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A musician's guide to the enjoyment of digital audio, Part III


10 November, 2011


Having spent a good amount of time with the Vandersteen 2ce, I decided to compare it to other speakers in the same approximate price range. Again, my decision was to read as much literature as I could find on the speakers. The Absolute Sound and Stereophile were valuable resources of information as well as manufacturers' web sites. I found many links to reviews of all sorts and took my time making my own comparisons through them.


There is, however, no comparison as effective as a live listening session with music that one knows well. I chose to compare the Vandersteen 2ce with the PSB Imagine T, similarly priced speakers with different technologies. A return trip to Audio Alternative was made and I took several favorite CDs. A partial list:


Ravel - Piano Concertos, Boulez, Zimerman DG

Faure'/Durufle' - Requiem, Shaw, Atlanta SO Telarc

Mahler - Sym. No. 5, Thomas, San Francisco SO

Bach - Goldberg Variations, Perahia, Sony Classical


Acoustic Alchemy - Against the Grain

Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band - Act Your Age

Pat Metheny - Secret Story

Lee Ritenour - Wes Bound

Cheryl Bentyne - The Book of Love


Again, I was given all the time I wished to compare the 2 speakers. Several days passed before I chose my favorite of the two. I will have to say that I did lots of homework before making the choice, and doing so required me to read the owner's manuals so that I might learn about the peculiar needs of setting up the speakers. While I leaned toward the Vandersteens, I quickly saw that their setup would be considerably more involved and demanding than the PSB Imagine T. I would also need to be seated in the Vandy's sweet spot to enjoy them at their best. I generally do not sit still for long while listening. Advantage PSB.


I strongly suggest taking several kinds of music that you know extremely well when choosing speakers. Listen for the speaker to give you cues of the musical space - reverb tails other such cues are so important in the musical message. Can you evaluate the musical message through the sound? Do your test selections demand the speakers' best?



17 November, 2011


At this point I owned a new integrated amp and eliminated the Vandersteen speaker on the basis of items described above. It was my good fortune to have received advance notice of the AXPONA audio show in downtown Atlanta. I made my reservations to the show, cleared my calendar for the weekend, and looked forward to being there. It was my first audio show and it was a tremendous introduction to the activity. A few of the showrooms featured computer-based systems and I investigated them all, asking the questions I could and trying to learn as much as possible. Not only was I learning about computer audio issues, I was also taking in all the different products and listening to speakers that I would not otherwise be able to hear. I was impressed with Nola, YG Acoustics, mbl, and budget speakers from Wharfedale. Obviously, the YG Acoustics and mbl models were WAY out of my league but I spent significant time listening to them because they were finally available to me!


My experience at AXPONA was most valuable because of the info I gathered about Mac-based audio systems including the various software for high end audio, and the time I spent listening to many models of speakers. It's worth the time to enjoy an audio show.

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Have owned the Vandersteens (initially 2ci, then within a couple of years upgraded to 2ce) for over 20 years. A couple of comments:




I quickly saw that their setup would be considerably more involved and demanding than the PSB Imagine T.




- You only need to do the setup at the beginning, until you get it right. When you do, you'll know. Shouldn't take much over an hour if that long. Then you don't have to fool with them for the next couple of decades. :-)




- Re price: Also include the price of the Sound Anchors stands ($200). Vandersteen offers their own, but the Sound Anchors are quite a bit better. To get the best sound from the Sound Anchors, tighten the bolts at the bottom exactly two complete turns past finger tight, no more, no less. Less will give less controlled sound; more will suck the life out of the speakers.




- What I've just said about the stands sounds very much like your complaint regarding "involved" and "demanding" setup, but consider: the very clear, specific directions Vandersteen gives in the 2Ce owner's manual, like the directions about the stands, tell you *exactly* how to get the best sound from the speakers. I count that as something favorable, rather than leaving me to flounder around guessing how I'll get the most out of something that's cost me a considerable amount of money.




I would also need to be seated in the Vandy's sweet spot to enjoy them at their best.




Yes, that is absolutely the case. Now the sound is plenty good enough that you and your friends can have a helluva dance party with them, but for "audiophile"-level listening you are correct. I have (obviously, given the length of ownership) been well pleased with what I hear in that sweet spot, but a sweet spot there most definitely is.

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