Electrostatic-vs-Planar strength, weakness

I am curious about talking to owners who have had both types of speakers, what is some pluses and minus camparing a large Electro hybrid like an Innersound Eros to a Maggie 3.6?
Actually, they're both "planar speakers". Planar magnetic speakers (like Maggies) in my experience, require a really good, higher power SS amp, and also in my experience, come into their own sonically as you turn up the volume. Stats do nicely with tube amps (and with tube-like SS amps, which are few) and are extremely articulate at any volume. As for the "hybrid" part (of stats) it really depends on the woofer setup. If they aren't self powered, I think it best to bi-amp, using a SS for the woofers, and a toobie for the stat.
I hope you don't mind a dealer's $.02. I'll try not to be too partisan here...

I've owned Maggies MMG, 12, 1.6, and 3.6. I've owned electrostat/dynamic hybrids made by Martin Logan and Sound Lab (I'm a dealer for the latter). I've owned full-range electrostats from Quad and of course Sound Lab.

Your question focuses on electrostatic/dynamic hybrids vs full-range planar magnetics (Maggies), and as you could probably guess each excels in different areas. Electrostatic elements in my opinion usually give superior resolution of low-level detail. Some electrostat hybrids give you a small sweet spot (InnerSound), some a medium sized sweet spot (Martin Logan), and some a fairly large sweet spot (Sound Lab). Maggies are capable of giving you you a fairly good sized sweet spot.

The bass of a good box woofer (such as InnerSound's transmission line system) will go deeper and have more solid impact than a dipole bass system (like the Maggies), but dipole bass in my experience does a very good job with pitch definition.

Now the achilles' heel of a hybrid system is the difficulty in blending the point-source woofer with the line-source (and sometimes narrow-pattern) panel. Not only to they have very different sonic signatures, they actually propagate sound differently! That's right - the sound pressure level actually falls off more rapidly with distance from the woofer than from the panel. So either you want to be able to adjust the relative levels of woofer and panel for your room and listening distance, or you want to do a very good job of choosing the right hybrid speaker for your room.

Once I had a pair of Maggie 3.6's side-by-side with Sound Lab Dynastats in my living room. So I had the chance to do some in-depth comparisons. One thing I quickly noticed was that I really had to do a good job of dialing in the controls on the Dynastats, for the overall tonal balance of the Maggies was very nice. The Maggies were the more forgiving speaker, but they did give up some harmonic richness and texture to the Dynastats, and the Dynastats were more lively at low volume levels. The Dynastats went quite a bit deeper as would be expected, but the Maggies were more coherent. Unfortunately (for me as a dealer), you could hear the discontinuity between the Dynastat's woofer and panel. The Maggies had no such issues. So there wasn't a clear winner - each did some things better.

I'm not sure what your price range is, but you might consider Quads as a possible alternative to hybrids or Maggies.

Best of luck in your quest!

Duke LeJeune
I have a pair of Innersound Eros, I just want to know what others think, I have heard Maggies before, and I even have a Maggie Center channel...but have never heard a big full range Mag to hear bass, thanks for both posts..Duke you gave me some excellent details and thanks a bunch
I can relate so much to what Duke has shared here. I owned Maggies for nearly 6 years, first the 3.3 and then 3.5. The tonality and dimensionality of the music is what won me over compared to box speakers. But the need to crank it up to get the system to boogie was the ultimate downfall of the Maggies for me.

The Maggies are such incredible performers. Even with people throwing huge SS amps at them, I only heard the Maggie magic with tube amps. There is so much focus here on power to drive Maggies but I had enough experiences with these speakers to know that this was only part of what it takes to get these speakers to perform.

The price of the Maggies is a great deal but you have to spend a lot for amps to do them right. This makes for an expensive setup for someone who would think they could get the same sound they heard at the dealer but with a less quality/expensive amp. Unfortunately, it's just not that easy with these speakers.

I heard several Martin Logans, "full-range" and hybrids, at a dealer vs. the Maggie 3.5 and everytime, I found myself back at the Maggies. The ML's were just too analytical for me vs. the full and rich Maggie sound. The Maggies filled the space between them like nothing I had heard before. It was so impressive. And they were easily 12' apart at the dealer. The ML's did have an incredible see-through quality that clearly showed the Maggies' mediocre resolving abilities.

The Sound-Lab speakers are a different beast altogether. The A, M and U series are awesome. They do bass like the Maggies could never come close. And the same is true for low-level resolution and dynamics (wooo hooo). In my room, the Maggies had a sweet spot of a couple feet wide. With the Sound-Lab A1s, the sweet spot is across the room. I never could have imagined another speaker having the Maggie magic without giving up something else. The Sound-Lab convey the 3-dimensionality and decays like the Maggies but without the emphasis in the mids that gave the Maggies that overly-rich sound. The Sound-Lab really converted this long-time Maggie fanatic.

And as tough as some people may claim the Sound-Lab might be for an amp to drive and control, they appear to be less demanding of an amp than the Maggies. I play the music much lower now as I don't feel the need to crank it up to compensate for lack of dynamic contrasts. Truly impressive.....but so are the Maggies.

So there's my experience with Maggies vs. some Electrostatics.

Jafox makes some good points. The Maggies love lots of power, the more the better, and often but not always are preferred with tubes driving them. Due to their flat profile, the larger models can produce a bit more chest-thumping bass than dipoles with different radiating characteristics, although conventional cone woofers deliver more impact, yet in my experience dipoles deliver much greater pitch definition.

The radiating characteristics of cone woofers and planar or line source dipoles are vastly different, however. In an anechoic environment the sound from a point source decays at 6 dB for every doubling of distance between the source and the listener, due to the logarithmic relationship of the proportion of areas of the corresponding spheres.

A cone woofer isn't exactly a point source, it doesn't quite radiate in all directions, and most of our rooms are somewhat reverberant - the latter has the effect of reducing the decay some by room reinforcement and room resonances. As with most speakers, a hybrid planar/cone woofer speaker is designed for even response at what the designer considers to be the typical volume at the typical listening distance in the typical room. Getting the right balance between woofer and planar element in such circumstances thus is a balancing act.

Conversely, the sound from a line source or virtual line source drops off at 3 dB for every doubling of distance between the source and the listener, since the logarithmic relationship is computed based on areas of cylinders at those distances. Again, this is based upon the theoretical anechoic environment, and actual room acoustics affect this some but less than the point source.

A speaker using a flat planar diaphragm falls somewhere in between a line source and a point source, although much closer to a line source dependent upon frequency. A speaker with a flat diaphragm, whether a planar magnetic or electrostatic, often can produce greater sound pressure levels than one with a curved or faceted membrane, due to the way acoustic energy stays concentrated along the axis perpendicular to the diaphragm, although it depends upon the speaker. Conversely, the response especially at high frequencies drops off as one moves off axis, giving a small sweet spot for optimum listening. An example of this is the Quad ESL (I have owned a pair for quite a while) which fortunately has a bass panel on either side of the treble panel. Ribbon tweeters can counteract this by virtue of the width of the ribbon being small enough in proportion to the wavelengths, but then one has the effect of two parallel quasi-line sources and the challenge of timing between them dependent on listening position.

Aside from the radiating characteristics. there is the matter of moving mass and thus how responsive and resolving the speaker can be, especially at low volumes. Thicker membranes simply cannot get out of the way as quickly as lighter ones, without requiring power several magnitudes greater. A related benefit of low moving mass is smooth frequency response across a broader range of volume levels. Large horn speakers and full range dipoles, while radically different, tend to excel at different volume levels. Because there are exceedingly few horns I consider relatively uncolored (the Siemens Bionor being one - it's much too large, though), I've made my choice of full range dipoles that are virtual line sources and bought Sound Labs, later to become a dealer (there's my disclaimer - hopefully not sounding like a pitch). I guess I got hooked on planars the day I heard a properly triamped set of Magneplanar Tympani IIIA's many years ago, an epiphany at the time.

how is the sound lab for reliability ??? i have never owned a pair, but the local dealer stopped carrying the line due to horrible /slow/rude service..

maggies are pretty relaible and easy to repair if needed..
Mikesinger brings up questions about the reliability of Sound Lab speakers, and says that a local dealer "stopped carrying the line due to horrible/slow/rude service."

Let me address the dealer's characterization of Sound Lab's service first, and then I'll address the reliability issue.

In the five or six years I've been a Sound Lab customer and dealer, I've never known them to be rude or horrible, nor unnecessarily slow (sometimes they have to wait on a part and that can slow things down). I've seen them bend over backwards (often without the customer's knowledge) to take care of people. I've seen them eat the costs of damage that was not their fault (such as shipping damage). Sound Lab has been in business since the 1970's, and companies don't last that long without taking care of their customers. So while I don't know the details of the specific incidents that led Mikesinger's dealer to characterize Sound Lab's service as "horrible/slow/rude", my own experiences lead me to believe that there may well be another side to the story. Sound Lab has taken care of every customer of mine that ever had a problem.

Sound Lab has at times had reliability problems due to inconsistencies in insulation material (and occasionally in power supplies, but that's a relatively easy fix). Sometimes a formerly good insulation supplier's quality control goes down, resulting in insulation that would pass an initial test but later fail in the field. I suspect Mikesinger's dealer carried the line at a time when they were struggling with insulation issues. A couple of years ago Roger West and a team of chemists set out to develop an insulation material that would be as close as possible to ideal, along with the manufacturing and assembly processes that would eliminate microbubbles or other minisucle flaws in the material that could lead to insulation failure. Since the introduction of these new materials and processes a little over a year ago, to the best of my knowledge there have been no insulation failures that were not due to outside damage (such as a crated panel being dropped off the back of a delivery truck, or a forklift spearing a shipping crate).

In my experience, most of the problems arising in older Sound Labs appear after a pair has been shipped without the factory crates. So if you ever go shopping for a used pair, place a high priority on either having them properly crated or delivered by someone who knows what they're doing (wrapping in bubble wrap and handing them over to Mangle Freight is a recipe for disaster). I've delivered several pairs personally without the factory crates with nary a glitch, and would be happy to share details of how to pack them in a trailer or van for safe transportation.

I have owned seven pairs of Sound Labs, and all of them are still in service (six with their new owners). Two of the earlier pairs had to have insulation repairs under warranty, and one pair was dropped in shipment and had to have the diaphragms re-tensioned (done at the factory, but if I'd known what the problem was I could have done it myself).

That being said, I will concede that Maggies are indeed reliable and relatively easy to service.

duke - i would like to put down the dealers name but i dont think it would be proper ( heres a hint, i live in southern california)...

over the 18 years i have known him, to say he is a "really good person" is a understatement:
-always does the right thing even if he takes a loss
-good for his word
-community services (help the poor)
-tells the truth
-never oversells

this is best audio dealer a customer could ever as ask for. his viewpoint/opinion/experience is as good as gold. i think this is why he gets the premium high end home system installation in the area and out of the area- impeccable reputation.

when i look to make a purchase outside of what he carries, if he knows the item he will offer his experience and the pro/cons of the item...

i do agree with you- there are 2 sides to every story...this is what was told to me

in this case with soundlab - 18 months for a repair is a long time and incorrectly repaired is insult to injury (soundlab replaced the rear base in a different wood finish because it got water damaged at the factory- didnt want to change it because it was behind the speaker and would not be seen)...

i dont have any reason to disbelieve him not to mention i have known him too long (doesnt exaggerate- very understated).. but i have experienced long repair times myself and it is pretty uncool imo get crappy service on a $$$ product)

in the case of a planar speaker (very, very delicate item) i think magnapan wins hands down- durablity, servicebility, cost, sound quality and company reputation hands down of any planar/static/ribbon speaker (this includes martin logan,quad,apogee,soundlab,audiostatic,eminent tech,carver etc...)

a lot of planar companies have come and gone but maggie has produced a high quality over the years and i have never heard or read about poor qc or customer service... that is pretty good for a 30 + year manufacture..

btw, i am not affilated with the audio industry (medical sales) just a audiophile who loves music and has been around this stuff for 18 years....
I concur with what most are saying here. I had a complete Martin Logan surround setup with Prodigys up front. The detail/resolution and holographic presentation of vocals were jaw dropping. Sweet spot was small. Hybrid bass was fine by me, although others have felt it was problematic integrating.

In the end, I found the sound too analytical for my equipment, room, tastes. I replaced everything with a Magnepan surround setup. To my ears, in my system, in my room the Magnepans are more musical, natural, and forgiving. I definitely felt like I lost some detail, but I have no complaints with the Maggies in this regard.

Dipole bass is different as others have mentioned. As said elsewhere, the pitch definition seems superior to dynamic speakers, but it doesn't rock like a dynamic speaker. That's fine by me, but your tastes may vary.

Maggies don't have the best build quality, but some easy and sometimes free tweaks to improve sound (e.g. fuse and attenuator bypass, but do this at your own risk). The funky posts they have for banana plugs only suck. I'm in the process of upgrading to normal 5-way binding posts on mine.

Even after my preference for the Maggies over the MLs, I couldn't give up the Prodigys until I only recently decided to sell them. They were that good at what they did do. Read up on what everyone has to say about the different types/models, audition for yourself if you can, and pick your poison!