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A bona-fide high-end speaker for under $1,000

The Vandersteen Model 1 was originally introduced in 1981, and now as the Model 1C it's a high-end classic. It's the best speaker you can buy for under a grand.

The 1C, not just another box speaker.

Last year's HDTVs are yesterday's news, but great audio designs, like Vandersteen's Model 1C floor-standing speaker ($995/pair) stick around for decades.

Richard Vandersteen designs speakers for buyers who care more about sound than fashion. His stuck-in-the-1980s styling isn't a calculated stab at retro. The handsome 1C tower speaker was originally introduced in 1981 as the Model 1, and the "C" iteration debuted in 1996. No matter, it still sounds better than any speaker I've heard near the 1C's price. It's as good as it gets for under a grand.

Change for the sake of change isn't an option at Vandersteen, and that extends to bucking the industry stampede to move production offshore. Vandersteen still builds all of his speakers in Hanford, California, and every speaker is tested and measured in the factory's anechoic chamber. That's commitment.

It's a two-way design featuring a 1-inch alloy dome tweeter mounted just above an 8-inch woofer. The speaker is 36 inches high and weighs 44 pounds. Build quality is absolutely superb.

As you can see from the picture, the 1C isn't a conventional "box" speaker; the baffles supporting the drivers were designed to be as small as possible to reduce the reflections that are (unfortunately) part of the sound of conventional speakers.

The audible differences between box speakers and the 1C aren't subtle, so the very first thing you'll notice about the Vandersteen sound is that it's remarkably "open" and dare I say it, it approaches the purity of some high-end panel speakers. It's simply more natural sounding than any box speaker near the 1C's price.

The Vandersteens' soundstage depth is positively addicting; the spacious image isn't just wide and deep, it's also taller than average, which adds to the believability of the sound.

The 8-inch woofer pumps out a whole lot more bass than you'll ever hear from a typical pipsqueak satellite speaker. The 1C plays rock, jazz, and classical music equally well.

Vandersteen also offers center and surround speakers, and some subwoofers, so home theater fans can also get a taste of true high-end sound for a fair price.

Chances are Vandersteen owners will be listening to their speakers long after the latest and greatest TV takes its place in landfill.