Audio Research, Grand Prix Audio, Shunyata Research and Vandersteen Audio
All prices in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

Audio demos are rarely life-altering experiences. For Doug Schneider, this Audio Research/Grand Prix Audio/Shunyata Research system that showcased Vandersteen Audio's new Model Seven loudspeaker ($45,000 per pair) nearly was. Mostly, Doug was taken by the midrange performance that was so clean and transparent it allowed him to hear things in the recordings he brought that he'd never heard before. This level of resolution, particularly from a dynamic-driver-based loudspeaker, is uncanny and is something designer Richard Vandersteen attributes to his new balsa-wood-based midrange driver that he says is super-light, very strong, and has wide bandwidth, maintaining perfectly pistonic action far beyond its passband.

The legendary Linn LP-12 played records, while Audio Research electronics handled the rest: REF Phono 2 phono stage, REF CD8 CD player, REF 5 preamplifier, and REF 110 power amp. The components sat on Grand Prix Audio racks, while Shunyata Research interconnects, speaker cables, and power conditioners connected the pieces together and cleaned the power from the wall.

Richard Vandersteen stands proudly beside his Model Seven loudspeaker -- his company's newest flagship design that he says took ten years of his life to design. The Seven is a four-way, time-and-phase-correct design that, in addition to many other features, has a powered bass section.

We've enjoyed listening to Vandersteen's speakers before, but we've never been blown away by their performance. The Model Seven, at least in this setup, changed that, which is why Doug called the speaker "amazing," and as he walked out of the room and down the hallway added, "That might be the best show sound I've ever heard." [] []