Vandersteen 2Ce Signature loudspeaker Page 4

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Many contemporary recordings are mastered so hot that their glare is almost unbearable on more analytical, revealing speakers such as the RM7si—for instance, the musically interesting but sonically crude "club mix" on The Charlie Watts-Jim Keltner Project (Higher Octave). On the Vandersteens I could actually "listen" to this recording at a reasonable volume level without being worn out by EQ fatigue.

John Fogerty's Blue Moon Swamp (Warner Bros. 45426-2), thought ultimately a very refined rock recording, is also mixed fairly hot and bright. On "A Hundred and Ten in the Shade" I experienced the sheer weight of the low end and the gospel quartet's vocals in a manner quite unlike anything I'd heard on more brightly voiced speakers. The musical balance was just right, inviting me into this larger-than-life yet intimate performance instead of implanting it in my nose.

On the SACD release of Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra's stunning 1969 version of Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole (Boulez Conducts Ravel, Sony Classical SS 89121), I was struck by how well the Vandersteens imaged. They excelled in the lateral plane, with precise instrument placement—everything was rendered in realistic scale on a good soundstage, though one relatively shallow compared to that thrown by the RM7si's. Still, I could discern instruments across the soundstage, nicely focused in time and space and all seeming the same size as they would be in real life.

Overall, I found the Vandersteens very satisfying in their portrayal of musical events. Timbres were lifelike and true, if slightly sweetened, and big orchestral swells were handled with enormous power and conviction. But when I pushed them really hard on very complex passages, I experienced some compression of the soundstage, and losses of coherence, some details, and some separation between if the speakers were trying too hard to sound full-range.

One of my Ten (or so) Commandments of high-end audio is that you have to spend a lot of money just to discover that you didn't necessarily have to spend a lot of money, and one of the most compelling arguments in favor of the Vandersteen 2Ce Signature is that of bang for buck. For $1620 ($1495 plus $125 for the stands) you get the makings of a convincing full-range presentation. Using my low-powered Mesa Tigris Integrated tube amp (28W in 2/3-pentode mode), I achieved a pleasing, musical sound at modest, real-world volume levels, but found that, while these speakers are relatively efficient, they do crave current.

Mating the 2Ce Signatures with an 85W Musical Fidelity A3 solid-state integrated amp (warm and full, with a beautifully extended top end) and A3 CD player (which offers exceptional resolution and soundstaging depth for a very modest price) resulted in a resoundingly full, dynamic sound with excellent detail and transient snap. Completing the signal chain by employing a modestly priced but high-performance combination of AudioQuest Granite biwires and Coral interconnects—a symbiotic match that helped extend soundstage depth while fleshing out details in the presence region of the midrange—plus a Synergistic Research AC Master Coupler and a JPS Labs Digital Power Cord, afforded a rich-sounding, deeply involving, non-fatiguing, room-filling, ass-kickin' high-end system for about $4500. Not too shabby, pilgrims.

I found the Signature very revealing of good amplification. When I stepped up to the Musical Fidelity A3CR separates—a 150Wpc dual-mono power amp with double the current drive of the A3 integrated and a refined, full-featured remote control dual-mono preamp featuring a first-rate phono section—the added investment in power rewarded me with enhanced resolution and focus. I also achieved very pleasing results with my tubed Mesa Baron (in 2/3-triode, 90W mode), the modestly priced but wonderful-sounding Rogue Audio Sixty-Six triode preamp, a pair of JPS Superconductor Singles biwires, Synergistic Research Resolution Reference and Designer's Reference interconnects (with Active Shielding), Designer's Reference$s2 Master Couplers and Master Control Center, and the California Audio Labs CL-20 DVD player or the Sony SCD-777ES SACD player—the system with which I did my final listening sessions.

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