We see lots of new Danish speakers – and new speaker brands for that matter. Denmark is probably the country in the world with the most speaker manufacturers per capita. But most of the new products we are presented with are either reasonable compact speakers or wildly expensive high-end models.
Vestlyd (meaning “west sound”) is neither sensible, compact nor, for that matter, high end. They are, on the other hand, made for parties and mischief. The brand is the sister brand of Argon Audio, and the aim has been to fill the gap left by Cerwin-Vega when they were dragged along in Gibson’s fall in 2018. So we’re talking big speakers that can play loud on a limited budget.
The brand is premiering these very days, and we’ve been the first media outlet to have the opportunity to test the larger of two models so far, the Vestlyd V15C.
Vestlyd V15C are big! At 74 cm tall, 46 cm wide and 42 cm deep, they’re impossible to ignore. And the black imitation leather cabinet makes them even more eye-catching. Which doesn’t have to be a drawback. Because these are speakers that demand to be noticed!
In practice, the giants actually take up less space in the living room than my small floor-standing speakers, as they can be positioned against the back wall. But discreet they will never be.
The size and weight of 34kg each means that unpacking and setting up is a two man job. Especially if staircases are involved. However, they weren’t as difficult to wrangle as the Q Acoustics Concept 500, which came with a pulling harness to get them out of the box.
Equal parts Marshall and Tannoy
With the speakers safely in position, we can take a closer look at the construction. The West Sound V15C looks like the result of a hot love affair between a Marshall speaker and a classic Tannoy monitor. The cabinet, as mentioned, is covered in the same faux leather we know from instrument amps and speakers. The speaker unit (because there’s only one) is a 15-inch coaxial unit with the tweeter mounted in the centre of the woofer; where the centre dome normally is. The coaxial principle dates back to the early days of Hi-Fi, but has been gaining ground again in recent years, thanks in no small part to KEF’s UNI-Q units.
Custom-built coaxial driver
Chief engineer Michael Kragelund, who developed the Vestlyd speakers, explains that the coaxial driver was specially designed for this particular speaker. Among the design details is that the tweeter, which is a compression-loaded dome, works all the way down to 1100 Hz, where it is cut by just 6 dB per octave.
That’s a seriously low cutoff frequency! Especially in a speaker designed to play really loud. Since the compression driver is built into the pole piece of the woofer, the bass diaphragm acts as a waveguide for the tweeter.
The woofer unit works without any crossover at the top. Since the unit was developed from scratch, it has been possible to make it roll off above 1,100 Hz by adjusting its other parameters – in this case the thickness of the diaphragm and the self-induction of the voice coil. In addition to saving the cost of some crossover components, the lack of a crossover also means slightly higher efficiency, as all the power goes to the driver, rather than being dissipated as heat in the crossover.
The Vestlyd V15C has a sensitivity of 95 dB at 1 W (or rather: at 2.83 volts, which corresponds to 1 W in an 8 ohm speaker – but 2 W in a 4 ohm speaker like this one). With a recommended amplifier power of 500 watts, there’s a potential to play really loud. According to Michael Kragelund, the speakers can deliver a sound pressure level of 129.5 dB. This is probably correct. We did not test it…
On the back you’ll find a set of banana/screw binding posts of sensible quality. Side by side with a Speakon socket of the type found in professional PA speakers.
The Vestlyd V15C looks rough, bordering on intimidating. And let that be said right away: They can play louder and more powerfully than anything else we’ve heard at that price. And they can withstand tremendous amounts of power. But even at a few watts, loose objects in the living room start humming along in time with the music.
The volume control doesn’t have to be cranked up very far before the speakers reach normal listening levels. And we’ve only just begun. The aim of Vestlyd has been to make fun speakers, and they have succeeded. It makes you want to play just a little bit louder. All the time. And the music is delivered with the power and presence of a PA system.
The Vestlyd V15C doesn’t go infinitely deep into the bass. On paper, a compact speaker like the Argon Forte A5 MK2, can reproduce almost as deep bass. But not with the physical fullness that a high-efficiency 15-inch woofer in a large cabinet can deliver. The church organ in “Koyaanisqatsi” is felt in the floorboards, armchair and chest. And then comes the surprise: it actually sounds good at the same time!
Choral voices and space are rendered with good separation between singers and a fine sense of the ambience. A somewhat forward and upbeat version of that. But well resolved and without distortion.
Has the war broken out?
Church choirs, however, are not what Vestlyd was made for. Dubstep fits better, and here we find the classic speaker killer “Limit to Your Love,” where deep pulsating bass tones can bring most speakers and amps to their knees. It was violent, and the neighbors probably thought war had broken out. But it was a pleasure to hear how cleanly the impossible bass was reproduced. And how the slow sub-bass glissandoes attacked the resonances of the furniture in turn.
A heavy rock ballad, like Disturbed’s version of “Sound of Silence,” was also a favorite for West Sound. I’ve heard that song many times. But I haven’t had the same experience of being at a concert with the band. In my own living room.
Vestlyd V15C is impressive to listen to. But of course there are things they don’t do quite as well. If you’re into classical orchestral music, the midrange might get a bit too brash in the long run. And you can easily find other speakers in the price range with better nuance and spatial reproduction. But then they can’t liven up the party like these.
Perfect for home cinema
In the home theatre, the Vestlyd V15C is very much at home. Here, the robust reproduction and powerful bass are a perfect match. And the typical home theater receiver with many channels but few real watts can easily power them. The home theatre receiver also has the advantage of room correction, which can mitigate the room resonances that bass-heavy speakers like the Vestlyd V15C inevitably provoke.
The large, well-sounding floorstanders, DALI Oberon 9, bring back the fun in hi-fi.
There are not many direct alternatives to the Vestlyd V15C on the market. Which is precisely why the brand was founded. The DALI Oberon 9 are also fun to be around, and probably a bit more relaxed in sound. But they can’t deliver the same ear-splitting sound pressure. Two Soundbokses can just about keep up in sound pressure. But that’s at the expense of any Hi-Fi pretensions.
The Vestlyd V15C is not like Hi-Fi speakers are most. In fact, they’re a lot more fun. The raw look and brash sound will be impossible to integrate into the neat living room. But the faux leather clad troublemakers will be perfect in a man cave. Moreover, once the astonishment at the looks has worn off, it turns out that the speakers are capable of far more nuanced reproduction than you might imagine. Whether Vestlyd will succeed in becoming the new Cerwin-Vega remains to be seen. But in any case, it’s a formidable debut.