Head-Fi.org › Forums › Summit-Fi (High-End Audio) › High-end Audio Forum › Quad ESL57 frustrations.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Quad ESL57 frustrations.

post #1 of 60
Thread Starter 

I started with vintage Stax and liked the sound so I saw how much some people on here like there esl57's. So when I saw a pair locally for sale I bought them. Problem is they have been more problems than anything.

I am just venting some frustration. I spent the night rebuilding one of the EHT's. Put in new diodes and got it all back together and nothing. I just have a little 12 watt EL34 se amp from China. I had the volume really high

and actually did get sound but it was low and worked the same unplugged. I just went to Ebay and bought a $125 pair of EHT boards from "Electrostatic Solutions."  I sure hope that that is for a pair and not just one. I will

feel safer with the new EHT boards. This speaker was in really good original shape. My other speaker has more problems. One bass panel is now removed but I will have 3 that look all intact that I bought from Ebay next week.

I had to change the dustcover on the treble panel. I think I did a good job but I used 3M window material and may or may not be too thick. Once I get them together I think I will get the proper material in the future. Mine are made

in June 1970. I almost just wanted to give them away after seeing the bass panel and treble dustcover repair. Knowing that it will be a money pit I just hope to see some light on the other side. Is there any hope I can get good sound

out of these speakers again?

post #2 of 60

Umm did you not audition them?


The ESL 57 is extremely picky and you absolutely have to take care of it.  Almost baby it.  I don't think you really did your research as you would know you're not supposed to blast the ESL 57 (not to mention some of your questions in the Stax thread).


You can't play them loud.

You can't put more than about 27 WPC into them without using a clamp board like the one you bought.  Otherwise you'll arc the panels.

You shouldn't have them in a humid climate.

You should keep them out of the sun.

You need to give the panels time to charge with old Quads.

You need a powerful (not talking high WPC) amp to handle the load presented by the speaker.  A cheapy Chinese amp is probably crumbling under the Quad's load...at least mine was when I briefly tried.  It actually shut itself off.


As you can see these aren't your average speakers and I don't think most people have the discipline to do all this.  There are probably a few things I forgot, but if you treat them right you'll get some really terrific sound.  The fact people go through all this for them speaks volumes about their sound. 


Get the clamping boards and install them, read about taking care of them, get an amp that can handle the load, read about taking care of them, cross your fingers, read about taking care of them, and try again.  If you can't rebuild the panels or get them up and running you can always send them to one of the various restorers out there. 

post #3 of 60
Thread Starter 

I didn't buy clamp boards I bought new replacement EHT boards. I must have done something wrong when I replaced the diodes in the original EHT because I don't think the speaker was getting any power at all. They were producing sound without being plugged in and from the amp alone. I put so many frustrating hours into them . This week I should get the 3 bass panels 2 are a matching set. If I get one good one I will be happy and on the road to a fairly nice set of stock esl57's. I am taking it slow so far because I go up to the oil field to work quite a bit. I did have them working but someone years ago put a new dust cover on one bass panel and did a bad job. The treble panel did not go quite as has as the other speak but the dustcover was very out of shape on that treble panel. It was stuck to the stator in spots. Now my hope is I get them back together and get to listen to them and if the treble still seems off I will send them to a restorer but hope the bass panels will be fine stock.

post #4 of 60

If your quest does not work out, there is an alternative. The Hammer Dynamics Super 12s were John Wyckoff's end result of his quest. " The S-12 represents my efforts to create a loudspeaker that sounds like Quad ESLs with much greater dynamic range, sensitivity and another octave on the bass-end." An old review, which compares it to the ESL-57: http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0600/super12.htm


They are not picky about anything and are a very easy load to drive. A couple of watts will do. I know this speaker very well. They are my go to speaker for some years now. You do have to build the cabinets yourself. The speakers and crossover components for a pair are $650 shipped. They will sound as good as what you can feed them with.


Not the best for really loud rock but very versatile anyway. Not like any other single driver augmented I have ever heard. Far superior to the Zu Druids, for instance.

Edited by Clarkmc2 - 12/19/10 at 11:33pm
post #5 of 60

I don't think a box speaker can really sound like the Quads

post #6 of 60
Originally Posted by n3rdling View Post

I don't think a box speaker can really sound like the Quads

Either did I until I heard it. Of course it does not sound exactly like a Quad. Actually, it sounds better to me. The "box" is a pipe tuned to about 500hz. The construction and damping is quite important for success, however. I went a good bit beyond the construction plans.


The mids are really remarkable but it is also much more balanced than a Quad. Great hifi bass and highs to match the mids. Put a FirstWatt current source amp on it and I have never heard a better overall presentation from a speaker, anywhere. As for what I have not heard, my friends who know both tell me Tannoys are not in the hunt.


An absolutely remarkable speaker design that is totally under the radar. It keeps up with my Stax. What else can I say?

Edited by Clarkmc2 - 12/20/10 at 2:20am
post #7 of 60

Hi Jaycalgary,


For a pair of old Quad 57 to work properly, you have to be very patient.  I have a friend who bought a pair from Japan.  The sound from both speakers didn't play equally loud, and he had to charge up the speakers for almost half a year until they sounded equally.  Normally you do not want to unplug your speakers from the electrical outlet.


The coating on the diaphragm of Quad 57 deteriorate its conductivity through time.  This is very normal.  There is nothing you can do about it unless you want to disassemble them and redo the coating.


Wachara C.


post #8 of 60

The varying impedance load is a killer for many amps.


Not alot of amps can handle a load that varies between 2-20ohms.


The quads will produce sound on a amp that cant handle the load, BUT it will roll off the frequency extremes, leading them to sound crap. People do make replacement treble panels that help keep a more constant less demanding treble load.

post #9 of 60

I still fondly remember my triple stacked esl57's with the decca ribbon tweeters.

They played very loud. They were also floor to ceiling.

Best when driven with a pure class A power amp. Like the original levinson things.


(the picture is 35 years old)

Edited by kevin gilmore - 12/20/10 at 4:36am
post #10 of 60

I cant take my eyes off your tv Kevin. Truely epic.


I have heard very good things about stacked esl57s

post #11 of 60

What you don't know is that is one of the original prototypes of that zenith TV

which i got when working there at the time.  The top was one solid piece of .75 inch

thick brazillian rosewood.  When i pitched the tv years later, i kept the rosewood.


The subwoofer was a helmholz resonator (JBL patent) with a 15 inch massive

JBL driver with a 5 inch voice coil. 5 watts would shake the world.

Edited by kevin gilmore - 12/20/10 at 6:13am
post #12 of 60

I loved those 50s and 60s TVs.  I would buy them up broken or obsolete in the 70s - especially the console models with sliding tambour doors - and take the guts out and sell the cases as cocktail cabinets.


To the OP: Good luck.  The ESL (as it was, when it was the only one) was, like a lot of 50s hifi, basically home made and improvised.  I know plenty of people who keep them going, but it's a bit like having a 1940s MG to work on.  A labor of love.

post #13 of 60

I just love this one, http://gilmore.chem.northwestern.edu/bfp1.jpg.  A Stax SRA-3S sitting there on the left... smily_headphones1.gif


As for the ESL, the last ones were made in 1984-85 so any used set can have issues.  On top of that many owners have no idea just how bad direct sunlight, high wattage amps etc. is for these speakers so they are abused no end. 

post #14 of 60

Don't forget the stax electrostatic phono cart box that is right next to it.smile.gif

post #15 of 60

Oh neat I've never seen one of those, only read about them.  How'd it perform?  On the subject of Quads, I'm running mine currently with a Bedini 25/25 but am wondering if a Stax DA-80 would power it even better.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: High-end Audio Forum
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Summit-Fi (High-End Audio) › High-end Audio Forum › Quad ESL57 frustrations.