Seeking $15,000.00 speaker to replace Quad 988's

My system consists of Thor Audio TPA 150 el-34 tubed monoblocks, a Thor TA-2000 premamp with phono(tubed),
Cary 306/200 which I use as a transport and Thor Audio DC-1000 tubed Dac, VPI scoutmaster turntable with a clearudio discovery cartridge, Richrad Gray power conditioner, an Audio Physics
Minos Subwoofer and a pair or Quad 988's.
Quad positives:Great for piano, voice and small groups such
as chamber music. With a voice or piano you swear the piano or voice was in your room.
Quad negatives:Bass does not extend low enough.
No illusion of an entire orchestra on stage. The Quads shrink the musical presentation. Lacking in dynamic contrasts. They also soften many instruments. For instance the tambourines in Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien instead of sounding sharp like in a dynamic speaker, they sound
rounded out and softened.
My issue: I am told that only an electrostatic can deliver the clarity that a Quad can deliver. I have looked into the Sound Labs but even with their new impedance modification I do not think my amps can drive them.
Will a speaker like a Vandersteen 5A, Kharma 3.2 give me the clarity of the Quads with the dynamic contrasts, and
the illusion of 90-100 people on a stage and not 10. I know I'm asking for a lot but I don't want to replace the Quads and take a few steps backwards in doing this. The Quads have lived with me for over 1 and 1/2 and they do some amazing things, but is there more for the approximate price guideline I have suggested.? I guess as a music lover and audiophile you are always searching for that additional something. Has anybody out there found someting that might work with my sysytem that gives me that
something more?
If you don't mind an extremely small sweat spot, take a look at Innersound Electrostats, I had Eros MK II and thought it was a great speaker, just not a feasible speaker for more than one person.
Good Luck
I know that they are much lower priced than the 15k stated but i believe that one of the most phenomenal speakers out ther is the Living Voice OBX-R2s. They have wonderful outboard crossovers, and are incredibly musical. I also think that they would be a great match for the thor amps. Check out a great review in the latest HiFi Plus Issue 32. Thay are absolutely amazing. I really think you would need to spend close to 20 grand to beats them, and they retail for just over 8 grand
Don't know about the 988's but I retired my 63's for Dynamics about 8 years ago and have never looked back. My first choice then (and now) are the Verity Audio Parsifals. I didn't have the money, so I settled for Paragon Jubalee/Gems (Paragon is now out of business).I highly recommend that you consider them.
Have you considered the Dali's? I have a friend who went from Planers to Dali's although his were a little pricier than what you mentioned. I wonder how the Euphonia's would sound with your system.

You are going to have some give and take changing from the Quads to a dynamic speaker, but there are some good options available.

I like the Kharma Ceramique 1.0 They are only rated down to 25Hz but they can rattle the walls in my listening room.

I hope that helps a little or presents a few more options.
I went from Quad ESL63USA's to Merlin VSM-MX, and couldn't be happier. The Quads were used as a reference for the midrange sound when the Merlins were designed. Many Merlin owners are former 'stat owners, and they mate particularly well with tube amps.
The Kharmas are certainly respected, but when you search the archives and read the "Kharma 3.2 vs Merlin" thread, it makes it clear that both these companies are doing plenty of things right, and have loyal following.
For me, value for my $ is an important criteria. That swayed me towards the Merlins. The tons of enthusiastic reviews on didn't hurt either.
You often hear about former Quad owners going back to them and their love/hate relationship with their Quad ESLs. I understand their pain, but don't find myself missing a thing. Cheers, Spencer
>>the clarity of the Quads with the dynamic contrasts, and the illusion of 90-100 people on a stage and not 10<<

Real scale is the hardest illusion to recreate and it could only be achieved properly with large efficient speakers in a large room with proper acoustics. Yes you can get a nice, wide soundstage with many smaller monitors but its all in small scale. I wouldn't focus too much on this if you don't have the space.

I'm not a Quad fan but I'm among the first to admit that it does certain things better than most speakers but it always left me wanting. Like Newbee, I changed over from electrostatics and ribbons about 6 year ago and have never looked back either. Its going to be a big change, I really recommend that you work with a good dealer on this project and spend enough time familiarizing yourself with good dynamic and horn speakers before jumping in.

What size is your room?...if you are looking for a speaker that can recreate the illusion of 100 people on a stage, then you need a room that can support that illusion. If you have a 12' wide typical listening room, with the speakers 7' apart, you have about a 14' wide stage to create your illusion, assuming that your speakers throw an image outside of the physical boundary of the speaker.
If you are looking therefore to recreate larger scale orchestral music with some degree of 'believability', you will need to be setup with more space between your speakers, and ideally more space around them (sides and rear) to help build the image.
If you have the space, then something like the Magnepan 20 series might be what you are looking for. They can be picked up for $6k or so used, but I can't say for sure that they'll work with your Mono's, since they are pretty power hungry.
What you are striving for is not unreasonable, but your room will be the biggest constraint, in my opinion.

Look at the Von Schweikert line of speakers.
The Kharma 3.2's have excellent clarity and will surpass almost any speaker in this regard. While the project a huge soundstage, they are essentially designed for a small to medium sized room. They have excellent micro dynamics, but on a macro level, being a diminutive speakers, cannot move a large amount of air. They also only go down to 32hZ, which for most people is plenty.

The Vandy 5A is very good at dynamics, moves quite a bit of air and goes very deep. But, they do not have the refinemant, clarity, harmonics and texture of the Kharma.

I would also agree with Timo that the Von Schweikert's should be included in your comparisons. In the same price range as the Vandy 5, the upcoming VR5SE will outperform both.
kjl what size is your listening room are their any speaker placement restrictions? What volume levels do you need?
I won't say too much about this since I'm a dealer, but the only speakers I've heard that do what you're telling me your getting from Quads without the downside (scale, dynamics, low end authority) are Audio Note E's. Ask around and/or do a search on them on AA.

Good luck,

Bob Neill
Amherst Audio
As a dealer for Sound Labs, I can recommend the A-1 as a complete upgrade in every sense of the word.
Better clarity, bass, soundstage, scale.
In a word, they are musical, with no harshness. They are LARGE. But that is how they are able to produce such prodigious bass response, (down past 28hz with authority).
They love tubes, and are completely non fatiguing.
Let me know if I can help.
Used Avalon Eidolons.
See the review of the Von Schweikert dB99's at Though not inexpensive ($10k), this new VSA model will get you as close to the "live" event as anything out there. To give you an idea of how terrific these speakers are, 33 years an audiophile, I disposed of the dB99 boxes soon after delivery! My Wife is in shock!
Sound Labs might meet your objectives quite well. Being full range ESLs with prodigious bass, they excel at reproducing piano and many other instruments as well as voice in a seamless fashion. In all likelihood you can dispense with your subwoofer, which could make the cost more palatable, even though Sound Labs are within your budget.

The new panel technology implemented in Sound Labs this year realizes an average of 9 to 10 dB increase in sensitivity and commensurate dynamic range. In a nutshell, a 10 dB increase is equivalent to suddenly having an amplifier with ten times as much power as before, so I wouldn't be too hasty thinking your 150 watt monoblocks can't cut it - in fact I'd venture a bet the Thors would drive the heck out of 'em.

My Sound Lab U-1s are en route to Sound Lab for upgrading, so I'll soon know what others have been talking about - the efficiency increase is one thing, but I'm told there are other significant benefits. Every comment I've heard or seen has been overwhelmingly positive, saying it's a stunning improvement.

For the record, I'm a Sound Lab dealer located in the Chicago area. If you're inclined to come for a listen anytime or just want to correspond or ask a few questions on the phone, feel free to do so.

Brian Walsh
No other choice up from Quads but Soundlabs.
At the risk of being totally predictable, I think you'd find a pair of full-sized Sound Labs to be a worthwhile upgrade over the Quads. And as a former Thor dealer, I'm quite confident your big Thor amps could drive 'em. Several of my customers are former Quad 988 or 989 owners, and I'm a former 63 and 57 owner.

Best of luck in your quest!

Duke (SoundLab dealer)
I agree with Duke, SoundLabs would be a stunning addition to your system. Heads above the Quads in every regard, not too mention can do things no dynamic loudspeaker can.
Best of luck.
Used Revel gems/ revel sub on the gon right now for half price- 8000.
Those quads will be very tough to improve upon ... maybe BIG soundlabs, but they are line sources and do not have the advantage of the Quads unique point source system. I believe you should try to improve the weak points of your current set up and believe you might be doing more harm than good by going a different path. If I may suggest a tube amp with some big voltage output....Wolcotts, Tube Research etc. Even SS ala Innersound,MBL, etc....VOLTAGE is the key for estats to produce bass!
Get your quads off the richard grays and systruns!!!!
Get them up 1-2 feet off the ground...spread them out wide, adjust toe in and rake, but MOST IMPORTANT... get them as far from the front wall as you can. Try very nearfield for your seating with nothing between or in front of your speakers. Your Quads can do better. Try to run them full range and just bring the sub in underneath em.
I own watt pupps also....I listen to my gradient quads 90% of the time....shake things up.
PS....nice sub ...if you decide to sell shoot me an email....good luck
Dan in NY
I was a Magnepan owner for years yearning for more dynamic volume as you did with your stats but not willing to sacrific the transparency and speed of planar speakers or the pinpoint imaging.

Now I own Wilson Watt Puppy 7's (or you could get a set of Wilson Sophia's and a Rel Sub which would be an excellent combo) .... Increadible pinpoint imaging and dynamics with speed in spades... It's amazing how realistic the upright bass is!

Give them a listen but if they aren't setup or if they are matched to components correclty they sound harsh... (no Krell, Classe, Levinson, etc on these...) stick with Rowland, Pass, VTL (or any tubes for that matter), Lamm, ARC, CJ etc... Transparent cabling brings everything into focus also if you are looking for the n'th detail in everything (this is worth a component upgrade..)
Lrsky: His amplifiers will NOT drive the SoundLabs.
Kjl: Be wary of SoundLabs as the panels have to be replaced quite often. I know a number of people who have had continuous problems with them and getting service on them is not easy.

Sonically the are nice, but the room size is very critical. My recommendation for more info if you have an interest, would be Audio Kinesis. Duke is a gentleman and very knowledgeable.
The AG horns have an immediacy and transparency to match the ELSs. They are renowned for their dynamic range and ability to fill a room. No problems with driving them - they only need 3-4 W!! The bass problems with the subs is much better in the newest models. They can sound pretty crap if not set up well - beware!
However, when properly set up, they'll have your feet tapping. Get a pair of Avantgarde Duos - probably the best compromise in the line up and within your budget.
If you don't mine a suggestion from a dealer, I would suggest this (I will be doing something like this in my system soon but with RM40s instead of RM/x)

I would go with a pair of VMPS RM/x speakers $12,000 list with four of the VMPS Larger subs @ around $900 each which put you at $15,600 list (much lower street).

I would "stack" the subs to have two pair of two stacked on top of each other and run them in stereo.

Run the top of the RM/x with your tubes. Go SS to run both the woofers of the RM/x and the Stacked Subs.

If you want to hear 7th row center at Carnegie Hall. Its yours, and as lifelike, detailed and pristine as can be.

The RM/x will give you the detail and sound quality you want and the Subs (which are incredibly musical) will give you the weight and size your after.

And part of the magic is caused by the "stacking" of the subs and moving the woofers up to ear level. It is "unbeleivable"
Oh, Stacked subs now. And you thought the wife hated the quads....Good luck, single man.
Hi Jonathan,

I have about three to four dozen Sound Lab customers, and most have never had any problems. I have a friend in Las Vegas whose 17 year old Sound Labs still work fine and have never had anything done to them. There have been times in the history of the company when the quality control of the insulation material on the stators (which Sound Lab buys from suppliers) has been inconsistent, resulting in arc-through and requiring repairs. Sound Lab has taken care of every one of my customers who has had a problem.

Many if not most of the problems people have with Sound Labs arise when a used pair is shipped without the proper crating. I'd say over half of the problems I hear about arise from this scenario.

A year or so ago Roger West and a team of chemical engineers developed a new, much more durable insulation material that also has much better dielectric properties. The reason for his undertaking the development of the new insulation material was twofold - first, to improve reliability; and second, to improve efficiency. The new material has been incorporated in Sound Labs produced this year. The result is no insulation breakdowns except for when the speakers were damaged in shipping. The new insulation material also allows an increase in the number of stators and a higher operating voltage, so the efficiency is significantly higher than before (I measured a 9 dB improvement in sensitivity when I changed the cores in an older pair of A-1's).

I'm quite confident the big Thor amps with 8 EL-34's will drive the Sound Labs. That's the output tube complement of the Wolcotts, and Thor does not skimp on output transformers or power supply. And with the higher efficency and more friendly impedance curve of current generation Sound Labs, they can now be driven by a much wider range of amplifiers than before.

So while your cautions may be valid if the customer is purchasing an old pair of Sound Labs, a new-build pair is in several ways a very significantly improved animal.
Come on man....go for it! Stack some DIPOLE subs, maybe 2 or 3 high with each your talking!
Here's what you should do. Go over to Tyler Acoustic's web page, ck out the big towers with the dual Seas' W26, a 10 inch woofer. That'll blow those Quads out the water on mids, highs, bass. And everything else. I just got my MTM Seas' read my reviews here on the gon, also on Madisound's web site. Email me if you care to.
New Tyler Acoustics Woodmeres at $12k, if your room is fairly large. Very dynamic and detailed sound with prodigous bass output. 75" tall, but very unobtrusive for their size.
Originally, I drove my Soundlabs with a 70W push-pull tube amp with no problems whatsoever, there were limits,yes but at normal to moderately loud listening levels music sounded thrilling. With 150 quality watts behind the Thors I think you would be quite pleased with the Soundlabs performance. I would also like to add that I never had any mechanical problems whatsoever with mine, likewise with the 2 owners prior.
Yes the things are gigantic. However I talked to a tech from Tyler on the phone the other day (asking about the W26), they seem to have the attitude to work with the customer. IOW, they could take some of the speaker height off. I don't see the need to expand the distance of the 2 W26's. I'm sure the price would stay the same or alittle more for changing. For musicical bass, I'd rather have 4 W26's (2 per cabinet) as bass than a "true" sub. I'm soon to order a single W26 to intergrate with my new MTM's, Seas'. I'll post a review. Also if I were to spend $$$ on a speaker, I'd drive over to Owensboro,Ky to hear the speakers first. Sure makes sense. I'd bring my amp as well, if I had a proper amp.
I'd second the recommendation for the merlin vsm-mx's. I have the VSM-mms and can say that thesese speakers are unreal. Bass goes down to 30HZ, microdynamics have to be heard to be believed, macrodynamics are incredible as well, SOUNDSTAGE (you can have the huge soundstage you are looking for with these), imaging that is beyond belief, bass that is as taught and as well controlled as u will ever need.

As far as only stats being able to deliver the clarity ythe quads are capable of, I can say that I have chatted with someone who owned the quad 988s, and she stated the merlins presented a BETTER retrival of micro details and decay than the quads by a great margin. She felt the merlins outperformed the quads in almost EVERY area and displayed even GREATER clarity than hte quads! She also stated she loved the huge soundstage the merlins produced. That, alon with their superb imaging, gave her the illusion of being in the concert hall when the performance was recorded. Be sure and check these speakers out. I have a review posted here on this site.
Sorry to interject. I used to own and auditioned various speakers over the last 15 years (ML-CLS, quad 988 and its bigger sibling, Soundlabs, Apogees, Maggies, Aerial 20T, Mirages, Von Sch., Watt puppies, Innersounds, Martin Design and Kharmas etc). But the only speaker that just made me sit and enjoy the music and not listen for "audiophile sound characteristics" were the new Hyperion HPS938s - at a Hifi show of all the places! Some speakers may dazzle you with their transparency or dynamics, but these speakers for the first time for me combined the transparency of stats/ribbons with startling dynamics of conventional design. And boy, can they throw a stage. There was a guy who got rid of his Wilson Watt Puppies for these - there's a minireview on Audiogon. I was so impressed, I bought them based on what I heard at the show. Hyperion is a new company so the reliability and customer support are unknown, but the speakers are worth the risk given its incredible price. They are 90db efficient, present a benign 6 ohm load, and freq response is 30 Hz to 22 KHz. They have very unique driver design. I'm waiting for my pair to come in - the US stock sold out after the Hifi show. Give them a try. I can't see anyone regretting it.
Hi Hammy,

Somewhere I missed the original poster saying that the new system had to pass the "wife committee". : )

Although all my girlfriends seem to like the stacked Sub set up. I guess it is all in how it is presented.

The sound is truly "HUGE, Real, and Breathtakeing". I think that is what is sought.
Dracule, I am really interested in hearing the Hyperions. It seems everyone that has heard them has been extremely impressed, regardless of price !

Pardon me for being the skeptic (and this is not directed specifically at Hyperion), but do any of you "CES experienced guys" question whether all of the speakers demo-ed at CES are the actual stock variation that the manufacturers ultimately ship?

Maybe I am being too cynical, but it seems to me that it would be really easy to demo a hot-rodded speaker with the best of the best parts and cabinet design for show purposes and then ship a different speaker than the one that was demo-ed at the show. If and when a few owners complained, the manufacturer could easily chalk-up the less than stellar "real world" results to room interaction or break-in issues.

Just a question, not an indictment.
Summitav, you are LUCKY not to have the "wife-test" to pass. I'd have echo busters in my Living room if I didn't. One thing you'll find out though; that easy-going girlfriend suddenly has very strong opinions once you are married.
Why not Thiels 7.2 ?
For some stunning full range, look at the Definitions from Zu Cable. I have them in my HT setup & literally do not need a sub woofer. Each speaker consists of 2 - 10" full range drivers (on the front) 1 - 1" super tweeter (on the front) & 4 - 10" powered low frequency drivers. 7 speakers per cabinet! They are extremely well balanced & easy to listen to. Plus they retail around $6K per pair & that will save you some cash.
Coincident has just upgraded their Total Victory to a version II, at a price if $13K. As the owner of the first version, I think they'd be worth looking at. They're coherent (maybe not like Sound Labs, though), very high resolution, excellent tonal balance, great dynamics, easy to drive (I've used SETs and 50 wpc p-p on them), they work in small or large rooms, and they look pretty reasonable, too.
I will second the Coincident Total Victory II.

I agree with the comments made by Gliderguider.
Sorry that I am coming a bit late into this forum. I just read this today. I used to own Quads 988 and replaced them with Kharma 3.2.
I will be happy to share my views and my experiences. If you are still on the look send me an email and we can arrange a phone call. There is a lot to be discussed that can't be covered in this space.
I heard a $20,000 pair of InnerSound electrostatic/dynamic hybrids that would do the trick. Incredible dynamics, detailed, and able to play really loud. It is also relatively compact in size (at least compared to SoundLabs). As someone noted above, it does not have wide dispersion so the ideal listening space is only one person wide.

Another great choice is the SoundLAb electrostatics, but they too might be a bit out of the $15,000 range.

A dynamic speaker I heard at a show that impressed me was the Gershman GAP828. It is reasonably lively and musical and throws a quite large stage.

I like my speaker system (S.A.P. J2001-twin), which is a very efficient (99db/w) dynamic system with a horn midrange. But, it is extremely hard to find, and again, a bit outside of your stated range ($22,000). But, on the plus side, just about anything will drive this speaker.
I had a similar situation when I owned Magnepan 3.6R's, the mids and highs were great but bass was lacking, even after adding a sub, and the room needed to have them sound great was a problem.
I have since got a dedicated room for audio however the speaker that I have gone to with absoulutely no regrets is the B&W Nautilus 800. They are 16k new, close to your budget. Clarity, presentation, soundstage is all fantastic. I feel these speakers are every bit as detailed as the Magnepan's were with killer bass extension. Stereophile reviewed the signiture models, exactly the same except for a $4000 additional finish. You can find the review on their website in the archives.
I second the Hyperion HPS 938's. I have owned lots & lots of speakers that are 2-7 times the amount of
the 938's ($4k retail) and some not half as good. (IMO)
They are fantastic from top to bottom, and good looks to
boot. The best I have owned & heard thus far, and
"I think" :o) the end of the road as far as speakers go
for me.
I have worked for one of the best audio dealerships in NEW YORK and I had the chance to listen to speakers up to $120,000.the pair.I feel that the Quads do lots of things better.WITH proper set up and good tube electronics they will get you closer to the real thing than SPEAKERS IN A BOX.(Will never work)I listen to mostly jazz and I listen to lots of live music.USE YOUR EARS.
Your choice of electronics could be improved.To be fair the only conventional speakers I would recomend would be the Ashendo from Germany and some of the Harbeths and Rodgers from the Uk.You could even double stack or tripple stack Quad esl 57's(check out Quadsunlimited)
Clivet, which model Quads are you referring to?