Looking for vintage Quad ESL's - or my wife thinks a "shrink" becase she says I'm crazy!

Been out of the hi-fi ’scene’ since the early 80’s. My last system was a pair of Quad ESL-57’s with a Quad 303 amp, Hafler DH101 pre-amp (kit I built) and a Linn LP-12 and Grace tonearm (can’t remember what cartridge I had). I bought all of it for a song back then. The speakers were $300 (nobody knew what they were or what they were worth), I got the LP12 for $500 (salesman accommodation). The power amp and pre-amp were $200 combined. Oh yeah, I worked at a hi-fi store in Chapel Hill NC which explains some of the deals I got. Sold *everything* to pay for a down payment on a trailer as I had just gotten married. Skip 35 years, raised three kids, put them all through college, worked as a software engineer until retiring. Now I want to get back into my original passion. I can’t afford to buy new stuff, the price has gone ballistic. So, I’m beginning again to put together a system to listen to my music on. I still have my Hafler pre-amp which I will use if it still works until I can get something better. I just bought two 125 watt monoblock tube amplifier kits from Bob Latino (www.tubes4hifi.com). I love building things and am very handy with a soldering iron! Also, I always loved the sound of tubes.

Speakers...That’s where I need help. I *really* loved the way my old Quad ESL-57’s sounded. When I was 15 (I’m now 66) my friends dad had stacked Quad ESL-57’s and I swear I’ve NEVER heard anything as good since then! That’s why I’m really wanting to go back to electrostatic speakers. I’ve auditioned some of the Martin Logan stuff at Best Buy. I’m astounded that they are distributed in that chain..I also was flabbergasted that McIntosh was sold there too. Regardless, the salespeople don’t know what to demonstrate let alone setup up quality hifi equipment. They sounded terrible. Even after listening to the ML speakers on several different occasions I concluded I don’t like the way they sound. I still think a proper pair of Quad’s is the way to go. The problem is finding a pair! I’ve discovered Electrostatic Solutions LTD and if I get a decent looking pair intend to have them rebuilt there. I’m guessing after I find a pair and get them refurbished I’ll be spending between $4K and $5K. Unless I find a great deal on a pair that is already up to snuff.

DAC - I never knew what a DAC was until recently but conclude that I need one since I will be listening to music streaming from my iPhone, my Mac Mini etc. I feel really ignorant on what kind of DAC I need. I’ve noticed that some of them can double as a pre-amp too and hook directly up my power amps. That might be good for a temporary solution until I can get a proper preamp. Still, DAC’s can range from $500 - $15K. I have no idea what features I need or whether the low end DAC’s are even worth it.

I really need some suggestions. If I had the money I’d go to an audiophile salon and buy my equipment proper. But I don’t so I have to get the best equipment I can with my limited resources. I’m not exactly poor, but I could never justify to my wife spending $20K on audio equipment. Dang, I looked into getting another Linn Sondek LP12. The price is sky high compared to my ’82 version although there are differences between the basic model I had in 1982 and what they’re producing now. Still...I may need to wait on a turntable until I get speakers and a DAC.

I feel overcome with choices! New gear, used gear, electrostatic speakers, conventional speakers... Maybe my wife is right. I need some Valium and a good shrink!!

Mark in Big Stone Gap VA

My first system in the 1970's and used until quite recently was an LP12/SME/V15iii, Quad 33/303/fm3 (twice refurbished), Quad ELS57. It sounded great. A few years ago I replaced the ELS57s with the Quad 2805s, and these really are better, even the difference is not night and day. The 2805s are less sensitive and combined with a larger listening room, I now also needed more power, so a refurbished second hand Quad 606-2 replaced the Quad 303. The result was a cleaner sound on louder more dynamic passages. But as long as the room is not too large and the speakers not as insensitive as the 2805s, the Quad 303 should be fine (and if you insist on the ELS57, anything more powerful may destroy them - the 303 is the perfect match for the ELS57). In recent years I have of course added a CD and later Bluray player (make sure the input sensititivity of the Quad 33 is reduced to cope with these modern sources, or use an attenuating cable). These days I hardly listen to the LP12 anymore since I find digital sonically far superior. And most recently I have entered the world of streaming from services like Spotify/Qobuz/Tidal. The streamer is a Chromecast Audio. I use its analogue output into the tape input of the Quad 33 and it sounds great if you make sure levels are properly matched (the Quad 33 is perfect for that). You do not need an expensive streamer - the $35 Chromecast is fine. I also use it for internet radio. In fact, the FM tuner is not really used anymore, because internet radio, though not perfect, is at least as good as FM (though with different deficiencies). And you can bring the world into your living room.
Good ears you have.

I have owned three types of Magnepans and three types of ESL's. I say Quads, hands down.

ESL 57's are wonderfully musical speakers. 2805's add an octave high and low but sound a tad bright to me, while 2905's add those octaves and restore that Quad magic. Some gently used 2905's might be more reliable than 57's, and not much more money.

Another thing is that 2905's beg to be tweaked. Since you are handy with a soldering iron, you might consider hinting to your wife about some aftermarket Plitron transformers for Christmas this year, some better caps next year, etc. Choose the mod-upgrade path to that superb system.
I have a pair of stacked quad 57s since 1996 and i love it for playing string music and female voice.the problem with quad is that it is not reliable, especially can not play too loud so that they start arcing.
I built a infinite middle range ribbon and old paper cone full range woofer based bi-polo speaker system and really like it, it is as fast as quad w/ better high frequency response and play much louder than quads.

Driving quad 57 is challenging for solid state amps, better use push pull transformer coupled tube amps. Stay away from using "otl" tube amplifiers to drive quads.