I love my Vandersteen's but . . . . . . . .

Over the last 35 years I have only owned Four different speaker brands . In the 70”s Radio shack ,In the 80’s ADS L-990's and Vandersteen 2ci , In the 90’s to present , Snell B’s and then back to Vandersteen 2ce sig’s .. You can see my current system here on Audiogon.. Do a search In virtual systems for Stumpies System ..This will give you a lot of info on my system.

Ok ,, Here is my question … I love the sound from my current system but there are times I wish I could get a little more volume out of it . Most of the time when I listen the Meters on the McIntosh amp are bouncing around the 40 watt area with “peaks” around 100 W . But there are times I wish I could turn it up some . If I try to turn the Vandersteen’s up the sound starts to get “compressed” ,, Instruments loose there air around them ,, everything gets thin sounding so I always turn it back down.
Is there a speaker out there that will play “bigger” in my small listening room ?
Speakers I have been considering are B&W N-804’s ,, Von schweikert VR4jr ,,, Green Mountain Audio ,, NHT .
I listen to all kinds of music . Light rock mostly . Eva Cassidy,,James Taylor,,James McMurtury,,Lyle Lovett,,Mark knopfler,,Bob James,,Larry Carlton,,Lee Ritenour ..

What to do ??? Any help would be appreciated ..
No question, here. The VSA VR4JRs. I have them matched with Mac equipment and the combination is musical, magical and dynamic; and, rilly, rilly big! Our musical tastes are very similar. I've had the Vandy 2CEs and IMHO the VR4JRs smoke them; they seem to have more clarity than the Vandys, yet without being at all analytical. I'v been able to crank them up without any compression or distortion whatsoever.
You need more efficient speakers or a 1000 watt stove.
With the 86db Vandersteens and 40 watts of continuous power you should be hearing around 101db of continuous SPL at listening position.
It is to my understanding that the Vandersteens are not "high volume" speakers.
If you want some serious "rock out" speakers you may want to try something on the order of 92db+.
THe VSA VR4SR is a very good speaker.
Possibly the high efficency Vandersteen?

Good luck!
I had the original Vandersteen 2s and found that the Von Schweikert VR4s were more dynamic and provided a larger and more dimensional soundstage.
My first Vandersteens were about 20 years ago Model 2's they were a giant step up from my Utah speakers. since then I have owned Accoustat 3's Apogee Duettas and Diva's [both died] after quite a few years use. I went back to Vandersteen 2 Signatures then 3 Sigs. While they are very fine speakers in accuracy and soundstage, they are on the light less dynamic side. When I would try to get them to ROCK even with my Krell 100 I would light the led's in the speakers.
I am very happy with my current system. I love the vendersteens, but they just are not everything to everybody.
Happy listening. Ken
IMHO, try the Dunlavy SC 4 or 5's. Happy Listening.
Congratulations on your "stability", I appreciate a kindred spirit. Some people move through four speakers in a year. :) It also means your next choice is relatively more important as you may be living with it for many years.

I don't share musical tastes with you, so won't make specific model recommendations. However, I agree with Bignerd100 in general: you need more efficient speakers. So look for sensitivity ratings at least 92 or higher.

Living Voice, Zu etc have a reputation for great efficiency and sound quality. Same with Green Mountains although they look like alien gadgets.

For another approach, there are great small companies like Tyler or Salk, basically run by one very gifted speaker builder, who build one speaker at a time and will be willing to tweak a design for your situation. At least it cannot hurt to give them a call and see what they offer.
I had a pair of vandersteens for about twenty years too. I now have the Gallo ref 3's. I love them, and they seem to be able to rock out with gusto. I've got the little sub amp attached, so there's no problem with base. Priced in the used market they're a steal!You can see them on my system page too.


Hi, I'm not convinced it's your speakers. More likely it's your amp that you're hearing. I suggest trying a different amp (Maybe borrow one) before worrying about the speakers. The 2s will play plenty loudly with the right amp in place. Since you have an SPL meter you will want to see how loud you're playing in the first place. The wattage is really irrelevant.
Just my 2 cents!
I don't think your amp or any of your system is at fault, you are just ready to step up from the Vandersteens for sure. The Vadersteens are great, but slamming dynamics are not thier strong suite.

I'd skip on the Dunlavy reccomendation as well. I've owned those for years and they just don't resolve enough or put out enough bass to justify those huge coffins in your room. They don't do bass anywhere near as good as the little VR4Jrs

You will love the VR4Jrs I'm sure of it. I own a pair of them and a pair of the 4SRS. They love power like you have and will drop right into your current system like a dream. They will play loud and clear the bass is awesomely tuneful and tight, maybe not the final word in low extension, but really really satisfying. If you gotta have more bass get the SRs, but they may not be worth it, the super duper value is in the JRs for around 2500 used. If you have the system for them (good powered amp (and a good one too) great preamp and source) they are AWESOME speakers, but again they will reveal everything about the system. Placement isn't to tough and they are very small for the full sound they make. They don't have a humongously tall soundstage if that matters to you, and they sound superb out of the sweet spot as well as in it.

Good luck and feel free to hit me up with any questions you may have.

There could be a number of issues taking place.

First, your speakers could be too small for your room. How big is your listening area?

Second, your speakers are not efficient enough to generate enough volume in your room.

Third, your amp is under-powered for your speakers in your room.

Since you do not want to replace the amp, more efficient speakers are an option, but possibly a costly solution.

Have you considered moving to a more of a nearfield listening position? The closer you get, the louder the system will be, I don't know how close you are right now, or if it's an option. If you can move the speakers and the listening chair, it is by far the cheapest option.
Since everyone has a different opinion here, I'll add mine. I do think you should first try a different amp and see if more power does the trick. But if you decide to move on, I suggest you look at Green Mountain. Coming from Vandersteen as you are, I think it will make for the smoothest transition if you stay with a time- and phase-correct design, of which there are only a few, Green Mountain being one. And their designer, Roy Johnson, likes to play music loud, so I think you may get what you are after even in one of his smaller designs.

Your room appears to be rather small, with the speakers near the side walls. This will be an issue for you with most speakers, some more than others. Just something to be mindful of.
Maybe an off-the-wall suggestion, but if you're looking for a "bigger" sound have you considered the vandy 2wq sub? It can make a world of difference to the overall sound of your system and may free up your mids & highs.
Wow , Thanks for the responses so far . Very much appreciated .

Bignerd100 I was wrong about where my normal listening level is . The McIntosh meters are bouncing around the 4 watt area with peaks around 50 watts. I just listened to Amos Lee “Arms of a Women” and the slp meter was bouncing around the 90 db area with peaks of 95 db . I confused the 40W with the 4W . Opps .

Jgiacalo which Mac amp do you have ??

Uppermidfi My room is 10 1/2 X 14 .. Im about 8 feet away from the speakers now .

I just played Jamie Cullum’s “All at sea” .. If I try to turn this song up where it sounds live the sound gets compressed and thin sounding . I’m I asking to much ? ..
Can't say enough about Green Mountain Audio speakers. Do yourself a favor and give them an audition.
VR4Jr's will do exactly what you're asking.
While I have been a long time Vandersteen owner if rock was my main intrest I would follow Eva Manley's lead and go with Tannoy speakers. She has had the opportunity to go with any speaker she wants and has Tannoy's because she has found them the best for rock music.
I would throw the Energy Veritas 2.3i's into the mix. I started out to buy a pair of B&W 803's and came home with these.

Also, some of my new favorites are the Ushers, but in the price range you seem to be looking at it would have to be one of their six series and I've only heard the C's, but how sweet they were. Love my 2.3i's, but can't get that Usher sound off my mind. The C's are probably out of my reach as well, but if the six series sound nearly as good I will be changing speakers yet again.

BTW, I used to own the 2Ce's and know exactly what your talking about, this is why I sold mine. IMO they lack severely in dynamic's when turned up anywhere past low to moderate listening levels. They earned the name Vandersweets. Too sweet IMO.
Since this seems to be a "praise the VR-4jr" thread I'll jump in. I owned the VR-4jrs and generally agree with what has been stated above. If there is one thing I can add about them it is that as the volume is turned up the character of the music out of the VR-4jr does not seem to change. It sounds the same as at moderate levels, only louder. It does not seem to compress, get harsh, or get distorted, just louder. In a way, it was a bad thing because at times I found myself listening at volume levels that were probably too high (as in hearing damage levels). These things sneak up on you that way ... and so did my wife when she was yelling at me to "TURN THE MUSIC DOWN!!!!". :-)

I think they will fit your requirement to "play bigger". Why not go audition them?

My 2's sound great. Until you turn up the volume to a level to rock out. Then they just fall apart. I tried everything. Nothing worked. I took them out. They have been retired.
I Have an update . I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before …

Back in July of 2001 I put together a 5.1 surround sound system in the family room. Anthem AVM-2 , Bryston amp ,, All Paradigm reference speakers . The two front speakers are reference studio 100’s v2 … This system is for movies / TV only ..

I just switched the Vandersteen’s into the surround system and the Paradigm’s in the two channel listening room . I’m amazed !! .. This is a big step in the right direction . More open and transparent , It’s like I lifted a curtain up that was in front of the soundstage. I listened for three hours last night and was amazed. This is going to be hard to believe but the Paradigm’s knocked the side wall’s down. The sound stage was much wider , higher , and deeper. I noticed the volume was down a notch from when the Vandersteen’s were in the system. The McIntosh meter’s were hanging around the 4 to 10 watt area with peaks in the 40 to 80 watt area. The SLP meter was bouncing around the 90 to 95 db area with a few peaks up to 103 db !!!! I couldn’t believe the dynamic’s !! There was absolutely no stress in the sound. I felt like I had plenty of “headroom” at all times. I know I could have turned it up more but I didn’t need to. Some of the CD’s I listened to was Jack Johnson’s “on and on” .. Norah Jones “come away with me” … Lyle Lovett “and his large band” also “Joshua judges Ruth” … Jenna Mammina “Meant to be” .. I have never heard these cd’s sound so good in my system ! The Paradigm’s flat disappear in the room ! The bass is so much better also ,, and goes way deeper ! The tonal balance is seamless from top to bottom ….Right now I have no negative thoughts at all (give me a month or two and im sure that will change) …

I do want to say this ,,,, I’m in no way trying to trash Vandersteen speakers . Many years ago I had a pair of 2ci’s with different equipment and most important a different room ( much bigger 25x17 ).. I had those Vandy’s singing !! Huge sound ! That is why I bought this pair unheard. I just can’t get this pair to “open up” with my current room / equipment.

This really makes me wonder what some of the above suggested speakers would sound like in my system ..

Another update !! …

I started this “post” last night but got to tired to finish it.. This morning I did finish it ( I thought ) and tried to post it but my ISP was down . So I went in to have another listen .... I put in Jenna Mannimina “Inner Smile” .. All I can say is I’m in audio heaven ! At this point I don’t think I will make any changes. I don’t know how many times I filled up with Goosebumps … I have NEVER had a system perform this good ….

Thanks again ,, Tom
I am sure this will cause some negative input but, I am going to say it anyway.
I won't go on about my decision to downsize. That is impossible to defend. But I will tell you this. I am using a stacked pair of Advents right now. I love this sound. I listen to 70's rock 99% of the time. For me, this is the answer.
If you want the fastest improvement, simply move your listening position to 5-8 feet from the speakers.

You may also find other sonic improvements too.

If you already sit nearfeild, then other measures are in order.
What a great happy ending, Tom. Congratulations!

As a former Paradigm owner (just like yours, except mine were V 3's), your excellent story doesn't necessarily surprise me. Although the Paradigms are sometimes bashed, I really think they're excellent speakers that do a LOT of things very well, including imaging. Thanks for posting your happy ending.

Scottht said:

"I am sure this will cause some negative input but, I am going to say it anyway. I won't go on about my decision to downsize. That is impossible to defend. But I will tell you this. I am using a stacked pair of Advents right now. I love this sound. I listen to 70's rock 99% of the time. For me, this is the answer."
Nothing to defend at all, and you won't get any negative input, at least not from me. YOUR ears trump any stranger's opinion. Congrats to you on the "Advent" of your audiophile nirvana.
I cannot beleive no one has aksed the question of the position of those Vandies. They need to be at least ( recomended by Vandersteen ) a foot off the wall. I have had them 3 feet from the wall. Ever noticed how far most audio delaers place their speakers from the wall? I rarely see them closer than 3 feet.

Also the recommened wattage is between 40 and 160. So to have them hooked to a 40 watt amp ( and then cranking the volume ) is not going to give much in the way of music. I would never hook them to less that 60.

Another option would have been to go to a more open IC, or speaker calbe. No one ever suggested that either.

But the bottom line was the wattage. That speedometer might say 120 on your 6 cynlinder pickup. But your engine will be screaming and struggling if you try to stay there. But a Corvette will have no problem keeping up that speed :)

Use the speaker for what it was designed to do.
It's not the speakers but the amp. You need more horsies under the hood.
Mdhoover ,, Thanks for your kind words. Its been 10 days since I moved the Paradigm’s in my listening room and I’m just loving it ! They are interacting fantastic with my room/equipment.

Kt_88 , , Every one of your questions can be answered by going to “My System” here on Audiogon . Also read my follow up post here in this thread dated 4-8-06 ,, It will also help you understand. Believe me ,, Its not my amp..

Stevecham , , A McIntosh MC-402 is not enough horse power for Vandersteen 2ce sig’s ???

Thanks again everyone for your input . Some of the speakers that have been suggested will be tried in the future ..


40 watts is 40 watts. That's all I have to say.
Kt_88 said :

Also the recommened wattage is between 40 and 160. So to have them hooked to a 40 watt amp ( and then cranking the volume ) is not going to give much in the way of music.
And ,
40 watts is 40 watts. That's all I have to say.

Kt_88 ,

My amp is 400 watts a side. NOT 40 . Not sure why you think its only 40 w ?????

I have a pair of 2CE sigs that I am running through a Tube Audio design 60 Amp and 150 preamp. The TAD puts out 60 watts a side. Prior I had a McCormack DNA-1 (185 watts/side), B&K 4220 (225 watts/ side)and a B&K 140 (105 watts/side)in that order. Each move was a huge improvement over the last one. The TAD-60 matched with the TAD-150 pre is by far the best combo. It throws a wide and deep sound stage and sounds more robust and open at higher volumes. I listen to classic rock almost exclusively. I have found that certain amps / preamp combos just do not work with certain speakers. I think that Mac equipment, IMO, seems to sound better with speakers that are more forward sounding. However, it is also a well known fact that Vandersteen speakers are very revealing of the equipment that runs through them. A well known Hi-end store where I bought my Vandys had a nice sounding powerful amp when I auditioned my speakers. A year later I brought a friend to audition the Vandys that I recommended to the same store in the same room. They had replaced the amp with an well known 80 watt amp. The sound was totally different than what I recalled when I first listened. No soundstage, lack of character, thin sounding. Nevertheless, my friend and I both agreed that this combo did not do justice to these fine speakers. Not trying to promote Vandersteen but, the point that I am trying to make is that amps and speakers are almost like a marriage. If the pair don't get along the marriage goes to pot. Just like amps and speakers

Oops! My mistake I confused the watts with the first post. But I must agree with Eagleman6722, there must be a marriage between the amp and the speakers. I have had Quicksilver M-60's ( 60 watts per channel ) matched with the Vandersteen 3's and you would have thought you died and went to heaven if you listend to them. I also know that Richard Vandersteen highly recomended Quicksilver for his speakers.

I also recall listening to McChintosh through a pair of Vandersteens one time at a audio store. And to my suprise the salesmen looked at me and said " this system sounds really boring " No I wont reveal the store or the Mac that was running :)

But if you ever do decide your going to throw away those Vandies..... Throw them my way!
Eagleman6722 ,

Thanks for the input.Very helpful and interesting story. I most certainly agree with you,, Getting equipment to work with each other can drive one crazy! This hobby can drive you crazy! , , But I love it .:)

Kt_88 ,

LOL ! Don’t worry . I won’t be giving up my Vandersteen’s . My wife likes them in the home theater system and wants them to stay there. So far so do I …

Thanks again for all the input . This IS a fantastic web site . .

A small, completly empty, room with bare walls. Gotta be some nasty reflections, peaks, and nulls going on. No wonder things get congested at higher volumes!

Before you switch speakers, amps, or whatever, try some acoustic room treatments. They will do more for your overall sound than any component at this point.

Bass traps, Wall panels, diffusers, all will do you some good, I bet.

BTW, I had my bother's old 2Ce's for about a year before I started my own system. He upgraded to the 3A Sigs with an Audio Research 100.2 solid state amp and LS-16 preamp. Anyway, I pushed those 2Ce's pretty hard with his Adcom GFA-555 amp. Can't say it sounded great, but did get pretty loud.
Stumpie -- It seems that you've found a sound you like with the Paradigms, but I'll offer some comments anyway. Different speakers do different things. I wouldn't get rid of your Vandersteens. They are excellent for small-group jazz, classical string quartets and vocal music. I have a pair of Vandy 1b's. I love their clarity, imaging and subtlety, and they're great for listening into the details of music at moderate volumes.

Vandys would not necessarily be one's first choice for listening to rock at volume, though. Amplification isn't the issue, either. I've got a 120 watt per channel NAD C-270 power amp hooked up to mine through a B&K Pro-10MC preamp, and even with the volume turned well up, the Vandersteens sound well-bred rather than gnarly. That's fine with me, because it matches best what I listen to most these days.

If what you're looking to do, though, is to put on some old Johnny Winter, George Thorogood, Stones or Aerosmith and crank it up to levels that will let you feel the thump of the bass drum, the grunt of the bass, the chunk of the rhythm guitar, and the sinus-clearing snarl of a Les Paul with Seymour Duncan pickups played through a Marshall stack, you might try something else. At the risk of being labeled a heretic, I'll offer a couple of suggestions. Back in the 1970s, I would have steered you in the direction of JBL L-100s, perhaps THE ultimate all-time speaker for listening to rock, but those qualify as vintage equipment and are probably hard to find in anything like good condition. These days, if you want some authentic rock sound without pretension, you might consider JBL 4410A professional studio monitors (available online for roughly $450 per pair, run a Google search for vendors). If you don't want to spend that much money, and don't want to have to hunt around too much, look for a pair of JBL Northridge E50 bookshelf speakers online (available for about $250 a pair), or check out Cerwin-Vega E78s, E710s or E712s at your local Rex or other discount store.

JBLs and Cerwin-Vegas are not audiophile gear by most estimations, but they'll probably be just fine for putting on some rock and cranking up the volume. Let's put it this way -- you sip fine wine from a crystal wineglass, but you pour back beer from a mug, and that's just the way things should be. As with everything else, your mileage may vary, but that's what I'd try if I wanted rock speakers with some bite.
Not sure I agree with 02pete about rock music speakers being like a beer mug to beer and jazz speakers being as a crystal wine glass is to fine wine...

As far as I am concerned, it is all music and a good speaker should do it all well ...as softly as you want and as loudly as you want...whatever type music you like....and all with accuracy and low distortion.

Try auditioning ATC speakers...they are used by Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, Lenny Kravitz and many other rockers and their sound engineers. They are also used by Telarc label for classical. They are used by TEC award winning engineer Doug Sax (do a google on Doug Sax Mastering Lab). They were used by Sony for SACD demos at AES conventions. Doug Sax mastered the Aerosmith "Toys in the Attic" SACD from original master tapes on ATC speakers (an SACD which got great reviews). They are used by Disney and Hollywood studios. The list of professional users is large....in all probability about a third of the music you buy (whatever your genre taste) will have either been mixed, mastered or re-mastered on ATC speakers.

You mention compression (a common problem with low cost drivers in competitvely priced speakers) and the fact that you wish you could really crank it up: the larger ATC models play loud enough to easily do permanent hearing damage and even at these levels they play with some of the lowest levels of distortion in the business....just be careful.

[caveat I am a proud owner of various ATC speakers for about ten years but I am not a dealer or a pro and have no affiliation with ATC]
If I were ever to buy another speaker. It will be a Proac model.

I had the good fortune to hear ATC SCM 100 active monitors at the house of a guy a bought an amp from last year. He played (amongst other things) traditional Chinese drumming tracks that were awe-inspiring. I have never heard such clarity, power, and dynamics from non-horn speakers. The giant kettle drums were "in the room" and rim-strikes "clacked: with the reality of wood against metal.

In the most hectic, swirling, passages of the traditional Chinese music, the ATC's did a fabulous job of keeping instruments and performers distinctly seperate while building enormous sound.

I consider them to be some of the most incredible speakers I have heard in a very long time.
Thanks Darkmoebius for the supporting comments, which help to emphasize that a great speaker should be able to play any kind of music well. It sounds like you were impressed with ATC 100 actives even though the Chinese drums might not be something you are very familiar with or your preference in music.

Some believe that you only benefit from a very loud playing speaker with huge dynamic range if you play rock or, as you mentioned, something akin to those heavily percussive Chinese drums. Some believe that you only need a very loud speaker with huge dynamic range if you have a very large room.

While it is true to say that strenuous rock music can certainly show off a speaker's capabilities to play undistorted at exceptionally high levels, the above beliefs, which are often based on this kind of observation, are in fact quite erroneous.

Greater dynamic range has tremendous impact on any music; it allows your ears to pick up more details by increasing the contrast in various sound levels within the music.
I think some people have the impression I listen at extremely high volumes all the time. I don’t . I will have to take the blame for this. When I started this thread I stated something wrong. What I should have said is; “ Most of the time when I listen the Meters on the McIntosh amp are bouncing around the 4 watt area with peaks around 40 w ”…When I had the Vandersteen’s in the room most of the time the slp meter would never peak past 94 db . Normal listening is high 80 to low 90 db range. When a system is working right and the music stays behind the speakers and gives you a big soundstage this is not that loud to me .

Ok .. Some songs can play bigger (notice i said bigger ) than others. Let me name a few ,, 1. Dire Straits , “Fade To Black” and “You And Your Friend”. 2. Chris Isaak , “Can't Do A Thing To Stop Me ” and “Waiting”. 3. dada , “ Moon” . 4. Lyle Lovett , “ She's Already Made Up Her Mind” and “ North Dakota“. 5. Olu Dara , “Bluebird”. . . I could name many more but I will stop there. These songs can hit the 101 to 104 db peaks and have a huge sound stage . I’m not talking “In your face blowing your hair back volumes" . IF a system is working right these songs will knock your walls down , speakers disappear and the sound stage will extend outside the speakers. The ambiance in these kind of songs can wrap all the way around behind you! The Vandersteen’s fell apart on these kind of songs. I don’t blame the Vandersteen’s . . Why ?? Because I use to have a pair Many years ago (2ci’s) with different equipment and most important a different room ( much bigger 25x17 ) that could play that “BIG” . . .

I hope this helps everyone understand what I’m trying to achieve with this system in my small room. Since I put the Paradigm’s in the room I can play song’s like I described above and I feel like I’m back in my old 25x17 room. If any of you live close to me you are welcome to stop by and have a listen . . .

Darkmoebius ,
Room treatment and pictures are coming soon to my room …: )

02pete ,
Thanks for the info but that’s not really what I’m after. I do like all those old groups. I just played “Toys in the attic” in its entirety. It sounded great. Slp meter was bouncing in the high 80’s with peaks of an casual 91 db .. When one can put in Aerosmith ,,, have the speakers disappear and be able to pick out all the instruments in the soundstage something is going right . . .

Shadorne said:

As far as I am concerned, it is all music and a good speaker should do it all well ...as softly as you want and as loudly as you want...whatever type music you like....and all with accuracy and low distortion.

Shadorne , , I couldn’t agree with you more . . . .

Thanks everyone , , All your comments are very much appreciated . .

Tom . .

If you like "Toys in the Attic" CD then you will be blown away by the SACD. The sound engineer did a fantastic job on the 2002 remaster....unfortunately I don't think their is a CD layer on this SACD.
I think 02Pete is on the right track. If you truly want to rock out on 40 watts and don't want to change your amplifier, seek out a pair of old JBL L100's. They are virtually indestructible. The woofers used a paper surround so they don't rot like rubber surrounds on old Advent woofers and consequently never need reconing. They do come up on Ebay from time to time. I got a pair about a year ago for about $400 for my bedroom system and it can rock the house with my ancient Yamaha CR820 receiver. Sensitivity is about 91db 1w 1m. Pete Townshend of the Who still listens to his JBL 4311's which are of course the studio version of the L100.