When Ryan returned from vacation, he added that "I now did hear back from my customer who said that the speakers were stolen from his home to obviously no longer be available. I looked at my inventory. We do have a complete pair of Aurora cabinets and stands to use. If you’re open to other colors than white, I’d be happy to send some options to consider. Or, I can go ahead and send you the black pair that is still here and available. With finishing a new pair, they would be painted this week, be there for 7-10 days, then get assembled and tested before shipping. Total time before they’re out the door would be ca. 3 weeks." That's what I opted for to put arrival at approximately mid September. As to configuration, I left things up to Ryan to select the particular combination of performance and value he felt would put his speaker in the best light without going overboard. After all, tricking out a $3'495/pr of speakers with $1'500 worth of exotic parts would seem a bit counterproductive. Duelund can escalate quickly for example.

"For configuration, I’ll likely go with what I mentioned earlier: upgrades but nothing extravagant and bits which offer additional transparency and tonal richness. The Aurora itself is a design that fills out at low volumes where I believe you’ll be quite satisfied. I’ve read so many of your reviews that I have a pretty good feel for your personal taste. And the way you describe sonics with analogies is similar to my own. If these were more expensive, I'd probably go with more esoteric upgrades. But given the modest entry price of the Aurora, I think it makes sense to use parts commensurate with its positioning." As to the lack of answers to my prior emails, "I just discovered that my co-worker Pete had moved them into a 6moons sub folder of our email inbox. It was my mistake for not noticing the new e-mail icon next to your sub folder." That explained it.

Wanting to support Ryan's desire for a more varied inventory of Aurora photos, I opted for the above Merc's Sepang Brown. It's similar to Elac's BS403 tobacco tint I'd admired at a show; and a Mini Cooper chocolate lacquer that keeps turning my and my wife's heads on the street. Obviously this type of customization goes well beyond standard hifi purchases. It also goes far beyond purely sound-centric commentary. Particularly with speakers which stand out in the room rather than being tucked away inside a rack like electronics, appearance is a big deal. And so it should be. This grows exponentially with speaker size and the need or desire to have them well clear of the walls. Who wants eye sores in the middle of the living room? Shouldn't you love your hifi not just for its sound but also for its looks? It's obvious how Vapor Sound answer that. That's far from common in this sector though Zu Audio are another American company big on custom colours. Hence it deserves special comment and applause - particularly so when it includes a firm's 'lesser' models and isn't limited to just their range toppers. Kudos to Ryan & Co. for going the extra mile and wanting to do so also for a review loaner!

Offering on AudioCircle.com this left pair of gloss-black Auroras which Ryan himself had used for six months for immediate sale at $2'800/pr plus shipping had this additional information on them: "Minimum impedance is 4.1 ohms at 110Hz. I used a 25wpc KT88 integrated on them for quite a while and it drove them very well. Anything 25 watts and higher will do just fine. What sets the Aurora apart from other monitors are dynamics and authority. These go solidly into the low 30s and into the 20s in a room. They're able to do that because the cabinet is much larger than you'd think, close to 1.5cu/ft, which is larger than many small floorstanders.  And the T-Labs ceramic tweeter is already one of the beefiest most dynamic dome tweeters on the market. Put it in our waveguide and it takes dynamics to another level. 

"A few notes about the design. The crossover is in the base of the stands which are included. That means binding posts at floor level, with no speaker wire dangling 2 feet off the ground. It also means the crossover is isolated from vibrations inside the cabinet. The port is out the bottom back of the speaker. That means they can be placed closer to the wall than a rear port could. It also keeps the outside look very clean. The port is of very large diameter so you'll never have any port noise. 

"They're heavy, with the speaker/stand assembly coming to about 75 pounds per side. With heavy toe-in where the speakers cross about 2 feet in front of your head, you get excellent off-axis tonality and an about 3-person wide sweet spot. You will literally notice hardly any change in tone as you move around the room. Heavy tilt-back on the front baffle helps to raise the soundstage height. Image height can be huge and very convincing on these, much more than you'd expect from a monitor."

After more weeks had passed without any note or the announced delivery, I sent Ryan another email on October 24th. Four days later I learnt that he indeed had tried to contact me 15 days prior as team Vapor were driving home from a successful attendance at RMAF. Apparently using his phone as a mobile hot spot from the car had intercepted best intentions. Either way, at this juncture Ryan had decided against pursuing a review with us which would cancel the pending assignment. Since I'd already put in the time to pen this preview, we'll leave it stand as an introduction to the brand and the Aurora model.
PS: For readers curious about this cancellation, Ryan was neither in support of our new policy—which had changed since he first solicited us for this review in the spring—nor happy to be grandfathered under the old. He explained that he now no longer felt certain he'd get a fair shake yet as a still newer company had far too much at stake to take the risk. Obviously anyone who doesn't believe we're fair shouldn't read us nor solicit us for reviews in the first place. Hence this cancellation really was the most appropriate decision considering. Readers who looked forward to this assignment—I sure did—will have to wait until another publication covers the Aurora. If prices don't go up, it does look like a helluva lot of speaker for the money.

PPS: A week after our November publication, I received a reader email about Vapor's customer service which I published in our letters section. A few days later the same reader asked me to remove it as he had received numerous threatening emails from Ryan about it. Aside from many delays and poor communications, he'd received his speakers damaged due to sub-standard packing. Requests for having Vapor file a shipping claim were answered with a promise for full reimbursement of damage-related costs but 6 months later, this customer still hadn't received a dime. A few days later, another reader wrote it: "I had considered doing business with Ryan and spoke to him on several occasions but he always dropped the ball and would come up with many excuses and questionable details when we would finally make contact again. I decided to start a thread on Audiogon to ask for Vapor owner opinions. It received several unhappy Vapor customer responses due to their frustrations dealing directly with Ryan. To my surprise and outrage, Audiogon deleted my thread due, I believe, to Ryan complaining of 'manufacturer bashing' to them. I have been told that he threatens unhappy customers with legal action if they consider posting any negative opinions and warnings on any audio sites so several also sent me private messages to share those experiences. I actually spoke many times to some of his customers to come to a conclusion. We even exchanged phone numbers and talk directly to each other. There is a network of unhappy Vapor customers who have all communicated with each other to share their disappointing experiences with Ryan and to try to get the word out. Poor quality finishes and receiving speakers shipped with cabinet damage are most of the issues that Ryan often refuses to address and resolve to any satisfaction. I cannot thank those people enough for saving me from his tactics and all the grief I would have been subjected to had I sent a deposit and all did not go well." At the time, I'd read the entire Audiogon thread before it was deleted. Accepting this assignment, I'd given Ryan's assurances that things had changed the benefit of the doubt.

A few days later, another reader wrote in: "I'm a former Vapor customer who went out onto a limb years ago to give Ryan a chance to perform, given he fed me the same 'bump in the road' talk. He said everything was resolved, there would be no long waits and the quality issues were fixed. How far from the truth that was. My guaranteed 10-12 week delivery took about 22 weeks. Ryan is communicative and takes the time to explain in great detail his products up until he cashes the 50% deposit check. Then all your emails go into a black hole. His excuse is always 'it must have been lost' or 'I receive 200 emails a day about my products'. I would try and time my emails to when I actively saw him posting on forums, knowing he was at the computer. He still would not respond. This is a common theme well documented - that is, until he deletes the criticism or whines to the admins of other sites to do so.

"When my speakers finally showed up, the build quality and fit'n'finish were high-school wood-shop level. Sadly many other customers at the time had worse problems than me and were getting nowhere with Ryan and his combative customer service. Since I was happy with the sound, I kept my mouth shut and let others fight the Vapor battle. After about 6 months I decided I could no longer look at the terrible finish and quietly listed them for sale. Ryan saw my ad and admitted they looked bad when he shipped them to me. He offered to fix all issues with them at no charge because 'he just wants to make his customers happy'. I agreed and thought this was a nice gesture. Then I casually mentioned that I'd already put down a deposit with Daedalus for new speakers and would sell the Vapor when they were returned to me in selling condition. Ryan went into a rage! He said there was no way he was going to spend time fixing speakers for free (which he agreed should not have been shipped in the first place) if I was buying from his competitor. He also went on to slam Daedalus and said I would not be happy with Lou's falsely advertised specs. For the record, I thought the Daedalus sounded better than the Cirrus.

"Because I probably couldn't sell them in the condition they were in, I agreed to spend even more money with him to fix all his mistakes. I was told this could be done in 3 days. In the end it took about 2 months. I never saw the speakers again as I sold them to a friend while they were still in Ryan's possession. He shipped them directly to the new owner. Ryan did not know I and the buyer were friends. When the speakers showed up to the buyer, he got them in mismatched boxes, one being so big the speaker was rolling around inside. The speakers ended up having bashed-in Raal screens. Ryan told my buddy that UPS must have opened the box and did the damage, then told me the speakers arrived that way from me. There's so much more to my saga, it's almost hard to believe. As many have found out (you included), dealing with Vapor is nothing but a web of lies and missed promises. Ryan is a master manipulator and will spin everything to make you look like the bad guy. Cross him and you will be the target of all his anger. As your other reader wrote you, I was one of the people whom Ryan threatened to sue and 'ruin my life' for doing nothing other than tell the truth about my buying experience. I heard from other buyers that Ryan won't resolve issues unless you sign a legal document saying you won't mention the issues on the web. I've never once said anything bad about the performance of his speakers and actually enjoyed listening to them. It's just not worth it with so many other small vendors out there like Daedalus or dc10audio who do a much better job and are a pleasure to deal with."

Usually feedback ends up in our letters section and there it stops. In this instance—3 strikes and you're out as it were—I won't assume that readers of this review would go look for such feedback. This postscript insures that prospective buyers are properly informed beyond my own reportage chronicling similar issues, including receipt of my own combative emails from Ryan. In short, caveat emptor.

Vapor Sound website