Electrostatic pros and cons.

I recently saw a feature on the program, "how it's made" on electrostatic speakers and it piqued my interest in them. I was wondering the pros and cons of them, their placement, space needs, sound, etc. Any advice would be appreciated.

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From measurements I've seen int he past, several ESL's I've seen just don't measure well in the frequency or distortion domains.

That may not be true for every ESL though, that's a broad generalization based on what I've seen.

There were still plenty of good reasons to listen to them though. :)



I've seen frequency response measurements published by Toole for a hybrid electrostat that looked horrendous, but I don't think they were well done, nor the ensuing listening test.  Here's why:

SPL will fall off more rapidly with distance from the point-source woofer than from the line-source panel.  So a hybrid electrostat either has to be designed to be a good match for its target room size (NOT the big spin-o-rama room that Harmon uses), OR it has to be carefully adjusted to work well in that particular room. 

In the Harmon test, I believe it was an essentially non-adjustable Martin Logan hybrid electrostat, and the room was many times too large for it.  Also the listeners sat side-by-side and the Martin Logans had as small sweet spot, so that further handicapped it in the listening evaluation.

Not that I'm the world's biggest Martin Logan fan, but imo they were not properly evaluated in that test.


I think we are debating technology and not the sound. I think listeners should try out an ESL / Amp combination and see if the like them for the money.

While you do have to carefully match the woofer's level to the panel, the issues I'm talking about have more to do with ragged frequency responses within the panel itself, especially between the mid to treble range. Something a number of people have tried to correct with room correction software with varying levels of success.

I don't think this should matter as much as personal listening experience however. I'm just trying to be clear about spepcmanship.


"I think we are debating technology and not the sound."

I thought I was responding to critiques of the measured response of some electrostats.

But Audiogon is not a technical forum, so perhaps I should have just said "that’s not how some of them sound to me. Mr. Salami should try them and decide for himself."

If tech talk is off the table, that's all I have to offer. 


Apart from midrange transparency at which they excel, there's an overall coherence to an all electrostatic set up (not using dynamic speakers for woofers), but my experience is no doubt dated. I bought my first pair of original Quad ESLs (a/k/a the '57) in 1973 and ran them in various configurations, with subs, ribbon tweets and unadorned, until about 1990, when I bought a pair of Crosby modified Quad '63s- a better overall speaker with less beamy high frequencies, more apparent bass and the ability to play louder. But, to my ears, those '63s- which had the benefit of the Crosby tweaks from the era- never achieved that see through quality of the original '57, so when I decided to restore a set, I chose to have the '57s refurbished, not the '63s.
Over the years, I've listened to others (also dated)- Dayton Wright, some huge Martin Logan (I think it might have been called a Monolith but could be wrong) driven by Jadis amps at a lovely little boutique on the Il St Louis in Paris, their early, original CLS, and going back further, double KLH 9s with Marantz tube electronics, Janzen tweeter arrays, etc. I did not hear the Soundlabs- I should, nor the Beveridge, from back in the day. I gather that the Sanders are a preferred maker these days. 
I hung in with electrostats until 2006, when i switched to a horn array, one that also depends on dynamic woofers-- the Avantgarde. In some ways, a very similar experience in getting the deeper bass to cohere with an unfettered midrange. I keep the restored Quads as part of a second vintage system that is just "yummy"- perhaps a bit romantic, but oh, those old Quads- maybe I'm just lost in a nostalgic sound. The folks with the Soundlabs and Sanders might tell you that you can have it all without the shortcomings. 
Interestingly, on amps, I long ran mid-power ARC amps- high quality in the day, from a Dual 75a, to a D70 mk ii, to a Classic 60 (which was part of the newer ARC sound at the time- less tubelike). The best the old Quads have sounded, though, is with the measly old pair of Quad II amps running real NOS GEC KT 66s. Within the limits of that speaker, it's the best sound I have obtained on them. 
Electrostats can be addictive, even if other speakers can do some things (bass thwack, high dB) better. FWIW, I didn't confine myself to chamber music, string quartets and small jazz combos. You can hear into the music at lower volume levels. I would guess that with the right current model, large enough panels, you can come pretty close to getting it all. And perhaps, with more modern woofer technology, you can enhance them effectively without the seams-- I now run the '57s unadorned, without any tricks, mods or augmentation. 
They are insensitive to side wall placement, want to be well away from the front wall (the wall behind the speaker) and at least with the Quad, were acutely sensitive to tiny adjustments in angle- no doubt due to the very beamy tweeter panel.  Mine are in a relatively small room. 
Viz: https://thevinylpress.com/a-tribute-to-quad/