Vandersteen Music-and-Cinema loudspeaker system Page 2

The Cinema Sound
When I first connected the full Vandersteen surround system in my audio/video room, I was not particularly happy with the result. The sound was lean, the top end rather bright (surprisingly, considering the sound of the 3A in my listening room). Since the new additions (center, surrounds, subs) had not had any obvious break-in (though I suspect the subs had seen use prior to my receiving them), I removed the subs and center to another room where I could "burn them in"—four days straight with "pink noise" and other material. The surrounds stayed in place (they were mounted high on the walls and could not be easily moved) and were broken in with normal, daily use.

There was a definite improvement when I returned to the system—less edginess on top and more ease in the bass. But there was still room for improvement. I looked to the rest of the system. The loudspeaker placement was the best possible, given the normal restrictions of audio/video setup. On a hunch, I changed the interconnects between the laserdisc player and surround-sound processor, as well as the interconnects from the processor to the left and right main front amplifiers. I had been using Monster M1500 cables. I switched to Cardas Hexlinks, an early Cardas design.

I know this will be hard to credit for those not into the effects of cables, but the sound was now significantly improved. On an absolute scale, the difference was small, but it made all the difference in the world in my impression—and enjoyment—of the system. A natural warmth returned. I was now hearing the 3As as I remembered them, enhanced by the addition of the subs, center, and surrounds. This was now a surround-sound array that excelled on both music and video. While I continued to find the sound a bit lacking in gutsiness through the upper bass/lower midrange region, the Vandersteens were still very satisfying on all program material.

The subwoofer blending of the Vandersteen system, despite or perhaps because of Vandersteen's unusual hookup, was superb. As with any good audiophile sub, which is what the 2Ws were originally designed to be, the bottom end lacked any unnatural emphasis or boom. While the 2Ws were less awe-inspiring than a few other subwoofers I have had in my A/V room, I would be hard-pressed to note any shortcomings in them without making direct comparisons. And the Vandersteen subs sailed through my high-level bass torture tracks—from Geronimo, Jurassic Park, and Aladdin—without so much as a whimper.

The Vandersteen is a system for lovers of both music and movies.

In the final analysis, I would still argue that all of the loudspeakers in this article are marginally better with music than with films. There is a dynamism and sheer gutsiness, combined with an appropriate top-end balance, to a system like the B&W THX array, that none of the systems reviewed on movies quite gets it right. But they come close, very close. The Boston Acoustics, Apogee, and Vandersteen loudspeakers may have been primarily designed for music, but when they're properly augmented, they won't leave you feeling shortchanged no matter what you play back through them.