Vandersteen 2 C
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It appears those speakers, Acoustic Energy, have metal drivers. Its certainly not the best material for a mid/bass, woofer, midrange driver. Its a strong material and offers the greatest amount of mechanical motion to sound transfer, i.e. they don't bend absorbing/losing some of the pushing force from the coil (I didn't say it well), but they completely lack any internal damping and this is why they just don't sound good. Granted some metal drivers are better than others, as there's more to the driver than just the cone material, but its a safe generalization in my book to avoid any metal/alloy (or ceramic for that matter) drivers, especially with what your doing and want. I've even seen $80,000 systems using them and I'm not sure why. Carbon-graphite, polypropylene with mineral loading, and well-treated paper cones are about the best three, maybe in that order. Kevlar's not a very good material either, so stick with "conservative" three. But that's probably why you're hearing a "lack of warmth," the coloration of that metal. It can be great for tweeters though.
For your price range you may also want to lean towards a bookshelf design. Floorstanders become exponentially more expensive to build, if cabinet resonance are to be controlled, and a good bookshelf can offer just as much bass, if the designer is willing to trade efficiency (all things being equal), but deliver better sound on up, like the detail you want (the designer tood that saved cabinet money and reinvested in the tweeter). But don't let me get too....I don't know the word.. if you like floorstanders I understand.
It sounds like what you really need is a good transmission line. That'll give you a nice two way floorstander with some real bass, and they don't suffer from cabinet resonances like bass reflex and sealed enclosures. Only problem is, there've never been many commercial offerings. TDL did'em for years but I don't think they are in business anymore. And Focal had the Daline 3.1 and another several years back. They certainly had bass for those little drivers, but its been several years since I heard'em. I believe there's a website called http://www.t-linespeakers.org/index.html There's alot to look at there and might point you in the right direction and even David B. Weems' book has a little TL project. But my general advice is, avoid the "high tech" materials and look at bookshelf designs to get the best product for the money. Take your time and maybe get some free auditions under 30day returns to get an idea of what you like and what's possible while retaining the security the diy route lacks.
Sorry I couldn't give a specific product recommendation (well I could, but I get tired of hearing myself say the same things and sound narrow-minded, and even I'm not for certain), but some general knowledge can get ya going.
I doubt that you will be able to find Vandys 2c for the desirable price used. Becides, these speakers need heluva amp to drive them. You can get Vandersteen 1c used for that price(quite reasonable)
I used to own 1c and they're perfect for budget high end or beginning 2ch. Dare to say that they also love high power but not as 2c.
The other suggestions about monitors sound also good for your idea.
I would recommend the Totem Hawk Speaker. The Hawk speaker images well, produces a large soundstage, is very transparent and musical, and detailed. Very difficult to find another speaker in its price range. The Hawk speaker is affordable and plays much bigger than its price and size. Lastly, the speaker goes well with solid state or tube gear.
I have owned Vandersteen 2c and 2ce's for many years. I also currently own an Audio Refinement Complete ("ARC") but it would not be my choice to drive the Vandersteens 2c's with it. I mainly preferred tube amps or hybrid amps with the Vandersteens. I downsized my system last year and the ARC amp was part of that move. I originally tried the ARC with a small pair of Monitor 4 speakers that I had been using with an NAD receiver and the NAD was a better match. I had the same problems you describe with the midrange. This led me to sort of a temporary fix (until I have more time to audition more stuff), B&W DM 602S2, which work ok with the ARC for now. Once broken in, the B&W's are a richer sounding speaker than the above mentioned Monitor's. You might be able to drive a Vandersteen 1 with the ARC as the Model 1 is a more forgiving speaker than the 2c (and a used pair should be in your price range). Many people (myself included) read the reviews of the ARC which claimed it to have the qualities of tube amps. The ARC has a lot of good things going for it but it does not sound like the tube amps that I have used (Quicksilver, Berning, Moscode).
I would recommend giving the speakers @ least 300 hours of playing time before drawing any conclusions as to their sonic signature (the little $300 AE's take this amount of time (plus) to run in and afterward they evolve into great sounding budget speaker). The speakers should also play much louder, without straining (or closing in) after this period of time. In the meantime, do not push them too hard. If you do not care for the sound @ this point, then look elsewhere, but @ least give them a chance. It would also seem to me that a metal dome tweeter might be a decent match with and AR Complete integrated amp and CD player (if these are the components which you own) as the conbo is not at all "hot" in the HF's (I have owned the player myself and have listened to the amp).
I change my recomendation! No Vandersteens! Buy from anyone else! And if you do make sure you have good dealer support because if you ever call the factory with a question you will get to talk to "Dick" and it is an experience that I would rather not go thru again. Buy from a company who knows how to treat it's customers with some amount of respect!
Dekay's recommendation makes sense. These speakers do take a while to break in, I think. Ezmeralda's comments about metal drivers are nonsense. - "this is why they just don't sound good" The AE-1 minimonitor was rave reviewed and has many fans who think it sounds pretty good. Same for the Joseph Audio line with aluminum woofers. And even the lowly AE Aegis Ones sound good to many people who have actually heard them.
Your speakers may not be for you, but it isnt because of the aluminum woofer.
For ~$500-600, is it possible to find floorstanding speakers that provide the positive attributes of the Aegis Twos but also give better bass/warmth? Thanks for your help!
Ans: Used pair of Spica Angelus
They are tricky to find used, they're big and ugly, but in this price range they beat any speaker I have ever heard across the frequency range, for imaging, for space. I have also heard B&W DM602 and DM603 and I thought that they were pretty bad ... no finesse. (I haven't heard your AE speakers ... but I've heard AE-1 and AE109 (small floorstander) and none of them come close to the Spicas.
Very low WAF ... but amazing sound.