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TAS Legacy: Vandersteen Audio Model 2 Loudspeaker

Although Richard Vandersteen has gone on to design far more sophisticated, expensive, and ultimately “better”-sounding loudspeakers, the original Model 2 remains the inspiration and essential research project for all that’s followed over the past four-plus decades.

Upon release in 1977 the Model 2 sold for $890 the pair and featured several innovative design elements that are fundamental to every subsequent speaker that Richard Vandersteen designed. First and most obviously was Vandersteen’s discovery that by minimizing the size and curving the edges of the baffle, he was able to virtually eliminate cabinet edge and grille diffraction issues to obtain a far more accurate sound from his drivers than he could when they were mounted in a conventional enclosure (this technology reached its summit with Vandersteen’s trademarked Stealth Enclosure). And as an early audio industry adapter of the Gen-Rad 2512 FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) Computer Analyzer initially developed for the aerospace industry, Vandersteen was able to time-align his drivers accurately, which went hand-in-glove with another Vandersteen hallmark, the use of first-order crossovers to preserve the phase integrity of incoming signals.

Though naturally it’s evolved through eight generations, the Model 2 has always employed a quartet of drivers: A 10” active acoustic coupler acts as a subwoofer from 26Hz–35Hz; an 8” woofer handles duties from 35Hz–600Hz; a 4.5” midrange driver covers a very wide range of frequencies from 600Hz–5kHz (meaning there is no crossover point throughout this most critical of regions, which has always made the 2 an unusually coherent loudspeaker); and a 1” dome tweeter spans the 5kHz–30kHz range.

Except for the woofer enclosure, there is essentially no cabinetry to the Model 2, whose “enclosure” consists of rectangular top and bottom endcaps joined by long “poles” at each corner. Because the speaker’s profile is a somewhat bulky, fabric-wrapped rectangle, the Model 2 has never been the handsomest boy in class, but the speaker’s exceptional performance and remarkable value have nevertheless managed to win over plenty of hearts.

In fact, the Model 2 is the best-selling audiophile loudspeaker of the modern era, with more than 100,000 pairs sold—all of them made in the U.S. That the Model 2 is still enjoying robust sales more than 40 years after its introduction is a testament to the speaker’s fundamental rightness of design and sound quality. The Model 2 is one of the defining classics of American high-end audio.

By Wayne Garcia

Although I’ve been a wine merchant for the past decade, my career in audio was triggered at age 12 when I heard the Stones’ Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! blasting from my future brother-in-law’s giant home-built horn speakers. The sound certainly wasn’t sophisticated, but, man, it sure was exciting.

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