Electrostatic vs. Boxed vs. Ribbon?

I have audition Martin Logans, which have a nice dark background with superb clean and pinpoint imaging. B&W Nautilus and Revel Ultimas which are really dynamic, but not as clear and precise in imaging. And also the Carver ribbon speakers which are closer to the box speaker than the Electrostatics. Can anyone help me emphasize on the pros and cons of each of these 3 speaker designs?
I don't know lots about electrostats/ribbon speakers, other than they generally are very picky about set up and have a narrower g-spot. They also are pretty demanding in terms of having the 'right' room. But dam, they can sound good!
Sit down with each speaker and get out a pad of note paper and make 2 columns "pros", "cons." Then get busy with the listenin' and writin'. No one can tell you anything your ears can't. This is the best and perhaps most difficult way of sorting things out.
First Paper.

Second Page

If the second (previous) link doesn't work use this one and click on the "1983 issue."

Search old threads (archives) here like "disadvantages of Electrostats," or something like that, I know was one among others.
I think your comments are off to the right start. Also, I think the suggestion of spending some time on your own making a list is a good one. First, no speaker does it ALL right--at least I haven't heard one yet. Some speakers sound great with this type of music--others with that. These would be some general observations (these are not 100% true of every speaker in every category--and these are of course my own personal observations--observations may vary by listener):
1. Horns
pros: efficient, dynamic, sounds great with a 3 watt Triode SE, placement is easy
cons: do not image will, can detect speakers (they do not disappear very well)
2. Conventional Box / Dynamic (huge group and varies)
pros: dynamic, can be efficient--but often isn't, can have a great sound stage but sometimes doesn't.
cons: not as efficent as horns, not as good imaging as planers
3. Ribbon and planer
pros: still very dynamic, blends better with woofer than most ESL panels, excellent imaging,
cons: not terribly efficient (though some are),
4. ESL
pros: great midrange and vocals and clarity, imaging is amoung the best
cons: not efficient, lacking bass (unless coupled with a woofer/hybrid design), not as dynamic, difficult to place and VERY room dependent.

Hope that helps some, but keep in mind the dynamic bracket is SO broad that it almost spans the whole spectrum. If you picked out 3 speakers that were approximately equal in price and listened for a while my guess is these generalizations would hold fairly true, but they are just generalizations and when buying you really need to narrow down the specific aspects that are important to you as a listener. For me, it's the imaging and midrange clarity and thus I own electrostatics--this is where they really excel. As it turns out my female vocal recording purchases have increased dramatically--not an unusual phenomenon. You tend to purchase what sounds best on your system--and buy the system that plays the kind of music you like. I guess what I'm saying is don't be WOWed by the speaker that plays great female vocals, if you don't like female vocals. Be WOWed by what plays what you like to listen to.
A little generalization can be a dangerous thing.

For example, among the 4 major brands of electrostats available in the US (Martin-Logan, InnerSound, Quad, and Sound Lab), I can find you models that are efficient, or easy to drive, or have a very wide sweet spot, or are easy to set up, or have excellent bass (with and without a conventional woofer), or play very loud, or work well in a wide variety of rooms.

I can do similar things with the 4 brands of ribbons that come to mind (Magnepan, Newform, Bohlender-Graebener [including B-G users Soundline and Wisdom Audio], and Oskar Heil).

And, I can name box speakers that are unboxy, have excellent clarity, superb soundstaging, very low coloration, or sound lively at low volume levels.

What I can't do is name a single speaker model - ribbon, stat, box, horn, whatever - that does it all.

Going back to electrostats, most of the articles written by detractors use outdated generalizations and/or overlook successful engineering solutions to the theoretical challenges of electrostatic design. John Dunlavy's paper, linked above, is an example of this. Each of the four issues he raises have been succesfully addressed by modern designers.

S2000Turbo, your own personal priorities are probably the best guide as to what speakers are likely candidates. You see, if you follow the oft-made generalizations by fans or detractors of a given technology (myself included!) you will be misled into overlooking the exceptions. And it is those exceptions that are the real hidden gems.

I'd suggest you use your personal priorities as a starting point, and look for specific loudspeaker models that meet those priorities. There are some very innovative designs out there, which defy even the best-intentioned generalizations.

Best of luck on your quest!

Maggie 3.6 and sub (Rel or Velodyne)
Heaven if enough power!

Good Luck
I think Rives summed it up as well as one can.
Just wanted to add my 2 cents. I have been hooked on electrostatics since the early eighties.Yes they suck if you feed 'em the likes of Led Zeppelin or most any heavy rock band,but if your an audiophile,thats not what you are going to play over your system anyway.Personally,I save the rock for the system in my vehical,plenty of amps and subs to do it justice.The open life like sound of electrostatics with female vocals and jazz is breathtaking,and I have yet to hear a box speaker to equal it.
Sorry, correction, Page 5 of the second link begins discussing transducer types. But the "loudspeaker evaluation" on page 2 may still be worth reading (I didn't read it though so be careful-although ava is credible). He also discusses piezoelectric drivers that get overlooked often and I thought it was interesting 'cause I always forget about those. (I *did* read that transducer section though and saw nothing wrong). But all the articles address what your interested in. Each technology comes down to how well the designer did it as others have rightfully said.

Audiokinesis is right that some designers have worked with some of the "general" disadvantages of e-stats with sucess; but by reading Dunlavy's article it you'll at least be aware of what a designer is faced with and know when a design may have not dealt with these issues-or how it did. Quad and Soundlab are certainly better than Final (I have not heard good things about those--one person described their sound as "nails on a blackboard").

There's oddballs too like open-baffle (dipole by default) electromagnetic systems (Rives' #2) that are free from cabinet resonances and internal standing waves and share the same dispersion pattern just like the e-stats (and they have a loyal, although small, following). In fact, transmission lines generally don't have as nasty a backwave reflection (or cabinet resonance for that matter) as the other "boxed" types which is one more on the list.
I have spent most of my adult life listening to electrostatic speakers. I fell in love with the Achostats? in the mid sixties but could not afford them.In the mid seventies i got a pair of esl quads which I loved and stil keep in my office.By the end of the seventies I bought a Pair of dayton wrights great when they worked.In the mid eighties I bought the martin logan monolith I,and replaced these with the ML Prodigies when they came out.Through the years I spent a fortune on tweeks trying to get these speakers to sound right for orchestral music.I listen primarily to classica lmusic.Last year I finaly gave up and got the JM Utopias and I have been happy ever since.
Good luck
I own the Infinity Renaissance 80's which have the Emit ribbon tweeters and the Emin ribbon midranges. They sound delightful. They do need about 150w/channel. (The Renaissance 90's need much more power.) They are absolutely transparent. Yet, the sweet spot is very narrow. They are very room dependent. I recently moved and didn't recognize their sound in my new place. I had to change speaker cable and speaker placement considerably to 'dial them in'.

I also own Final 0.4 electrostatics. They need lots of power. They are very amplifier dependent. I hooked them up to a Krell KSA 100. They sounded horrible (as Ezmeralda said 'like nails on a blackboard'). But, I have them powered by a Carver Lightstar Reference and they sound as sweet and as mellow as can be. They are also speaker cable dependent.

As to which I like better, Renaissance 80 ribbons or Final 0.4 esl's, I can't say. They both sound great. I suppose it depends on what type of music I'm listening to. It's an adventure.
Seems strange no one has mentioned Apogee. Ramy, I think your generalizations of the four groups is well...generally right. As has been pointed out their are always cross dressers.

I don't quite agree with the idea ribbons have a small sweet spot. the first time I heard an Apogee, I couldn't even tell what I was listening to came from the speakers the stage they project is so holographic. That goes for the big Apogees.