Walking through CAF 2023, it was very clear that affordable audio was not going to be the focus of the show. Hi-Fi shows need to be a showcase of the best that the industry has to offer — but that has to include the “best” at prices that potential new customers can also afford. A plethora of $50,000 to $500,000 systems with almost nothing below $10,000 was a huge opportunity wasted.
Vandersteen Audio offers almost 20 loudspeakers in its 2024 lineup but very few of them are still very affordable. The Vandersteen 1Ci+ is the only floor standing model below $2,000 which is certainly on the higher side for many people getting into better quality audio for the first time.
There is no shortage of competition in the category between $1,000 – $2,000 with some excellent loudspeakers available from Elac, Polk Audio, Fyne Audio, Q Acoustics, Wharfedale, DALI, Sonus Faber, PSB, and Paradigm.
The Vandersteen 1Ci+ get almost zero coverage from the high-end press (I might be the only person to cover them) and that’s a huge mistake.
Since its inception, Vandersteen has always focused on putting better quality woofers and tweeters and crossover components into its designs and less on the cabinet
Richard Vandersteen has always been performance driven in regard to the Model 1Ci+ focusing on the internals, with a first-order crossover, minimum front baffle, and time-aligned design.
The Model 1Ci+ is a time and phase-correct speaker designed so that the alignment and positioning of the drivers allow a point-source wave front and maximize the phase coherence of the loudspeaker at the listening position. This is critical to better sound quality and that philosophy runs through the entire Vandersteen lineup.
The listening position and loudspeaker setup are critical with every Vandersteen design but the Model 1Ci+ benefits from very careful set-up; more than most speakers I’ve tried over the years regardless of cost.
Really small changes create a significant difference in sound quality; moving the speakers 1-2 inches further away from the side walls and getting the rake and listening height correct for your specific listening position are key.
The active components used in the Model 1Ci+ combine classic strength and durability with innovative design and construction. The 8-inch woofer uses the same type of cast-metal basket used in costly esoteric loudspeakers.
The cast-metal basket’s inherent rigidity and superior vibration resistance increase cone movement accuracy and reduce sympathetic resonances for cleaner and more natural sound.
The 1-inch metal alloy dome tweeter is a dual chamber design to improve range and linearity. It is critically damped to extend the high frequencies past audibility without the excessive ringing associated with open or underdamped metal dome tweeters.
The price has also remained the same (almost) at $1,715 which includes the stands.
The new Model 1Ci+ does away with the unused attenuation for treble and features a new modern crossover design to enhance the sound from top to bottom. The results are improved clarity and better midrange-timbre accuracy.
This is the 4th version of this iconic speaker and is still available under $2K with stands included.
The Vandersteen 1Ci+ runs with the same barrier strips for speaker cables and the sensitivity remains at 90dB with an impedance of 6.8 Ohms.
The cabinet, or lack of wood veneer or paint, to be exact, remains in the new offering, as the cabinet is one of the critical elements of the high sonic value. – To touch this timeless cabinet design would result in a much higher price.
The Vandersteen 1Ci+ are a chunky 44 pounds and 36″H x 12″W x 10″D; making them a rather hefty 2-way floorstanding loudspeaker on custom stands manufactured by Sound Anchors.
Can you drive them with 35-50 watts of power? In a smaller room, you won’t need any more power than that and the focus should be more on the quality of those watts versus looking for a blowtorch to open these loudspeakers up. A slightly larger room can work but 50-100 watts might be a better scenario.
The 1Ci+ are rather neutral sounding and the treble can get a little hot if you don’t setup the rake properly; the included instructions are excellent and should be considered mandatory.
They definitely look rather conventional but they can reproduce a huge stereo image with sufficient impact in the right room; not in terms of overall low end bass response but their sense of scale. Place them too close to the wall and the bass can become boomy.
Do not try to remove the sock; my experience with a pair of used Vandersteen 2C’s is that they are used for a reason and can be a royal pain to put back on.
The tonal balance of the 1Ci+ makes them rather fun to play with. If you try 4 different amplifiers, you will definitely get 4 very different results. The high sensitivity also makes them easier to use with a range of affordable amplifiers below $2,000.
These are speakers that exemplify clarity with a tinge of warmth and get most of the fundamentals right.
Rogue Audio Sphinx v3
Pennsylvania-based Rogue Audio have been manufacturing excellent tube and hybrid amplifiers for many years and their products deliver both excellent sound quality and value for the money. You won’t find 2-inch thick faceplates on any of their products; you get reliability, excellent build quality, and a presentation that works really well with the Vandersteen 1Ci+.
The Sphinx v3 is a hybrid integrated amplifier that can deliver 100 watts/channel and also includes a discrete MOSFET headphone amplifier capable of driving even the most demanding headphones.
It’s a class D (switching) amplifier, with a linear (not switching) power supply, that outputs 100Wpc into 8 ohms or 200Wpc into 4 ohms. This is not a timid sounding amplifier that will run out of gas driving the 1Ci+.
An excellent user adjustable phono with 44/60dB of gain will accommodate your favorite MM or MC cartridges.
Active and fixed outputs allow for the addition of a subwoofer, and the active output is driven by the two 12AU7 tubes for the best possible sound.
The machined aluminum faceplate is available in either black or silver to compliment the rest of your components and the optional remote further adds the convenience of remote volume operation.
The Sphinx v3 reminds me very much of the 1Ci+; it gets the fundamentals right and helps the 1Ci+ in the bass department with excellent low end control, drive, and definition. The Vandersteen speakers are not bass monsters and they need all the help they can get in that department.
From a tonal perspective, the Sphinx v3 delivers a very smooth and nuanced presentation that is definitely on the warmer side. All of that warmth does not come at the expense of detail, transparency, or a relatively large sounding soundstage.
Both products complement the other rather well and the combination ticks off almost every box if you’re looking for the heart of an excellent two-channel system below $5,200.
The Sphinx v3 might offer a lot of power, connectivity options, a great phono stage, and solid value for the money — but it lacks any streaming capabilities.
One can add the WiiM Pro Plus Streamer for only $219 USD which you can hide on your rack rathe easily;
Enter the Cambridge Audio Evo 75 Network Amplifier for $1,799 USD.
The Evo 75 includes a wide array of digital and analogue connections, so you can add any source: from your existing turntable (which will still require a phono preamp) or CD player, to using Evo as your TV’s sound system. Along with optical, coaxial and RCA inputs, there is a TV ARC input for connecting your TV using an HDMI cable.
You can also connect your wireless turntable and wireless headphones using Evo’s built-in aptX HD Bluetooth, allowing you to stream lossy hi-res tracks.
There’s also the option of adding the dedicated Evo CD transport which we just reviewed.
The Evo 75 (75 watts per channel) has more than enough grunt and power to handle the Vandersteen 1Ci+; it also gives you the option of adding a subwoofer to create a 2.1 system for music and movies.
The internal phono stage of the Sphinx V3 is extremely good at the price point and whilst there is a tiny amount of noise if you don’t watch your cable routing — it is a very solid platform for the Pro-Ject Debut PRO with a Sumiko Blue Point No. 3 high output MC cartridge.
Because the Evo 75 does not come with its own internal phono stage, the most cost-effective option would be to acquire a table with its own built into the design; the U-Turn Audio Orbit Theory with an Ortofon 2M Blue MM cartridge.
Or you could select something like the stock Debut PRO with a Sumiko Rainier MM cartridge for $790 and the Andover Audio SpinStage ($249 USD). $1,039 for the combo.
For more information: vandersteen.com
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