Vandersteen 2Ce Signature loudspeaker Page 3

Comfort Food
Some time ago, in comparing the relative attributes of the Celestion A3 and the Joseph Audio RM22si, I characterized the latter as a white wine, the former as a red. At the moment I'm using as one of my primary reference sources Joseph Audio's RM7si, their front-ported, minimonitor version of the floorstanding RM22si. If the RM7si is a white wine, then the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature suggests the bloomy barley scent of sturdy Guinness Stout; the deep earth tones of heavy brown bread dipped in honey; your grandmother's meatloaf accompanied by mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, caramelized onions, gobs of butter, and heavy cream—in a word, comfort foods. ("A mixed green salad with that, sir?" "What am I, a goat? You graze, I'll eat.") Ahhh, home cooking.

While most contemporary speakers seem voiced from the top down, everything about the 2Ce Signature suggests that Richard Vandersteen has voiced it from the bottom up. As he explains it, the 10", rear-firing, Active Acoustic Coupler (a long-throw, dual-spider woofer with a large magnet structure) works in tandem with the front-loaded 8" Vifa bass driver from the very lowest frequencies up to approximately 50Hz: "It's simply a way of getting more cone area to move more air in the low frequencies but yet maintain the transient speed for pitch definition in the midbass and lower midrange."

Then, at 50Hz, the 10" deep-bass driver is gradually rolled off and the 8" bass driver continues on to 600Hz, where the 4½" ScanSpeak midrange driver kicks in and carries on up to 5kHz. From that point on—up to 30kHz, according to the specs, well above the range of even the highest fundamental tones—the ScanSpeak metal-alloy 1" dome tweeter reinforces the leading edge of transients and fleshes out the upper harmonics and overtones.

This laid-back style of top-end presentation will not be to everyone's taste. But then, what I might characterize as an extended top end and a deep, transparent, revealing midrange might just sound overly bright and jacked-up to some of you. Different strokes for different folks, right? And while I wouldn't presume to ghost-write Richard Vandersteen's motto, I suspect it might be "If one must err, do so on the side of bass and midrange."

I found myself most engaged by the 2Ce Signature's remarkable bass resolution, extension, and dynamics. It conveyed wonderful rhythm and pacing, even at moderate volumes, and while I preferred the overall balance and coherence of the Celestion A3 as a full-range loudspeaker system, when it came to low-end extension, the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature just blew the A3's doors off—for roughly half the price.

The 2Ce's bass may not be the most linear or the most focused, but it was damn sure believable and musical bass, and, if I can believe Vandersteen's specs and my ears, extended well down into the 20s. Listening to Jimmy Garrison's bass with the Elvin Jones Trio on Joe Farrell's "In the Truth" (from The Complete Blue Note Elvin Jones Sessions, Mosaic MD-8 195), the Vandersteen's portrayal was resoundingly firm and robust. Garrison was right in the room with me: a plump, weighty bottom-end presence that drew me into the performance with true bass timbre and a lush, euphonic midrange, but without sacrificing speed or pacing—I mean, the beat was just locked down—and Jones' drums were done up in the Colonel's original recipe, not extra-crispy.

By the same token, when I shifted to the ballad "For Heaven's Sake" and Jones went to his brushes as Farrell picked up his flute (an instrument the late reed virtuoso could play as well as anyone in jazz), I heard a creamy, bloomy quality to the flute's fundamentals (Farrell plays in the lower register through much of the tune) that was more apparent than with his tenor sax. And while the drums had great body and low-end presence, I missed some air and sizzle in Jones's brush sweeps on the snare—all in all, a very lush, euphonic, forgiving presentation.

My conjecture: As the Vandersteen employs a very shallow, first-order crossover, there is a pretty fair degree of overlap between the drive-units; the bass drivers are still handling frequencies well into the midrange, and vice versa. And because the tweeter doesn't kick in until around 5kHz, the sound is very sweet, smooth, and relatively true. For my tastes, such a laid-back approach and creamy voicing compromise the openness, transparency, and soundstaging depth that I experience with the ultra-revealing RM7si's.

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