Sound Lab M-1 as L/R Mains in 2 Channel/HT System?

First, I would like to thank Duke (Audiokinesis in New Orleans) for taking the time to allow my work colleague and I to audition a pair of Sound Lab A-1 speakers this past week while attending a tradeshow in New Orleans. We both enjoyed the encounter with the SL A-1 speakers immensely. Duke is true gentlemen and really nice to deal with. In the past I have heard and have been favorably impressed to varying degrees by quite a few electrostatic/hybrid/ribbon speakers, including Apogee (Slants, Duettas, Mini-Grand), Martin Logan (Aerius, Quest, Request, CLS, SL3) and Magneplanar (3.5, 3.6, 1.6, 20).
None of these speakers worked the magic nearly as well as the SL A-1 speakers did. I must confess that I more than smitten with these speakers. (To be fair I must mention that I heard the Magneplanar 20 in the mid 90's under less than ideal circumstances.)

Does anyone have any experience with using big Sound Lab speakers (M-1/A-1/U-1) in a 2 channel (most of the time)/HT (part time)set-up? Could you mix the SL M-1 speakers (main L/R) with box speakers (surrounds) and achieve good effect? Does anyone have any experience with the Sound Lab center channel speaker? It occurs to me that it would be wise to have a robust subwoofer(s) as part of a HT system to spare the SL M-1 from cinematic explosions and pyrotechnics. What subwoofers, if any, mate well with the big Sound Labs? Any other comments/thoughts on the subject?

A gentleman was in town recently and called to arrange an audition (U-1s here). He is interested in Sound Lab A-1s as well, to use them for conventional two channel listening and in a home theater setup. He is building an addition to his house for this room.

Depending upon how far apart the left and right main speakers are positioned, a center channel speaker may be desired, or not. Sound Lab makes the Marquee center channel speaker for this purpose. Other center channel speakers may work, but it's important that the speaker be similarly voiced as the main speakers. In the case of the customer referred to above, he will have a projection screen claimed to be acoustically transparent, well mostly. This is a very good thing in the case of Sound Labs, due to their dipole radiation for the purpose of accurately reproducing the reverberant sound field. Positioning the main speakers is possible so as to produce a good strong center image. The need for a center channel would be determined by room acoustics, speaker positioning, and screen placement. A single M-1 or perhaps one of the smaller models such as an M-2 may be used for the center channel, positioned behind the screen.

For surround speakers, I would recommend using dipole speakers as well. While less critical than the main and center speakers, they shouldn't sound drastically different from them, which box speakers would. Sound Lab M-3s or Dynastats can be placed quite close to sidewalls due to dipole cancellation on the sides, but if they're still too big you could use something like the wall mounted Magnepans, I forget the model. I couldn't recommend Martin Logan since the sound is quite different from Sound Lab, the former having noticeable glare in my experience.

I'll try to post thoughts and suggestions on subwoofers later.

Hello Fernando,

Thanks for your kind words. I had a great time meeting you and Kevin, and thanks for the Leonard Cohen disc!

Sound Lab's center channel speaker unfortunately isn't voiced the same as their big full-range panels. It works very well with the Dynastats, and I have a friend using one with his Newforms, but I'm not sure it's the best way to go if you have M-1's for your mains. You may not even need a center speaker, as the big Sound Labs can project a pretty good center image even from well off-axis due to their wide radiation pattern and line-source characteristics. Roger West recommends using the "phantom center channel" setting on your surround processor and forgoing a dedicated center channel speaker; however, he will also build a custom full-range center channel speaker to fit your application (large TV, projection screen, narrow or wide rooom, whatever).

As for rear channel speakers, I'd recommend Maggies - the voicing is surprisingly compatible with the full range Sound Labs. If you wanted to go with a box speaker for the rears, then maybe something by Vandersteen - at least they're voiced to be forgiving and unobtrusive.

In subwoofers for movie use, I'm not sure. Buggtussel makes a very good music sub in their transmission-line Tegmentum, but it's pretty big and for less money there are other subs that will move more air (for movie special effects). Disclaimer - I'm a Buggtussel dealer. The Hsu VTF-3 is a very good bang-for-the-buck sub; in a fit of insanity, you might even get a pair. You'd have to decide if the cosmetics are acceptable. That being said, it would be cool if the finish on the sub(s) and Sound Labs matched.

You know, a good two-channel system sounds great on movies. Not to say that the extra channels don't add to the experience, but that might give you a more logical upgrade path - at least by starting with the big main speakers, you could be sure that the other speakers you were adding later on blended well with them.

Needless to say, Brian and I both think you're barking up the right tree!


I know this may be too late a response, but I thought I might give my 2 cents. I have had extensive experience with SoundLab speakers and have found the Marquee to be an EXCELLENT center channel match for the larger full-range speakers. Either use this or the "phantom" setting as suggested above. As for rears, I might suggest a new prototype bookshelf speaker that Roger's son Derek has been developing (I know Roger personally and am good friends with his son Derek)that is basically a half-sized Marquee.
Most dynamic subwoofers will not match the response timing of electrostats, but electrostatic subwoofers do give you the same "punchy" sound as cones. If you want to go with a dynamic sub at a reasonable price, try finding a Polk Audio RM300 model. This is not your typical Polk sub and mixes well with the SoundLab speakers we've experimented with. If you want electrostatic subs, Derek has a pair of B1's that he and his father just refurbished personally.

E-mail me if you have additional questions.