Not Thrilled with Vandersteen 2CE Sigs - where is the first place to work on?


Trying to build up the system this year, bought some Vandy 2CE Sigs.  Have the anchors, following instructions for placement, built bass traps and a couple of acoustic panels in my medium-sized but odd-shaped basement listening area - still not thrilled.  Using laptop with Tidal and Dragonfly Red - and some stuff sounds GREAT (Steely Dan, SRV, Beck, Dire Straits, Wilco) - but disappointed in a lot of other stuff.  Some objective opinions on where my issues might lie?  Expectations too high? Hearing the truth of production variations?  Running an NAD C272 at 150WPC and an original 1979 APT Holman Pre Amp.  Not MAC, Bryston, etc - but was expecting more.  Thoughts? Rebuild/recap the APT?  Amp upgrade?  Where might the low-hanging fruit be?
gjinwi
Owned 2CE years ago.  If they are uninspiring,  move on. I found them over time to be too wooly, flabby. Learning experience.   
Regarding your preamp, do you have another source like a CD player or turntable to test with or can you borrow one? If another source sounds good then maybe it's not the pre. For your digital source, I put in a Node 2i hard wired ethernet and ditched the laptop. Big improvement there for me. Then upgrade to a better DAC.
I had 2ce sigII loved them replaced with Quatros
you need a better source and DAC laptops and desktop have programs running in the background causing noise 
what is the sound missing is the basement finished need more info
the Vandersteens are not the weak link and are the bases filled with steel shot and sand
its a journey you have to start somewhere 
@gjinwi I completely agree with douglas_schroeder. I struggled with the 2ce for a long time. It is a very laid back speaker. Wooly is a good adjective. Colored and veiled are others I would use. 

I tried different amps, cables, high-pass filters, changed rooms, and worked on speaker placement until I was blue in the face, but ultimately I decided that I couldn't live with them any longer. 

I also agree with your sentiment that they sounded stellar with only the very best audio recordings. I would dump them and seek out opinions on speakers that are more aligned with your listening preferences. 
I agree with nwres, that’s the way they sound.

Oz
Incidentally, I currently own the Vandy 1ci's with a 2wq sub and am far happier than I ever was with the 2's. YMMV 
Basement is finished - drywalled ceiling and walls, carpet.  Anchors are filled.  I agree with the "veiled" comment - mids and highs sometimes feel like they have a film on them... Low volume is not real pleasant, full, or thick.  Higher volumes (when my wife starts texting from upstairs) can be enjoyable with the right stuff.  Thanks for the input so far!
You need to be more specific about what you’re not liking about the sound and what recordings aren’t sounding good to you, otherwise you’re just spinning everyone’s wheels here. 
I have a similar problem with the list of music that you presented. A lot of music sounds great and a lot of music is so so. It’s a bummer but I don’t know how much more you can do to fix it. Do you believe in tone controls? You could join rune and Use the equalizer’s and different filters that they offer. That’s pretty much what I do, when there’s something that sounds like crap  I go in and adjust it and listen to the album. I have different settings for different albums so that when I want to listen to some thing I just push the button and it automatically changes the settings. I think that’s the easiest and least expensive way to go do you feel like you’re
Some recordings are just bad no matter which system they are played on 
That is the way they are supposed to sound- they are Vandersteens!
Also they are ridiculous power hogs- 86dB! Why does anyone buy these things? What do you expect?? Sorry, but it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s much better choices around that price, ones that are so easy to drive you can go to a by far superior sounding lower power tube amp and have a system that sounds great at low to moderate volume yet still plays plenty loud when you want to rock out.

One of the few speakers I ever had to listen to in my room, an earlier version of the 2. To hear what other say, sounds like not much has changed. Do yourself a favor. Get some Double Impacts. That is the low hanging fruit. Then you will probably be able to sell your pre-amp and amp for almost enough to get a good tube integrated like a Raven Nighthawk. Which is more than enough power once you’ve ditched the Vandy’s.  

Oh and by the way everything will sound great with Double Impacts. I have Moabs and am constantly amazed how much I enjoy full orchestra, jazz, etc., but at the same time how much better rock sounds too. Every recording sounds different sure, that better be the case or you blew it somewhere. But with the right choices everything sounds better, and this is how you get there.
It's all in equipment matching and synergy. This is not a new idea. My experience with those exact speakers is a friend's system. Everything that I have to say here is obviously limited to his room and system layout limitations (meaning speaker positioning) He has the 2CE Sigs, Audioquest Rocket 88 speaker cable double run (2 sets for bi-wiring) per Vandersteen recommendation, a McCormack DNA 0.5 (which is in at SMC Audio for upgrade right now), (McCormack amps are thought by many to be a very good match for the Vandy's), a Rogue Audio Perseus tube preamp (tube preamps and McCormack amps are a good match up also), Transparent Audio Super mm1 IC's and Transparent Power conditioners and power cords. The analog side is an upgraded Rega P3 table and the digital side is a Jolida tube cd player.

He is very much a "lotus eater" or pleasure seeker or "musicality" driven listener. He's very much not an analytical listener. I am a bit closer to the fence dividing the "musicality" side from the analytical side but, still on the "musicality" side. That system can be very pleasing and fun but, to my ear it is on the "midrangey" side which, I think is partly due to some of the cables. Vandersteen has its fans and there have been jillions of them sold. They may not be for you if you want a more "high performance" result.

If you just want to get lost in the music and want to not be thinking about the sound when you are listening, find a McCcormack amp but, be aware that the input boards in all of the DNA amps are aging out and failing. SMC Audio is the place to go but, they are not a repair shop, they are an upgrade shop, a hot rod shop so to speak. Their upgrades are excellent. I can attest to this due to the 3 upgraded DNA amps that I have.
The Apt 1 isn't helping...it was an ok preamp in '79, but hell, a Rappaport, ARC SP3xx, Theta, & the little DB were better back 41 years ago..(we sold each of them + a few others I can't recall)...go with nwres' post above & take it and other peripherals out of the chain if possible, before arbritarily spending $$ on another speaker chase. 
What are the dimensions of your room?  I had 2ce's in a room that was about 12x13 with standard 8' ceilings.  I thought they sounded good until I moved them into my living room which was much larger and had a vaulted ceiling.  Completely different experience with the speaker really opening up in the larger room.  

Where are the speakers positioned in your room?  I found they needed to be a minimum of 1/3 of the way into the room if not even more.  They excel when you give them room to breath.  Playing with room placement is the lowest hanging fruit there is. It's free and can make a bigger impact than many component upgrades.

Your front end can make a huge different but if your speakers are slammed up against the front wall or in a tiny room even the best electronics won't make them sound good.  
Owned a pair of 2CI’s with the Sound Anchor stands years ago and enjoyed them although at the time my system was an old B&K ST 120 amp and a Sonic Frontiers SFL 1 preamp. It was a pleasant sounding rig, but agree they can be on the softer side of neutral. I’m sure the 2CE Sig’s are better but guessing as mentioned earlier they need room to breath almost like Maggie’s... at least the 2CI’s I owned did.

Totally agree using a computer as your source with an AQ Dragonfly Red not helping you much. You mentioned Tidal but is it the standard or HiFi subscription which is the better. If you’re on the Standard subscription you might want to upgrade or just move over to Qobuz which I feel is better, but not really sure the Dragonfly will show the differences. If I had to work with your system I’d probably stick with the Vandy’s and work on the components first, but that’s just my opinion. As mentioned the Bluesound Node 2i would be a piece to read up on and consider.
I had a pair of 2CE's that were in my main system for almost 20 years. The first thing I would say is that they are extremely fiddly speakers placement-wise. Need adequate room from the wall, and I mean like 3 feet at least. Have to get the rake angle right as well. One of the other commentors mentioned them needing a fair bit of power as well which I agree with. I ran them on Rogue Audio M120's. They seemed to have very good synergy with tube gear when I tested them.

You asked about recording quality being an issue and I would say that any true hi-fi system is going to poke holes in some albums that you love. If it's not recorded well, it's unlikely to sound good. I have albums I love that I might only listen to in the car because they sound compact with no soundstage or life on my system. 

Back to the speakers though. Vandersteen 2's are great bang for the buck if you like that sound. People talk about accurate and colored or all these terms and the truth for me is that different people like different things. It's what makes the world go round. The question is s do you like the sound of Vandersteen. Like tomstruck said, I like it so much I moved on to Quatros and am happy as a pig in shit. It's difficult right now but going to local shops and listening is how you figure this stuff out. 
where to start......lets deal with the egotist who had an unknown model 2 at home one time back in bancamp...with a quarter million sold since 1977 lets say it like saying I drove a Camaro.....

Some of run a variety of speakers and can understand strengths and weaknesses. i am a Vandersteen owner ( 7’s and Treo ) but also have in the various listening rooms, recording studio and mobile recording rack: Vandy, Quad, Apogee, Totem, Focal, Dynaudio, ....Bryston, ....

how far are they from back wall ? Biwired ? internal or external . what volume level generates a text from the War Department? what one cut sounds right, what one wrong ? a sketch and some homework are in order, PM me and i will help. how old is that NAD ? in the brown faceplate series ?

finally its a big ocean, you have a system.  you got some good advice on the signal chain.

finally, what a great world we live in where we have choices...but before ya ditch the Camaro, look under the hood. Ya know they built a few with the Iron Duke 2.5 L 4 banger...with the German Getrag box....
+1 mvrooman.  I had a problem w/ my 2Ce's too close to walls, moved them 8 ft into the room and the sound is completely different.  As for efficiency: for a while I was driving them with a 25 wpc tube amplifier and reached unpleasantly loud sound levels before the volume control was past 12noon. 
left out Thiel and ADS and....
op

this ... by soix... is the only post that is meaningful so far...

You need to be more specific about what you’re not liking about the sound and what recordings aren’t sounding good to you, otherwise you’re just spinning everyone’s wheels here.

if you are just belly aching here, then continue...

... if you want helpful input and advice... communicate what is posed above ^^^^^^
my vandys sounded as advertised only in a humongous room on the long wall. every other environment and position made them sound honky/shoutey to me. they will NOT work in a small room. my thiels OTOH work just fine in my small [14" wide] room but suck up the juice like gangbusters. they sound like the vandys did in aforementioned humongous room [very wide and deep stereo image, but narrow sweet spot]. 
I currently using the Vandy 2CE Sig II driven by Mac. MC601 (600) watts mono block and with C2300 Tube pre in a 12x12 room, the vandy is about 18” from the back wall and I must say the bass is very sufficient, good soundstage, crystal clear, and quiet at any volume range. It’s just a matter of setting the systems right.
You've just experienced that high-profile recordings like Steely Dan etc may not be the best to evaluate systems/speakers while they are made to sound good on anything and are actually an easy load.
I would eliminate the laptop and the dragonfly first. 

Steely Dan, Dire Straits, ect recordings will always sound better than a lot of other recordings.
Although probably not the main culprit, the Dragonfly Red is a singularly uninspiring DAC.  It's missing low and high frequency extension as well as dynamics and punch.  I replaced it with a very old PeachTree DAC-IT (the original version) and heard an immediate improvement. 
Had a pair of 2CEs that worked well in a medium-sized room but not so good in a small room. As others have said, they need room to breathe. The listening position also needs to be 9-10 feet away (min.) for a proper blend of the drivers.
I had 2ce with McCormack 0.5 amp and tube preamp. Did the setup according to the Vandersteen manual and talked with John Rutan (thanks John!). Ultimately, to me they were more veiled on the top end than I cared for. Sold them extremely cheaply to help out a young audiophile friend just out of college and he loves them to this day.

I would recommend you take tomic601 up on his offer and pm him. He seems very knowledgeable and a great guy also. 

 I think we could be dealing with two different potential situations here 1) It is not possible to have significant problems in a system and have some recordings sound great especially when they are known great recordings. You could change some of the components in the system and improve the sound but the fact that some great recordings sound great is meaningful. 2) you could be chasing recording quality and the only way to deal with that is to use tone controls on the recordings that need them or dumb the whole system down to the point that everything sound OK by trying a speaker with many drivers that smear themselves, a dip in the mid range, plenty tweeter(s) and up in the bass that play loud as for some audio enthusiasts enough volume cures all. I would sort this out before spending any more money because even though several hundred thousand of these speakers have been sold they are not for everybody. If you decide to keep the 2Ce Sig’s I can help you get the most out of them cost effectively.

 Best, JohnnyR


I had 2CI’s for over 20 years and loved them. A friend sold me his 2CE’s Signature for an extremely cheap price. Replaced the 2CI with the 2CE in the exact same spots, sounded like s**t. Figured it couldn’t be the speakers so replaced all system components right down to all the cables, plus experimented with different positioning. They still sounded like s**t. Stopped listening to system for 6 months. After 6 months, tried it again and still hated them. Stupidly, I gave away the 2CI to a fellow Audiogoner for free and ended up selling the 2CE. For whatever reason, they did not sound good in my system.

I was using a 175wpc Classe’ amp and an AI Modulus 3A pre, VPI HW19mk II turntable, Pioneer PD65 CD Player, AudioQuest cables and speaker wire.  I bought Von Schweikert VR33 speakers which were an even bigger disaster.  
OP’s equipment isn’t up to the task imo. Old, un-revealing gear. 
Tomic knows Vandersteens! tomic601

I had 2CEs for many years (formerly driven by a McCormack DNA-1 deluxe amp and passive linestage) and loved them so much I replaced them with the newest version, the 2CE Sig III. I have heard many great speakers in my 30+ years of hi-fi at shows and dealers, but nothing comes close in terms of value for the dollar, imo. I would have the Treo CT or Quatro CT if I could afford them. But I love the "Vandersteen sound." So do reviewers... the Treo CT is also on AbSound’s "50 Greatest Bargains" list, and there are numerous other glowing reviews. I’ve listened to other touted speakers which had a lot of snap and sizzle initially, but became very fatiguing fairly quickly. I’ve auditioned the highly regarded top $15K Harbeths, and yes they are good, but not even twice as good at my Vandy 2s, much less 5X better. I’d say 15% better, but that’s subjective. I would have multiple systems if I could afford it, with Maggies, maybe Harbeths, maybe Alumines or KEF Blades, or, or, or ...? Chasing perfection can be exhausting and very expensive, and all I really want to do is enjoy the music.

The Vandersteen 2, like many speakers, rewards you with the quality of your upstream gear ("Running an NAD C272 at 150WPC and an original 1979 APT Holman Pre Amp" isn’t going to yield the best results). My dealer says they have paired the 2CE Sig III with $40K of Audio Research gear and they rose to the occasion and sounded great. Their opinion is that the newest 2CE is better than the Vandersteen 3A Signature.

You WILL be rewarded by upgrading your amp/preamp/sources. CAREFUL setup and speaker placement is important too (not too close to the wall!). I follow the Vandersteen owner manual setup guide and fine-tune. My current room is 12x15 with speakers on the long wall and an 8’ throw to my ears and it works. I have had them in a bigger room (and may again) and that worked too.

I have a modest system, but am very happy with the results. Odyssey Audio Khartago/Kismet amp, Audio Alchemy DAC/preamp, Rega Apollo II CD player, and streaming Tidal/Roon via a Small Green Computer server/streamer. Good but not over the top cabling, but BI-WIRED as Richard V recommends. I have an AQ Dragonfly Cobalt too, for playback from the laptop and phone and it sounds good, but not as good as the rack DAC.

System synergy is so important, and why I don’t make major changes in my system often. I am sure I could find speakers I like as well or even better than my Vandys, at 2-5 times the price, but it may require changing amps and preamps etc. As we know, to solve an equation you use one variable at a time and in hifi those variables can get expensive. I would suggest visiting a great Vandersteen dealer and listening to a well set up system and you may be pleasantly surprised.

50 Greatest Bargains in High-End Audio (Absolute Sound)
https://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/50-greatest-bargains-in-high-end-audio-3

MID-PRICED

Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 loudspeaker, $2500
Monitor Audio Silver 300 loudspeaker, $1999
>>> Vandersteen Audio Model 2Ce Signature III loudspeaker, $3279
REL Acoustics T/7i subwoofer, $999
NAD M10 BluOS streaming amplifier, $2749
Schiit Audio Yggdrasil DAC, $2449
MoFi Electronics UltraDeck+ turntable with UltraTracker cartridge, $1999
Hana SL phono cartridge, $750

FWIW

@audioconnection @patrickdowns lovely helpful posts:-) and I have heard 2’s with the Odessy integrated, massive wall of sound.

sounds like the OP has reached out to John. He is in good hands.
Thanks tomic601 ! I would love to hear your V7's.
We have been selling Vandersteen for 20+ years and never had a comment they sound like “s**t”! We have sold hundreds of pairs new and previously owned in that time and experienced a few previously owned pairs that were not up to Vandersteen standards. Some examples had non OEM drivers installed or burnt parts in their crossovers because of age or abuse but still functioned albeit with substandard sound. 2Ce Sig speakers are 14-20 years old and may be on multiple owners with no one realizing something is wrong. I can assure you that if they sound like “s**t” something is amiss and they should get a complete check up.  
 JohnnyR
Most of us audiophiles are no different than you.
We obsess until we're blue in the face.
Here's a clue I figured out many years ago:
Regardless of what all these high-end magazines and audio salesmen tell you,
You are chasing a phantom.Something that does not exist.By that,I mean  total audio satisfaction. It sounds to me like you are trying way too hard to like these speakers. I had the same problem years ago with a pair of Magnepans.
Drove myself to a slow insanity trying to figure out what was wrong.Apparently, the Vandys are not your cup of tea. No big deal. Live and learn. Move on to something else.

@audioconnection ,

Johnny...........those speakers are long gone now, as are the VS VR33 speakers.   It never did occur to me that the speakers could have been damaged.  They sounded distorted.  I was with my friend when he bought them up in Nashua, NH and he never changed any drivers.   He wouldn’t know how and would have had me do it.  Maybe he blew something in the X overs.  At any rate, I spent a lot of money on the rest of the system and it really did sound bad.  
@stereo5 

I had 2CI’s for over 20 years and loved them. A friend sold me his 2CE’s Signature for an extremely cheap price. Replaced the 2CI with the 2CE in the exact same spots, sounded like s**t. Figured it couldn’t be the speakers so replaced all system components right down to all the cables, plus experimented with different positioning. They still sounded like s**t. Stopped listening to system for 6 months. After 6 months, tried it again and still hated them. Stupidly, I gave away the 2CI to a fellow Audiogoner for free and ended up selling the 2CE. For whatever reason, they did not sound good in my system.

I was using a 175wpc Classe’ amp and an AI Modulus 3A pre, VPI HW19mk II turntable, Pioneer PD65 CD Player, AudioQuest cables and speaker wire.  I bought Von Schweikert VR33 speakers which were an even bigger disaster.  



love it... need a laugh this evening

isn't it fun being an audiophile chasing the dream!!!  
I suspect that the Vandersteen, being hard to drive, have low impedance dips that your amp may not like.   Also a moderate priced DAC and streamer would help.  For budget purposes, you could spend about $1000 on a streamer and DAC.  And find a Class AB amp that is big enough to run these speakers.  A brand new 2-3K amp with about 200 watts should do this.  Make sure the power goes up as impedance goes down.  Benchmark, Parasound come to mind.  This is probably a cheaper route than replacing the speakers.  I would give the Vandersteens a chance.  I don't think they have sold so many of them because they sound bad. 
Teh Vandersteen’s are actually very easy to drive. I’ve driven them with lower and higher power amps and all have sounded incredible. I’ve never heard anyone say they sounded like crap.

Most of the time it’s poor recordings. Way too often we are hearing poorly recorded music or possibly damaged speakers or amps. It can happen with any good gear.
As much as Mr. Rutan would like to believe otherwise, not everyone is a Vandersteen fan boi.
Do not mistake advancement of an audio system, with its thin sliced improvements in sound quality, for resolution of displeasure of the character of speakers. This applies to any brand and model of speakers.

Confusion on that point can be costly.   :)

Although the perceived musical problems were not originally stated, I believe we have got down to it with lack of resolution, etc, excessive warmth. Woolly as a descriptor seems fair in the overall scheme of speaker sound, imo. I don't think they'll work for you in the long haul.

I don't think you'll significantly change the sound with electronics, although some may be a but suspect. I've always thought 2ce to be too warm, but have totally enjoyed other higher-end Vandersteens.  I own a now unused McCormack DNA-1  (and had an 0.5 and a prior 1.0 as well) as it is too warm to use with my present audio only speakers. I can barely imagine that amp driving 2ce's (I could cut out the beer) but to each his own 'sound'. They are long-term listenable in a way.

I'd vote ditch them and find a better/more modern design. You don't have to move to ruthlessly revealing either to get detail and better resolution than you have. There are plenty of superb reasonable choices out there.
vandersteen's success speaks for itself

older smaller vandy's are 'round' and full sounding speakers but with an open smoother sound, not so much for detail geeks

newer vandy's clearly have more high end energy... some surmise this is a commercial decision to meet modern demand for more perceived 'resolution' - others feel it is due to richard still voicing the speakers himself, his loss of high freq hearing with age has him doing this as a result

i think the op has set up and upstream equipment issues, and also a taste/preference matching issue to boot... what percentage is former vs latter, who knows?
newer vandy's clearly have more high end energy... some surmise this is a commercial decision to meet modern demand for more perceived 'resolution' - others feel it is due to richard still voicing the speakers himself, his loss of high freq hearing with age has him doing this as a result
I doubt this is true. The newest Vandersteen, the Kento, was designed by Richard and his son and gets excellent reviews, and the highly-regarded Quatro and Treo CTs do too. No one accuses these speakers of being too bright or hot, or being badly voiced, that I have seen.
@gjinwi .  I once reviewed a pair of 2Cs and did not like them either, but that may not be your problem, because the APT Holman preamp is notorious for what I will call " long life deterioration".Specifically, the PC boards on which they were built begin to de laminate, as do the leads because of a chemical process in the printed circuit boards used to hold the circuit.  I tried to repair mine, but it soon failed again and I gave it up to another local user of that preamp for parts.  When it was new, it was great, but it is likely not repairable.  Hope this helps.
@patrickdowns 

No one accuses these speakers of being too bright or hot, or being badly voiced, that I have seen.


not what i said
Vandersteen speakers are not woolly or veiled, nor are they hard to drive. I once heard a pair of the model 2(something) in a small room driven by Quicksilver monos which used, if I remember correctly, EL34 PP producing 30/40 watts. The resulting sound was extremely pleasant for an affordable partnership. They are not detail monsters but do entertain for extended listening.

I have heard Vandies many times, one occasion with a pair of huge class A Sugden Masterclass mono amps belting out lovely sound at high level from the model 2 in a large hotel room at the closing of last day at a show. They filled that room beautifully and without any sign of strain.

Take cognisance of the suggestions to improve the source. A computer with Dragonfly output is going to disappoint. Replacing your speakers as some have advised will merely give you a different perspective on the inadequacies of your existing source. The most expensive speakers introduced to your existing kit will simply more accurately reveal your problems.

The Vandies may not be for you but right now IMO you are not in a position to make that call. It's the well known garbage-in-garbage-out story.
@ OP,  just noticed this from Absolute Sound, where your speakers feature :

50 Greatest bargains in high-end audio

 ALL-IN-ONE SYSTEMS

Naim Mu-so 2, $1695
KEF LS50 Wireless, $2199
Bowers & Wilkins Formation Duo, $4000

ENTRY LEVEL

PSB Alpha P5 and T20 loudspeakers, $399/$649
Magnepan LRS loudspeaker, $650
NAD C 328 integrated amplifier, $599
Schiit Audio Mani phonostage, $129
AudioQuest DragonFly Red and Cobalt DACs, $199/$299
Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital DAC/preamplifier, $499 p.180 Bluesound Node 2i streaming DAC, $549
Grado Prestige Black2 phono cartridge, $75

A STEP UP

Polk L100 loudspeaker, $1199
Magnepan MG 1.7i loudspeaker, $2295
JL Audio Dominion D108/D110 subwoofers, $900/$1100
Odyssey Khartago stereo power amplifier, $995
Marantz PM7000N integrated amplifier, $999
Parasound Halo JC 3 Jr. phonostage, $1495
Technics SL-1500C-K direct-drive turntable, $1199
Audio Technica VM540ML and VM760SLC phono cartridges, $249/$649

MID-PRICED

Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 loudspeaker, $2500
Monitor Audio Silver 300 loudspeaker, $1999
Vandersteen Audio Model 2Ce Signature III loudspeaker, $3279
REL Acoustics T/7i subwoofer, $999
NAD M10 BluOS streaming amplifier, $2749
Schiit Audio Yggdrasil DAC, $2449
MoFi Electronics UltraDeck+ turntable with UltraTracker cartridge, $1999
Hana SL phono cartridge, $750


Wow - thanks to all for the feedback/input. John Rutan was very kind in reaching out to me - we've burned a couple of hours of his personal time on placement changes based on my not-so-perfect space with SIGNIFICANT improvement.  Kudos to John - super helpful, super nice.  We've talked through many details and following through with a needed repair/upgrade on the Apt, cabling improvements, etc. - going to knock off variables and stay the course for a while.  I highly recommend John - he's really helped me in re-learning this hobby after being away from it for many years.  Thanks to John and everyone that has chimed in - hope you all continue to enjoy the journey.
So happy for you. Glad you talked to a pro who uses the. Daily as well as other lines. Set up is so key to any speaker.