Rivaling or Beyond the ESL 57 for Magical Midrange

For several years now I have been listening to a now well broken in pair of ATC SCM 7's on my desktop.

I may try to write at further length on these speakers, but for now can say they are the only component I have owned since 1979 that I can't imagine selling for fear of seller's remorse.

They are small and not perfect, limited in their bass response, and although I treasure amazing imaging, I don't get much with them crammed on my desktop amidst other components, computers, keyboards, books and papers.

Yet turned in at about 45 degrees - a mere 24" from each ear in a nearfield, speaker / headphone like configuration, I continue to love, love love them for WAV files, television, iTunes, computer sounds etc.

I enjoy them so much, that I usually ignore my ARC SP11, Levinson amp and Magneplanar Tympani IVa's which need to be warmed up and turned up, preferably with my head in a vice for the perfect sweet spot.

With the ATCs, I marvel at their clear but to my ears fatigue free midrange, particularly at low volumes - even with pretty ordinary, middle of the road components: currently Crown D75A amps used as monoblocks, generic cabling and the admittedly good Antelope / Zodiac DAC as a DAC and a preamp / switching device of sorts.

This reminds me of my lifelong theory that after the neurotic pursuit of high resolution airy highs, powerful bass and high dynamics and volume - at the end of the day, it's really the midrange that separates and defines the sustainable classics.

I suspect this is why dusty and quirky old Quads and original LS3%as are still coveted by collectors for prices far above their original retail prices.

Of course as an audiophile, I still can't resist the thought of an upgrade.

So I would love to hear your thoughts on MAGICAL MIDRANGE particularly at low volumes.

Thinking about trying Harbeth P3SERs and open to suggestions.

In the meantime and until further notice the overall balance and midrange on my ATCs are about as good as anything I have ever heard and bravo Mr Woodman.


'Magical midrange'...

That is often considered the pervue of tubes...

Three speakers to consider, given a desktop or smaller room, with the assumption that the speaker does not have to play the bottom octave.

The Merlin TSM
Audiokinesis (not desktop, but quite good at nearfield, also plays the bottom octave the best of these three)
High Emotion Audio (super fast but relaxed, very revealing)

Yes, I assume a tube (particularly SET?) amp or electronics would add to the magic...

But that is one of the reasons I have been particularly impressed with the ATCs using ordinary electronics.

(Some do criticize them for being too flat, too neutral, too revealing etc.)

Also, I am trying to perfect the nearfield / desktop / low volume midrange magic, for all day, every day, low maintenance use.

So heat and lifespan for tubes less well suited in that regard.

Look forward to checking out your suggestions and hearing more from others.

Magneplanar mini system could be interesting too, but I suspect not so revealing at lower volumes?
If you were to set up any of the speakers I mentioned with a nice SET, I think you would see right away what 'some' are talking about.
I have owned many two way monitors and I must say if you like outstanding midrange you will love the P3ESR's. BTW the bass is also great with these little guy's,no sub needed here!
Agree with your comments about the midrange, so why not "dusty and quirky ESL57's"? Good luck finding a pair, but Stax F-81's do what you describe like no others in my experience. Contact these guys:

It has been a long time since I last heard a pair of ESL 57's. I do remember them as part of a very high end system and being enthralled with their sound and captivating midrange. That said, I believe that my Auditorium-23 Solovox Hommage speakers sound even better than what I recall of the 57's. The Solovoxes have the best midrange I have ever heard. It would be interesting to me to A/B the Solovox versus the 57, but the odds of that happening are pretty slim.

Good point - and in fact I can almost imagine a pair of 57's on my desktop. But as you point out, not easy to find, not the best looking devices, big and as magical as they may be, I think overpriced when one can find them.

Hence, the search for the mini monitor equivalent. Perhaps I should say near near or micro nearfield, given the distance I have used with the ATCs - again, almost like headphones.

A compromised image aside, I have found that closer means lower volume, less fatigue and more all day every day "magic" with a wide variety of sources.

There is no one I know who cares less about technology than my mother in law, but now when she visits, she hijacks my desk as soon as she can to watch television late into the night.

I can think of no better endorsement for this configuration and the virtues of low volume midrange magic.
the closest I have heard to Quad 57 midrange is ATC Active 50 which are incredible in their ability to retrieve details and nuance
Cwlondon, I completely missed the part about needing to be "desktop". That was a pretty silly suggestion (57's) wasn't it? Back to reality; how about Met 7's? I have always loved Dick Sequerra's little speakers for great midrange.

Doesn't necessarily have to be ON the desktop - but that seems to be best. Will try to post some photos later.

And oh yes another midrange classic - the Met 7's. In fact, years ago, I recommended them for my parents who still have a pair - complete with the original subwoofer.

Philojet, glad to hear I am not imagining the quality of the ATCs. Yes, detail and nuance, but without getting worn out by a tweeter.

But my loyalty aside, still willing to consider competitors.
Cwlondon - Like Frogman, I somehow missed the "desktop" criterion you stipulated. My bad. (But I still love my Solovoxes!)

New pictures of system as discussed!
I've been on the hunt for an ESL57 rival since we moved to a smaller place. P3ESRs are nice but hardly satisfying if you are a real ESL fan. I listened to them for few weeks and a few other stand mounts before ending up with Audience ClaireAudient 2+2s and I've been basically happy for a while but I'm really missing that sense of fingers on instruments and that lushness. Thinking of trying SF Cremona Auditor Ms. Sadly trying to replace ESL57s is a long and disappointing journey. If you can get the STAX do it!!

Yes, not easy hence the reason for this thread!

I have always thought not only "speed" and transparency, but perhaps coherency is a key ingredient for the uncanny, holy grail like sound of 57's and certain other classics.

Can't imagine they would have the same transparency, but therefore have otherwise wondered if single driver speakers including The One might work well for this application.

I had a pair of Sonus Fabers years ago which were unusually beautiful but a bit bright, at least to my ears and in my system.
at the end of the day, it's really the midrange that separates and defines the sustainable classics.
If you listen mostly to vocal, small chamber, non-amplified music, I don't think that there can be any dispute. Not sure how big your speakers are but for a nearfield desktop set-up, I am thrilled w my NHT M00 active monitors. They even have a near-field setting and manage to image pretty well even w dual, 20" flat screen monitors between them. I have them set up on the angled Aurulex foam wedges and could not be happier. Driving them w the output from an HRT II+ DAC, playing FLAC files and also streaming Pandora 1. MUCH smaller than the TSMs; not much bigger than the NHT Super-zeros, and there is also a matching (S00) sub. And this from a confirmed tube-aholic.
The closest I've ever come to an ESL-like midrange was Merlin VSM with Atmasphere's S-30 OTL amp. The system had some issues re bottom end and SPL capabilities, but that was some bad ass midrange right there.

BTW, this was one of the first S-30 amps shipped, so I don't know if later production units (which, I'm told, were slightly modified here and there) would offer similar results. Were I in your place, tho, I'd still think hard about the Atmasphere/Merlin combo.

I would be weary of monitor speakers, to sound correct midrange should be circumscribed by nice upper bass and highs. My favorites are the Wilson Benesch Curves and the new Vectors. Both use a 7 " midrange that is directly wired to your amplifier, no crossover to suck the life out of them. 7" is large enough to give you the full force of a Cello, or a male singer like Leonard Cohen. They cover almost the full midrange up to 5000kHz. Simply amazing.

Check out their website. Not to be confused with wilson audio in SLC.

Atma Shere amplifiers work very well with them.
about a decade or more ago...Monitor Audo made the Studio 2...diminutive in size...but in terms of air, transparency, and midrange realism unrivaled at 1200 msrp..i still for a pair
Never heard or seen them in the real world, but the audio mags seem to like the Audience model ones as nice shelf size monitors.
No clue if they sound like 57's,but I've never heard those on a shelf.
Mine were always well out into the room, and they did sound great(stacked) with an AtmaSphere amp and pre.
Cwlondon, not meaning to get off track, I noticed your Crown amp. I also seem to recall that you used to own a Levinson 23.5, or am I mistaken? Just curious how you would compare the two? BTW, I am not one to make assumptions about "pro" amps; I know there are some real sleepers out there. Also, do you use the Crown on the Tymps? Regards.
Cwlondon, I'm a big fan of Green Mountain Audio speakers. These speakers are really well-made, drivers have been carefully selected & you get the full effect at low volumes because the drivers are sensitive enough. The older Europa model should be available for under $1000 - it used to sell for $995 factory-direct when it was in production. The newer model Calypso is another fantastic offering. My brother owns these so I've heard them many times. The latest model like the Rio is yet another fantastic offering. Just heard them at the Green Mountain factory just before RMAF2013. All of these speakers have superb & real & life-like midrange. They'll work for near-field listening as well.
here's a pair of Chroma's (next model above the entry-level Rio) for sale on Craigslist in Colorado Springs (this seller just happens to be in the same city as the speaker manuf):

Have never heard GMA but have read the reviews which suggests they might be a good choice for me - thanks.

Frogman, I still have the 23.5 which you might see in my photos if you look to the right of the bookcase. A great classic amp that I rarely use but I am nonetheless reluctant to sell.

Dont know if the D75a deserves sleeper status - I bought them mainly to be rack mountable and handy around the desktop. In that context, surprisingly clean and decent, with a satisfyingly old school, "tactile" feel when using and adjusting.

(Although you can see two Crown amps in the photos, I have not yet finished wiring them up in bridged / mono mode which might make a significant difference vs using just one in stereo?)

Can't imagine in any configuration they would touch the Levinson, but for bargain basement "sleeper" amps some like cheapo Behringer amps used in mono configuration.

I might also check out an Aragon 4004 or Hafler DH 500 used.
Cwlondon, I believe that there is a GMA owner not far out of London who you might be able to visit to listen to his speakers. Would have to be arranged thru Roy Johnson of Green Mtn Audio. So, this is a possibility if you want to consider it.....
As a former GMA EUropa owner... I will attest to their midrange realism...especially on vocals...which have a very dimensional quality...very "in the room" presence...if I had to nitpick...which is what us audio folks due...I would have to say bass...not terribly deep and a bit loose for my tastes...but hardly a dealbreaker...these are monitor speakers after all...a decent sub could change all that...good luck....
What is going on with the speaker forum?

No new posts since Monday?

Same thing in the amp forum.
Shakey, Only one explaination. We have all finally obtained the speakers and amps of our dreams. Yes, we are all done buying and selling. Nothing left to discuss but AC outlets.
Makes perfect sense. Why didn't I think of that?

Shakey everyone moved to headphones. Not
Yep, it's official. This forum is dead.

I remember when this site used to be as reliable as Yahoo or Google ! Then , a few years ago , somebody got money hungry and it all went to ...

Yes, but in 2013 Yahoo and Google are also less reliable.

Too many suits now see the internet only as something to milk for money, rather than a community or educational resource.

Having posted here for > 10 years, I have also become increasingly suspicious of many posters and replies as thinly veiled advertisements.

But at least the forum is still open, and I hope some of the old timers stick around.

In the meantime, the midrange of the ATCs sounds great as I type.