I'd listen to them both, but I bet you'll like the Matrin Logan products better -- plus they offer a choices in a wide range of prices.
If you can afford it (about $10k/pair), wait until their new Summit is available and listen to them. I think you'll be (literally) blown away!
I've owned several Quads, one Martin Logan, and am presently an owner of and dealer for Sound Lab electrostats.
I think that the electrostatic loudspeaker was invented long before the first Quads, but my understanding is that the Quad ESL (introduced in 1957) was the first commercial electrostat. Legend has it that when the owners of Warfedale, Tannoy, and Bowers & Wilkins (the premiere British loudspeaker manufacturers of the day) first heard the Quad ESL, they quietly made preparations for bankruptcy just in case. Fortunately for them the ESL didn't catch on as much as they feared, but for years many a manufacturer of serious high-end loudspeakers had a pair of Quads tucked away somewhere as a reference system.
The main difference between Quads and (current production) Martin Logans is that the Martin Logans are hybrids - they use a dynamic woofer for low frequencies. As in most things audio, this involves tradeoffs. The Martin Logans will generally play deeper and louder, but aren't as coherent. It's difficult to get a box woofer to blend well with an electrostatic panel for several reasons including: the box usually introduces colorations that are absent in the panel; their radiation patterns are very different; and the sound pressure level literally falls off more slowly with distance from the panel than from the woofer (meaning the tonal balance is influenced by room size and/or listening distance).
Personally, I tend to prefer full-range electrostats; that is, no box woofer.
You mentioned InnerSound and Magnepan. InnerSound electrostats are use flat panels that give extremely precise imaging but a small sweet spot. They also will play louder than other electrostats and are very dynamic and lively, but are a more difficult load than the Martin Logans or Quads. Magneplanars are not electrostats - they use a different technology (planar magnetics) even though they look like electrostats. Magneplanars are very enjoyable loudspeakers but don't have quite the inner detail and articulation of a good electrostat.
Since I'm a dealer, can't resist the impulse to plug the brand I sell. Sound Lab offers one hybrid and several full-range models, and they differ from other electrostats in giving a much wider, more uniform radiation pattern with a corresponding wide sweet spot. Their uniformity of radiation pattern contributes to correct timbre, because the reverberant sound (which significantly influences perceived timbre) has the same or nearly the same tonal balance as the first-arrival sound. On the other hand, the full-range models are large, expensive, and difficult loads for an amplifier.
In general, electrostats are finesse loudspeakers, emphasizing quality over quantity. They can reproduce music with an ease, freedom from coloration, and naturalness of tone and texture that can spoil you. They tend to excel at low volume levels, but aren't really ideal for reproducing rock-concert level in the listening room, the InnerSounds being the exception here. Electrostats typically have narrow radiation patterns and small sweet spots, the Sound Labs being the exception. The hybrids are smaller and easier to integrate into a living room, but impose some performance compromises. In general electrostats present a difficult or even downright beastly load to an amplifier, so be aware that there may be a significant hidden amplifier cost.
Feel free to shoot me an e-mail with any questions you may have. I'll do my best to give accurate information, whether about the stuff I sell or stuff I don't sell.
Best of luck in your quest!
The dealer above has a vested interest in telling you the Soundlabs are the best!! But, he is telling you the truth.
I am a Maggie guy, I really love the open airy Magnepan sound, and would argue the comment on inner detail not being defined in any of the ranges. But, I really think that the finest speakers I have heard, are the large SoundLabs, they are truly sublime.
The new Quads, and oddly enough the re-manufactured ones that are sold in stacked sets, are fantastic and have excellent bass definition if not extension.
I agree wholeheartly agree with the above post on MartinLogans. Just my opion, but it always sounds to me like a poorly integrated subwoofer has been introduced when listening to those. The Innersounds I think do a MUCH better job at the hybrid integration than the MartinLogan's.
For what it's worth here is my Ranking of the speakers mentioned:
1)Magnepan's (20.1 I think is the finest speaker made)
3)Quads (989 with the extended bass panel is so good it's scary)
Macdadtexas, you read my mind. That's exactly how I'd rank these if I were forced to objectively rank speakers (the other parts of the system are soooo important). Also, don't forget that Maggies aren't electrostats! It's a magnetic planar technology. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on that, but I think it's so.
Int, I think Duke has given you an excellent summary.
I have 989s* and they are indeed fabulous-sounding speakers. What I love about single-panel 'stats is their coherency, their 'all-togetherness'. It's difficult to describe and sometimes takes several hearings to understand, but for the music I love, large-scale classical and film, they sound simply wonderful. The several comments about integrating cone woofers with planar MR/treble applies to ALL multiple-driver systems. While a few of them sound fabulous and many sound very very good, there's always a little discontinuity somewhere.
I suggest you listen very carefully to as many of these as you can, and don't forget the Eminent Technology hybrid-planar speakers. Compared with the rest of these, they're QUITE affordable. http://www.eminent-tech.com/main.html
* Now driven with the the equally fabulous-sounding Antique Sound Lab 805 DTs, 50-Watt SETs
Yes, the Maggies are a different technology, but more like electrostats than cones, much closer in sound reproduction.
I agree with Jeffreybehr regarding his Quads. I really think those (along with the SoundLabs) are the pinnacle of electrostat sound.
Then again, it's all so subjective. Every speaker mentioned here sounds great, really. It becomes what your preference is.
BTW, glad to here about the ASL amp. I really want to try some Hurricanes with my Maggies when my kids are a little older, so I don't have to worry about them getting burned by the tubes. Good luck.
Ditto. I owned a pair of MLs and never got used to the tonal difference between the Mylar and the enclosed woofer. Yeah, MLs look cool, but they don't sound like what hi-end can sound like.
Most of what I could add to the original question has been responded to by others, however no one, that I noted at least, has touched on one of the differences between the Quads and some of the others. Quads act much more like point source speakers than Sound Labs and Maggies, both of which can add more of sense of height, similar to dynamic linestage speakers, which is missing from the Quads unless you have a optimal set up. Personally, if I had the bucks and the room, I have those bigggg SoundLabs.
I own a pair of the smaller (ISIS) Innersound speakers and before I bought them I auditoned the Martin Logans, Quads and Magnepan 3.6Rs. Never heard the SoundLabs, but haven't read anything negative about them.
I chose Innersound because they integrated woofer to panel better than Martin Logans, played louder than the Quads and were more available than the 3.6Rs (At the time there was a 6 month wait for 3.6Rs). My overall preference/ranking of the 4 is:
You need to listen to as many as you can, and don't forget things like associated equipment, room size and WAF (if appropriate)
Newbee, I'm right there with you. Those and the Maggie 20.1's are what I covet for my "ultimate" media room. I plan on adding one to my house in 2yrs under the guise of a "Gameroom". Don't tell my spouse!!
Same experienced I had as posters above for the Martin Logans. I was a fanatic (from Aerius, to Aeon, and then Ascents)until set up (TT, cart, preamp, amp) got better. The woofers inability to blend with the panel sticks like a sore thumb especially in Classical music genre. Maybe it is better than the maggies (disclaimer: I now have a 1.6Qr and happier)in some ways (although I cannot think of what at the moment) but the maggies will step all over it in terms of cohesiveness!
I never heard the Soundlabs nor the Quads so I have nothing to share for them.
Had Martin Logans. Now Innersound. No comparison. Innersound by far.
I do agree with Duke's fine presentation. Regarding the rankings mentioned, I believe the Innersounds are only bested by Sound labs.
A point worth consideration is the effect of climate on electrostat panels. My Martin Logans suffered in high humidity.
Innersounds "Ultra stat panel" is said to be immune to dust, humidity etc.
So far I have found the claim to be 100% true.
I am not sure about this issue with the other speakers mentioned.
Also, Innersounds do play loud and usually come with an external crossover/bass amp.
This feature gives some control of room conditions and allows for very good bass integration. The added bonus is the ability to bi-amp. As Robert Harley states in his book,this may be the best of both worlds . Solid state for bass and tubes for upper freq. (not an exact quote but close)
I have found this to be the case.
Down side- A smallish sweet spot. A fair trade off for me.
I have owned several electrostats, including Acoustat 2+2s and Audiostatic ES100+SW100s. I still own Quad ESL 57s as well as Sound Labs which I own and am a dealer for. I have listened to most of the other speakers mentioned and always find myself gravitating toward what I own, in part because they get the reverberant field more right than others. Because of the major differences in radiation geometry between ESL dipoles and cone woofers, in my opinion there are few hybrids that integrate well. I do not care for Martin Logans for several reasons mainly based upon personal preferences. There is much more to be said, some of which has been covered in this thread. Listening is the ultimate arbiter, although I'm happy to exchange emails and speak on the phone on my nickel to offer explanations and suggestions.
I'll add my 2 cents to this debate. I currently own and listen to Quad 63, Quad 57, Martin Logan CLS IIz, Martin Logan Ascent, Martin Logan Aerius speakers. First, I love my Logans. I find the Aerius and Ascent to be well intergrated. Electronics matching is the key. I find my CLS IIZ to be my favorite of the bunch so I cant argue against that full range electrostatics speakers are better than the hybrids. Each has their pro's and cons. I like them all. The CLS IIz CAN AND DO play loud and they DO have bass with the right electronics which I of course have. The Quads have a magic to them also, but they tend to be rolled off compared to the Logans. But they are easier to drive. I have not heard Soundlab and at $15,000 to $30,000 for these, I figure they will never find their way into my basement. I did recently hear the new Innersound system here in Chicago and I was impressed. But at $20,000 for the system, no way could I ever afford that. My recommendation is to look at your budget and if you want stats, I think you can find happiness with Martin Logan or Quads within their strengths and limitations.
I agree with linnlp12, and I'm going to add my two cents to that. First let me say that for me, "Martin Logan" means "CLS"! I think my CLSIIz system with just a single ML Depth crossed over at a mere 35Hz is the closest thing to audio nirvana I ever heard, and I've heard them all. There's at least a three-person sweet spot, all bass appears to come from the panels, the transient response is uniform from top to bottom. None of that "hybrid separation."
There is now another Martin Logan which I think could supplant the so-far-irreplacable CLS: it's the new Summit, which I heard at CES. If you are able to audition one, do! They do everything a SoundLab does in a quarter the size (and I think they'll be around $10K)
I think both choices would be good. Quads may be easier to drive. And there is something to be said for not having a hybrid woofer.
I love my Martin Logan SL3s and have kept them in preference to many, many other speakers over the years but think they are difficult to match properly with electronics. Frankly most people with MLs have systems that I don't like even though I love the MLs. Many famous name amps are horrible for the MLs. They make them sound hard and screechy. I have even heard dealers who like them to sound that way. Or else they use tube amps that roll the top but can't control the bass and wimp out on the low impedance load. So I find that I am often wary of people who say they like ML because they often mean that they like MLs when driven poorly.
If you are willing to fuss with setup and find very good, high current, smooth sounding solid state electronics or very powerful and neutral tube amps to drive them, you can go to MLs. If you cheap out on the amps, you'll be making a big mistake.
It seems to me many of the people who have posted in this thread are bass averse to begin with - classical only, etc.- which I find unfortunate because colossal sound is one of those things symphonies do well, so I would take their comments about "poorly integrated" with a grain of salt. It seems more likely the bass is present rather than missing. No electrostatic panel can reach into that sub area in the way a firing cone can. ML was smart enough to realize this without going overboard. Not that I've heard them really cranked. As someone in another thread said though, they are so transparent it is hard to get a read from your ears on what the sound pressure really is. My experience of the ML's is of a well integrated speaker which is extremely nimble but not lacking in bass definition, although it does not have true slam. However, imo, slam usually equals loss of control and would interfere with the open sound, much the way warm bass effects neutrality overall. The ML sound is very rich and transparent - two things that usually do not go together in speakers. I agree with JVN above - I heard Pass powering the ML's and it was an ugly egregious listen. Primare worked fine. EAR works fine, as does Cary. I heard the ML Ascent's side by side with the Sonus Faber Cremona's and the ML's really totalled them. Cones can never be as natural as ribbons and 'stats, but there are still lots of reasons to use them. ANother company you might try are the Opera Piega's which use ribbon tweeters with cone bass drivers. Inner sounds are great 'stats but expensive. Quad's I hear are a pain, which is weird. It really isn't a fussy technology - but I run across people all the time who have to do something to get their sick Quads working again. I have never heard this about ML's, and their customer service is great - I have talked to them several times about various factoids of interest to me, not being an owner of them, and they always happily answer obscure technical questions. Again, not so with Quad. I hear very mixed things about Maggies, though never really heard them, and have noticed that many people are confused about the differences. Except owners. And the two camps always seem at odds - stats and maggies.
I find it interesting that Maggies,even the high end ones, are put in a sonic category with Quads, and other electrostatics. Look at the price difference!! Even the MG1.6 which you can buy for less than most box speakers, gives you much, if not all, of what an electrostatic panel can offer. It's said that "An Engineer can do for a dollar what any damn fool can do for ten". Maggies are a perfect example.
I read somewhere years ago that electrostatic speaker technology was invented in the 1930s. I even remember seeing a reprint of an article from a trade journal from around 1935 showing and describing the system.
Martin Logan has improved the integration of the woofer over the years, the newer MLs defintely sound more coherent than the pre-'i' models (although still not as integrated as non-hybrids, I will agree.) A good installer can dial in a current high end ML setup for your room and make it sound excellent, and it has a better radiation pattern overall than some of the other 'stats I've heard.
If you are considering Quads, then you must have the space and budget, (and lack of WAF issues ;) ) and if so, they do sound very good in the right system / room.
All electrostats have serious setup issues, from the mating of amps to room placement and backwave issues, and getting the right tonal balance vis a vis sufficient bass for some of them. Consider your room and budget and which components you are willing to replace (amp being the primary target.) Pick the right speaker given the above considerations, I don't think there is a single speaker that will be better in every room / system / budget.
Electrostats really have that victorian look to them - plus the open voltage. It's ALliiive...
Though I admire Maggies, once my ear latched onto the "stretched tight plastic film midbass" sound, it's been hard to overlook it. But some listeners find that sound attractive (drum head like tightness, maybe) and enjoy it. No moving coil system sounds anything close to that, no matter its size or price. So IMO, the taunt tympanic diaphragm is creating its own sound. Again, Maggies are deserving of their admiration (I tip my hat to their excellent American made innovative heritage) but that one weakness keeps me from enjoying them. Their ribbon tweeter is superb.
Just curious how does a 9 year old thread get resurrected
For my part, and based upon the Electrostatic speakers that I have operated over the years, I would, personally, place them in the following order of fidelity.
A. Martin Logan CLX (with and without Descenti's to taste), Sound Lab A-1/U2, Quad ESL 57.
B. Quad ESL 2905/2812, KingSound King III.
C. Quad ESL 63.
I retain the ML CLX Aniversary/Descenti combo and a couple of pairs of ESL 57's.
I love resurrecting old threads that are worthy of resurrecting. Now it's a 2.3 year old thread. And yeah, I'm resurrecting it by posting (thanks Jim;-)
I'm absolutely loving my Quad ESL-2805s and it happened only after a *lot* of a'goners told me I'd love em. Got a problem with the lack of bass? First, I'd say listen to make sure they don't already have enough bass since, depending on your room, they may have plenty for you. Second, why not just pick up a pair since they're cheap, get a $200 electronic crossover (i have a dbx solely for this purpose) and a pair of excellent subs, figure out which roll-off and xover frequency works for your room and your subs and never look back.
Regarding Maggies vs. electrostatics ... I've never heard Maggies with the same dynamics and well ... realism. Not saying it can't be, but make sure you do your own comparisons before just assuming the Maggie fans above understand this very important value proposition offered by electrostatics. It's been by far the most surprising feature for me. Just don't play em too loud.