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No Love for ESS Heil Speakers?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Mike from NYC, Jun 20, 2019.

  1. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Surprise, AZ
    I bought my first pair of AMT Heil speakers in 1975 not long after they first came out and they were revolutionary sounding for their time and had a far better top end and upper midrange than any speaker I heard until that time.

    I never read anyone mention/recommend ESS Heil speakers and I was wondering why, especially for how little they sell for as compared to many audiophile speakers.

    Speakers | ESS Laboratories, LLC
    hi_watt likes this.
  2. Pinknik

    Pinknik Senior Member


    Nah, I’m just messing with ya. I never heard them, but I think some of them look cool.
  3. jeffmackwood

    jeffmackwood Forum Resident

    I listened to them a couple of times way back when and remember that I enjoyed the experience. Can't say that I could describe that experience with any accuracy this many years later, but I wouldn't pass up a chance to hear them again.

    SandAndGlass likes this.
  4. Apesbrain

    Apesbrain Forum Resident

    East Coast, USA
    I enjoyed my pair of AMT-1 back in 1975, but found the bass somewhat "one-note". Replaced the driver with one from Infinity and that was more tuneful. It was just a cubular box with a bottom port. With all the hoopla given to the Heil driver, not much thought was given to the bottom end.
    McLover, unclefred and crazy eights like this.
  5. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member

    East Tennessee
    Got an old pair gathering dust out in the garage - I imagine the foam surrounds are gone by now. May have to check them out sometime - I'm a very lazy person. They were my Mom's back in the mid 70s and all I remember about them is they powered many a dance party and they would get LOUD.
    Gregory Earl, Scratcha and timind like this.
  6. crazy eights

    crazy eights Truckstop lovechild

    new york
    i had a pair back then in the late 70s and i loved them, lost them in one of my many house moves, i would like to own another pair but don't see them come up for sale locally
  7. Uglyversal

    Uglyversal Forum Resident

    At the time I thought they were fantastic but you have to consider the rubbish I had then. I haven't heard them for several lifetimes. It's a surprise to see they are still in business. I can't imagine how they do it since nobody ever mention them and at least here you don't see them at all.
  8. G E

    G E Forum Resident

    I auditioned them as a young man summer 1974. I also listened to the ESS 7 model it replaced. I bought the 7’s on close out and traded in my KLH 32 little bookshelf speakers. Net was $325 or something.

    I felt the 7 was a more rounded speaker. And didn’t care for the AMT-1 bass.

    Still have the 7’s but not been played since late 80’s. Replaced by Infinity Kappa 8’s.

    They are about to become drink tables on either side of my sofa in listening room. And do light back channel duties for surround sound film.
  9. John D.

    John D. Forum Resident

    Same thing happened to me, the foam surrounds rotted out, and if I recall they weren't that old when that happened. :thumbsdow
    McLover likes this.
  10. ggergm

    ggergm Sir Guy

    I bought a pair of ESS AMT-1 Towers in the fall of '74. They had the same drivers as the normal ones but the woofer was in a 1/4 wave transmission line cabinet. My speakers had a lot more and better bass than the regular AMT-1. They played very loud with just 60 wpc.

    I owned them until 1976 when I got a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10 speakers. The Dahlquist didn't play nearly as loud but sounded a lot more musical. Even with the better speaker box, the AMT-1 Tower was still a bright speaker.

    My AMT-1 Towers were the perfect college speaker - loud, clear and with a pretty small footprint. I loved them. :righton:
  11. unclefred

    unclefred Coastie with the Moastie

    Oregon Coast
    To me they sounded just like most critics describe them 'a nice sounding, cool looking tweeter with a flabby, slow woofer and a hole in the midrange'. I've heard that the AMT-3 model with the midrange driver sound better. A large reason for thei attraction in the day, imo, was the great Heil tweeter was a dipole, which was new to a lot of people.
  12. Slippers-on

    Slippers-on Forum Resident

    St.Louis Mo.
    Actually I think there is much love for the ESS Heil speakers. They pioneered that tweeter! Look at the very well respected speaker manufacturers who have a version of whats called and known as the "ribbon" or "folded tweeter" and how well they are selling! Legacy speakers have a version of it, as well as GoldenEar speakers, just to name a few.
    Gregory Earl likes this.
  13. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Surprise, AZ
    I just received a new pair of the Heils for another OB speaker project, for which they were made for. This time around I'll use an infinite baffle for the dual 10" woofers diametrically opposed to each other to reduce cabinet resonances like Martin Logan did with their 'Balanced Force' subs, a 6" midrange and finally the Heil, both in OB configuration. Estimated X-over points at 300 and 1200 and I'll build attenuators to balance all the drivers to my liking as well as notch filters to get rid of resonances/peaks.

    Yes, the originals were bass shy and IMO needed a midrange driver but the highs were outstanding. My speakers will hopefully sound better and I can play with attenuation circuits to get the sound I want as well as changing the X-over points. The X-overs will be modular, one for each speaker on its own board so I can change them at will.

    I'm learning a lot about speaker design and especially X-over design which to me is fun!!!

    I'm retired and need something to keep me busy and thinking and I love woodworking :)
    head_unit and unclefred like this.
  14. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member

    East Tennessee
    Maybe I just need to pull the tweeters from these, that seems to be the big draw about them.
  15. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    Westfield, IN USA
    I thought the question was about vintage speakers. Didn't have any idea they were still around.

    I had a friend with a pair of them back in the 70s, but don't really remember the sound.
  16. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    East TN
    Agree about this. The hole in the midrange for me was a major turnoff, and the bass sounded poor to my ears when new. I liked the Advent Loudspeaker better, and preferred my Dynaco A 25 loudspeakers to the ESS Heil speakers. I lusted after Tannoy HPD or the older Monitor Gold over anything else then.
    unclefred likes this.
  17. Davey

    Davey like smoke from a lithium dream

    SF Bay Area, USA
    As mentoined above, there are many companies moving to the air motion transformer tweeters today, from the very high end to starter systems. Monitor Audio has now completely moved to their own version of the AMT in their Gold and Platinum series, which they term Micro Pleated Diaphragm ...


    MPD (Micro Pleated Diaphragm) High-Frequency Transducer
    Developed over many months of intensive
    testing and listening, the MPD high-frequency
    Transducer is a landmark achievement by the
    engineering team for Platinum II. It represents
    an imaginative re-working of an existing
    technology, transforming a successful idea
    into an audiophile super-driver, having greater
    accuracy and efficiency than ever before.

    Using a new, proprietary low-mass pleated
    diaphragm with a surface area eight times
    larger than that of a traditional dome tweeter,
    the MPD Transducer works like a super-fast
    accordion by rapidly squeezing the pleats
    to produce a smooth, wide, naturally fast
    response up to 100 kHz.

    As a result it sounds more lifelike, releasing
    the high harmonic spectrum of every note
    without the distortion that blurs definition.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2019
    SandAndGlass and Mike from NYC like this.
  18. Melvin

    Melvin Forum Resident

    I was always curious about AMT tweeters so I took a chance on a pair of Mark & Daniel Ruby loudspeakers when great deal came my way 10 or 11 years ago. Terrific little speakers (those tweeters are really special). I only moved on when curiosity struck again. I liked them enough to keep them and pull them out of storage on occasion.

    TEA FOR ONE Forum Resident

    I own a pair of Great Horned Heils from Ed Schilling. His crossover is wonderful! I don't recall the specs,however I will tell you that these speakers sing!
    unclefred likes this.
  20. SirAngus

    SirAngus Forum Resident

    My first speakers-ESS AMT 10b with a 10” woofer and a passive radiator in the back. Chose these over JBL Century 100’s around ‘77. Foam rotted away by the early 90’s so I tossed them. I thought they sounded great and they would absolutely rock.
    monte4 likes this.
  21. bluenosens

    bluenosens Forum Resident

    malagash centre
    I heard a pair of the ESS AMT's at Glubes Sound Studio in Halifax, NS way back in the late 70's. Loved the highs, the mids but the bass was never integrated with the rest of the speaker. It just couldn't keep up. It is hard to mate bass drivers with ribbons or folded membranes back than. Today there are better materials to work with. I remember UHF magazine reviewed a speaker using the Heil drivers and absolutely loved them One of their reviewers , I believe, bought a pair. But they were much improved apparently over the original ESS speakers. Haven't had a chance to hear a recent pair but that folded ribbon application is showing up in a lot of excellent speakers today. :)
  22. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Surprise, AZ
    The patent expired and anyone is free to use the Heil technology
  23. unclefred

    unclefred Coastie with the Moastie

    Oregon Coast
    You probably know that Audiokarma has a few long threads on mods for the AMT's.
    Tim S likes this.
  24. Jim0830

    Jim0830 Forum Resident

    I remember hearing them many times in the 70's and it was always the same impression. Great high end, but it seems like the put all the money into the high end. The mids and bass were an afterthought.

    But 50 years later their current speakers could and should sound entirely different. These days with computer aided speaker design it is harder to design a bad sounding speaker.
  25. Gregory Earl

    Gregory Earl Forum Resident

    I've got a pair of AMT 1B's from '81 in my garage. Replaced the surrounds (woofer and back passive radiator) in 2000 and they're still in perfect working condition. I worked at stereo shop back then and ESS was our main speaker brand. I still think the Heil is incredible. I wanted the AMT 1B Monitors but our last pair got sold the day before I was ready to buy so I settled for the 1B's. The bookshelves (AMT 1B's) were nice also. Monitors had a fuller mid-range up and down and are the better sounding one to me. The AMT 1B has a real openness especially with strings that is truly remarkable.

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