BOSENDORFER: VC 7 test review

Please share this...
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Founded during its nascent years in Austria, 1828, by Ignaz Bösendorfer, the company bearing his name has since become one of the most recognisable piano-making brands in the world. With many choices in finish and specification, a Bösendorfer piano can be specified to be as minimalist or extravagant as you like – from opulent to ornate to modernist – have a look at their website, www.bosendorfer.com, and you can see almost any style is available.

In their recent history Bösendorfer has started to make a range of hi-fi loudspeakers, and in a similar manufacturing quality to the pianos from their factory, they offer them in a variety of standard and non-standard finishes.

The Bösendorfer loudspeakers, engineered by the very experienced Hans Deutsch, are different to the norm in that they are designed to resonate just like a musical instrument. To this end they feature Acoustic Sound Boards which are fin-like panels, fitted with exacting tolerances to the rear of the main cabinet to achieve the correct amount of reverberation.

The CAD-CAM designed cabinet has no internal damping material like ‘acoustic’ wool for instance, or an externally visible cylindrical port. Instead air is shifted unhindered and therefore more efficiently from the drive-units down the internal volume of the cabinet, like a diaphragm, and outwards at the lower sides to vibrate the Acoustic Sound Boards.

This arrangement is an ingenious bit of lateral-thinking mechanical-engineering.

So, combining this design philosophy with two 130mm carbon-fibre reinforced paper-cone mid/bass drive-units per side, and two 30mm (approx.) acrylic-coated silk-dome tweeters at the front baffle, the VC 7 here for review is a very special loudspeaker indeed. Essentially, the music signal is transmitted via the Bösendorfer Acoustic Active Crossover (developed by Hans Deutsch in 1973) at the rear of the cabinet, and then through the mid/bass drivers (and tweeters) with the resultant bass-loading coming from the Acoustic Sound Boards which, say the company, “…guarantees a multitude of resonances spread across the entire bass frequency range.

As this review is not for a hi-fi magazine, I have kept it as straightforward as possible. However, for those who are interested in technical details, you can contact Bösendorfer’s UK distributor at www.audusa.com for information.

Bösendorfer VC 7 (claimed) Specifications

Frequency response: 25 Hz – 27 kHz

Impedance: 4 ohms

Sensitivity: 91 dB

Dimensions: 1330x403x195mm

Weight: 36.5Kg

Bösendorfer VC 7 Standard Finishes and UK Prices

VC 7S: Black Semi gloss £6,400

VC 7H: High Gloss Piano Black £8,250

VC 7E: High Gloss Piano Black + Lacquer Wood Veneer* £9,200

(*Pomele or Burl Maple or Burl Birch or Burl Walnut)

Non standard finishes, e.g. White, Swarovski Crystals, etc, to special order.

System & Setup

In the listening sessions I used a North Star Design Model 192 CD Transport and Extremo DAC source, Stax Dual Mono DC CA-X Class-A preamplifier and a beautifully designed and built Accuphase Model P-102 Class-A power amplifier which is a dual-mono design rated at 50W/8ohms and 80W/4ohms. Interconnects and power cords were LAT. The North Star CD source and LAT cables were supplied by www.audusa.com, while the Stax, Accuphase and listening room were kindly loaned by this site's editor Howard Popeck.

The Bösendorfers were placed at 2M apart with a toe-in of about 20 degrees, 1.5M from the back wall and about 1M from the side walls. The correct location is very important as they have side-firing mid-bass drivers, and for this reason, it is also imperative not have anything in-between the VC 7s, like a hi-fi system. I preferred listening to the loudspeakers without the grills – but it is best to fine-tune setup with your Bösendorfer dealer.

Music

Listening to ‘Korngold - Violin Concerto; Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto Op 35’ (2004) with Anne-Sophie Mutter on lead and Previn conducting, I was really taken aback by the sheer lyrical quality of Mutter’s playing as it was by turns full-bodied and then very delicately phrased. The music had a beautifully radiant earthy tonality and the violin was indeed convincing where the lyrical phrasing was outstanding.

The separation of instruments was very good thus enabling the delicacy of the violin, especially some of the more playful parts, to be balanced with the full-weight of the orchestra. So, there was the vastness of scale required to reveal the Wiener Philharmoniker combined with the sophisticated deftness of the violin which weaved in and out of the orchestrations.

This ‘Korngold…’ piece goes from delicate violin parts to grand, soaring crescendos very quickly – where the mix can get very busy. And as such the Bösendorfers were entirely composed and authoritative as they ably revealed the subtleties of the violin and the demands of the orchestrations, especially the low frequencies where there was convincing bass extension and bass tunefulness, so a high-resolution balance between weight and control was struck.

Indeed the Bösendorfers had superb instrumental decay to the fading notes of the violin – which enabled a more credible three-dimensional tonal quality.

The opening bass lines to ‘Woman In Chains’ by Tears For Fears from their ‘Seeds Of Love’ (1989) album were delivered with a superb low-frequency sophistication that revealed powerful depth and, importantly, bass tunefulness also. Consequently, it was satisfying to note the harmonic quality of the bass guitar as I could appreciate the timbre and texture of these bass lines, which, when reproduced properly, enable the complex three-dimensional low-frequency qualities to spread across the listening room without being either one-note or baggy.

The lead and accompanying vocals were rendered with a deft and light touch that removed any chance of stridency yet did not impinge on the free-flowing quality of the vocal phrasing, where I could follow, exactly, the change in direction and timbre as the singers emphasised emotional contrasts. The music as a whole was delivered in a lyrical yet well-balanced manner with high resolution instruments and vocals.

With ‘Lithium’ from the ‘Nirvana’ (2002) compilation, the music was well-balanced enabling all of its raging nihilism and huge guitar power-chords to be expressed. And as such, the low-frequencies were wonderfully revealed in all their harmonic beauty. Instrumental separation between the drums, bass and guitar was good which enabled the trademark Kurt Cobain melodies and harmonies from the vocals and abrasive guitar to be lucid.

Indeed Cobain’s deceptively brilliant guitar melodies, still clear underneath all the ‘grunge,’ were really intoxicating via ‘Heart Shaped Box,’ where his excellent playing could be plainly heard as the layering of notes and chords were spread out across the listening room. The outstanding drumming by Dave Grohl which is a curious and exhilarating mix of precise structuring and deep, textural timbres was also superbly reproduced as a rhythm section with the bass lines.

The melodious pop-soul of ‘Crazy’ by Seal from the compilation, ‘Best 1991-2004’ (2004), was unwrapped with effortlessness as the Bösendorfers revealed the mid-paced combination of deep-house bass lines and the intricate drum and percussive parts with ease. Seal’s vocals were a delight as his rich and distinctive voice was clearly articulated within the structure of ‘Crazy.’ When the song developed further and into powerful crescendos, the Bösendorfers retained their composure without taking away the sinuous motion of the beats and melodies preceding them.

‘Kiss From A Rose’ sounded stunning and surprisingly energised even though it is usually one of those over-familiar songs used for weddings, etc. Consequently, it was enthralling where the subtle vocal shifts and intonations were striking in their alacrity. The ‘Kiss…’ music which until now I had dismissed as ‘undemanding,’ took on a more powerful stance and I could really appreciate the production and musicianship of the players where there was depth, clarity and instrumental intelligibility.

Review Outcome

I have extensive experience of the smaller Bösendorfer VC 2 through my Densen/Origin Live reference system and it remains one of the finest I have heard for the price (£4,750, approx.) Indeed the VC 2s, setup correctly and without grills, were superbly high-resolution and yet free-flowingly musical.

The VC 7s are impressively just the same, but obviously more capable of driving bigger rooms with their larger cabinets and extra drive-units.

So what I heard using a different system was the same beautiful bass quality that has excellent decay to musical notes which procured a more convincing and three-dimensional sound.

The bass wasn’t congested either and was as tuneful as it was extended. One of the best attributes to Hans Deutsch’s Bösendorfer designs is that the acrylic-coated silk-dome tweeter provides a very sophisticated high-frequency sound for cymbals, vocals, violin, etc, without the merest hint of stridency.

In many ways this self-effacing but deceptively revealing tweeter application has much of the superiority of the finest ribbon designs. The VC series is elegantly designed, and like the pianos, can have modern, traditional or highly ornate finishes to suit. For smaller rooms, about 4x4M, I can recommend the VC 2 and for larger, the VC 7s.

The Bösendorfer VC 7, like a bigger version of the VC 2, is one of the best loudspeakers I have yet to hear.

CV 1st May 2007

www.bosendorfer.com

Howard Popeck writes about his deeply personal experiences with these loudspeakers (previously published in Hi-Fi News) HERE

Please share this...
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone