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Speaker Asylum: REVIEW: Vandersteen Audio 2Ce Speakers by Rufipennis

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REVIEW: Vandersteen Audio 2Ce Speakers

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Model: 2Ce
Category: Speakers
Suggested Retail Price: $1,295
Description: 4-driver floorstander, 1st order xover, 86 db, 7 ohms, 4 ohm min.
Manufacturer URL: Vandersteen Audio
Model Picture: View

Review by Rufipennis on August 25, 2007 at 22:12:59
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for the 2Ce

This is a review of the recently released 2Ce Signature II, which features the tweeter and midrange drivers from the 3A Signature (Vandersteen's website still is lacking information on the new model but does provide a link to the Stereophile review). I previously had Thiel 1.6s, so many of my comments regarding the Vandersteens will be relative to the Thiels. BTW, I thought the Thiels were fabulous although lacking in bass - essentially nothing below 50 Hz in my room whereas the Sig IIs seem to have full output down to the mid 30 Hz with some energy down to the mid 20s.

After much agonizing over whether to add a subwoofer to my Thiels or upgrade to 2.4s, I saw the Stereophile review for the 2Ce Sig IIs. I had previously considered the 3A Sigs and would have bought a pair except for their plain looks and massive size, so when the 8" shorter 2Ce promised near 3A performance, it became a no-brainer. I've had the Vandersteens in my system since February. I initially had them wired with a single run of Cardas Neutral Reference, using a length of El Cheapo speaker wire as a jumper. I did some serious listening with only a few hours logged on the drivers. The first thing I noticed was that they have “more meat on the bones” than the Thiels. Yes, there’s more bass but also a richer, fuller sound – even my wife took a rare turn in the listening position and commented on the difference. The soundstage was noticeably larger, especially in depth. Through the Thiels, female vocals were clear, resolved, and immediate but could also tend to sound overly bright on some passages of certain songs causing me to grab the remote (but don’t take me wrong, this issue with the Thiels was a minor and fleeting intrusion). I have yet to reach for the volume while playing female vocalists through the Vandersteens. Coming from the Thiels aluminum midrange/woofer, I expected a bit of resolution loss due to the Sig IIs plastic midrange driver, but didn’t notice much. If anything, the Vandersteen’s appear to have more overall information, probably due to their greater bass content.

Warning: there were a couple of days early during break-in when I began to wonder if I had made a mistake! The sound was incoherent and vaguely irritating. Luckily, this stage didn’t last long and things settled in for the better. Adding sand to the stands helped a lot.

I then experimented with two runs of El Cheapo to hear the effects of bi-wiring which Vandersteen claims to improve performance. Having decided that bi-wiring was promising, I put the Cardas back on the tweeter/midrange binding posts and put a longer run of El Cheapo on the woofer until I finally figured out a permanent bi-wire solution. During this time, the sound of the Sig IIs grew on me, especially their cavernous soundstage that invites me into the music. In fact, they’re about as good as I’ve heard I that regard. Moreover, they can disappear into my room, even when the signal is all in one channel. On some recordings, sounds appear to emanate from outside the bounds of the speakers.

I’ve heard tighter, deeper bass (e.g., Thiel 7.2), a more convincing hall image (e.g., Wilson Watt/Puppy 7), and a more resolved and transparent midrange (e.g., Avalon Eclipse), but the Sig IIs are plenty good in these categories. In terms of overall musicality, the Sig IIs are about as good as anything I’ve heard (and I’ve heard many others besides those mentioned, though only the Sig IIs and 1.6s in my room/system). And there is a physical presence to the bass. For example, Ani DiFranco’s baritone guitar is felt as well as heard. Again, the Sig IIs are not the best I’ve heard in that category but they do hold their own.

My only notable complaint was a slightly veiled quality on voices (especially female) and some acoustic instruments. Luckily, the Vandersteens are plenty musical enough that this was rarely a distraction. After months of fretting over how to bi-wire – including an ill-fated attempt to get a used pair of Cardas to match my own, I got two used pairs of Ayre Signature Series. I am amazed to say that the veiled quality is now all but gone; vocalists are now much more open and immediate. Wow – these Sig IIs, and my whole system, can really make music!

Warning #2: At very high SPLs (much higher than I like to listen), the Sig IIs become very congested. This probably is not the speaker system for The Who fans wanting to listen at rock concert levels. Although to be fair, I’m not certain that it isn’t just my Ayre integrated running out of steam driving these somewhat inefficient speakers.

IMO/YMMV: In conclusion, the 2Ce Sig IIs do some things about as good as anything out there. Their other audio attributes likely are a bit short of the best out there but close enough for me and they are seriously musical. Oh –did I mention – they freakin’ only cost $2K (and they’re made in U.S., not China, both being important to me). Perhaps it’s obvious, but I agree with most of Art Dudley’s review in Stereophile. But I’ll take it further: the Sig IIs give you a fat helping of the high-end at a relatively affordable price. My guess is I’d have to spend $10K to get a substantial improvement (e.g., Vandersteen Quatro or Thiel 3.7). My vote for best buy in audio!

Product Weakness: Relatively big and plain looking, needs to be bi-wired (which adds to the cost, especially if you shoot for the moon like me). A bit short of SOTA midrange transparency and resolution, as well as SOTA bass definition and extension – but check the price tag!
Product Strengths: Highly musical, near SOTA soundstaging and imaging, disappear into the room, coherent, accurate, etc.<br>Gets you a long way towards the best out there at a crazy bargain price! Of course, a non-audiophile would think I’m crazy to buy $2K speakers and then call them a “bargain”. <br>

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Ayre AX-7e
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Ayre CX-7e/Kenwood KD-500/Kenwood KT-7500
Speakers: on review
Cables/Interconnects: Ayre Signature Series
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Folk, rock, bluegrass, R&B, jazz
Room Size (LxWxH): 18 x 19 x 8-14
Room Comments/Treatments: Wall coverings
Time Period/Length of Audition: 6 months
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Vandersteen Audio 2Ce Speakers - Rufipennis 22:12:59 08/25/07 ( 22)