Electrostatic Speakers

I have been lusting after a pair of electrostatic speakers for my entire life. When I was a kid the Infinity Servo Static was the big dog in town. I heard a pair of stacked (4) QUAD electrostatic when Mark Levinson was saying they were the only speakers up to his standards.

So, It was with great excitement when I ordered a pair of QUAD ESL-2912 speakers. I set them up in my listening room and they were fantastic. Even the bass was impressive, tight and went very low. However not the bass output one would get from a big powered sub-woofer. One night I was playing internet radio and I heard thunder. I walked outside and there was no rain. The thunder was coming from the speakers! Not loud but deep and tight.

I have owned lots of speakers over the years. I sold stereo systems for years when I was younger. I worked for AR for a few years. In all those years I have never heard any speaker that came close to the QUAD ESL-2912 for clarity and transient response.

Then one day the party ended. One of the speakers made a loud single CLICK, just one and then back to normal for days. Then it got much worse. It clicked and thumped every few hours. Then it clicked and thumped every few minutes.

I sent an email to the Distributor asking what to do. No answer. I sent a few more emails, no answer. The clicking was making me nuts so I removed the back cover and disconnected the panel, there are five, that was making the noise. All was back to wonderful except the left speaker was a bit softer in volume than the right speaker.

Over the next few months I sent more emails and my tone turned angry. Finally they sent me a replacement panel. Before the replacement panel arrived more panels went bad in the first speaker and then the second speaker.

Next we shipped both speakers to the factory repair center. Six months they returned with banged up cabinets, torn speaker cloth and one speaker still not working!

So my $ 13,000.00 dream speakers have bitten me. Years ago I had KLH 9 speakers (also full range electrostatic) and never had trouble with them until they died and couldn’t be rebuilt.

Any of you have experience with QUAD electrostatics? Some people say a rebuilt pair of the old ones are way better than the new ones. I assumed that new modern manufacturing methods would have made the new speakers super reliable.

Thoughts?? Am I within my reasonable rights to sue these guys?
Am I within my reasonable rights to sue these guys?
Is your dealer willing to intervene on your behalf? Are the speakers under warranty?
@davidclarke-You might reach out to Kent McCollum at Electrostatic Solutions in the midwest. I know he restores the original Quad and the ’63. He restored my originals that I purchased in 1973, added a protection circuit, and more modern, standard connectors for power and signal input. They sound great!
You have certainly covered some ground in terms of great historical speakers. The first high end dealer I knew of as a youngster in Pittsburgh, Opus One, had used double KLH 9s back in the day.
As to claims and redress, you’ll have to explore your options. Sometimes state laws aimed at consumer protection allow for recovery of treble damages and attorney’s fees. Easy enough to look at the state law in question and do a search of relevant consumer protection laws. You’ll likely have to hire a lawyer in that jurisdiction (unless you want to sue them in your home state and risk that they won’t appear).
It will come down to a cost/benefit analysis for you-- unless you are simply vindicating principle, which is noble, but a rich man’s game. (I was a NYC lawyer for 36 years, now retired, who specialized in copyright matters; no legal advice intended here). Good luck.
Cleeds - They were under warranty when they started to fail.

Whart - Thanks for the Kent McCollum idea.  I am going to give them another month and then call my lawyer.
Whart - I worked for AR back in the days of the 3A and LST.  Such a great company.  We had a goal to solve all customer problems within 1 week.  Most blown speakers were over driven by too small an amp.  The amp and receiver were a different story.  The output stage could be burned up way too easily.  Remember the XA tuntable was $80.00 when new!  Sold zillions of them with Sure M91ED or V-15 type III.  The M91 retailed for $59.00 and the V-15 was $85.00!  

Here is a funny thing...  Back around 1976 we would give someone $100.00 trade in for a  Mcintosh MC240 tube amp.  People wanted to get away from tubes and go for a solid state amp.
@davidclarke- So, you have some direct history. The XA was my first 'real' turntable and the LST was a pretty serious speaker in the day-- pretty inefficient as I recall (and ML did his thing with those as well). I slung hi-fi in late high school, early college years. I remember people trading in big ol' idler drives, which are now back in fashion. Life is funny. Good luck with your speakers, and welcome to Audiogon, where anything is possible, but not probable. :)
Thanks Whart!

Yes the LST was very power hungry.  Best I ever heard them was with 4 Mark Levinson ML1 class A power amps strapped into two channels.  Second best was two HK Citation 16 in mono.

Stacked 3A speakers also were quite a thing!

The Levinson amps pulled so much power I had to run the second pair off a different circuit breaker - and talk about heat!! 

Speaking of  old dler drives...  I wish I had kept some of the old stuff I gave away!  That stuff goes for big $$ on eBay these days.  I am sure you know all about that!

Love this thread.

Get in touch with Kent. Get them rebuilt. Listen to music. Relax. Your lawyer will cost more than the rebuild.
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Small claims for each panel as an independent failure!
i am not a lawyer, I stay away from holiday innget them rebuilt and enjoy the tunes!!!!

the MC240 retailed for $199 in 1965 I believe, mine is a 1961

those were the days!!!
But wait. Why did these supposedly reknowned speakers fail? Is this a fundamental design flaw or...?
The rumor was bad glue holding the charge plates in place.

However I was told the new panels didn't have that problem.

I think now I only have 1 bad panel out of 10 panels.
Between the bad shipping job and 1 speaker not working directly from repair I am not a happy camper.
I don't understand that at all. Here's why. Martin has been building high quality acoustic guitars for more than 100 years and they are held together with glue and yet one can bang away on them as hard as one wants to, under great tension, and they don't fall apart. I mean, what gives?
Try Martin Logan’s. I’ve had mine for almost 25 years and they have been great the whole time.  You won’t find a better electrostatic speaker!

@stevecham, the word is, the Quad glue problems started after their production moved to China. For those who like to shoot the messenger, I’m not saying it’s true (or untrue, for that matter).

I have original Quads (57’s), but if I was going to spend $13,000 on new ESL’s, it would be Sanders or Music Reference I would buy. Both made in the U.S.A. by people who care.

stevecham  -  My glue was the problem.  It would be a problem with Martin to if they used the wrong glue.

rwscott - I need to go hear the  Martin Logan’s heard good things about them.

bdp24 - all good points.

David, sorry to hear of your travails. 

I use 3 pairs of Quad 2905's, without trouble. I love them. I have also owned 57's and a pair of upper scale ML hybrids. To my ears, the 29 series is easily the best - although the 57's are just as musical, they are missing an octave top and bottom.  Hybrids are problematic because the bass drivers are cones and the rest are ESL's, and that's a hard match to make. Seemingly. IMO.

I am just setting up to use the ML's for home theatre, where they should be standouts - but for my money, Quads are better for music because all frequencies are generated by the same technology. YMMV.

Good luck - and thanks.
+1 on bdp24. Sanders have a good rep.
Not sure when you bought yours but per the distributor there are only
two Authorized repair people. One in NJ? and one in San Jose.
The man in San Jose said his experience has been that the 2905/2805 
have bad panels. $500 each to replace each panel plus shipping. Ouch. He says he has yet to see a 2912 in for repair. 
The glue seems to delaminate with time and then you get the unwanted noise.
I have two friends with 2905s and both have the same issues you have.
I learned why no retailers want to carry the line. They sound fantastic 
until they don't. Good luck.
The best stats on the planet are made by Roger Sanders.
Another vote for the Sanders speakers. I believe he warranties them for life (his life...lol) but try and find someone who owns them and have a listen.
Relationships between distributors and manufacturers are a funny thing and have an often dark life of their own. If all your communication has been through the distributor, perhaps talking directly with Quad would be worth a shot vs. I'd hate to shell out more for repairs given the circumstances.
If you throw in the towel, besides Sanders, no discussion of great electrostatics is complete without consideration of Sound Labs. Sound quality exceeds everything I've come across and support is excellent, even for thrifty guys like me who bought >25yr old pair. Cheers,
Thanks Spencer

Unfortunately, QUAD is now part of an Asian conglomerate and not at all easy to communicate with.  At this point I think there is only one bad panel.  If this were a normal situation that would not be a big deal.

I have no problem fixing things myself - but these things are a total pain to replace a panel - lots of soldering.  I am going to go look at Sound Labs web site.   
David, where do you reside and frequent? Maybe we can find you somewhere to listen? Cheers,
Products that I have reviewed and had very good experiences with are Kings Audio Kingsound ESL and Sound Lab. I reviewed both for Dagogo.com and would recommend them based on use/performance. 
I have heard the Sanders hybrid ESL several times and it also is very good. 

Sbank - very nice of you!

For the moment I have all the $$ I can spend in the QUADS.  I like them when they work!  I am thinking of selling the QUADS after they are repaired and have been working for a while.  Hopefully the new glue will hold on correctly.
The distributor for Quad is MOFI and they suck.  Total losers.  I’ve heard of many problems with these guys.  They should stick to records.

As for current model Quad’s, I heard it takes three pairs to make one good working pair.

I hear you.  MOFI had me ship the speakers to the only place in the USA that services them - it took them six months to fix them.  When they returned to me they were dinged up, torn grill cloth AND one didn't work.

My fear is that I will get them working and they will fail again in a year.  Perhaps I should give Magnapans a try they don't cost all that much.  So sad, QUAD was one of those brands of my childhood that represented something very special.  " The closest approach to the closest approach, to making me nuts"

Relationships between distributors and manufacturers are a funny thing and have an often dark life of their own. If all your communication has been through the distributor, perhaps talking directly with Quad would be worth a shot vs. I'd hate to shell out more for repairs given the circumstances.
If you throw in the towel, besides Sanders, no discussion of great electrostatics is complete without consideration of Sound Labs. Sound quality exceeds everything I've come across and support is excellent, even for thrifty guys like me who bought >25yr old pair. Cheers,
Recently (in the last4 years) the Sound Labs are not only a lot more reliable, but they are also a lot easier to drive (and as a result, sound better). IMO they are the SOTA of ESLs.

I purchased a used pair of 2905's they lasted 6 months then one of the speakers also failed. What a waste of money.

I know how you feel.  I think every used QUAD is for sale by someone who wants to get out of them!  I have never see such thing!
I won't sell mine to anyone and have them go through the same loss as me. They will be used sparingly at lower volume levels. They have been replaced with Totem Element Metals.
You might try posing your problems at diyaudio.com under the planers and exotics forum.  There are several very experienced Quad wizards there who may have some helpful suggestions for you.  Good Luck!

BTW, my dream system of the sixties would have been Bozak Symphonies powered by a Mac 275.

Hi, guys. I have owned Quad ESL 63's can't tell you how many times I sent them back to the distributor for repairs. Then I bought Wayne Piquet 57 rebuilds and they have never failed. He lives about 100 miles from me in Florida, so I have had them upgraded and retuned a couple of times since then. I own a pair of 988's that have also failed panels. He says it is the Chinese glue that fails to hold the panels together. When all is working well, I still prefer the 57s, despite the limitations of range, image, etc. I have added Enigma Sopranino super tweeters and they have improved things. PK,s speakers play plenty loud and I have never blown them or tripped the protective circuit.

However, and this is a big one, PK is an eccentric dude with poor health habits who has had two heart attacks and is always late with stuff. He still has my 988s for repair and is several months late, but that being said, he is a guy with a tremendous heart and soul for what he does and would never screw anyone over. After all these years I consider him a friend who would never let me down, but I have know him for almost 15 years.  His rebuilds are the best by far. A true master, but I fear for a meltdown. He's the best, but approach with caution. He has trouble with his website so call him direct would be the best approach.

 I have never found a speaker to replace the sound of the 57s. If I were looking for a more mainline speaker, I would be looking at the Maggies.

Don't be so quick to recommend Martin Logan these days.  The high end and mids on my Requests began to disappear.  I wrote to ML and they told me I needed to replace the panels at a cost of $1995/pair!!! .  They said the panels start to loose it after about 15 years, something they never revealed in their literature.  I have been a loyal ML customer for years, also have a pair of Quests and the Descent subwoofer.  I realize the market isn't what it once was, but this is not a cost effective repair under any circumstance.  Really disappointed.  
OP, I too am sorry for your troubles with the 2912's. I have a pair of 2905's that I bought used back in 2009, and the only problem I have had is with the protection circuitry that on occasion in the first year would interfere with normal operation, making them sound muffled. At the time I thought the panels were going bad, so I unplugged them and started searching for repair options. The owner of Quad, IAG, had no presence in the States at the time. Wayne Piquet (PK) and a couple of other places only dealt with ESL57, ESL63 and perhaps 988/989 repair., but I found this in the D.C. area, factory authorized at the time. I spoke to the owner and he sounded very competent:


However soon after that on a whim I tried the speakers out again, and straightaway the sound was great. Somehow the circuitry had reset; I have no other explanation. They have been fine ever since and I am careful with the volume knob.

BTW I have heard the Sanders Reference hybrids for a short while at my b-in-law's, and I thought they sounded excellent too.
If they had glue issues it's likely that in time the other panels will also fail. One thing that often works is a Better Business Bureau complaint. Best Buys once damaged a phone when installing a Zagg screen protector. The store refused to do anything saying that I should use my insurance to pay for it. I looked up their ethics statement and using it, filed a complaint, they then came through. Hope things work out for you!

If Sound Labs are too big, then electrostatics aren't a fit. Unless someone is willing to live without low frequencies. You need plenty of surface area to get LF from electrostatics. IMHE, compromises to reduce size (usually hybrids using cone woofers) don't perform nearly as well. 

About the muraudio, how long have they been around and how many have they sold? I'd be skeptical to spend large $ on something that if parts/service are ever required, you don't know if manuf. will be around. Check out a ten or twenty year old audio magazine. Half the advertisers don't exist anymore! It's a lot tougher getting your local random audio tech to repair an electrostatic than a tube amp. Cheers,
I can whole-heartedly recommend Martin Logans.  I've owned ReQuest, Arius i, Prodigy, and CLX.  The early ReQuest, required occasional vacuuming of dust to keep quiet-squealing at bay and good HF extension. The Prodigy and CLX were and have been flawless and trouble free. The Prodigy from 2000 through 2010 and the CLX from 2010 on. (estimates). The Prodigy and CLX both benefit from a powered down, vacuuming every few months to maximize HF extension.
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Easy 3 part jazz  bands sound very good   solo female all singers sound very good    rock for the serious man   walk away
   or make sure you have 2 subs     let's make sure you tell it like it is   Eddie
The best stats on the planet are made by Roger Sanders      don't mix up
roger west with sanders 
I own a pair of 2805's
A knowledgeable friend told me they would last six years .. then poof!. Sadly almost six years to the month it happened. That notorious "clicking" that told me a Panel needed replacement.
I decided I would purchase Harbeth 7 ES3 as a temporary replacement until my Quads get repaired. I hung on and on and never did fix up the Quads. 
The Harbeths are so good and seem to fit into my set up and room arrangement. They are so musical and I am enjoying them much more than the Quads.
Alas I will not repair the Quads.   Not worth the hassle.  
++1 on Sanders ESLs. The model 10e is truly fantastic. They are "arc-proof" given their perfect insulation stators. Also, Roger Sanders and company are the best in terms of support. You will find only knowledgeable, reasonable and helpful folks at SSS. No "snake oil" products sold or recommended by them as well.
+++1 Sanders 10e. I don't own them yet but have heard them many times, just lovely. They will be my next speaker.
I would agree. I have heard Sanders speakers at several audio shows and they are terrific. My only knock is that they lack the goosebump effect I get from my 57s. But they are using digital and I get my best sound from my 'table. But Roger Sanders system approach is fantastic. I have put it under serious consideration in the past.
One of my first loves in speakers was the Quad ESL63. I got a pr. back in about 1984 and had them for 20 years, until having to sell because of a down size in living space. They performed flawlessly for 20 years and were still going strong and sounding great when I sold them.
A sad deal when Quad moved their manufacturing to China, their stats haven't been up to the same standards since.
Recently mooving back in a larger space, I got a pr. of the Maggie 1.7s; much the same sound and character as the Quads, but do need a sub. I'm considering an upgrade to the larger Maggie 3.7s or possibly the Sound Labs. The Maggies, Sound Labs and Sanders are all great speakers, but the Sanders (more so than either the Maggies or Sound Labs) do require a good deal of power to drive.
Best of luck.....Jim
@jhills IMHE, they all require plenty of power. The older SLs require more than newer models. Some of the smaller Maggies, a bit less than the larger ones, but 3.x and larger need a pretty good push to get their best out of them.
ESL63s were my first electrostatics too. They brought tears to my ears with small jazz, vocals and acoustic rock LPs, but on orchestras and prog rock I always felt like something was missing and I was listening to small speakers.
For me, SLs provide so much more dynamics and weight without sacrificing the strengths of the Quads. I'd say the Sanders do similar. My friend, a Philadelphia Orchestra pro, told me that his Maggie 20.7s don't hold a candle to my 30yr. old A3s; I agree. Cheers,