Von Schweikert Audio UniField 2 Speakers
Marching to a different drummer.
Review By Ron Nagle
here to e-mail reviewer.
sits on the couch reading something that fell out of the Sunday Newspaper.
At the far end of the room, I turn on the Richard Gray Sub Station as my
audio system is plugged into that eighty pound, twenty ampere Isolation
Transformer. We are both in for a real treat; queue up a recording of
Peggy Lee singing her favorite song "Fever”. The opening seven notes are
a deep resonant plucked bass line via the UniField 2 speakers. The
response is, "Hey I was reading something!” A system mute precedes my
wounded reply, "I thought you might really enjoy this new recording of
Peggy Lee singing "Fever”. My significant other says, "That's not
new I must have heard that song a thousand times before”. Me: "No you
haven't, you may have heard this song but you have never heard this
recording before”. This is a statement any audiophile understands
instantly, but the opposing gender may most likely not. What I have here
is a Clarity Cable CD demo compilation from the 2009 CES. This Peggy Lee
cut is far closer to the sound of the actual recording session than
anything that I have experienced before. Stepping up on my soapbox: I
proclaim: "At this level of performance an audio system becomes far more
than a sound system it is more like a Time Machine”.
Let us back up as I'm getting too far ahead. It all
started back in October of 2009 at The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest.
Specifically, we are in the Moscode Audio room and I am photographing
George Kaye standing next to his 2009 Enjoy the Music.com Blue Note Award. In a casual
conversation, I mention that the RMAF is my primary source for outside of
the box high-end audio. Mainly these are innovative products that might be
overlooked by the big conglomerate magazines. Standing behind me is none
other than the man and the name attached to Von Schweikert Audio products.
Of course, I know of Albert Von Schweikert he occupies an esteemed place
within the Hi-End community. To make a long story much shorter he offers
me the very first crack at the new UniField 2 speakers he has under
Fast Forward to 2010
Note: In their
literature Von Schweikert Audio refer to themselves as the VSA Company.
Months pass and then than one day out of curiosity, I
phone VSA to get an update on the UniField 2. Mr. Von Schweikert (from
here on its just Al) mentions something enigmatic about sending
the speaker to me with medium packing.
Later on, I'm told there has been a lot of internal back and forth
debate about packing and how to tune the bass response of the speaker.
Is the Delivery Day
that brings to me a pair of 55-pound cardboard boxes. Inside each box
cradled in dense sculpted foam packing is a high gloss piano black speaker
enclosure with curving sides that taper to a narrower back panel. The UniField
2 is a new smaller stand mounted speaker following the UniField 3
in this series. It was sent with a raft of documentation on construction,
design theory and set up. Great emphasis is given to instructions
pertaining to room size, placement and amplifier power. The literature
tells us that the speaker is designed for Universal
Room Application. From that statement, you can deduce where the
name UniField comes from. It
is actually a contraction of two words, Unified
Sound-Field. My reaction after reading that statement was,”
but that's impossible”. How can anyone know beforehand the way a speaker
will interact in any given environment? Consider dear reader that the room
and even the objects in the room all these are acoustic elements beyond
De Object de Article
Though stand mounted, the UniField Model 2 is not very
small it weighs 46 pounds and measures 17” high by 14” deep it has a
10” wide front baffle tapering back to a 4.5” wide ported rear panel.
This is in my opinion is really not a typical stand mounted speaker. The
literature calls it a two-way speaker however; the tweeter is mounted
coaxially inside the midrange-bass driver's throat. Additionally there is
a separate subwoofer driver the same size as the mid-bass driver. At first
sight, the speaker looks like it is a 3-way driver configuration. Part
of my "really not typical” statement refers to the UniField 2 driver
selection and the mix of traditional and innovative construction
techniques. This is best illustrated by lifting the following two
sentences from the instruction manual.
A Simulated Point Source Dynamic speaker with a built in passive
subwoofer. It is a Bass Reflex design that can be converted to a sealed
Wow, me thinks that is quite an ambitious mouthful! So
that you might better understand some references in the story, the
following is an abbreviated description of driver elements and
Subwoofer: Seven-inch frame, 5.5-inch long throw
aluminum cone. Patented Low Distortion motor system built to our
Bass- Mid Driver: 7”
cast frame with a 5.5” TPX cone licensed by the BBC and made in Norway.
The driver is in a separate damped enclosure with non- parallel 75mm
triple thick-layered walls.
Tweeter: 1-inch fabric dome, mounted in the
throat of the bass-mid driver for true point source sound.
Great effort has been made to build an inert enclosure.
The cabinet walls consist of triple wall lamination and are 2.5” inches
thick. The outside wall is resin based MDF the middle layer is synthetic
stone between these is a rubber adhesive layer and the inside surface is
covered by a hard felt inner liner. The interior subwoofer partition is
packed with differing densities of Dacron Polyester Fiberfill. At
the back, the speakers have four high quality binding posts linked
together with jumpers.
Stuff A Sock In It
My initial set up is the usual tried and true
equilateral triangle trick with me sitting at the apex. The speakers are
perched 25 inches above the floor on my stands. My very first earful
sounds something like listening to four stereo speakers. Two speakers are
doing the midrange and tweets things and two others are doing the bass
bits. To mine ears the bass is just kicking the ass out of the rest of the
sound spectrum. So in self-defense I run to my sock drawer. Forthwith the
sock stuffing of the rear porthole does offer a modicum of sock succor.
However, the effect is odd indeed. Everything coming from the Aluminum
Subwoofer is damped equally from the upper bass down to foghorn
frequencies. That's not what is needed it's better bass not missing bass.
The U2 speaker specifications say the bottom end reaches down to 40 Hz,
and that's what is causing me concern. My 11.7' wide by 20' long listening
room starts vibrating like an old man on a roller coaster much below 55
Hz. Therefore, it is only the very low frequencies that need taming.
However even as we contend with the bass problems the
coaxial combination of the fabric dome tweeter and midrange woofer is from
the very first a wide-open space expanding sweet sounding joy to listen
to. Could this indeed be a universal speaker? That's what this inquiry
will endeavor to discover. Moving the speakers farther from the 11.7' rear
wall and farther from the sidewalls helps a lot. And an additional 50
hours on the speakers makes some improvement. At this point, I have the
speakers surrounded with my homemade acoustic panels and a trio of Argent
RoomLens pipes. Still the bass interacts with my room. I cannot move the
speakers any closer together without collapsing the center sound stage.
At this point, I am fresh out of ideas.
Therefore, my last resort is to ring up Al the
audiophiles pal. I relate to him a step-by-step systematic setup story
leading up to this last impasse. Al tells me he will send me some
instructions and Dacron Polyester fiberfill. (My Mom used to make
pillows and use this same Polyester fluff to fill them.) But isn't
this pretty much like sealing off the rear cabinet port with a sock? Al
assures me that this is not the same thing because the bass/sub–bass
driver is in a separate oversized enclosure and is only partially filled.
Additionally the Instructions state that the speakers must be bi-wired for
best sonic results. In the sprit of I am willing to try anything Al agrees
to send me a pair of VSA Master Built speaker cables along with the fluffy
The Proof Is In The
After a four-day delay the proof arrives today, it is
two bags of Fiberfill and an eight-foot pair of doubled-up hose size
cables (note: Dacron Polyester Fiberfil can be purchased from most Craft
Stores). Before I go any further let me say at this point I remain highly
skeptical. The easiest thing to do at this point is to swap my cables for
the VSA Master Built bi-wire cables. To be fair let's first play three
hours of radio through the system then listen to one of my reference CD's.
There is an obvious improvement in the midrange and a much larger change
in the treble frequencies. However, the cables do not alter anything at
the bass frequencies.
Moving right along, or in new speak, going forward. The detailed instructions tell me to stuff small balls of Dacron
Fiberfill into the speaker enclosure through the speaker's port with a
rolled up magazine. The instructions also suggest that I could remove some
of the material if need be with a wire coat hanger or pair of Salad Tongs (listed on
Audiogon?). Picture me now making snowballs out of Dacron and
then tamping them into the speaker's rear opening, first the left than
right side. In order to get it right you need to periodically stop and
listen. And so as you proceed you should monitor your progress with a
known recording. My long time reference CD is Basia, Time
and Tide [EPIC Records EK40767]. Bit by bit, one-step at a time
the deep bass tightens and blends with the midrange and treble. My
skepticism dissipates in increments, the sound I hear when finished is not
just better but it is transformed! While listening to several different
recordings every one exhibits the same sonic transformation. Much to my
surprise the bass integration allows the mid and treble frequencies
freedom to open up and expansively paint the whole sound field. The deep
bass becomes more detailed and articulate the upper bass frequencies seem
to gain speed. Moreover, with all that there doesn't seem to be a loss of
deep bass it's still all there to provide a foundation for the music. (Wow
man! I did a whole bag and a half)
On the occasion of this transformation our British
cousins might remark, "I'm Gob Smacked!” And so would I, if I knew
the approximate location of my Gob so I might determine if it had been
smacked. Hurrah! , when all is said and done I did succeed in my
quest to find audio out of the ordinary. True there is nothing that I can
see that is radically beyond existing acoustic principles of speaker
design. The difference is in the mix and application of these principles.
It must take guts to turn out a system that needs this kind of attention,
but the end result is worth it. I reported my happy findings Back to AL,
Mr. Von Schweikert and asked him if he thought that the average purchaser
would have the smarts to properly set up a pair of U2's. He pointed out
that anyone who shells out $7995 for the UniField 2 has probably been
around the block a few times and knows his craft. (I will have to agree
Mr. Von Schweikert stated from the very first that he
and his staff were very people centered and that they are committed to
provide advice and guidance to their customers. The instruction manual has
a paragraph titled Factory Help. "If
you do not achieve "goose bumps when listening then you have not found
their full potential please call us for help. Customer
Service phone number, 951-696-3662”.
As Peggy Lee sings the very last lyrical line I see a
smile of approval. Then one more request, it is that I play another
favorite selection from the same CD, Aaron Copland's Fanfare
For The Common Man. The opening is the deep and powerful
percussive sound of a Kettle Drum and the transient impact is startling.
Following this, we hear the brassy blat of massed trumpets echoing from
within a vast hall, it sends a chill down the spine. On these musical
passages, we are transported to the concert hall and to the event. This is
good as it gets here in my home and reference system. I can't possibly
predict the kind of results you might achieve within any room larger than
mine should be far easier to set up. So now I have provided proof of my
audio analogy and banished unbelievers. Undoubtedly Albert Von Schweikert
marches to the sound of a different drummer.
As Always, Semper Hi-Fi
Roger Sanders ESL power amplifier
Audio Research SP-9
Mark 3 preamplifier
Sources: Marantz DV8400 Universal CD player, Magnum
Dynalab FT101a tuner.
Wiring: DH Labs Reference 1, Audioquest 12TC
and Esoteric Ultrapath speaker cables. Interconnects: DH Labs Silver
Revelation 1.5 meter, Wire World Eclipse 2, 3meters.
Richard Gray RGPC Sub Station, Alpha Core balanced isolation transformer,
Audio Power, Enhancer 1.
Michael Green Room Tunes.
Argent Acoustic Lenses
and home made sound absorbent panels.
Type: Three-way monitor loudspeaker
Tweeter: 1" (25mm) fabric dome tweeter mounted inside the throat of the bass-mid
driver for true point source sound wave replication.
Midrange/Woofer: 7" (180mm) cast frame driver using 5.5" TPX cone.
Subwoofer: 7" (180mm) frame with cast frame, long throw design and patented Low Distortion Motor
Crossover Points: 80Hz and 2.2 kHz, fourth order.
Frequency Response: 32 Hz to 25 kHz (+/-6dB), 40 Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 2dB).
Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal, with a slight dip to 5 ohms at 40 Hz.
Weight: 46 lbs each
Dimensions: 17" x 10" x 12" (HxWxD)
Serial Number Of Review Sample: 014210
Von Schweikert Audio
1040 - A Northgate St.
Riverside, CA 92507
Voice: (951) 682-0706
Fax: (951) 682-6701