Spica Angelus loudspeaker Thomas J. Norton 1993
It's no secret that at least two of our reviewers are big fans of the Spica Angelus, a loudspeaker which, in price, is a very close competitor of the Vandersteen 2Ce. I had the opportunity to compare the two in the course of this review, and formed a few impressions of my own. Leaving aside the matter of appearance—the "Ming the Merciless" look of the Angelus inspires more extreme reactions than the more conventional appearance of the 2Ce—there are significant sonic differences between the two loudspeakers.
The Spica sounds far leaner—almost anemic—in the low end compared to the Vandersteen. Subjectively speaking, this opens up the soundstage and gives the impression of greater transparency and clarity, but it comes at the expense of bottom-end weight and power handling. Low-frequency passages which the Vandersteen sailed through without a hiccup caused the woofers of the Spica, at equivalent levels, to bottom with a nasty crack. Backing off on the volume with the Spicas is the only solution; they simply do not have the same dynamic capabilities as the Vandersteens.
At the top, the Spicas are subjectively brighter, almost analytical—especially with the solid-state Aragon and Hafler amplifiers. The Aragon was a little more restrained in the low treble with the Angelus, the Hafler more lively but at the same time less obviously crisp higher up. The Sonic Frontiers SFS-80, a tube amplifier, turned down the treble heat but at some sacrifice in overall detail.
Later, when we measured the Spicas, I was surprised to find that they are actually very smooth at the top end on the listening axis. They would appear to sound brighter than the Vandersteens largely because of their leaner balance, perhaps combined with their more tipped-up on-axis response (the listening axis of the Spica, because of its sloped baffle, is actually significantly below the tweeter axis).
In contrast with the Spicas, however, there did appear to be a certain reticence about the Vandersteens. They never offended, they went deep into the bass, were notably uncolored in the midrange, and produced a fine, convincing soundstage, but listening to the Spicas told me that the 2Ces did lack a certain spark. The Spicas may go a bit too far in the other direction, but they have a certain fire which made the Vandersteens appear a bit veiled and restrained in comparison. The sound of the Spicas is more immediate and open, with sharper image outlines, but also has a tendency to be more fatiguing. The Vandersteens did not lack for detail, depth, or image specificity, but were a bit less hyper about everything, not as immediately grabbing. And they clearly had that stronger, deeper, less wimp-out-prone bass response.
The Spicas have the more focused soundstage, yet careful listening revealed that nothing is really missing with the Vandersteens; it was just more subtly rendered. I believe that at least some of the immediacy of the Spicas' soundstage is due to their lean bass and midbass. This will tend to open up the sonic fabric, especially in rooms prone to bass problems in the region where the Vandersteen is clearly capable of more output. Such rooms also tend to be smaller, which will help mitigate the Vandersteens' limited output capability.—Thomas J. Norton