Vandersteen 2Ce Signature loudspeaker Manufacturer's Comment
Editor: I'd like to thank Stereophile for the generally favorable review of the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature speakers published in the October issue. I seldom respond to reviews because they are simply a statement of one person's opinion, but this one calls out for comment because the measurements published don't accurately represent the performance of the product.
I strongly support the Stereophile policy of providing a comprehensive set of objective measurements along with each subjective loudspeaker review. I think that John Atkinson's tests provide relevant information to Stereophile readers by gauging the most important aspects of speaker performance. Consistency of measurement technique is, of course, necessary in order for these tests of various products to be directly comparable, but that puts the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature speakers at a disadvantage.
The goal of all Vandersteen Audio loudspeaker designs is to accurately reproduce the input waveform. This requires that each speaker model in the line must deliver accurate frequency response within narrow limits and be time- and phase-correct. Time and phase accuracy are achieved by using crossover designs that provide first-order acoustic slopes and by careful physical alignment of the individual drive elements. First-order, aligned speakers have broad horizontal dispersion with a relatively small vertical listening window. As described in the instruction manual, the 2Ce Signature loudspeakers must be carefully positioned so that the listener is centered in this window when seated. To measure the performance that the listener will hear, the microphone must be placed on the same vertical plane as the listener's ears.
I have enclosed MLSSA graphs made with the microphone placed in the proper position and 50" from the speaker. These graphs (figs.1 & 2) show the actual performance of the 2Ce Signature loudspeakers with all controls centered. As you can see from these measurements, many of the anomalies that were explained in the Stereophile review as "dowel reflections" and the like are greatly diminished or eliminated. It should be clear that there is no "shelving up" of the midrange level, as described in the measurement section of the review. (This is a curious use of the term, since the levels at 1kHz and 10kHz appear to be identical even in Stereophile's measurements. The dip around 5kHz that is shown in your measurements is due to the incorrect microphone position used in your tests.) Some reflections remain because of the many surfaces required by the complex cabinet design. This low-level reflected energy is diffused and randomized by design in order to make it essentially inaudible.
Fig.1 Vandersteen 2Ce Signature, anechoic response on-axis at 50", with appropriate tiltback.
Fig.2 Vandersteen 2Ce Signature, cumulative spectral-decay plot at 50".
The dowels that support the grillecloths on various Vandersteen models are an integral part of the design. They are carefully placed and do not degrade performance in any way. You and any of your readers can easily prove this for yourselves with a simple experiment: Darken the room to eliminate visual suggestion and place two broom handles in front of each speaker, just inside of the dowels that support the grillecloth. These broom handles will be forward of the dowels inside the speaker and will include a narrower angle, much closer to the radiation pattern of the drivers. They will still be completely inaudible. Try it.
I would also like to comment on the subjective review by Chip Stern. The tone of the review might lead readers to believe that the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature speakers are bass-heavy, and rolled-off at the top. The objective measurements prove that this is not the case. While the speakers do provide true, full-range bass performance, they also offer extended high-frequency response to above 20kHz. Bass is not emphasized in any way, and the treble frequencies are not rolled-off. The frequency response of the product is flat within a +2dB window from 35Hz to 20kHz. I think that this is exceptional performance for any speaker—especially one in this price category—but that's just the frequency-response story. The 2Ce Signatures are also time- and phase-accurate and feature a "baffleless" design.
All Vandersteen loudspeakers are carefully engineered to minimize baffle reflections. These reflections are not part of the signal that is reproduced by the drive elements, and I consider them to be distortion, plain and simple. Casual listeners, when first exposed to Vandersteen speakers, may have the impression that something is missing. I can assure you that what's missing is not musical detail. After extended listening, most people find that the elimination of the distortion caused by baffle reflections actually makes real musical detail easier to hear. Many satisfied Vandersteen customers are convinced that they hear more information about the music, not less, when the musical information is not obscured by this distortion.
If perfect loudspeakers are ever made, they will surely cost more than $1495/pair, and many people won't be able to afford them. The Vandersteen 2Ce Signature speakers are the best 2-series speakers we have ever made. Like their predecessors, they were designed to serve music and represent an exceptional value for money. Music-lovers worldwide seem to argue that they do both.—Richard Vandersteen, Vandersteen Audio