Although I've done tons of reading over the years about conventional driver-based speakers and have owned several, I have some basic questions about electrostats (which I heard once and really liked.)

First, do you have the same problems with the size of the speaker vs. room dimensions as you do with conventional speakers? I would assume so, since the length of a soundwave is the same at a given frequency regardless of the source.

Second, what is the difference betwen less expensive electrostats and more expensive ones? For example, are all Martin Logans about the same in terms of quality of sound reproduction (with the difference being bass extension) or are there sonic differences as well?

What companies should I look at for the best value for my money? I'm looking for a pair in the <$2k used area.

I've read that generally speaking, planars and electrostats at most price points - especially the lower price points - outperform conventional speakers. How much truth is there in that?

Thanks for taking time to educate me on these types of speakers.

Yes and no. For the most part you are correct. As there have been improvements in dynamics and such with the ML line, I still think one of their most musical sounding speakers were the SL3. Depending if you have a moderate sized room, and with the right equipment - they will sing. Looking at your McCormack upgraded gear, I think these would be a great fit with you system. Again, however careful placement (as they have a backwave) is needed. Expect at least 3 feet out from rear walls in general.

I have used the SL3's in the past with a McCormack DNA-2 Deluxe which was a very nice combo. Feel free to shoot me an email if you want more info.
In your price range you may want to consider hybrids. An electrostat coupled with a conventional woofer for bass response. In order to get good bass response from a electrostat you need a big size. Also electrostats are power/current hungry and you may need different amplification.

I use Innersound ISIS and am very happy with them.

As with anything, listening/auditioning is the only way to go.
I always thought that electrostatics were actually 'voltage' hungary and needed an amp that was stable under a capacitive load.
Bob P.
Perhaps try an Innersound amp, they're designed specifically for stat's. Just a thought. Another idea also is something like a Magnepan, similar presentation perhaps with better bass than a stat?
In your price range, a dynamic or planar magnetic speaker has an advantage: No power supply or transformer needed. An electrostat has to have a power supply and an impedance-matching transformer, so before the panels are even built there's a significant cost incurred. Relatively speaking this cost is fairly small on a high-priced electrostat, but gobbles up a very disproportionate piece of the pie in the lower price ranges. So if I was looking to spend two grand ballpark on a new pair of dipole speakers, I'd lean towards the Maggie 1.6 instead of an electrostat.

If you don't have your heart set on "new", then the original Quad ESL, the "57", is a possibility. A refurbished pair in good condition would probably be under two grand. Even today, it's pretty much the standard for comparison in natural-sounding midrange.

The InnerSound Isis hybrid brings enormous improvements in dynamic capability compared to the old Quads, but at the expense of a pretty much one-person-wide sweet spot. Not that the Quads have all that big a sweet spot either, come to think of it.

Note that with hybrids, the challenge is getting a good balance between woofer and panel. This is harder than it sounds because their sound propagation characteristics are very different. Briefly, the panel's output decays in loudness more slowly with distance than the woofer's output does. So distance and room acoustics play a much greater role in the sound of a hybrid than with most other speakers. Just for fun, skim the internet and read what people say about Martin Logans. Some say they have too much bass, some too little, and some say just right. Very few speakers generate such a wide range of opinions as to their tonal balance. The reason? Their tonal balance changes significantly with listening distance and room acoustics. If you do go for a hybrid, make sure the relative level of woofer and panel can be adjusted across a wide range.

If 'twere my money, I'd probably go for refurbished Quad 57's or Maggies.

Best of luck to you!

I use the Martin Logan Quest Z's with ARC tube Amp and CJ Tube preamp and get a great smooth sound,very transparent,non fatiguing and just simply magical together.
The tube amp is utiliziing its full 4ohm taps to run the ML's to sufficent SPL Levels and all is well in audioland.
I have owned both electrostats and maggies. For your price range I would suggest the magnepan 1.6 speakers (approx $1000 gently used),if you can place them 4-5 ft away from your back wall and have a large enough room (approx 12'X 16'+). You can run them with a luxman R117 vintage receiver ($250-300,if you can find one) or with a classe cap151 ($1100), or innersound/coda amp & preamp, or McCormack SS or mix a tube preamp with a SS amp. Also, you might look for a used pair of soundlabs dynastat hybrid electrostats and take a listen as I prefer their elecrostats to most of ML offerings (except the CLS and SL3).
Great ideas from all of you, and you've given me alot more to research and think about. Thanks! :)

Martin Logan Aerius were one of my favorite speakers in a small room. Placement and room geometry can have a big impact.
I recently stumbled across a pair of eminent technology hybrids (planar magnetic panels crossed to a dynamic woofer). Off a limited audition, I thought they were very impressive. It's probably worth your time to visit their website.

Good luck.

Steverw: My only experience with stats was with Aerius biwires ... and they NEVER ceased to enthuse/amaze me ... just loved them, despite some weaknesses/negatives (related to stats in general). I remember them fondly.
I have owned Quad 63, stacked Quad ESL 57, Martin Logan SL3, and 2 pair of CLS 11Z.In between I have owned several pair of coned speakers,but eventually tired of the sound of crossovers and different sized drivers. I like the seamlessness of a good ,non hybrid electrostat.Maggies are good, but I can hear too much disparity between the ribbon and the drivers.
I have owned Martin Logans and they are very good but I have to agree that Innersound speakers are fantastic. I drive them with tube amps. This is contrary to popular thinking on the best approach to drive stats but I have tried good solid state and have found that tubes and stats are a match made in heaven.