The last few years have seen many speakers being made from exotic inert materials that offer terrific anti-resonance properties at extraordinary pricing. Vandersteen’s anti-resonance approach with the Treo CT reduces the expense of exotic materials to a large degree while still offering the vibration damping properties necessary for a sonically excellent speaker. In my experience I have heard no other speaker under £10,000 that can match them.
The Treo CT is actually a very honest iterative result of Vandersteen’s near 40-year journey in speaker design. When you conduct a historical forensic review from the original Model Two’s you find the time and phase correct speaker positioning, open baffle via an acoustically transparent speaker grille (which must remain on during listening, as it is a component in the speaker’s sound signature), aerodynamically designed drivers, and highly inert cabinetry. Add to the mix the carbon tech and you have a speaker capable of musical splendour which approaches top of the line performance at a fraction of high end pricing.
Once I got the Treo CT’s home I turned to the detailed set-up instructions in the Vandersteen owner’s manual. Cabling was easy as I simply disconnected my AudioQuest Rocket 88 bi-wire spade ended cables from the Model 2’s and transferred them to the Treo CT’s. The manual offers four pages of placement instructions depending on room size, dimensions and listening distance. It also describes how to determine the number of washers on the rear spike to correctly adjust the elevation angle so the tweeter is positioned optimally for best results. As with any quality speaker, spending some time to determine best placement makes a world of difference in achieving optimum sound quality.
I connected the Treo CT’s to my PS Audio BHK 250 amplifier isolated with a trio of Stillpoints Ultra Six’s and let them burn in for around 150 hours before settling in for some critical listening. Burn-in complete, I set up a copy of Roger Wagner Chorale ‘s Encore, a 1978 M&K Real Time direct-to-disc recording of a live performance of a Porgy and Bess medley album, onto my VPI Scout 1.1 with Dynavector 10X5 cartridge, the LP stabilised with a Stillpoints LPI Long Spindle vibration dampening device, all via an ALO Audio Phono Stage. The sense of space captured by the Treo CT’s was extraordinary in its dimensionality. The song ‘Dry Bones’ features a number of percussion instruments such as triangles and chimes that are played across the stage and at different heights. The clarity of the strike on the triangle was exquisite. Positioning was clear laterally and in terms front-to-back location on the stage. The ceiling seemed to expand upward as the carbon tweeters delivered each peel with no sense of veiling. The Chorale had power and style as the soundstage replicated the experience of the live performance. These were the speakers I had heard at my dealers. What a great start!
Keeping with the vinyl theme, I went to a favourite jazz recording also from 1978, and from M&K RealTime Records direct-to-disc collection: Earl Hines’ Fatha. I love small jazz trios as my father was a professional piano player and I grew up listening to talented musicians in small groups. This recording brings me back to those early days. The first cut, ‘Birdland’, was Earl Hines’ take on the Joe Zawinul and Weather Report classic. The intro on baritone filled the room. The snare drum rimshots had that correctly defined ‘click’. The high hat shimmered up and away. The piano came in with the tone of a live performance. Earl’ Hines’ touch artistry on the keyboards is unique and exceptional. Audiophiles spend a lot of time discussing what is the goal of a great speaker. What is that elusive absolute sound? Is it the live performance? For me it is an accurate musical reproduction that emotionally replicates the thrill of that live performance. If I was “there” how would I feel? With this album and these speakers, I had that feeling. Truly wonderful and a sadly all too rare experience when played through many devices, even ones that cost a lot more than the Treo CT speakers.
My final vinyl session jumped forward a decade with Joe Jackson’s ‘Steppin’ Out’ from his 1982 album Night and Day. This 2016 disc was remastered by Intervention Records on 180-gram vinyl and it is a superb reissue. ‘Steppin’ Out’ was released during my junior year of college and was everywhere around campus. This track really can put stress on low quality tweeters as you have the piano and chimes harmonizing in the upper registers. This duality can quickly become harsh and strident unless the tweeters are up to the challenge of reproducing the pair properly. The carbon tweeters from the Treo CT’s allowed each instrument to be heard in its individual nature while pairing them in beautiful combination. The incessant bass line was clear, providing the drive and momentum alongside the synthesizers. The song was a clear as it was catchy moving along at its brisk and upbeat pace.