Quads vs Sound Labs vs Maggie 20.1

Any thoughts on the performance aspects,and best amp types?

I am interested in feedback regarding refurbished ESL-63's vs the newer models(I know these are bigger and more dynamic,but are they have that Quad magic?).I've read about some Quad refurbish site about to offer a dipolar woofer,which seems interesting.

Also,the big Sound Labs speakers have never left me overly enthused,but I could have been subject to poor set-up,as these have a loyal following.

What about the big Maggies?I had a friend who modded the 3.6's to amazing effect.Do the 20.1's benefit from after market mods.

Best amps for each speaker?

Thanks in advance
The Quad 63s are great if you want fabulous transparency but have some budget constraints. They are easy to drive with most tube amplifiers; transistors will be bright and free of bass.

The big Sound Labs (I guessing- U1s? A1s?) are harder to drive, but capable of greater dynamic range and greater bandwidth, at both extremes. If set up right, there is no need for a subwoofer, a common add-on with the 63s. They are very cohesive and revealing, pretty much setting the standard for what that means in an ESL. The downside is that they need power- 200 watts is adequate if from the right amp. Usually if you have transistors, this means that you will need 600 watts so that there will be sufficient power at low frequencies (and is why a 200-watt tube amp can keep up easily with a 600 watt transistor amp on this speaker). The other downside is that the revealing nature of the speaker and the demands that it makes of the amplifier contribute to a speaker that can be very picky- and they can be underwhelming if these factors are inadequately addressed!!

The Magnaplanar 20.1 is one of the better deals in audio. It is full bandwidth like the Sound Lab, not nearly so expensive, yet nearly as revealing and capable of similar dynamic range. It is actually fairly easy to drive, despite being 4 ohms. Again 200 watts is a good amount of power to have for this speaker. Tubes and transistors are treated equally well (whereas the best results with the ESLs will be with tubes despite anything you might hear to the contrary) so you have a wider pick of amps to use with them. Being flat,, you would expect a certain 'beaminess' but this is not the case as it is not a full range speaker, but a 3-way and the tweeter is narrow. On account of the 3-way aspect, it is less cohesive than the ESLs (which are full-range devices, although the Sound Lab has a crossover to accommodate its matching transformers...) but trades some of that off by not having a step-up transformer in the signal path.

So (my recommendations) if you have a smaller room go with the Quads and some sort of tube amp. A moderate or larger room will be better for the Maggies or the Sound Labs. In all cases the speakers really should be at least 5 feet from the rear wall to realize the best results (closer will result in 'one note' bass). You can toe in the Sound Labs a bit to reduce this. If you are married to transistors, go with the Maggies (they will be smoother in the highs due to the interaction between the amp and speaker); if tubes are an option either can be used. The Sound Labs are more revealing but you will really have to have the right amp to make them happen.

Clear as mud?
My Quad63s sounded best with the Jadis 80 monos. Second best were the Jadis 200 monos. A bit of overkill though. The dipolar woofer you mention is probably the Gradient63, made in Finland. I drove them with the 60watt Atmas and the active Gradient x-woofer. They blend perfectly with the Quads, though I know that some people here don't believe this. But hearing is believing.
The big Sound Labs sound wonderful with the MA-2 Mk. III, the Atma-Sphere 220 watt OTLs. If you need more power there is nothing better than the VTL Siegfrieds, unless you want to opt for the huge Atma MA-3, which contrary to the above I have no experience with.
I've heard the big Maggies driven by Spectral 360 monos a couple of years ago and liked what I heard.
Everything else I have in mind is only hearsay.
P.S.: What a coincidence: While I was writing the above, Ralph had put in his post. So thinking I was first, I came in second. Actually he has said it all.
If your going to spend that kind of money, I would grab the pair of Fullrange Apogees that are for sale on Audiogon.

Have the seller ship them to Rich Murry @ True Soundworks for complete rebuild.

You will have a rare and outstanding speaker system, that not many others will ever have a chance to own.

Besides that....the Fullranges are better, than all of the above :-)

Hi Dave,
What do you mean by "better", in which fields that is, and how would you best power these speakers?
I can't comment on the speaker comparison having only really listened to the ESL-63s. However, you asked for a recommendation on Quad ESL restorers. Last year I visited Kent McCollum in Kansas City. Kent specializes in restoring old Quad ESls. I was very impressed with the quality of his work, the finished product was better than new IMHO, with a lot of small, but significant, upgrades.
Hi Detlof

I put a smiley at the end, we all know better is only an opinion.

My opinion:

The quads are nice, if...you don't have a large room, and don't play your music at higher volume levels, and don't need deep bass.

The Maggies are nice, have deeper bass than the Quad, and will play louder than the Quad.

The Soundlabs are great, play deeper than both of the above...but may, or may not, play louder than the Maggies.

The Fullrange will play "much" louder than any of the above, are truly fullrange (20hz)...and are the equal of the above, in all other areas that would be important to "me" as a user of these type of speaker designs. (and of course this is where the opinion part comes in).

And of course we have another factor..."cost"

1. Quad
2. Maggies
3. Apogees
4. Soundlab

The Apogee Fullrange must be biamped. I would use all tubes as a first choice, and solid state on the bass panels only, as a second choice.

Another smiley :-)

A triple stack of Quads would be "more" than outstanding!...check out Quads Unlimited. (I think their in Florida).

That would probably put you in the price range of the Soundlabs or Apogees.

Hi Dave,
Thanks. I do see your point. Two smileys ((:
I had a double stack of Quads once, was impressive, but I'm happier with my Sound Labs now.

Rebuilt 63's "Kentaja" $3300
used Gradient63 Dipole $1400
used Martin Logan DescentI Omni sub $1800
TOTAL = $6500 for the money, you will have an amazing full range system
Amps du jour