ESL type Speakers, should I try them -> Not DIY !

I have long been interested in panel speakers but I have never owned any. I currently use a pair of Ruark Prolog I's but I am now thinking of upgrading.

I have been reading some reviews of the Quad ESL 989's and want to find out a bit more about them before auditioning them.

There does not seem to be much information here about commercial panel speakers (I know its a DIY site!) but I would love to hear some opinions of the Quad 989's and also opinions of other panels, If anyone has heard several of them please let me know how you find them in comparison. For example how do the compare with Martin Logans?

Thanks
 
I currently use a pair of magneplanar MMG's and would not consider going back to a box speaker. I may be tempted with an ob/sub design but all the box speakers I've heard have mid colourations or a less than convincing treble response or poor bass. The box speaker I disliked least was an IPL diy design that used a ribbon tweeter, but the imaging wasn't great.

Kev
 
I would recommend you go and listen to the 989s. I have been using ESL63s since about 1990 and ESL57 before that and will at some time replace the 63s with 989s but at the moment I am using a pair of dipole subs I built with the 63s and that works very well. My ESLs will be the last thing to go.
Panel loudspeakers are different in nature to box loudspeakers which is why you will have to listen to them. Some of the areas where I find they excel are in imaging dynamics and coherence and something which is not often mentioned is that they do not change in character at very low listening levels, all the box loudspeakers I have listened to appear to come alive as you turn up the volume but I often listen to music late at night when I have to keep the level down and here the 63s excel.
From a purely technical point the current Quad ESLs have very very low distortion on a par with many amplifiers and are well protected making them very difficult to damage through misuse or accident. ( My 2 year old has switched the system on at full volume, he certainly got a fright but no damage was done.)

Stuart
 
405man said:
I would recommend you go and listen to the 989s. I have been using ESL63s since about 1990 and ESL57 before that and will at some time replace the 63s with 989s but at the moment I am using a pair of dipole subs I built with the 63s and that works very well. My ESLs will be the last thing to go.
Panel loudspeakers are different in nature to box loudspeakers which is why you will have to listen to them. Some of the areas where I find they excel are in imaging dynamics and coherence and something which is not often mentioned is that they do not change in character at very low listening levels, all the box loudspeakers I have listened to appear to come alive as you turn up the volume but I often listen to music late at night when I have to keep the level down and here the 63s excel.
From a purely technical point the current Quad ESLs have very very low distortion on a par with many amplifiers and are well protected making them very difficult to damage through misuse or accident. ( My 2 year old has switched the system on at full volume, he certainly got a fright but no damage was done.)

Stuart

wytco0
I agree entirely with Stuart. IMO, ESL's have a distinctive 'nature'. I have ESL63's and as with Stuart, they will be the last thing to go - unless being replaced with ELS 989's. The 989's have additional bass panels over the stock 63's and therefore 'go deeper'. I suggest a visit to a good dealer and audition them; or if you can get to Quad HQ in Huntingdon, they have a listening room with all of their latest equipment on demo. The ELS's like all speakers, will sound different in the listening room and in your own room - a home demonstration is a must! Take along your own favourite recording(s) that you know in-side-out.

Remember too that ESL's need a bit of room behind them (i.e. out from the back wall) otherwise they can sound constricted. (Where has the dealer got his?) And IMO they are at their best when NOT placed in corners or alcoves or behind furniture - they need to be about 60 cm from the rear wall, although close proximity to side walls does not seem to be detrimental. The ESL is a totally homogeneous sound souce, so you will find they can be placed further apart, broadening the stereo sound stage. Maybe toed-in slightly towards the listening position.

As with most Hi-Fi equipment, only your own ears can tell you if they are for you. Naturally, we who love'em, are terribly biased in their favour!

Lastly - forget prices and concentrate on the glorious sound. Hope you will be converted.
CambshireGordon
(No connection with Quad - other than a very satisfied customer since mid 1960's)
 
ESL's have a distinctive 'nature'. I have ESL63's and as with Stuart, they will be the last thing to go

After hearing dozens of audiophile speakers through the years, I would say that they all have more "distinctive natures" than the Quad ESL-63, which remains faithfully neutral (I count the 988 and 989 in the same family). So let me add my testimonial about the Quads, having owned 63s for the better part of two decades. I have been tempted by a few speakers since then, but upon more careful listening I have always decided to hang on to what I've got. I believe that not enough discernment is made in comparing the midrange neutrality of speakers these days. It seems that we used to read more about this basic attribute than we do now in reviews. Have we lost the view of the forest for the trees? How many reviews yammer on about reproducing the rear corners of the sound stage, or the rattling of windows due to loud bass, but then gloss over severe colorations in the midrange, the heart of the music? Here the Quads are without any peer that I’ve heard. The other aspect of the Quads that is vital to their success, in my view, is their coherence of sound, a “oneness”, that is likely a result of smooth phase response and time alignment across the critical octaves.

I’ve been to several Stereophile shows and numerous hi-end salons with checkbook in hand and what I think is an open mind. But time after time I’ve shaken my head at some purported hot-shot new design because it colored the midrange, adding a honk or an angularity to important sounds like voices, pianos, and strings. The big Wilsons come to mind right away.

I’m an ESL DIYer, and I’m working for that day when I can claim I’ve beat the Quads in music reproduction. I’m still waiting.

By the way, I run my Quads sans grill clothes and grills. Ugly as sin (and dangerous to kids and pets), but the transparency and “air” are arresting. Oh yeah, they’re driven by direct-coupled 833 triode amps (no transformers at all) too.
 
Thanks to all who have posted, very useful.

I first heard some esl's on about 1970 at a hifi exhibition in Norwich, they were amazing then but I have always thought I could not afford them. Now maybe I can so I will go and have a listen.

I am still interested in hearing from anyone else with experience of hearing other panels and how they compare with the quads.
 
wytco0 said:

I am still interested in hearing from anyone else with experience of hearing other panels and how they compare with the quads.


I had a pair of ELS57's, a few years ago now,so I can't really do justice to a comparison. The maggies have a more pronounced bass and still very tuneful, I was very happy with the mid and treble on the 57's and so I am with the Maggies. imaging is pin sharp on the maggies but there is a small sweet spot

Kev
 
Tosh, Can you hear it? Sure, stop by my house :)

Here's a description (bottom of page and later in the thread too):

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=56710&highlight=

I've been coy about details of the circuit design because of possible intellectual property protection (sorry 'bout that), it might become the subject of an article, it's impractical as hell, and it's really quite dangerous. But it sounds mighty fine with the Quads and has been a fun journey.
 
Hi agian, still looking at the quads, I havnt managed to hear any yet but that should be sorted in the next couple of weeks.

I have read that these speakers much not be driven too hard and that quad recommend 100Watts max, I am planning on using my as yet unfinished 2*UCD400 power amp. Is the problem with the quads any more serious than just keeping the power down?

I dont play stuff very very load but I do like highish volumes every now and then, can the quads produce reasonable volume ?
 
It depends how big your room is, how far from the speakers you sit, and how "live" the walls are- i.e. no, they won't shake the walls. They will play loud enough to make your wife complain, though, especially if you like Nine Inch Nails, ZZ Top, or Frank Zappa. It's sort of like feedback.

Don't worry about too much amplifier power. The amp only puts out as much as you tell it to by adjusting the volume, and you have a built in feedback mechanism to take care of that- the feedback signal travels from your ears to your brain and down the nerves in your arm to your hand that is adjusting the volume control.

The speakers have some built-in protection against failure of either of YOUR feedback mechanisms. When they detect corona discharge that preeceeds arcing, they short the input to the transformers inside the speaker to protect them and the drivers.

I_F
 
I bought some !

An update ....

I heard them and loved them and bought them! A pair of Quad 989's that is.

The sound is fabulous, there is an acoustic atmosphere about the music I have never heard before, The decay when a piano note finishes can be heard, I can hear players removing their fingers from guitar strings, I could go on but I am sure ESL lovers know what I am talking about.

The down side? They are huge and my wife is not very happy about the look of them she describes them as large tombstones……