A short while ago I was reading a series of comments under general expectations and came across a comment I had written in May. It has been my long held belief that larger speakers can be hard to afford, setup and power adequately. I have always believed that a good pair of monitor speakers properly placed on suitable stands with help from room boundaries can provide very high quality accurate sound. This leads me to the purpose of this review several people commented that you can’t really have accurate sound without full range capability. I gave the matter some thought and decided to look for a suitable “large” speaker for review, one that is affordable and is relatively efficient.
Vandersteen 2CI speakers review
The classic Vandersteen 2 has been in production for nearly 30 years in many variations. I found a local pair of Vandersteen 2CI speakers on Audiogon for $400.00 and decided to give them a try. My speakers were well cared for by the original owner and are in excellent sonic and cosmetic condition additionally they came with an excellent set of lead filled Sound Anchor stands. The Vandersteen 2CI is a 3 way speaker consisting of a ¾ inch aluminum dome tweeter, 4 ½ inch plastic cone midrange, 8 inch plastic cone woofer and a 10 inch active cone radiator to handle frequencies below 35 Hz. The frequency response is 28HZ -20.125Khz at + or – 3db. The impedance is 7 ohms nominal and 5 ohms minimum with a stated efficiency rated at 88db for one watt at one meter.
There are several caveats to setting up a Vandersteen speaker that must be adhered to for maximum sound quality first, because these are time aligned speakers room diffraction must be kept to a minimum. I set the 2CIs up on the Sound Anchor stands in my 18’L X 13’W X 7.5’H listening room; 54 inches from the rear wall and 12 inches from the side wall on the left. This left wall was also treated with a sound absorptive foam baffle to reduce diffraction. The right speaker sits adjacent to the foyer for the room and accordingly has no side wall influence. Both speakers were set equidistant to the listening position and were toed in slightly. Optimally 2CI speakers would have no toe-in but my room is not quite large enough to have 24 inches of side wall clearance. Secondly you must set the rearward angle of the speakers so that the midrange is aimed at ear level towards the listening position. Additionally you must bi-wire these speakers and bolt them firmly to the Sound Anchor stands for maximum bass response. Vandersteen’s website goes into great detail on the benefits of bi-wiring it is a good read for those of you who are interested.
I used the Vandersteen 2CIs in my reference system consisting of an Audio Research SP16 preamplifier, Audio Research VS110 Amplifier, Primare D30.2 CD Player and VPI HW-19 MkIV turntable. I am presently using Discovery Essence interconnects and Zebra Cables ZC-SP14DBI biwire speaker cables. For the A, B speaker comparisons I used my reference Paradigm S2 Monitors mounted on Target lead and sand filled speaker stands.
Listening Vandersteen 2CI
First up were tracks from Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble’s first Album Texas Flood, track 2 “Pride and Joy” is a dynamic rocker of a tune that you can’t help but turn up! Stevie’s guitar just flat growls and sings against the bombastic background laid down by Double Trouble. Chris Layton on drums and Tommy Shannon on bass are the dynamic duo of rhythm and percussion providing the solid footing for Vaughn’s guitar heroics. All of this comes through loud and clear on the Vandersteens. The bass is solid and tuneful you can actually feel as well as hear the beat. The drums sound and feel solid as well. Track 12 “Tin Pan Alley” is a more musically delicate track the subtleties of the drum stick tapping on the ride cymbal for instance are clear and clean, never muddied. Vaughn’s delicate fingering noises on the fret board can be heard as he is working each note. In comparison to the Vandersteens the Paradigms do provide a clearer resolution of these details but, they give up a little bit on the bottom end and are not quite as dynamic. Despite their size the Vandersteens also Image quite well, although not up to the pinpoint accuracy of the Paradigm S2 monitors but very well nonetheless. If I had to sum up the differences on dynamic rock music it would be this, the Vandersteens are more laid back and dynamic, the soundstage is a bit more recessed. The Paradigms are very dynamic within their limits with greater detail and air around the instruments especially in the midrange and high frequencies.
Next I played Diana Kralls jazz CD Love Scenes into the CD Player and played track 2 “Peel Me a Grape” This CD is an intimate recording, just Krall on piano, and Russell Malone on guitar and Christian McBride on bass. This type of music is where the differences really became apparent between the Vandersteens and Paradigms. The Vandersteens simply leaned to the amorphous when compared to the Paradigms, Krall’s voice lost some of the sensuality and presence. McBride’s bass although full and musical was a bit less intimate sounding. For instance on track 7 “I Don’t Stand a Ghost Of A Chance With You” a track where Krall is accompanied only by Russell Malone on guitar. Malone’s guitar was not quite as realistic and immediate. The plucked notes and chord strums were there but less convincing than the performance conveyed by the Paradigms.
One of my favorite recordings is on the Dire Straits CD Brothers in Arms, track 6 “Ride Across the River”. There is a lot going on in this recording; percussive elements, keyboards, guitar, drums and bass. On poor sounding speakers many of the subtleties are lost and in and the sound becomes like a cacophony. You miss the insect noises, the drums and delicacies of the melody. The Vandersteens do a great job of conveying 98% all of the information, accurately and without coloration of their own. The bass is just plain solid, the percussive elements jump from everywhere in the soundstage. The sound stage is “deep and wide” and Knopfler’s voice sounds soulful, textured and intimate, additionally his guitar is clear and detailed. The overall perspective is slightly laid back when compared to the Paradigms but very balanced as well.
Listening to dynamic music is what these speakers are really designed for and one of my favorite dynamic performers is Susan Tedeschi, on her recent CD Hope and Desire, track 3 “Lord Protect My Child” is a great example of a well recorded dynamic vocal performance. Tedeschi provides an emotional and powerful performance, when the volume is turned up it hits you right between the eyes with out being strident and etched. The rich background vocals are ever present, the acoustic guitar and dobro are portrayed in a clear and concise manner. These elements in addition to the piano, bass and drums provide a solid background for Tedeshi’s beautiful soulful voice. The Paradigm S2s do an excellent job of conveying these dynamics especially from the mid-bass on up but the lower register is just more solidly conveyed by the Vandersteens.
I recently purchased a Rega Brio 2000, 38WPC integrated amp for use in my bedroom system and I wondered how well it would drive these speakers. I hooked the Vandersteen 2CIs up to the Brio and using the Oppo DV-970HD universal player as the digital source I came up with a great sounding system for about $1000.00 including cables. The Brio system worked fine in my modestly sized room and was even suitable for listening to rock music without sounding strained.
I always evaluate any product I listen to by one criterion, if I could have only one, would I keep this one? Could I live with its faults and weaknesses for an extended period of time? The Vandersteens easily pass this test! Even though they are comprised of 15 year old technology they still sound great! Yes the Paradigm S2s have a sweeter, more detailed, revealing, midrange and top end but they can’t match the solid dynamic bottom end of the Vandersteens. Furthermore the Vandersteens crush a majority of the sub $1000.00 speakers on the market. They sound great with modestly priced components and really shine with top notch equipment. They will reveal all the faults of poor recordings and all qualities of good recordings. In short these are very fine speakers for
- Audio Research SP16 Preamplifier
- Audio Research VS110 Amplifier
- Rega Brio 2000 Integrated Amp
- Primare D30.2 CD Player
- Oppo DV970HD Universal Player
- VPI HW19 MKIV Turntable Rega RB 600
- Tonearm Clearaudio Beta S MM Cartridge
- Paradigm S2 Signiture Monitors
- Krix Equinox Monitors
- Discovery Essence Interconnects
- Discovery Essential Speaker Cables
- Eichmann Express Six Interconnects Zebra ZC SP12SD
- Speaker Cables Zebra ZC SP14DBI
external link: Vandersteen website
from aﬀordableaudio, By Todd Arthur