No matter how many positive reviews a speaker or piece
of gear may receive, no music lover can be sure that it will mate well with
the rest of their system without hauling it through the door and giving it
an extended listen. This is exactly what I decided to do with Albert Von
Scheweikert's VR-4 jr, Albert's little floorstander has received so much
copious applause from a host of my colleagues that I finally decided that I
had to try it out in my own listening room. I especially recall speaking
with a senior editor at another online publication, who urged me to review
the VR- 4 jr because he could not believe how good it is for the price.
Albert Von Schweikert and I first spoke about reviewing
his speakers at CES 2005. We spent awhile together, listening to the major
difference that the addition of external Bybee Quantum noise purifiers made
to the noise floor and clarity of one of his larger models. The difference
Equally astounding is the discovery, as I review my
overstuffed email "in box," that the review pair of VR-4 jrs now filling my
living room with beautiful music first arrived on my doorstep in April 2005.
I tip my hat in thanks to Albert for his forbearance and trust as he has
patiently awaited this review.
For many months, while my reference amplifier underwent
a series of frustratingly inadequate fixes and my reference speakers went
through one upgrade after another, the VR-4 jrs sat in their shipping
cartons. Then they were put to use in the upstairs guest room. Fed by my
spouse's antiquated monaural TV, connected via its headphone jack to an even
older Kenwood receiver, they provided sound for the Will & Grace
reruns that continue to keep spouse and dog occupied while I write into the
As I was to learn when I finally hauled the speakers
downstairs and filled each of their woofer compartments with the recommended
50 lb. of lead shot, mating the VR-4 jr with good equipment reveals that
there is far more quality sound to be had from these babies than one might
expect at first time. After living with the Von Schweikert VR-4 jr for some
time in my reference system, I understand why everyone has sung its praises.
When compared to setting up my 200 lb. Talon Khorus X
Mk. II reference speakers, the VR-4 jrs are a dream to move around. The
speaker comes in three parts: a lightweight spiked base, large woofer module
that houses two identical woofers, and the smaller top module that houses
the midrange, tweeter, and rear ambience driver (rear-firing tweeter). Each
of these parts proved no problem carrying up and down the stairs. Even after
filling each woofer section with 50 lbs. of lead shot, I found it easy to
move the speakers from place to place by, when necessary, moving one section
at a time. When it came to fine-tuning
speaker placement, the fact that the base's spikes rested in the supplied
little metal wafers made it simple to push the babies across the Persian rug
without damaging the carpet.
from place to place until one finds the ideal location for each speaker is
essential for getting the most out of the VR-4 jrs. Just as
the impressively detailed, multi-page placement section of the extensive
manual explains, if the speakers are too far apart, the volume level of the
image between the speakers will be lower than the sound coming directly from
the speaker. If you have the speakers too close to each other or to
reflective surfaces, the sound may also be affected to its detriment. These
speakers may cost less than the Talons, but they require the same amount of
care with set-up.
The area to the right of my right channel speaker
extends virtually uninterrupted into a long, uncarpeted, quite resonant
dining room; the space to left of the left speaker is also quite large,
albeit less resonant. As a result, I soon discovered that I could not place
the right channel VR-4 jr too close to the archway between the rooms. Doing
so allowed the adjustable rear ambience driver to broadcast into dining
room, rendering the sound somewhat harsh and brittle. Similarly, placing the
speakers on the wood floor rather than the rug created a treble not to my
liking. Finding their optimal place on the Persian rug, and fine-tuning the
rear-firing tweeter became a major priority.
When I first initiated set-up, Albert counseled me by
e-mail to aim the speakers directly toward my ears, and to position them far
apart. Given my room particulars, I found that spacing them between nine and
ten feet apart worked best.
He also noted that bass response is totally adjustable,
yielding more or less bass depending upon system configuration and room.
Since I did not wish to compromise the review by telling either Albert or a
Von Schweikert technician what I was hearing, I decided to leave well enough
alone, and have a go of it on my own. Had I not been reviewing, I would have
taken advantage of Von Schweikert's excellent customer service and enlisted
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to Part II.