Anything more resolving than 65 year-old speakers?

As I’m listening to some Raal headphones - the most resolving cans I’ve ever heard - I can’t help but be reminded of Quad ESL 57’s. More than any other speaker I’ve heard at shows or in homes, they had resolution without harshness. Maybe the Sanders 10e comes close, but is much more expensive. Maybe Bohlender Rd75’s come close for transparency, but are still not quite there.

Am I missing something or have we really not progressed in terms of resolution in 65 years, at least from the greats? If you’ve got something super-resolving (but not harsh) that you prefer to Quads with a sub, please speak up!


Uhhhhh. your hearing changed over the last 65 years, possibly memory issues too. I would call this nostalgia and there is nothing wrong with it, just don't spend a lot of money on 65 year old anything (unless it is a rare vintage wine or classic car)🚗

@angaria2 - a couple of observations from here. I have a pair of '57s that I bought in 1974, manufactured in 1973, that were a long time reference for me. I used them in a variety of configurations, including in a "mini" HQD system with Decca Ribbons and a couple different subs, mounted on the old Arcici stand. This was back in the days when the subwoofer market was not as robust (leaving aside the Hartley 24 that Levinson used).

Those original Quads were put aside in around 1990 for a pair of Crosby modified '63s which were a better all arounder but to my ears, didn't have the mojo of the original '57. (They played louder, had a protection circuit, didn't arc and sounded pretty good). But I held on to the '57s with the expectation that I would have them restored, which I finally did in 2017 (Kent at Electrostatic Solutions). He added a protection circuit, a modern electrical receptacle and better binding posts. That speaker now runs in my vintage system in a small "parlor"--driven by a very old pair of Quad IIs with period glass (real GEC KT 66s, which are scarce as hen's teeth). I quit using add on tweets or woofers and they sit on their original little feet. They sound wonderful. I don't limit them to British chamber music while sipping tea. 

Compared to my main system, which is horn based, uses Lamm ML2s (the real magic comes from those) and a variety of high end gear upstream, the horn system is "better"- it plays louder, is more dynamic, has the clarity of the Quad in the mids and that eerie see-through quality. It also does bass better simply because I did a lot of work to integrate a woofer system using DSP and did a fair amount of work on the turntable to get it "just so."

But there is something special about that old Quad speaker. Sure, it has the head in a vise sweet spot for the highs, won't play at Black Sabbath levels and interestingly to me--has a sort of filtering effect-- everything sounds a little romantic, whereas the bigger horn system is like a microscope- if there is a gremlin in the recording, it is noticeable. But, there is a vast difference in both the cost and the upstream equipment associated with these two very different systems.

Has the Quad been bettered? I think the answer, for practical purposes, is yes. But as a reference, it is still important. As a piece of audio history, it is important. And it is great fun to listen to. I wrote at some length about this several years ago and asked the same question at the time-- how far have we really come in 60 years?

Part of the answer may depend on personal preference -- I tend to listen to small combo jazz and the Quad can be downright eerie on some material, particularly vocals. (Even with hard rock, if you listen to a UK first pressing of Epitaph from In the Court, you can marvel at Greg Lake's voice and know why this record and that original band was so important in its time). 

I think folks who have never heard a set of '57s ought to do so simply for the experience; whether it is worth buying and restoring a pair is a different question. For me, the answer was easy. They have been part of my musical life for nearly 50 years and I can enjoy them for what they are--my sunk cost in that vintage system was amortized in mid-'70s dollars. (Yes, everything in that old system got restored by Bill Thalmann but was easily worth the cost, including the NOS glass). 

A stacked set would not suck, either. Enjoy 'em if you got 'em. 

PS: I did get to meet Peter Walker at the '76 CES and he was polite and kind to me- I was a young person then and felt that completed a circle in my hi-fi life. 

The great Chuck Lamonica, who may be remembered by some here from the old NY Audio Society days, described the Quad back when (driven by an all ARC tube set up) as a system that allowed you to "kiss every note." I think that captures it better than any of my words. 

I hear what you are saying quads were really amazing. Nobody nowadays has heard what they are because the membranes get eaten up by the dust so quickly. You were lucky, in the right place at the right time. Whart is right in that it depends on what kind of music you listen to. Of course, the most expensive part of any system is being able to afford a room big enough to put it into. I like SET 45 into a klipschorn with fully damped cabinet modified with 300 cycle fronthorn and Heil AMT at 800. 1W and the neighbors would call the cops.