Soundlab is the one of the best-sounding, least reliable speakers I've heard.
This was true of the A-1s, anyway. High humidity could cause them to arc, burning holes in the panels. They were J Gordon Holt's reference speaker, though.
If you live somewhat arid, though, I say, go for it. They are a good match for OTL amps like yours. Why? I don't know. The results are good, anyway.
Since the introduction of the 'PX' models about 6 years ago, the reliability issues of the older panels have gone away. The improved rigidity of the cores, stability of the stator wiring, and improved insulation of the stators has almost completely eliminated the failures that used to be common. Very few of the newer panels have had to go back to the factory for 'refurbishment'. Additionally, the latest improvement, the Toroid II transformers have improved performance considerably. If were considering used panels, I would insist on getting the PX generation products, and would upgrade to the Toroid II if they didn't already have it. (Disclosure: I am a SoundLab dealer.)
Also, you should visit the SoundLab Owners Group (SLOG) website to read what others have said.
No issues with new models. They will last many, many years. Even the old ones did. I owned several older sets and loved them.
Soundlabs are the best sounding electrostatic loudspeaker I have heard. Twb2 has discussed the improvements and upgrades that has increased reliability. I prefer the non PX panels and have had no issues. Soundlab increased the thickness of the non PX Mylar which increased their reliability. As stated, the Torrid II has made them more efficient and easier to drive. There are 2 different types of backplates offered as well. I recommend the " hotrod version." I own the A3's.
"No issues with new models. They will last many, many years. Even the old ones did. I owned several older sets and loved them."
I just had an email exchange with Dr. Roger West at SoundLab about this topic, and he confirmed my comments. In fact, he said that of the 3 PX panels that have had to come back since their introduction, two of the problems were probably due to mishandling. He also thought that the perception of 'frequent' problems with the previous generation of panels was very overblown.
I own M2's that have not had any issues and live in New Jersey which gets pretty humid in the summer.
I drive them with audiovalve challenger 180 monoblocks and they perform extremely well;ralph's amps are on my radar in the future.
I installed the impedance mods and they already had the copper diffusion ring with the tordial transformers upgrades.
In January Soundlab introduced a new backpanel which not only made the speaker a lot easier to drive but also has it sounding better, regardless of the amplifier used.
I've owned Soundlabs for over 10 years in midwestern humidity with no problems. I recently upgraded to PX panels, the new (consummate) backplates, with the hot rod upgrade. If they were problematic, I would never have stayed with the brand.
If you're buying used, & are concerned with membrane reliability, it should be noted that new membranes can be factory applied to the panels at a fairly reasonable cost.
Rather than the M2's or M3's, I would recommend considering the full-size M1's. My room is approx. 13.5 wide with a 7.3 high ceiling & the M1's & M1PX's have worked quite nicely.
Awesome speakers and the best I have owned to date!
I have owned SoundLabs since the 80's. Although panels made from the 80's until late 90's were fragile and could be damaged by excessive power or humidity corroding the points where the connections were made to the Mylar, the two cases of problems with panels I know about during the last ten years were due to mishandling during shipping or moving the speakers.
Since I own PX panels I became more confident, and I have played them a few times at much louder levels than before, fortunately without any problem and sounding great.
I've been a SoundLab dealer since the late 90's and only know of one case of a failure involving a PX panel, and that was due to shipping damage - specifically, a forklift spearing the crate that the panel was in.
There were two main sources of reliability issues in the past. One was tiny (molecule-scale) microflaws on the inside surface of the insulation material for the stators, which were present in some batches of insulation material and not in others, and which were undetectable in normal testing. That was solved by the supplier manufacturing the insulation material and metal conductor (stator) as one unit using a bonding process that precludes the possibility of any tiny microgaps between the two.
The other main source of reliability problems was something that Roger told me about in confidence so I won't repeat the specifics, but it involved one of the components that played a supporting role not behaving ideally under very humid conditions. That problem had been especially elusive but was finally diagnosed (and easily solved) around the time of the introduction of the PX panels.
Now these aren't the only refinements SoundLab has made which significantly improve the reliability of the PX panels, but they are among the reasons why current-generation SoundLabs have such a good track record in the field.
As for compatibility with Atma-Sphere amps, the new backplates SoundLab introduced in January will give you what used to be MA-2 level performance (or better) with MA-1s, and probably very close to previous MA-1 performance with M-60's.
Obviously being a SoundLab dealer I have a high opinion of their sound quality. When I set out to develop my own line of loudspeakers, I told Roger West that my goal was to build the second-best speakers. I know of no other speaker technology, including what I use, that does so many things so right as the SoundLabs.
I am a fortunate owner of Soundlab Ultimate IIs that has "never" had a backplate or panel problem. My speakers are still performing flawlessly. They produce the most transparent and coherent sound I have ever heard from a speaker.Whenever I listen to other speakers there's no comparison.I have owned my Soundlabs since 1998 and they have never been back to the factory and that's saying very good reliability in my book.Let your ears decide.
Hey Chuckie I am looking for some sound lab U2s .Five six one eight zero one twenty five ten.
I am not sure about the availability of a pair of Ultimate IIs for sale. Check with Connie at Soundlab to see if they will custom build you a pair. Duke at Audiokinesis may also be helpful.If you're asking if my Soundlabs are for sale I am sorry to inform you but they are not.My Ultimate IIs have been extremely reliable. Never once shipped back to the factory and never a problem with the panels. My amps are NAT se2se totally awesome!
Sound Lab speakers are absolutely the best deal in audio! I've been wanting to post about them since I got them in my room but I'm too busy listening to music. I picked up a used pair of M-1PX's several months ago and they are just amazing! The price vs. performance ratio is off the charts. Great speakers and great people to work with.
If you picked up some used Sound Labs, check with Sound Lab about the new backpanels. They make the speaker a lot easier to drive and also sound better too!
Congratulations on your purchase of the Soundlab M-1Px speakers. Your journey has just begun and you will be handsomely rewarded with one of the best bargains in high-end.
Patience goes along with owning these beasts because just when you think they are sounding great there's always a surprise awaiting you for changing cables,power cords,toe-in (either in or out),sources, or amps. Get it all dialed in correctly and because of your efforts heaven awaits at your listening chair. I wish you many years of pure joy and reliability.
Keith what amps are you driving them with?
Also congrads you may never listen to a dynamic speaker again.
Hello Rleff, I'm driving my M-1PX panels with Pass Labs X600.8 mono blocks. Oh, I'm not giving up on drivers! In fact, I just had the pleasure to hear Magico's new S7 speakers yesterday at the Magico facility in Hayward CA. The speakers are amazing!
Yes I heard them at overture audio in Delaware and they are
amazing. I think what I like about my m2's is you can listen all day and not get tired of the session; the soundstage is just huge and being able to locate instruments within is awesome; enjoy your new investment!!!!
Just picked up some A3s that had new mylar installed in 011. I also picked up some A3 pxes along with pristine 3s and pristine 2s . Nothing can compare in my book. After hearing a good panel, driver speakers sound so slow and I can hear the xovers. They all sound like a cardboard box .
I've had a similar experience. I'm the second owner of very early A-3s (serial# A300****44.) I purchased them ~10 years ago, replaced the Mylar and they continue to sound great; better with the torrid upgrade. In the the past decade I've had no substantive performances with them.
'What he said', following Audiokinesis. I owned Sound Labs in 2004, and an ugly divorce helped me sell them, grrrrrr. One of the panels failed. Random bad luck, really. But guess what happened. Sound Lab repaired them for FREE! Mr. West and crew have nothing but my utmost respect in every aspect of their business model. In other words, they treat people as they're supposed to.
By the way, they're amazingly good, natural, detailed, musical, involving loudspeakers, if that matters.
As Duke and others stated the humidity problems have been cured some time ago. Now Asia is one of the largest markets for SLs.
The Chinese dealer/importer says the U-1PXs - Consummates with a pair of B-1PX bass panels are "The best sound in China!"
Question: If people need upgrades, repairs, etc. to SLs do they go through an authorized dealer like Duke or do they call the factory and purchase factory direct?
If I was fortunate enough to live near Duke, I'd go through him, but I have worked directly with Sound Lab directly and they are amazingly friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. I can't say enough good things about them. Cheers,
I have Soundlab A2s for 35 years. One power supply was rebuilt 10 years ago by Soundlab and the second power supply was just rebuilt by me using a part supplied by Dr. West. These speakers have been in continuous use for 35 years and the panels are still good. Amps are NYAL OTL 3s.
I have been fooling around with audio since before stereo and know of no product that can compare with Soundlab in reliability or product support. I also have Quad 988s and prefer the Soundlabs.