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Thread: Quad ESL 57 -- what am I missing?

  1. #1
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,105
    I'm Alex.

    Question Quad ESL 57 -- what am I missing?

    I recently got a chance to audition those true hi fi unicorns -- Quad 57 speakers. I brought with me a selection of my LPs and CDs, and spent an afternoon listening to Quads.

    On the first go, I found the volume too low, so the initial impressions were unfavourable. Then when we upped the volume, the speakers came to life. Overall, I felt as if I was listening to giant headphones. Amazing amount of detail, amazing resolution, somewhat disappointing bass (despite the added subwoofer). On the positive side, probably the best double bass sound I've ever heard.

    I was honestly expecting to be absolutely blown away by those speakers, after hearing and reading so many rave reviews. But it did not happen, for some reason. Was I in a bad mood that day or something, or is it really that the reports regarding their ineffable magic are somewhat exaggerated?
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Apr 2012

    Location: Southall, West London

    Posts: 36,261
    I'm Geoff.

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    Perhaps they were not best suited to the room?

  3. #3
    Join Date: Aug 2010

    Location: East Midlands

    Posts: 386
    I'm Hugh.

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    Quad 57s don't blow people away, they're much too subtle for that.

  4. #4
    Join Date: Mar 2014

    Location: KY - Scotland

    Posts: 3,209
    I'm Mike.

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    Ditto
    Quote Originally Posted by magiccarpetride View Post
    I recently got a chance to audition those true hi fi unicorns -- Quad 57 speakers. I brought with me a selection of my LPs and CDs, and spent an afternoon listening to Quads.

    On the first go, I found the volume too low, so the initial impressions were unfavourable. Then when we upped the volume, the speakers came to life. Overall, I felt as if I was listening to giant headphones. Amazing amount of detail, amazing resolution, somewhat disappointing bass (despite the added subwoofer). On the positive side, probably the best double bass sound I've ever heard.

    I was honestly expecting to be absolutely blown away by those speakers, after hearing and reading so many rave reviews. But it did not happen, for some reason. Was I in a bad mood that day or something, or is it really that the reports regarding their ineffable magic are somewhat exaggerated?

  5. #5
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 21,602
    I'm Martin.

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    You already have some panel or electrostatic speakers that are pretty good so I'm not surprised they didn't blow you away. Their main strength is the amount of low level detail that gets through, most/all? moving coil speakers can't do that degree of pin-drop 'quiet'. That's the thing that amazes people. Since you are used to that already, you were not amazed.
    Martin



    Current Lash Up:

    Technics SL1200P CD Player * NVA P90SA passive pre / Krell KSA50S Power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 loudspeakers *


    'This is the sort of music I'd be listening to if I was going shopping for a training bra.'

  6. #6
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 5,866
    I'm Oliver.

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    There are a few bits that have landed in that catagory for me. Decca Gold, Denon 103, Alphasson 100HRS and the Quad 57's plus more.

    The speakers deliver on the soundstage front and micro detail as Macca points out but to me, they always sound a little soft or warm and cozy. I've had the opportunity to listen to a very nice pair on multiple occasions and I've never wanted a pair. I've much preferred the standard box speaker approach.

    I'd have a pair of Magneplanar speakers though. The ones I heard (on the end of lesser Quality equipment) were fantastic. Still lack bass and impact though.
    Analogue: Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 MK5 tonearm > Ortofon Kontrapunkt b > Wizard Jfet MC Valve Phonostage (Telefunken & Tesla Valves)
    Digital: NONE
    Amplification: Nelson Pass DCB1 & Monarchy Audio SM-70 Class A Amplifier
    Cables: Fisual S-Flex Speaker Cable & SPOTFIRE IC Cables & NEW SPOTFIRE Tonearm cable
    Speakers: Pioneer CS-77A

  7. #7
    Join Date: Apr 2012

    Location: Southall, West London

    Posts: 36,261
    I'm Geoff.

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    Get a listen to some proper Apogees. You'll be amazed! Panel speakers that do everything, big time.

  8. #8
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 5,866
    I'm Oliver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by walpurgis View Post
    Get a listen to some proper Apogees. You'll be amazed! Panel speakers that do everything, big time.
    Geoff, it's on my to-do list. I would EXPECT to be impressed.
    Analogue: Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 MK5 tonearm > Ortofon Kontrapunkt b > Wizard Jfet MC Valve Phonostage (Telefunken & Tesla Valves)
    Digital: NONE
    Amplification: Nelson Pass DCB1 & Monarchy Audio SM-70 Class A Amplifier
    Cables: Fisual S-Flex Speaker Cable & SPOTFIRE IC Cables & NEW SPOTFIRE Tonearm cable
    Speakers: Pioneer CS-77A

  9. #9
    Join Date: Feb 2010

    Location: Berkshire, UK

    Posts: 3,171
    I'm Tom.

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    Quad ESLs do some things superbly - that micro-detail, the left-right placement (though it's 2D ... they can't really do 3D), fine expression and accurate timbre. It's hard to get these elements at that quality elsewhere even if you spend a lot, lot more. I loved mine, my second pair in particular which were quite special in the improvements made to them. So sweet, so intimate, so pure.

    However, it all fell apart when an old schoolfriend came round - a guy who was a close mate in the 70s, we went to our first concerts together (at the SNO Proms at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, when we were both in our mid-teens) but who I had hardly seen in 30 years. He was impressed at the look of the hifi and wanted to hear it .. I said go for it and he looked at my record collection and pulled out a Mahler symphony.

    To be frank, it was underwhelming. And at that point I realised that my listening had shunk over the previous 2-3 years of having ESLs, to the point where I was only playing stuff that sounded good on them - string quartets, baroque trios, small jazz combos, Lieder. No big rock, big orchestras, no full monty piano music, no full-scale organ. Half my record collection was going unplayed - though because the other half was sounding lovely, I was reluctant to admit it.

    I went back to Tannoys .. the wife loved their ability to fill the room, the fact that she could sit off to the side marking essays and exam papers and not lose the treble (ESLs beam badly and have a tiny sweet spot), that they sounded great from the next room too. It took me a few years, experimenting with cabs and crossovers and over 30 different amplifiers to breed out the Tannoy weak spots, but it **is** possible with a bit of effort. It's not possible to do that with ESLs because, to coin a phrase, ye cannae change the laws of physics.

    If you are looking for Tannoy or JBL versatility and impact, then ESLs (or, frankly, most other panels with the exception of Apogees) will not get you excited. (And Apogees require serious amplification). I bought some ESLs not so long ago to try them again out of curiosity but I couldn't live with them now, despite re-experiencing their charms. They went again pretty sharpish.

    So .. what are you missing? Depends what you are looking for in a speaker. Could be - not a lot.
    Main: Speakers 'RFC' Tannoy Canterburys / custom crossovers; Amp - Radford STA100; Pre EAR 912; Vinyl: Thorens TD124 MkII + Ikeda IT345-CR1 / Ikeda IT-407 tonearms; Cartridges Stereo - Miyajima Madake, Ortofon SPU Royal N, Ikeda 9C III, SAEC/Excel C3; Mono - Miyajimas - Zero 0.7, Premium 1.0, Sonovox MC-4 1.0, Edison '78' 4.0 conical, and Shure M44 strapped for mono with several Expert Stylus conicals for different eras of 78s; Phono stage and SUT from EAR 912; Esoteric Sound Re-Equalizer for equalisation of early mono and 78, switchable in from tape loop; Digital: Audio Note CDT2/II transport, heavily modded AN Kit DAC + Mutec MC3+USB.

    Study: Speakers - Tannoy DC6; Amp: Pass Aleph 'Mini'; preamp - Firebottle custom; Vinyl: Garrard 401 with AT1503 tonearm and vintage Ortofon SL-15e with matching Ortofon 2-15k SUT; Phono Stage: Firebottle Plus; Digital - Trichord Genesis III CDP + Arcam rBlink; Schiit Multibit DAC.

  10. #10
    Join Date: May 2010

    Location: Vancouver, Canada

    Posts: 2,105
    I'm Alex.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Macca View Post
    You already have some panel or electrostatic speakers that are pretty good so I'm not surprised they didn't blow you away. Their main strength is the amount of low level detail that gets through, most/all? moving coil speakers can't do that degree of pin-drop 'quiet'. That's the thing that amazes people. Since you are used to that already, you were not amazed.
    I think you nailed it. Vocalists over Quads didn't feel revelatory compared to how I'm hearing them on my Maggies. And apparently the way Quads handle vocals is one of their main selling points.

    Bass delivered by Quads was positively underwhelming (despite being assisted by a sub). Many people might chime in now with "yeah, and same is with Maggies -- underwhelming bass!" But not so fast -- on my Maggies at least, I'm getting such strong bass that often times it is actually overwhelming (and no, I'm not using a sub). Of course, the dirty little secret with my Maggies is the room placement and carefully chosen listening position. Maggies have wide dispersion and are working the room. With a little luck and a decent size room, you can get them to pump some serious bass.

    Quads soundstage felt like a doll house compared to my Maggies. Which may be a good or a bad thing, depending on one's perspective. I prefer the real life size soundstage myself.
    Don't you just hate it when you cannot detect where the post ends and a signature line begins?

    Alex.

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