ESL57 vs ESL63

The 57’s are going for twice the price of 63’s.

i like the managable size of this speaker, this is really a part of my soon to be retirement built two channel system.

besides the price, how do these two fair amongst each other. Realistically how much power do the require, tubes ? Solidstate ?

my hope would be to also get into lower powered triode type amps with this projects.....

The dipole subwoofers look super easy to build. This is really shaping up nicely. I have a MiniDSP that would maybe needed for the subs
@catalysis Aliens/Dolby on your avatar! What a fine album that is. 
I dont mind owning vintage gear, im a fabricator by nature, can routine maintenance be done by me, i hand built a 600lb acoustic sealed rolling door for my videoroom :0)
My Quad ESL ownership experience encompasses two pairs of 57s, two pairs of 63s and a pair of 989s.

I therefore suppose I’m reasonably well qualified to answer your question, which probably doesn’t need to be much more than the fact that I’ve ended up back with a lovely, totally unspoilt 1978 pair of 57s. That probably tells you all you need to know.

Of course 57s are limited in terms of absolute dynamics, but I have a pair of Thiel CS 3.5s that alternate in my system with the ESLs. Between the two I’m completely happy and it’s huge fun to be able to enjoy either pair as and when the mood strikes. Right now I have the 57s in. They rotate with the Thiels every 3-4 weeks on average.

I endorse what others say here about the bass being underrated. But they do need several feet of clear space behind them to give a good account of themselves in that regard. Down to about 40hz you won’t hear more accurate bass anywhere.

The downside of ownership is that they do need a lot of TLC and a bit of servicing every so often. Mine have had a power supply rebuild, which addresses the most common long term issue. I’ve also had the clamps fitted as a precautionary measure.

While some enthusiasts take the view that the newer pairs offer a wider window of sound, the problem is that the 57 was a prime case of getting it right first time on terms of meeting Peter Walker’s goals. It took him one and a half decades to come up with the 63s, and the general consensus, which I also subscribe to, is that they lack that midrange magic that still seems elude all the other designs.

63s are a slightly easier domestic proposition, but since I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated music room these days, that’s a factor I thankfully don’t have to consider any more.

So having gone round the houses with various Quads, the 57s are the pair that will stay with me always, no doubt being refurbished as and when needed.

All that being said, I could easily live with the 63s and if the right pair ever presented itself at the right price, I wouldnt hesitate to own another pair in addition to the 57s. I just wouldnt replace them.

I’m running tubes with the Quads (VPI 299D) and I do think that’s the optimal route. However I also plan to get a Naim Nait 1 when the right one comes along as I’m curious to see how well that works. I’m also on the lookout for a really fabulous condition 33/303 combo.

If the classic British midrange is your goal, nothing will transport you there as wonderfully as 57s. I’ve owned LS3/5As and they go some of the way down that road. But the ESLs are the only horse in town if you want the full experience.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do. Neither model is a mistake.

Dipole subs for the ESL-63 ????

been reading about them..... Any takers on the merits of such a subwoofer, with a lowpass/Hipass around 100hz, that would take a serious amount of motion out of the signal path to the 63

i believe those 63’s would really be a good match with my small room
@mijostyn No. Stu Remmington rebuilds. Chokes, fixed bias, film bypass/PIO caps and triode input. 
I have another pair of recapped originals. 
Hey noromance, did you build those Eico's?
I run 57s (with grills off) on 20" stands with 1960s EICO push-pull tube amps and they can go pretty loud and sound magnificent. I’m not sure why but in my set-up they sound better than all speakers I’ve ever heard at shows (for what they do - the glorious mids) I wouldn’t swap them for anything... but I do run a second rig with cone speakers and sub for HT and digital. Because sometimes you just need that power! I tried the 57 with a REL sub and it wasn’t great so I removed it. I can’t really say how good they’d be in a sub-based HT situation but I wouldn’t do it. Do not mount the 57s on the subs directly. See systems.
Sure, other ESLs. It is just that people do not get to hear them as the big ones take up a lot of space and are domineering. For some reason shops do not like keeping them around. Maybe hard to sell a Magico or Wilson with Soundlabs on the premises. It is hard to miss them and they are a much better value if you can get them by the wife. 57s were amazing loudspeakers 50 years ago for Brits who like classical music. But, technology moves on particularly materials science. There are ESLs made today and in the past that have the sound qualities of the 57 and are not nearly as temperamental.  
It seems that when properly set up and amped there is very little that can compare to the sound of the ESL 57’s - the realism, resolution and liquidity, just seems to be unmatched for all acoustic sounds (e.g. jazz, classical, country, sax, trumpet, violins, cellos, bass, guitars, voice, etc.).  But, I guess you have to be tolerant of their set up requirements, and prefer the kinds of music at which they excel.  Which is why I’m considering the WP ESL 57’s.  

But, are there any dynamic speakers that come close to duplicating their sound quality?

It seems to me, that the Harbeth 30.1 and 40.1 / 40.2, when driven by the right tube amps, come very, very close to duplicating the sound of the 57’s.  

Does anyone else think so? 

@clio09, Though the OB/Dipole Sub uses the Rythmik A370 plate amp/Servo-Feedback woofer system and is sold by Brian Ding on the Rythmik website, the design is more Danny Richie's (of GR Research) baby than Brian's. Danny was already making an OB/Dipole when he heard about Brian's new Servo-Feedback design, and contacted him, thinking the combination of OB and S-F would produce a new standard in bass reproduction. Owners of the sub agree!

Brian Ding, though appreciating it's abilities, finds the OB/Dipole a little too lean sounding, without the weight and room-pressurizing he likes to hear in a sub. All the enthusiasm for the sub originates with Danny, and the best discussion about it appears on the GR Research AudioCircle Forum rather than the Rythmik AVS one.

@atmasphere , thanks for the explanation. That helps to clear up a few things, albeit decades later.

I can remember being puzzled at having to turn the Naim amp volume dial past 12 o'clock (before getting cold feet recalling the old horror stories of the panels arcing and being left with tiny holes) without any reciprocal increase in sound. 

I appreciate the information, as I'm sure others will too. The previous owner used them valves but neither he or I knew why it might matter (although a good clue might the date of manufacture). They were in great condition and had new panels fitted by Quad so moving them on was no problem.

So I guess I never really got to hear what they could do. "A great set of compromises"?  Maybe some of those reviews weren't so overblown after all.

Oh well, you live and you learn!

Can’t give you a comparison but the 57s needed a fair bit of SS power. I don’t think my Naim amps ever worked so hard before the Quads arrived.

After reading nothing but praise for them I went to a lot of trouble to get a pair but they didn’t stay long. Sure, with the right recording and the right alignment of the stars they might be capable of stunning vocal reproduction and imagery but...they do need a lot of fuss as well as lots and lots of space.

The final straw broke when I played some Rock through them and received an entirely lacklustre result. One for Classical and Opera fans foremost I think.
@cd318  All ESLs have an impedance curve that varies by about 9 or 10:1 from the bass to about 20KHz. A solid state amp can't make any power into the fairly high bass impedance of the ESL57 (about 45 Ohms IIRC). So many solid state amps sound lackluster on them. Many tube amps though can make power into this impedance and so will be a bit more exciting.

The old Quads, being ESLs, are not based on the idea of being 'voltage driven'. Keep in mind when the ESL57 was designed - the 1950s- and amps that could act as voltage sources were not all that common. For more on this see:
Since the Quad's impedance curve is not based on a dynamic driver in a box with the associated resonance, its impedance curve (which is based on capacitance) is not **also** a map of its efficiency. In order for it to play at 90dB at 100 Hz, it needs the same power to do that as it does at 1000Hz, and the two impedances are quite different at those frequencies! So an amplifier that can double power as impedance is halved (solid state) won't work. In fact, if a tube amp has too much feedback (output impedance is too low) that also won't work. But there are many tube amps that do work. We've got a lot of Quad customers and one of my employees owned a set as well as several friends of mine in town. So I've heard them a lot with our gear.

The speakers do need some power (the ESL63 needs more than the '57; 100 watts is about perfect but 60 watts does nicely). So SETs are right out unless you have a small room which usually doesn't work, because you really should have at least 5 feet to the wall behind them. Otherwise you can get a one-note bass. BTW this tends to be common with people that have solid state amps- because transistors can't make the power into the bass regions of either speaker, they tend to be too close to the wall behind them as this does reinforce the bass a bit, but only at one frequency.

There are certain speakers that we've seen over the years that have an above normal loyalty with their owners. Quads are on this short list. By this I mean they just don't sell them, even if they aren't using them- they 'come back' to the Quads again and again. They are a very good set of compromises- they are not too hard to drive, they play bass well if driven by the right amp, they are very fast and revealing (they are ESLs after all) and if properly set up very satisfying.

I owned the 63s and quite liked them. But a few friends had the 57s and I actually liked the tone of the 57s more - a bit more present and warm sounding to my ear, and a bit more solid sounding. I’ve wanted to own the 57s for a long time, if only as a pair of "use them sometimes" speakers. But their form factor simply doesn’t work anywhere in my house.   I was actually offered a beautiful pair for FREE and couldn't take them!
@bdp24, interesting I didn't know that about the 57s. I will look into the Rhythmik subs.
Wow, such diverging opinions. The 57s do not come into their own until they are stacked but without subwoofers they remain fragile and even with subwoofers they are not hard to blow. I was present for the destruction of two 57s in an HQD system. Peter would get a little carried away showing off. Only Decca ribbons blew more frequently. 
cd318, "a sideline"? You obviously have not listened to big Acoustats or Soundlabs. For $40,000 you can get an indestructible loudspeaker that to many ears sounds better than any other loudspeaker regardless of price.
I know my opinion does not count much because I am so pretentious but just ask Audiokinesis or Atmasphere. A sideline? I hardly think so.
@clio09, Gradient also made an OB/Dipole sub for the 57. It looked a lot like the current Rythmik/GR Research, but laid on it’s side. Danny Richie says the R/GR can be so positioned as well, and used as a base for the 57. I would install a set of Townshend Audio Seismic Pods between them, to prevent vibration from being transferred from the H-frame into the 57.
The ’57’s are some of the most coherent speakers I have ever heard in the mids to the lower treble. The ’63’s are not quite as coherent, but they are a little more extended in both frequency extremes, IMO. Stacked ’57’s are pretty amazing IF you can accommodate their requirements.
Now, here’s the thing, IMO and IME. Neither is a speaker that I would want for my primary system, too many limitations and restrictions with both. Many times, i contemplate a great pair of ’57’s in a secondary system...BUT as a secondary system only.

BTW, IF you go for either...a nice mid powered tube amp is the way to an ARC D70Mk2 that I used to own. Match made in heaven.
Gradient made dipole subs for the ESL 63. Here is an article from Robert E. Greene discussing the set up:
Since my subs are located where they provide the flattest response, sitting a 63 or a 57 On top would work well enough, i’d have to figure out how to use my subs for both systems, i use a MiniDSP. They are quite capable and musical, they are sealed Adire Tumults from the 2005 era, i use (4) for my HT.... my guess one 15 would suffice.

I dont think a blind purchase of a pair of 63’s would be reckless, an electronic XO set to 80ish hz would remove a lot of motion from the panels, a nice XO...bryston or a tube Marchand, they are here in Rochester 

I have owned both and would choose a GOOD, MATCHED pair of 57's.  To my ears the 63's have a bit of over-emphasis in the lower treble region that I never could get used to. 

I used various tube and solid state amps and my preference was for the Atma-Sphere M-60's. 


"the 57’s need a fair bit of SS power"?! The 57 was designed to be run with the QUAD amp, which produced 15 watts/ch. One solid state amp which became very popular with the 57 was the Bedini 25/25 (guess how much power it produced ;-), which was capable of overpowering the speaker. As clio said, the Music Reference RM-10 is an ideal amp for the 57, especially the Class-A 25w/ch version.

Add subs for below 40-60Hz and be happy forever. Unless you’re cd318 ;-) . The speaker is not for everyone---you have to be able to appreciate it’s abilities, nor for all music---I wouldn’t try to play AC/DC at 100dB (which I like to do) on them. But for singers and small-scale acoustic music? Perhaps still unsurpassed, and yes, better than the 63, regardless of what Peter Walker thought. But take off those idiotic metal grills!

My plan for a HT room and a separate listening room will not be happening, so they will share duty in my HT, i listen mostly to music. My HT is 13’x19’ the vaulted ceiling runs front to back centered on the 19’ lenth, i think they could sit on my current subs when in use, the subs are 19” tall......


I have the 57s but have spent some significant time with the 63s as well. Overall I prefer the 57s, but I use a set of stands to raise them up a bit to improve the image height. While I use a woofer array and active crossover to biamp in my system, the 57s on their own do bass much better than I expected. They aren't going to go much below 40 Hz but what is there is pleasing. I play a wide variety of music with them including rock.

Mine have the clamp boards installed which means I can use just about any amp with greater than 20 watts power and not have to worry about arcing the speakers. It's a worthwhile upgrade if you purchase a pair without them. I either use Atma-Sphere M60s or a Music Reference RM-10 on the 57s. Both amps work quite well with the speakers.
I can't help but feel that most of the mythology around the Quads originated from the high regard held by his contemporaries for the great man himself, Peter J Walker.

Box/cone loudspeaker manufacturers must have been alarmed upon the arrival of this new technology, but as we have seen, electrostatics were not the future road forwards but merely a sideline.

It's also interesting that although Walker himself believed the 63s to be superior it was the ESL that passed into Hi-Fi legend.
I bought my first pair of 57's back in 1981 and kept them in use until 2000. After my move down south in 2015 I purchased two pairs - the prices were right! One pair from Rhode Island, one from England. Yes, the 57 ESL is a speaker that one develops a romantic attraction for!
I have a variety of tube and SS amps to use with my 57's: Dynaco ST70, Heath W5's, Golden Tube SE40, Futterman H3 and H3aa's, Quad 303, 50's, 405, GAS Son and Grandson, BEL 1001 ...
The 57's and 63's still hold their place as the very nearly best speakers ever! Peter Walker's marvels! I have two pairs of 57's. This gives me the option of stacking them for improved image height. Regarding power requirements, both the 57 and 63 work best with 25 to 50 watt amps. This rules out flea- watt SET's. A Dynaco ST70 is an excellent choice for either. Since both have quite extreme impedance curves (30 ohms to 1 ohm) a partnering amp should have a low output impedance (<1 ohm) for best response. Both are voltage-limited because of arcing (20 volts/50 watts for the 57's, 30 volts/90 watts for the 63's). Because of these limits there is no need for high-power amps (risk of damage to the Mylar diaphragms). 
Can’t give you a comparison but the 57s needed a fair bit of SS power. I don’t think my Naim amps ever worked so hard before the Quads arrived.

After reading nothing but praise for them I went to a lot of trouble to get a pair but they didn’t stay long. Sure, with the right recording and the right alignment of the stars they might be capable of stunning vocal reproduction and imagery but...they do need a lot of fuss as well as lots and lots of space.

The final straw broke when I played some Rock through them and received an entirely lacklustre result. One for Classical and Opera fans foremost I think.

I never heard the 63s but did catch the updated 988s I think, (could have been the 989s) and once again was left feeling underwhelmed.

They do some things deliciously but don’t seem to be a speaker for all genres. Far from it.

On the plus side it was always easy to move them on as demand was always high.