Saturday, September 29, 2012

Richard Vandersteen at St. Louis Stereo

Today was the day we'd waited for and anticipated for weeks now, since events rarely take place in an audio wasteland such as St. Louis. Richard Vandersteen, of Vandersteen Audio fame, addressed a small polite crowd at St. Louis Stereo, 2020 Washington Avenue, in the high-rent loft district downtown.

Richard spoke at length about how he started from modest means, his parents being immigrants, and how he made the transition from a small-time speaker designer into one of the most recognizable names in high-end audio. We auditioned his $6000 Treo speaker, a three-way design featuring a transmission line behind the tweeter to absorb "garbage frequencies" (to quote the man) and a midrange to simply die for. Explaining how most small speakers are best utilized with subs to add the lower octave, he also gave us detailed info on how he developed fused balsa/carbon fiber midrange cones to create the effortless sound produced by these beautiful instruments, as well as his innovative cabinet design and construction. These exclusive cone material design elements will eventually trickle down from the more expensive models, and he made it a point to mention that his main objective is to utilize this new development (balsa/carbon-fused mids) in his lesser-priced models.

We listened to Holly Cole (piano, female voice, sparce percussion and scant bass), then some classical, and about that time, things dissolved into various individual discussions as the group somehow started to split apart.

We had some short intimate exchanges, as he took plenty of time to personally speak to each and every one of us as we enjoyed beverages and pastry. One that I particularly relish was when he and I discussed left and right brain function as it pertains to the average high-end audiophile and his listening preferences. His theory, which I wholeheartedly agree with, concerned who has a more discerning ear, a left-brained objectivist, or a right-brained musician-type who can listen to any system and enjoy it. I suggested that most musicians spend their discretionary monies on instruments and amps to perform with, and he suggested that the musicians who gravitate over time to better systems are generally jazz and blues players. To which I replied, that I'd thought that was true because those musicians are more intimate with their acoustic (rather than heavily amplified music that rock players utilize) instruments than the average rock player, and he agreed. I mentioned that I was the exception in that I am right-brained all the way but like good reproduction. He acknowledged that I was different (I haven't figured out if that was good or not!)...

Great day all around! We listened to Dire Straits and The Beatles on a second system featuring Vandersteen 2's ($1500/pr) and Audio Research preamp and power amp combo (Well-Tempered Simplex TT?). Maybe it was the choice of music, I seemed to like that sysem as well as the main one in the big room.

It was a beautiful day, there were thousands of well-to do-types on Washington enjoying their brew, expresso or just each other in the idyllic setting of the typical early fall Midwestern Saturday afternoon. If not for an excellent audio event for St. Louis audiophiles who can't attend the CES's and the Rocky Mountains, it would have been a great day to be at a ball game or just outside. We got a taste of the better gear currently available and enjoyed the superb hospitality of St. Louis Stereo, first-class all the way.

Keep your tubes hot (Richard swears by tubes!) and your antenna up! (he probably listens mostly to records!) He did mention that his wife was the audiophile in the family, and can tell when he swaps amps! Lucky DOG!!! See you next time!


  1. You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Thanks!
    Home theater store

  2. Thanks for responding. Richard was an OK guy, his opinions are a bit generalized, but his head and his heart are in the right place. That is that his object is to provide consumers with high-quality gear using esoteric componentry and technological innovation.