Review: Vandersteen 1b Speaker

Category: Speakers

OK, here is a musciian with eclectic tastes and a spouse with similar, if even more refined taste in great music, whether that is blues, jazz, classical, rock, folk, R&B, or something form Peru, telling you that rarely, if ever, have I heard anything uder a grand that is more enjoyable.

The 1B's have a knack for disappearing when playing most recordings. The sound is nonfatiguing, and yet there is enough magic to tell you what is in front of it. I have had these for over ten years and orther than changing cables have not had to tweak them other than for setup.
the Vandy's have to 'see each other to sound their best. I have them two feet from the back wall and three feet in, with about 9 feet between them. They are in a fairly large room but can be enjoyed from almost anywhere, although there is of course a reasonably sized seet spot where the imaging and soundstage lock in. They image slightly better than they soundstage, and are best at sounding open, airy and smooth. I have auditioned them against other speakers in this excellent line, but actually prefer the sound of these for their coherence and transparency. the lack of the usual cabinet walls as well as the time alignment is certainly part of the story, but the driver and crossover quality must be the rest. No unwanted cabinet vibrations- heck-no cabinets! Voices are wonderful, as Tracy Chapmans first album or the soundtrack from Songcatcher will quickly show. But they also do a great job with all but the most congested classical recordings. For those, the limits of my receiver/speaker combination will make themselves apparent, not in any tonal errors, but in the ability to generate the scale and authority of say, a Carmina Burana or Mahler Symphony. Within these limits though, there is stilla mystical quality that comes from a tonal balance that sounds very natural, whether or not it specs out on an oscilloscope. Newsflash - my ears - and yours- are not flat, nor is your room, nor is the recording,etc. So their ability to sound pleasing and 'natural' may well be a judicious choice by Dick Vandersteen on which way to tilt the spectrum. Want more or less treble? The use of any coin in the tweeter adjustment slot on back will let you fine tune these beauties.
Efficient? My Ancient NAD 25-watter(6dB headroom) drives them easily. No tough load here. They do care about cables though. Connects, as long as they are well burned in are inexplicable not as good a return on investment. I have run Straightwire through them as well and they were fine, but really like the Tributaries at only $ 5.50/foot.

If I had all the money in the world, I would still keep them- I would just get a fast powered sub(not that the bass is unsatisfactory, but-you know) and upgrade everything else. OK, Ok, so then they would go in the bedroom and I would move the National Debt Model 2's into the living room. The point is, I would keep them.

Associated gear
NAD 7020 receiver, Linn LP12 w/Akito arm and Linn K9 cartridge, Pioneer Legato-bit CDP, Tributary solid silver cables, Arrici stand, $10,000 of room treatments passing themselves off as furniture :-).

Similar products
Hundreds of speakers over the last few decades. In this price range: B & W, Cerwin Vega(owned), Advent, Allison, Polk, Infinity,JBL, DCM, Mirage(owned),
PhaseTech(owned), Hartley(owned), and too many others to list.
Thanks for the fine review.

A friend's pair of Vandersteen 1B's provided my compelling introduction to Vandersteens. It wasn't long before my wife and I bought my 1C's, and we have no desire to look further any time soon (besides, the larger Vandersteen models wouldn't fit into the decor).

Early on, I felt the need to supplement the 1C's with an ACI Titan II LE subwoofer, mostly to fill out the lowest octave and add a bit of extra authority and ease to the overall presentation. The subwoofer doesn't come into play as much since I got a new and more powerful NAD integrated amp (120 W/channel C370 replacing a 60W/channel NAD 3300 PE).

By the way, 50 Audio Research tube watts/channel do a fine job for my friend who now uses a Vandersteen 2Ce's (he sold his 1B's).
Thanks, Sek - Ihave been contemplating replacing the NAD with either a tube integrated(Stingray,Aronov e.g.) or a stronger SS amp, as long as it is reasonably euphonic, perhaps a Creek,Musical Fidelity or whatever comes along at a steal.
Having the blessings of a good HT setup downstairs, I know what real bass and authority sound like, but I am wary of adversely affecting all the things the 1B's do right.
Are you recommending the Titan as a good match for the 1B's, or does the stronger amp make more of a difference?
BTW, is the ACI passive or active? (I forget.)
The ACI Titan II LE is an active subwoofer and crosses over as low as 35 Hz. with a to 24 db./octave slope. I do think that it's a good match with a Vandersteen 1C or 1b. But I would try an amplifier with more oomph first to see if that does enough for you in the bass range, because more and better power will add other benefits on its own as well (ie. improved soundstage width and depth, more precise and solid imaging, and greater ease and authority throughout the frequency range).
This is good info. I have a non-audiophile friend with Model 2's who needs to downsize (physically). His instinct is to go with the 1B's, but I keep thinking there are probably better choices, especially since he can spend more than what the 1B's cost. But maybe it is a great choice.
There is the Vandersteen 1C ;^)

Perhaps your friend should follow his "instincts". There aren't many speakers that perform like the Vandersteens.