The Quad ESL 57 thread

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by audio, May 2, 2005.

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  1. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana
    Folks, please talk me out of buying a pair of Quad 57s. I think I'm gonna do it.
     
  2. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Senior Member

    Location:
    Tigard, Oregon
    The one caveat I was told when I wanted to get a pair of 57s was that they're a lot like used cars...their condition/performance really depends upon who owned them and how they treated them. In other words, the quality of the speaker can really vary, and in ways not necessarily noticeable upon first listen. I was told that 63s are a little less susceptible in this manner.

    57s can also arc like mofos.
     
  3. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana

    Wish I could give your Spendors a listen, however it's hard for me to get into 2-way and 3-way systems. After living with Tannoys....anything else sounds like a mess of confusion. Like the Tannoy, the Quads have incredible balance and focus. I've not heard a lot of speakers that can do this. Yeah...the 57s arc if you feed them too much juice or push them too hard, but from what I understand....100db with under 50 wpc isn't a problem.
     
  4. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana
    BTW...regarding the ESL 63s, it was suggested to me by a reliable source that they are no comparison sonically to the 57s. Therefore, I am not considering them.
     
  5. sgb

    sgb Senior Member

    Location:
    Baton Rouge
    Having owned several pairs of 57s (and 1 pair of the 63s very briefly), I can say with confidence that the best way to keep the speakers from arcing is to use a current limiting amplifier such as the Bedini 25/25 (which was designed specifically for the Quad).

    I assume you can still get panels for the Quads. If so, keep a supply of replacements on hand - you'll need them.
    :sigh:
     
  6. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana
    I wouldn't touch anything that Bedini made.

    Why?
     
  7. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Senior Member

    Location:
    Tigard, Oregon
    They definitely have different qualities which appeal to different types of listeners. Make no mistake, the 57s offer a glorious, unique sound that can be addictive. But they have more limitations than 63s in many areas. They don't go nearly as loud, they don't as low in the bass, the sweet spot is miniscule, and if you try to listen to music while walking around your house, or even in the next room, they will sound like a table radio. But 57 aficionados love them dearly, and nothing, even a 988 or 989 or 63, will sway them.

    I have a friend who is a Quad freak. He collects them. He has the 988, 989, and several pairs of 63s and 57s. Of all of them, he likes the 63s the best, mostly because he feels that the new ESLs aren't necessarily an improvement. He loves 57s also, but he has told me that many things go wrong with them all of the time, and they're almost not worth the effort. ALMOST. (He also tweaks the hell out of 63s, removing the socks, replacing the caps, etc.)

    I wouldn't dream of talking you out of 57s, though. I would, however, investigate several of the companies who restore 57s before buying an unfamiliar used pair. Buying a restored pair ameliorates several of the problems described above, especially the arcing.
     
  8. SMc

    SMc Forum Resident

    Location:
    Austin TX
  9. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Senior Member

    Location:
    Tigard, Oregon
    My Spendors have been a bit problematic since I moved into my house two years ago. The room is a bit too small for them, and I get a bit of upper-bass boom sometimes. I've played with room treatment and speaker placement, which has helped somewhat. They're just a bit big for the room. One solution is to move everything into the family room, which is much larger, but my wife opposes it, and the room is shaped so irregularly that I can't get all the furniture and equipment to make sense. The best solution is to go with a speaker that is friendlier to smaller rooms. I absolutely love the Harbeth Monitor 30, which is by far the best-sounding stand-mounted two-way I've ever heard. And even though they are less than half the size of my SP100s, they go nearly as deep in the bass (50 hZ, as opposed to 45 hZ for the Spendors). I find this amazing, since the Spendors are large, 88 lb. behemoths with 13" woofers, and the Harbeths are less than 30 lbs., and have 8" woofers.

    Another problem with the Spendors is that I have two pairs (I have a pair of S20s, a small bookshelf model, which is currently being used in my bedroom with the Scott amp you sold me, and it sounds great), and both pairs are a bit beat up. I can't blame Spendor totally, since I have dogs and cats and kids, but for the most part they stay away. My S20s have dented corners, and the foam surround on the Scanspeak tweeters is turning gooey and crumbling apart. The grilles on both sets of speakers have developed fuzzy edges. And the SP100s are finished in black, but the wood is starting to show through in the grain on the tops, as if the paint was short a coat or two. None of this affects the sound forever, but I would have to sell the SP100s in order to afford the Harbeths, and I'm worried that I won't get enough for them. If I bought new grilles and had them repainted, they'd be perfect. They're $4500 a pair new (plus $500 for the Sound Anchor stands), and the Harbeths are $3695.

    I've also seriously considered buying a pair of Quad ESL-63s, but I'm afraid the cats will see two giant scratching posts, and the dogs will see two giant fire hydrants.
     
  10. sgb

    sgb Senior Member

    Location:
    Baton Rouge
    Audio (formerly prix): The reason you would want to keep replacement panels around is that you don't know when you would need them.

    As for not touching anything Bedini made, you would be cutting off your nose to spite your face with regards to the original quads. Having heard more amps running these than I'd care to try to remember, this combination (with a good tube preamp - the little Dared would be my first choice today) sounded excellent and kept the electrostatic panels from arcing.

    As for the ESL 63, I kept my pair less than a year - bought them in 1980. I tried both tube and transistor amps on them - everything from ARC & C-J to Spectral - and could never get them to sound like music. A lot of things have happened in amplfier design since then, but insofar as my own system has departed radically from what it was like in 1980, I'd venture that I'd be better off leaving things as they are. I've never owned a set of Quads that could image like my Rosinanté Evolution Signatures; nor could I imagine my present amplifier working with the 63's ideally.
     
  11. Mal

    Mal Phorum Physicist

    Don't waste any more precious days of your life without a pair of ESL 57s - buy them now!!

    There are lots of things people say about the Quad "57s" that are exaggerated beyond reality. For example, saying that the sweetspot is miniscule and that outside of that infinitessimally small position the Quads sound like a "table radio" is ludicrous (sorry V.A. ;) ). The truth is that they sing sweetly at all times but when in the sweet-spot they sing even more incredibly than you can possibly imagine! Listening to Oscar Peterson playing on the Quads from another room it is hard to believe he is not sitting at a grand piano in you own house.

    Also, in seven years I have never needed to replace a panel.

    As for matching amps, I have tried 3 different solid state amps and all have performed just fine with the "57s". No smoke, melting output stages or damaged panels to report. Just gorgeous souding music.

    Maybe I have just been lucky but I get the impression that these speakers are not the handful people like to make out.....

    I got my pair seven years ago. The first pair I got were no good. The guy selling them to me said they sounded odd because they need to warm up for hours to really get going (not true - they should sound good practically immediately). After a couple of days with them still sounding odd I had a closer look - the dust covers were missing from the backs of the panels! I took them straight back and he had no choice but to give me my money back - make sure you know what these speakers should look like behind the grilles and take a torch with you when you are auditioning them. Look through the grilles front and back for evidence of tampering by an unskilled hand....

    I then sourced another pair - they had been sitting around in a room above a hi-fi shop in Brighton for a while and one of the speakers was known to be quiter than the other. I had read about a problem (here's the article - Sheldon's site is a great resource :agree: ) with the rectifier block where the diodes start to go bad and the sensitivity drops so I hoped this was the problem and haggled a price of £150 for the pair!

    After putting the rectifier block from the bad speaker in the oven to melt the beeswax, replacing the diodes, pouring the beeswax back in and putting the whole thing back together again I was in business!

    Ever since I have been in heaven - it doesn't matter what other components are deficient in your system, having the Quads in there means you can still enjoy music in a way that I find impossible to do with infinite baffle / cone systems. I know the Tannoy Golds pretty well and definitely prefer the Quads - no contest. There is nothing as magical as listening to a great sounding guitar played through a decent valve amp, captured on analogue tape and then reproduced through a hi-fi connected up to a pair of Quads. You can hear the thick valve sound cutting the air like a knife. And they are awesome with any type of music. People will tell you they are great for jazz or classical but that for rock they don't make the grade. Don't believe a word of it. You haven't heard Badfinger until you've heard them on the Quads. And Thom Mooney's drum solo at the end of "She's Goin' Down" never sounded so glorious in all its unabashed clumsiness as it does on these speakers designed nearly 50 years ago :cool:.

    Have you bought them yet?! :D
     
  12. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana


    Great post, Malc. Thank you for taking the time to lay down the line so clearly. I understand what you mean about the people who trash these speakers. People do the same thing with Tannoys and most of these people have never even heard them. I spent some time with the Quads I'm looking at buying on Saturday afternoon. Not only did they have more than adequate bass....but I think they had a little more bass than the 15" Tannoys that we were checking out in the same room. I also really like the quality of the bass on the Quads....very punchy and tight. I also walked around the room and listened and didn't notice anything resembling bad sound or a table radio. I really liked these speakers.

    Malc, if you could elaborate on the differences between the Tannoy Monitor Golds and the Quads....it would be very helpful. Since I'll likely be selling one of my pairs of 12" Tannoys to justify the Quad purchase, I'd love to hear what you have to say. I've lived with the Tannoys and loved them more than any other speaker I've ever had, so this is a tough decision. The guy who owns the Quads I'm looking at says they take about 15 minutes to charge up. Is this how it should be? Anything else I should look for....let me know in detail. I really trust the guy I'm buying from, so I'm not too worried about being ripped off.

    Cheers!
     
  13. sgb

    sgb Senior Member

    Location:
    Baton Rouge
    Great post, Malc, but you have been extremely lucky indeed since you have not needed to replace a single panel in seven years. Amplifier current output has everything to do with this (or you simply don't try to acheive live levels with them).

    Another factor to consider is where one lives. The humid, jungle-like climate of southern Louisiana (or anywhere else along the Gulf Coast for that matter) isn't particularly conducive to optimum performance of ANY electrostatic loudspeaker. Having owned Beveridge, Martin Logan, and Acoustat in addition to both versions of the Quads, I can speak to this from experience.
     
  14. Mal

    Mal Phorum Physicist

    The difference between the Quads and any infinite baffle cone speaker design, including the Tannoys, is striking. However good you think a cone speaker can sound, until you hear an electrostatic speaker you will not understand the limitations of the infinite baffle (and ported variations).

    You've heard the Quads - as you noticed, one immediately obvious difference is the speed and effortlessness of the bass. But it is not just the bass that benefits from the lack of the cabinet. The whole sound is just much more open and natural with the bi-polar electrostatic design.

    By the way, I forgot to mention in my last post that another thing people say that is misleading is that these speakers only sound good in very large rooms, far away from the wall. I have used them in reasonably small rooms (20' x 15') up close to the wall and they have sounded great.....

    If you are keeping one pair of Tannoys anyway then you have nothing to lose in this purchase (assuming the Quads are in good condition).

    In my experience, if they have been used very recently (within the last few hours), the Quads should work full range within seconds of being plugged in. If, on the other hand, they have been in storage for a while (a few days or longer), I would let them sit with the power on for a while (maybe a couple of hours) before putting a signal into them - just to let them settle down in the fully charged state. I don't think you will cause any damage if you start listening to them straight away after being in storage but their performance may be a little subpar until they have fully charged up and the circuits have warmed up.

    If the treble panels don't come on straight away then that may indicate a problem with the panel. If they take a while to come on then they are not charging up properly and will eventually die on you. This happened to my brother although he did get his pair for the incredible bargain of £50 owing to the faulty panel and got a good few months use out of them before needing to replace the dodgy treble panel!

    You may notice some very quiet crackling sounds if you put your ears up to the panels - this isn't necessarily a sign of impending disaster. Mine crackle away mildly from time to time (particularly when it is humid) and still singing like angels :). However, if they are crackling constantly and it is loud enough to hear from the normal listening position then this may indicate a more serious problem. Also, if you can hear popping sounds loud enough to hear from the nomal listening postition then they are probably not in very good shape.....

    You may also notice a mains hum in one or both transformers or even emenating from the bass panels. Again, in moderation this is fine but if it is audible from the normal listening position this may be a problem.

    As I said before, look through the grilles front and back with a torch if possible. You should see the dust covers (looking like saran wrap) behind the front grilles. Through the back grilles you should see a hessian type of material over the bass panels and a black velvet material over the treble panel (these materials are there to stop too much sound emanating from the rear of the speakers). You should also be able to see the rectifier blocks - these are grey and should have the date of manufacture stamped in white on them (month and year). Also check that the serial numbers for each unit are close together. They needn't be consecutive - so long as they are not way off you should have a reasonably matched pair.

    Obviously, the red mains light should be on solidly for both units. If either bulb is flickering there may be a loose connection somewhere.

    I can't think of anything else to add for now - hope this helps. Let us know how you get on on Saturday :).
     
  15. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana
    I bought them. Just got home. Gonna go unload them right now. I'll be playing with them this weekend. Thanks for all the advice!!
     
  16. Mal

    Mal Phorum Physicist

    Whoops - when you said "I spent some time with the Quads I'm looking at buying on Saturday afternoon" I thought you meant you were looking at buying them on Saturday. I guess you meant you looked at them last Saturday - and have now bought them!!

    Well, I think you did the right thing anyway. No self-respecting obsessive music fan should go through life without owning a pair of these at some point - and if all goes well you will never be without a pair again!

    Let us know how you get on.

    :)
     
  17. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana
    The Quads are heavenly. I love them. Having said that, I will say that these are speakers for SERIOUS and sophisticated audiophiles only. There are so many things they do not do, but if you are able to appreciate what they DO do...that's the magic. In other words, the Quads basically suck. They have miserable bass, they don't play loud, they compress when you push them, they are hard to setup, etc....but the midrange is so DIVINE....it's more than worth it.
     
  18. -=Rudy=-

    -=Rudy=- ♪♫♪♫♫♪♪♫♪♪ Staff

    Location:
    US
  19. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Senior Member

    Location:
    Tigard, Oregon
    Wow...sounds like you're talking about Lowthers!
     
  20. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana
    No, I hadn't read that. Thank you for the link. Very good information. At this point, what the Quads do right is so good that it's making their MANY limitations and drawbacks a non-issue. These speakers are the most satisfying listen I've ever had.....so far.....and to replace my beloved Tannoys in my listening room, they certainly must be special. I'm really starting to fall in love with them. If I could find a speaker that had the non-fatiguing transparency and god-like midrange of the Quads, the slam of an Altec, and the pinpoint imaging, dynamics, natural sound, balance, and focus of the Tannoys....I'd be home. As it is, I guess I'm stuck with multiple systems.
     
  21. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana

    Lowthers? Not a chance. Never, in a million years, would I waste my time with any speaker that has a whizzer. Been down that road, man. I'm much more interested to hear what Spendor has to offer.
     
  22. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Senior Member

    Location:
    Tigard, Oregon
    What, you got something against speakers that have to be the size of coffins just to get down to 60hZ? What's wrong with you? ;)
     
  23. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana
    Yeah, well....most of these full range or coax drivers need HUGE cabinets to perform their best. The Tannoy stuff they did where they were slamming 12" drivers into shoe boxes is a complete joke.


    All I have to say is that this HH Scott 299C with these Quad 57s is absolutely gorgeous. In fact, I'm going to withdraw this amp from the classifieds right now.
     
  24. vinyl anachronist

    vinyl anachronist Senior Member

    Location:
    Tigard, Oregon
    I am curious about the Cain & Cain Abby, however, which has a single Fostex driver in a beautifully made, tall but slim cabinet. The woodwork on these things is incredible...they have one finish that is sort of the classic sunburst found on some vintage electric guitars. Breathtaking.

    Then you see some of the Lowther-based designs such as the Rethms...what huge, ungainly beasts, and they have no more bass than an LS3/5a. Then there's the Hornings, which use Lowther drivers along with separate tweeters, but it's kind of funny to see some of their models which are nothing more than 8" two-ways in 7' tall enclosures that weigh two-hundred pounds. Still, the Hornings are supposed to be fantastic-sounding. The Rethms, however, get mixed reviews. And none of these Lowther-based designs go for less than four grand. I know the drivers themselves are well over a grand for a pair. That seems kinds nutty when the Fostex drivers cost a tiny fraction of that.
     
  25. audio

    audio New Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    guyana
    You can't push Quads. You can't push Lowthers. When you push Quads a little bit, they do okay. Lowthers have whizzer cones. When you push a driver with a whizzer a little bit, they squawk at you. Whizzer cones are a bad idea. File them along side the Hindenburg, Thalidomide, and screen windows for submarines.
     
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