Monthly Archives: October 2016

Speaker upgrade: Vandersteen 2Ce

I keep an eye on a handful of web sites that list audio equipment for sale.  Mostly it is casual browsing, watching pricing trends on certain items I am interested in.  Every so often, I will hear of a component that has good value for the money, and tell myself I might pounce on a “too good to be true” deal should it come along.

Thanks to a local seller who was moving out of state within a few days, I scored a really inexpensive pair of Vandersteen 2Ces.  I was watching prices on these for several months.  When these came up, I emailed, paid a visit, and drove away with a bargain.

Cosmetically the “socks” (the speaker cloth that surrounds the 2Ces on all four sides) have a few tiny holes, and some dust/dirt I cannot remove.  So I might want to replace that. The wooden end caps could also stand some refinishing but really, they are not all that bad.  The speakers did not come with stands, although I may see about getting some used Sound Anchor stands so that I might properly spike these to the floor.

So, what is the Vandersteen 2Ce all about?

It is a floorstanding speaker (some might call it a “tower,” which it really is not).  The drivers are time- and phase-aligned, so the sound from all three front-facing drivers (tweeter, midrange, 8″ mid-woofer) arrives at your ears coherently.  In the rear at the bottom of the cabinet is a 10-inch “acoustic coupler” that adds the very lowest octave of bass.  The drivers are arranged on minimally-sized baffles, so that sound can easily disperse into the room. This enhances the soundstaging and imaging.  (As such, it is recommended they be placed away from the walls in the room.)  They are designed to be aimed straight into the room, not “toed in” unless there is an issue with room acoustics and you cannot achieve a solid phantom center image.

My initial impression upon first hooking them up was that they were a bit dull, and lacking highs.  It didn’t take but 15-20 minutes to realize that the highs are there, but just not falsely accentuated (or just a bit bright, as the Dahlquist speakers were).  In other words, once I threw more of a variety of music at them, I realized it just sounded right.  They do throw a nice soundstage, but if you are off-axis or in another room, they can tend to sound less bright than when you sit at or near the sweet spot.

Since I only listened briefly that first day, I decided to bi-wire the speakers, per Vandersteen’s recommendation.  So, just about all listening has been done with the bi-wiring in place.  (And that means I had no way to do a direct comparison using just a single run of wire to the speaker.)

I am still playing with the positioning of the speakers in the room.  For now I have settled on having them only slightly toed in, with the acoustical centers just over 22 inches from the back wall.  The saddest part of this room is that due to the size and the furnishings, the sweet spot happens to be in an area that has a low level of bass.  I would prefer sitting further back, but it is not possible.  I may rearrange the room if I get a chance.

So despite the positioning, these speakers do have a strong, deep bass response.  I suppose one could use a subwoofer with these, but I would find it unnecessary–they cover all of the important octaves of the music.

And the soundstage is just as advertised–it can be wider than the speakers themselves.  I have yet to hear much in the way of front-to-back imaging, but I am still dialing in their positioning in the room.  Once I lock that in, possibly adding some room treatments, that will fall into place.

Given the cost, these were quite a deal.  The Martin Logan project of mine is still on the sidelines.  It will be interesting to compare the two different types of speakers once I get those completed.  At least these Vandersteens are enough of a step upward to hear what my other components are capable of.


Final thoughts on the Dahlquist DQM-9

The Dahlquist DQM-9 pair have been a pleasant speaker to listen to.  In today’s dollars, they would have sat cost-wise in the $3,000 range.  It’s hard to imagine that, given its construction.  It is not at all laid out like the DQ-10 with its five time-aligned drivers set on individual small baffles; instead, it is more like a traditional “bookshelf” speaker.

Since I have replaced them, I thought I’d give a couple of closing comments.

First, the dynamics and the bass were very healthy in these speakers.  Despite their being smaller than the Grafyx speakers I had in the system for decades, these actually sounded like they had more powerful bass, and handled any dynamics I threw at it.  They easily put out sound that belied their somewhat diminutive dimensions.

The midrange had no issues.  The highs, however, were strange.  Not a bad strange, but just not what I thought was completely true to life.  They occasionally seemed a bit “peaky,” accentuating already bright material a bit too much.  Strings recorded on the bright side (such as the biting strings in some of the Reference Recordings SACDs) came across a little too ragged.  The big issue here–were the tweeters intact?  They sounded mechanically fine (no rattles from voice coils rubbing, or odd colorations from being previously overdriven), yet slightly “off.”  Not a major complaint, as these speakers presented a lot of the music really well.

They do render the music more accurately than the Grafyx, especially in imaging and soundscape.  I’ve heard better on other speakers (I still don’t get that complete “holographic” effect with the imaging), but they were still an improvement in that regard.  It also showed a little more inner detail to the music.

The capacitors in the crossovers were left alone–they are not electrolytics, so, no worries there.  Cosmetically they need work.  The one grille is still broken at the corners.  The cabinets could use some new finish rubbed onto them (or a complete strip and re-stain).  And, I would have liked a good polishing of the aluminum trim on the three drivers.  But for now, they’re retired.

They’ve been a really good speaker for ten months, a welcome change to what I’d heard for decades.