Vandersteen 2C loudspeaker Page 2

The Vandersteen 2C has a slightly warmer balance and timbre than the Snells and Thiels, although you can come close to the latter by boosting the 2C's treble adjustment. (Calibrated rear controls adjust treble and midrange levels.) The extreme highs are a real delight. Electrostatics and ribbons may be faster, but no electrostatic or ribbon I have ever heard is as smooth and coherent in radiation and overall integration.

As mentioned before, the bass is exceptional: extended and very well controlled over the entire bass spectrum, though the relatively small cabinet size means that bass power is somewhat limited. Natural reproduction of true bass power still demands a big enclosure, regardless of all the hype regarding acoustic suspension woofers.

Anyone who is sick of the apparent leanness in most speakers' 80-500Hz region—an area critical to musical pleasure—can be confident that the 2C is a speaker with an exceptional lower midrange. It provides natural warmth without dulling the rest of the sound; frankly, it is a joy. This is the ideal speaker for woodwind and string players.

Also well handled is the difficult transition area between the upper midrange and highs. The Vandersteen 2C will please brass and percussion fanciers, and is an exceptionally pleasant speaker for tenor and soprano voice—not only because it does well with voice, but because it does so little to color the sound of the music around them. Even the average Pavarotti record is soothed somewhat—although few voices have been so wretchedly recorded.

Dynamics are also very good, although the Thiels and Quads do a slightly better job of handling low level dynamics. The Vandersteen 2Cs have been improved, however, to the point where they are now exceptionally good in handling moderately-loud to loud passages and can outperform the comparable Thiels and Snells—and virtually all full-range electrostatics—in this area.

This kind of performance really matters to most listeners. Most audiophiles have been through the unpleasant experience of being struck by the "life" and "dynamics" of a speaker during a brief listening period in a showroom, only to find that these characteristics are missing after prolonged listening at home. No need to worry about the Vandersteen 2Cs. Their dynamic performance and musical life are consistent over the entire frequency spectrum and dynamic range: you won't find your speakers becoming "dull" or "constrained" as you get to know them (footnote 1).

As for imaging, bipolar and line-source speakers do a better job of representing the entire soundstage, but this speaker is still superb in every other respect. The image is wide, tall, and stable without the blurring of detail and transients common in omnidirectional speakers. The centerfill and depth are excellent, width is very good, height is good, and imaging is stable and convincing. Overall, the Vandersteen 2Cs place you in the middle of the hall, let's say rows J-M. Both the Thiels and Snells tend to offer a more forward and immediate sound character.

How does it compare with other speakers? Well, I recommend audition of the new Apogee Caliper, the comparably priced Snells and Thiels, the Magnepan MGIIIa, the latest Acoustat 1+1s, and possibly the MartinLogan CLS (if that latter speaker ever turns out to be consistent and reliable). I can't think of much else that's both sonically competitive and priced under $2000. I know of no British cone speaker system that comes close at anywhere near the price. The Vandersteen 2C is embarrassingly good evidence that a competent designer can produce a full-range speaker with true deep bass at an affordable price—a quest that seems beyond the intellectual and emotional grasp of many of today's speaker designers (footnote 2).

The Vandersteen 2C is a truly good speaker that will grace even the best high-end system. Best of all, you can buy it simply with the money saved by giving up your subscriptions to The Absolute Sound or IAR for two decades.

Footnote 1: Would that marriage were like that!—Larry Archibald

Footnote 2: Let me hasten to say that the much more expensive KEF R107 is a superb demonstration that British designers do recognize deep bass and can get it right. A short listening experience with a pair of the KEF R107s was very impressive indeed!—Anthony H. Cordesman

116 West Fourth Street
Hanford, CA 93230
(559) 582-0324