Quad ESL or Soundlab?

Have anyone compared those two brands? Both of them are ESL, I have heard the New Quad 2805 driven with Quad's 15watt tube mono block, they sounded amazing, very transparent and uncolored. Didn't have chance to hear Soundlab yet but will be very interesting to hear from ppl who have heard both speakers.

i don't think much of the 2805. i have heard them several times. i am looking for a new speaker and am considering quads unlimited quad esls(quad 57).

as for soundlab. you probably need a lot of current and i don't think they are as pure sounding as the quad esl.
I have no experience of the 2805s. But I had Quad ESL-63s for several years. I liked them except for one thing -- the very narrow "sweet spot." Were someone to buy those speakers, I would advise that person to sign up for a Yoga class at the same time. With suitable training and practice, one could sit still, and hold one's head still, until it was time to change the CD. With advanced training in Yoga, one could even buy a multiple disc player and sit still until an embolism transported you beyond audio nirvana. The Sound Labs have wider sweet spots, but my wife vetoed them because of their size.
I disagree with the sweet spot being narrow.

I have just ordered a set of 2805 (Quad 63 owner in the past) which I will pick up next weekend. If you like Quads nothing else will compare, go ahead and let the music make you happy. I will be driving mine with an EAR 859 (13W per channel), the dealer used a CJ MV60.
hi mozart:

you bought the wrong quads. you should have considered stacked quad 57s. the 2805 is a "souped up" quad 63.

i am in the market for a speaker and i am considering quads unlimited quad 57s.
The stacked Quad 57's can be considered as benchmark electrostatic speakers. The Soundlab A-1's (which I own) remind me of them. The Soundlabs have more bass and deeper bass. Also the SPL handling is better (can play louder).

podiums all the way . no sweet spot , efficient , easy to place , no crossovers , NO BEAMING. A total revelation period. www.podiumsound.co.uk
hi andre:

where did you hear the podiums ? i heard them at ces they sounded awful. i had two other friends with me at the st tropez.
No discussion possible the best electrostatic speakers ever build in whole history are :
1) Legendary Beveridge 2 SW (world's most holographic 3-D speaker ever)
2) Legendary 4 stacked Quad 57 ESL's.

All other current and old eletrostatics speakers will be beaten by those two legendary speakers.

Soundlab has a big soundstage but is lesser musical than Beveridge or Quad ESL 57(stacked).
Listen to the magical midrange and nothing will do.
hello mr tennis
cant explain why they sounded awfull, maybe you didnt give them enough time. I own the .5. they only sound as good as the equipment put through them, they are a true breakthrough product, what the industry has been needing for years. Oh and the WAF is very much there also.
Thanks for all you replies. I have not heard the older Quad speakers 57, 63 but the 2805 sound very truthful to my ears. I have not audition the soundlab yet, from what I have heard they required careful amp/amps matching to sound its best. Thanks for all you comments and keep them coming.

Hi Spyddie,

Just a different perspective on the Quad 2805's. I've owned mine for about 18 months and absolutely love them. I am using a Mac 275 amp and the new Mac c2300 preamp. After many different speakers over the years, the Quads are long term keepers.

These Quads are extremely transparent and surprisingly dynamic. They can play more than loud enough for me without strain and have low enough bass with impact to make rock exciting. No they don't rattle the floor but I can hear all the bass notes and kick drum in the music I listen to. And of course they have a sense of midrange transparency and realism that at times is just surprising. There is no listening fatigue, even after hours of listening. I just end up feeling refreshed and relaxed.

I've had mine in three different rooms from small to large to medium and they do fine, yet different, in each. Spending the time with careful set-up will result in a big pay off.

Regarding a narrow sweet spot, I have not noticed that with mine, but I only have one listening chair and typically listen alone. However, adjusting the amount of toe-in will have an impact on the sweet spot.

Each to his own, I guess. Good luck!

I recall hearing Quads (57's) at a NYC show. The person showing the speakers was "Gizmo" Harvey (so sorry but I can't recall his real name) and they were quit impressive. Delicate, clean, open and real. The was not much bass and they played at a low level.
I also heard (on or about that same year and possibly at that same show ) SoundLabs A-1. I hated them....BECAUSE.....they blew me away and I could not have them due to their size. I remember listening to them and saying to myself..."boy sound like I'm in the concert hall....what can I find that I dislike about these speakers"? I could not!!
To me...Soundlabs...if they were smaller could be in my home right now.

Rick (RWD)
the quad 2805 is essentially, a reworked quad 63. the 2805 plays louder, is better braced, is a bit more dynamic, and goes a bit deeper.

if you had a chance to compare the 2805 to a rebuilt quad 57, you would notice a purer mid band and treble, compared to the 2805. until you do this, it is an opinion of mine.

however, i am looking for another speaker and i will purchase stacked 57s before i would purchase a pair of 2805s.
Quite a while ago I had listened to Quad 63s a fair amount, which is what started my interest in ESLs. My only objections were that the image was low as if you were listening from a balcony and the lack of satisfying bass.

More recently, I had owned a pair of Soundlabs, which are by a good margin the best speakers I have had the privledge to either hear or own. Space limitations have forced their sale or I would still own them. They have spoiled me for sure. I still have my older Merlin VSMs but they will soon be up for sale because Soundlabs made me rethink what is possible and what sonic characteristics are important to me.

Dipole bass will be a must in my next speaker, however, large panels are out due to space. I may be looking toward the new Emerald Physics dynamic dipoles.

It is hard for me to imagine someone not being entirely (very very) happy with a pair of Soundlab speakers.


I am a soundlab owner having a pair of m2's with impedance mods and the tordial transformers.Presently driving them with a manley 440/200 monoblocks I just bought here on audiogon.
The sound is excellant; imaging,soundstage and timbre seems proper to me expecially with strings.The only negative I have and was warned before I bought them is they don't play loud like a dynamic speakers does.My experience with these in the last 2 years has been very postive as these are the best speakers I have ever owned; my earlier pairs were dunlavy sc3's,alon 4's,merlin 4b+'s, and ohm f's.
If you search audiogon for soundlab's you will find a very loyal following and if you get a chance to audition a pair you should.
While the Quad 57s may have a purer midrange they are limited in max SPLs and low bass output to such an extent to disqualify them for loud or large scale music. I've never heard stacked 57s. Does stacking eliminate or at least greatly reduce theses problems?
Hi Rick, it's "Gizmo" Harvey Rosenberg.
The Sound Labs are very bit the equal of the best Quads, and are capable of greater dynamic range and wider bandwidth. They are harder to drive, so it makes a huge difference as to how good they are going to sound, depending on amplifier choice.

Quads, OTOH, are easier to drive and smaller, and so are better suited to smaller rooms where the Sound Labs would be impossible. What's nice about them (in particular the 57 and the 63) is that they can be driven with smaller tube amps- the ideal combination.

In recent years Quad has been trying to make their ESLs work with transistors (much like Martin Logan) with unfortunate results (hard to drive with tube amps). Anyone working with ESLs knows that tubes are required reading if you are to get the most out of them. So for the more recent models, a set of ZEROs are handy (mandatory might be a better word) to deal with the lowered impedances of the newer speakers.

Sound Labs work better with tubes too, but they were also flirting with the idea that transistors were the way to go, so there are quite a few of them that were built that are nearly undriveable with any tube amplifier. Updates issued about 4-5 years ago corrected some of this, but they remain a difficult load and and you need a bit of power to really make them shine. Earlier Sound Labs that did not have the torroid 'update' (and it attendant impedance issues; IOW had only EI core transformers in the backplate) were a lot easier to drive, but that was a good 10-15 years ago. IMO, these were the best of the Sound Labs, although very recently they have had a diaphram materials improvement that has helped out a lot, especially in the reliability department, something that is a bit of a bugger for all ESLs.

It is very important to note that the drivability issues I have been outlining here are at the root of the question of which is the better sounding speaker! Both are capable of excellence that engenders fierce loyalty from their owners, but if connected to the wrong amps either one can sound terrible! This happens a lot more than you might think- they are both so demanding of the amps used on them that the reality is that there are few few amps that do them justice. IOW the chances are better that you heard them set up poorly rather than ideally. That leads to a lot of controversy!

I speak from direct experience with many customers over the years (about 80% of our MA-2s built have been built for Sound Lab owners, for example). A good number of our smaller amps have been set up on nearly every model of Quad ever made as well.
Sound Labs have better all round performance...however Quad's hold the edge for some. It depends on your musical tastes - if you like more dynamics then go Sound Labs.
Atmosphere,I really enjoyed your post.Very interesting,and quite plausible.You define the saying.."knowledge is power"!
Dear Spyddie: Unfortunately I don't have the opportunity to hear any of the Soundlabs model that could compete with the 2805.

I heard the Soundlabs Majestic ( in the long run in the audio system of one of my audio friends. ) that is not only an imposing speaker by its size but a very very good quality performer!!!!

Btw, the manufacturer recomended SS electronics, in specific Parasound JC-1, that are the ones that own my friend.

Regards and enjoy the music.

When purchasing my Soundlabs, Dr. West wouldn't cite a specific type of amplification, let alone a specific manufacturer.

While some Soundlab owners use SS amps, such as JC1's, many others prefer tubes. Ralph's Atma-Sphere's receive extremely high marks, and I love the CAT's I use to drive mine!
The Quad 57.
For a speaker design pushing 60 years old it sure has left its mark in audio history right up to today and no dought in my mind beyond.

I believe the going price today of a overhauled pair of 57s or 63s range from $2,500 to $3,500.00?

There is nothing on the audio market at this price that could even begin to approach this sonic value....Nothing

If you have room for an extra pair of speakers you will charish these for the rest of your life.

Dear Mrmb: In my friend's case the advise was specific on those amplifiers.

Now, for what I heard through it are very good match and of course not the only amplifier alternative.

Regards and enjoy the music.
A note to Tennis : A friend of mine had BOTH an original pair of 57's in great condition and a pair of Wayne's rebuilds bought on A-gon, also mint. He was driving them with a Marantz 8b. We both expected the rebuilds to sound better (?) in some way, but they felt harsh and in-your-facewere (compared to original 57's that is! it's still a decent stat) and they were no match for the originals in terms of smoothness, flatness of response, etc. Just a heads up FWIW. I'd be more inclined to buy a working original 57 and service it as necessary (rather than a complete rebuild with new panels etc.)
I know the "57" may be a dated design,but "MY GOD",hearing one well driven can be SO much fun!!

I remember hearing a gorgeous pair,playing Steely Dan's-AJA awhile ago.Driven by a Classic Audio Research amp.I just "got lost in the presentation"!!Maybe a bit rolled in freq extremes,but I did not care at all.It was uniquely great!!

It is kind of like loving some "amazing attribute on a sexy woman,whereas she still may not be womanly perfection...BUt,you don't care.You simply like the "it" SO much!
I had Quad ELS 63's and Gradient SW63 Subs. for more than 20 years, which were superb & lived with me until I moved house and finally got a big dedicated room. They don't work too well in a big open space.
I now have Sound Lab U1-PX's with which I initially had some problems driving with ARC Ref 210,s. I took some advice & now traded and have ARC 610T's.
I am home back off an extended business trip in a couple of weeks and hope to get it all together and running. Will post my impressions then.
I had CLS 11,Sequel, Quad 63, stacked 57's and now Acoustat monitor X(includes the tube servo amps).

The stacked 57's were very nice.The xtra panel doesn't give more bass, as in going lower to 20hz.
It just fills more of the room up with the bass that it can deliver,so you do feel like you are getting more bass, just not deeper bass.I wired the panels so they stayed at 15-16 ohms.

I drove the stacked 57's with an AtmaSphere s30.
Very nice,and not much chance of overdriving the panels.

I also used an old 1960's tube integrated from Bell,using 6V6 power tubes.
Those 18 tube watts off the 16 ohm transformer were really something also.

One of my audio friends commented that this system "drew you into the music"

I have a friend who has the SoundLab Ultimate Ones driven by a pair of CAT amps, also tubes.

This system is one of the best I have ever heard.

But ,not everyone can afford the Ones and the kind of amplification they need.

I was very fortunate to acquire the Acoustat's ,got the amps modded and I feel I have ended my journey.

I have no regrets in selling any of my other systems.