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Vandersteen 2C: Better Off Dead?

Imagine finding a pair of Vandersteen 2C Loudspeakers on the curb down the block from your house. Our summer DIY project has begun.

Free Vandersteen 2c Loudspeakers left on the curb

Now that’s a damn shame when folks throwing away a perfectly good pair of Vandersteen 2Cs like that…

You read that correctly.

The other night while taking a walk to the beach with my wife and Tyrion who desperately wanted to hang out in front of the 7-Eleven on Ocean Avenue hoping that a certain Cocker Spaniel would be out for her dusk stroll — I stumbled upon a pair of Vandersteen 2C Loudspeakers that someone had left on the curb.

Vandersteen 2c Loudspeakers left curbside

My wife groaned as I kvetched about how I needed to run home and get the SUV so that I could take them home for a more detailed inspection.

“Don’t you already have enough loudspeakers?”

“These are Vandersteen 2Cs!”

“I’m sure they are. Can we keep walking?”

SoundStage! Publisher and Founder, Doug Schneider, texted me that I needed to take them.

“Let Doug drive down from Canada. Why not ask Brian to drive from California?”

“That’s not practical. These are Vandersteen 2Cs!”

My wife stood on the corner with the dog as I ran home and returned 4 minutes later and began lifting each loudspeaker into the back of the Toyota.

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Vandersteen 2c Loudspeakers loaded in the trunk

The tendonitis in my right hand was already bad enough, but this made the rest of the weekend rather painful.

My brain focused on the possibility of restoring these and using them in my office which has more than enough room and whom in their right mind would turn down a free pair of Vandersteen loudspeakers.

Which will end up costing me $400 when this project is finished. Mark my words on that one.

Vandersteen 2c Loudspeakers in the garage

Vandersteen Audio

What about Vandersteen? I wrote about the Vandersteen 1Ci speakers in my recent Audiophile System Builder column and the feedback from a number of readers was that it was about time that someone in the audio press covered these speakers which are still in production. 

The Vandersteen 1Ci speakers are not old enough to qualify as vintage audio (give them another 12 years and they will) but these American-made floorstanders are almost 8 years old at this point and still very much in production. The Vandersteen 1C were available back in 1996 so the earliest versions of the speaker are almost as old as the generation who probably need to listen to them the most. 

Vandersteen 2c Rear Inputs and Controls

The Vandersteen 2 (and all of its variants) loudspeakers have been in production since 1977 with more than 100,000 pairs sold; a remarkable number that very few high-end brands could ever hit with even their entire lineup.

The Vandersteen customer is a loyal one; most started with the Vandersteen 2 or Vandersteen 1 and have moved up the food chain over the years at great expense. The top Vandersteen loudspeakers now retail for almost $65,000.

The Vandersteen 2C is known for its time- and phase-coherent driver placement, which ensures that the tweeter and woofer sound waves arrive at the listener’s ears at the same time, creating a more realistic soundstage.

Vandersteen 2c Loudspeaker Rear

Affordable Audio?

I know I’ve been harping on “affordability” a lot recently. Boring. Yawn. I get it. But as I was watching a superb video from Cheapaudioman the other night at 3 a.m., I realized that there is a growing movement within the community that understands that high-end audio can’t grow without a serious conversation about affordability and teaching people how to properly build a system within a budget that doesn’t involve selling a kidney.

I’ve been there. On the other side. During 7 years of insanity in my mid-30s, I spent more than $70,000 on high-end audio/video equipment. 

How much of it do I own today?

Products like the Q Acoustics 5040 and Acoustic Energy AE100 MKII interest me a lot more these days than products that very few people can afford. The response to our vintage audio coverage also convinces me that consumers are not against the convergence of old and new.

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Summer Project

Having schlepped the Vandersteen 2C home and into our garage, we noticed that the “socks” were slightly discolored and that someone was most certainly smoking around these loudspeakers.

Vandersteen will sell you replacement socks for the cabinet and we were curious to examine all of the drivers more closely.

Vandersteen 2c Loudspeaker Without Grille

The two 8″ plastic-cone woofers need to be refoamed and that’s going to be a summer job; along with sanding the top and bottom plates and staining them again.

The tweeters and midrange drivers look physically fine but we’re going to remove all of them and inspect them.

The best part of living in New Jersey is that we have access to John Rutan who is one of the best and most knowledgeable Vandersteen dealers in the world.

Audio Connection is about 60 miles from home and we’ve already had a detailed discussion about the loudspeakers and a plan of action.

A pair of restored Vandersteen 2C Loudspeakers will be making their appearance in the not-to-distant future in my office system and we’re already figuring out the rest of the system to drive them with.

For more information: vandersteen.com

Related reading:

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Catherine Lugg

    April 28, 2023 at 3:08 pm

    Congrats on recycling some potentially outstanding speakers. Please keep us posted as things evolve.

    • Ian White

      April 28, 2023 at 6:15 pm

      Catherine,

      I was so shocked to find them. Like who tosses a pair of Vandersteen loudspeakers? I was fortunate it that they were less than 5 minutes from home.

      I’ve already removed the socks and begun to clean up the top/bottom caps. Sanded and awaiting a new finish. There was some water damage on the top of one of them.

      I also spoke with the best Vandersteen dealer in NJ and he’s examining all of the drivers this week. I’m pretty sure one of the 8″ drivers just needs a refoam. One might be DOA.

      Having examined the baffle and cabinet, I’m going to sand them down a bit and repaint them with a gloss black finish. There is a chance that I won’t replace the socks because they are a PITA to put on and I might prefer the sound with them off.

      Best,

      Ian

      • Mike

        April 30, 2023 at 6:53 pm

        Im sure I felt similarly passionate as I re-foamed and revamped my Dahlquist DQ 20i’s several years ago. I’ve since sold them and now have a soundbar. But a darned good one!

  2. Jonathan

    April 28, 2023 at 3:24 pm

    I own the 2ce’s and absolutely love them. Curious to hear what you come up with for the rest of your system.

    • Ian White

      April 28, 2023 at 6:16 pm

      Jonathan,

      I’m definitely learning towards vintage 90s amplifiers and a tube preamp or DAC/preamp and tube phono stage. Bryston, Aragon, or even a Threshold.

      Best,

      Ian

  3. ORT

    April 28, 2023 at 3:28 pm

    This is the highest honor, the care and restoration of a Foundling. “This is the Way”…

    Din ORT

    Yes, I am such a NERD. And happily so.

    • Ian White

      April 28, 2023 at 6:17 pm

      DIN ORT,

      Let’s hope the Force is strong with this one. Left to languish in a cave was he. Just like Maul. And we know how that turned out.

      IW

  4. Asa

    April 28, 2023 at 7:26 pm

    My guess is someone’s son/daughter/relative was responsible for someone’s estate after a passing and saw these old/antiquated pieces of “furniture” and tossed them to the wind. Your wife sounds like where mine is at…re: go fast car parts. “Don’t you have one of those?” Not exactly!

    One person’ junk is…and audiophile adventure! Nice find and what luck. Looking forward to seeing these come to life…”I’m not dead yet”!

    I guess this is also the reason people go to estate sales/flea markets, etc….little gems abound.

  5. Jeffrey Stratton

    April 29, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    I had a pair 2Ce’s that were stolen along wit an Adcom GFA545-II/Adcom GFP565.Replaced the Adcoms with a vintage Fisher X202 tube integrated amp (17-20 wpc) and a pair of Klipsch Tangent 30’s.Two way with 2-8″ woofers an an 8″ horn. Not impressed. Pick up a pair of 2Ce Signatures. The Fisher was MAGIC on most music but ran out of gas on large, dynamic orchestral works. Stravinsky’s Le Sacrè du Printemps, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet etc. Picked up an Adcom GFA555-II,GFP565,ACE515,excellent low cost amplification chain for the Vandersteen’s. The strengths of the Adcoms complement the Vandersteens and vice versa.the primary criticism of Adcom is they are overly bright and a grainy treble.Vandersteen’s detractors complain that Vandy’s are veiled,muted,uninvolving.y system exhibits none of these sins. Not to my ear, and that is who I’m trying to please.

    • Ian White

      April 29, 2023 at 6:51 pm

      Jeffrey,

      Adcom is definitely on my list. Especially the Nelson Pass-designed gear.

      Best,

      Ian White

  6. Ric

    April 29, 2023 at 9:00 pm

    A good vintage Parasound amp would compliment the 2C’s. I had used a B&K ST 70 that sounded good too. Older Vandersteen’s are more musical than the newer more analytical versions IMO.

  7. 2ce Suck!

    May 4, 2023 at 9:49 am

    I owned a pair 20 years ago and they sucked – utter crap. I even sent mine down to a loudspeaker guru repair guy and one of the bass units was not in spec – i was excited to get them back and sadly they were just as bad as ever – my hearing was perfect that tweeter was a turd – nothing sounded natural – compared to my BP 10b -rubbish ,Kappa 9 a slaughter half the music was missing with the 2ce -the Mirage M3sci just a slaughter – i would have chucked them to the curve -fortunately a mate wanted to get speakers and I said grab the BP10B – no he had read reviews of the 2ce! and insisted on that pair = anyway he never spoke to me again Ha Ha.

  8. 2ce Suck!

    May 4, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks for allowing the post – because it was 100% true except I had 7 other sets of speakers and this was last of all.
    Anyway I still think the project is worth it – but get radicle – DEQX ?
    or go cheap Behringer DCX2496 – I own both. Restoring the 2c to all its glory is a waste of time. Active will transform this rubbish

    • Ian White

      May 4, 2023 at 3:10 pm

      I will let you know in about 4 weeks if I think they suck. Driven by some really high-end vintage amplifiers from the 1990s. Which definitely don’t suck.

      Best,

      Ian White

  9. James

    May 4, 2023 at 8:11 pm

    I first heard the 2c’s in ’88 at a little audio store near my house (it’s still there!). Cowboy Junkies Trinity Sessions was playing on them. I bought them on the spot. They now live at my lake house powered by Audio Refinement Complete gear. Long live the 2c’s!

    • Ian White

      May 4, 2023 at 8:46 pm

      James,

      That’s great to read. How much power did you find that they need?

      Best,

      Ian White

      • James W Rolland

        May 17, 2023 at 5:22 pm

        The 50wpc delivered by the audio Refinement amp is absolutely sufficient.

        • Ian White

          May 17, 2023 at 5:23 pm

          James,

          Great to find this out. Thank you.

          Ian White

  10. Gavin

    May 5, 2023 at 3:39 pm

    Parasound Halo A21 works great on the 2CE signatures.

    Recently removed socks also to confirm the passive radiators are in good order as one side was visited and marked quite vigorously by a visitor of the feline kind.

    All seems to be in order apart from some surface mould spots and a fair amount of dust of the 8 and 4.5inch woofer and midrange driver.

    As they are already been standing for some time it gave me opportunity to try them on a Purify Class D based amp. Suffice to say they still provide great sound.

    Just be warned you need lots of patience to remove the great number of staples holding down top of sock and some tricky to reach ones around the crossover plate, especially if you don’t have the ideal tool to remove them.

    • Ian White

      May 5, 2023 at 6:00 pm

      Gavin,

      I found that out with the staples. Took some time.

      I’m having a few things done.

      1. Top caps are being refinished. Bottom caps were in decent shape and nobody is looking at them.
      2. Both 8″ drivers have to be refoamed.
      3. Debating getting new socks. Will be in my office where the dog doesn’t visit very often and I plan on repainting the cabinet in a glossy black. It did have some mould spots and a lot of dust.
      4. Having both fully tested by a local Vandersteen dealer than was highly recommended by Richard Vandersteen.
      5. Dealer is attaching the Sound Anchor stands.

      Best,
      Ian White

  11. Gavin

    May 9, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    A cringe worthy aspect for me also is to see if previous owner changed the tone contour levels (tweeter/midrange). They, unless having a hearing problem, should be untouched i.m.o.

    Critical also is to read the owners manual regarding proper placement and to apply correct “rake” / angle with a wire and nut.

    Not so sure if older models with fixed stands allowed it.

    • Ian White

      May 9, 2023 at 3:05 pm

      Gavin,

      They were set to the default setting and I’m having the better Sound Anchors stands installed.

      Best,

      Ian

  12. Chris long

    June 5, 2023 at 6:21 pm

    Great read. Looks like a fun project. I too have a pair of Model 2C and find them to be spectacular, but very power hungry. Boosting up my watts made a big difference. I’m curious why the drivers need to be re-foamed. I was led to believe that all the mid-eighties Model 2s had rubber surrounds that should last for decades. In fact, the Vandersteen site says if the surrounds are black, they are rubber. Greyish surrounds are foam and will deteriorate. The photos of yours appear to be black and intact. Is there damage that is not seen? Also, I’ve seen some photos where people used a lighter grey material as a sock and made them much more modern looking. You could actually use any type of spandex material for removable socks held in place with adhesive velcro strips around the top and bottom. There’s hundreds of choices to match any decor. Best of luck with the project.

    • Ian White

      June 6, 2023 at 1:10 am

      Chris,

      You are correct. The ones I found have the rubber surrounds but they are not connected to the driver. I already sanded and repainted the cabinet. It was badly scuffed in a bunch of places and I’m not sure I’m getting new socks. I want to see how they sound without them first.

      They will be going in my office where I don’t care so much about the final look.

      Best,

      Ian White

  13. Ega

    October 31, 2023 at 11:46 pm

    Hi Ian – I’m just curious about the end result of these speakers. Di you restored them, if so could you share some details about your project. I found a pair of 2c for less than $100 but one of them is just a shell the other looks complete (no socks on both). I thought of buying them but I’ve hear is not worth to restore these speakers. I haven’t come across a post saying otherwise.

    • Ian White

      November 1, 2023 at 1:09 am

      Ega,

      I ended up putting the speakers into storage for now after sanding the two caps, acquiring new grille socks, and cleaning them up. The drivers were in worse shape than I thought and I could probably acquire a pair of used 1Ci in better shape for the same expenditure.

      Best,

      Ian White

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