expand your universe and include the electrostatic's brother, the planar(maggie), in your search. it's still tops in the bang-for-the-buck when you depart from drivers and a box.
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What is your definition of reliable? Electrostatic speakers will require the panels to be replaced, much like tubes, but longer lasting. My opinion is (take ML for example) that the panels are very good for 5 years and typically get replaced in the 7-10 year neighborhood. It is my impression, like with tubes, that people don't notice so much the reduction in performance as the panels start to weaken and that is why they typically stay on a bit longer than they should. This being said, the panels aren't really that expensive.
I will not tell you what is the best of the speakers in terms of performance as you seem to have a pretty good handle on this. As for the Quads, I sense there are only certain models that really hold resale value and seem to move fairly quickly.
Acoustat. The most reliable E-stat ever. My 2+2's are old enough to vote. Been shipped from Florida to Canada and back by truck freight. With new caps and wire (under $100) they will outperform the Quads (just like they always did, read the reviews) and almost match the expensive and unreliable Soundlabs.
Maggies are totally different animals, though they look like e-stats they are not.
I have two sources of information re: Soundlab reliability.
1. Two of my friends have Soudlabs - M1 and M2. One had to ship his back for repair( the M1). They are now for sale.
2. Check the ads on Audiogon. A high proportion say; For sale, just back from the factory with .......
I strongly suspect that few pay to have their heavy expensive Soundlabs shipped back and THEN sell them, unless there was a problem. On the other hand, I have become a suspicious person (by starting out as a trusting one) .
I can attest to the reliability of the Innersounds. The stats are practically bulletproof. No arcing, no issues with dust or humidity. Yes, Innersound has closed it's doors, but Roger Sanders is in Colorado, and very willing to help you out, if a problem arises. The Innersound Kaya's have dynamics that will completely blow away any of the other speakers that you are considering.
There is a pair currently for sale on Audiogon, that is a steal.
If electrostats are what you are looking for, I highly recommend considering these. I have had mine for about six months, and for the first time in my audiophile career, I can say that I am done. There, I said it.
Some production runs of older-generation SoundLabs had problems with some of the materials used that would not show up in testing, but could show up later. Current generation SoundLabs have been highly reliable to the best of my knowledge, as long as they have not been damaged in shipping. In my experience, reliability issues in older SoundLabs can often be traced to improper packing when a used pair is sold and shipped to a new owner. The new PX panels are much more rigid and less likely to be damaged in shipping, but they are not totally drop-proof nor forklift-proof.
I don't think it's my place to post specifics about changes in manufacturing techniques on the internet, when SoundLab hasn't posted those changes on their website. But I invite anyone concerned about the reliability of current-generation SoundLabs to give me a call - my phone numbers are on my website, audiokinesis.com.
I have lived with stators all my life. Started with the Quad 57s, had Servo Statics, Quad 63s, Accoustats, InnerSounds and live now with Sound Labs. I have NEVER had reliability issues. OK, I blew a few panels of the 57, when I listend too loud and that was all. In my experience the Accoustats never even came close to the resolving power of the 63s, but they played louder and had more dynamics. Same for the InnerSounds. Concerning Sound Labs, I think Duke has said it all.
Put me down as fifth for the Acoustats.
Acoustat had a number of different model. Some preferred the earlier Full range models and some liked the later Spectra series and all the different models.
What do I think, well I think any of them are the best bang for the $$ you can find and are known as the most reliable stat there is.
Another thing is Bass, certain models of Acoustats have incredible bass and it's not disjointed like some coming from a woofer, this is all panel.
I'm into the earlier ones that run the panels full range and by that I mean there is no x-over, all panels run fullrange, very coherent, no phase issues with x-overs.
I run Acoustat X with Direct Drive Servo Tube amps.
I've had a few pairs of Maggies and still have a pair of MG IIIa in storage and traded my Eminent Technology 8a to get these. Best move I ever made.
If you can find a pair of Acoustats, grab them, and if you can find a pair with the Direct Drive Servo Tube amps, jump all over them. The amps can be easily upgraded to perform as reliable and stable as new tube amps.
Hi, I also have owned electrostats for many years 4 pair of quad 57s with only one problem a panel went out. 23 years ago purchased a pair of Audioatatics ES240s they have been trouble free since day one. They sound great and do everything I want them to do,and yes i'd say they are reliable.I play this pair almost every day.
Maybe the Acoustats were TOO good.... no replacement parts revenue was being generated....
As a long time MartinLogan owners, I can say that how long the panels last really depends on the environment they're in and how they're taken care of.
Monthly vacuuming of the panels keeps the dust buildup to a minimum. Humidity affects the lifespan also.
The newer panels will last 10 years EASILY before needing replacement. My Sequel panel were 16 years old and instead of replacing them, I upgraded.... but you could tell the "magic" was gone...
Hope that helps... I also agree about auditioning a pair of Maggies. They have a similar sound to e-stats. I'm not sure about their reliability, however.. Someone else with more knowledge about Maggies can attest....
I've used stats for over 30 years, including Quads, Soundlabs, and Acoustats. Generalizing can be a misleading, as each has had reliabilty hits and misses, sometimes varying by model- and as Duke wisely points out, sometimes even for the same model. If you love stats, resign yourself to higher maintenance. It goes with the turf. Newer generations of Quads and Soundlabs have improved reliability- if you can afford them, go that route. Older ones can be a bear, unless you learn to get parts and work on them yourself. It's easier than you think to repair or replace old quad panels. Do your research specifically for the model you want, and for the time when it was made. You can improve your odds that way. And keep a good pair of cone speakers as backup. You'll need them some day. And they'll remind you how good your stats really are.
Very true and i would suggest looking at the quad ESl 57, the modded ones by PK and others. They are tons ahead of the original and can be driven to some unbelievable levels without issue.
In the past i was also fond of both soundlab and acoustat, it's been awhile since i have heard them, but i did get to hear the modded ESL57 a few weeks ago and they were actually pretty good and powerful , yes ... powerful!!!!
I would not buy a standard ESL57 unless you had intended to mod them !!!
Reliability is a valid concern, addressed well by some who have posted to this thread. I suggest that something which should be at least as important is performance. If you aren't delighted with the sound day after day, year after year, you might have the most reliable speaker but not want to listen, and that would be a pity. Follow your ears.
Add me to the Acoustat fan club. My model 2s have never had anything done to them but replace the socks. They have great transparency, soundstage and that sense of music coming from nowhere that all electrostatics tend toward. They can be beamy and the bass can overwhelm you if you have things set up wrong. They also like power, lots.
I am fortunate that I have a very long room and have mine setup in a close listening seating arrangement. The soundstage is very wide and deep. The bass is full, but controlled.
I used to drive them with a Hafler 220, now I am using a vintage Adcom GFA555 and with a tube Dynaco Pas preamp. This gives it a very full, powerful and slightly warmish tone.
I would like to put better caps and wire in the Acoustats. Anyone here with some documentation, would be a great help.
I have never heard of panels being replaced on a 7 year basis like tubes as stated by a previous poster - this sounds perposterous!! I had sound labs and never had a problem with the panels, but the power supplies did act up and fail, One speaker had the bias adjustment fail and the other had 100% power supply failure. I did buy them used and they were abused by the previous owner- i suspect they had been in a flood or something because the transformers were way rusty. I did get about 7 years out of them and all in all was very happy to have owned one of the very best speakers anywhere for a a while- all good things end at some point.
one point i would like to make, is always buy these from a dealer that is "johnny on the spot" when it comes to service. The dealer I bought from was very lame and totally useless when it came to service and support and he was also kind of a liar. Repairs are very expensive and a pita and panels are not cheap and shipping charges will kill you on those things. I dont know what some have been smoking?
6550, while the problems you experienced are not common, they illustrate why customer service by the dealer is important. In the case of products purchased new, the dealer should be willing and able to diagnose the problem, including traveling to your home as necessary to help. As with any product, failure caused by abuse cannot be covered under warranty, but I know of an instance or two in the fairly distant past where it was the result of defective material, in which Sound Lab bent over backwards to help and took care of repairs outside of the warranty period without charge. They are diligent about finding the cause of failures if and when they occur, in virtually every case due to material supplied to them such as a run of bass transformers with bad insulation. Sound Lab stands behind its products and reputation. As a Sound Lab dealer, I truly try to go the extra mile for the customer, including providing setup assistance upon delivery, to sorting out issues if and when they occur down the road. I'm in it for the long haul and as such am fully committed to customer satisfaction. Having been on the consumer side of things long before putting on a dealer hat, I value that commitment above all else, particularly in the case of a specialized product like Sound Lab that isn't sold off the rack at Best Buy. Whether it's a client just up the street or one halfway across the country, I'm all over it because a day without music is like a day without sunshine, and I can't bear the thought of a single customer who isn't delighted. Seriously.
I think its simple. If you want to own stats, its most like owning tubes. The stats by nature have a life expectancy (as to capacitors in your amps, tubes in your equipment, sorrounds in some drivers). If you know you have a product that has a component that has a life expectancy and that part fails at the expected life cycle, that is not a reliability issue. That is maintenance. You know your tires on your car are good for only so many miles. As your tires wear (beyond a certain level) their performance levels drop. I think this is also true of both stats and tubes.