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A Beginners Guide and Other Thoughts on Audio - Chapter 2: Electrostatic Speakers

Roger Modjeski and Anthony Chipelo | Published on 12/27/2023

This month in Roger’s Corner we present Chapter 2 of A Beginners Guide and Other Thoughts on Audio. This chapter is dedicated to Electrostatic Speakers. I recall my second visit to Roger’s house in Santa Barbara some 20 years ago. Roger had called me earlier in the day to let me know he found boxes for my RM-9 amplifier which he had just recently upgraded from MkI to MkII. So, I drove over, and he greeted me at the door showing me the boxes that were flat packed and how to assemble them with their foam inserts. Then he asked if I wanted to come in and listen to his new electrostatic speakers, an invite that I readily accepted. There were a couple other folks in the living room already listening, one of whom was none other than Kavi Alexander of Water Lily Acoustics, who just happened to drop off his Beveridge 2 speakers for Roger to repair. We sat and listened for a while and Roger also spoke to some of the design concepts, much of which you can read about in the chapter. It was amazing how an electrostatic speaker with such a small footprint could have both wide dispersion and very realistic soundstage height. Also, unbeknownst to me at that time, Roger was using an active crossover with a pair of well-hidden woofers that handled frequencies under 100 Hz which is where he cut off his panels. It would be years later when we had this conversation again that I would also adopt this set up for use with all my panel speakers, taking it a step further and adding more woofers to the mix. As usual with Roger, even in a casual listening environment, there was always something to be learned. As a bonus in this chapter Roger goes into some detail on the design differences between the original QUAD ESL and the QUAD 63 which is well worth reading.

A Beginners Guide and Other Thoughts on Audio
Roger A. Modjeski

Chapter 2: Electrostatic Speakers

The first thing I would like to say about electrostatic speakers is that they should not be feared as much as they seem to be. There are stories about speakers arcing, being overdriven, and burning up, but this is really a rare occurrence. If you buy a proper electrostatic speaker and a proper amplifier to use with it, you will not have any of these problems. The most famous electrostatic speaker is the Quad ESL (also referred to as the Quad 57). While it is known to have a wonderful mid-range, one of its problems is that the bass response is rather poor. The bass peak at 90 Hz is very narrow (3 Hz wide) and very tall (~20 dB high). However, were it not for that peak, the speaker would have no bass at all.

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