That's a very broad question. All I can do for you is give you some opinions and facts. But the first thing I say is: listen for yourself!!!!!! If you find a speaker, no matter what kind of speaker it is, that you like (and can afford) buy it. One big difference between conventional (box) speakers and panelspeakers is that the latter is bi-directional, which means they are much more sensitive for room-placement. Also, most panelspeakers have a low sensitivity/high capacitance, which means they are not suited to low-output amps and/or amps that cannot deal with low capacities. On the plusside however, panelspeakers are capable of breathtaking soundstaging and treble-performance. Onfortunately, for an extended low-end performance large panels are needed. Maybe your best bet is to go for a hybrid system, something like a Martin-Logan, or maybe Quad ESL-63 with matching subwoofers.
Excellent answer by Michiel, you should read it twice slowly. Objections to planars are the lack of bass and the size of the image, perhaps you like a guitar that's nine feet wide, but it's not very realistic. From planars, this listener has switched entirely to point source dome tweeters and mids, the computer-designed speaker revolution begun in the mid 80's has paid off fifteen years later in some absolutely stunningly transparent designs, while planars have fallen far behind. As Michiel said, "Listen for yourself".
If you want a no risk hands-on experience with planars order the little $500.00 mail order Magnepan MMG's. You get to try them for 60 days. I used to build box speakers as a hobby but now own full range electrostats (SoundLabs). Planars have a much easier to deal with radiation pattern. You see, if the direct sound and the reveberant field have a different tonal balance, you eventually get listener's fatigue (headache). Conventional 2-ways, for example, have omni dispersion in the bass, narrowing considerably in the midrange as we approach the crossover point due to woofer beaming. Then hemispherical on the tweeter's side of the crossover point, progressively narrowing with increasing frequency as tweeter beaming sets in. In this case the reveberant field cannot possibly have the same tonal balance as the direct sound, no matter what your room treatment or equalization. With a planar, you have a figure-8 pattern in the bass and (depending on type) either severe beaming treble beaming (flat panel), essentially spherical treble dispersion (narrow ribbon tweeter) or figure-8 dispersion all the way up (curved panel). So avoid a flat panel sans ribbon tweet - i.e. old Acoustats. Since high frequencies are much easier to absorb than low ones, some foam behind a narrow, ribbon-type tweet speaker (Magneplanars) can correct the tonal balance in the reverberant field, if needed. Curved electrostats (Martin-Logan, SoundLab) are the best approximations. Line source approximations give a wider "sweet spot" than point source approximations, and planars are inherently line source approximations (as are big Genesis panels and Pipedreams). Okay so much for theory. Order the baby Maggies, they may sound a little harsh at first but let them break in (48 hours playing time), give them a touch of bass on the tone control (if you have one), and you will know for yourself.
Someone who is considering the purchase of a planer speaker, but who may have problems trying to drive them with their amplifier, they may want to consider auditioning a pair of Vandersteen 2ce's, or even 1C's. Thes speakers offer the tranparency of a panel, with the easy to drive load to the amplifier. Try NHT too if you want to try another excellent dynamic design.(2.8's or 3.3's)
Having spent 5+ years with Apogee ribbons, I have become intimate with their sound. When I listen to dynamic drivers--even extremely good ones like Wilson or Thiel--I feel a bit let down. Not let down by the dynamics of the sound--admittedly these are far more dynamic than most planars, instead, I am let down by the midrange. It doesn't matter what kind of music you listen to, they all have their foundation in the midrange. No type of speaker, in general, beats a planar. Trust your ears. See what other speakers are missing!
I've had some experience with both dynamic and planar speakers (Vandersteens 2CE, Alons II vs Quad ESL and my recently purchased Maggie 3.6) I tell folks that once you have listened to planars, it is difficult to go back to boxes, no matter how good or how expensive. The music is 90% midrange and planars tend to do midrange better in my opinion. I agree with the other writers that planars are difficult to set up and can be difficult to drive. The bass tends to be of a different quality that I find pleasing, tighter and less boomy with good pitch definition. Treble seems more musical with the absence of tizz found in many dome tweeters. My main objection to planars is simply that they can visually dominate your listening area (my only reason for selling my Quads). In short, I highly recommend that you listen to a variety of speakers in your price range. I bought my Maggies because they were the only speakers that never failed to make me smile. Thanks, Rich M. at firstname.lastname@example.org
been a dealer for over 40years. used everything. did beveridge electrostatics, sound labs (all very expensive) the best of the lot is eminent technology for planar sound at a price. try the $500 mini panel subwoofer advertised in computer magazines. it's a true push pull planar, better by far then the maggies. they have a larger system for $1700 and a smaller better system on the way for $3800. www.eminent-tech.com. Find a dealer near you and audition. i'm in n.j. and have had them for over 15 years. there hot. haven't heard a dynamic speaker even close at the price. Lee Landes
I also have a pair of Eminent Technology speakers, the LFT IVs, and must say that I love them and consider them a great value ( I bought mine used from Audio Classics ). I was turned onto them when I did a video projector setup for a reviewer for The Perfect Vision, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, and Widescreen Review. He had a pair of LFT VIIIs, and that night after the 3 hour drive home, I found a used pair of VIs and ordered them. Here is a review link to someone who uses TWO PAIRS of the LFT VIIIs in tandem, and calls the combination " a poor man's (Infinity) IRS V". The link is: www.eminent-tech.com/stacked8review.html. Very interesting, and something that I never would have thought of.
I have listen to electrostatics my favorite planar type, and the ribbons, to my ears the electrostatics (Martin Logans) sound the more real. In practical use, unless you have a tremendous budget on amplification to apply a Krell made crossover and some real hefty amplification let's say Classé, Krell, Mark Levinson, etc, the ML won't sound their best. There are extremely detailed and very well designed speakers in the market, I own a pair of NHT 3.3 highly recommended, also the 2.9's but also listen to Dunlavy and Von Scweikert VR series of speakers they are also quite good. Sound quality/price ratio the NHT 2.9 are very and I mean very hard to beat. I love planars, but I think music is better served by being played thrugh well designed dynamic speakers. If I had unlimited budget I would have 2 complete systems and I would own a set of Martin Logans CLS's or Sequel's or Re-Quests' but it will be on my second system, My flagship system will conyinue to delight me with NHT's or perhaps Dunlavy's maybe even Wilson Watt-Puppy combo. Go listen for yourself, don't let anybody sell you something. listen with your heart you'll end up living a few years of your life with these speakers. make your choice a clear one. Best of lucks Gonzalo
The electrostatics offerer unsurpassed midrange. But the sheer size of the planar drivers to creat bass, the need for powerful amplifiers and the high cost stack against the planars. Unfortunately hybrids (that use cone drivers for the low frequencies) are not the best of both worlds...
Bohlender Grabner, Planer Magnetics, www.bgcorp.com. I have a 5.1 setup of their floorstanding series w/ 2 7.4 madrigal passive subs powered by 2 7.1 Citation amps and a monoblock. The front LR run in bridged mode @ ~500w. Outstanding for a home theater and audio comprimise, although I have a hard time finding the comprimise. I would describe myself as a serious listner of music but not educated. This setup affords me serious dynamics and clarity with an expanded soundstage that still gives the instruments precise locations. Call them, good people to talk to. BTW...the madrigal/citation subs are wonderful. Set up properly they can be musical and tight for audio and very powerful in HT. The system is located in a converted 23x25 garage as far as acoustics go. I have seen all of these speakers being sold on ubid lately. Any body else had any experience with these dirvers?
I agree, it's a broad question, here's a broad answer: Read reviews, then listen and compare for yourself. Whatever you buy, it's likely that you won't keep it for the rest of your life, so don't put so much pressure on yourself.