Vandersteen help needed

I posted here a couple of months ago looking for assistance on building my first hi-fi system. Based on the feedback I received and auditioning a fair amount of equipment, I settled on the following components:

- Vandersteen 1ci speakers
- Belles Aria integrated
- Rotel DAC
- Audioquest cables and interconnects
- Source: Mainly streaming tidal through my phone

My room is 12’-10" wide by 11’-2 deep. I am setup on the long wall.
The speakers are 27" from the front wall and 22" from the side walls measured from the center of the speaker. The speakers are 9 ft. apart and about 8 and a half feet from my ears.

I’ve read the user’s guide thoroughly and spent a great amount of trial and error with speaker placement. I believe I have the correct tilt back of 2" and the speakers are towed in ever so slightly.

As for room treatment, I’m using the GIK Acoustics diffuser panels at the first reflection points. Nothing on the second reflection points. I have GIK absorber panels directly behind the speakers. I’ve also tried removing them from the room as well.

Here is the problem:

Instruments around the 1k frequency can be at times subdued and sit further back in the mix. What I’m talking about specifically are the lead vocal and snare. I never really get that crack from the snare drum. (I’m a drummer BTW).

Other times I feel like some of the higher frequencies get a bit muddled. I’ve heard others describe their experiences with Vandy’s as it sounds like there is a blanket over them.

By the time I turn up the gain so that these frequencies stand out a bit, the low end is exciting the room and the sound starts to become unbalanced.

I’ve begun thinking of adding 1-2 Vandy subs so that the low end can be offloaded from the 1ci’s and they can be left to focus solely on producing the mids and highs.

Does anyone have any recommendations on how to get more clarity out of my system?

Much appreciated,


I would start by moving the speakers closer together, about 6'-7' between them.  I have always preferred my speakers placed 3' from the side walls.   If you tried that already, what did that do to the sound?
+1 rotarius

All speakers have this issue due to your head and how it interferes with sound.  In all 2 way setups you'll hear instruments and vocals sound more present and brighter at the sides than in the center.

If you have a center, and can use Neo6 music mode, it is a really cool thing.


@rotarius I have not tried bringing the speakers in that close. The stereo imaging is amazing where they're placed now. I can try that though.
May I suggest experimenting with additional toe in?  Johnny Rutan has these set up in his shop spread far apart with a fair amount of toe in.  Running with tube amps, they sound excellent.

@cedargrover thanks for the suggestion. I was convinced to purchase this equipment based on my demos at Johnny's store. His system sounds great!!! Him and I just go off the phone. We're trying to setup an in-house troubleshooting session with potentially using some high pass filters.
In my almost 14x14 room, after multiple experiments with placement, I've gotten the best, most natural, most holographic sound with my Vandy 2Cs 7 feet apart (measured from the center of the speaker), no toe-in, and 12 inches from the front wall (measured from the BACK of the speakers). The listening seat is 10 feet from the plane of the speakers.

+2 rotarius
+1 about Johnny Rutan, he helped me come up with this setup for my room.
Hope something helps, let us know how you do.


" @rotarius I have not tried bringing the speakers in that close. The stereo imaging is amazing where they're placed now. I can try that though. "

Way too far apart. Your room is small, so I would say start at 6ft apart from inside edge to inside edge. Then, go through the instructions in the manual to set the back tilt. Do it exactly the way they tell you.

When you're done setting the speakers up, the imaging should extend beyond the outside edges of the speakers. Use the contour adjustments only if you need to, and just in small amounts.
I don't know your model speaker, but am using Vandersteen 5A's and believe that your description might come from an imbalance due to uneven floors.....that the arrival time of the 2 speakers to your years are different.  Here's how to get it right.  Go online and get a pen laser...the hand held laser used for pointing to depict a part of a presentation..  They are very inexpensive.  You'll also need some Post-Its....those squares of paper that can adhere to the wall....and a thin line marker.  When all this stuff arrives, here's the process for your speakers.  Turn on and lay the laser on top of the left speaker so that it shines on the wall in back of you would be seated in your listening position.  Put a post-it on the wall so that the laser points to the post-it....use your marker and put a dot directly on the laser position.  Leave the post it stuck to the exactly the same with your other speaker.  Now the laser spot may be higher (or lower) than your mark on the wall.  Adjust your speaker so that the laser is now directly on that spot.  Now listen and see if the sound is better....(mine was appreciably better).
You've gotten some great advice so far.
Just ask Johnny R. He can give you the best advice for your situation.
Audionoobie, you don't happen to be the gentleman who was picking up his 1s at Johnny's place when I was dropping off my check for an Ayre amp?  This was about a month ago.  I'm the guy with the beard and Buddy Holly glasses.  :)
you may want to run REW or FuzzMeasure to see what is up with your room
At the risk of sounding repetitive of previous posts, John Rutan is great with Vandy set-up.  You deserve good sound and it is attainable. When I picked up my Treo CTs at John's shop, my most memorable listening experience was to the the 1Ci's.  He has it figured out!


You stated "The speakers are 9 ft. apart and about 8 and a half feet from my ears."

Like others here, I'd suggest moving them closer together with more distance to the side walls.

A general rule-of-thumb when it comes to speaker placement is to start with the speakers spaced at 85% (center to center) of the distance to the listening position.

So if your listening position is 8' 6" away (102 inches) try spacing them approximately 7' (84 inches) apart.

From the dimensions you've given for your room and your speakers placement within that space it would seem your sitting with your back almost up against the rear wall.

You might want to re-think things and place your speakers along the short wall so that your listening position is at least a foot or two in front of the rear wall.


Joe, I have 2CEs in a room that is about 11x14, and I have them on the long wall (short wall won't work due to a door and windows). I’ve always used Vandersteen’s owner’s manual setup instructions on placement... do the chart and the math, and experiment with the variations it gives you on placement. I actually spoke to Richard V about the proper distance to the back wall, worried that my 12-18 inches might not be enough, and he said "No problem!"

My center-of-speaker-to-ear throw/distance is about 8-9 feet like yours. I don’t use any toe-in, and almost no lean back (maybe .25-.5 inches).

Good luck!
Unfortunately the best solution to Vandersteens is to sell them. I had 1C and 2 CE Plus speakers years apart. I just sold the 1C speakers, back then I didn't tweak equipment. The 2CE speakers I bypassed some caps for the tweeter and ended up with ear bleaders. Just for the heck of it, and I know all the reasons I shouldn't have, but I installed a set of Hiquphons in them. A friend was over at the time and wanted me to sell them to him on the spot, which I did, because he understood that the tweeter was at it's limit, and that the crossover was imperfect. I'd sell them and get any decent B&W Matrix Series speakers you can afford. You should replace the electolytic caps, and bypass them with something like Audyn's copper foil capacitors, very nice capacitors and they are not crazy expensive. Vandersteens really are nice speakers in so many ways, but they just come up a but short, as you have noticed, in detail.

You need to buy buy all new stuff..........
Great Suggestion!!

Our audio group here has expanded my horizons. All things effect the sound

it sounds so stupid saying it, but it's true!  
power, cable, etc all effect sound 

The biggest variable  is the room

Get REW room measurement software ( free) and a USB mic $60 they recommend.......
Then move stuff around and take measurements.....It amazing what 2" will do for sound

You will find the right spot & be very happy

1st try...... spread Speakers as far apart as you can, and aim at your ears or behind your head a foot


Here is the simple solution trade in your Vandys and move on.

Vandys are a laid back speaker they are not particularly detailed or resolute they fall into the musical camp.

Adding subs will only add more boom to the room. 

I feel for the money the Vandy 1s are are a steal however, your listening tastes must align with their sonic profile, which is a warm midrange, a slightly recessed top end and a full mid bass. 

Other speakers have a different tonal perspective. 

We love the Dalis which have great detail yet are still warm. You might want to get another perspective and borrow a few different sets of speakers and try them out in your room with your new setup. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor
Again, I would consult with Johnny R. for the best way to move.
In my opinion, the Vandy 1's need a sub, and preferably a Vandy 2w or 2wq. If you can move up the Vandy chain, I would say to go for the Treo or Quatro's.
My first move would be to change the DAC to an Ayre Codex nor a Schiit Gungnir. You'd be surprised by how much more lifelike the sound gets.

Sure they need a sub then why didn't he purchase a more expensive speaker and then add a $2,500.00 Codex, this man's original budget was $5k all in. 

So the real issue is how to fix that fact that this gentleman is not loving what he purchased. 

He should get his dealer involved and try another set of speakers in that room and perhaps that new set of speakers will do the trick. 

Mr. Rutan sells B&W and Proac, so there must be some models that might fit. 
Tune to room first with Johnny
you can switch or try something new later
did that snare sound spot on at AC ?
there is your clue - they are capable of what you want

He can buy a Codex used for $1,300.
Or, a 2w sub for $400. The fixed crossover is $200 or so.

I would second tomic's post. Let Johnny do his magic.
The guy just spent $5k at  his dealers, his dealer should fix it for his customer.

Yhe man who in good faith bought a complete system and now he has to fix it himself by uping his budget and trying to find used the products in the first place that would dramatically increase his budget?

If you go to a dealer, you should get the service and support as well as the sound you have paid for.

Vandersteens aren’t everyones cup of tea. You best off trying another brand. It sounds like you are looking for a brighter speaker like a B&W or that type!
I went through the same type of thing with my 1Cs, which I bought new in 2000.  I improved everything in front of them, did some room treatments, and added a pair of 2Wq subwoofers.  I even added the MHP-5 battery biased crossovers for them.  My complaints were somewhat different than yours.  I was missing a degree of detail, and at higher volumes, the sound got congested and pinched-sounding.  The spacial presentation was good, but I just could not listen very long without suffering from listening fatigue.  I got to a point where I felt I had taken the 1Cs as far as they could go.  So, after living with them for nine years (in a full 5 channel Vandersteen audio/video system), I replaced all the speakers except for the subs, which I still own, and will never let go of.  I wish I could be more optimistic, but, like another poster said, Vandersteens are not for everyone.  The Model 7 is one of the best speakers I have heard, but in my more pedestrian price range, there are other choices that appeal more to me than the lower-priced Vandys.  YMMV, of course.

John Rutan was kind enough to pay me a visit in my home yesterday. I think we had a very productive and fun troubleshooting session that yielded some very noticeable and dramatic positive results. We tried several different things. Each had its own incremental positive benefit that contributed to the overall net result.


Here is a brief rundown of things we tried and liked:


  • A few days ago, as someone suggested, I moved the speakers a little closer together and toed them in slightly more. This helped the midrange present much better. We tried a few other room positions yesterday, but ultimately John and I agreed they sounded best where I originally had them.

  • John worked his magic with a level laser and accurately adjusted the Vandys for correct level, toe, and tilt-back.

  • The couch that was snugged up against the back wall was moved 11” out. This helped clean up the low end issues a ton.

  • We tried a few different power options. Right now the amp is plugged directly into the bottom wall outlet and the DAC and CD player into the unfiltered jacks of a Furman strip. I really didn’t notice much if any difference with different power configurations but perhaps my ears are not finely tuned in enough yet.

  • One of the more dramatic improvements came from upgrading the speaker cables and interconnects. I had the Audioquest Rocket 33s and another Audioquest product for the interconnects. I’m not sure what the new ones are. Perhaps John could chime in on that but the difference was huge. I couldn’t believe what a difference the right cables make.


Ultimately, I think we got things pretty darn close to the way John’s 1ci speakers sound at his store. It was tremendously helpful to have a second pair of ears confirming the issues I was experiencing. Having someone with John’s skill level and experience with setting these speakers up was an invaluable asset.  I am very pleased with how my system sounds right now. Although, truth be told, now that most of the original issues have been addressed, I’m kind of hankering to hear how a 2wq sub would sound!


Thanks to all that contributed to this thread. I enjoyed reading each of your responses and varying opinions. Special thanks to John for spending his Sunday afternoon with me. I can hear the vocals again and my snare is cracking!!!!

Please do share the exact cables that worked for you, when you figure that out.  Thanks, and congrats!
So there you have it, AudioTroy. The dealer was going to, and did respond to the customer's issues. Even though you took your "pot shot" at him. Maybe you should go over to AC and let John Rutan teach you a few things. We certainly would be all  the better for it. John is a class act. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this as most people in these threads already know this. Audionoobie. Yes, try a 2Wq Vandy sub (or 2) in your system with the 1c"s. I have done this recently with my Treos, with excellent results. The hookup with the sub that Richard Vandersteen uses is somewhat different from most, but his method creates the best seamless blend of main speakers and sub(s).  The sound  opens up with more air and space around instruments and vocals making  the soundstage more solid with more bloom. Happy listening!
With my system, I use AQ. Earth interconnects and AQ. Rocket 88 speaker cables. If anyone is interested....

audionoobie - Ohm Walsh 2000s.  I considered Vandy 2Ce's, but they are a bit too wide for the space I have.  I have a review of the Ohms posted in the review section of Audiogon.

I am not at all surprised at the level of service John Rutan provided you with.  He is extremely knowledgeable, has great ears, and is very generous with his time and expertise.  Audio Connection is a first class dealer.  I only wish I could afford more the wonderful toys he sells there! 

@mr_m Two great posts! A couple questions...1) Do you have the Treos or Treo CT model? 2) What model of AQ interconnects are you using? My entire system is connected with AQ Colorado RCAs and I love ’em. Just curious what model is satisfying you.

Also... your suggestion about adding the Vandy subs. is 100% on. I have two of them with my Treo CTs and it is just as you said. The presence of the subs helps the main speakers to open up the soundspace. Dynamics also flourish as the main speakers are freed from reproducing the lower bass notes.
I have the Treo CT's. I have one sub at present, but will have a second one as funds permit. I will also try to get the premium battery crossovers also. I envy you with the 2 subs! Richard V. says that 2 are a dramatic improvement over one. The Interconnects  are AQ "Earth" I believe they were the replacement of the "Colorado" you have. My pair have XLR connectors.
I knew Johnny Rutan would come through for you. My post regarding subs and DAC's were made to give you the best results for your system.
Sometimes you have to make a few more unintended purchases in order to get what you are looking for.
Upgrading to the Rocket 88's, from the 33's, would be a good move.
Those Vandy 1's will be killers with a sub or 2. 
I think the key thought to center on and repeat going forward is IF the speakers ( or any other component ) is capable of getting it right in dealers room with similar equipment you should be looking harder at what they are doing and changing towards that.
the advice you got to change speakers so quickly is rubbish
true Vandersteens are not everyone's cup of tea - how boring the world would be IF that were the case.
Walsh are not tea at all
more like a milkshake
comparing the two is absurd

tomic601:  Not sure I understand your post, but, sure, Ohm Walsh is a completely different loudspeaker than the Vandersteen designs.  I needed a narrower profile speaker than the 2Ce Sigs, and my search eventually brought me to the Ohms.  I compared the two in my room with my gear, and ignored the designs of each.  I focused instead on the sound of each, and, overall, I preferred the Ohms by a wide margin.  I will admit, though, that I did not have the benefit of John Rutan's assistance in positioning the 1Cs.  That said, placement options in my room are quite limited.  So, perhaps, the Ohms were just a better match for my room than the 1Cs.  And I have never heard the 1Ci, so maybe they are significantly improved over the 1Cs that I owned.  I don't know.  And I completely agree that everyone's personal preferences, in audio as in all things that are subjective, are, and ought to be, different.
I'm also using all AQ cables with my Treo CT. I when with he double run AQ GO4 speaker cables per Rutan's recommendation. Interconnects are AQ Earth. Very happy with the setup.  
No shade thrown at your choice at all Bondman
my point was and is you could not have picked two more divergent speakers from a design and sound perspective.
sure the i version is better than the older 1C but I expect Ohm also work hard to improve their product as well.
that you are happy, they work in your room is super cool !!!!

Good thread.  Great dealers will make sure that you are happy.  In this day and age of real time posting on boards, it makes me realize that sometimes we have to let things play out a bit.  I know that all the dealers I purchase from are there for me whenever I need them. As much as folks think I only purchase from Johnny, I also have gear from at least four other dealers for various reasons as I try to also respect manufacture's boundary rules, lol.

As many know, I travel around the country when I'm able to physically (MS) and get to meet many top dealers and I get to hear a TON of cool gear this way also.  The majority of dealers do care about their customers (Lyric HiFi in NYC is one of the only places that left me shaking my head and a place that I'd beg friends to never do business with).  

Just glad that you are getting what you feel you paid for and in time will probably be even happier as you sit and enjoy your music.  Congrats.
I can relate to Bondman's recommendation of the Ohm's, as I can to Tomic's.
Yes, they are different speakers/designs, but they do give that beautiful openness that I crave. We all have different ears, hence the many choices.
I just hope the OP and Johnny can get his system sounding as he wants.Though, as I have said, adding a sub (or 2) will really flesh out your system.
Sounds to me like Johnny went back and fixed what was wrong and the guy is happy.  That's all that matters.  Glad he found someone who cares enough to follow through.  Most dealers will if you treat them fairly too.  
great dealer working hard to help a customer as it should be :-)

to the OP ..happy with the snare ?

CT - while I also buy gear from different dealers (5) over two systems, the common denominator is all display and are intimately familiar with the 7's
they are a brutal truth machine.... revealing of the source....

yes, all his speakers are very revealing.  That's part of what makes them so great.  :)