Anything more resolving than 65 year-old speakers?

As I’m listening to some Raal headphones - the most resolving cans I’ve ever heard - I can’t help but be reminded of Quad ESL 57’s. More than any other speaker I’ve heard at shows or in homes, they had resolution without harshness. Maybe the Sanders 10e comes close, but is much more expensive. Maybe Bohlender Rd75’s come close for transparency, but are still not quite there.

Am I missing something or have we really not progressed in terms of resolution in 65 years, at least from the greats? If you’ve got something super-resolving (but not harsh) that you prefer to Quads with a sub, please speak up!


Uhhhhh. your hearing changed over the last 65 years, possibly memory issues too. I would call this nostalgia and there is nothing wrong with it, just don't spend a lot of money on 65 year old anything (unless it is a rare vintage wine or classic car)🚗

@angaria2 - a couple of observations from here. I have a pair of '57s that I bought in 1974, manufactured in 1973, that were a long time reference for me. I used them in a variety of configurations, including in a "mini" HQD system with Decca Ribbons and a couple different subs, mounted on the old Arcici stand. This was back in the days when the subwoofer market was not as robust (leaving aside the Hartley 24 that Levinson used).

Those original Quads were put aside in around 1990 for a pair of Crosby modified '63s which were a better all arounder but to my ears, didn't have the mojo of the original '57. (They played louder, had a protection circuit, didn't arc and sounded pretty good). But I held on to the '57s with the expectation that I would have them restored, which I finally did in 2017 (Kent at Electrostatic Solutions). He added a protection circuit, a modern electrical receptacle and better binding posts. That speaker now runs in my vintage system in a small "parlor"--driven by a very old pair of Quad IIs with period glass (real GEC KT 66s, which are scarce as hen's teeth). I quit using add on tweets or woofers and they sit on their original little feet. They sound wonderful. I don't limit them to British chamber music while sipping tea. 

Compared to my main system, which is horn based, uses Lamm ML2s (the real magic comes from those) and a variety of high end gear upstream, the horn system is "better"- it plays louder, is more dynamic, has the clarity of the Quad in the mids and that eerie see-through quality. It also does bass better simply because I did a lot of work to integrate a woofer system using DSP and did a fair amount of work on the turntable to get it "just so."

But there is something special about that old Quad speaker. Sure, it has the head in a vise sweet spot for the highs, won't play at Black Sabbath levels and interestingly to me--has a sort of filtering effect-- everything sounds a little romantic, whereas the bigger horn system is like a microscope- if there is a gremlin in the recording, it is noticeable. But, there is a vast difference in both the cost and the upstream equipment associated with these two very different systems.

Has the Quad been bettered? I think the answer, for practical purposes, is yes. But as a reference, it is still important. As a piece of audio history, it is important. And it is great fun to listen to. I wrote at some length about this several years ago and asked the same question at the time-- how far have we really come in 60 years?

Part of the answer may depend on personal preference -- I tend to listen to small combo jazz and the Quad can be downright eerie on some material, particularly vocals. (Even with hard rock, if you listen to a UK first pressing of Epitaph from In the Court, you can marvel at Greg Lake's voice and know why this record and that original band was so important in its time). 

I think folks who have never heard a set of '57s ought to do so simply for the experience; whether it is worth buying and restoring a pair is a different question. For me, the answer was easy. They have been part of my musical life for nearly 50 years and I can enjoy them for what they are--my sunk cost in that vintage system was amortized in mid-'70s dollars. (Yes, everything in that old system got restored by Bill Thalmann but was easily worth the cost, including the NOS glass). 

A stacked set would not suck, either. Enjoy 'em if you got 'em. 

PS: I did get to meet Peter Walker at the '76 CES and he was polite and kind to me- I was a young person then and felt that completed a circle in my hi-fi life. 

The great Chuck Lamonica, who may be remembered by some here from the old NY Audio Society days, described the Quad back when (driven by an all ARC tube set up) as a system that allowed you to "kiss every note." I think that captures it better than any of my words. 

I hear what you are saying quads were really amazing. Nobody nowadays has heard what they are because the membranes get eaten up by the dust so quickly. You were lucky, in the right place at the right time. Whart is right in that it depends on what kind of music you listen to. Of course, the most expensive part of any system is being able to afford a room big enough to put it into. I like SET 45 into a klipschorn with fully damped cabinet modified with 300 cycle fronthorn and Heil AMT at 800. 1W and the neighbors would call the cops.

Here ya go!

The 12 Most Significant Loudspeakers of All Time

The 12 Most Significant Loudspeakers of All Time

For this special loudspeaker-focus issue, I asked our most senior contributors to each name the twelve loudspeakers that had the greatest impact on high-end audio. These are the speakers that introduced a new technology, changed the market, influenced future designs, or revealed some previously unheard aspect of sound quality. Although each writer worked in isolation, the individual choices exhibited remarkable unanimity. From each writer’s picks we selected, by consensus of the senior editorial staff, “The 12 Most Significant Loudspeakers of All Time.” Our final verdict is presented in ascending order of significance (#1 being the most significant). Robert Harley

12. Klipschorn

The Klipschorn is the only speaker that has been in continuous production for over 60 years. But that’s not why it makes the list. The Klipschorn is a landmark product due to its folded horn design. Paul Klipsch, inventor and entrepreneur, patented the idea of assembling chambers and passageways for a bass driver’s sound waves to gradually expand as they travel out to the opening. The sound is mechanically amplified by the expanding “folds” in the passageway of the horn. (Without this, a low-frequency horn would be the size of a full room.) In 1946, the first 20 Klipsch loudspeakers were assembled in a tin shack in Hope, Arkansas. The base horn design has never been improved—it was perfect from day one. Klipsch’s four principles of sound reproduction are: efficiency, flat frequency response, controlled directivity, and dynamic range. A Klipschorn provides a detailed wall of sound that emanates from the corner of a room. It was the first “absolute sound.” Imagine the sound of a windup Victrola being replaced overnight by the sound of unamplified live instruments in space. Most amazing is that you can buy it today. That’s 60 years of advancement in one moment. Peter Breuninger

11. MBL 101 E

In the history of high-end audio, there have been a number of fascinating and genuinely innovative drivers—Alan Hill’s plasma tweeter and Lincoln Walsh’s “transmission-line” cone, for examples. Not all of them caught on—for good reasons (the joke about the Walsh driver used to be that it took 200W to get it to make sound and 201W to blow it up, while the Hill produced enough ozone to choke a horse). Wolfgang Meletzsky’s omnidirectional “Radialstrahler”—a truly ingenious pumpkin-shaped contraption constructed of aluminum/magnesium “petals” that flex in and out in response to an audio signal (like the pleats of an accordion), producing near-equal sound pressure throughout 360 degrees (rather, dare I say it, like a pulsating, er, pumpkin)—is certainly a brilliant concept and happily it doesn’t blow up or poison the air. What it does do is produce the most enveloping soundstage this side of a surround system, absolutely thrilling large-scale dynamics, and timbres that are very true-to-life (in frequency response, the MBL is an exceedingly flat-measuring loudspeaker). Though omnis aren’t as commonplace as they once were back in the day, the sui generis 101s set a standard of excellence and sheer lifelike excitement that has kept them the foremost omnidirectional speakers for more than thirty years. Jonathan Valin

10. Advent

Not very long ago, a long-time audio buddy gave me a chance to hear his Double Advent setup (and in his garage!). The experience in a sense, just about took my breath away: The speakers, even in that primitive setting, were magnificent! They remained as uncolored and neutral as ever, exceeding too many of today’s so-called “super” systems. I had, if the truth be told, forgotten (audibly) just how very special this doubling up [stacking a pair atop another pair] of Henry Kloss’ last great speaker was and remains. Wished I had had the sense to hold on to the pair I bought (back when, actually in 1972, just before I started Issue One of this rag). The Advents weren’t then entirely trouble-free thanks to mechanical problems with the original tweeters. Seen in today’s light, aside from an airy top end, the only thing missing was its ability to recreate a wide and dimensional soundstage. If you can grab a pair in good condition, and they are out there, be smarter than me. Harry Pearson

9. KLH Model Nine

More than any other electrostatic speaker of its era the KLH Model Nine was the watershed moment that proclaimed the full-range ’stat had indeed come of age. The vision of peripatetic designer and collaborator Henry Kloss (his fingerprints are also on this list’s AR3a and the Double Advents), the Model Nine and its more potent iteration known by well-heeled owners as Double Nines, is significant in that it took the transcendent qualities (midrange transparency, resolution speed, and low distortion) of the parlor room-restricted Quad ESL and added properties like 40Hz bass extension and improved output. But this six-foot dipolar had an attitude—fussy about placement and greedy for power, it blew fuses with regularity. It could be beamy in the treble, too, but when all the stars aligned few cone speakers could match this naturalistic combination of liquidity, speed, and power, making it the rare companion able to capture near symphonic playback levels. The Model Nine has been the inspiration for virtually every planar-style loudspeaker since. Neil Gader


8. Infinity IRS V

This was the last version of the original Infinity Reference System, and, by any measure, the best, standing second to none in frequency range, in a top-to-bottom coherency that had eluded designer Arnie Nudell in the earlier three versions (yes, three, there was no IV), and in an overall faithfulness to the real thing that exceeded Nudell’s best previous efforts. The EMIT tweeters had been considerably updated (so that there was less grain, less artificial brightness, and a sound just a few steps below that of Jim Winey’s Magnepan true ribbon); the EMIT and the ENIN midranges (a replacement for the Series One’s bipolar ribbons) were both now planar “ribbons”; and the non-Watkins graphite-fiber woofers, all 12 of them, were now powered by a 2000-watt amp (up from 1500 in the Series III). What this, finally, accomplished, along with a few other mods, was a seamless sonic transition between the bass and the upper drivers—a first in a Nudell product. A dream realized and a dream for this listener. Harry Pearson



7. Magnepan 1-U/1-D

Of all the loudspeakers I’ve heard in a lifetime of listening, the large, three-panel Maggie 1-Us—Magnepan’s first widely marketed planar-magnetic speaker—remain the most memorable. I’ve told the story several times before of how I originally (and unwittingly) auditioned these speakers in the early 70s and—not knowing what a Magneplanar was back then—assumed that the real grand piano ensconced behind the “screens” at the far end of the listening room was making music when, in fact (and of course), it was the Maggies that were doing same. I’ve never again been fooled that completely by a loudspeaker because nothing I’ve heard since then has sounded that much more like the real thing than the Maggie 1-Us did at the dawn of the high-end era. As HP put it in his ground-breaking TAS review: “The Magneplanars are…[a] ‘classic’…a speaker that is and will be a standard by which and to which others will be compared.” And so they were, and so they still are, in certain key respects (such as midrange realism and mid-to-upper bass resolution, scale, and slam), to me. Jonathan Valin

6. Dahlquist DQ‑10

One should always be wary of pronouncing “firsts,” but, appearing in the early seventies, Jon Dahlquist’s DQ‑10 was to my knowledge the first dynamic speaker to employ multiple drivers in an open-baffle configuration (except the acoustic‑suspension woofer, which was enclosed) staggered for proper time‑alignment and phase coherence, in an attempt to realize the openness and freedom from boxiness that Dahlquist prized in his beloved Quad ESL-57s—with the added advantages of deeper bass and dynamic extension well beyond the Quad. (The physical resemblance to the Quad was both mandated by the design and an intentional homage.) Far from flawless (including conceptually), the DQ-10 was nevertheless a ground-breaking design that preceded dozens of subsequent speakers (perhaps most prominent among them models from KEF, B&W, Spica, Thiel, Vandersteen, and Wilson) continuing up to the present day. Few large, full-range dynamic speakers before or for some time afterward equaled its openness. Paul Seydor

5. Magico Mini II

Certain speakers don’t just change the way the game is played; they change the playing field. In the twentieth century, the Quad ESL-57s (par excellence), the Maggie 1-Us, the Dahlquist DQ-10s, and the Wilson WATT/Puppy were bellwethers. In the new millennium there has been no more influential loudspeaker—no loudspeaker that has had a more profound effect on the way other loudspeaker manufacturers design and style their products—than these massive, beautiful, stand-mounted two-ways from upstarts Alon Wolf and Yair Tammam of Magico. The Mini and Mini II set new standards for neutrality, resolution, dynamic range, frequency extension, and musicality in compact speakers—and they did so not just by upping the ante on the way enclosures, drivers, and crossovers were built but also by upping the ante on the science that speaker manufacturers brought to bear on designing enclosures, drivers, and crossovers. Since the Mini II, birch-ply and aluminum boxes, high-tech composite cones, Mundorf parts, computer-assisted design have become mainstream—and other things like beryllium diaphragms, field-coil magnetics, and coincident drivers have been added to the mix. The competition in compact speakers has never been stiffer; nonetheless, the Magico Minis were the first on the ground and continue to more than hold their own against all comers. Jonathan Valin


4. Wilson Audio Tiny Tot (WATT)

David Wilson’s WATT is one of those products the world had needed without realizing it. Created in 1985 as a one-off location monitor for Wilson’s recording work, the WATT inspired desire in all who heard it. Despite an astronomical price (at the time) for a small two-way, the WATT was an instant hit and went on to become the most popular high-end loudspeaker of all time. The WATT broke new ground in several areas. First, it established that a market existed for a very high-quality small loudspeaker, paving the way for products like the Sonus faber Extrema and later, the Magico Mini. Second, the WATT was the first loudspeaker in which reducing enclosure vibration was a high design goal. The modern trend toward stiff cabinets can be traced directly to the WATT. Once music lovers (and other designers) heard a loudspeaker with the sound of the box removed, the world never looked back. Robert Harley

3. Rogers/BBC LS3/5a

The LS3/5a was a BBC design, licensable to any manufacturer. But it was the Rogers version in particular that swept the USA in the late 1970s. This small two-way (7.5″ x 12″ x 6.25″) offered startlingly realistic vocal reproduction and a remarkably expansive and “boxless” sound picture. With its essentially neutral midband but upper bass bump and slightly projected treble, it was not entirely flat, and it had no deep bass. But for a whole generation of listeners, it redefined the possible for small speakers. Some other, larger BBC-influenced designs—the Spendor BC1 first and the Spendor SP1 and SP1/2 and Harbeth Monitor 40 later on—were better speakers overall. But none quite seized the imagination of the U.S. audio public as did the little LS3/5a. With an updated version still in production today, the LS3/5a has stood the test of time as few other speakers have. Robert E. Greene

2. Acoustic Research AR3a

Edgar Villchur invented the acoustic-suspension loudspeaker. He founded the Acoustic Research Company with Henry Kloss and began production of the AR1 in 1955. The acoustic suspension principle was elegantly simple; Villchur mounted a long-throw 12″ woofer in a sealed box, using the air trapped inside the box as the spring to launch the woofer’s cone. His design so reduced the size of the cabinet that you could place it on a bookshelf, making it an instant sensation.In 1958 Villchur demonstrated a new 3-way version, the AR3, with live vs. recorded events where the musicians would stop playing the notes but continue to “pretend” to play as the ARs were switched on. Suddenly, the musicians would stop and freeze while the music continued. Jaws would drop; everyone was fooled—it made newspaper headlines! At its peak the AR3a captured 33% of the high-fidelity loudspeaker market. The Smithsonian Institution has placed the AR3 on permanent display in The National Museum of American History. Peter Breuninger

1. Quad ESL-57

There was of course never any such moniker as “ESL-57,” except in retrospect, to distinguish it from its distinguished successor the ESL-63. Designed by the legendary Peter Walker and actually introduced in 1956, it was called simply the Quad ESL, but soon became known as “Walker’s little wonder.” Little wonder: For top-to-bottom clarity, coherence, transparency, resolution, openness, naturalness, and a disappearing act that still inspires awe, the ESL established and remains to this day (even though production ceased over a quarter century ago) a reference standard among countless designers and reviewers (including the undersigned) across the globe. Despite undeniable limitations—inability to play very loud, lack of deep bass, quite directional highs—it tops virtually every list of the best, the greatest, the most significant—supply your own category—audio products ever made. Why? Because at the dawn of the stereo era this “little” wonder demonstrated what was possible in most of the essential areas of speaker performance so validly that from a certain point of view the subsequent history of speaker design has been catch-up. Paul Seydor

Quad 57 was my first audiophile speaker. I was "married" with Quads for 20 years and I have owned all subsequent models including Quad 2912. While I still cherrish 57 model very much, I find that Sound Lab electrostatic speakers are better in every possible way. 

Listen to MBL omni directional speakers they have Everythung in spades 

with far more dynamics and fantastic micro,macro details even their entry level 126 monitors ,btw their tweeter,and midrange driver are the same on all of their speakers .I am hoping that I can afford a pair in the next 2 years you hear into the record lost on any other speakers I have heard especially their big 101.which is a true full range.

If I were looking for speakers today these are the ones I would purchase.

Dynamikks - cannot be beat especially for the price.



..and the side aside about the Walsh in the MBL comment is why I play about with my diys’....*S*

So far...I’ve only blown up One. And it was one of the first 4 I made.....a long while ago....

They may not be ’perfect’....but I’ve yet (and, apparently neither have y’all) to hear such anyway. Which, I’d suppose, is why sites like AG exist.

Enjoy the warts as well as the nuance, Nevill...;)


Yes, the 57s were great in resolving lightweight programme, ideally chamber music and especially the female voice in recital.  But for other music they had poor dynamics, no 'slam' at all.

Few will disagree that if resolution is your first priority then electrostatic is the way to go.  But since 1957 other companies as well as Quad have moved the game a long way along.  I have used Martin Logan CLX Anniversaries for nearly 10 years now.  Resolution just as good but with some muscle behind it.  Still 3dB down at 56Hz though.

The 57's still ring in my memory whenever I listen to a "stereo". I had subs, tweeters and even tri-amplification but ultimately... sold mine 20 years ago for "more dynamics". At one point recently, I had Eminent Technology LFT 8's, Martin Logan ESL's and Quad 63's all at the same time, in various forms of "stock" and "modified" configurations, The 57's kinda ruined me...ah well... the search continues.

My experience with Quads is extreme listening fatigue at volume.  I switched to Maggies and got all the accuracy without the fatigue.  Of course, you need excellent hardware--typically tube--and they have to be set up properly.  I have never found anything more accurate.

As for the HQD system, we made some of the stands for him and some 24" Hartley sub cabs--HUGE and heavy--they were on 4" casters and made out of either 1.5" or 2" composite board--I forget much of 1973-76.  Unfortunately, the ML HW of the day was un-listenable even though it was made with the best possible parts and designed by a terrific designer.

As for horns, they belong on the top of poles at HS football games, not in your home system.  Put a pair next to a pair of Maggies and see what YOU think.


Very happy with Sonner Legato Unum and QLN P3 in my system. Both driven by tube amplification in both settings. 

Brings to mind the fact that sand amps and push-pull tube amps suffer from odd order harmonics. I have totally eliminated that from my life for a couple of years now and if I ever hear any TV or stereo of that degraded nature, I immediately notice how unnatural it sounds, which, of course for classical music is an absolute disaster. 

I have a pair of Altec Lansing 604Cs. 
The serial number dates them at 1956, two years younger than me. 

To paraphrase a famous Beatles song:

604Cs are good to me, you know
They make me happy as can be, you know
I say so
I'm in love with them and I feel fine.


Honest to gosh, I have tried to find something better than my ancient Quad ESL-57s but have failed. The Quads aren’t perfect, but all other speakers are less so. After running them for years with Quad electronics, finally upgraded with an Audio Note Cobra. I listen only to CDs on a Jolida JD100 and use the onboard Cobra DAC. All this for less than $10K. have never heard a finer sounding system, no matter what the cost. 

Room size and acoustics has as much to do with it as the speakers themselves.

Back in the early 70s after attending the Woodstock Festival I was impressed with Altec. Not the ginormous ones at the festival but Altec produced a bunch of residential grade outstanding versions. Models such as 14, 15, 17, 18 and 19 seemed to fit in many home listening areas. I settled on a pair if 19s and still have them now. I like them for the horn drivers, 802-8G with the tangerine phase plug that tends to soften the horn for near field listening. The 15" 416 woofer provides plenty of the base. I do find in different rooms the best position is about 15 feet from the speakers. On the plus side with vintage gear from Altec is the fact that Great Plains Audio can still repair almost all the Altec drivers back to original new form. A disadvantage is that size of the box is often a concern and at 30 inches wide the 19s can be a bit large for many living rooms and listening areas. I am a little surprised that Altec is not mentioned above in the top 12 while the Klipschorns are. I had them and sold the pair after comparing them to my 19s.

The Quad Electrostats were one of my references back when I jumped in the deep end of hifi yet again back around 2008. I ended up with newer Ohm Walsh speakers that I still have and seemed to hit the mark overall.

More recently , I also added KEF Ls 50 metas and those take detail to the nth degree I’d say as a result of technological innovation baked into those and other newer KEFs. White papers on how they do it are readily available.


I currently use Quad 2912s, Janzens and Martin Logans. They are all better real world speakers than Quad 57s — better bass, better extended treble and better dynamic range — but with the right kind of music, I agree with the OP that the 57s’ midrange is still in a class by itself. 

Great as the AR3 was at the time, at the same time AR featured in its Grand Central demo room and alongside one of the subway tunnels leading from the station to the bus station, a system featuring the AR1W woofer, the Janzen 130 midrange electrostatic (130 dispersion), and the Ionic "charged air" horn tweeter.  These, with the AR's on end, woofer next to the floor, created pillars that essentially were transparent from 30hz up into the 20-30,000hz range.  If I recall correctly, they were driven by HK Citation components.   They created an absolutely three dimensional soundstage with the best sonic holography I have ever heard.

A note on Klipschorns, Altecs, etc. and other horn speakers.  At the time the Klipschorns came out, James B Lansing (JBL) had a front loaded horn speaker that was even a bit bigger that sounded even better, although it's bass didn't go quite as low.  It featured a tapered, curved 3' wide by 4' high horn driven by two15" woofers, and for the midrange-treble the first appearance of the famed JBL "Potato Masher" horn.  My dad had one in the living room driven by a Newcomb 25w power amp (with preamp umbelical). We never had the Klipsch home, but I did get to hear it in the same corner spot in the store as the JBL, and to my then 12yr old ears the Klipsch sounded peakier and not as refined.  A year later I "officially" became an audiophile as I built my own unless you started your audiophile journey before 1953, I lay claim to the "oldest" audiophile here in the forum. 😏

Yeah great vintage class. Tonal characteristics of real wood and brass instruments are more realistic. You can make a drum skin out of plastic but it sounds like plastic.