Vandersteen Model 1Ci vs Model 2Ce Signature II
Audio Advice has been a Vandersteen dealer for almost 40 years. We will never forget the first time we heard them at the old Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. Some fantastic sounding music was coming out of a small room on the demo floors at the old Pick-Congress Hotel. We entered the room to see what was the original Model 2 making some great sound. Richard Vandersteen was sitting in a chair and asked us to come in and listen.
Richard’s easy-going attitude and obvious passion for music and how he designed his speakers was very infectious on us at that time. We spent almost an hour discussing phase accuracy, time alignment, first-order crossovers, and other audio fine points that sold us on the fact Audio Advice wanted to represent Vandersteen speakers. Having just started out as an audio dealer, Richard was a little wary of us and it took a couple of years to convince him to let us become a dealer. Fast forward about 5 years from our first shipment and the 2C had become the best selling speaker ever at Audio Advice. Some busy Saturdays had 6-8 lucky people loading those two big boxes in their cars!
As time passed, more and more music lovers discovered the Vandersteen brand and today, Vandersteen is one of the most respected brands in high-performance speakers around. You’ll find their products in mastering labs, recording studios, and record company executive offices all over the world.
Vandersteen started out with a very unique concept for his speakers that has proved the test of time. Rather than mounting all of the drivers to the front of one box, like almost all conventional speakers, he makes a separate box for each speaker driver. These boxes are also only as wide as the front of the driver itself, then stacked in a way to physically time-align the drivers so all of the sound reaches our ears at the exact same time. It’s not only a matter of physically aligning either. Vandersteen uses super tight tolerance crossovers to assure everything stays in perfect time alignment.
When you take a Vandersteen speaker apart you’ll think, how does he do this for so little money? The materials and assembly are far more complex than just a folded up rectangular box. It's about the cabinet or lack of. A good 50-70% of the price of some speakers is found in the raw cost of the cabinet itself. With Vandersteen's, you are just paying for sound and not a fancy cabinet as most of his speakers just have a very simple top and bottom with four dowels forming a frame for a sock that covers everything. A simple fabric sock saves them the money most companies spend on cabinets, allowing them to put far more money into what matters, the actual performance of the speaker.
If you have ever met Richard Vandersteen, you’ll quickly learn he is an inventor extraordinaire. Heck, he tunes race cars, builds his own airplanes, and modifies just about anything around him with a motor in it! This tinkering gene that flows through his veins has driven him to come up with ways to improve existing products over time. The Model 2 is probably in its 12th revision. Our only issue with these changes is the fact they have never really changed the outer sock type frame on the speakers, so a Vandersteen from 1989 looks almost identical to a brand new model. However, virtually everything on the inside is totally different!
The Model 2 has been Vandersteen’s best selling speaker of all time, with over one hundred thousand pairs sold. The Model 1 is their second best seller and least expensive floor-standing speaker. We thought it would be fun to go over the current technology in both of these great speakers and do a bit of comparison for you.
What the Model 1Ci and Model 2Ce Signature II Have in Common
We’ll refer to these as Model 1 and Model 2 for simplicity throughout the rest of this blog. When you put these two speakers side by side, it is really easy to see the family resemblance. The Model 1 looks like a little brother to the Model 2. Both have the same type of open wood finished top plate with its signature fabric grill. They are both covered in fabric that reaches all the way to the bottom of the wood plate. You’ll be able to get these Vandersteens in a variety of wood veneer finishes to complement the black fabric grill.
There is an optional stand designed specifically for each model that tilts the speaker slightly back. More importantly, each stand adds a three-point adjustable spike system to get them perfectly level and keep them from rocking on carpeted surfaces. We also like the fact you can fill these hollow stands with sand or shot to really weigh them down, which adds another level of improvement to both models. The stands bolt to the bottom of the speaker with substantial ¼” bolts for a very solid connection.
While banana plugs dominate the speaker connection market (thank goodness most companies finally dropped those push pin connections), Vandersteen opts for a barrier strip connection. This is designed to take a U-shaped speaker wire connector (commonly called a spade lug) with the ability to tighten down a large screw head over the top of the lug for a super tight connection. The barrier strip does give you a tighter connection and more surface contact area than a banana plug, so you can see why Vandersteen and several ultra-high-performance amplifier makers opt for this method. It does cost a bit more than a banana plug, but Vandersteen feels it is worth it. The Model 2 does offer a bi-wire connection while the Model 1 is a single wire connection.
As you read above, for the most part, each speaker driver is in its own separate cabinet. These are stacked to physically time-align the drivers. The front of each cabinet is only about as large as the driver itself. The outside face of the cabinet for the higher frequency drivers is wrapped in a special felt material designed to absorb reflections. This design reduces reflections from both the cabinet which has the benefit of much-improved imaging and a more open and transparent presentation. Again, you see this on some very expensive speakers, but nothing in this price category takes things this far. Of course, it is the simple, external cabinet design that allows Vandersteen to put this tech into their speakers.
The simplest and least expensive speaker cabinet design would be a folded up rectangular box with the drivers mounted to the face of it, with a little insulation thrown in to reduce cabinet resonances. Vandersteen speakers are about as far from this as possible. None of the internal driver cabinets for the Model 1 and 2 are a rectangle, all are shaped to reduce parallel cabinet walls. Vandersteen was also one of the first speaker companies to use lots of bracing in their cabinets. The internal cabinets for the Model 1 and Model 2 are super solid, made out of thick MDF and are also filled with damping material that has been tested to be the best for minimizing resonances. This does result in a solid, heavy speaker. You’ll need help moving the Model 2 as it weighs in at 60 pounds, while the 1 is 44 pounds. And that is without a weighted base added!
Vandersteen uses the exact same tweeter in the Model 1 and Model 2. Richard has spent decades improving his tweeter designs. This one is so good, it is also used in their $5500 Model 3A Signature. There is some pretty high tech in this tweeter too. First, it is an alloy dome that is coated with a thin ceramic layer. Vandersteen did a lot of testing on different alloys to come up with one that had great strength and was very resistive to distortion. Instead of one chamber like most tweeters, it has two. Vandersteen is all about keeping things as linear as possible and this dual-chamber design improves both the frequency range and linearity. The voice coil uses Ferrofluid for cooling. The tweeter is also damped which helps extend the high frequencies beyond human hearing while at the same time reduces ringing.
You’ll normally see this type of tweeter technology on uber-expensive speakers costing as much as a small car. It is very impressive to see it starting out at $1499 a pair! The audio result is one of the smoothest sounding top ends you will ever hear. Cymbals take on a very effortless, airy quality and stringed instruments sound almost like the violin is in the room. Great stereo imaging has always been a hallmark of Vandersteens and the latest tweeter design gives you, even more, pinpoint accuracy of the performers in front of you.
The Model 1 and 2 share the same woofer, although with the Model 1 being a 2-way design and the 2 being a 3-way with an acoustic coupler, they cover slightly different frequency ranges. When you are a speaker designer, one choice you have to make is whether to use stamped baskets or cast-metal baskets for the woofer. Cast-metal is far more rigid and resistant to vibration, but the downside is, they cost a whole lot more. By spreading the cost over two different speaker models, Vandersteen is able to use this great woofer design with cast-metal baskets in both models.
The 8” driver is also a unique design developed by Vandersteen using a Polycone that is mineral-filled. This results is a driver that is lightweight, and super resistant to flexing. Your ears hear this as a more natural sound with less distortion and far more of that low-level detail that pulls you into the music. As you might have guessed by now, Vandersteen tested metal alloy cones, woven plastic cones, and treated paper cones before settling on this type of woofer technology.
When you have a speaker with such high-performance drivers and cabinets as the Model 1 and 2, you had better make sure the crossover is top-notch. A speaker crossover takes the incoming signal from the amplifier and sends the correct frequencies to each of the speaker drivers. It should not add any distortion or shift the phase at all, which is a lot harder than it sounds. One of the primary design goals of all Vandersteen speakers is to have absolute phase accuracy. The Model 1 and 2 both have first-order crossover networks to keep the phase as close as possible to the original source. Both use far more expensive crossover parts than most speakers and they are even hand soldered on a double-sided circuit board for consistency and long term reliability. In both the Model 1 and 2 the crossover basically just lets the music come through as it was originally recorded with a three-dimensional stereo image that can be downright “like you are there” spooky if you spend a little time properly setting up your new Vandersteens.
Every single Vandersteen speaker gets measured against a reference before it leaves the factory to assure the build was perfect. This is not just a frequency sweep, but FFT analysis as well. Most speaker companies don’t test every single piece until you spend 10 times as much!
Both the Model 1 and 2 can be the cornerstone of a great home theater/music system. Vandersteen Audio makes a good variety of complimentary home theater speakers to pair up with them.
You may have picked up on the fact that Vandersteen Audio has been able to use some similar components in both speakers to spread the cost over two models, giving both of them more tech than you would normally get in a speaker anywhere near their prices.
Which Vandersteen Model is Right for You?
$1499/pr (for most finishes)
$130/pr optional bases highly recommended
The Model 1Ci gets you into classic Vandersteen sound for a very reasonable cost. They are a tower-like design being about 12” wide, 10” deep, and 36” tall. The recommended base will add about 2” to the height. The Model 1Ci is a 2-way design with the tweeter and woofer we talked about in the commonalities section. Being a two-way with everything phase-aligned, the 1Ci is very close to the dream speaker: a point source. If you take the care to properly set up the 1Ci, it can present a sound field that extends far beyond the sides of the speaker and portrays great front to back depth. We do recommend you get them out at least 12-18” off the back wall to achieve that open sound. This is not unusual for a Vandersteen but a common rule for almost all good speakers.
The 8” bass driver uses a transmission line enclosure to augment the bass. A transmission line design requires a more complex and expensive cabinet, but the result is normally very fast and tight bass. The bass driver is in its own enclosure where the sound travels through what almost looks like a maze to get to the slot where it escapes the speaker. You have to pay a lot of attention to detail to keep everything in phase through the design of the chamber and crossover, but obviously, this is Vandersteen Audio’s forte. This relatively small tower speaker has really impressive, fast and tuneful bass.
This design also gives you some efficiency advantages, allowing the 1Ci to be easily driven with a variety of decent low powered amplifiers. With its efficiency rating of 90dB, you can push them just fine with a good 60 watt per channel amp. They sound fantastic to us on most of the great British amps from Cambridge, Rotel, Arcam, and Rega. Check with our experts to see if you existing amplifier will work well. You can either give us a call or pop into an online chat.
We do feel the Model 1Ci is best suited for a small to decent sized room. As with most speakers this size, if you try to fill up a room with more than about 5000 cubic feet, they will not be enough, but 5000 cubic feet would be a 20 ft by 25ft by 10 ft ceiling room.
If you are after a speaker that can present an amazing soundstage, has good but defined bass impact, and sounds super neutral across the audio range, the Model 1Ci is hard to beat. It is so good that if you upgrade any of your components, the 1Ci will easily reveal the differences.
Model 2ce Signature II
$2999/pr (for most finishes)
$180/pr optional bases highly recommended
When the Model 2 was first introduced, it sold for a little over $1,000 a pair with bases. If you plug that number into an inflation calculator, it should be just under $5,000 a pair in today’s dollars. The fact that the current Model 2Ce Signature II is slightly over $3k with stands makes it in our opinion one of the best values in audio period!
The Model 2 is a bit larger than the Model 1 standing about 40” tall by 16” wide and around 10” deep. That extra width gives it a much bigger appearance in a room than the slender 1Ci. But boy, what that extra size and expense buys you in sound is spectacular.
The Model 2 is a 3-way design with an active acoustic coupler in the rear. It uses a cast-basket midrange driver that is identical to the one used in the $5,500 3A Signature. Vandersteen Audio has spent decades refining this midrange driver which carries one of the many patents owned by Vandersteen Audio. When you play an a cappella cut of voices on the Model 2, the way you can hear the texture of each individual voice is something very few speakers can do at any price. Guitars have a harmonic rightness that makes you think there really is a guitar in the room with you. Needless to say, we are super impressed with the Model 2!
The larger cabinet and rear-firing acoustic coupler give the Model 2 much deeper and powerful bass response than the Model 1. Don’t get us wrong, the Model 1 has amazing bass, but the Model 2 reaches deep down, measuring virtually flat response at 31Hz. This is another thing interesting about Vandersteen Audio. Many speakers just quote a response range, but you have no idea how far that range dips as it gets to the bottom. The better ones will quote you a 3dB down point but Vandersteen even gives you the 1.5dB down point, something we don’t see from any other brand we know of.
Talk about room-filling, fast, deep bass, the Model 2 has this in spades! You can pick out the harmonics of a stand-up bass easily and at the same time the Model 2 will fill your room up with rich, accurate bass on a volume symphonic or rock track. All good things come with a price though. Unlike the Model 1, the Model 2, needs a good amplifier to get things moving. For larger rooms, we recommend at least 100 watts per channel of high-quality power. We also feel they should be a little further out into the room than the Model 1. You’ll get a huge soundstage, bass to burn, and a midrange that will bring tears to your eyes if you power these with a good amp and take some time setting them up.
Another thing we love about the Model 2Ce Signature II is how it allows you to grow your system and appreciate each improvement. Over the decades Audio Advice has carried the Model 2, we have seen tons of people start out with a decent amp and source, then do many upgrades to the rest of their system, but never have any desire to change speakers as each time they make a change, the Model 2 easily shows them the improvement. It’s not unusual to see $20k+ of electronics and sources in front of the modestly priced Model 2, they are that good! It seems crazy, but there are thousands and thousands of Model 2’s out there that have been in place 30+ years with their owners still smiling like the first day they got them.
The Model 2Ce Signature II could truly be your last speaker if you want it to. Just don’t come and listen to the even bigger Vandersteens!
We hope this brief overview of the Model 1 and Model 2 from Vandersteen Audio has helped you understand the pros and cons of each model. Should you have any questions at all, feel free to give us a call, email, or chat with us. We’ll help you determine which Vandersteen is best for your system and then you’ll hopefully get decades of great sound that we at Audio Advice and Vandersteen owners enjoy.