actually I would probably go to the MK4 upgrade first...from albert:
Hello Fellow VR-4JR owners,
As you know, I have a very fond place in my heart for the VR-4 platform. The first speaker my crew and I designed at Cal Tech was the Vortex Screen, and we spent literally thousands of hours in the lab and computer basement to come up with the original design. We did this as a hobby, as we all had jobs in aerospace or engineering consulting. After several professional mastering engineers bought them, including Robert Harley, we decided to build them in earnest. As the "wide screen" appearance of the Vortex system seemed to hamper wives enthusiasm for the cosmetic appearance, we turned the speaker sideways (to make it look thinner) and renamed it the VR-4, for Virtual Reality in four dimensions: amplitude, phase, time, and space. Our journey began in 1976 with that first model we built as a student project, but the VR-4 was later named "One Of The Best Twenty-Five Speakers Of All Time" by Audio Review magazine two years ago. What an interesting journey it has been!
ORIGINATION OF VR-4JR
Over the years, the large size of the original VR-4 became a hindrance to wide acceptance, so we built a smaller version, known as the VR-4JR (euphemistically called "Just Right" instead of "Junior)." For many reasons, this became one of the most popular speakers in high end audio, with thousands of pairs sold over a period of five years. The cabinets were built in a very cost effective manner in China, while Vifa of Denmark opened up a Chinese assembly plant where the Danish parts were shipped for final assembly. We were one of Vifa-China's first high-volume customers and I had designed all of the drivers in conjunction with the Danish engineers. Vifa/Scanspeak also designed the Dual Ring tweeter for our VR-4SR platform, so between SEAS of Norway (aluminum woofer cones), Vifa-China (doped paper pulp) and Vifa-Denmark (all engineering and lab origination), along with Scanspeak-Denmark and Audax-France (Aerogel midrange cones), we had been using premium drivers intermixed between the JR and SR platforms.
Two years after the introduction of the JR model in 2003, the Mk2 came out with stiffened woofer cones coated with aluminum and a re-tuned labyrinth to permit tighter bass and increase midrange clarity. After another year of production, the Chinese cabinet shop had taken on several more clients and became seriously back-ordered, which affected our production in a serious way. A year later, the Chinese factory actually copied some of our technology and so after the clones appeared, we stopped production while we attempted to sort out the legal and financial issues.
While it appeared that we would not be offering a new version of the JR model that had any ties to China, we continued to design and test upgrades. The Mk3 was an upgrade for my own personal pair of VR-4JR Mk2's and consisted of custom-designed Scanspeak- Denmark drivers. The Mk3 was a really good sounding design, getting another 25-40% more transparency and clarity from the JR platform. These were never built in mass production, as the cost of building these cabinets was prohibitive in the US. Most of the models sold were done as upgrades for existing JR owners and the total cost of the upgrade was practically the raw cost of the parts and labor. Our accountant told me that I was "giving the upgrades away" to our existing customer base, but that is how I decided to keep our customers happy and not switch brands. It worked and we eventually received hundreds of orders for the Mk3 upgrade. Alas, two of the key drivers for the Mk3 upgrade became discontinued since Scanspeak had been working on the development of better cone materials and lower distortion "motors" (voice coil, pole piece, top plate, and magnet). After a few months of testing and listening, we realized that the new drivers were not only better, they were in a different league than the originals.
The pulp/plastic/aluminum oxide composite coatings of the Mk2 and Mk3 drivers were replaced with pure aluminum-coned woofers, woven carbon fiber midranges, and Dual Ring Radiator treble drivers. The Mk4 drivers have approximately 3 times less distortion and the crossover design has been upgraded to a far higher level to take advantage of the latest driver technology. As with the Mk3 upgrade, the Mk4 upgrade also features our Triple Wall noise reducing cabinet lining, along with Delphi Aerospace Single Crystal Wire called Master-Built. This is the same wiring as used inside our VR-55 and higher models. I know that wire is not a super popular item with some audiophiles, as it is often difficult to comprehend "why" the price of wire can get ridiculous. This Master-Built cabling is easy for anyone to hear; even non-audiophiles can hear a big difference, so we've been using it throughout our product line. In fact, we use Master-Built for every demo we conduct and that is one of our secrets to winning the "Best Of Show" awards that are now becoming routine.
About a year ago, I decided to further upgrade my JR Mk3's to a higher level, which is now called the Mk4. We weren't sure that we could find a cabinet maker in the US that would enable us to keep the price as low as originally envisioned, but on-going discussions with cabinet factories in Eastern Europe seem promising and naturally, to ensure that this combination of ingredients would be popular before sinking $250,000 into the new project, we wanted to offer 100 sets of upgrades to our existing customer base for beta testing.
One of the first beta testers on this forum has prompted me to publish this information, declaring that this model has far exceeded his expectations. We at VSA can confirm his findings, as on a side-by-side comparison with a very expensive two piece stacking speaker system, the VR-4JR Mk4 has proven itself to many visitors to our Design Studio. At this point, only a handful of audiophiles have had a chance to experience the new model at our Studio, but the acceptance has been overwhelming. To us, it's not as much of a surprise, as we have been working with the VR-4SR components prior to the JR's release back in 2003.
I always questioned the motto of one of my first engineering professors, who spoke of "there's no free lunch" on a project that we all had worked on. Naturally, over the years, I came to learn that it's easy to design something with no budgetary concerns, but when price is factored in, you can't quite stay in business selling parts and labor for less than the raw cost of these parts. If you're wondering if this is leading up to an expensive price tag, you're right on the money. (Couldn't resist that one). Based on the cost of the parts and labor, the Mk4 upgrade should be priced in the neighborhood of $5,000/pr. After all, this model will replace the now-discontinued VR-4SR platform, which last sold for $16,000/pr.
Please contact us if you have the slightest interest in this upgrade, as we can lower the cost if at least 20 customers purchase the upgrade at one time, since a quantity purchase of the drivers will reduce our costs. For more information about the process, please call us at our Design Studio at (951) 682-0706.
Thanks for taking the time to learn about this new upgrade; I do tend to be quite wordy but I wanted to answer the many questions that have been sent to our website and Audio Circle inboxes about this new project. Be watching for the new VR-4 Mk4 release (with an all-new cabinet design) in late Fall of this year if you are interested and don't own a pair of the JR's you'll need for the upgrade.