Quad ESL 57 system upgrade help requested

Happy Holidays Everyone:

I am looking to you for guidance and wisdom regarding a system upgrade that I am embarking on.

I have a quasi Mark Levinson HQD System. I love my stacked Quad ESL 57’s but I am looking to upgrade some or all of the following components to take my system to the next level.

I hope that you can help.

I am open to tube or solid state electronics but it will be hard for me to part with my Bedini amps that drive my stacked Quads. I have heard great things about modified idler drive turntable, but I am open to all suggestions. Since my system is old, whatever I don’t change will probably need new internal components and/or modifications. I would welcome recommendations regarding this as well.

Here’s the rest of my system:

-A Forsell Air Force One Turntable with a Forsell Tangent tracking tonearm which I definitely want to change
-A Koetsu Onyx long body cartridge - retipped
-A pair of Bedini 25/25 1mg amps in bridged mono mode driving my stacked Quads
-A third Bedini 25/25 1mg driving a pair of modified Decca ribbon tweeters
-A Mark Levinson ML3 amp driving dual Fried 10” woofers in a single transmission line cabinet – I need very fast, detailed subs to keep up with my stacked Quads
-A Convergent Audio Technologies SL1 Mk 2 Reference preamp –I don’t listen to any digital sources. Vinyl playback is critical. I’ve heard great things about Shindo, Nagra, Aesthetix, VAC and Jadis but am open to all suggestions
-A Symmetry ASC1 crossover
-A Symmetry ASC2 crossover – ideally looking for one crossover to replace the two Symmetries
-A Yamaha T2 tuner – quality FM is very important to me. Considering Marantz 10B or a McIntosh MR 71 – again, very open to suggestions.
-A pair of STAX Lambda headphones
-A Stax SR-12 headphone energizer/preamplifier – love Stax, but open to alternatives
-A Revox A77 Reel-to-Reel tape recorder – ½ and ¼ track recording and playback are key. I have heard good things about the Technics 1500 or Otari 5050 B Mk.2 but welcome your recommendations.
-Mark Levinson speaker and interconnect cables – they have to go.
-A VPI 16 Record Cleaner – looking for simultaneous dual–sided cleaning

I also own a SOTA Star Sapphire turntable with a Sumiko 800 "The Arm" tone arm which is not being used along with a Stax SR 7 headphone energizer and a rebuilt Janis W1 subwoofer.

I listen to rock, jazz and large scale classical.

My room is 14’ by 20’ by 9’.

Budget is wide open. I could go as high as $50,000 but I am open to great used equipment as well as new. Bottom line - I am looking for the best possible sound from reliable manufacturers that provide great customer care. My spending hours of constantly tweeking and adjusting my system are long behind me. I want a wonderful system that I can spend my time listening to that won’t put me to in the poor house.

I look forward to your timely replies.

Enjoy and happy listening.

Thanks in advance.


I could go as high as $50,000 but...I want a wonderful system that I can spend my time listening to that won’t put me to in the poor house.
Wow, my first thought was that I'd like to live in your poor house...but then I started adding up the retail price of what I've managed to put together over the years, and I thought that # is not so crazy.

I've never heard a stacked Quad system but lots of folks say that they still cannot be beat for mid-range magic. So maybe you should concentrate on upgrading your electronics and your 'table, keep your speakers. If you want a new sub, I'd suggest a pair of Vandersteen 2Wqs w built in amps. They're designed for music not HT boom. Other than that, I'm only gonna mention tube gear since I've not had ss in my house for quite a while. From listening at home, Doshi, VAC and Atma-sphere come to mind for pre and amplification components. Great customer care from all three outfits; perhaps an advantage to Atma-sphere since you are also interested in RTR and the owner/designer has lots of expertise in using and rehabbing tape machines. At shows Co-incident and Allnic phono/line stages and amplifiers are always impressive. The owner/designer of Co-incident has a great reputation. I've not heard the higher end Aesthetix components, but their lower price phono stage left me unimpressed. As far as a new turn-key analog rig, I'd suggest working w Mehran from Sorasound if you want to buy new. Buying used electronics from established members on this site has always been a better-than-anticipated experience; assuming that the gorillas at UPS/Fedex are well-behaved.

One thing that has really changed in recent years is the reach of high end audio shows, to give you a chance to hear a wide range of gear and talk to and learn from many of the manufacturers/designers. Rocky Mtn Audio Fest in Denver each October is probably the biggest/best, but there are shows in DC, NYC, Newport Beach, and other places. Highly recommended.

Disclaimer, I'm a dealer.

If you're serious I suggest that you contact a knowledgeable dealer and let them put a system together within your budget to audition. Otherwise you're going to get a myriad of suggestions here that will only add to your confusion. Just a couple of points to keep in mind whichever way you decide to go, you ought to consider your room size and acoustics when looking at new speakers. 2nd, don't waste any of your budget on high priced cables or worthless tweaks.
Dkarmeli also gives some good advice, which I must admit I thought about while writing the post above. It's an equally valid approach. Part of the decision process for you, I would think, is whether you consider the journey as part of the process. I'm not talking about endless rounds of tweaking that you say you are past. I agree w that completely, but then I'm not an analytical listener. If I can make an emotional connection to the music, I'm there. If I can't, then I don't really care why.

The success of the dealer model depends on finding someone whose goals, approach, personality, product lines, and location are sympatico to yours. Unfortunately, many people do not have access to such an animal at this time. Luckily for you, in the price range that you are talking about, one or two trips to a distant location would not be a significant portion of the cost, and there are several dealers who would deduct the cost of a trip from a completed sale. It's also more relevant for assembling a complete system than for finding a single component that has to integrate successfully w an existing system.

If that model sounds like it might work for you, you might consider talking to people like Mehran from SoraSound or Duke (Audiokinesis) who handle several of the lines I mentioned above. For example, Duke sells Soundlab 'stats and Atma-sphere and DeHaviland tube electronics. Mehran has Atma-sphere and VAC, several lines of tables, arms, and carts, and is very good at putting together an analog front end. Both are very highly respected as being knowledgeable, honest and customer-oriented. Paragon Sight and Sound has a travel re-imbursement program and carries Doshi and Wilson.
Remove the Quad metal grills as well as the plastic dust covers. Trust me, you'll forget about expensive upgrades in a big hurry.
i personally don't think you should try to better the Quads. Many a man has failed, unless you are thinking of STAX F81 or F83 but then you've got an amplification nightmare. If I was in your position I would start with my amplification. Quads can take a hell of a lot more power than you are feeding them and they sound great with a lot of power. Best I've heard with the Quads were ARC Ref amps. Just fantastic. Also maybe switch your paradigm with your vinyl front end and look at a Shindo 301. I think what you'll find is that you need to shift your balance of warmth to dynamics. That's the fun part of Quads in my experience, finding that sweet spot.
Stacked Quad ESL57s don't take a lot of power so you don't need a big amp. We've had a good number of people use our M-60 in that sort of installation with good results. Without question though with ESL57s you are looking for a good tube amplifier.