MartinLogan CLS IIz panel upgrade

I just ordered a set of new panels for my CLS IIz's. These incorporate the latest diaphragm improvements (both the mylar and the conductive coating), high(er) current hookup wire, and "Clear-Spar" section dividers. Has anyone out there already done this upgrade?

My current panels are 17 years old. They still sound great and look perfect. Yet Dana Brown at ML told me to be prepared for a "big surprise". After a ~100 hour break-in, he says the new panels will have even better high frequency extension and more detail than the originals. Anyone already experienced this?

I wrestled with pulling the trigger at this time, but decided to do it now based on:
*my advancing age
*continuing price increases (currently $1500 + $100 shipping)
*the demand is such that I had to get in line and wait a full three months before mine were ready!
*no clear information on how long they'll continue making them -- although Dana says there are no plans currently to discontinue providing CLS IIz panels; he says they also have a large quantity of parts on hand for the CLS IIz electronics modules.
*and last, Dana was fairly convincing in his assurance that I would enjoy a noticeable improvement in performance over the original panels -- which I never found lacking. In fact even driving my CLS's with a tube amp, I still tend to use the "softening" switch most of the time in normal operation.
They'll be arriving in a few days, but of course I'll have to put a week or two of use on them, after which I plan to write a little review ;--)) Regardless, considering the cost of replacement with, for instance, a CLX @ $25,000, this has to be a no-brainer -- I hope! Stay tuned . . . .
I'm on order for a new pair of panels for my CLS 1's. Mine are still going strong as well but figure new ones should make my CLS last for another 20 years. Please let me know how your sound as Dana told me new ones will be more dynamic and clean sounding (which will be some feat considering how they already sound!). Best of luck in changing them out. Hopefully they won't be too difficult a procedure.
I had a pair of CLS years ago. They needed a new set of panels. The design is such that dust will eventually settle one the panels reducing the efficiency. I bought a "B" grade that had a slight defect, installed them and they were definitely easier to drive.

I think the design actually had something that cut the power to the panels when music was not playing so they would not attract dust. I still miss those speakers...I keep looking for a local set of the CLS.

It's just the nature of the beast though - you are eventually going to have to replace panels on them.

P.S. Now I have a few sets of the original quads (again). They are nice because they have dust covers so will not have the dust on the panel issue. The CLS design is nice, never hesitates to generate a "wow" visually instead of a "what" from visitors
When I replaced the panels on my first generation CLS I noted an increase of 2-3 dB more sensitivity over the old panels.
I can't say if it was due to the new technology or just that my old panels were that worn out, but it was easily heard.
They were also much more open and airy.
The clear spars were not available when I did my replacement, but then the cost was only $900.00
Mrderrick, it's like Msomers88 said. The panels get clogged with dust and it lowers the sensitivity. Jim Power recommended years ago to use the brush attachment from your vacuum cleaner and clean the panels regularly to eliminate a dust build up.
OK. All done!

(Reply to another CLS IIz owner who upgraded his panels about a year ago.)

Hi Rick,

Let's see. OK, I got the first panel swapped on Saturday and the first thing I did was to A--B it with the remaining old panel. Frankly, I wasn't hearing much difference between them, when I realized the new panel had zero break-in time. (I later asked Dana where the "100 hour break-in" figure came from, and he said, "that's what the engineers told him"; and so I decided to reserve judgment on that issue! As you also reported, I sensed no harshness/brightness 'out of the box' as with the earlier CLS panels. In fact, I decided to restore the 'softening' switch to its default position (no 'softening'.) As it turned out, the new panels did change, after the first 20 - 30 hours. but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Sunday, I completed the swap, and the first thing I noticed was a cleaner more robust bass. I'd forgotten you mentioned the same thing in a previous email, so I was completely unprepared for it. Having discovered four years ago, the amazing bass integration possible when combining electrostats with just a single phase-matched (omnidirectional) subwoofer placed right between the (dipole) panels, the overall bass performance took a real leap forward! The lower mid-range was also rendered clean and solid, despite weakness in that area being a criticism (for some ;--) of the CLS's overall performance in the past.

For the next 5 -- 10 hours, I was looking for any improvements in soundstage, instrument/soloist location, and frankly I didn't hear anything noteworthy. I wasn't disappointed though, because my decision to replace the panels was based principally on extending the longevity of the speakers; which, like you, I had concluded were worth keeping, based solely on their previous superior performance -- so I wasn't really looking for remarkable performance improvements, per se.

But then things started happening -- around 24 hours -- beginning Monday morning. First, a noticeable increase in low level detail (like hearing the fingers sliding on guitar strings, or lifelike rustlings in the orchestra and/or the audience, and a true "breath of life" in the vocals; these all had to be the result of improved transient response in the movement of the diaphragm itself. Or to put it another way, the diaphragm was following the music signal with even greater precision than that we ordinarily expect from electrostats (and ribbons.) The only scientific explanation for such 'improved control' of the stators over the motion of the diaphragm, would have to be the new generation of diaphragm material which, as stated in the current MartinLogan literature, has an improved conductive coating; that combined with the very likely possibility that 20 year old diaphragm coating may have lost some conductivity over time -- due to dirt build-up and/or oxidation of the coating itself -- and something longtime owners like us would not have noticed over such an extended period.

The last important characteristic to emerge, as I continue listening 50 hours and beyond, is an increased sense of shimmer or electricity surrounding the performance; some refer to this as air, or ambience, often confusing it with reverberation which is actually an acoustical characteristic of the performance space (when it's not artificially added ;--) The effect of sheer novelty makes it easy to be unduly stimulated or impressed when listening to most good loudspeakers for the first time; and I try to guard against it. However, the totality of the improvements obtained after installing this "second--generation" technology were startling, and impossible to simply write off to short term novelty ;--)

I know it may sound "overzealous" (if that's even the 'right' word ;--) but I would be very curious to compare my "new" CLS IIz's with the CLX! For now, I'm absolutely thrilled!!

Best regards,

Congrats Neil on the new panel install. Xmas came early at your house.

The iiz's were more than worth the investment. That's less than $100 a year for the next 20. Nothing comes close to their presentation. Being the owner of one of the final pairs produced I'd be surprised if they're much improvement over the panels in my pair. They look very close to the clear spars. Do your panels have the modern "M" symbol at the bottom center?

As a side note, I'm fairly religious and disciplined about performing two functions to extend the life of any ML speaker. One, vacuum them regularly, and two I always cover them when not in use. A pair of old king sized sheets works wonderfully. I even went so far as to create a form fitting sock out of a pair of sheets by sewing to fitted halves together. Makes it easy to slide them on and off, and certainly cuts down on dust buildup in addition to vacuuming time.

For the poster whose waiting for a needle in the haystack to appear in his locale, I paid creightor's and freightor's to build a crate for a pair I found 3 states away. Cost me $250 for that, but it was more than worth it, for they did a professional job, and I now have actual crates for them should I ever need to ship the speaker for any reason. These speakers are easily found on craigs and I've observed numerous pairs in all parts of the country selling for a fraction of what one will find them listing for here on AG.

Viva la CLS!
Coltrane -- thanks for the good wishes. Yes, Xmas was definitely early. I got something I didn't even know I could ask for!

I don't know when ML began incorporating their new membrane material in replacement panels . . . . mine were made to order and took three months to fulfill! They also have slightly heavier high voltage leads to supply the new membrane and stators, but they do NOT use the ClearSpar dividers in the CLS IIz replacements -- I was initially mis-informed ;--)) They did come with the ML "swoosh" logo ;--)

Yes, I'm currently exploring the "sock" idea with my tailor. Do you slip them over the top of the panels, or slide them in from one side?

I am planning to sell my original panels, perhaps for a DIY project or to someone who maybe wants to upgrade a pair of CLS I's (they are compatible, AFAIK.) I can re-use the packaging from the new panels, so that part will be easy ;--)