Sometimes it can be as easy as moving your speakers a bit forward from your listening area
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I haven't personally heard the Soundlabs or the Gruensch amps, but most electrostatic speakers have an inverse relationship between impedance and frequency or at least they rise in the bass and likely drop in the treble. If the Gruensch is a SS amp, it's possible your bass and lower midrange would be leaner while the highs more pronounced. If the Gruensch is typical tube amp, disregard what I just wrote.
ATC will give you close to the best "electrostatic sound" with a tilt towards the lower midrange that is missing on some panels. Not as perfect in the midrange as you can get from the best panels but overall much better dynamically (not laid back) and an excellent all round choice because of the bass and treble. Gordon Holt used large Soundlabs for many years and more recently got active SCM 50's. Both are excellent speakers but ATC is more dynamic and forward, and seems to have more emphasis in the lower mids (male vocals come out very realistic).
It sounds like you're describing the difference between SS and tube amps. Have you thought about trying tubes? It might be worth exploring. Personally, I haven't found an SS amp that gives the kind of midrange warmth that tubes do.
Check out Soundlab's FAQ:
What is the Minimum Power that you Recommend?
I personally recommend 100 watts minimum. However, we have customers that use 30 watt single-ended triode amplifiers and find them to be satisfactory. The equivalent one-meter sensitivity of our speakers (measured at 4 meters) is approximately 88 to 100 db (depending on the equalization settings). This is typical of the more efficient high-end speakers.
Which type of Amplifier works best, Tubes or Solid-State?
The real question is, which do you prefer? The high-impedance of our speakers in the lower frequencies (where the musical spectrum is most demanding) results in a greatly reduced current drain from the amplifier. So, both types of amplifiers run cooler, exhibit less distortion and last longer. Our speakers are very neutral and are not prejudiced, so what you prefer sounds best.
Thank you for your responses. Jordan, as you stated (and as stated in the Soundlab FAQ's) the Soundlabs have raising impedance in the lower frequencies. I've always thought that power amplifiers in general have no trouble driving speakers with higher impedance. The problem is often with low to very low (like the 0.3Ohms(!) in case of the old Apogee) impedances. So why would the Soundlab sound relatively louder in the treble with a solid state amplifier?
It doesn't take much...a good tube preamp is all you need. Just make sure you buy one that uses tubes, that have flavors you are looking for....after all, thats what tube rolling is all about.
In my system I can change the soundstage between wide/pinpoint, or, more forward/recessed....simply by changing tubes.
If I want a tight, and more focused sound, I use my Amperex 7308's...a little more bloom, and a little more forward, I switch to my Amperex 6dj8's...ect.
The quality is still there...just presented a little different.
This hasn't been my experience. I paired several tube preamps with SS amps, but it never gave me the warmth that a tube amp offered.
The reason why many solid state amps may not sound right with the rising impedance in the low end on SoundLabs is that SS amps typically double in power with a halving of impedance. This also works in the other direction...they halve their power when the impedance is doubled. Tube amps tend to perform much better into a rising impedance...they typically either hold the power constant or increase power slightly into higher impedances.
You are right that SS amps do much better than tube amps into low impedances (particularly at low frequencies), but the SoundLabs have a rising impedance in the low end and most SS amps will put out less power into the low end than the rest of the frequency range. This can make the lower midrange sound anemic.
May be something to think about. Many people have found tube amps sound significantly better with the right speaker...I think the Soundlabs qualify as being a "right" speaker for tube amps. I'm sure they can sound wonderful with the right SS amp too, but I'd bet that a SS amp that sounds wonderful with this speaker is harder to find than a tube amp that sounds wonderful with this speaker.
So why would the Soundlab sound relatively louder in the treble with a solid state amplifier?
It will give you more bass (where impedance rises) - so if anemic bass is your problem then a tube will help.
If you want more midrange then a tube amp will unfortunately reduce the output but you may get some more harmonics in the mids (more warmth) - if that is what you need then tubes are a good solution => more bass relative to mids and more warmth overall. (note warmth is related to loudness in a sense so although mids may lose some power they may sound more "rich")
make sure your speakers are sitting firmly and spiked properly (or whatever Soundlab recommends). I recently put sound anchor stands under my Audio Note E speakers and the midrange gained a more 'solid' 'palpable' quality when it was slightly recessed and hollow before. BTW I do know Soundlabs are big stats but I imagine the benefits of proper stands could be similar.?
Also I would experiment with cables which are great tone controls just ask JA of Stereophile :^)
I think Germanboxers nailed it. Even with speakers that that have a moderate steady impedances, classic tube amps tend to be more forward in the midrange and classic ss amps tend to be withdrawn in the midrange. To be fair, most modern quality amps both ss and tube are much more neutral and similar in this regard. Never the less, adding that to that what Germanboxers already correctly explained, and it's not surprising that you might be percvieving a midrange suckout. While I tend to favor ss amps (mostly due to the speakers I tend to prefer), in your case a high quality tube amp might be the better tool for the job at hand.
I agree with Germanboxers and Unsound...and pretty much Mingles too. I didn't go with the amp switching idea, for only one reason....it's a major change, and could be very expensive.
I do have tube amps, a tube preamp, and a tube DAC in my primary system. If you are very close to being happy, with where you are now...and are only looking for some "small amount" of midrange changes...I would still start with a tube preamp.
If you are looking for something more major (and it didn't sound to me like you were)....tube amps will do that best of all.
Chris - you can fix it to some degree with cables. When I read somebody's complain about pronouced lower midrange of Acoustic Zen Satori (Shotgun) speaker cables I bought them. Thats exactly what my small Icepower based amp needs. It added chestiness to male voices and my old cable sounded, in compare, very thin (AQ Indigo). Just something you can try.