Vandersteen 2C loudspeaker Sam Tellig, January 1990
"Speakers are difficult," says my friend Lars.
Since the ESB speakers are no longer imported—"Your loss," says Lars—I shall turn my attention to others instead, starting with the Vandersteen 2Ci.
At $1195/pair (sans stands), this speaker is unquestionably a good buy. The bass, in particular, is deep, tight, taut—controlled. What's more, bass notes are richly differentiated—you don't get just a one-note boom or thud. In short, everything you've heard about the Vandersteens' bass performance is true.
What's more, the soundstaging is excellent—deep, wide, well-extended beyond the edges of the left and right speakers.
I can hear why Vandersteen 2Ci's have such appeal.
Of course, you can't have everything at $1195. (Stands add another $125.) What the Vandersteen lacks is the ultimate in detail, delicacy, and transparency through the midrange. To me, the 2Ci sounds slightly thick, somewhat veiled; it tends to obscure the differences among interconnects, speaker cables, and associated components, and, for this reason, it is probably not the ideal reviewer's tool.
The 2Ci doesn't irritate with a tipped-up top end or obvious cabinet colorations. The freedom from cabinet coloration in the bass is particularly apparent and worthy of special praise. There is really nothing seriously wrong with the Vandersteen, and at its price, that's saying a lot.
For most of my listening, I used my new Krell KSP-7B/KSA-80 combination. I biwired the 'steens with Kimber Kable 4TC and placed the 2Ci's on lead-filled Super Vanderstands.
My only frustration was that the 2Ci's didn't make the most of the Krell gear's exceptional transparency. I felt that too much detail was being lost—not in the bass, but through the midrange and treble. The 2Ci's were not as light, not as airy as I would have liked—a bit too heavy-sounding, the tonal balance weighted too far toward the bass, a little slow, a wee bit thick. I felt that truly topflight equipment, like the Krell, was wasted on the 2Ci's.
But these are very forgiving faults, and, like I say, there is only so much you can expect from a pair of speakers in this price range. The 2Ci's are a Vandersteal, and while with their slight lack of definition, detail, and delicacy they're not the speakers for me, they are speakers I recommend with great enthusiasm.