Jdanielh, Quad owners ( like me ) often are spoilt so much by these transducers, that they find it difficult to adapt to anything else. Besides, your taste in music also makes for the Quad as the perfect speaker. So why don't you get yourself a pair of the new edition of this marvel? The Revel is excellent, but compared to the Quads, you'll probably find it somewhat sluggish. (Just my 2cents )
Without a doubt the best speakers I can suggest to replace them with are the Piega P-10's. The have ribbon tweeter, a ribbon midrange and cone woofers. This is easily one of the most coherent speakers I have ever heard. It is much better than the Quads in the midrange and has some of the best bass available. The dynamics are also top notch. It is the first speaker that gives me the best of cones and ribbons.
They will surprise you!
Ditto above, Detlof & Jtinn. Also suggest you add Soundlab to your short-list. The 1 or 2, depending upon yr amps' driving power (the bigger ones are very expensive I beleive). Detlof would know more than I on how the SLs compare w/ Quads.
Our recommendation would be to audition the new Quad ESL 988, the Magnaplanar 3.6, and the Avalon Opus. These are all excellent fast settling, low distorsion designs. The choice will depend on your taste, and your associated components. Chances are you would favor the ESL 988.
Been there, done that! Love the Quad's but
they are just too fragile. I am now living happily
with Harbeth Monitor 40. Simply accurate, musical
and easy to handle, well, at least you have better
dynamics than the Quads.
The Harbeth Compact 7 is a closer fit, I think, and a lot less $.
if you want dynamic drivers, just get merlins and call it good. they're far faster than just about anything out there, and one well-built crossover helps give the same "single transducer" feeling.
you won't get a multi-driver speaker w/ the same quality crossover for under $10k.
or just get 988s.
Martin Logan CLS. These will be about 15 years old and still considered to be the best Martin Logan ever made. As quick and delicate as the Quads but with more impact and an actual bottom end. They love VTL amps. Good luck.
The Quad 63's are a very tough act to follow - utterly boxless sound, electrostatic clarity, single-driver coherence, dipole radiation, and very nice voicing.
Personally, I'm a big fan of dipole systems. I love what dipoles do, especially when it comes to pitch definition in the bass. I sell electrostatic and dynamic dipoles - namely, Sound Labs and Gradients (interestingly, the Gradients were voiced using Quads as a reference). I'm also a fan of Maggies, and would sell them were there not already a Maggie dealer in town. But frankly the Maggie 3.6 would be more of a sideways move relative to the Quad 63's (I've owned both).
Okay, here are my suggestions in speakers below five grand retail to possibly replace the Quads. The order is alphabetical.
1. Cliffhanger Bulldog. A bit large for a mini-monitor, but very nice voicing - rich and lively, and very low box signature. This speaker is a 3-way in a size where everything else is a two-way, and it uses a very nice ribbon tweeter.
2. Gradient Revolution. Very low coloration from cabinet or room, due to dipole woofers and pressure-relief (cardiod) midwoof. Natural and non-fatiguing long term. Makes virtually all other box-looking speakers sound colored in the bass.
3. Maggie 3.6. More laid-back voicing than the Quads in the upper midrange (which I like), but doesn't quite have the low-level resolution of the Quads.
4. Martin Logan CLS IIZ. The most physically beautiful electrostat made, very nice with a good amp.
5. Sound Lab Dynastat. Hybrid with level controls for bass, brilliance, and bias - which gives great flexibility in voicing. Very smooth mids and highs with bass extension below 30 Hz, but it's not dipole bass.
Next we have five to ten grand retail, once again going alphabetical:
1. Gradient Revolution - Active version, with an extra set of bass modules. Takes the Revolution to a new level of resolution. Very convincing on full-scale orchestra.
2. Piega P-10. I haven't actually heard this speaker, but I have enough respect for Jtinn's ears that it would be on my list to audition.
3. Quad 988 or 989. The voicing is not the same as the 63's, so try before you buy. One of my customers owned both and preferred the 988, but preferred the Dynastat over either. Many say they better the 63 in some areas.
4. Sound Lab Millennium-3: Superb sound, though I wish it was taller. Voiced warm and forgiving, kind of like the Maggies, but with electrostatic articulation. Alas, very inefficient.
And finally between ten and fifteen grand:
1. Classic Audio Reproductions T-3, maxed-out version. High efficiency system that doesn't sound like a box speaker. Very nice voicing.
2. Maggie 20.1. Haven't heard it yet, but it's got a great pedigree.
3. Sound Lab Millennium-2. A bit richer timbre than the M-3, a little more efficient, a little deeper in the bass, and taller. The net result is a significant step up. I could live happily ever after with this speaker.
Like I said, the Quad 63's are a tough act to follow. You can spend many times more money and still not have more natural sound (in the latest Stereophile, Sam Tellig said the 988 sounded more musical than a 50 grand speaker he'd recently auditioned, and I could name an 80-grand speaker that's less natural-sounding than the 63's).
One last possible solution would be to buy another pair of 63's and just budget for repairs. Then you'd still have a pair to listen to if one pair was in the shop.
Best of luck to you.
Jtinn,the P 10 is indeed a surprising speaker: Fast, dynamic, coherent, with a hefty bottom end and beautiful highs. But I am surprised, that you prefer its midrange to the Quads. Because it was only there, that I thought the Quad clobbers the P 10 by quite a margin. I found the midrange coloured in a hard to describe grainy-gritty way, far from the pristine purity the Quads deliver. We tried several sets of electronics with always the same results. This is of course not conclusive, because that was just a comparison, not a real test and the fault could have been anywhere. Besides I am biased, having had Quads besides other ESLs in one configuration to another for more than 35 years! Overture Audio and Audiokinesis give excellent advice IMHO, but as is basically acknowleged amongst the cognoscienti, for chamber music and small Jazz combos, the Quads are very hard to beat. The only thing I've ever heard, that came close to them ( though did not equal ) in see through realism in the midrange and the incredible speed of their rise- and decay times, were the Acapella speakers with their SOTA plasma tweeters from Germany.
I am also in agreement with Audiokinesis, but would like to add two other possibilities. At a little over twenty K, the Rockport Sheraton/Merak combination does many things well, including setting a phenomenal soundstage. My other suggestion would be a used set of Rockport Szysygies (spelling uncertain). This speaker was about 14k new, uses the Esotar tweeter, will work with a variety of amps (a friend is temporarily using a set of Quad 405's) and probably on the used market can be had for under 10k. I think that Andy Payor may currently have a used pair that he took as a trade-in. The other advantage to buying a used set is that the woofer requires very extended break-in to sound right.
Thank you everybody for your advice.
The only problem for me is that I am on a limited budget ( from US 2K to 4K) and I have to forget top of the line Piegas Sound Labs and so on...
I think it will be worth considering a pair of used but in good conditions Quads ESL 63 or a pair of 988 but I am hesitating. I have encountered reliability problems to hygroscopic breakdown (humidity and fungi) due particularly to the fact that I am often abroad and the Quads remain disconnected.
The Gradient Revolution seems a possible replacement to the Quads. The bass panel Gradient SW 63 that I use for bass reinforcement is extremely articulate and dry and is very weel built and reliable.
agree w/ fcrowder. the rockports are way special speakers. i have heard the same syzygy's that fcrowder refers to (at rcrump's place) and they're last-buy speakers.
there's very few speakers that i would pay that compliment to. rockports are one of maybe 3 (along w/ soundlabs & avalon)
Jdanielh, I have a suggestion which could help you with your ESLs, protecting them against humidity, when you are away abroad. I learnt this from a dealer friend and it works well:
Get yourself a roll of that stretchy-elastic see through plastic wrapping and wrap it around your speaker, inclusive of the bottom electronics part, in about three to four tightly stretched layers. I assure you, moisture will not get through. You could of course also consider leaving them on all the time, as I do, but a certain fire hazard can of course never be discounted and mould could perhaps form all the same. The wrappings should do the trick, I'm pretty sure.
Cheers and happy listening! Detlof
State of the Art driver and crossovers, unique internal damping methods, ambient driver, Hovland caps in the "SE" models, add up to a very quick, transparent, dynamic speaker that delivers a wide soundstage. The VR3.5's(list 3k) have been compared to the new $7k Quands, with more balls to the wall low-end and punch! Price increase effective Nov 1st will bump prices up significantly but, will remain competitive with other brands at similar price points. See at www.vonschweikert.com
Detlof: How broken-in were the P-10's you listened to? The Piega's I have did not become magical until about the 400th hour. They sounded real good out of the box, but improved by a wide margin with break-in.
I do not own the Quad's, but listened to them recently at a friend's house who compared my Piega's with her Quads. She agreed with me and bought a pair of P-10's.
Jtinn: You pose a good question. I cannot truly say. but it was surely below 400 hours. The Quads were broken in. I know, because they were mine, schlepped along for the trial. You may well have the answer here, for the P-10 sounding a bit rough in the midrange. Cheers, Detlof
I heartily second the motion on the Harbeth Compact 7, which, although not easy to find-you may have to purchase from the Canadian distributor-is worth the effort. And it will keep you at the lower end of the price range you mention. In its objectives this extremely well-constructed speaker comes from essentially the same school as some of the greats, e.g., Quad (although it's not an electrostatic)& Spendor. The company, which is primarily in the studio monitor field, has been around for a while.
Jtinn, I respect your opinion of what you heard vs the ESL-63, but I must state as matter of fact, that there is no speaker on this planet, that I have ever listened to, including Infinity IRS-Vs, that I can honestly say is any better than the Quad in the mids.(Is that a run on sentence?)If anyone should make the claim that xyz speaker stomps the Quad in the midrange,I would recommend that they attend a chamber music group concert, to recalibrate their ears to the accurate portrayal of the live illusion. (Jtinn, I am not referring to you here) The US monitor version does not seem to have the high panel failure rate that the earlier ESL-63s did. The sound is also quite a bit better on these. Audiokinesis, you are indeed a dealer with accurate advice, and without question integrety. The ESL-63, no longer being available to sell, you told the truth as your ears hear it, not your wallet. Say Class Act Duke!
I am aficionado of chamber music and lied and I have not heard until now other speaker capable of rendering all the nuances, tonal shadings and emotions ( joy, anger, sadness) contained in the various interpretatons of barytone and soprano voices as the Quads do. Listen to the various performances of Schubert lieders recorded during thirty years by Dieskau and Schwarzkopf.This latter is one of the most difficult voice to render in a soud system (and impossible to render from a CD support).
Frap, I will second every word you say. I have often, after having had the privilege and joy of listening to the stupendous Alban Berg Quartet perform here at our Zurich Opera gone home and done just as you have suggested and marveled at Peter Walker's genius. By the way, I've only had 2 panel failures in the last 30 years or so and had the electronics die on me twice as well ( knocking on wood ).
...and Duke, kudos from me as well. Frap has spoken right out of my heart.
Jdanielh, I am not surprised at your words, as a true music lover , you could hardly come to any other conclusion, I find. I am very familiar with the Schwarzkopf and Fischer Dieskau Lps. So I know exactly what you are talking about and I agree wholeheartedly with every word you say. Please try the the wrap around foil. It really does the trick. Greetings from the land of the gnomes and cuckoo clocks and the P-10! Detlof
I would have agreed with you about the 63's with my last breath until hearing the P10's. I may have been a bit "exhuberant" in my "much better" statement, but they really are that good. The break-in period is a rough one and everything improves with playing time on them.
Jennifer Crock of Jena Labs fame owns Entec modified Quad ESL 63's and after hearing my Piegas, bought a pair. She has made it clear to me and others that she has never heard a more coherant speaker.
Frap & Detlof: It appears that we have similar tastes. I too am a huge chamber music enthusiast and appreciate the reproduction of this genre through the Quads. They have been very speacial for many years. At one point, many years ago, the finest sound I had heard.
BTW, Pick up a copy of Haydn's Opus 76 on Astree performed by the amazing Quartuor Mosaiques. Simply fantastic.
Thanks Jtinn. Astree is a fine label. Is that on CD or LP?
From what you say, it makes me all curious to listen to the P10s again. Cheers!
Thanks Jtinn. Always thought highly of the Astree label also
Detlof & Frap: Actually anything by that quartet is exceptional. They have also recorded the Mozart String Quartets which was just re-released. As good a performance as I have heard.