MB Quart Vera VS 1F Speaker System
MB Quart's new Vera Series speakers have redefined cool. They're cool-sounding, for sure, but I also mean cool, as in low-temperature cool. Heat, you see, is the enemy of good sound. When you're rocking with Aerosmith's ballistic blues bash Honkin' on Bobo or crankin' Master and Commander, your speakers' voice-coil temperatures shoot up. In extreme cases, they can heat up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The excessive temperature does bad, bad things; it can raise the voice coils' resistance by as much as 25 percent. Distortion creeps up, dynamics flatten out, and transient response goes to hell. Worse yet, sustained overheating can lead to driver meltdown. Ouch!
In the late 1970s, when translucent plastic woofers were all the rage, you could see their voice coils glow red. Once, when I was young and foolish, my air-guitar fantasies got out of hand, and an overheated voice coil ignited my speaker's internal stuffing. A bit of smoke oozed out of the port, and the odor lingered for weeks. Thanks to MB Quart's extra-cool engineering solutions, that searing scenario won't likely be repeated by any of the Vera Series speakers.
MB Quart is a 25-year-old German company, but I admit I've only been dimly aware of their home- and car-audio speakers. Maybe that's why it came as something of a shock to learn that the company not only builds nearly all of its drivers in-house, but it designs the machines that build the parts and assemble the speakers. These fanatics built their own anechoic chamber (an acoustically neutral room), an invaluable aid in the design and measurement of speakers. That level of commitment is extremely rare, even among the most dedicated manufacturers.
The Vera VS 1F tower speaker ($2,500) is the boldest of the line and represents an impressive foray into high-end territory. I also auditioned the Vera VS 1C center-channel speaker ($2,200) and the large bookshelf monitor, the Vera VS 1B ($2,000). The Veras are all two-way designs featuring identical tweeters and woofers.
Cool by Design
The Vera's 6-inch woofer is an all-new design featuring a 3-inch, lightweight, copper-coated aluminum voice coil, wound on a titanium former to fortify the driver's power-handling numbers. Why titanium? It's lighter, stronger, and dissipates heat better than the more-common aluminum, fiberglass, or Kapton formers found on most high-end designs. The voice coil is further cooled by the aerodynamically designed polymer composite cone that encourages air flow, as well as by an oversized air vent near the magnet system (MB Quart uses similar heat dissipating techniques in the tweeter). The driver's aluminum basket is thermally coupled to the die-cast-aluminum central baffle (between the woofer and tweeter); that hefty metal baffle draws heat away from the cabinet's interior. The engineers placed the baffle on a special gasket to minimize the energy transfer from the speaker's moving parts—the woofer and tweeter—to the cabinet.
Titanium dome tweeters are a longstanding MB Quart design feature, but the Vera's high-frequency driver is the most sophisticated and expensive tweeter the company has ever manufactured. This titanium dome uses a soft Polyolefin Copolymer surround to control "oil can" effects, ringing, and other nastiness that plagues some metal dome designs. A felt-lined, egg-shaped chamber on the tweeter's backside minimizes resonance.
The Vera cabinets' gracefully curved side panels and luminous veneers wouldn't be out of place on a $10,000 speaker. I attribute the cabinets' uber-solidity to the 25-millimeter-thick (nearly 1 inch) high-density-fiberboard construction that's bolstered by internal bracing and a set of reinforcing metal rods running from front to back. The VS 1F tower uses 10 rods, while the VS 1B monitor and VS 1C center speaker use six rods each. All of the Vera speakers offer biwire connections, stealthily hidden behind a bolt-on plastic cover.
I didn't review the Vera VS 1SW subwoofer ($2,500), but it's pretty special, too. It features a Rockford Fosgate–designed (MB Quart's parent company) 450-watt amplifier and a 12-inch woofer augmented by twin passive 10-inch radiators; connectivity options include XLR and RCA inputs and outputs. For you couch potatoes, there's a remote control for power on/off and volume control.
I auditioned the VS 1F towers with four sets of electronics: I started with the Rotel RSX-1067 receiver I reviewed in July, then I moved on to my reference stereo components—my Ayre K-3x preamp teamed first with Krell FPB 350 MCx mono amps, followed by a pair of Jeff Rowland Model 201 mono amps. Finally, I settled down with the entire Vera speaker ensemble and my reference home theater rig, a Sunfire Theater Grand III pre/pro mated with an Ayre V-6x amp.
The Veras easily revealed each component's flavor. The Rotel receiver's sound was big and juicy, with a fair amount of detail, and I could easily live happily ever after with that combination. The mighty little Rowland amps firmed up the bass and focused the soundstage, and their treble detail was purer. The Krells were tonally cooler but more va-va-voom vivid and transparent. The Sunfire/Ayre home theater setup didn't reach the heights of ecstasy attained by the mucho-expensive mono amps, but in some ways the home theater setup was the most balanced-sounding combo.
I cranked the hell out of the Matrix Revolutions DVD to test the Veras' home theater stamina, and my ears gave up long before the speakers cried uncle. The Vera speakers effortlessly decoded the film's palpable textures and wild dynamic-range assaults. Even without the Vera subwoofer in play, the speakers' deep-bass excursions were viscerally impressive. I ascertained that the VS 1F towers' response extended down to the middle 30-hertz range in my large room. The VS 1C center and VS 1B bookshelf models went almost as low. Bass oomph is one thing, but the Veras' bass was taut and utterly tuneful. Better yet, these cultured speakers shrugged off the worst of my sonic abuses and kept their cool.
Timbre matching was unusually consistent; I say "unusually" because, even when I've used five or six identical speakers in my home theater, I've heard significant tonal differences between the speakers. You see, each speaker's differing room position can radically affect its sound, but the three Vera models seemed less susceptive to those influences. The front three Veras sounded as one coherent speaker, so I really had to focus on the center speaker's contributions to comment on its sound. Yes, dialogue was naturally full yet highly detailed. The Vera VS 1B's surround soundstage hung in space, smoothly integrating with the front speakers.
"Fancy Colors" from the Chicago DVD-Audio disc opens with a sprinkling of little bells panning around the five speakers, and the evenness of the sounds was remarkable. My respect for John Kellogg's finely crafted 5.1 mix went up a few notches. The lush-sounding chamber-music interludes throughout the disc were palpably presented; inner detail and resolution were never less than excellent.
Clearly, MB Quart is on to something with their Vera Series speakers. This ensemble's unerring ability to deliver red-hot home theater theatrics and searing musicality and still keep its cool made me a believer.
• Cool-running design enhances dynamic performance
• Euro style
• Robust build quality