Vaughn Loudspeaker Barbera Floorstanding Loudspeaker Reviewed

Published On: August 2, 2012
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Vaughn Loudspeaker Barbera Floorstanding Loudspeaker Reviewed

Vaughn Loudspeaker may be an unfamiliar name to most. However, with a review like Terry London's review of the company's Barbera floorstanding speakers, it's clear that they are worth getting to know.

Vaughn Loudspeaker Barbera Floorstanding Loudspeaker Reviewed

  • Terry London has always had a great passion for music, especially jazz, and has amassed a collection of over 7,000 CDs covering the history of this uniquely American art form. Even in his teenage years, Terry developed a passion for auditioning different systems and components to see if they could come anywhere close to the sound of live music, and has for the last forty years had great fun and pleasure chasing this illusion in his two-channel home system.
    Terry is a practitioner of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy by day, and runs the Chicago Institute for REBT. He has also authored nine books on this of type psychotherapy and education.

Vaughn_Loudspeakers_Barbera_Floorstanding_spekaer_review_front.jpgDon't feel bad if you don't know about Vaughn Loudspeakers, as the company is just starting to pick up a little editorial and consumer momentum as an Internet-direct audiophile firm. A few of the speaker models from the Vaughn Loudspeaker Company's stable have garnered much praise at recent audiophile shows, while other models are getting love from some enthusiast audiophile print publications. When I approached Jim Jordan, designer/owner of Vaughn Loudspeakers, about the possibility of setting up a review, he suggested that I examine his Barbera model, which retails for $3,995 per pair. All of Vaughn's speakers are based on the following motto: "High efficiency speakers designed for tube and solid state amps without the compromises found in most high efficiency designs." The Barbera uses bamboo plywood for the sides of the baffle and Baltic Birch plywood for the front and back of the speaker enclosure. The front also has a covering made out of carbon fiber. These different types of materials are used to ensure a very inert and solid speaker box. The Barbera is beautifully built and has a high-tech yet retro look.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from the writers of Home Theater Review.
• Find sources in our Source Component Review section.
• Explore amplifiers in our Amplifier Review section.

The speaker comes with a screw-on platform, with excellent quality spikes and discs if used on a hardwood floor. The Barbera's dimensions are 44 inches high, 11 inches wide and 16 inches deep. Each speaker weighs 84 pounds, with a frequency range of 35Hz to 20KHz. The Barbera's stated sensitivity is 93dB, with an impedance of eight ohms. Because each Barbera includes a side-firing subwoofer on one side and a passive radiator on the other side, protected by a three-wire grille with a built-in subwoofer amp (300 watts), you can drive this speaker with as little as three watts. The Barbera uses a single full-range eight-inch driver without any crossover network at all. A high-quality jumper cable is provided to attach the subwoofer system in each speaker's terminals on the back. Jordan auditioned numerous full-range drivers until he found one that would eliminate the "beaming or honking" on the top octaves, a flaw that plagues most full-range drivers suffer. Another interesting design feature of the Barbera is that it has a large open port on the back. This allows the full-range driver to operate in a bi-pole fashion, where the back wave of the driver is used to create a larger ambient soundstage.

In my exploration of the speaker, the first musical selection was Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" (Telarc Digital) to test what the Barbera would offer regarding blending its subwoofers with its single full-range driver on the kettle drum blasts on this piece. It was seamless and offered one of the most powerful and natural bottom ends I have ever experienced in such a relatively small floor-standing speaker. The foundation of the orchestra was all there, along with purity in both details and timbres that full range-single driver designs can offer.

The next selection was "Drop Me Off in Harlem" (Savant Records) by a trio composed of the great jazz players Richard Wyands-Piano, Ray Drummond-Bass and Grady Tate-Drums. Unlike other single full-range driver designs, the Barbera's volume and dynamics were able to fill my listening space with all the pop and drive this piano trio was playing. Incredibly, there was still the purity of natural timbres, great clarity and micro-details in the higher-frequency range. The air and space between the individual players were reference quality, presented in a large and lifelike soundstage.

Finally, it was important for me to experience accurate timbres and hear the fine details of a singer's voice, as well as being captivated by the song through the singer's emotions. While listening to Julie London's famous version of "Cry Me a River" (Phoenix Records), the Barberas gave me a wonderful illusion of her singing in my room, allowing me to feel her angst and emotions.

Read about the high points and low points of the Barbera loudspeaker on Page 2.

Vaughn_Loudspeakers_Barbera_Floorstanding_spekaer_review_back.jpgHigh Points
• The Barbera offers powerful macro-dynamics and volume levels; therefore, it can be used both in a high-end two-channel system and a home theater setup.
• The Barbera has the beauty of timbres and micro-details that full-range crossover single driver designs offer, without loss of the ability to play very dynamic music at high dB levels.
• The Barbera creates a large and naturally layered soundstage, with excellent imaging of individuals on this stage.
• The Barbera is seamless in its presentation between its single full-range driver and its subwoofer.
• The Barbera does not have the problem of beaming or honking found in other full-range single-driver speakers.

Low Points
• The Barbera is well built, but its high tech/retro look might not appeal to everyone's taste.
• I had no difficulty at all with placing the Barbera in my listening space. However, you do need some space off the front and side walls to get it to perform at its best, compared to speakers that do not have built-in subwoofers.
• The Barbera is easy to drive. You can use a low-watt SET tube amp, but the watts you use should be high quality. because it is such a transparent and revealing speaker.

Competition and Comparison
In the price range of $4,000 for a floor-standing speaker, the most well-known competitors would be the Vandersteen 3A Signature, which is valued at $4,495, and the Vienna Acoustics Mozart Concert Grand SE, which is valued at $3,500. I have spent time listening to both speakers and found them to be very musical, offering excellent performance at this price level. However, the Barbera offers deeper, more powerful and tuneful bass than either of the other speakers, along with providing seamlessness and tonal purity that are created by having no passive crossover and using a reference-level full-range single driver in each speaker. For more on floor-standing loudspeakers, please visit Home Theater Review's Floorstanding Loudspeaker page.

The Barbera offers a very high level of performance at an amazing price. It's packed with a lot of innovative ideas that pan out in a very dynamic, musical yet refined sonic presentation. You can use it for high-e
nd two-channel music systems, and it will fit in a high-level home theater rig and give thrills and chills with its explosive dynamics. The Barbera is only sold factory direct, but you get a 30-day trial period. You will have to pay for return shipping if you do not want to keep the speakers. If the Barbera were sold in retail outlets, the price would be twice what Jim Jordan offers. Vaughn Loudspeakers is a very solid company with a growing reputation that's been around for many years, so any concerns about service and resale value should be very minimal. If you're shopping in this price range for a floor-stander, I highly recommend you audition this speaker.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from the writers of Home Theater Review.
• Find sources in our Source Component Review section.
• Explore amplifiers in our Amplifier Review section.

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