Vandersteen 2C vs. Klipsch Cornwall


Anyone have experience with both of these speakers? Any reasons to prefer the sonics of one vs. the other? Which one has better low end? Midrange? Hi end? Which one has better imaging? Which do you enjoy listening to the most overall? Thanks!
hi_hifi
Two VERY different sounding speakers!! Not an apples to apples comparison, not even apples to oranges. More like apples to rutabegas!!! IMO. YMMV.
The vandies win in any audiophile values shootout, but the cornwalls are the 'just get me off this merry-go round' product.A one-man, easy to navigate,khorn that says 'screw hi end, let's rock'. I respect the vandie,but here I'd pick age over beauty.
The Vandy will be better (i.e. more natural sounding) in every sense except senitivity - the Klipsch is VERY sensitive (102 dB/watt) and can use flea-powered amps. The Vandy needs power depending on your room size. Vandy's are time and phase coherent so imaging will be sublime when set up properly. The entire frequency range will also sound more natural on the Vandy compared to the Klipsch with horn drivers. As the previous poster says, VERY different speakers. You really need to listen to them first.
If you want loud, bass power, and little regard for choice of amp, the Cornwall fits the bill nicely. It will come with plenty of box coloration too.

If you want tonal accuracy, coherent music, natural and accurate reproduction and no box coloration, the Vandersteens are very hard to beat. Vandersteens can play loud enough if you have the right amp and the right size Vandy for the job.

While a valid comparison, the speakers you have selected are very different indeed. I have used both by the way.
Apples and oranges, indeed. I'd choose the apples.
Thanks for the replies so far and please keep them coming.

I own the 2Cs and I've heard other Vandys; I know the 5 is popular and I really liked the 4 when I heard those. I dismissed Klipschs (and JBLs and a bunch of other stuff) in the 1970s, and I know that from an audiophile perspective that the Vandy's are theoretically more tonally accurate and phase coherent, etc., and I realize we're talking "apples and rutabegas" as Swampwalker says, but something that Jaybo said resonated with me highly: "just get me off this merry-go round", and also "screw hi end, let's rock".

I'm a big ARC fan and have had several of their tube amps and preamps; currently I'm driving the the 2Cs with an ARC solid state D400MkII - which is surprisingly good and has plenty of guts; no doubt the system gear is all reasonably good including an ARC CD3MkII. But I had a chance to hear a pair of Cornwalls that were driven by an all-in-one (CD, tuner, amp nearly a boom box) with probably 26 gauge speaker wire with both speakers sitting side by side (a foot apart) in a small bedroom and I could tell there was a lot of fun music coming out; and there are clearly a lot of big fans of Cornwalls who have very happily kept their speakers for many years. And I'm thinking set up properly in a room with a good 300B amp they might just boogie but still be "delicate" and "defined" with good "texture" and most importantly, get me out of "analytic land". On the other hand, they might be fatiguing and short lived.

The thought of a 100dB or so sensitivity speaker that could let a tube amp do some magic is kind of intriguing - but since I prejudicially ruled out Klipsch (and some other brands) about 35 years ago it’s kind of hard to go over to the “not real official high end gear dark side”. But maybe it’s worth a try?

In general, I’d day that if after 35 years I’m still looking, I haven’t found what I’m seeking, and so maybe I ought to look elsewhere. Having said that, a few years ago I went on the full ascent and went for some Soundlab M3 electrostats and some mondo ARC and VTL tube amps and I determined that I could never get from here to there not because the SLs and the tube gear wasn’t great (the system was awesome in several respects; the detail, definition, and imaging were exquisite) but because my room is marginal at best; it’s almost big enough (about 18 x 12) but after listening and studying my room carefully with a spectrum analyzer I discovered my room just has crummy dimensions, reflections, nulls, etc. that all result in some strange frequency response curve. I came to the conclusion that the room is half or more of the end result, sold the gear and gave up. If I could build a custom room (probably along the lines of what Cardas recommends), I'd go back to the Soundlab electrostat and deluxe tube gear route, no doubt.

Anyway, being a committed hifi-er - I can quit any time I want, I just don’t want to :), I started over again with the Vandy 2Cs (and some DQ-10s which are also very good), but I’m stuck again and it’s probably the room – but just maybe, for some reason, even with or despite the room issues, the Cornwalls and a Sophia 300B would be the ticket. Or maybe the room is just lousy and I should quit fighting acoustics and physics.

- one last thing: I read that the big Klipsch's want to be in the corners, but that smaller models like the Cornwalls are less room placement sensitive; it's hard for me to understand how speakers don't have to couple with the room in some particular respect includng positioning relative to each other and relative to the the room in order to get a coherent image and a proper frequency response, but maybe Cornwalls can sound good, or at least "fun" in a wider range of rooms than more traditional "high end" gear?

My goal use to be to have near perfect music reproduction including accurate frequency response, with great air, imaging, texture, definition, and detail - but at this point, I'd settle for enjoyable and fun. I just want to put on the music and enjoy the music.

I guess the answer is "it's probably just one more crap shoot investment in some gear that could probably be resold, so why not give it a try?" - but any advice is appreciated.

Thanks
Another perspective. I have owned both 2Cs and KG4s and currently own Klipsch Fortes.

First, to correct a misconception, the Cornwalls are called Cornwalls because they work both in the corner of the room or at the junction of floor and wall, ie against the back wall.

At a measured 83db sensitivity, the Vandy is just teriffically inefficient. Granted, the impedance is relatively invariant and the phase angle is not as bad as many modern speakers, which makes it easy to drive. But the speaker represents the modern belief among designers that "watts is cheap". Which they are if you don't mind cuddling up with a nice high power solid-state amp or if you don't want to play your music loud, or if you limit your cravings to madrigals and Diana Krall.

But I always liked the small EL-34 tube amps, and could never get enough heft and weight out of them with modern speakers. It just was not a good match. When I switched to high sensitivity speakers, I was not only surprised that the 12-50 watt tube amps had the drive and heft that I wanted in my music, but also that the much lower harmonic and IM distortion products in horn speakers, as compared to direct radiators, which I always had believed were below the threshold of audiblility, turned out to be quite audible and just my cup of tea. Horns and tubes sound very relaxed and free of strain. On the other hand, they will never image like the Vandys. And though I only go to a couple of concerts a month, I never really hear this type of imaging in the concert hall, though that is for another discussion.

I will say, if you prefer pinpoint imaging, lack of box colorations and great clarity, you will enjoy the Vandys. If dynamic sweep, weight and lack of strain is your cuppa jo, you may just prefer the Klipsh's. The good news is that both hold their value quite well and if you make the wrong choice it should be easy to get out of.
Viridian, that was very helpful - thanks. A few questions, please/thanks:
1. When you mentioned pinpoint imaging, do you mean the Klipsch's have no pinpont imaging or that they have almost no imaging at all other than "stereo"?
2. Please say more about what box coloration means and how much of it exists with the Klipsch's vs. the Vandys and how that impacts the musical enjoyement or lack thereof.
3. Are you saying the Klipsch's have as much weight or more weight or a lot more weight vs. the Vandys? Is that a reference mostly to the low end, or something else?
4. What does dynamic sweep mean?

I do like "pinpoint imaging" but I'm not getting that in my room from the Vandys; I did get it from the Soundlabs in the same room - although that could be the difference between not only the speakers but also the ARC solid state amp used with the Vandys and the ARC tube amps used with the SLs.

And to your point, I would definitely like to get past my Diana Krall and half a dozen other AB recordings. Your description of the Kipsch/tube amp experience seems pretty encouraging.

- one last question; can you typically put the Cornwalls right up against the back wall without getting bloat or do they need to be out some distance?

Thanks - and if any other posters want to chime in, all comments are highly welcome!
First, I would like to respectfully disagree with Krisjan's statement that, "The Vandy will be better (i.e. more natural sounding) in every sense except senitivity - the Klipsch is VERY sensitive (102 dB/watt) and can use flea-powered amps." I take issue with this both technically, and in practice, as horn loaded drivers have inherently lower harmonic and IM distortion than direct radiators, because the diaphragms move less for a given loudness. Rise time is faster and the coil remains in the sweet spot of the magnetic gap. Look at any independent tests of horn loaded drivers, Stereophile is a good source, and you will see lower distortion. Is this swamped by secondary reflections off of the horns themselves, the front baffles, etc.? That is for the listener to decide. I have made up my mind.

The Cornwalls should ONLY be used at the junction of the floor and wall, or in the corner, which is the way that they were designed. They should not be moved into the room. There are other speakers in the Heritage range that can be used out into the room, Quartet, Forte, Forte 2, Chorus 2, etc. These all have sensitivities around 95-98db as opposed to around 102db for the Cornwalls, so if your desire is to go single ended the Cornwalls may be the better choice, but if you want a bit better imaging and want greater freedom in positioning the other models may make more sense.

And while there are those that dismiss high sensitivity as an unimportant quality in speakers lest I remind them that, if a speaker is 10db less sensitive, one would have to have a 350 watt amp to achieve the same loudness level as a 35 watt amp would give. But absolute loudness is not an issue for most of us. How you get from soft to loud is, and horns are very, very fast and have very fine gradations in their dynamics. Just as they may give up detail to direct radiators, some will find that the natural dynamics are a worthwhile compromise.

And what do I mean by "scale", "weight" and "dynamic sweep"? Scale is simply the size of the image. Weight is the way the waveform launches when the speaker goes from quiet to loud. In many speakers, the frequency response subtly changes as they get quickly louder and the bass becomes deemphasized. Lags behind or down in level. A speaker with weight will hit you with the full impact of the bass as well as midrange and treble as it gets louder. The leading wave front is subjectively complete with everything arriving at once. You hear it in the concert hall and take it for granted. You make excuses for it not being there with many modern speakers. And sweep is more subjective but it is simply an emotional connection with the majesty of the sound.

Horns do not image precisely as a fine direct radiator like the Vandys do. They are less descriminating about those things going on at the edges and rear of stage. The center image is usually quite good, having tremendous body and substance, as if the body is full. But the edge definition is softer at the edges of the image without the sharp image outlines that the best speakers present. And detail is clearer on most direct radiators. I am in my local audio club and when I listen to my friends great systems - much greater than mine - I, and they, listen to the bass, the treble, the image, whatever. Horns put the presentation together in a way that mitigates that type of analysis.

But there is a price to pay. Put your hands around your mouth and talk. What you hear is a coloration. A horn coloration. A little boxy, and a little nasal. My sensory gating tends to not even notice it in my horns, but it is there, all of the time. Every minute. And high sensitivity speakers require big boxes, which are less dead and resonate more than small, well braced boxes. Rap a wood table, what you hear is box coloration.

There is one final point that I want to make, and that is that it is my belief that modern speaker design has been primarily been driven by domestic aestetics (the dreaded WAF) as well as by the audio press. The same audio press that embraced the earliest transistor gear. The same audio press that embraced the compact disc at its release, when it was not an acceptable medium for the storage of music. And the same audio press that must sell publications with the new and the newer. The flashy, the elegant. I believe that in the quest for the flavor of the month, physics and engineering have been given a back seat. The big man almost always beats the small man. There are many more Goliaths than Davids. Happy listening.
Viridian, another very cool post - Thanks!

"But there is a price to pay. Put your hands around your mouth and talk. What you hear is a coloration. A horn coloration. A little boxy, and a little nasal. My sensory gating tends to not even notice it in my horns, but it is there, all of the time. Every minute. And high sensitivity speakers require big boxes, which are less dead and resonate more than small, well braced boxes. Rap a wood table, what you hear is box coloration."
- so color means boxy, as opposed to open and airy?

"But the edge definition is softer at the edges of the image without the sharp image outlines that the best speakers present. And detail is clearer on most direct radiators."
- why is this, what causes it? (lack of cut down baffles like on Vandys and DQ-10s? maybe the big conventional driver doing too much of the mid frequencies? or something else?)

"I am in my local audio club and when I listen to my friends great systems - much greater than mine - I, and they, listen to the bass, the treble, the image, whatever. Horns put the presentation together in a way that mitigates that type of analysis."
- I would be happy to get off the analysis program

The Vandy 2C supposedly goes down to about 32Hz +/-1.5dB (but in my room they don't seem to get there); the Cornwall to 38Hz +/-3dB. What would you guess would be the real world hearable differences between the two on the low end?

- on a different note, do you have any preference between a 300B, 2A3, 45, or EL34, or other amp design with Klipsch's?
I recently had an enlightening experience with vintage horn loaded speakers in a second hand store. We connected the speakers to a Bogen integrated amp of the same vintage. The speaker wire was 24 gauge connected directly to the crossover. I put on a Sonny Rollins CD and my jaw hit the floor. I thought I was listening to a pair of Quads.
I concluded this terrific sound was partly due to the small speaker wire and the high efficiency speakers.

Vandersteen 2Cs will only play so loud. It doesn't seem to matter how much power you have the speaaker hits a brick wall. Besides, if you push the Vandersteens for long periods you ruin them. The crossover heats up and the result is damaged crossover parts. This is an ongoing problem with Vandersteen speakers.
Descriptions like 'open and airy' will be gone from your vocabulary. The band will be in your living room..'Room tunes?. We don't need no stinking room tunes'. The cool factor is an 11 out of 10.
I've heard both speakers a grand total of once each. Walked away from the Vandies saying I could live with these and walked away from the Cornwalls saying yuck, no way. For what its worth.
"- so color means boxy, as opposed to open and airy?"

Correct.

"- why is this, what causes it?"

I am not a designer, perhaps others will weigh in. It may be due to the larger baffle and the reflections within the horn throat though.

"- on a different note, do you have any preference between a 300B, 2A3, 45, or EL34, or other amp design with Klipsch's?"

Yes, I do, but I will not go into that. One of the best things about high eff speakers is that they free you to try any of these types of amps and still get good SPLs in a real world room. Paul Klipsch always said what the world needed was a good two watt amp. He liked the Brook push-pull 2A3 amps. I have heard them and they sounded just great, but they are beyond my financial resources. Way beyond. One nice thing is that, if you like the sound, you won't really need a very expensive amp. Even a Dyna 70 will get you there.

"What would you guess would be the real world hearable differences between the two on the low end?"

Room interaction is so unpredictable that I could not begin to guess.

Brownsfan and the other posters bring up a good point, you need to listen to these speakers, as they are certainly not for everyone. Do use a tube amp though. My experience has been that they don't sound very good with SS. Though I have not tried every type of SS amp with them.
"Descriptions like 'open and airy' will be gone from your vocabulary. The band will be in your living room."

- Jaybo, that's pretty interesting; this whole thing almost seems not just counter-intuitive, but counter to everything I've trained myself to believe about hifi; kind of like switching from being a democrat to a republican or vice versa :)

In hifi, with electrostats the open and airy sound (a long with great 3D imaging and lots of definition and detail) has been one of the sounds I've enjoyed the most. Having said that, when I go to hear live music I never hear open and airy. In fact, expecially with rock n roll, when I go to hear live music I look around at the amps and speakers and neither the gear or the sound seems much like my system or any good hifi system I've heard. So, your comment that the band will be your room might just be a good realization.
" "- on a different note, do you have any preference between a 300B, 2A3, 45, or EL34, or other amp design with Klipsch's?"

Yes, I do, but I will not go into that. "

- Come on Veridian, don't hold anything back - your insight has been excellent - tells us about your thinking on the amp designs. Thx
Well, it Viridian with three "i"s, and actually it would tell you more about my choice of music than anything. I'll leave it at that.

I think that most competently designed amps will get you there. I do notice that you left out EL84/6BQ5 from your list, and this is one of the best tubes on planet earth and cheap to boot. It works well in push-pull as in the Music Reference RM-10 as well as single ended as in the Zen amps. Don't discount this excellent tube. The 6L6 or 807 is an excellent tube as well. Just because it shows up in guitar amps doesn't mean that it is not extremely linear when used in the correct circuit. High efficiency speakers make these, and many other, tubes viable. We're all here to have fun.
Which generation of 2C do you own? 2c (c.1978), 2ci (c.1987), 2Ce (c.1995), 2Ce Signature (c.2000), 2Ce Signature II (current model). There have been vast improvements in the 30 years plus of production. And within model types there are constant revisions. If you have an earlier model, you owe it to yourself to audition a current model to see if the improvements will satisfy your needs. If greater bass extension and better dynamic range are what you are after, a 2WQ (a pair is even better)will certainly make a big difference.
Hi Viridian, sorry about the mis-spelling above and thanks again for your help/info.
I have the regular 2C - had them for a long time; bought a pair of 2Ce Signture II and tried them but didn't like them as much as the 2C; the Sig IIs sounded kind of coarse/gruff (an overly harsh term but that's the direction of the sonic attributes I heard) compared to the 2C. So I sold them and sent my 2C pair back to Vandersteen for a complete refurb to make sure they were at tip top operating condition (even got some nice cherry caps to replace the older caps and some new grill clothes, plus maybe a replacement midrange or two; it's been awhile). The 2Cs are good and I have a pair of DQ-10s that are different but highly competitive; it's probably just another merry go round episode, but I'm hoping the Cornwalls play better in my room (up against the wall vs. the Vandy's that are in the standard Cardas positions); and the SET route seems pretty enticing. I guess what I've taken out of this is that everyone has their opinions and preferences but maybe the Cornwalls aren't completely a crazy idea and per one post here by Jaybo they could be an 11 on a cool factor scale of 10 :)

Mostly, I think the room has a huge impact on any system; I think the room might influence half of the overall result, or maybe more. So, short of designing a room, or selecting a specific room (which aren't options for me) it's largely a matter of trial and error to get some synergy between the speakers and the room. I appreciate everyone weighing in on the Cornwalls and any particular SET amp preferences - it helps with the thinking/decision process.
Viridian, I have read your posts about horns in general and Cornwalls in specific with great interest, as I own a pair myself. The one thing I would disagree with you on is your description of horns in general as "boxy." I am still puzzled by your use of this term, and I have heard others use it and have always been puzzled by it. To me, direct radiators have always sounded more "boxy," in the sense of much smaller soundstage that is shaped like the box of the speaker enclosure. Could you elaborate on what you mean by this?

The shape of the horn is in theory designed to prevent any such thing, filling the room more as well as minimizing room colorations, thus making the presentation sound more lifelike. Have you ever tried moving your Cornwalls off the wall a little? Mine are about a foot to 18" off the back wall, and I do not hear anything I would describe as "boxy." I have actually never tried them right up against the wall, as it was my understanding that this was only for the La Scalas and Klipschorns, the ones with horn-loaded woofers. Your post has made me curious, and I may experiment soon with putting my Cornwalls against the wall and see what sort of difference it makes. What you say about the derivation of the name certainly makes sense; I hadn't ever heard that before. Thanks for your very informative posts!
Learsfool, I respect that you have a different perspective. Sometimes the vocabulary is itself in doubt and it becomes hard to communicate what I am hearing.

"Have you ever tried moving your Cornwalls off the wall a little?"

A careful reading of my first post in the thread will tell you that I do not own Cornwalls, but Fortes, which are designed to be in room, as they have a passive radiator on the back. This should also answer Hi hifi's question as in my second post in the thread I mention that the Forte, Forte 2, Chorus 2 and Quartet are less sensitive than the Cornwalls and are not as amenable to the use of SE amps due to this lower sensitivity. That said I was recently playing with a 2 watt 6B4G amp, but for my large room and preferred high SPLs, I like a push-pull EL34s or sometimes even EL84s.

I listen to a friend's LaScalas with regularity, and they are much more friendly to SET amplification. The one fly in the ointment is that the higher the sensitivity, the more you will hear the steady state upstream noise in your system. Some prefer AC heaters which can be a bit noisy, as well. But we all seem to settle on the combination of noise, drive and sound quality that we can live with. Like picking a comfortable pair of shoes, this is a personal matter and those that need to call something "best", well more power to them. I'm happy to stick with "favorite".

Yes, rooms are very unpredictable, and your Cornwalls may sound better into the room, but it seems worth a try to see if using them agains the wall or in a corner actually helps. In a sense corner or wall/floor placement does actually horn load the bass radiator in these systems.
I had early 2CEs and few years later had Heresy II which I have since sold as well. Preferred the Heresy II due to better dynamics and worked better in my small (11 x 17) room, whereas the Vandys sounded too bass heavy....which overshadowed the fact that they were more accurate the rest of the range. You might also look at the Forte II.
Thanks for the response, Viridian. I will definitely try moving the Cornwalls against the wall in a few days when I get a chance for a listening session. I can't put them both in corners in my living room, unfortunately. I have a push-pull amp right now myself, but I would like to try an SET at some point. I have heard a couple with LaScala's and a Klipschorn that sounded great.
I agree with Viridian, EL84 amplifiers can be amazing and very magical.

I own a Manley Stingray which is an amazing amplifier. I also own a vintage Sherwood S-5000 which uses a variant of an EL84. The Sherwood sounds so good it makes you wonder where audio has gone in the last 40 years.
It's delightful to see so many responses debunking the open, airy, spacious (specious?) silliness so often attached to the "analysis" of speakers. I also own Cornwalls (III's) and would not trade them. They are dynamic, detailed, clear as a bell (horn?)and just damn good. And they really are fun. Just went by my "high end" audio shop a few days ago and listened to a pair of speakers which are on the "official" high end approved list and are priced accordingly. They almost seemed muffled and they certainly would not be fun, at least for me. To each his own. Cheers to all!!
Never heard the Vandy's but spent many hours with an amazing sound from Cornwalls, as owned by a friend, driving them with - of all things - a receiver. One or two clicks down on mids, one up on highs and magic!!! I heard these same speakers (after he sold them) in another house - NOT GOOD. I was so impressed with my friend's original sound I demoed a pair at home (on Crown amps - mistake!). Very midrangey and a quick return to the store. Moral of the story: In the right circumstances, Corwalls are VERY impressive. The dynamics are so much closer to live music! But, in the wrong system or room, not so good. I would suggest a tube amp.