Product Review

Von Schweikert VR-4 jr Floor-Standing Speakers

Part II

August, 2006

Jason Victor Serinus



Lead shot compartment

Leading It Right

An equal priority was filling the woofer section with lead shot. Without filling the lead shot chamber with 50 lb. of lead shot, you will lose a lot of deep bass, and the lowest notes you do hear will be rather indeterminate in pitch.

I did not find filling the speakers with lead shot a comfortable task. Undoubtedly because the speakers had spent so long sitting first in our storage shed, then in a hot, upstairs bedroom, the removable MDF panel on the bottom of the speakers that secures the lead shot refused to come off when its screws has been removed. I had to pry it off, roughing up the holes in the process. It was not pretty.

Opening bags of lead shot and pouring 50 lbs. of little beads into each speaker released a lot of toxic lead dust into the air, which the dust mask I was wearing hopefully kept from my lungs. (I of course performed the operation outside). Little pellets kept spilling from the canvas lead shot bag, rolling over the walkway. Not wishing to harm either our dog or the copious bird population that flocks to our yard's fountain, I spent an inordinate amount of time chasing down little pellets that rolled this way and that. I know it wasn't a good idea to hold the pellets in my hands, but wearing gloves made grasping them impossible. Even after all was supposedly secured, and the speakers were moved indoors, I found that a few pellets seemed to escape their chamber every time I moved the woofer section from the base. (Undoubtedly this is because I damaged the removable panels during my determined attempts to remove them). Not good.

I totally understand that the alternative to requiring the purchaser to install lead shot entails shipping the VR-4 jr with lead shot or something else of equal weight already installed. This would greatly increase shipping costs and price. Nonetheless, there has to be an easier way to get the lead in there than pouring it in, bead by bead, and suffering the consequences. I have a painter friend who spent years chelating toxic levels of memory and thought-compromising lead from his body, and would not wish anyone to follow the same route. I would hope that, in the future, Albert makes it easier to remove the cover of the lead shot receptacle, so that the possibility of pellet leakage will be rendered insignificant.

Speaker Connections

The VR-4 jr comes complete with double sets of five-way rhodium posts to allow bi-wiring. These posts are situated on the back of the woofer module. An optional Data Link cable can connects the woofer section to the midrange/tweeter section. This cable, together with a single set of binding posts on the midrange/tweeter unit, and an optional pair of metal Binding Post Straps for the double sets of binding posts on the woofer module, enable you to connect the two modules and/or bridge binding posts to accommodate various configurations of single and bi-wire speaker cable.

There are seven possible choices of speaker cable connection. The manual lists the options in order, from the most desirable to the least desirable.

The ideal connection, Shotgun Bi-Wiring, requires removal of both the Data Link and Binding Post straps. You then directly connect shotgun bi-wire cabling to the bottom binding posts on the bass unit and the binding posts on the m/t unit. This connection proved impossible in my case, since I was unwilling to cut an additional 3 or so feet through the Teflon on my Nordost Valhalla bi-wired speaker cable in order to span the distance between woofer and m/t binding posts.

I thus chose option 2, Bi-Wiring. I removed the Binding Post Straps from the double sets of woofer module binding posts, connected my bi-wired cable directly to the four binding posts on the woofer module, and connected the Data Link between woofer and m/t modules. I cannot ascertain to what extent this may have compromised the performance of the speakers. We all do what we can do.

FYI, the least desirable form of connection requires use of both the Data Link and Binding Post straps. This will prove necessary for people who do not own bi-wire speaker cable. Were I in such a position, I would investigate replacing the supplied Binding Post Straps with better ones. Though I've never tried this, other reviewers working with other speakers have reported that better grade binding post straps make a major difference in sound. 

Rear Ambience Driver

As mentioned above, a key issue for me was finding the right "Spatial Dimension Control" setting for the Rear Ambience Driver (rear-firing tweeter). If I set it too low, highs lost their edge, cymbals sounded flat, and the triangle that resounds at the beginning of the Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances (Reference Recordings) was prematurely attenuated. If, on the other hand, I set the rear-firing tweeter too high, cymbals became brittle, and the beautifully recorded piano on Elise Lebec's CD of solo piano impressions, Possible Dreams, sounded tinny. In the end, for my room, with where I ultimately placed the speakers, I found that a setting of 2 1/3 (on a scale of 0 to 10) worked best.

The Rear Ambience Driver performs several vital functions. It not only adds the requisite edge the treble (what I assume the instruction manual calls "360 degree timbre fill-in"), but also enhances depth, injecting. a wonderful sense of air and three-dimensionality into the proceedings. The manual notes that, in some rooms with highly reflective rear walls and amps that are overly detailed, one may wish to turn the Rear Ambience Driver completely off. As mentioned above, I instead chose to set it quite low.

For further details on cabinet construction and finishes, design philosophy, etc., please consult the Von Schweikert website.


The VR-4 jr's manual notes that, because "most commercial CDs are bright," use of the Green Felt Pen (CD Stoplight) and Bedini Clarifier is recommended. It's lovely to learn that one of the most respected speaker designers in the audiophile community hears the difference that these so-called tweaks, both of which I use, can make. (I must introduce Albert to the Marigo Signature 3-D Mat the next time I see him). While non of these enhancements can erase the huge differences between the sound of early digital recordings and the best of the current crop, they render all CDs more engagingly three-dimensional and listenable, and far fuller-sounding than before.

Click Here to Go to Part III.

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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