This is a tough one because these speakers sound so different from each other, it's like comparing ice cream flavors. Although everyone knows chocolate is obviously better than vanilla.
The Vandys are nice all-round, a bit warm and forgiving of source components; a touch light in terms of detail resolution.
The Avalons are more detailed, more critical of associated gear, and bit more on the lean side in terms of bottom end weight. These are probably a small step up from the 2.5s, with a relatively similar sound vs. the Vandersteen which has a different tonal balance.
It would be tough to recommend you by Vandys without hearing them. The Avalon would be closer to getting "more of what you have", and your other gear certainly seems up to the task. You could try to audition 2CEs, and then roll the dice based on how you like them. Bring your amp w/you when you do it.
I wouldn't be so quick to generalize on the Avalon sound, the Ascendant has a much fuller and dynamic bottom end than its predecessors (e.g., Eclipse, Arcus). I think it is head and shoulders above the Vandersteen and ProAc, as well it should be (sustantially more money).
Interestingly, I also have R2.5 which after 3 years, I'm considering 'upgrading' . Actually, more like buying a second set,as I luv the R2.5 so much for its soundstage, vocal quality especailly female ones.
I've onsidered Avalon but 1. it's more expensive 2 I also heard it's very picky about placement and probbaly need a much larger room (back and sides especially) then my current corner.
Have no idea why you think I'm generalizing based on older Avalons. I've heard the Ascendant, and am talking about what I heard from demoing them at one of the top Avalon dealers in the country.
I agree with you that it's better than the Proac, but that doesn't ensure that Nas will prefer it to a Vandersteen. To your point about price, its only fair to compare to a 3A or perhaps their new model, Quatro. All I'm saying is that the balance of the Vandys is different enough from the Avalons, that it would tough for him to dismiss them without hearing some. It could be "his cup of tea". As a former owner of Avalon Radian HCs($14k), I can tell you that at least one former Avalon owner happily decided to go in a different direction. Cheers, Spencer
I love the ProAc sound; if you like it too, why don't you audition one of the new D-20 or D38 (or whatever they are called) models?
The Avalons require megawatts of power -- and they are way overpriced compared to other speakers that are just flat out better. The Avalons also don't have the best dynamics. I think a lot of people buy them for their cabinet work and their looks in general.
If you're after cost-effective performance, the Vandersteens are hard to beat. And while they may be forgiving, they're also highly capable of revealing differences in upstream components. Also, the Vandersteens are phase- and time-coherent. The Avalons (and ProAcs) are not. This may not be a big deal to some people, but it's been my experience that phase- and time-coherent speakers do a better job of imaging and recreating the illusion of a live event. They just sound more natural.
But, hey, there are lots of great speakers out there. Listen to as many as you can. IMHO.
Having owned both original model 3 and 2C I can safely say the 3A Sigs are far better than the 2C. I can't imagine a subwoofer making that big of a difference as the 3A is simply better at everything. Vandersteens have their own sound, very mellow compared to many other speakers. I recently changed to Aerial after listening to Vandersteens, Coincident (a close second), Sonus Faber, ProAc and a few others (but not Avalon). All were in the $3500-$5000 range. What do you like and dislike about your ProAcs?
Thank you all for your responses (& don't stop just because I'm writing this!)- it is helpful to lean on your collective experience.
Sc53 and Scb6, I'm looking to move away from ProAc if I change, which is why I'm not auditioning other ProAcs (also, this is my 2nd set of ProAcs, so I feel I have some sense of their general sound). What I like about them is ease of listening & naturalness of voices... but there seems to be something funky about the bass- not as balanced as I'd like, maybe too heavy or something- which upgrades to other components has revealed. Male voices, e.g., don't sound as "natural" (whatever that is in a playback system) to me as female, and I think it's due to the bass issue. Also, I wouldn't mind more bass extension & detail. But most of all, I think there may be more "there" to be had with the right upgrade (as other component upgrades have in the past provided)... and Vandersteen & Avalon have made the cut to final consideration, the former because I've heard the 2CEs & was impressed (less so with the 3Asig, which was odd), & Avalon due to reccommendations.
My experience with the 3A Sig has been the same as yours. I have auditioned it and was not impressed. In fact, based on that experience, I would take the 1C over the 3A Sig. I know it can sound better, but I haven't heard it yet. That's why I'm saving my pennies for a pair of 2CE Sigs instead of the 3A Sig.
Quick note on Vandersteen 2Ce Sig vs. 3A Sig.:
The 2s are much easier to set up in an average room size with moderate power, etc. They just sound fantastic in most systems/rooms. However, with a little practice you can easily set up the 3s to strut their stuff in the same room. One thing to keep in mind though is that the room will play a major role here. The 3s have more bottom end extension and will excite the room more than most speakers. So while I'm not surprised that you haven't heard them sound better I am disappointed.
The 3s are simply a much better overall speaker. I would not bother adding a pair of 2WQs to a pair of 2s. Instead I would use a processor preamp to put in a V2W and save the money. It's a great way to go. The 3s will still smoke them though.
As for comparisons, you have to make those yourself. All of the Avalon's I've heard sounded great, but were WAY over priced for the performance IMHO. Also, the bass and PRAT were not as good for me as the Vandersteens.
Whoa there! Man, everyone says that the Avalons are lean, no bass, no dynamics, or very little of these traits. I have not a clue how anyone could come up with that. Maybe, they heard them with a bad setup or lousy electronics or both. I have heard the Ascendents( I personally own the Radians) with an all Spectral setup( I also own an all Spectral setup, as well as an all ARC setup for contrast). It takes about 5 hours of very critical listening to get a true picture of what any Avalon speaker system can do, not an hour or a cursory listen. First thing you notice is the sensuous midrange,it is truly addictive. The topend, sounds anemic, but once you realize that everything is really there you will appreciate that the topend is extremely integrated with the midrange. The bottom end for the Ascendent is very good, not quite as good as the Radians, it is tight and tuneful but does not quite go as low or as loud as the Radians. If you are a fan of the cello than this is the speaker for you.Power, I heard it with 150 watts, it was plenty loud. The dynamics are very good, soundstage is excellent, imaging is beyond reproach. For a dynamic speaker, the transparency is not half bad, but like all dynamic speakers, they cannot compare to a good electrostatic. Are they worth $8K, that is really defined by its user value rather than its exchange value. However, for only $4k, you can buy a pair of Radians(used in mint condition) that will be as comparable or better.