Vandersteen's Richard Vandersteen Talks Loudspeakers

"Richard Vandersteen doesn't look like a typical loudspeaker designer," wrote Ken Kessler when he interviewed Vandersteen in the July 1988 issue of Stereophile, adding "His presence suggests somebody who'd be played by Gene Hackman." But Richard Vandersteen is one of the most successful loudspeaker designers working in high-performance audio. His Model 2, in its various incarnations, has been a best-seller since its introduction in 1977 and the Model 7 Mk.II, which John Atkinson reviewed in May 2016, is a ground-breaking, full-range design.

JA talked speakers with Richard at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, held January 9-12 in Las Vegas, NV.

Bill Leebens's picture

...although neither he nor I were even slender enough to be portrayed by Gene Hackman. ;->

I know how tough it is to make a go of it in audio, period, much less for four decades. There are not more than a dozen still-strong companies of that age in our little world.

Hats off, and nest time I see you, I'm buying, Rich.

tonykaz's picture

Audible Illusions now working out of Florida... i-dealer, lover

Karen Sumner and all things great & wonderful.

VPI East Coast Shela was my

Offffff course PS Audio, long lost & found again.

Grado I sold their little cartridges

Conrad-Johnson the MV-45a was one of my favorite amps, I was one of their deader dealers.( even their Premier stuff )

Vandersteen, Never was one of theirs.

Monster Cable my "SRONGEST" Store line, it paid all my bills.


Audio Research in Italy now


Krell & Dan D'Augostino

Mark Levinson is out there somewhere still....

Pass & Threshold


Geez, I can only think of 14 outfits, I was dealer for half of them.

Tony in Michigan

who'd I miss ?

Jon Iverson's picture
Proud to say our store was one of the original Vandersteen dealers (I seem to recall we were number 2). Richard and Co. were always direct, honest and a pleasure to deal with. They supported their customers and kept focused on high-value products which were carefully evolved and refined. Owned several pairs and sold hundreds of them.

Yes sounds like I'm doing a testimonial, but they deserve it.

tonykaz's picture

I agree!

I was a competitor representing the entire Theil line, they were close by, on Nandino Blvd., I worked well with Kathy Gornik as well as Jim and Tom Theil. Jim was a puffer, rip. ( so was I )

Now, by the way, what other outfits did you work with that are still around, after all these decades ?

And, which were your personal favorites ? ( from any outfit ), if you don't mind reminiscing and sharing.

Steve G., just today, listed his life long favorites ( on his Auduiofiliak Vlog ).

Tony in Michigan

Jon Iverson's picture
We sold V and T side by side for years. Other favorites: NAD, Kimber, PS Audio (they were local to us), Threshold (during the Pass years), and MartinLogan just to name five.

Others favorites that had ups and downs: Acoustat, Moscode, Oracle, Spica, KEF . . .

tonykaz's picture

kinda forgot Oracle but they're Canadian.

VPI was crushing everything, our customers only other love was the SOTA, from Robert Becker, that we didn't carry. Where is Robert Becker ?

I might've only sold the three Oracle Delphi initial order and a handful of the Alexandrias.

My outfits both Carried every turntable made in England and stocked them deep. ( even the Linn in all it's wood plinths.)

We even had a Goldmund with it's liner Arm.

I'm glad to be done with vinyl.

Tony in Michigan

rschryer's picture

That's too bad, Tony. I have a simple, PITA-free, lazy man's turntable setup — a Rega P5 with an Audio Musikraft Denon DL-103 MC cartridge — that's fun to use and a joy to listen to. I think the trick, in your case, would be to get yourself a simple, PITA-free, lazy man's turntable setup like mine, so you never have to worry about it.

Do you still have LPs?

tonykaz's picture

Sure, I still have my Store Demo Records, hundreds of em.

But, I'm look'n to rent my music, from now on.

I've thought of owning a Fresh Linn LP 12 or one of those New Oracles or a Michell Gyrodek ( like I just saw at the Goldmund place ).

Digital is just so dam nimble and I can have a vast music collection on a thumbnail SD card.

For me, I'd have to do a "proper" Vinyl system which would probably be two Turntables, two record cleaners, 1,200 Cubic Feet of Climate Controlled Record Storage vault, a 3 Ton Cement footing for the Tables ( Florida doesn't have solid floors ) a consistent subscription to the Acoustic Sound type outfits for their latest releases and a goodly supply of "nice" Phono Cartridges annnnnd some nice Phono Amplifications.

Naw, I'll pass on all that and move my listening Room to the SunSet Beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and my Hobie Kayak equipped with Silent peddle propulsion ( just humming along with Bach & Chet Atkins ) while padeling along with Marty Zoffinger in Tampa Bay feeding shrimp to the ><00000000'>, wish'n you were there with us.

Thanks for thinking of me

Tony still in Michigan

rschryer's picture

It's cold in Canada. I don't hang in my listening room just for the music; I go there to warm up next to my 845 tubes.

And I get it: When it comes to vinyl, you're an all or nothing dude. Just a shame you have all those records lying around doing nothing.

Good luck with your plans to move your new listening room to SunSet Beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. When you get there, let me know, so I can live vicariously through you.

Take care.

tonykaz's picture

I've been thru every Format change since the early 1950s.

I've done Vinyl, in a big way, I don't owe the Vinyl industry anything.

My next passion is LIFE, what I have left after the Medical couldn't find any hint of the Big C. Phew, I've got 30 more years. I don't have to go to work or answer the dam phone by the 3rd. ring, I don't even have to have or own a dam Car, for gods sake !!!

I'm FREE, I ride my bicycle everywhere and it feels like I'm floating along like a Wandering Albatross. What a feeling!! Ice stops me.

Now, onto another Philosophical concept: Paul McGowan, just today, ( the Tesla Coil episode ) released another YouTube "daily" on the reasoning behind PS building high performance gear. It took me by surprise, I had to stop and think. Paul says it and says it clearly, better than I've ever heard it said before. Phew. I'll go back and re-listen to keep it fresh.

Paul at PS & Steve G. are both doing important "insight" sharing on their YouTube Tutorials. Must watch stuff from two of the most respectable Audio guys, both of them know everyone.

845 Tubes ? a triode SET rig ? Hmm,mmmmmmmm....

Tony in Michigan

rschryer's picture

which, when powered on, quickly turn skin-singeing hot. Perfect for a Canadian winter, when the only people on bikes are death-defying delivery couriers.

Brad OToole's picture

Maybe Arnie Nudell and Michael Kelly?

Jerry Garcia's picture

Purchased my 2CE's in 1992 and they are still going strong in my main system! I listen to music everyday in my dedicated room, Vandersteen's make beautiful music you can listen to for hours on end, obviously I am not alone in this assessment! They are quality instruments that will provide many years of worry free enjoyment. I have made changes to other components out of necessity or technological obsolescence, mainly dacs, but otherwise have gotten more out of fine tuning the room, speaker positioning and from isolation and wire products from Mapleshade. The Vandersteen's remain as my reference, always revealing new discoveries in familiar music and amazing me in how good they can sound after all these years. Together with a Music Reference pre-amp also purchased in '92 both have more than passed the test of time. An Odyssey Stratos amp, also trouble free for 20+ years, remain my trusted foundation. Thank you Mr. Vandersteen, what a product! Most grateful to you for all the enjoyment and happiness provided by your speakers through all of these 26 years. Wishing you all the best and continued success!

TNtransplant's picture

First heard Vandersteen speakers at 1989 Hi Fi NY show and while there were rooms with much more expensive gear, the sound in that room made a lasting impression on me -- it sounded "right" I was listening to music and not audio equipment. Immediately purchased a pair of 2ci's and still remember borrowing a hand truck from the dealer to wheel them through a freezing lower Manhattan to my apartment. Almost 30 years and 4 sets of Vandersteen's later, now enjoying his Quatro CT's, which to my ears sound more like music in a real space than most speakers twice the price.

Had the privilege of sitting next to Richard listening to his Model Sevens in Atlanta last year and what was apparent, and I think also comes through in this interview, is while he's obviously analytic and technically-oriented, at the end of the day it's about listening to and enjoying music. Looking forward to hearing music through the new amps.

fetuso's picture

I own a pair of Vandersteen VLR's. During the interview you and Richard discussed your listening room at home and he said that your room benefited from "natural diffusion, not absorption." Will you please explain what he meant? Thanks.

Axiom05's picture

If you watch some of the videos that were made in JA's listening room, I think you might get an idea what was meant by that comment. There is a lot of "stuff" around the room, no smooth surfaces to cause reflections that would need absorption to control. Presumably the uneven surfaces result in more diffusion than reflection.

John Atkinson's picture
fetuso wrote:
I own a pair of Vandersteen VLR's. During the interview you and Richard discussed your listening room at home and he said that your room benefited from "natural diffusion, not absorption." Will you please explain what he meant?

The sidewalls of my room and the wall behind my chair are lined floor to ceiling with books, CDs, and LPs

fetuso wrote:

You're welcome.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Dcbingaman's picture

Thank you for a wonderful interview with Richard. I have been a Vandersteen fan since I blew up my Quad 57's and had a baby in 1986. My wife said no more high voltage stuff, so the tubes and the Quads had to go. I bought a pair of Vandersteen 2's and modified a Hafler 220 with a JFET front end by John Hillig, and never looked back. The 2's were traded for 3A's and then I added a VCC-5 and a pair of VSM's to go 5.1. I traded the 3A's for Quatro Woods and that is what I have today.

I have had the privilege of meeting Richard a couple times, and he is the real deal - what you see is what you get. He is both a gentlemen and an inquisitive scientist with an intense focus on how best to bring real life sound into a home listening room. He has never stopped thinking and tinkering and he is constantly working to refine his loudspeakers, all of which are derived from the same phase-coherent acoustic model he discovered with the tweeter on the broomstick so many years ago. The only other guy I know of like him in Audio is Nelson Pass, who shares many of the same characteristics. Both of these gentlemen have greatly advanced the science of music reproduction in the home, and they are both going strong as senior citizens. The Audio pastime is very fortunate to have them.

Brad OToole's picture

Since November I have been leading up sales for Richard, What a great experience. I have 30 years experience and I feel I am learning new ideas again with Richard. I would love to hear about the step from 3A to Quatro Woods sometime. Many customers have had 2Cs for many years as seen on this post and Richard has been designing some really cool new products since then.