-you-can-eat buffets make no money on me!)

    We were sad to leave that buffet and to have to return to what is for us a difficult food situation in Tokyo. Tokyo is mostly about meat and fish, which is problematic for my vegetarian wife. I like fish, but only of the non-exotic variety. I am cautious about eating raw fish, and it is a big challenge to find simple grilled tuna or pan-seared salmon on a menu. We have been living at the local Italian restaurant in Harajuku.

    With Jack handling the overall acoustical approach and creative design aspects, Jack’s audio company can field a team of acoustic, design, lighting and construction experts to achieve clients’ listening room objectives. Jack’s listening room is a showcase for this expertise.

    Jack’s listening room is the best-sounding, as well as the most elaborate, listening room I have ever encountered, whether at an audiophile's home or at a dealer's showroom. The room is quiet, but not at all over-damped. Quiet speech in the room is easily and clearly heard, even at a distance. The intelligibility of the room is startling. Jack is a professional acoustician, and the room simply is amazing.

    The VR-11SE Mk. II is an extremely tall and very impressive one column speaker system. It is similar in many ways to the Rockport Arrakis. Both use an M-T-M, D'Appolito array, with mid-bass drivers and a pair of 15" woofers, in a heroically constructed cabinet weighing about 900 pounds.

    The Arrakis' 15" woofers are passive and side-firing; the VR-11's 15" woofers are self-powered and rear-firing. Both speakers consist of three large, heavy modules stacked vertically.

    The Arrakis has no crossover or level adjustments for the drivers; the VR-11 has crossover frequency, level, phase and 25 Hz boost controls on each active woofer module, and separate level controls for the tweeters, the front-firing ribbon super-tweeter and the rear-firing ribbon super-tweeter. The VR-11 should be able to be adjusted to work great in any room of a reasonable size for such a large speaker.

    Jack, like me, is a traditional analog guy. He was excited to play for me his TechDAS Air Force One with Graham Phantom Elite tonearm and TechDAS cartridge. Jack uses the ultra-flexible and adjustable EMT phono preamp. You can be assured I was excited by the prospect of hearing Jack's system playing vinyl!

    Alas, it was not to be. The morning of our visit the air pump on the Air Force One conked out. I was heartbroken! My wife, who has become accustomed to the realism and emotional involvement of analog, also was disappointed. So we listened to a few CDs.

    I cannot say that, even with digital playback by Jack's CH Precision stack, it did not sound like we were listening to CDs. As amazing as the room and the system are, it did sound like we were listening to CDs. But the excellence, the capabilities and the grandeur of both the speakers and the room were clearly evident, even with CDs.

    We listened, among other things, to James Taylor, U2's Joshua Tree, Sarah McLachlan, Enya and deep house re-mixes. As you probably can imagine the VR-11s can rock!

    The VR-11 confirmed my view that height matters. The height of the Arrakis, the Genesis 1.1., the Pendragon and the VR-11 allows them to project a scale and a grandeur which I do not hear from speakers half their height or less. This scale, for me, contributes to believability.

    The Arrakis and the VR-11 present a fascinating contrast. Clearly each is a state-of-the-art, statement product by one of the top speaker designers in the world.

    In different rooms and with totally different systems it is hard to be certain about sonic differences. I think the Arrakis is a slightly warmer-sounding speaker with a richer balance in the lower midrange/upper bass range. Putting the same point a different way, I think the Arrakis is a little bit darker-sounding than the VR-11. (I love the tonal balance of the Arrakis (and of the Altair II).) I think the VR-11 is more neutral and slightly faster-sounding than the Arrakis. Jack agrees with these observations. (Of course the VR-11 is so adjustable that by raising the crossover point of the 15" woofers one can make the lower midrange/upper bass range richer-sounding.).

    This may be as close a comparison of these two speakers as anyone will ever get. No one will ever have a pair of Arrakis in the same room with a pair of VR-11s for a direct, side-by-side comparison.

    I am used to MartinLogan electrostatic speakers which, in my view, simply do not work off-axis. Many speaker companies, especially manufacturers of dynamic driver designs, claim that their speakers sound good off-axis. I think dynamic driver designs sound better off axis than do MartinLogans, but I never thought anything sounds good off-axis.

    Well, the VR-11s, in Jack's room, sound very good off-axis. With music playing, as you sit in different areas at the back of the room, it sounds like you are changing seats in a nightclub. This is not hyperbole. Somehow the system maintains a believable sonic perspective, even as you move around. I have never experienced this before. This off-axis believability was not achieved at the expense of center image focus. The system creates a fairly clearly-delinated image of a solo vocalist.

    Jack's room is so well-designed and balanced, and the speakers create such a coherent sound field, that he showed us how, by standing between the speakers and facing the rear wall of the room, it sounds like the music is projecting from a sound-stage in front of you, coming from the rear of the room! I have never heard that trick before! Jack explained that the extremely coherent sound field generated by the VR-11 is due to unique circuit topologies, including circuits parallel to the cross-overs but outside the signal path which act as delay lines to complement mechanical time alignment with electrical time alignment.

    When the serious listening is finished the room can be configured for entertainment mode, with a full bar towards the back of the room and a laser-light system for dancing to deep house music!

    After spending an entire afternoon and early-evening listening to music I asked my wife what she thought of Jack's listening room. She said: "I love it! I want to live there!"

    Jack was the perfect host. My wife and I are grateful to Jack for a wonderful time and for an amazing listening session we will never forget! We look forward to reciprocating his hospitality in Los Angeles!
    Last edited by Ron Resnick; 05-02-2016 at 08:00 PM.
    Mono and Stereo - Senior Contributing Reviewer

    turntable: American Sound AS-2000 (ordered) tonearm: SME 3012R (to come); cartridge: ZYX Universe Premium X-SB2 or Koetsu Coralstone (TBD)
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    Site Founder And Administrator Steve Williams's Avatar
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    You're a lucky man Ron. I can't wait. My turn is in August

    Never a doubt in my mind that Jack's system would be exactly as you said. I'm sure that room was well thought out
    Steve Williams
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Resnick View Post
    Jack's room is so well-designed and balanced, and the speakers create such a coherent sound field, that he showed us how, by standing between the speakers and facing the rear wall of the room, it sounds like the music is projecting from a sound-stage in front of you, coming from the rear of the room! I have never heard that trick before! Jack explained that the extremely coherent sound field generated by the VR-11 is due to unique circuit topologies, including circuits parallel to the cross-overs but outside the signal path which act as delay lines to complement mechanical time alignment with electrical time alignment.

    ...

    Jack was the perfect host. My wife and I are grateful to Jack for a wonderful time and for an amazing listening session we will never forget! We look forward to reciprocating his hospitality in Los Angeles!
    Thanks for that report, Ron ... good to hear that Jack's system lived up to expectations!

    Regarding that "trick" above, that's not unique - this is something I first got 30 years ago, and have chased ever since. Requiring a very high level of competence from the complete system, which Jack has obviously spent a great deal of time and effort working towards, it's a natural result of, and marker for that standard of replay.

    When you say the CD still "sounded CD", with the implication that there was some slight lacking, how would you characterise what you heard that makes you say that?

    Thanks,

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    Site Founder And Administrator Ron Resnick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fas42 View Post
    Thanks for that report, Ron ... good to hear that Jack's system lived up to expectations!

    Regarding that "trick" above, that's not unique - this is something I first got 30 years ago, and have chased ever since. Requiring a very high level of competence from the complete system, which Jack has obviously spent a great deal of time and effort working towards, it's a natural result of, and marker for that standard of replay.

    When you say the CD still "sounded CD", with the implication that there was some slight lacking, how would you characterise what you heard that makes you say that?

    Thanks,
    That "trick" -- or feature -- is something I will now always test and look for!

    Without reigniting the CD versus vinyl battle, solely to answer your question . . . I always find digital to be a shade dry or very slightly "sandy" sounding. At joint auditions bonzo observed that I do not relax when I listen to digital.
    Mono and Stereo - Senior Contributing Reviewer

    turntable: American Sound AS-2000 (ordered) tonearm: SME 3012R (to come); cartridge: ZYX Universe Premium X-SB2 or Koetsu Coralstone (TBD)
    tape: Studer A820 Mk II
    phono stage: Aesthetix Io Eclipse with 2 power supplies; line stage: Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse with 2 power supplies; amplifier: VTL MB-750s
    speakers: Gryphon Pendragons
    cables: MasterBuilt Ultra or Cardas Clear Beyond (TBD); power: Benjamin Electric subpanel; Torus AVR60BAL; JPS in-wall wire; Furutech NCF outlets; room: 20' wide X 25' long X 15' tall; treatment: ASC Tube Traps and Tower Slims; tweaks: Shakti Stones, Shun Mooks (Kedar to place)

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    Ta ...

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    [WBF Founding Member] Addicted to Best! JackD201's Avatar
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    Thank you so much for the kind words Ron but still more thanks for the chance to host such a wonderful couple and to make new friends. My biggest disappointment was that my wife and kids didn't get a chance to meet you. Boy what a small world! Who would have thought that you and my wife grew up in the same place!

    I'm still kicking myself over my carelessness. I had apparently left the power box on and because I am deeply into campaign mode I must have left the box on for weeks. This burned out the pumps. On the bright side, I get to go for the new box upgrades that would have required me sending the box back to Stella anyway. The upgrade will ironically include an auto shut off function via firmware update. Life can be really funny huh?

    I agree with the comparative "dryness" of digital in general with the exception of some tubed units like those of Zanden and Lampizator or even the modest Opera/Consonance from China. Over the years I struggled between making a choice between the two sides and my personal choice was to live with this bit of dryness in exchange for the drive, macro clarity and speed of the likes of CH's and prior to those the EMMs I've had. Admittedly I am a vinyl listener so the system is optimized towards that end. Now that I'll be listening to digital more until I've set up the back up Air Force 3 and await the return of the AF1's box, I'll be looking to see just how far I can take digital. As you noted, I've already licked the dimensionality handicap I just need to optimize for any vestigial unnatural edge which I think can be manipulated into oblivion if I try hard enough.
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    [WBF Founding Member] Addicted to Best! JackD201's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Williams View Post
    You're a lucky man Ron. I can't wait. My turn is in August

    Never a doubt in my mind that Jack's system would be exactly as you said. I'm sure that room was well thought out
    We're gonna have a blast Stevie!
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    Another great thread/'review' by Ron, and no doubt a great audio experience by Jack. Great reading!
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    Hi Ron, great report. Maybe next year or the year after I will do that pilgrimage to the East.

    Regarding the rear wall imaging, read this by Gallant Diva on the Apogee Full Range, where he gets the image on both front and rear wall, using a placement method based on the room coupling method pioneered by Limage, a Magneplaner guru in Hong Kong: https://forum.audiogon.com/discussio...aker-placement

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    [WBF Founding Member] Addicted to Best! JackD201's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bonzo75 View Post
    Hi Ron, great report. Maybe next year or the year after I will do that pilgrimage to the East.

    Regarding the rear wall imaging, read this by Gallant Diva on the Apogee Full Range, where he gets the image on both front and rear wall, using a placement method based on the room coupling method pioneered by Limage, a Magneplaner guru in Hong Kong: https://forum.audiogon.com/discussio...aker-placement
    Jadis, our Boston Celtics loving fellow member, has his Maggies waaaaay out into the room. His soundstage is one of the best I've ever heard.

    Drop me a line when you're on this side of the world Ked, You're always welcome.
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