Vandersteen Audio 2Ce loudspeaker Page 3

The delay was a fortunate one. While it's always risky comparing listening impressions separated by weeks or even months—with other changes to the reference system also occurring in the interim—it is my definite feeling that the modifications have made the 2Ce a much better loudspeaker. All of the listening impressions which follow relate to the latest design.

"Hey, these are good," is the first line in my listening notes—a conclusion which never changed. If anything, the sound of the Vandersteens grew on me as I logged more and more time with them. Unlike the early 2Ce, I found the revised version to sound in no way overwarm. It had an open, extended, but not in any way overdone top end, very low midrange coloration, and an amazingly solid, deep bass when the occasion called for it. It also played at levels that give minimonitors fits; we're not talking knock-down-the-walls, rock-concert levels, but if you plan to get yourself evicted, the Vandersteen 2Ces can help.

The 2Ce will not make you forget your lust for a bass response that will have you making regular Pampers runs, but bass drum, organ pedal, double bass, etc. were satisfyingly deep and solid. The bottom end may not have been the last word in tautness (though it did occasionally surprise here), but it was in no way overripe or overdone. On pipe organ, where definition is important but low-end transient response is not, the Vandersteens were striking. You'll certainly get more in the way of ultimate extension and sheer volume capability at the lowest frequencies from larger, more expensive loudspeakers, but the bottom octaves from the 2Ces did much more than merely suggest that a pipe organ may have passed this way but once.

Their way with Jean Guillou's organ transcription of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (Dorian DOR-90117) should satisfy all but the most bass-starved pipe-organ freak. True, getting the best from this recording requires a careful hand on the volume control. Turning it up too high made the low treble glare long before the bass ran out of steam, but I've found that to be true of loudspeakers with far higher pretensions than the Vandersteens.

Nor was bass drum slighted. The percussive pyrotechnics on "Dies Irae" from Britten's Sinfonia de Requiem (Chandos 8983-4) were fully satisfying over the 2Ces. The bottom-end impact on this recording is terrific, with great whacking bass drum strokes, sharply defined. While I've heard these strokes deeper and slightly tighter, the 2Ces handled them with ease; you're unlikely to feel that anything is missing. And while there was a degree of warmth to the overall sound, I never found it excessive.

Rock fans shouldn't be disappointed in the Vandersteens' low-end performance. The 2Ces told me what was on the recording, from the rather billowy low end of Jennifer Warnes's The Hunter (Private Music 01005-82089-2)—an otherwise excellent recording—to the punchy kick drum on "Don Quichotte" from the Northern Exposure soundtrack (MCA MCAD-10685). If anything, the midbass on the Jennifer Warnes album was less overcooked here than I've heard it on a number of other loudspeakers with much more ambitious pretensions.

At the other end of the spectrum, the 2Ces lacked the ultimate sense of unlimited HF extension and air offered by the very best loudspeakers, but the loss was hardly missed. What did stand out was its sense of ease. The top end was simply there, rarely calling attention to itself unless forced to by the program material. On The Hunter, many loudspeakers emphasize the vocal sibilance. The Vandersteens didn't. Although its reproduction of sibilance was not artificially restrained, it did not intrude or, worse, sizzle back at me. On this and other recordings the 2Ces were not "airy" in the sense that most of us understand that term, but neither did they sound in any way closed-in or dark. Once or twice I attempted to goose the very top end a bit by boosting the tweeter level a dB or so and cutting the midrange by an equivalent amount, but I invariably ended up with the contour controls set back on flat.

There was no obvious shortage of air and space on The Mighty Wurlitzer (New World NW 227-2), a recording with an inherent abundance of these qualities. The Vandersteens didn't quite get it all—not in the way that, say, the WATT/Puppies or Thiel CS3.6s do—but the illusion conveyed by the 2Ces was still convincing. If the reed-like buzz of the high pipes was a bit shortchanged, it was still effective. Upper-octave details from a wide range of other recordings, from the delicate fingering of acoustic guitar to inner resolution on chorus, gave me no cause for complaint.