Vandersteen 2Ce Signature loudspeaker Page 2

"As for the Quad, it was kind of rolled on top, it wouldn't play very loud, and didn't have very good bass, but the midrange—where you have this interleaving of all the harmonics in most music where harmonics talk to one another—was so accurate. That's what the patent in our midrange was all about.

"'What is it about these electrostatics?' I wondered back then. 'They actually measure slower than a good dynamic speaker. They don't do this as well, they don't do that as well. Yet why are they so right in the midrange?'

"Well, I discovered it's because they have nothing behind them except for the wall of a room, and they don't have all that distorted energy coming off the back of the cone. As that energy hits these magnets and these baskets, it gets bounced right back through the cone to confuse and harden the signal that's going to the listener. We designed and patented a midrange where the magnet is so small that it goes on the inside of the voice-coil. There are no reflected areas behind the cone. So all that energy that comes off the back of the cone goes into a transmission line full of stuffing that absorbs it all and doesn't allow it to come back out through the cone and back at the listener; that, and not having the baffles around the drivers to re-reflect that energy off of the flat surfaces that most speakers have. Of course, that [reflected energy] isn't part of the original input either...The way we deal with those two things, in a nutshell, sums up what Vandersteen Audio is all about."

Bottoms Up
The boxless design of the Vandersteen Model 2 and its subsequent refinements have been discussed at great length in past Stereophile evaluations (footnote 1) and don't require a reprise beyond what's listed in the "Description" sidebar, or what you can find posted on the Vandersteen website. Richard Vandersteen believes in putting his money into the drivers rather than the cabinet (a rule tested by the imposing, top-of-the-line Model 5).

Briefly, the Signature's refinements include a dual-input/biwire barrier strip in place of the old banana plugs. Speaker cables thus require spade-lug connectors with a maximum width of 7/16", which is fairly small. Thankfully, Bill Low of AudioQuest provided me with some spade adapters I was able to screw directly into the barrier-strip inputs, which enabled me to then employ a variety of speaker cables already fitted with banana plugs.

Vandersteen points out Signature upgrades in the 2Ce's crossover components, and claims to have improved the coupling and transition between the woofer and the active acoustic coupler. The old tweeter has been replaced by the one used in the Model 3A, which boasts a more sophisticated magnet and voice-coil. Vandersteen claims that the 2Ce Signature is thus more transparent and conveys spatial information better than any previous Model 2, and that the low frequencies are tighter and more detailed, the highs cleaner and lower in distortion. I can't comment on these claims due to lack of listening time with earlier incarnations of this speaker. I can only pass along my gut reactions to the 2Ce Signature as a new speaker in my listening environment.

The 2Ce Signature is time- and phase-aligned, with a first-order crossover, so the vertical alignment of the drivers is critical. Just placing the 2Ce's flush on my hardwood floors, as I did for a lark, produced a mushy, boomy, indistinct sound. You simply must use the Vandersteen's "optional" tripod stand and adjustable spikes to put your ears on the tweeter axis, thus maximize driver coherence, imaging, and timbral balance. (The stand can be filled with sand to add critical mass. I did without.) And while the owner's manual offers all sorts of mathematical formulae for achieving optimal setup, the more I read those hieroglyphics, the more my eyes glazed over. I proceeded instead by ear and feel, as will many consumers, no doubt.

With the help of a friend and the pink-noise track on Stereophile's first Test CD, I tilted the speakers up and back, to and fro, until I found a spot where the pink noise seemed to sound fullest in the transition point between the midrange and treble frequencies, and where the midrange was neither too prominent nor sucked-out. I settled on a slight degree of toe-in: too much and images seemed unnaturally centered, too little and the soundstage flattened out. When vocals were nicely centered while other sounds seemed to emanate from beyond the edges of the enclosures I felt as if I had it right. The speakers were roughly 4' from the back wall, 2-3' from the side walls, 6' apart, and 7' from my listening chair.

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