ULTRA 55 Review - Michael Fremer of Stereophile Magazine

Sep 15, 2016
44
84
85
California
www.vonschweikert.com
#1
"Overall, the Von Schweikert ULTRA 55 measurements indicate excellent audio engineering." - John Atkinson

"Whatever the measurements might say - I won't see them until after the review - I found the ULTRA 55 to be among the more timbrally neutral and pleasing speakers I've reviewed, from the very first listen. They served every musical genre well and are highly competitive in the $100,000/pair price region. If you're shopping in that price range, I recommend an audition." - Michael Fremer

"When I sat in the off-center seat in my room, the ULTRA 55's imaged very well; indeed, they produced the least spatial and timbral shift I've encountered from a loudspeaker in my room. This wasn't surprising because it's what I've experienced at shows and it's what Von Schweikert claims its speakers do especially well. This is NOT advertising hype: I can't recall another speaker I've reviewed or owned that was so well behaved off-axis. These speakers do NOT beam or produce sharp off-axis edges or abrupt timbral shifts." - Michael Fremer

For the full review with much greater insight into this design, we encourage you to read the current issue of Stereophile Magazine. That's Volume 43, Number 7. Enjoy!

Stereophile Vol 43, NO 7.jpg
 

tony22

Active Member
Nov 4, 2019
134
37
28
59
#4
Damon and Leif, congrats on the review. I was wondering about the HF rolloff shown in Atkinson’s measurements. Is what we’re seeing consistent with the design goal, or is it an artifact of the way he does the sort of averaged spaced measurement?
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
8,110
2,511
730
Beverly Hills, CA
#5
Congratulations Damon and Leif!
 

Duke LeJeune

[Industry Expert]/Member Sponsor
Jul 22, 2013
584
660
340
Princeton, Texas
#6
I was wondering about the HF rolloff shown in Atkinson’s measurements...
In my experience a rear-firing tweeter has worthwhile perceptual benefits which are not obvious from the measurements, but its contribution can end up being a bit "too much" if the main tweeter's isn't "voiced" with the rear-firing tweeter in mind.

And Von Schweikert Audio has long been expert in the use of rear-firing tweeters.

Albert's speakers impressed the heck out of me the first time I heard them, almost two decades ago. As a planar guy, I was hearing them do something which sounded (or maybe "felt") right to me, something which was absent from all the other rooms with "conventional" speakers. When I looked at the back of his speaker, what I had been hearing suddenly made more sense.
 
Last edited:

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,519
497
628
#7
Fantastic news for VS and look forward to reading the review.
 

tony22

Active Member
Nov 4, 2019
134
37
28
59
#8
In my experience a rear-firing tweeter has worthwhile perceptual benefits which are not obvious from the measurements, but its contribution can end up being a bit "too much" if the main tweeter's isn't "voiced" with the rear-firing tweeter in mind.

And Von Schweikert Audio has long been expert in the use of rear-firing tweeters.

Albert's speakers impressed the heck out of me the first time I heard them, almost two decades ago. As a planar guy, I was hearing them do something which sounded (or maybe "felt") right to me, something which was absent from all the other rooms with "conventional" speakers. When I looked at the back of his speaker, what I had been hearing suddenly made more sense.
I think you’re right on the money, Duke, and frankly I suspected it has something to do with the way JA does his spaced measurement. I have never at a show heard any VSA speaker show a lack of properly balanced treble energy with respect to the rest of the frequency range. As a matter of fact, the VSA’s are among a very very few brands of speakers where there’s (to me, anyway) a proper frequency balance pretty much no matter where you sit - near the speaker, further away, dead center, off axis). It’s about as beautifully seamless as I’ve heard. Enough so among other things to where I now live happily with the E SE as my main speaker pair. There’s nothing missing in my listening space. :)
 

Leif S

Industry Expert
Feb 14, 2015
759
144
255
California
www.vonschweikert.com
#10
Damon and Leif, congrats on the review. I was wondering about the HF rolloff shown in Atkinson’s measurements. Is what we’re seeing consistent with the design goal, or is it an artifact of the way he does the sort of averaged spaced measurement?
Hi Tony,

I will talk about this shortly. I haven't had time to do this yet but I will. And I will be posting other measurements. The short answer is when you take a bunch of measurements from on axis to extreme off axis and average them, the tweeter response should look like that. But I will go more in depth about this.

All the best
 

tony22

Active Member
Nov 4, 2019
134
37
28
59
#11
Thank you, Leif. :D
 

Alrainbow

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2013
1,850
508
345
NYC , USA
#12
The extreme
Hi Tony,

I will talk about this shortly. I haven't had time to do this yet but I will. And I will be posting other measurements. The short answer is when you take a bunch of measurements from on axis to extreme off axis and average them, the tweeter response should look like that. But I will go more in depth about this.

All the best

Isn't the extreme off axis important , i was told the avg of direct on axis vs off is a better indicator as to how the loudspeakers will sound in room ..
 

XV-1

Well-Known Member
May 24, 2010
2,131
489
540
Sydney
#13
Cool. How times and prices have changed - I remember when I bought my 4.5's and they were like 6K :) Still had AIR and the GAIN circuit, similar size drivers, same bass extension, bigger cabinets but certainly not the quality of finish.

The 55's must sound unbelievable.
 

parkcaka

Well-Known Member
Sep 11, 2016
113
80
93
Istanbul
#14
I never heard this speaker but the form and style is excellent.
 

steve59

Active Member
Jan 7, 2018
235
37
35
#15
the measurements are +/-10 db. I do notice the larger the bass peak around 100 hz the more reviewers tend to like them, if i'm interpreting corr
ectly? There's those that would look at the room response and scratch these off the list.
 

Leif S

Industry Expert
Feb 14, 2015
759
144
255
California
www.vonschweikert.com
#16
the measurements are +/-10 db. I do notice the larger the bass peak around 100 hz the more reviewers tend to like them, if i'm interpreting corr
ectly? There's those that would look at the room response and scratch these off the list.
John has always measured speakers this way. We were thrilled to have our very first speaker ever measured by John. As well as a review by Michael Fremer.
Unfortunately this is an averaged response. This is a measurement that is not important to me. If you read in the review, Michael states he has never reviewed or owned a pair of speakers that behaved so well off axis. He also states this about every room he has covered of ours at the audio shows. The speakers completely disappear. Every seat in the house is a great seat. This wouldn't be possible if you were lacking treble energy. Every VSA owner knows this about our speakers. That you can get up and walk around the room and there is little to no change in the tonality. You can stand directly in between the speakers and it sounds damn near as if your sitting out in the middle of the room. If you look at the Magico M2 review you will see how the M2's tweeter response is very similar. Now my measurements of the tweeter off axis don't show this extreme of a roll off. This is why this measurement means absolutely nothing to do with the performance of this speaker or how the ear/brain mechanism processes. Michael's room does have a nasty bump in the bass frequency but not as audibly noticeable as the graph shows. I would have some tube traps in the corners if the ULTRA 55's were the speakers to stay in that room. But his Alexx speakers when set up are in those corners. The measurement I'm posting is the ULTRA 55's 10 feet apart with the microphone in the listening position equal lateral to the speakers with no room boundaries(free air) in our factory. This is the measurement I care about. Not an averaged response as shown.
Damon and I will be talking about certain things covered in this review and why they are important to us.
20200131_134252.jpg
And this is without the rear ribbon in play since I have no back wall for the ribbon to play off of.
 

steve59

Active Member
Jan 7, 2018
235
37
35
#17
Usually the speakers I prefer end up with measured rolled off treble. My point was more about how deceiving measurements can be when shopping from home
 
Likes: Leif S

Holli82

Well-Known Member
Jun 7, 2010
167
95
435
#18
As a 14-year Von Schweikert owner, I can unequivocally say that this debate about on axis/off axis measurements is NOT really important. As with power amplifiers, the measurements are nice to know but at the end of the day when I'm listening to music, the graphs and internet debates mean very little.

Anyone who has had the chance to listen to VSA products knows that when listening on or off axis (which I do frequently) there is no change in energy, timber or frequency shifts. The music remains seamless at all listening levels. This VSA characteristic is present throughout the entire product range from the Unifield 2 to the Ultra 11. I have listen to them all.
 
Last edited:

JackD201

WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
11,720
706
660
Manila, Philippines
#19
The old saying is that the XO is the heart of the loudspeaker. With VSA this is certainly the truth. They were doing cascades while everybody else was staying rigidly with 1st order because that was what the customers wanted of believed to be best. As everyone now knows, wide coverage is not 1st order's strongest suit while they are perfectly fine for a solo listener.

I entertain in my room a lot, at least before this $&^%$ pandemic, so even coverage is huge for me. When people come for auditions, I typically sit at the left wing seat beside the equipment racks right in the line of fire of the left loudspeaker. I can't tell you what a godsend it is not to be assaulted from that angle for what sometimes is 3 or 4 hours.

Here's a vid shot with what must have been an early iphone of the now 3 generations old VSA speaker taken from the rickety wing chair. Mikey is spot on, it isn't marketing hype. Someone can actually stand between you and one of the speakers and the stage doesn't collapse. I've only experienced this to this extent with VSA and Genesis.

 

Duke LeJeune

[Industry Expert]/Member Sponsor
Jul 22, 2013
584
660
340
Princeton, Texas
#20
Someone can actually stand between you and one of the speakers and the stage doesn't collapse. I've only experienced this to this extent with VSA and Genesis.
Very interesting observation. I can't help but notice that VSA and Genesis have this in common: Both use rear-firing drivers very intelligently.

(To my ears the Von Schweikerts tend to have the more neutral voicing of the two, but my sample sizes are not very large.)
 
Last edited:
Likes: JackD201

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high-end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing