|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.
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.
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
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.
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to Part III.