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Have Quad ESLs had their day?

Discussion in 'classic' started by fran, Oct 20, 2021.

  1. fran

    fran pfm Member

    I am a bit of a Quad fan. I have stacked 57s (in need of restoration, working fine but with rolled off treble) and 2 sets of 63s. I've just finished (I hope) completely restoring the second of these sets, with new panels all round, and refurbed EHT units. They sound great!

    But it had been about 5 years since I replaced just a few panels in the first set of 63s. I went back to look around the internet on what was happening on restorations - sources for materials, new videos on youtube, commentary on forums etc. I was quite surprised that I found relatively little new material. By "new material" I mean comments/questions from people who were eg fixing up a set or something.

    So I wondered to myself - have quads in general sorta fallen out of favour? 10 years ago they were still much sought after and very much ranked in any top 10 or 20 of best speakers. Not so much now it seems.

    Maybe my googling is below par. What say ye?
  2. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    I will never part with my ‘57’s.
    Rosewind and MotelBlues like this.
  3. Bob Edwards

    Bob Edwards pfm Member

    While fabulous speakers, I think that many of the people who we would describe as newer to the hobby are put off by the need to restore them every few years, by the need to be cautious with volume, placement, etc., and so they aren't as popular as they used to be. The number of people who thrive on the TLC Quads require (57s and 63s, at least) seems to be dipping as people find other speakers that sound as good to them as Quads without the "headaches" that accompany them.
  4. sq225917

    sq225917 Bit of this, bit of that

    As a product, size, room requirements etc, they're less attractive as time goes on. One box streaming hifi with quads anyone?

    They're just not a thing for the modern music consumer and their houses.

    That said I have a set of 63s languishing that need a panel fixing and I'm only marginally old.
    Nytechy and Robert like this.
  5. MUTTY1

    MUTTY1 Waste of bandwidth

    Perhaps peeps don’t accept the compromises needed to get them singing properly anymore? When I had a pair I had a big room to use them in but they irritated me more than they pleased me. Before I sold them I used one on its own for a few weeks. Can’t remember why, but I really enjoyed the experience.
    I do wonder in hindsight whether if they had been on castors I would have kept them. A pain to live with and a compromise too far.
  6. fran

    fran pfm Member

    @sq225917 - yes a friend said something very similar to me the other day - not many houses can accommodate them and give them the room to breathe they might need.

    Personal opinion - I think the curse of failing stator glue, and the seeming inability of Quad to have used something more stable over time might well have killed that goose.

    This is not quad bashing by the way - I think the ownership rate should confirm that.
    MUTTY1 likes this.
  7. rstloup

    rstloup pfm Member

    I just got a pair of ESLs in July and am very happy -- although I'm running one as a mono system for now due to some space constraints. They don't come up for sale often in the US. I found my pair locally through the estate of an old radio engineer that used to work for the BBC and eventually WBAI in the 1960s. His friend + estate executor gave me a good deal on a whole Quad system because he knew I would appreciate it and take care of it. I don't plan on parting with them. It's some of the best sound I've experienced and the perfect speaker for 78s. I just hope eventually I'll have the room to set them up in stereo properly.

    The community of Quad folks in the US has been very generous -- i.e. Sheldon Stokes.
    martin clark likes this.
  8. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    I was in the same position recently with both 63s & 57s needing work. Kept looking at them cluttering up the flat and meaning to get them sorted..... but then nah,, don't have the motivation and just sit and enjoy the very capable little LS50.

    I've had the best part of 20 years using and thoroughly enjoying Quads. Let them go for a song for another enthusiast to enjoy.
  9. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    I have spent 15 years working on the sound of my ESL system. I often think that they’re not worth the expense and trouble and space they take up. However whenever I listen to it play medium and large scale music - let’s say four or more voices - I say to myself that I will keep it, and pay whatever it takes to get them serviced when needs must. For me, I should say, a large part of the pleasure of the music is the sensuality, the visceral quality, of the sound, so good hifi matters I guess. And I don’t much enjoy nearfield listening, so little speakers are never going to be anything other than an interior design compromise for me.

    Part of the problem is that I’ve never been so impressed by the other large systems I’ve heard - maybe because I haven’t heard them for long enough, or in the best set up. I’m thinking large Tannoys and Shahinian.

    But w.r.t. the question to the title of this thread, I’ve heard that the UK refurbishment companies - Quad and One Thing - are very busy indeed.
  10. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    It is this restoration aspect that puts me off. The original ESLs are the speaker I’ve wanted to own since I was a kid, they are unquestionably a ‘bucket list’ device for me, but I keep putting it off as I know exactly how obsessive I am and just how hard finding the right pair would be (I’d want absolutely mint, boxed, and working perfectly as a pair). It just seems too daunting to grab even a really tidy pair (e.g. no grille dings) off eBay and trying to restore them to genuinely as-new condition. It took me years to get the TD-124, JR-149s or TL12 Plus the way I wanted and they are remarkably simple things compared with a 50-70 year old electrostatic loudspeaker with mylar drivers treated with long obsolete chemicals.

    PS IIRC there is a company in Germany that will actually build new pairs to the original Quad spec (OTA change too much for my taste). Not cheap though, about £6k last time I looked! They’ll do the Braun design too!
    Robert likes this.
  11. Barrymagrec

    Barrymagrec pfm Member

    I have a pair of 57s that have been in my loft for over 30 years, There just isn`t room to use them in this house, since we have decided not to move I should probably think about moving them on but I have never heard better.....
  12. sideshowbob

    sideshowbob 47 Lab Rat

    Always wanted a pair of 57s, never had the right room for them when I was younger, and now I do, I'm happy with Tannoys (my main speakers for 15 years or more now).
    Robert likes this.
  13. zippy

    zippy pfm Member

    I'd always lusted after Quads but as with many other potential owners, I never had room for them.
    I eventually managed to have a home listen to Quad 63's compared with KEF Reference 4, and the KEFs easily won - I bought the KEFs...
  14. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    What you could do is buy a cheap knackered pair from ebay and send them to One Thing for a complete restauration. I think they will come back immaculate and working as a pair. I alsi think you could ask then not to make changes from the original spec -- though I'm not sure about how flexible they are about the glue. Boxes come up quite often.
  15. brecklandboy

    brecklandboy pfm Member

    The 'glue issue' with modern 'Quad stats is well documented but I understand that revised panel construction methods have now laid this particular demon to rest. Later generation 'stats are clearly more sophisticated and generally more expensive to fix than the original models. Newer 'stats also have more panels to replace which adds to the potential rebuild costs.

    ESL57s are of simpler design and construction however and IMHO rebuild costs are not prohibitive if you plan on keeping the speakers for the long run. Unless they are abused and neglected, which unfortunately has been their fate in far too many cases, they can prove to be very reliable and can be run on a shoestring. The lower pair in my stacked array purchased in 2015 date from 1961 and aside from replacement of the dust covers and E.H.T. blocks by Quad in 2001 are in completely original condition. The top pair purchased 4 years ago date from 1976 and had the same minor servicing items replaced by Quad in 1997. Again, they are otherwise in totally original condition. All speakers are in very good working order and sound great. They have cost me absolutely nothing in the way of repairs during my long ownership which is a pretty good testament to their inherent longevity if used properly. They remain a true reference speaker and are still ridiculously cheaply priced in relation to the sound quality they provide. Internet forum commentary has unfortunately 'planted the seed ' in the minds of potential buyers that they are 'difficult' speakers so they remain unloved and unwanted by the majority of hi-fi enthusiasts which is a great shame as they really deserve to be heard and used by a wider audience. Long live Quads !
    disco, MotelBlues, tonerei and 3 others like this.
  16. Del monaco

    Del monaco Del Monaco

    So I wondered to myself - have quads in general sorta fallen out of favour?

    Not if people are still using and enjoying them.
    disco likes this.
  17. JensenHealey

    JensenHealey pfm Member

    I am sure many people still use them. But would venture that they are used more by 'music lovers' than your prototypical hifi box swapper in search of nirvana. As such, not much for the users to comment with on forums.

    I would gladly have a pair of ESL57 if I could find a way to fit them in. Even with a more or less dedicated room - I would struggle for space especially as I would still need to retain my Gales for any louder/rockier stuff.
    Nytechy likes this.
  18. martin clark

    martin clark pinko bodger

    ^ 1 to that point on who uses them.
    I've had serviced ESL57s some years ago, loved them, and 3-4years ago went for a mint serviced pair of 989s; utterly no regrets. They do everything I want.
    But then - I am fortunate to be able to accommodate them / live around them. There are many households where they just won't fit-in with available space, family life, dogs and cats etc.
    Robert and sideshowbob like this.
  19. brecklandboy

    brecklandboy pfm Member

    I would venture that most owners of ESL57s and to a lesser extent the 'modern' versions tend to be of 'a ' certain age' and may have owned them for decades, even. This provenance means that many are still in v.g.c. having had careful, appreciative, custodians who have had them regularly serviced as required. Invariably, they will have been paired with appropriate , high quality amplification and seldom, if ever, over-driven to the stage where panels are damaged. If I was in the market for a secondhand pair of 'stats, then a good owner history would be high on my pre-purchase checklist.

    I may be wrong here, but I would further surmise that, in the main, the current generation of hi-fi listeners really don't 'get' what these speakers are about as they are not 'shouty-crackers' style reproducers , Shame ,really. Still, their lack of popularity among the hi-fi masses does mean that prices are kept artificially low for us 'true enthusiasts ' to enjoy Ho, Ho !
    martin clark likes this.
  20. martin clark

    martin clark pinko bodger

    Quite likely no small amount of truth in that; although I've always rather enjoyed introducing newcomers to what well-produced dub & electronica can really sound like, via the medium of ESls...

    In fact I sold my 57s to J Ribee Esq, on the strength of playing Aphex Twin 'Flim' as a one-track dem that they worked at all. After which we had a riotous evening ;)
    disco, stevec67, lordsummit and 3 others like this.

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