Apogee vs Soundlab

Which speaker is better: Apogee or Soundlab and why? Which is superior technically speaking: fullrange ribbon or fullrange electrostatic speaker and why?
Disclaimer: It is not my intention to start a fullrange ribbon vs fullrange electrostatic war. I just want to hear your opinions.

Best I can recall, the big delta is that Soundlabs have much more energy from 100hz on down than any Apogee I've heard - including the big full range ribbon units and the "Slant" hybrid models. (I never heard the monsters with separate subwoofer cabinets.) On that basis, I'd prefer the S-L, although the fairer comparison may be to the Apogees I haven't heard. Disclaimer: there was a looooong gap between my auditioning Apogee and Soundlab so this is definitely FWIW.

If both speakers are connected with top notch electronics, definetely the Apogee.
More punch, more depth and realistic soundstage
I have always liked electrostatics, but worry about their dust collecting properties. So I choose Maggies, and they certainly come close to ES in sound.
I would say in terms of resolution they are about equal. Dynamics and sheer power, definetly the Apogee. Ultimate coherency the Soundlabs win. Both are top notch speakers.
I agree with all of the above, however with bigger OTLs the Sound Labs really come alive as far as dynamics and power are concerned and to my ears hold their own even with the big Apogees and since I trust Albert Porter's ears I would say that with the big VTLs they could easily do just as well.
Apogee and Sound Lab have (had) several different models, so it's not as clear cut, as in name only.

More like: Which Apogee models, compete with which, Sound Lab models?

The biggest, and best Apogees, are the Apogee Grand, Apogee Fullrange, Apogee Scintilla, Apogee Diva, Apogee Studio Grand.

The biggest, and best Soundlabs?....I'm not up on them.
I had Apogee Divas many years ago and found them the most difficult speakers to drive and maintain, that I have ever owned and too big for most rooms to get a decent soundstage. I finally traded them for Quad ELS 63's and Gradient SW63 Subs. which were superb & lived with me until I moved house and finally got a big dedicated room.
I now have Sound Lab U1-PX's with which I initially had some problems driving with ARC Ref 210,s. I took some advice & now traded and have ARC 610T's.
I am home back off an extended business trip in a couple of weeks and hope to get it all together and running. Will post my impressions then.
Scousepasty, why did you have problems driving the U1's with the ARC REF 210's? Afterall the ARC's are quite high powered. What kind of sound did you get? I've always thought that with the updated Soundlab backplates they become much easier to drive.

Yes it is true, it is very difficult to get good sound of the Apogee Diva, most amplifiers will not sing beautifully(also some expensive one's), it is far more easy to drive a Soundlab.
But once you have matched your Apogee with the dedicated amplifier, then it will be unbeatable.
Apogee is the most difficult speaker to sound beautifully!
Here is a list of Apogee dealer/installers...I don't know where you are located:


In my opinion, it's always better to listen for yourself. These guys, can get you a brand new pair...or rebuild an old pair for you.

Soundlab dealers should be fairly easy to find.

Dazzdax, living in the UK its very difficult to find dealers with Sound Labs and none to listen to with different tube amps, and as I have had ARC tube amps for many years I thought that the new 210's would be a good match. I was wrong!
They don't have the reserve of output power in the new transformers to keep up with the U1's and kept clipping and the bass response was slow.
After the fact, I contacted a couple of SoundLab dealers in the USA and they suggested several different makes of amps, both SS & Tube, with which they and customers had satisfactory experiences. I don't think either one had tried the 210's with them but both thought it was not a good match.
The Apogees might - or rather should be - more reliable these days with all the improvements and mods that have come along, but back then I couldn't afford the repairs or the Krell amps to drive them.

Apogee versus soundlab is a wrong question. It all depends on what is the chain of components driving them and their synergy and finally your own taste in sound.

But big VTL? gimme a break, it is a totally medicore amp. I owned it and failed to understand the hype.
You're right of course. It is the chain, not just the speakers. Interesting your unhappiness with VTL. Which amp was it? I am asking, because I might buy a pair of Siegfrieds and would value your opinion.
Lots of good points here but like many have hinted, you have to determine a price range and then do a shootout between the models by each company in that price range. To conclude that one brand here is better than another is a futile attempt for a simplistic answer.

I owned Maggie 3.3 and 3.5 for a combined 6 years. And then I heard the SoundLab U1 and A1. I ended up with the A1's.

The Maggies were NOT even close in so many ways. The Maggie series 20 was only marginally refined over the series 3.X compared to the significant improvement with the A1's. The A1's have a top-to-bottom tonal coherency the Maggies could only dream of. With the Maggies I had to really push the level up to get some serious dynamic contrasts; this is not necessary with the A1's. And I can sit anywhere in the room with the SLs and enjoy the performance vs. the rather narrow sweet spot with the Maggies. But really it is all about the low-level detail and clarity throughout the range that sets the A1's way ahead of the Maggies. Comparisons here were with both speakers in my home with Wolcott 220 monos and CAT JL-3 monos. I now run exclusively with the JL-3's into the A1's.

I also had a chance to directly compare the Maggie 3.5s to the Duetta and there were pros/cons of each. Each speaker outperformed the other at opposite ends of the frequency spectrum. And both speakers played effortlessly - no strain. Overall I preferred the 3.5s. Perhaps the top-tiered Apogee models resolve many problems with the lesser priced models, but after hearing all the praise about Apogees, I came away from this audition somewhat disappointed.

The A1's have an incredible coverage into the bottom octave. I have no doubt that other speakers out there have more punch, but what the A1's do here is truly impressive. As for depth, well, I have the A1's 6 feet into the room and to sit nearfield gives a most incredible degree of depth behind the speakers. With the JL-3s and the new Aria WV preamp, it's hard to imagine that things get much better.

I think it truly comes down to how good the amp is and the associated equipment. Even a mediocre IC in the chain could easily sway someone in one direction or another.

As for why the 200wpc ARC amp struggled with the SoundLab speakers, I am not surprised. Compare the output transformer in the ARC to that in the CAT and it should be obvious why the CAT controls these speakers and the ARC has a hard time. ARC amps are fine for flat 8-ohm loads.....not SL's or Apogees or even Maggies for that matter!

Ultimately you need to compare amp/speaker combinations rather than simply speaker to speaker. One amp could be a killer with one speaker and not so good with the other and vice versa.
The Apogee Duetta, and Maggie 3.6's are not at the same level with the big Apogees and Soundlabs....they cost a lot less too.

Thanks Dave...The reason I brought the Maggies into the discussion was because someone here said that the Maggies come close to the SoundLab sound.....and this is not at all accurate. I realize the price differential of those other models, and that was a point I made - to identify a price range and then compare speakers in that price. But there is to be expected somewhat of a house sound within each product line. This is clearly the case with Magnepan and SoundLab and so why not Apogee as well.

Apogee had well over 20 models...I've only owned three, and heard five. Right now I own Duetta Signatures, and a pair of MiniGrands.

The Duetta was the largest 2-way. The bass panel must share some of the midrange reproduction, with the tweeter ribbon. The blend is very good...but somewhat darker sounding.

The larger Apogees are all 3-way designs, with dedicated midrange ribbons....a good step up.

I've yet to hear any of the Apogees that sound alike (house sound)...they have all sounded very good though...and of course dipole.

I think, the differences in sound, are related to the many different ribbon designs Apogee used, in the varies models?

Here is a nice pair of Apogee Grands for you Dazzdax...only 25 pair in the world. ($$$$)



There was nothingw rong with teh VTL but nor was there anything special. Mien was VTL 750 (the one with higher quality caps). Most tube amps in their bigger version lose their magic or some other quality. The VTL 750 lacks air and does not have well articulated bass. of course it is all relative, so I am comparing with the Jadis 500, Audio Valve or Lamms. The TRL GT-400 is in a higher league than all of these.

I have not listened to the Siegfried so I cannot say. By the way, I do not pay any attention to reviews in audio magazines ro their class A/B/C rating or other rubbish which is mostly market manipulation to ensure the adds keep coming.

So if you are in market for a new amp, listen to a few amps yourself and then decide which one you like, Sigefried inclusive.
Dave, the Apogee Grands is an active speaker system, isn't it? With tons of very complicated cross over electronics and should be biamped also. Well, that would be to much hassle for me. A Diva will do, but the price for a 19 year old pair of Diva's is ridiculous high! So I'm sticking with Soundlab, heheh.

The Grand is a fully active 4 way system. It needs 8 channels of amplification, 4 are build into the speaker. 2 Monos for the Subwoofer and 2 Monos for the Tweeter (all 4 are Krell KAS) with external power supply. Onboard displays and computers allows to set "presets", individual driver level, rake and phase adjustment, volume and diagnostic.

I own a pair myself and currently have another pair that i can offer.

PS: I owned Scintillas, DIVAS, Caliper and Stage
Strange comments on the vtl amps as albertporters system had the vtl 750 monoblocks driving his soundlabs; when I emailed albert for advice regarding his setup there was never a bad word mentioned; there must have been a weak link else where in Gallant_diva's system.
Jafox: what amp do you prefer with your soundlabs as I have m2's with the tordials and impedance mods?
Rleff: It is all relative. The owner of a Honda Accord may love it but the owner of a Mercedes may not find the Accord attractive enough.

Regarding the Audio chain, I have had a large variety of audio componenents to optimzie the chain of my system before determing the true merits and demerits of one component. The VTL is just an ok amp but does not have anything special and in not in the leeague of amps like Jadis, Lamm, Audio Valve or Tube Research Labs. Think of the VTL as a an Accord, then the Jadis is a Mercedes.......and TRL a Ferari. These days, because of audiogon, you can always afford Ferrai or Merecdes or Lexus at the price of an Accord. Please test drive the car yourself and not believe other people's words before you decide to buy one. And it s fine if you still prefer an Accord.

Hope I made my point? cheers.
Gallant_Diva: I think your response was for Detlof...not for me as I have no experience with nor opinion on the larger VTLs. As for reviews, I pay attention as there might be a chance to get a feel for how one product compares to another if the reviewer makes such an effort. But this often is not the case, and thus the review is pages of worthless superlatives rather than comparatives. I do agree that class A/B/C ratings are of no value. There are far too many products in the same "class" that easily outperform many others.

Rleff: I have older A1's updated with the later toroidals. And with tips from Albert Porter, I bypassed the fuse. I also replaced that horrible "brilliance" rheostat with a gold plated double-contact selector switch of 6 resistance values (values 0-> 2 ohms range). Treble clarity significantly improved. And with an occasional treble-hot recording, being able to attenuate the treble a little bit is mighty nice. It was amazing how much treble grain existed with the original rheostat.

The only two "outstanding" amps that I have so far heard with the U1s and the A1s are the CAT (JL-2 and JL-3) and Atmasphere (MA1 series). These are a great match with the SL's. They have their pros/cons as I have stated in other A'gon threads. I think it comes down to how these pros/cons balance with those of the rest of a system. I run with the CAT as I like the dynamic contrasts and the initial attack of the notes that I have not heard another amp do. I have found it easier to get some of the strengths that the Atmasphere has over the CAT at the preamp.
Jafox: Thanks for the feedback;the brillance rheostat replacement is a mod I may try;again thank you.
Why do I hear a rather sharp and grainy treble through the A-1's? Is it an amplifier/speaker interaction thing? I'm asking this question because... I've never heard the A-1 with optimal set up, with other words with power amplifier that match very well with these speakers. Tell me how the Soundlab sounds with the appropriate poweramp? Does it sound sharp and grainy?

I does neither with the Atmas nor with the Zandens, which with their 60 watts drove these speakers extremely well. Must be further up the chain.
Chris, it would help if you would share what systems/amplifiers were paired with the A1's you heard that made you walk away with your "rather sharp and grainy treble" observations.
Jafox: MBL 1621 CD-transport - KCI Falcon S/PDIF interconnect - Goldmund Mimesis 10C+ D/A-converter - CAT Signature Mk III preamp - Gruensch CSE II se power amplifier - Cardas Golden Cross speaker cable - Soundlab A-1's.

Definetely the CAT Signature makes the sound sharper etc.
Conrad Johnson is a much better choice, softer more musical but unfortunately not too realistic(typical golden sound)
Dazzdax, its normal for transistor amps to sound that way on the Sound Labs, due to the low impedance at high frequencies. Sound Labs do not expect the amp to double power as the impedance is halved. see

So when you put a transistor amplifier on the Sound Labs, the result is too much treble energy and not nearly enough bass. That's why tube amplifiers are preferred; they will try to make the same power regardless of the impedance- that gives you a more tonally neutral sound on the Sound Lab.

Bottom line is that they can be very extended and smooth yet still aggressive if the music calls for it, IOW quite neutral :)
The Cat is fairly neutral, so I doubt it to be the culprit. The fault must lie elsewhere. I think Atmasphere is right. I have tried several highly reputable transistor amps on my SL speakers and they all sounded flat generally and nasty in the highs. Like the Quads this speaker needs a good tube amp to show off its mettle. Albert Porter in another thread reports of several, which sounded right to his experienced ears. Amongst those were the big VTLs and Atmas. I've settled with Atmas.I am extremely sensitive to highs not reproduced properly and am very happy with how the Atmas reproduce my music.
Ralph, what would happen if I'm using a 10 ohms resistor in the treble section of the Soundlab (instead of using the "brilliance" control rheostat)? Would that prevent for the solid state power amplifier to "double" power? Whay don't I hear the same treble characteristics with the Quad ESL 63?

this is purely personal experience and hence highly subjective:
I've owned Quads for decades and was never really satisfied with their high end. In the olden days I put Sequerra ribbons on top of the 63s to get the highs I liked and later the aCapella plasmas. I still have those, but feel no need to use them with my Sound Labs where I have the control rheostat at full tilt boogie.
Curious to hear what Ralph will say to your idea.
Wondering if your trouble couldn't also possibly be room dependent and if I, because of my age, should stop talking about the high end response of speakers, because my ears won't hear it no more anyway.......
Chris- check out what Jafox used in a mod on his speakers:
"I also replaced that horrible "brilliance" rheostat with a gold plated double-contact selector switch of 6 resistance values (values 0-> 2 ohms range). Treble clarity significantly improved. And with an occasional treble-hot recording, being able to attenuate the treble a little bit is mighty nice. It was amazing how much treble grain existed with the original rheostat."Maybe this will help out your situation.
Jafox, what make of selector switch did you use on your SL?
Dazzdax, one thing you might try is to put a resistance in series with the speaker. Two to four ohms ought to do (some audition might be a good idea), but it should handle high power. This will simulate an amplifier with a higher output impedance and will substantially reduce the power doubling problem. A fair amount of power made by the amp will be absorbed by the resistor, so this is not a very efficient means!

The impedance curve of the Quads is bit different from the Sound Labs, if I recall right the Quad matching transformer operates full range (the Sound Lab is a full-range diaphram driven by two transformers which are crossed-over to operate two frequency bands). I doubt that it has the same bandwidth as a result.
Chris, before you start a process that will likely never get you to the desired result with your ss amp, you need to take more seriously Atmasphere's comments regarding the SL's performing at their best with a tube amp. With this said, I can drive the A1's with a Counterpoint NPS400 and there is no brightness nor fatigue at all; I just don't have the degree of detail and refinement in the trebles and the rest of the range for that matter.

With the adjustable 0-to-2 ohms selector, I run it right in the middle. Going to 2 ohms has a significant reduction in treble level. A 10-ohm resistor in series with the SL's treble circuit will have a MAJOR subtractive impact.