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Big Dog RJ

Quad ESL 2905

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G'day mates! Trust all are enjoying your music and keeping well; go the storm! 

 

Been a while since my last post, was in the zone of an interesting ride with my Quads, and thought this is something I must share with anyone who has Quad stats or is thinking about purchasing. I've being using Quads for couple decades, since the 80's, and I must say that the ESL 63's were far more reliable than today's models in terms of quality control and British parts. 

 

In 2010 I purchased a brand new pair of 2905's which gave me immense pleasure & satisfaction until the one speaker started giving problems. Although my journey has been somewhat painful in terms of repair costs, I will try to keep this as simple as possible in point form:

 

First I had a panel failure after about 3 years, only on one speaker; Unitech services are qualified to work on Quads but do not "repair", rather they only "replace" parts at a high cost from AVR in Sydney. Parts for these are expensive and your final service bill will include a high labour charge as well, due to the time it takes to dismantle the speaker to get to the panels.

 

After about another 2-3 years, around Feb this year, the audio- mains transformer burnt out! This is a cheaply constructed Chinese made transformer that costs nothing more than $50. However, AVR charges $415 for this transformer. (note, this is not the EHT transformer) There is a person based in WA who can locally make the identical transformer to spec with genuine better Australian sourced parts, therefore giving your speaker far more life than the Chinese production runs. (note: nothing against the Chinese, but their QC is very mediocre and not up to par).

 

The fuses kept blowing in the speaker, and we couldn't quite determine what was causing it until we placed in a 1Amp fuse. Since it had nowhere to go, the transformer blew, with a very nasty burning smell coming from the entire panel, and the problem was finally identified.

 

The speaker was sent to Unitech services and it took over 3 months for AVR to send a simple transformer part. Many excuses were made by their GM, who claimed they didn't have the part at first, was away on holiday, and various other excuses to Unitech for not having stock. I made a few phone calls to the big wigs, and managed to get hold of their GM, finally a stock take was done around June end, and the part was suddenly available! It was shipped overnight.

 

After this was replaced, around July end the speaker was sent back, worked for just 1 week, until two other panels failed. However, this time I did not send it to Unitech, I managed to contact the “guru of Quad repairs†John Hall. Truly an amazing person and one that has a passion for Quads.  

 

1.    These Quads must not be transported! By doing so it causes other delicate elements such as panels to give way.

2.    They are quite well built up to the dust covers, which are extremely delicate, working on the panels takes time and patience, plus experience. They require a very careful check list that must be executed by all qualified service techs, otherwise you can learn this yourself and do the job within one full day.

3.    The parts inside, wires, clips, diodes, panels and accessories are very simple, not expensive or high grade in nature compared to dynamic drivers or ribbon speakers, such as maggies.

4.    Based on point 3, John can repair damaged panels for a fraction of the cost and his panels are far more sturdier compared to the Chinese factory, unless these were coming out from the UK, which is not the case.

5.    No where in the history of the previous Quads, has an ESL63 ever blown its audio transformer. This is a common problem with the current production runs, therefore it is highly advisable to retain your damaged transformer and get one locally done up to spec as a spare.

6.    All the panels will eventually fail in the Quads, that’s just the nature of this speaker but the life span can be stretched towards 10-15 years if one placed, just to leave them there without moving around. They don’t like to travel and they should not be transported.

7.    John Hall comes to your place to do the repairs, and he has all the required parts plus is the only person in Australia who has the original conductive coating that is applied onto the mylar.

8.    Super glue is used on the electrodes, this is not effective long term. Super glue only hardens on point of contact, after a period of time this glue breaks up and becomes brittle, causing panel failure- *this is the basic problem for panel failure*

9.    John applies a normal glue that hardens over time, takes around 24-48 hrs to dry, thus giving longer life and greater rigidity. If the Quad factory adopted this, the Quads would never fail.

10.  The internal layout of electronics is not very clever either, transformers and parts are located without careful thought in the event service is required. Basic layout functions have not been considered, therefore to change a transformer it would typically take around 3-4 hours and about 3 hours just to replace a panel.

 

These were my basic findings and I have now gotten the hang of how these actually work, quite simple and straight forward no complicated cross overs to deal with. Just a matter of time and patience it all it takes to get a Quad speaker back in full working condition.

Cheers to all, RJ 

 

 

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Agreed. John Hall is an amazing and generous man. I serviced a pair of 2905s for an SNA member a couple of years back. One of the mains transformers had failed. After discussion with the owner, we decided to replace both transformers with custom wound Australia types. The cost was far less than if the transformers had been sourced from the Australian distributor.

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Regarding transport, what if you have the original speaker cartons including the integrated shipping pallets. These cartons 'cradle' the speaker panels and the base so would minimise problems.

Does J. Hall undertake work outside of Melbourne?

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Re. to transport, no the original cartons aren't that great.

True these are the original packing that comes with these stats, however if they are transported back and forth several times to the service centre, this causes trauma to the panels, resulting in panel failure, which is what exactly happened to mine. At the end of the day, I had transported these things more than 10 times (includes taking into account two trips for to and back from the service centre)= total 5 trips. This was disaster for the Quads!

 

If you really have to ship them to a particular service place, then I suppose you would. But if you could get some hands on experience in servicing them yourself, as I did, then attending to panels is not at all difficult. You just have to have a tremendous amount of patience remain sober...

 

The repairs can easily be done, unfortunately John Hall only operates in Melbourne and the outer suburbs as he is located in Frankston. He's totally against the idea of transporting these and is VERY passionate about Quads, when he works on them, it is like he's attending to sick child...

He is able to identify the problem sometime even without opening them up, and when he does, he seems to know where exactly the problem is.

 

This level of service and experience the current service centers like Unitech wouldn't have a clue because they are new to this type of technology. Therefore, their service is more trial and error, and the more Quads they get in (which lately has been quite a lot) the more experience they would have in fixing / replacing what is required.

 

If you are located away from VIC, then I would suggest to get in touch with someone locally known who can attend to stats or ribbons- very similar in nature, just different mechanisms but requires about the same dedicated type of work.

That would be my best advice, cheers and hope all goes well.

RJ 

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Agreed. John Hall is an amazing and generous man. I serviced a pair of 2905s for an SNA member a couple of years back. One of the mains transformers had failed. After discussion with the owner, we decided to replace both transformers with custom wound Australia types. The cost was far less than if the transformers had been sourced from the Australian distributor.

Hey mate, thanks for your message. If you can source a person who can do the transformers, then I would like to get in touch with that person as well.

Would be kind enough to keep me in mind, since I have already replaced one transformer, I am sure the other one would konk off, perhaps it's a matter of time.

I'll be in touch with you. Cheers RJ

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Good info but Jesus doesn't that put me off of the speakers :s

yes! it would certainly put a lot of people off these Quads, especially after having spent around 16 grand for the pair and another 2 grand just to repair them and goodness knows how much more I would have to spend down the line...

 

But all I can say is that when you're in love with that Quad stat magic, you're hooked for life and no turning back no matter what the maintenance issues are. Something the wifey thinks I am a total retard to have bought Quads...

Cheers to stats! RJ

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John is not the only person in Australia to have the original conductive coating for the mylar. Having talked about this with a handful of experts who specialise in the electrostatic field as I was close to getting a 2905, from what I know and have heard a number of Staticide solutions are superior to what Quad uses, but not easily available. Should they be applied properly by somebody who does know what they are doing and have the right tools and methods of doing so could provide an easy 20+ years of listening joy provided the esl speakers are placed and stored in a clean, non humid and non-direct sunlight or hotspot environment.

Edited by willio747

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I do miss my Quads but I also had trouble with them.

The transformer also went on one of my speakers, it was an intermittent fault for a while until it stopped working

I found the distributor was very little help and I found that Quad in the UK tried to help but what they were suggesting was not the problem, they were adiment it could not be the transformer it was only by me dismantling the speaker I was able to find the fault

After paying a lot of money for these speakers I was very disappointed with the build quality as I was taking them apart

The internal dust cover had a rip in it and was just patched up, screws were put in crooked with a couple of the heads sheared off and just left there and the overall quality was, well cheap, even the electronics were nothing special.

But the sound is nothing more than spectacular I just wished they had taken more care with the construction

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I think I have to say I have owned my 2905s for 5yrs now and they have never missed a beat (touch wood!!). Always switch them off after the listening session unless I'm coming back for more in an hour or so. They sit on 4 concrete pavers (to position the centre closer to ear height and not have them so raked back) therefore they can be moved around for small positioning tweaks. To go up the sound ladder I think I'd have to invest a substantial amount. One item that many people don't realise is that these larger Quads actually 'do' bass very well - not slam bass, but well integrated , balanced bass - mine measure well in my room to 30hz.

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Yes, they can be moved around for positioning, of course! But not too many trips in a rickety van more than 10 times to & fro...

I have found quality control to be quite an issue with these, plus I don't see IAG nor the distributor AVR doing anything about it. There was one chappy who unpacked the speakers straight out of the box to find the "Q" missing in the quad logo, therefore when lit up it read "-UAD." The other one didn't have the little magnetic cover, and the other was missing one spike...

 

I seriously think someone at both ends requires an education! Poor old Peter Walker must be flipping furious.

 

I did forget to mention two very critical points:

 

1. Quad power up: although the owner's manual states these can be left on, since they only consume low wattage, it is not recommended to do so. Why? because when the stators are fully charged, and there is no signal applied for an extensive period of time, the diaphragm is waiting for it to be either pushed or pulled. It doesn't know what to do, hence will start to slowly tither away when left on for long duration with zero signal. The entire panel becomes "over charged" and this is completely unnecessary, reducing the lifespan. The electrostatic charge is achieved within the first few minutes, warm up of just 5 mins is more than adequate for a full charge. What takes long is the discharge process, which can take up to an hour or more due to the EHT. Therefore, if servicing these after switching off, you would have to use an EHT probe that discharges the stat voltage to safe levels, or basically head out to the pub for a few drinks and return after couple hours.

 

2. The Quad Logo: upon opening this up, I noticed that the led logo is actually connected to the mains audio transformer, and not isolated- terrible design! Led's are known to be rectifiers, therefore they will feed back into the audio signal, applying a very distorted dirty sound to the audible frequency. Turn it off when playing music, you will notice a significant difference in the bass, midrange and on strings- much more clearer, tighter bass and smoother clean open midrange- I noticed this straight away.

 

The led logo's were solely designed for cosmetic purposes and should have had its own power supply isolated either with a small ac tranny or connected to a battery pack. Connecting this loop back to the mains transformer is just one dumb act of ignorance to achieving accurate sound. The 57's and 63's never had Led logo's on the front, only the simple red Led on the back which is fine and does not interfere with the sonics.

 

The newer models of the 2912/2812 are no different either. Same panels with exactly the same layout. Slightly better electronic components inside, with better layout for service (if needed some day...?) but overall the same basic speaker as the 2905/2805 series.

 

Unless Quad was to really start from scratch, build an electrostat that is well designed and well built based on simple basic elements (nothing fancy), and just performed well in terms of decent lifespan with a solid after-sales service- I don't see this product going very far down the line.

 

Do I regret buying them? No. Would I get rid of them? No- solely because I love stats and the Quad sound. Although previously I've used maggies for quite a while, they were far more reliable than these new Quads. The pain and hassle plus extra dollars it cost to get the dam things working again was certainly not a straight forward journey.

 

Just for the record, John Hall doesn't use Quads any longer, he sold off his last pair of 2905's and went in for the new maggie MG3.7i. Claims that this is the best system he's ever had but does confess that Quad midrange cannot be beaten...

 

Cheers to Quad! RJ

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agree with the discharge time, was doing some amp comparisons with mine and forgot to switch them back on after one swap and they played quite well for about 30min, it wasn't until the music quality started decaying we realised.....

I've run with the Quad lights off for ages.

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I remember reading somewhere that said if you wanted to get the most unrestricted sound from your Quad speakers remove both the speaker cloth and the dust/protection film - since I've never had any reason to disassemble mine I wonder if you, @@Big Dog RJ, listened to yours with the covers removed?

I believe 4 2905s in a 2 front/2 side set-up (P Walker suggestion for improved domestic ESL set-up ) would sound awesome.

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hey mate, yes we did infact play some tunes when the panels were replaced, with the panels fully exposed. Couldn't quite tell the sound difference, although perhaps the midrange did sound a bit more open, very similar to the ESL57's. But I must say it was butt ugly! I think the covers, including the dust covers sort of add a further diaphragm, according to John, and they also obviously protect the panels. I could really tell whether there was a significant improvement overall compared to switching off the Led logo's, which was quite an apparent difference.

 

Also not a very good idea to play these things open with dust covers off, 1- dust is prone to catch on and 2- the high voltages when audio signals are applied range around 5kv, this is lethal!

 

Put back those covers!

RJ

I'm trying to load a pic of my system, where it also shows the smaller 23L's being run in for a mate.

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A shame that such a great sounding product has so many quality control problems.

When production moved to China prices should have dropped or the build quality should have been better if the prices stayed the same.Neither of which seems to have happened.

If anything build quality appears to have declined and prices have gone up.

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I hadn't heard that you can leave these speakers when not in use (an hour or wouldn't be a problem), not long term anyway.  I've checked the manual and I cannot find a statement that the speakers can be left powered up.  The manual recommends unplugging them during thunderstorms or when not in use for longer periods.  I completely agree with the OP that they should be switched off when not in use - I've always done so.  Perhaps the comment about leaving them powered up was in a review or something.

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Yes, I remember reading somewhere (either in Stereophile / TAS, or What's Hi Fi) stated that these only draw around 6watts on idle / similar to a light bulb, therefore advising leaving on is not an issue, very wrong! 

 

I fully agree with the comment about shifting production to China, the prices should have dropped by a far margin. In fact the original 57's & 63's designed by Peter Walker were never meant to be "expensive" speakers. They were meant to be real world & affordable at the time. The new pricing is just silly, especially when reliability is a major problem, perhaps IAG & Quad think 20 grand for a pair of stats is not much compared to Martin Logans, or Apogee restored ribbons.

 

I strongly believe this is where Sanders stats and Maggies beat the high end hands down in all sides of the spectrum, they are superb value and are second to none. To top it up, their service is out standing! Bloody IAG and AVR cannot even come close to this level of service you get from Magnepan or Roger. It's a far off dream for AVR...

 

I truly hope that one day they get it right because the way things are going it certainly doesn't seem like it. I also have a strong feeling IAG will discontinue the stat line altogether, since they seem to be more focused on driver types, and the build quality on these are far above the stats they currently produce from China. Due to the many issues their stats have faced, I don't think they see it viable to continue, plus IAG is the parent controlling company, hence Quad has no say...

 

They cannot improve on the overall stat sound, what they've come up with on the 2905 & 2912's is about as far as it goes.

Build and reliability is a different planet! How much are they to invest in this area, and how long is it going to take?

 

What they should have done, like what the motor chaps do is to recall all those defective units and offer customers new or refurbished models at zero charge. By doing this, they would have won our confidence back and would have had a strong following. Only the totally insane like me would continue to keep Quads, even humble John Hall got rid of his!

 

If Toyota, Lexus, VW, Range Rover & Jeep can recall their vehicles for a fix up, why the hec can't IAG? a bloody electrostat for crying out loud!

Take it easy and enjoy your music. Cheers,

RJ

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"They cannot improve on the overall stat sound"  ???  do you mean Quad cannot improve on the overall Quad stat sound ? 

or that 2905 is the best that any stat manufacturer can do ?

 

I dispute that, your Honour... the journey in ESLs is a long way from complete. There are many variables / compromises in ESLs. and Quads do ok, but nothing to write home about.

Eraudio Acorns or Innersound - v good. 

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RJ

I recommend you gift me your pair to augment mine and move on. You and I will both feel better.

Cheers. Frank

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Soundlab ESL - I'd listen to this as a replacement for my 2905s.

2b9a5731f6bb2741ea4c37e77a566f27.jpg

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Soundlab ESL - I'd listen to this as a replacement for my 2905s. 2b9a5731f6bb2741ea4c37e77a566f27.jpg

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Very nice.

Not convinced that there's a need for a fire in the fireplace though... :-)

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"They cannot improve on the overall stat sound"  ???  do you mean Quad cannot improve on the overall Quad stat sound ? 

or that 2905 is the best that any stat manufacturer can do ?

 

I dispute that, your Honour... the journey in ESLs is a long way from complete. There are many variables / compromises in ESLs. and Quads do ok, but nothing to write home about.

Eraudio Acorns or Innersound - v good. 

yes, what I meant was that Quad has probably done their best with their stat sound but definitely not reliability. of course there are other stats out there that beat Quads hands down, both in terms of build and sonics. Quad/IAG has to do a complete radical change if they want to see their stats sustain in the long run, I really don't know where they're heading with this current production run.

 

Another factor is their new dynamic driver types are pretty good, such as the 23L Classic series etc. but now they are producing the "S" series with a ribbon tweeter in place, and the price range is far above than what it should be. Hence, for this kind of money there is plenty out there that will compete. Again IAG or AVR is doing their pricing model right.

The 23L's were retailing for just under 3k, now the S series starts at around 5k or 6k, this is definitely going to be a very hard sell.

RJ

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RJ

I recommend you gift me your pair to augment mine and move on. You and I will both feel better.

Cheers. Frank

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hee haw Frank! Hell no; although my Quads have been a virtual pain in the buttocks, I still absolutely love their sound no matter what. Sometime down the far/near road I may go back to maggies, we'll see. cheers mate,

RJ

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Soundlab ESL - I'd listen to this as a replacement for my 2905s.

2b9a5731f6bb2741ea4c37e77a566f27.jpg

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yes sir! I've listened to these back in hey day in Chicago, mate of mine had an older version, bloody huge- driven by VTL MB700 series. Plenty of power and drive, quite impressive indeed. The only thing they are massive and over here I don't have the space at all. If I did then yes Soundlab indeed but you also require mega watt amplification. My little 300B or CJ gear would pop like a fire cracker!

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The Chinese made Quads are giving ESL's, Quads and Chinese manufacturing a bad image. This is such a pity as ESL's in general can sound superb and the Quads are a classic. The Quads 2905 is a superb sounding speaker in the right room but if you think the reliability is poor in the drier southern states you would not be impressed by the panel failure rate in more humid climates. I think ER audio could provide kits for sorting out the panels and with the Aussie wound trannies plus a few other mods the 2905 could be resurrected. Or get one of the Aussie ER-audio or "Dragon" speakers or old Acoustat ESLs that have a solid reputation for reliability?

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