vandersteen no contest, it floored me.
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I have heard the Vandersteen 2CE Signatures in a showroom with ARC tube amplification. I found them to emphasize the lower midrange at the expense of the higher frequencies. They sounded smooth, but I didn't care for the tonal balance. I own a pair of DIY Proac 2.5's and really love their bass and midrange response, well extended but not at all thick. They manage to sound rich, but not at the expense of the high frequencies. I love playing cello and viola d'gamba recordings through them. They mate very well with my ARC tube electronics. They also have a relatively small footprint. I urge you to audition both.
A pair of ProAc 2.5's replaced my Vandersteen's in my listening room years ago. "Warmer, smoother and generally more musical" is an interesting way to post the question, but to me the question that most conveys the difference is "which speaker best puts the performance into your listening space". With that in mind, the ProAcs win hands down. If your electronics are not of high quality, the Vandersteens do a great job of hiding shortcomings but if you have the electronics---the ProAcs are keepers!
Have worked in 6 high end audio stores over the years. And my experience between the two are that I much prefered the Proac's. About what above Proac advocates are saying.
Personally, I don't find the Vandies offensive however, just like the old Mirage M3's/M1's. When I listen to both of those lines, I hear veiled, softened, colored sound somewhat. Still, I find those lines similar. And when it comes down to it, I find the Proac's on a whole are more accurate transducers, and more true to the source...more matter of fact.
personally, I'm not nor ever have been interested in the Vandersteen's. I do like the Proac 1.5's for the buck however.
Funny what this post asks. The Vandys are designed to be warm and forgiving and at their price point, intended to be used with relatively inexpensive gear. The ProAcs (which I also own and have for 6 years) are one of the most "musical" speakers around. They have that rare and beautiful way of sounding musical and accurate at the same time. They show me differences btw cables, DACs, transports, etc with ease and yet always sound good. It's difficult to push them over the edge. They are a music lover's speaker as opposed to a gearhead or reviewer's speaker. They put musicians right in my room and that's with a 10wt SET (small room however).
The Vandys are excellent for the money but are ultimately a bit vague and diffuse with a soft high end and slightly soft bass. But then they cost 1/3 of the 2.5s. You'd be better off comparing Vandy's more upscale speakers.
I would heed Tomryan's suggestion that you listen to a more upscale Vandy. The 3A Signature would be a better chocie for comparison even at less than 2/3rds the price of the ProAcs. Better yet add two Vanderteen Susbwoofers, which would brin the price just above the 2.5s and you will much better bass, dynamics, and transparency then avaaible from the ProAcs. Ultimatley a matter of taste, I have owned both and preferred the Vandersteens. However, both are excellent, so....