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Review from Falcon Audio Canada

The Quad ESL 57’s from Wayne Picquet arrived around 2 P.M. last Wednesday, 7th.Feb.2018, and I've spent much of the intervening time listening to them!  I first set ears on one of Peter Walker's Wonders some 58 years ago in1960, when I was 24 years old.  It was purely mono in those days of course, and I wasn't all that impressed at the time.  Sure, it looked really different - and sounded good in the room in which it was playing.  But at £52,10 Shillings (that's US$ 1,605.22 today) it was a bit out of my league - when I was earning the princely sum of about £7 (112.37 US$) a week!

 

Now at 82, and somewhat wiser (?), I have finally got a pair of QUAD ESL’s of my very own!  

I don't remember the sound being nearly as good as these back in 1960 - even one of them!  I'm sure they didn't sound quite as good as these, otherwise I would have got into Hi-Fi a hell of a lot sooner!

 

If the HI-FI community of the time deemed that the QUAD ESL’s were that remarkable, what would they think about these 2018 REBUILT QUAD ESL’s. These use completely rebuilt panels, to-days technologically better materials and the attention to detail of a single dedicated, passionate mind - Wayne's.  There were Lowther's, Tannoy's, Wharfedale's, Goodman's, and GEC Metal Cone Speakers, to name but a few of the best speakers on the British market of my youth.  In England, back then, ten "valve" watts was the norm.  Only in America was 20 to 40 watts a Hi-Fi necessity.  (More is not necessarily better, except when we get into multi-size drivers and thirsty cross-over networks, of course).  

 

So the iconic 12-Watt QUAD II Amplifier, also designed by Peter Walker some years before, was used in the development of his now equally iconic Electrostatic Loud Speaker, first introduced into the English marketplace in 1957.  Thus, the Quad ESL was designed for the amplifiers of the day in England, such as the 10-Watt Williamson, the Radford STA15 15-Watt, the 10-Watt Mullard 5-10, and sundry other high quality amplifiers.  Valves of course, were the order of the day.  If one used a 25-watt valve amplifier (and there were some in England then) on a QUAD ESL - one did so at one's peril!  The original QUAD ESL Handbook stresses that the peak-to-peak voltages should not exceed 33 Volts across the original ESL speakers.

 

Generally speaking, any CLEAN 10 to 15 Watt valve amplifier would be a good match to QUAD's original ESL design.   Wayne Walker's Wonders will comfortably take 40 "Valve" watts in their stride.  Also, the bass and treble extremes are somewhat extended; overall response being closer to ± 3 db from 30 to 20 kHz.with a ± 3db match between different loudspeakers.  Furthermore, with currently manufactured materials and attention to detail, the power handling capability is increased to a figure that I have not dared to ascertain, but I have made quite a bit of noise in my listening space using my EAR 834 50-watt Valve amplifier, much to the distain of my wife!   (I have no intention to use a transistor power amplifier further than a QUAD 33 transistor (50 watts x2), or push my luck any further - unless someone is willing to cover the complete cost of a replacement pair of ESL’s to my doorstep - in writing!)

 

These "New Wonder ESLs" are reported to be able to handle more than the prescribed 33 Volts p-p.  Personally, I would be somewhat cautious if using a CLEAN 100 Watt solid state amplifier on these "New" ESLs – 60 watts would be about my solid-state limit.  I am using an EAR 834 Amplifier (50-Watts RMS per channel into 8Ω).  I'd be careful if using the EAR 890 (at 2x 70w). and would set the the latter's gain controls on the back panel at half way, in a small to average living room space.  Both of these amplifiers are all-valve marvels designed by Tim de Paravicini.

 

A pair of Wayne Picquet's rebuilt original Walker's Wonder QUAD ESL Loudspeakers and Tim de Paravicini's EAR 834 or EAR 890 Amplifier, fed from the EAR 834P phono pre-amplifier, some favourite Vinyl records on my Braun PS 500 record player (which I have restored), or the new Canadian www.purefidelity.ca record player, a softly lit room, my wife at my side, and comfortable slippers on my feet - perhaps a pleasant glass of wine in hand:  this old man's idea of Heaven on Earth!

 

Thank you Wayne…very much!

 

Barry at FALCON AUDIO ELECTRONICS, Toronto, Canada