Nice review Chris.
Do you think the ESL-57s are able to highlight the differences between arms and cartridges as well as other types of speakers?
Wanted to make a couple of comments to clarify a few points. Full disclaimer: I sell and service ESL speakers primarily Quads. Wayne Picquet is a personal friend and we do business together from time-to-time. And I personally feel the ESL63 is a significantly better speaker versus the original but the scope of this discussion is about the original.
Does a PK rebuilt tweeter panel(or speaker) sound better than the original version? In some ways this is a tough question to answer. All original Quads that have not been restored are now at least 30 years old and most are appoaching 40-50 years in age. Most of them will have degraded to the point that a meaningfull comparison cannot be made.
But all is not lost. I purchased my first pair of originals in 1982 when they were still available new. And I have had the opportunity in the last 5 years to audition originals, never restored, that are still in excellent operational condition. I have a pair in for service at the moment that I would say are working at 95%+ original performance levels. I also pulled a pair of tweeter elements from a pair about 4 years ago that still performed at original specification.
IMO without question a Wayne Picquet rebuilt tweeter panel(or speaker) is an exact duplicate of the original. Why wouldn't they be? He uses the exact same materials as the factory used, and has the same tooling and processes as originally employed by the factory. Wayne's work is better than the original in terms of unit-to-unit consistency and better overall fit/finish versus what was originally delivered by the factory.
Can too much power damage the delicate tweeter panel? A resounding no provided the protection circuitry is in place. This protection circuit was originally developed by Quad in the late 80's for the ESL63. They modified the circuit to work inside the original. With the protection circuit in place it is simply impossible to damage the speaker. Believe me I have tried. It can't be done. And I personally use 300 watt mono block tube amps with my Quads, 63 or original. Worst case is you burn-up the protection circuit but the panels transformer remain undamaged. And the circuit has zero sonic impact. A win-win situation all around.
Any Wayne Picquet restored original will have protection circuits in place. I know because I produce them and he has bought hundreds of them in the last five years. If one has an original restored by Wayne they can use any amp they desire without fear of damage.
A properly functioning original with protection boards in place will indeed hit levels of 100dB. This is provided the amp has the ability to drive the speakers to this kind of level. Most of the amps recommended for the original don't have a chance of achieving this sort of performance. The key when chosing an amp for the original is one with a large and stable power supply. This rules out most of the flea-size amps generally recommended for the speaker.
If one is content with lower SPL levels then small amps can indeed produce a lovely sound. But they will never reveal all the capabilities of the speaker.
I have brought my sp10 to the location where the 57's are once for a week to try it out. My VPI TT is too big to move. So I am in the process of setting up a good TT at that location. My opinion so far and remember I am a linear tracker guy and I tend to keep the cartridge on there for a while before I change. But here is my opinion with examples.
Telling tonearm/cartridge differences - Low bass below 40hz will be an obvious challenge – HF needs to be worked on – 57 placement in room is very important. Any sounds in that midrange area will be very good – their strength - maybe too good (colored?) thus sounding better than they should? I don’t think this is necessarily bad. I explain later. Telling of cartridge differences in the transitions between these in the “57’s frequency range” will be excellent as these 57’s are very even in the db levels, I find between the high, mid and low sounds. It is very consistent.
Natalie Merchant Ophelia album and play the song – Effigy . These speakers give me the chills and goosebumps when the lady at the end finishes the song with only her beautiful voice. It is so strong and at such a low volume level it is incredible. This IS the 57 magic to me. I have to call whoever is in the house into the room to hear it and tell me if they hear it and if it is affecting them in the same way. I have played this song on my other speakers and they do a really really good job of it as well. But no chills. That is what I am looking for. I think different cartridges may do different things with this section.
HF – the 57’s really need to be placed properly and pointed at you because of the way they beam. They will compensate for “not ideal” tonearms/cartridges i.e. resonances, shrill sounding - better because their treble does not blare out at you. Another speaker like my 801’s would not let me play those tracks with those cartridges – they would be unbearable. But I find all ESL are sweeter in this regard as far as the HF goes. The 801’s are monitors and let you right away if u have put on bad LP. They cough it up.
Transparency - Chris Rea’s Auberge – Before this song begins we hear a man walking in the street, birds chirping, he walks from one side to the other and kicks a bottle across the street. What frequency does a kicked bottle do – higher midrange ? They reproduce this in a very uncanny way – the scene is so real in front of you. The bottles revolutions as it spins on the ground is so clear.
Soundstage- Eagles – Hell Freezes over – Hotel California – When people come over I like to do this test. The Acoustat Spectra 33’s are placed about 5 feet behind each 57 close to the front wall. The song starts with just instruments. Alternates from left to right at different depths for each instrument. People in the sweetspot think the music is coming from the bigger Acoustats in the back. The 57’s are only about 6 feet in front of them.
Bass – it is what it is – full to 40 hz.
Still The bass is tight and short. So if the cartridge tends to be more loose or longer sounding in the bass the 57’s will compensate and make it sound tighter.
My opinion – I think if a person likes voices and midrange sounds alot - you may not be listening to alot of music that has alot of music below 40 hz because it tends to take away from those songs where the voices are predominant?
Now I listened to Simply Red – Picture Book on my 801’s last night and it was phenomenal - highs, mids - lows . Can’t wait to hear this lp on the 57’s to compare.
The theme seems to be the frequencies they do well sound better ? Wonder why they are so addicting and still popular after all these years:)
With my TT project in progress for that room the 57’s make good recorded cd’s sound nice. Eric Clapton Unplugged is another one that comes to mind. I can’t wait to hear the vinyl versions more there. That is when I will be getting into a personal challenge with the SPL’s I think since vinyl is so linear compared to the compressed way a cd is recorded. I will be turning it higher without realizing it.
Henry I am going to have to stop posting after i have had a big morning coffee on Sunday mornings. I am finding I go on and on.
I am hoping someone that has been able to spend more time with the 57's will come on here and answer your question better. As my experience with them grows I will add more info as well.
I should qualify that the seller I bought my 57's from sent the panels to Wayne to rebuild. When they were returned to him he put them back into a stock 57 - hence no protection circuit. So this is why I am careful. Reason the title of this thread says "Panels". If I can change the title to prevent confusion I will following this post.
In your experience does this protection circuit on a "57" affect the purity of the sound in anyway ?
Also you said -
"And I have had the opportunity in the last 5 years to audition originals, never restored, that are still in excellent operational condition. I have a pair in for service at the moment that I would say are working at 95%+ original performance levels."
So to clarify then - if someone is looking to buy an original condition 57 speaker - and they find an excellent sample - would you agree the years on it will not have decayed the materials holding the panels together - even if it was stored away for 5 - 10 years ?
IME the protection board has no impact on the sonics. It is not like protection schemes of the past that were in series with the signal input. Instead this circuit rides parallel with the audio signal. It does nothing until the voltage threshold is reached and then it engages to prevent any further voltage swing. Simple, elegent with zero downside.
IME finding original Quads in all original condition that are still close to factory spec. is getting close to impossible. They are all so old at this point only a handful of carefully maintained examples will exist. Is it impossible? No. Improbable most likely.
The particular pair I was referring to was produced in the early 70s, the lovely bronze grilles! Original owner that imported directly from the UK in 1974, absolutely fanatically maintained, look as good as the day they left the factory, and have been in storgage for the past 15 years. Everything works perfect even the rectifier blocks. Musuem quality example of the speaker IMO and I told the owner he should not take less than $4-5K for the speakers. Very rare to find something this old that degrades as it does over the decades in this kind of condition either functionally or cosmetically.
OTOH I see lots of original Quads that look nice, even play nice, but are a far cry from what they should be and their owners want far too much money for them. Restored examples like from Wayne, or the few rare originals in top notch condition are worth $3,800-$5,000. Most of them are worth no more than $800-$1,200 IMO provided everthing is intact and the cosmetics are good. If not they are worth perhaps $300-$500.
IME there is rarely a deal to be found on an old electrostat. You get what you pay for. What initially appears to be a bargain may quickly become a money pit. Full or even partial restorations can get pricey. Again, I have seen great finds and deals on old Quads but that is really more a matter of luck anymore than anything else. It most cases it will work the other way unfortunately.
When I started hearing the noise in the one tweeter panel when music was not playing my heart dropped thinking it was the panel. I paid $1400 for mine. I had the one checked out and the person said it was the EHT (the box module where you plug the cord in) original and just getting old.
The rebuilt panels looked new - just some dust in spots.
In fact the speaker made no noise at all at his shop. It was caused apparently by the humidity at my place.
So one day I will have the EHTs repaired/replaced.
Kentaja - I have read about "trannies" when people do rebuilds on them and they say to not have them modified when rebuilt but put back original. Are they talking about the same box? Do you have more info on this ?
Would you agree that anyone looking at buying a pair of these from a private person should take the back grill off since it is easy to do "once discharged" and check for any burn marks on the panels?
September 6 - Update
I received 2 emails on this review asking if I was still enjoying the 57’s.
Here is an update.
They are still one of my favourite speakers.
Pros for 57's
U don't realize how much music actually lives in that midrange area that
they are famous for.
They make all cd's sound good even with a "so so" cd player.
They take away that CD "edge" because I think their treble is delicate.
All ESL are generally better at this I find.
They are easy to move around.
They don't need a lot of power to sound good and full.
Very easy to listen to.
My Acoustat Spectra 33's are in the same room
Bigger sound but they are really big too - its noticeable - they can’t be left in
position like the 57's.
They have a limit of 100db. That means music at 90 - 95db average will have peaks close to 100db.
Depending on how loud you listen you many need to install the protection board in them.
If you listen to music with lower bass that lowest octave is missing.
What is there is very good to about 40hz if placed well.
You need your head in a vice to stay in sweet spot.
I know people that went to 63's for the added db's /range but they missed the 57's midrange.
Never heard personally of anyone going from a 63 to a 57 and say they miss the 63 ?
Whoever offers opinions – ask them if they are dealers or distributors.
I would not buy an original good condition model unless I knew the owner.
Recommend you buy fresher new or used rebuilt panel models.
When auditioning “DEFINITELY” take off the front cover – it only takes minutes and look for condition.
Is there a lot of hair and dust in there. It will tell you how they were used.
Are there burn marks on the panels.
They will look like holes or cigarette burns.
Even if you don’t listen at 95 db play them that loud during the audition to ensure they are functional. Bring a cheap db meter with you.
Hope this helps.
A short follow up since my last post over a year ago with this Quad 57 speaker.
They have changed physical location by 70kms and came home. I have had the opportunity to spend much more time with them. A sound so seductive at times with the human voice, that I have tried to make them the be-all and end –all; with external tweeters and subs. I kept bouncing back and forth between stock and modified form.
Then I did some research and discovered that Roger Modjeski used his Quad 57’s to voice his RM10 Tube Amp.
"As QUADAPHILES know that speaker has rather special requirements to both protect it from over voltage (sparking) and is somewhat amplifier fussy. The RM-10 has been popular among QUAD owners and it is widely known that I was using that speaker when I designed the RM-10"
I already owned a Music Reference RM9. I did actually use it with the 57’s temporarily when I first got them; the sound was very good for the short time I did this; but as I was worried about damaging them, I didn’t use them for a long period in this fashion.
I acquired a RM10 a few months ago. I can say for now, I no longer feel the need to experiment. The Quad 57 seem to sing with the RM10 with no fear of over driving them. They go plenty loud as well in the fairly large room they are in. For what they can do - they do this very well for me, and provide their unique music perspective.
I also found out from the restorers of these speakers that the Quad 63 are much more fragile and susceptible to humidity than the Quad 57, based on the way they are built. Regardless, I have since purchased a large de-humidifier that I use in the summer along with the air-con to keep the area they are in dry so they will last as long as possible.
Disclaimer – I am not affiliated with Music Reference
I had stacked 57's and they were magic,more of everything you already enjoy about the 57's.If you ever have access to another pair, stack them,I had the stands made from wood,they aren't hard to do and the combo of stacked 57's and an Atmaspher S30 and MP3 pre was magic.
An old 1961 Bell tubed integrated amp wasn't too shabby either.
I veered off course for awhile, sold the Quads,and my CLS's,and moved to old Tannoys and nwere box speakers, but lost the magic.
That was until I got lucky and got a pair of Acoustat 3 model X speakers with modded/upgraded servo tube amps.
I had Acoustats back in the mid 80, but they were the newer non powered versions,the ones with the medallian transformers.
What I have now is much better.
I don't miss my stacked 57's anymore.
But they were special.
My WPK Quad 57's continue to be a very special speaker to me for two reasons.
I really enjoy the music on them, but they also help me to tune the other speakers.
I had stacked 57's and they were magic,more of everything you already enjoy about the 57's
I thought about this. instead of "more of everything" I would prefer "better of" in one area.
So I have a question for you.
Does stacking Quads allow them to go lower than 40 db (or) give a higher db level at 40db without affecting db levels of the midrange ?
or looked at another way - I rate their 40db bass as a 6 out of 10 - meaning - the notes are there when placed properly; its just that they have lost their heft (db level) compared to the midrange. This is a known thing about them.
So will stacking quads improve the 40db bass which I rate as a 6/10 on a single pair - to a 7 or 8 /10 when stacked?
If your answer is yes then acquiring another pair someday and sending the panels to Wayne for restore is worth it - imo. Look forward to your impressions on this.
I don't miss my stacked 57's anymore.
Here is my take on this based on my personal experience.
I can also go a long time without the Quad's and not miss them.
This is because I enjoy my other speakers.
Here's my opinion on it.
Its not till you re-insert them into play again that you realize that you "forgot" why you love their sound so much.
And it starts all over again for me. I never tire of this.
Building out the adjacent area in the basement as a 2nd music room allows me to keep them in play now.
I had an opportunity to buy restored Acoustat X speakers a couple of years ago.
Unfortunately it would have put my wife over the top.
Even I realized this. Enjoy the X.
You guys really ought to hear the Quad 57s without their metal grills and without their plastic dust protectors. Both of which really do vibrate like a bastard. I used to have Quads back when, between LS3/5Aa and Fultons; I had all Class A tube amps driving them along with a Maplenoll air bearing everything turntable.
I've tried to explain this before, but most times people don't understand.It's one of those, you have to hear it for yourself scenarios.
But here goes.
Stacked Quad 57's give you more bass.
By that I mean there is more bass in the room, but not deeper ,just more of the same bass that is there with a single pair.
It's not like adding a sub woofer, it doesn't go lower.
What the extra panels add is more air movement- more panels , more air movement.
So that while there isn't more deep bass, there is more bass in the room than before.
Again, some people associate more bass with more boom, more bass depth, lower frequency etc.
I am talking more bass pressence than with a single pair.
But it's just not about the bass.
There is more of everythingelse.
Again, the treble frequencies aren't raised like adding on a super tweeter,but you notice more high end,as you notice even more of the mid range magic the 57's are so good at.
You just get more of everything.
My first listen to a pair of stacked Quads was at an audio show in Montreal around 2000.
I was lucky enough in the next few years to find a couple pair in decent shape and had the frames built.
I stacked them so that the tops of each speaker met in the middle of the stacking,I believe as Mr Walker suggested.
The speakers were wired in a serie/parralel fashion as I remember so that the impedence remaine the same as for 1 pair(around 16 0hms).
THis was just perfect for my Atmasphere S30 OTL amp,(also Atmasphere MP3 pre).
I also used the 16 ohm screw taps on my old Bell integrated,and those 22 watts from ancient RCA 6V6 and Telefunken tubes was also something special.
I didn't have any solid state amps to try,but I'd suggest even with stacked 57's that you stay around 25 good watts, preferably tubed ones.
The stacked Quads will pressurize the room and fill larger rooms, such as mine, with more sound, fooling you into thinking you've turned up the volume or bought a more powerful amp.
At that same audio show, was a pair of restored 57's in a nice blue paint that an audio mentor/friend of mine(Matt Brazeau)was getting great sound and great comments from, paired wirh some Audio Aero tubed amps.The 57's were on Arcici stands I believe, but in a small room, this was all anyone would need.
If you have a large room,like mine(30'x 20'x 8' approx)then a stacked pair of 57's maybe just the ticket.
One reason why I like the AcoustatX is that they fill the room without being loud.
Again, it's hard to describe but when you hear it, you get it.
More panels, more sound.
Not really more volume, just less empty space.
The empty space is filled with more music,at the same normal volume settings.
Some speakers never fill the room unless they are played at loud volumes.
To sum up- more panels-more air movement- less volume needed from amplifier-less loudness but fuller sound.
I hope I haven't confused you.
Geoff, Now you're talking. I would like that!!! Nice :)
You guys really ought to hear the Quad 57s without their metal grills and without their plastic dust protectors.
Geoffkait, I could not agree more, here is my post elsewhere..
Back in the 80's I traded in a pair of stacked 57's but did not like these, they sound very closed in. The best 57's I have were on stands lifting them of the floor, with the panels angled more vertically than standard, the plastic dustpanels removed, as well as the metal grills, and driven by Quicksilver 8417's. In this format the Quicksilvers did not overdrive the panels - I had no arcing issues. I can also recommend highly the addition of the Sequerra Ribbon if you can find some. I heard these on single quads driven by the original Electrocompaniet 25 Class A power amp & the Electroresearch Class A power amp.
The use of a stand and vertical alignment of the panels removes the 200hz suckout and helps the top end as confirmed in Martin Colloms review and measurements in Hifi News review.. http://www.onethingaudio.webspace.virginmedia.com/OTA/QUA/9512-OTA-QUA-REV-A6.htm
The correct presentation of the soundstage gets compromised drastically with the stacked Quads compared with the single Quads on 14" stands. The double panel area is removing the point source and replacing it with a wall of sound. Some may prefer this but if you want the correct reproduction of what the microphones captured, this is configuration is compromised.
Review : Quad 57
I feel they lack nothing in the High Frequency (HF). Its all there, but its a delicate HF and non-fatiquing. People that add tweeters could be compensating for:
1) Bad tweeter panel – or at least not fully 100%. The tweeter panel is the one that gets damaged first when overdriven.
2) Possible Amp/Preamp/Source problems.
3) What about dirty ears – time to get that wax cleaned out.
4) Old or bad ears – HF is the first to go right. When is the last time you had your hearing checked. Women also hear better than men. So get the opinion of a female on them if you are a male.
These comments are not correct. The hi frequency rolloff has nothing to do with hearing loss. If one cannot hear the Quad 57 hi frequency rolloff then there is something wrong.
Quad themselves acknowledge in their own specifications and publications that the 57's roll off from 10kHz. The 57's have a resonance at 24kHz and a frequency spike at 16kHz that Quad leave in there to help the "illusion" of top end extension.
Furthermore as the speakers are driven harder, over 90db, then the hi frequency rolloff begins earlier, the HF rolloff begins down as low as 7kHz.http://www.onethingaudio.webspace.virginmedia.com/OTA/QUA/9512-OTA-QUA-REV-A6.htm
Quad specify a measuring distance of 3m to allow for proper integration of the panel outputs, so the approximate semi-anechoic graph illustrated must be regarded as no more than a 'close-up snapshot'. Given experimental errors, the speaker might scrape +/- 5 dB limits from 45Hz to 20kHz. The trend is not atypical of previously published data: the midband is smooth but a little prominent; the treble slopes away gently before peaking in the 16kHz region; the bass is prominent at 50 Hz with a suckout evident at 200Hz. While the lateral off-axis response was not too bad, the vertical plane distribution was rather poorer (not shown).
For a more detailed understanding of the crossover design and the hi frequency rolloff that increases with volume, here is an explanation...read whole thread.http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/planars-exotics/224615-explaining-quad-esl-57-crossover.html
Despite the fact that these are not full range speakers, I agree they are very musical when set up correctly - on stands, nude panels, panels tilted so they are closer to vertical & driven by the best tube amps.
Lacee thanks for the reply
I hope I haven't confused you.
No you made it perfectly clear.
You just get more of everything.
thanks, will be sure to make a point to hear a pair if they become available.
I love to listen to music on a turntable that has no physical bearing as well as straightline air bearing tonearm. :^)
But for the ultimate hearing imo music with the Quad 57's using 15IPS master tape can be really special.
This music is really special with them. I am not affilliated with this company but I am a customer of their tapes. http://ultraanaloguerecordings.com/home
I highly recommend the CD sampler for anyone.
I run my 57's nude but lately with the room being built out and things moving around I chose to protect the panels till things stabilize.
always amusing to read ones comments almost three years after they were posted as a new owner.
When I first heard these speakers for the first time in my own room I was floored.
the perspective they bring to the music should be experienced by everyone in this hobby.
They should be heard in your own room to develop a reference.
their sound has amazed at least a dozen casual visitors to the location I originally had them in.
Dover - on stands, nude panels, panels tilted so they are closer to vertical & driven by the best tube amps.
the best tube amps ?
imo - I would reword to say amps designed for their requirements or that satisfy them. This applies to all speakers.
We all have our own preferences. I aim for a slightly elevated presentation in my rooms because this has been my experience over the years listening to music with people performing. I recall a phone conversation with Wayne Picquet a few years ago. His opinion may have changed since but he told me he likes the original stock presentation with the 3 wooden legs. They act as spikes and add solidity to the bass. Its been a couple years with them on stands. I intend to try them again on the stock legs again in the future (because I can) and have another listen to what the designer actually wanted us to hear now that I have an amp that was designed for them by Roger Modjeski.
They are not full range but imo they don't need to be.
I have other speakers that move serious air, and are full range.
Still if I want to listen to my girlfriends mentioned in this thread, or the types of music represented by those tapes I referenced, these 57's are a great choice for me.
When I got my first pair of 57's I listened to them stock, that is,on their own wooden feet and set up as the Quad web site suggested.
In my large room, the stacked Quads in ridgid solid wood stands that got them 1 foot off the floor was better.
Again, I went with the Peter Walker stacking method.
The Quad site mentions a multiple Quad in a semi circle array that the man behind SME used to prefer to a single set of Quads.
In my room, stacked Quads filled the room , while a single pair, as good as they sound, just didn't cut it.
I think most of North American audiophiles have larger rooms than the rooms the original 57's were made for in England.
If someone has a small space, then a single pair would be great, but I would still try them raised off the floor a bit.You can use simple cement blocks to try,or DIY your own wooden stands.
Also the other benefit to the wooden stand is that you can attach the Quads to the wooden stands using longer screws thru the stands and into the holes in the Quads where their side trim panels are.Again part of the Stacked benefits in the Quad site,but you can make stands for a single pair.
The sound of the panels in a secure stand is again, better in my opinion than when they are left free standing in the room.
Owners of other panel speakers ,like Maggies and Acoustats have acknowledged the benefits of securing the panels in a ridgid stand.
I found that the sound was a bit muffled, less defined when they were used with their own feet, just inches off the ground.
I also had a pair of Tannoy Ardens around the same time powered by some SET power amps from Cary and DecWare, these moved air and were also very close to the seamless sound of panels,almost as coherent.
But this still wasn't panel sound, so I went back to electrostats.I also have a dedicated HT room with Magnepan speakers.I like panels.
I wish I still had the Quads or even one pair for a small room.
They are unique,I've owned the 63, CLS11Z,and Acoustats,and even though they are all electrostats and share some similar qualities, they all sound different.
1957 meets 2016
Been a few years since the last post. Time for an update. I did post more info on my virtual system.
My personal recipe.
Two Quad 57's hooked up to the amp designed for them - Music Reference RM10. This amp also eliminated the need for external tweeters. Functional Quads are good to 18khz. 57's raised (see pic) to eliminate the "head in the vice" ; this also provides for better room filling sound. The 57's are run full from the RM10. The addition of two Dynaudio BM12s using the second set of outputs from the AI preamp completed this package nicely to fill in the bottom octave. https://goo.gl/photos/QZdmCiRsznquWm797
Here is the great part for me.
Crossover points, Phase and DB levels are set with the remote control from your listening position. 4 set positions on the remote allow for a choice of different setting for different genres. I am using 3 positions right now. Lowest setting - Never off even with vocals as the subs add excellent room ambiance. A Higher DB setting for Classical with its large dynamic swings, and a little less DB level for Classic Rock due to the compression involved. My son's 21 year old friend is a big fan of Lorde. He wanted to take the Quads and subs home with him after hearing his favorite song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlcIKh6sBtc
The Dynaudio's remote allows for 15 pushes = 1 db per push (+) or (-) 15 db total.This is can be done for each sub separately; This allows one to account for room irregularities. I found these NOS subs in a Country Studio and was permitted the opportunity to demo them first with warranty. .
One day I may try to coax an audio friend to sell me his Beveridge RM1 Preamp for this room - to complement the RM10; but other than that things are sounding really nice for all music genres in this room.
Or, the audio friend may buy himself (again) the rm10 along with these speakers and hear for himself what all the fuss is about.
Nice review, Ct0517. Always learning from you.