Sound Lab vs Magnepan 20.7

I owned Sound Labs back about 2005. I loved them: enter divorce... not related.
Now a decade later remembering those monsters I'm wondering how they compare with the Maggie 20.7. I realize the technical differences, but still am aware of their relative strengths. Just wondering if one of our more articulate brethren on here can sum up the differences and who wins?
Which Sound Labs? In general, SL's (and ESL's in general) are more liquidly transparent and higher in resolution than Magneplanars. But a lot of people really like the ribbon tweeter in the 20.1. Maggies need to be above a certain volume threshold to "come to life", ESL's will play at lower volume better. Maggies will play louder, though, given enough power. They both have clean, non-bloated bass, but are missing the bottom octave. ESL's either without cross-overs or with a simple one can sound more seamless than the 3-way Maggies. They're both great with vocals, and present large, life-size images.
Larry, you should come hear them anew. The PX technology and some other improvements came along after that.

I have the U-1PXs in a large purpose-built room. The last weekend in June I'm having a special event you might not want to miss.


Can we have some details on the special event you refer to?
Thanks for your response. Your characterization of the overall sound of the Sound Labs, is exactly accurate within my memory. Low level res at low volumes. I'm pretty much a medium volume on practically everything, so the 'awakening' volume of the Maggies probably won't matter. I was just so mesmerized by the Sound Labs, and miss them, I was wanting assurance that they're cut from the same cloth and close enough. The bass, on the SL's touted to be in the 25Hz region was plenty deep for my taste.
Sooo, I'll look forward to more input thanks.
Brian Zolner, president of Bricasti Design, plans to visit for demonstrations of the M1 DAC and M28 amplifiers on Saturday June 27 and June 28. Anyone interested in attending is welcome, but registration is strongly encouraged since space is a bit limited and we anticipate a full house.
Larry, come on up from Louisville. There will be no shortage of bass nor volume capability with the conservatively rated M28s. It could be a religious experience :-)
I live in Florida now--2500 feet from the ocean, and on a lake. Palm trees... amazing place to be.
I am thinking that the more 'modestly priced' (grin) Maggies are more in my price range.
Thanks for the personal invitation though.
Didn't know you had moved. Well, late June in Chicago is a whole lot nicer than in Florida :-)
Dude, how can you say, "not related...". Everyone I know with Sound Labs has been divorced.
We were well down that path BEFORE they came--but hey, who am I to say, 'NOT RELATED', I stand corrected Oh, Wise One! lololololol

05-15-15: Lrsky
... I am thinking that the more 'modestly priced' (grin) Maggies are more in my price range.
On its own, and compared to even large dynamic box speakers, the 20.7s present an imposing front--6'7" tall and 29" wide. However, compared to most of the Sound Labs panels, it's pretty modest. SL's Majestic 945PX is 8'10" tall and almost 40" wide. Its diaphragm is 3125 square inches, 834 sq. in. larger than the 20.7's entire front baffle. *Of course* it should sound better. It's also nearly three times the price of the 20.7s. SL's Ultimate Series U-1PX is over 3.26 times as expensive.

Only SL's entry-level panel, the M-3PX is roughly equivalent in size and price, at 67" tall (12" shorter) by 30" wide (same width, but probably about the same diaphragm area) and $14,590/pair $740 more). At almost $20K/pair, SL's the M-2PX could make for a reasonably fair comparison as well.
Johnnyb53, the technologies of the speakers are entirely different. Planar magnetics with voice coils glued to the membranes with permanent magnets running the height of the speakers plus ribbon tweeters versus full range electrostatics with membranes with a light magnetic coating and a charge applied along with insulated stator wires on both sides of the membrane which are driven by the amplifier via step up transformers. Entirely different. And then there are the radiation pattern differences, i.e. flat diaphragms versus stepwise faceted panels which effect a virtual line source with a figure-8 pattern.
...the problem is we forget to tell our wives we need two of them.
Essentialaudio - With all due respect if I may correct you, electrostatic speaker panels do not have any magnetic coating. They are a non-magnetic design, and the membranes need to have an electrically conductive coating in order to be charged to a fixed positive voltage. The rest of your explanation of their operation is correct.
05-16-15: Essentialaudio
Johnnyb53, the technologies of the speakers are entirely different. Planar magnetics with voice coils glued to the membranes ... blah-blah-blah
The OP, who stated that he's aware of the technical differences, was asking about end results--how much of the SA performance do you get from the Maggie 20.7s.

I never said anything about the underlying technologies, so how can you presume to "correct" me about them? I offered up relative dimensions and purchase prices, which were germane to the thread's original post. If the higher line SA's outperform the 20.7s, it's not a fair comparison given the difference in radiating surface and cost. At that point, the discussion would turn to whether the additional cost is worth it to the OP.
After much contemplation, I'm leaning toward the SL.
They were great in '04, and I'm sure they've made lots of improvements.
Larry I own M2's and have listened to the maggies at overture audio in deleware sometime ago; I thought they were very nice but the soundlab speaker does so much more in my opinion.
I was always told a ESL speaker does not do bass well; but I have found they do bass extremely well and they are so accurate it is awesome.
I feel their strength is the imaging and huge soundstage they present and there is no listening fatique at all with these speakers in my opinion.
It would be Maggies for ME......:) Since you are going to live with them, you must listen to both and decide for yourself
05-18-15: Lrsky
After much contemplation, I'm leaning toward the SL.
They were great in '04, and I'm sure they've made lots of improvements.
I love my "little" Maggie 1.7s, but if I had $40K and space for 9-foot-tall speakers, the SL Majestic 945PX would be on my short list.

It's true that the entire Maggie line is a bit of a bargain compared to box speakers in the same price range, but I suspect you could say the same thing about $40K SLs vs. similarly priced box speakers.
Analysis Audio,Sound very good,surprised more are not on this site.
Stringreen, The newer SL ESLs are not only more reliable, they are also a lot easier to drive and sound better at the same time. They appear to have wider bandwidth and higher efficiency than the Maggies do, whereas a few years ago I would have said the 20.7s were more efficient.

Put another way, most of our MA-2 amplifiers produced used to go to Sound Lab owners. Nowadays you can do with a set of MA-1s what used to take a set of MA-2s... That is a nice improvement!

I do think though that the 20.7 is one of the better deals in loudspeakers...
Based on what I heard this past weekend at T.H.E. Show in Irvine, CA, there I another speaker you might want to consider. I don't know the model name or number, but it's the $20,000 Sanders ESL. You get two panels with a sub in each (175Hz x/o freq), a crossover, and power amps for the panels and woofers. They sounded really, really good---highly transparent, seemingly completely uncolored, great coherence and timing, and providing life-size images. The dealer used recordings featuring a stand-up bass, pipe organ, vocals, drumset, and varied stringed instruments. The timbre of every single one was spot on, and the dynamics were startling. The really quick "snap" of the bassists fingers pulling off a string, the string buzzing as it slammed back against the neck , the tone and resonance of the body of the bass changing as the note died away. I want to hear them again with my own source material, so I have to look up the dealer and pay him a visit.
Thanks for the heads up. I've been a fan of Sanders since he and Gayle started Martin Logan.
The issue is the transparency lost through the crossover in the bass/mid bass region. I'm not saying that this has that problem, but that IS the universal issue when trying to blend a conventional driver with the electrostatic panel. With my pair of SL's that I had a decade ago the bass was wonderful and perfectly blended with the whole spectrum.
After going back and forth on this for a long time, I'm convinced that I'm simply trying to go for fewer dollars spent.
Boy, this is a lot of money.
Yep, the mating of an ESL panel and a cone woofer is definitely the Achilles heal of hybrids. Sanders uses a transmission line loading of the woofer, which is a good sign. I didn't hear a problem in the transition area, but show conditions don't allow for extended listening. I myself use Open Baffle Dipole woofers (GR Research/Rythmik) with my planars, really the best choice with panels. The 175Kz x/o of the Sanders allows for substituting subs of your own choosing if you wish. While $20,000 isn't chicken feed, it's a lot less than Wilsons/Vandersteen 7's/etc., and includes Sanders' power amps.
Not intentionally trying to go off topic, but given the OP's comment about transparency, as an ESL owner, I was wondering if someone can talk about experiencing loss of transparency with ESLs due to their use of transformers.
Roger Modjeski (Music Reference) is making an ESL speaker with a direct coupled tube power amp. He claims a substantial increase in transparency in comparison to a transformer coupled version.
Clio09, you should know by now that getting rid of the transformer gets you greater transparency :)

However direct-driving ESLs has its own set of problems- chief amongst them is how the amplifier can be safely connected to the speaker such that it does not represent a danger to the user. This usually means the amp is built into the speaker, and *that* usually means if you want to upgrade to a better speaker or more powerful amp, you have to start over...
True Ralph, but most serious junkies use a specific amp with a specific speaker anyway. Change one and you most likely will have to change the other. When an engineer designs a speaker/amplifier combination, he can tailor each to the other.
Ralph, yes there is a benefit in transparancy with the OTLs that I have realized but now I am putting that signal through a transformer with my Quad 57s. Previously that was not the case with my Jazz Modules. I was hoping someone could talk more about the use of a direct drive amp. I know Roger Modjeski builds one and some Acoustat users have modified their speakers to use it. But can it be done with other ESL designs such as Quad or Soundlab? At what level of complexity or risk. You pointed out a couple in your post but would like to hear more from you and others. Perhaps I should start a separate thread on that.
Acoustat actually made a powered direct-drive ESL. They had to integrate the amp into the speaker on account of the rather dangerous high voltages involved.

This will be the case with any direct-drive installation. Of course, any ESL can be direct-driven if you are willing to do the surgery. So it would be possible to do that with a Sound Lab. But with the voltages involved to bias the speaker, the amp would have some very high operating voltages which would make it a challenging amplifier to build and operate.
Clio, Modjeski is very familiar with the 57's, and makes custom amps. Give him a call (he's up in Oakland/Berkeley now, not Santa Barbara), and see what he says about making you a direct-drive OTL for your 57's. Then let us know what he says---I have a pair of 57's too!
I used to live in Santa Barbara and visited with Roger back then. I was with him and Kavi Alexander once listening to an early version of his ESLs powered by an RM-200. I am now moving to the Bay Area and will definitely look him up. From what he mentioned to me the RM-10 which is one of two amps of his that I have was designed with the 57s in mind.

Quite frankly I am entirely pleased with the Atma-Sphere M-60s powering both of my speakers. The direct drive idea was more out of curiosity. I am sure Roger will satisfy that curiosity.
Larry are you leaning towards anything yet?
I've gone back and forth a lot on this. I am pretty much decided on the Magnepans. Reason. Money. I'm sure they're not as good on the overall, but at way more than twice the price...
Hope I don't regret it.
Tune in next week, I may be seduced by the 'Dark Side'.
The dark side would that be David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright playing in your living room on 20.7s?
Going completely off the reservation here. After reading for months about the Legacy Aerius Loudspeaker--raves about transparency bass thru the floor etc. And, even comparisons to the best 'Panels' in terms of resolution--just one more compulsive question, anyone out there that's heard this short list of SL's Maggies and Aerius?
While the Legacy Aerius are fine loudspeakers, I do not find them to be at all comparable to Sound Labs or Maggies. The Aerius are fine box speakers, but do not 'float the sound in air' the way that a fine panel speaker does. I also do not find them to be as seamless or transparent. I prefer the true ribbon Maggies, either the 3.7 or 20.7 to the SLs, but that is strictly a matter of taste and space. The really large SLs are awesome, but they are just too large for most normal size non-dedicated listening rooms. I also prefer the high end of the Magenpan true ribbon, as the finest reproducer of its kind I have ever experienced. Of course, YMMV applies!
Thanks Bill.
Amongst all the reviewers' hyperbole and exaggerations, is the truth from a relatively unbiased audiophile.
From your post it appears that you may own the Maggies. So, thanks for the input.