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Has anyone owned both electrostatic and ribbon driver speakers (magneplaners or something like that) and what did they think the main sound differences were


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As stated above wondering if anyone had been fortunate enought to try both types of these great technologies and to share what they thought of each. I've owned a set of vintage Acoustat electrostatics for a while now -which i really enjoy but I always wonder what the other side of the fence sound like...:-)

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I had Acoustat III ' s (full range electrostatics) for 25 years then switched to big Maggies.  Looking for a change at the time - in fact, I changed everything.  After 10 years I am happy with the M's and if I were to change I would only go further up the M chain to the big daddy.

 

In one word, the electrostatics are "fizzy" in comparison, the big Maggies are "smoother".

 

Can't comment on the smaller M's though.  I think that the M's get "richer" the bigger they get.  Due to better foundational bass - maybe.

 

In both cases they need good amplification; and as you know it's hard to beat a boxless sound.

 

[There may well be M owners in Qld that might let you have a listen.]

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  • 1 month later...

I've not listened to Maggies, but all electros I've listened to (EL57's, EL63's, Martin Logan) tended to having the stereo image collapse to one side when moving off axis - EL57's and Martin Logan's especially.

 

I still love EL57's - in their sweet spot they're hard to beat, but they don't cop volume, and move off axis and the stereo image is gone :(

 

Mike

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Posted (edited)

I’ve had Maggies, owned some small ribbons (Aurum Cantus), Nakamichi Dragon active hybrids and currently own Martin Logans. My father also has some lovely 7” ribbons. 
 

I've recently changed to the MLs from some multi-cone floor standers and when seeking a change, specifically sought out ribbons or ESLs.

 

I like what a true ribbon and ESLs do for midrange and treble and I like the boxlessness and very open sound which comes from how the rear wave interacts with the room. 
 

Midrange and treble is to die for - it’s extended and smooth and airy and just lacking in grain or harshness. This is my current experience and previous with my father’s and my own ribbons. 
 

the small Maggie’s I had had some qualities (openness) of my more recent products but lacked the extension and transparency of the upper mid and treble. But then, they were a flat panel only and not a true ribbon. 
 

I have my MLs set up in such a way that imaging in the sweet spot is scarily holographic. It’s true the stage collapses a little when moving away from the central position but it’s actually not as bad as people make out. Well, it’s not really any worse than any other dynamic coned speakers I’ve owned. If anything, I think width and the surround effect is significantly better than anything else I’ve had even when I’m off centre. Sure, the centre moves but overall, things hold together really well. I’ve recently sold off a bunch of amps and surround speakers to go back to two channel but I’m definitely not missing the immersion effect my current ML’s give (pseudo-surround)
 

I also find that with taller speakers, they fill the room so much better and the stage is far bigger when compared to even floor standing dynamics ive had before. 
 

if you have amps stable into the low impedances of ribbons and ESLs, and the Physical room, you certainly owe it to yourself to at least try a set. It has the potential to be a pretty special experience. If you lack the physical room, a quality hybrid dynamic woofer and ribbon mid/tweeter could be the go. 
 

I purchased ESLs this time around because a true, wide-band ribbon from Magneplanar is big and pricey. My MLs are smaller and more affordable. I could end up in an apartment soon enough so wanted something good for medium to smaller spaces. I also like the look of MLs more. 
 

im in Kenmore. Message me if you’d like to pop over for a listen. 


 

Edited by The Steever
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Posted (edited)

I’ve had the Maggie 2.6, Apogee smaller hybrid ribbon, Ambience 1600 hybrid and Quad 57, enough exposure with Quad 2905, Martin Logan $3-25k models and Rob McKinley fullrange ESL, Nakamichi Dragon hybrid ESL, Acoustat Spectra 11 hybrid and have had my Acoustat 121 two panel ESL for the last 17 years which I find the best among of them as they give a full range sound, image the best with excellent detail, musicality, play loud enough, robust and reliable. The McKinley ESL are the most detailed and image best among them but don’t play loud and membranes may need changing every 10 years.

 

Although the treble is more detailed, just about all the hybrid designs are flawed at the end of the day as the woofer doesn’t integrate seamlessly as well with as a full range panel. I would keep your Acoustats as they are the most stable and long lasting among all of these designs, spares can be found and quite underrated, without spending huge money and risking reliability (e.g. Quads) and going backwards.

 

Others like Kingsound and Soundlab ESL might be worth trying.

Edited by Al.M
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I have owned the Maggie 1.7 and the Martin Logan ESL. I have lived with the Quad ESL-63 and the Maggie LRS on loan. I have heard the Maggie 3.7i.

 

All these speakers are a revelation in their own way! [And there are many makers of good panel speakers.]

 

I credit any of these with some of the most sublime musical moments of my life as an audiophile. Particularly unforgettable was the Quad ESL-63, driven by the VTL Minimal valve preamp and the 75 Stereo, with Dyna FM-3 valve tuner playing live concerts as source. Vocals, woodwinds, 'atmosphere'...goose-bump time continually. Mon Dieu!

 

Very unfortunately the electrostatic panels usually need regular maintenance. The Martin Logans will play loud if you want; so will the Maggies. But, It's also 'difficult' (not impossible) to get a valve power amp that will drive Maggies satisfactorily--I find they needs heaps of current to get up and dance.

 

But I could live with either kind of panel without regrets. It doesn't have to be a binary choice.

 

I think if funds were unlimited I would investigate the pimped-out iterations of the Quad ESL-57, augmented by supertweeters and subs, and driven by none but the choicest esoteric valve gear.

 

A lot depends on the kind of music you like most. And the associated gear. I am a lover of tonality and timbre. So for female voice and chamber jazz I am a valve amp & speaker panel tragic....I can't help it. I was born like this 🙂

 

Just my 2c worth

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17 hours ago, Al.M said:

Although the treble is more detailed, just about all the hybrid designs are flawed at the end of the day as the woofer doesn’t integrate seamlessly as well with as a full range panel.

If done right, the integration can be seamless. The problem for some people  I think, is that “done right” requires digital crossovers and delay. 
I think my (Sanders) electrostats integrate seamlessly. I’ve heard both @andyr’s and @aechmea’s systems which both have subs with digital crossover and delay - they also nail it. 

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Posted (edited)

In terms of treble responses not all ESL fullrange or hybrid and ribbon designs sound the same. Generally I havnt found ESL treble to be fizzy, instead too smooth, lacking or dull in some models.

 

The Nakamichi Dragon hybrid ESL and full range McKinley use dedicated tweeter sections and have treble detail as good as any high quality ribbon design with treble being very ethereal and micro detailed (Apogee, Maggie 2.6 etc).

 

I found all Martin Logan’s that I have experienced in the $3-25k range so far to be quite treble muted in comparison and the curve panel design while slightly better at wider sweet spot, not as coherent, focussed or image as well as a flat panel ESL by a significant margin.

 

Ambience hybrid ribbon speakers like the 1400 and 1600 models I had was also less detailed in the higher treble. The bigger models have better treble. Compared to a full range ESL it lacks the coherence and midrange magic.

 

My humble Acoustat 121 is a full range ESL of thicker membrane and much more robust and long lasting material (30-40 years old), somewhere between in treble and has a brightness control to adjust and responds well with brighter sounding preamps and amps. It has a sound similar to a Quad 2905 ESL, with less bass, very coherent, disappears and images well with very good timbre and tone.

 

A Quad 57 still has the best midrange, imaging, coherence and tonality but seriously lacks bass and treble.

 

If I had to do this from scratch, apart from major cost items like top of the range Martin Logan full range ESL and look into others like Kingsound (havnt heard them), at lower cost I would get a Rob McKinley new DIY kit full range ESL with a matching subwoofer (DIY TL design) or find an old Acoustat 2+2 full range large ESL (very rare in Aust but more common in the USA), effectively a x2 version of what I have.

Edited by Al.M
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Posted (edited)

I currently have a pair of Acoustat Spectra 22s and my good (audiophile) friend Tim has some Maggies.

I know my Spectra 22s like the back of my hand and I am deeply familiar with Tim's Maggies.

Actually, I love Tim's Maggies!

I have heard every electrostat that I possibly could over the years.

Thought the original ML full range CLS's were the best of the Martin Logans (& I listened to them extensively at a friend's house).

I have heard a number of the different MLs over the years and always thought that they were good ... but.

That is regard to sound.

Regarding panel life, well, depending on your luck and your environment the panels will have to be replaced regularly or semi regularly.

Have heard all of the Quads over the years and loved them.

Loved the Sanders that I heard in the home of one of the prominent posters here.

Have heard some other Acoustat models also.

Have not heard any electrostat that bettered my Spectra 22s (but some have been close or maybe equal!).

Maybe the SoundLabs might be better than my 30 plus year old Spectra 22s but SoundLab don't seem to want to sell their speakers - hey, their Australian agent has been dead for seven years!

Although he is still listed on their website!

And they never answered any of the three emails that I sent to them recently.

So, as I look to replace my Spectra 22s I am getting a guy (Gary) to make me some custom full range electrostats using Rob from ER Audio's panels.

Will see how they go - they are currently under construction.

I am confident that Rob's panels and Gary's cabinet will sound substantially better than my Spectra 22s, but exactly how much?

Only time will tell.

No, electrostats do not all sound the same - but there is some level of family resemblance.

Regarding Maggies they are good, they are better than most speakers, but, they are not electrostats!

I want to say that in my opinion they are a poor man's electrostat, but I don't want to offend anyone.

So, instead I will say they are maybe two thirds to three quarters of an electrostat!

I guess that I could say a lot more but that is a brief over view of my experiences.

Hope you find it helpful.

Bruce

Edited by BruceS
auto correct does not like the word electrostat!
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33 minutes ago, BruceS said:

.....Hope you find it helpful.

Bruce

 

Fascinating post there thanks Bruce.  You've got a wealth of experience.

How long did you have the Spectra's for? Did they need repairing?

 

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Reckon that I have had them for the better part of 35 years.

Purchased them direct from the factory in the US.

They have never been repaired and they still work a treat!

Of course, they use a much thinner membrane these days and that is surely going to improve the sound.

I think the 'plastic' they used for the speakers goes brittle over time.

So, I guess when I move them out to get my music room re-carpeted they may crack and the panels lose their charge.

Hope that does not happen but my new electrostats are under construction and are not all that far away!

Will note that it is a lot of work to get the Spectra 22s positioned correctly.

Probably comes down to millimetres.

But when you hit that sweet spot everything just clicks into place.

I have masking tape on the floor of my music room so that I never have to go through that long drawn out position exercise again!

And I am going to make cardboard templates of the spots before the re-carpeting!!

Bruce

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, BruceS said:

 

Regarding Maggies they are good, they are better than most speakers, but, they are not electrostats!

I want to say that in my opinion they are a poor man's electrostat, but I don't want to offend anyone.

So, instead I will say they are maybe two thirds to three quarters of an electrostat!

 

 

As a 25-year Maggie owner, Bruce, I suggest it depends which Maggie model you are talking about?  :)

 

The 'true-ribbon' tweeter on the bigger, 3-way Maggies, goes up higher than a stat can ... and the bass is better from big-Maggie bass panels than from non-hybrid stats.  And the 'sweet spot' is much wider!

 

But, yes, the stat mid range is streets ahead in clarity & presence than any Maggie mid-range.  :thumb:

 

Andy

 

Edited by andyr
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, BruceS said:

Reckon that I have had them for the better part of 35 years.

Purchased them direct from the factory in the US.

They have never been repaired and they still work a treat!

Of course, they use a much thinner membrane these days and that is surely going to improve the sound.

I think the 'plastic' they used for the speakers goes brittle over time.

So, I guess when I move them out to get my music room re-carpeted they may crack and the panels lose their charge.

Hope that does not happen but my new electrostats are under construction and are not all that far away!

Will note that it is a lot of work to get the Spectra 22s positioned correctly.

Probably comes down to millimetres.

But when you hit that sweet spot everything just clicks into place.

I have masking tape on the floor of my music room so that I never have to go through that long drawn out position exercise again!

And I am going to make cardboard templates of the spots before the re-carpeting!!

Bruce

 

I think my Acoustat Model 2 with 121 interface are the precursor to your Spectra 22 and likely to sound very similar. Wish you well with your Rob McKinley custom build. I havnt heard his latest large fullrange ESLs but familiar with his 15 year old versions, which were very good though not able to drive them as loud as the Acoustat and much less bass, but they imaged better, had more refined treble and more ethereal sound, gave amps a hard time with low impedance getting very hot.

 

If I were you would keep the Spectra 22 for a while until you are sure after a year or two that the McKinley can replacement them.  I’ve had mine for about 17 years and glad I didn’t sell them in the past as I’ve really started to appreciate them in the last 5 years with better preamps and amps and gone full circle after hearing so many other speakers fail. They are quite easy to drive with about a 50w amp, good on SS and tube but Class D amp is not so good with them.

 

Here is a brochure of mine below 

 

D81D4790-3AF4-4333-AD66-EE896CC7D8D7.jpeg

Edited by Al.M
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1 hour ago, BruceS said:

Reckon that I have had them for the better part of 35 years.

 

5 minutes ago, Al.M said:

I think my Acoustat Model 2 with 121 interface are the precursor to your Spectra 22

 

Those Acoustat panels have an amazing lifespan.  Considering the voltages involved its astonishing!

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Regarding the sweet spot, I sit in my single chair in my music room and the width /breadth of the sweet spot is not an issue to me.

Hey, I never even think of it unless I am on a site where people talk about it!

I know that there are guys whose wives listen with them and it is certainly an issue with them!

Gary who is doing the frames for my new electrostats is one such person, him and his wife listen to their music together.

He actually wrote about the width of the sweet spot in his communication to me!

But I just let it pass over me.

But, yes the sweet spot width is very important to some people.

Let me say again, I love Maggies!

But here is the thing, I know my new electrostats are going to be better if only because of the significantly thinner membrane.

On top of that there are a host of other improvement that Rob has made on his ESL IV, here is the link (& you can see the model which Gary is making for me): http://www.eraudio.com.au/DIY_Speaker_Kits/ESL_IV_Kit/esl_iv_kit.html

Planer magnets are good, when people think of them they think Maggies, but there is a guy who makes curved ones, here is his link: http://www.absolutedimension.com

They look great and I bet they sound great!

The thing is with speakers, everyone has their own particular 'liking'.

That is a good thing.

I like electrostats and I can hear the difference between different electrostats, as well as between electrostats and planer magnetics!

I think what produces the difference that appeals to me is probably the ultra thin & light diaphragm - the coating weighs nothing whereas making the diaphragm 'magnetic' adds weight.

But I could be wrong - just me pondering.

I could easily live with Maggies but they would probably not even fit into my small music room!!!!

My audiophile friend Tim has a room maybe five times as big as min - it is his lounge room!

Maggies need to be out from the rear wall.

Tim's are probably four or five feet out - the big wooden base 'slab' of my Spectra 22s touches the architrave on one corner!

Of course, with the true ribbon that does change things for the better with Maggies as regards diaphram weight..

In my opinion planer magnetics are 'better' than maybe 99.9% (maybe 99.99% or more!) of speakers, but again that is just me!!

People love horns, and full range speaker and baffle mounted conventional speakers, not to mention the endless variations of box speakers..

Again that is one of the things so great about Maggies - no box to listen to!!

Hope I have made some helpful observations.

Please forgive my speculations.

Bruce

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🤔 whenever people talk about woofer/stator integration on hybrid ESLs. 
 

I’ve owned or sold ML from the Aerius and on and although I’ve tried to listen for the issue as described, I’ve struggled to hear it. 
 

my current Ethos models have some pretty fancy DSP going on with them apparently and I honestly can’t fault them. In fact, I find them better than almost all full range dynamic cone speakers I’ve owned. I even boxed up my active subwoofer after listing to these at home for the first time. 

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I have owned and currently own many electrostatics, and have made strong acquaintance with with Martin Logan Summit's as well Magnepan 20.7's & 1.7i's.

I well and truly favour electrostatics. There's a naturalness of sound character and delicacy to them that the planar's just can't seem to do.

I agree with the above sentiments regarding hybrid designs and their inability to integrate the bass driver with the panels. Has always stood out like a sore thumb for me.

 

I know the grass may seem greener on the other side, but stick with your Stat's. You'll be glad you did.

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On 28/05/2021 at 9:10 PM, Be Quiet...Listen said:

 

I know the grass may seem greener on the other side, but stick with your Stat's. You'll be glad you did.

Very true and an issue I’m currently wrestling with. 
Do I try integrating 2x subs with my 2905s, and which subs? This is a topic I’ve been musing on for several years. 
Or, just jump in for a new speakers such as B&W 800D3 / Wilson Sasha-Daw / Hulgich Duke or makes/models of similar pedigree.   A big issue for me is not being able to demo at home, and, not even being able to demo several speakers in one location (I’d likely have to go to WA & Vic). 
Finally, while I really enjoy my Quads I worry one day I’ll need to get them fixed and as far as I can ascertain no-one in SA does this. Shipping interstate doesn’t seem like a realistic option.  

 

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Posted (edited)

Sub integration is certainly an issue with electrostats.

Although ML keep saying they have solved the problem I wonder if that is completely accurate.

I have listened to a number of the MLs and something seemed to be 'not quite right' except for the CLS which did not have a cone sub woofer!!

I really thought that the CLS was something special sound wise.

But they don't make them any more.

I wonder if that was due to impedance issues?

I know they had really old coating tech (I believe it was just carbon powder) but that could easily be solved.

I believe David Janszen from JansZen Electrostatics has claimed to have solved all of the integration issues in his latest VALENTINA P8s.

The JansZen site address is: https://janszenaudio.com/products/valentina-p8-passive

Since I have not heard them I cannot comment but I have found David to be a very straightforward person in my correspondences.

Regarding my own use of 'integration' I have had problems.

I have two ML Dynamos which are sealed units.

I tried the crossover on the back of my Spectra 22s and it just sounded 'off'.

I tried the crossover on the Dynamos and it sounded 'off' also.

Now I don't try to integrate anything at all.

I just turn the internal crossover point as low as possible on the Dynamos and run them straight.

I find that to be better.

Can't hear the subs when they are playing but I can hear their absence when I turn them off.

All in all I would suggest that people avoid hybrid electrostats with the possible exception of the JansZens.

By the way David does offer a 'try in your home and return it if you don't like it service'.

So, I guess that if someone really wanted they could take David up on the offer and listen for themselves.

Just some thoughts which I hope are helpful.

Bruce

 

Edited by BruceS
that autocorrector again!
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  • 3 weeks later...

Electrostats and panel speakers have always been a love/hate thing for me.On certain types of music they can sound great but they are very room and positioning fussy .I really think electrostats tend to impose a fair bit of their own sound on the whole system which might be a good thing.Or not.I always found the vintage QUADs a bit underwhelming and have heard plenty of hybrid electrostats with poorly integration of the woofers and panels.My Nakamichi Dragons were quite decent in that regard.I am yet to hear an electrostat that sounds right with well recorded piano.There is always a bit too much of a dull stretched plastic quality which does not ring true.Piano should have some ring/clang to it and the ESL panel material does not seem able to reproduce it accurately.Of course if you do not listen to piano music that does not matter.

On reflection the electrostat speaker I most enjoyed was a pair of old B&W DM70s.They were hybrids but had quite well integrated bass and the smallish curved electrostat panels sounded very pure and surprisingly dynamic.Probably the nicest speakers I have owned for female vocals.

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Thanks for reminding me of those B&W DM70s THOMO.

I had forgotten that I have also heard them and also the Crown/Amcron hybrid electrostats.

All many years ago now!

I enjoyed them but for me the life changing moment was when I heard my first full range electrostats, the Quad 63s.

I had been interested in horns up until then.

Probably I would have purchased some.

Was certainly investigating them.

Think my short list was between JBL and Electrovoice.

Glad I did not go down that horn path.

Although I listen to a wide variety of music I use acapella music (both male and female) when I assess speakers.

That is a total of four tracks across four albums.

I plan to be at the next Melbourne HiFi Show for the whole three days next year - if you are there you will no doubt hear some being played!!

Must admit, that although I enjoy piano music it is not so familiar to me that I could use it to assess speakers.

Oh, and by the way, I have two 'spine tingling' tracks that I also use - just to see if there are any goose bumps!!!!

That is both male and female.

Thanks for the reminder about the B&Ws, it is a shame that B&W did not stay with electrostats.

Bruce

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