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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@clio09, were the speakers on the side wall ESP’s, and the designer’s name Sean McCaughan? I saw and heard them in the 1990’s at Acoustic Image in Studio City, CA, a great high end shop in SoCal. Never got to hear the Beveridge, though I heard the Dayton Wright’s in 1972 or 3 when David Fletcher (designer of the SOTA table and Sumiko MDC 800 "The Arm") had a little retail shop in Berkeley.

Anyone who has heard the original Quad and doesn’t think it is extremely good at reproducing vocals and other acoustic instruments, well, I don’t know what to say. Uncolored, see-through liquid transparency (low energy storage in the near-massless Mylar, which starts and stops on a dime), natural timbres and textures, the ability to make every thread in a densely-woven tapestry or fabric (every voice in a choir, for instance) clearly audible as a separate entity. Other ESL’s, too. All speaker designs have their own strengths and weaknesses; you have to find one that excels at those characteristics in reproduced music you value most, your priorities.

The downfall of ESL's for me is the fact they are delicate and the repair cost is very high if something goes wrong. I had a pair of Martin-Logan years ago and they were excellent sounding speakers. When one speaker started playing at a lower volume than the other one, I called M-L. They said the panels have a definitive life span (like anything) and had probably reached the end of it. So I had to order new panels, and from M-L they only came in pairs, so I could not just replace the one that played at a lower volume. The panels were shipped to me and they were easy enough to replace but the cost was very high. The panels alone were almost as much as I paid for my Magnepan MG 1.6 at the time. Other companies may sell you just one panel and may have different repair options, but this was the real deterrent to me for ESL's in the future. I buy all my equipment used, but I would never buy a pair of ESL's used because of their delicate nature and the repair cost.
I thought I was responding to critiques of the measured response of some electrostats.


I am not faulting you, @audiokinesis  I just like to be explicit about my own angles. Just because I may feel ESL's are overall not that great measuring doesn't mean you should not like them.

I seem to recall that the Quads measured with the lowest distortion of any speaker available at the time (back in the 1960s-70s).

The Sound Labs seem to be the Sate of the Art in ESLs. The newer ones are fairly efficient- once you translate the numbers to real world, about 90dB by comparison.


Getting the older Quads and the Sound Labs to play bass is a bit of a trick- you have to have an amplifier that can make power into higher impedances. If you do, they play bass very nicely!

ESLs are different from a lot of speakers in that they work best if the amplifier can make constant power into them at any frequency rather than constant voltage. IOW an amplifier that can double power as the impedance is cut in half will be bass shy and too bright on many ESLs.  The reason is that the impedance curve of an ESL is not a map of its efficiency as is common with most box speakers. That has a lot to do with the fact that there is no box and its associated resonance and also because the impedance curve of the speaker is based on a capacitance.

There was that place called Hi-Fi Farm that sold some big electrostatic speakers made in the Netherlands. They were bigger than the biggest SoundLabs, don't know better or not. Retail was about $100k, I saw their demo for I think $40k.
Hybrid speakers like Avant Garde Duo, Rogers, Martin Logan etc. is never a good idea. You don't want hybrids because you will never achieve the proper integration, not that you will fully achieve it with the Trio. I guess, overall best dynamic speakers are still the best speakers. And best tube amps are best amps. What else is new ?