Review: Quad 57

Category: Speakers

New Owner Initial Impressions for Prospective New Owners


I am not affiliated with any of the manufacturers products mentioned. I am just a music lover and have been since I was a very young boy. Music is very important to me and I listen for hours on every day when possible. This review is my unbiased opinion, my impressions on these speakers having owned them for four months. I am probably about half way between initial impressions and being able to do a detailed review at this point. It is not a comparison between the Quad 57 and other ESL, dynamic or any other speakers although I make some references to others. Not sure why I waited to so long to try out a pair of these speakers. If I had this information four months ago I may have made a few changes in the way I bought my pair. More about this in the speaker condition section. For this reason my words here are for the sole purpose of hopefully helping those of you that are thinking of acquiring a pair to give you “more information”. I am not a veteran or expert on these speakers, and I am learning more about them with every listening session. But recognize that I also have other speakers, that I do listen to every week in different 3 systems, that are located in two different towns.

Rebuilt Quad ESL 57 Panels – Wayne Piquet aka (PK) Model


I am amazed no audiogon reviews on these 50 year old technology speakers that everyone talks so much about and uses so much so even today. To say they are a legend is totally wrong since they are anything but. Legends are myths, not real stories, something from the past. These 57’s are well-known, celebrated, prominent and used today as much as in the past. Yes they are famous and I think people get caught up in this when they bring them home expecting too much. These Quad 57’s are no different than other speakers in that they have strengths and weaknesses, but in my years of being a music lover they have struck a chord with me.
Of the speakers I have had and currently own these 57’s are one of the few that don’t need quite a bit of current to get them going to sound good. They also sound full at 80 db. Once you’ve heard your favorite singers voice’s on them a few times you will be hooked but not even know it. You will know it when you hear the same songs after some time on another speaker, something will be missing. So you go back to the 57 and sure enough there is that sound again. That effortless velvety midrange bloom. Its very addictive with the right music.


I define casual listening as enjoying the music itself for what it is, and how it is revealed on a specific speaker. Critical listening is listening for specific things like PRAT, bass tightness, transparency, high frequency roll off, soundstage (how wide / deep), transitions between all of these.
The 57’s I feel reproduce an excellent pin point soundstage, but I feel they are for me for listening to the “music” and not about going crazy wondering whether something sounds right or wrong in your system. In other words they are for normal volume casual listening and not critical listening. The 57’s sound great as they are - for what they are. I read somewhere that someone said they are like a “summer breeze” – that is very accurate I think. Natalie Merchant, Norah Jones, Jazz or Classical can sound to me like a “summer breeze”. AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen… maybe not. Well maybe one of Bruce’s ballads.
Even my teenage (IPOD / B&W Zeppelin RAP Music bass heavy) loving son figured out that there was something special about these speakers and appreciates their look and sound, and commented on them. That’s never happened before. When the day comes and the speakers get doled out he said “he wants these”. On the other end a contractor I had working in a room nearby during the winter thought they were really old room heaters. Little did he know what these 50 year old heaters cost!

FREQUENCY RESPONSE – Additional Subs and Tweeters

I have read and talked to people that have added a sub and or external tweeters to them. The person I bought mine from was using both a sub and the extra tweeters with them. I asked that they be disconnected for the audition. My personal opinion on this in the short time I have owned them. I believe if you have got to the stage where you are adding subs or tweeters to resolve any shortcomings to Quad 57’s, you are now doing critical listening, not casual listening. I also predict that you WILL end up selling them, because their shortcomings have now outweighed to YOU, their main advantage, the best midrange I have ever heard.
The Quad 57 bass and tweeter panel material is very thin and vibrates quickly. This is the reason the music comes out so fast. Other speakers sound slow by comparison. Musicians fingers on their instruments sound quicker like the picking of an acoustic guitar. They are faster than my Acoustat ESL. But then the Acoustats have a thicker panel material, are designed differently, and can take a lot of abuse. Much higher SPL’s. I have also been told (but have not heard in my room) that Martin Logan (not hybrid ESL) tend to be in between a Quad 57 and Acoustat in speed. Maybe others with experience here can chime in on this and confirm or not.
So how do you propose to add a sub or a tweeter to this quickness and get it to integrate properly? It will be a challenge. My opinion only is don’t bother and enjoy them for what they do well. But audiophiles are a rare stubborn breed and will keep doing it. Remember my prediction above.
I feel they lack nothing in the High Frequency (HF). Its all there, but its a delicate HF and non-fatiquing. People that add tweeters could be compensating for:
1) Bad tweeter panel – or at least not fully 100%. The tweeter panel is the one that gets damaged first when overdriven.
2) Possible Amp/Preamp/Source problems.
3) What about dirty ears – time to get that wax cleaned out.
4) Old or bad ears – HF is the first to go right. When is the last time you had your hearing checked. Women also hear better than men. So get the opinion of a female on them if you are a male.
Are the PK rebuilt panels that much better than stock 57’s ? Maybe someone with experience comparing the two (Stock 57 versus PK 57 rebuilds) can provide comment on this ?
Adding a sub to them? Again, are you sure the bass panel is 100% functional. Their bass sounds full at low volumes. Remember the summer breeze comment. Turning them up louder does not make the bass go lower. I am used to playing my music fairly loud and turning it up 90 – 95 + db with peaks well above 100db. These speakers changed my habits regarding that. They sound very satisfactory and full at 80-85 db.


Their ESL directional sound nature means placement is important and the sweet spot much smaller than with dynamic speakers. Turn your head and the image moves. Hence the term “head in a vice” in reviews. Mine are out in the room 7 feet from the back wall and I am getting 40 hz out of them. There is 5 feet from the inside edge of one speaker to the other. The sound stage in my room goes from the front wall to the actual speaker so is 7 feet deep. They were very easy to place as long as you can move them out into the room. I find with all my Planar, and Electrostat speakers, that being dipole (the sound comes out from the front and back) you need to give them “lots” of space behind, for the back wave to work and achieve good bass. And think about it, how many instruments go below 40 hz. A few but not that many. Clean tight full 40 hz bass, not room shaking bass.


I was warned you need to be careful with the wattage. The very thin panels that provide that fast sound can also be damaged very easily. If you are not able to control yourself and like to crank it up – these speakers are not for you. You WILL damage them and require the panels to be rebuilt. Reports say they they will play at 100db. I have not tested this and don’t feel a need to. Remember that music playing at 80-85 db on average can have peaks that are much higher. Studies have shown you can listen all day without hearing damage at 80db. Above that and you need to be careful.
I have tried a couple different amp/pre amp combo’s. I have used them with an Audible Illusions 3a Tube Pre Amp and a 100 watt Music Reference RM9 Tube Amp – being very careful with the gain controls. Wonderful room filling sound. Recently I started listening to them through a same era mint condition SS Quad Amp/Pre Amp, maybe a bit nostalgic, but these Quad Amps and Preamps are readily available for sale and trade. I had them checked out to ensure they were in spec. I then put resistors in the 100 wpc Amp to limit its output and keep the 57’s from getting damaged. So now these Quad 57 speakers, 405 amp and 303 preamp that I am currently listening to, are older than me, and I enjoy them immensely. That set the bar for “Vintage” for me.


Everyone I have talked to that has had them as their ONLY speaker have all said one of two things. 1) They love them and have had them for many, many years and would never sell them, or, 2) They sold them, for whatever reason, but they have all said they would have kept them if they were able to have more than one speaker and / or the room to store them and place them properly in the room.
There are many around in various condition. Originals in good condition, some in need of repair, and rebuilt models. Be wary of sellers – Do not buy unseen unless the seller is trusted. You need to ensure the panels are functional and will play at an SPL level that satisfies you when auditioning. If the owner won’t play them at the level you want – he/she is either covering up a problem or they will not play at the SPL you are looking for and are not the speakers for you. Check so see if the speaker connections and EHT power supply sections have been updated. One of my speakers has developed some low background noise in the EHT when it is really humid out. It doesn’t affect the sound and can only be heard when no music is playing but it is annoying. I live in the Great Lakes area of North America - summers are very humid. Consider a climate controlled room for them – this is an important point.
There are many people/places that fix and rebuild them. I am glad I went the route of finding a fresh pair that had already been rebuilt in the last couple of years, but again my EHT power modules need replacing. Easy enough to do by the DIY person but if you are not such a person look for a pair that has had all the work done already – panels, speaker connections and power supplies. I really wonder how many people that have bought and then sold them had a pair with something wrong with them. Problem panels will not play as loud, will not sound right, and will need more current since electricity being delivered is lost on possible leakages in the circuit.


OK - I admit – I DO need other speakers as well that do higher SPL’s, lower Hz…when listening to artists such as Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Roxy Music, etc… These are groups I grew up listening to at home and at concerts. I can’t listen to Springsteen’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, PF “The Wall”, Roxy Music “Avalon” or Tears for Fears “Seeds of Love” as just a few samples, unless they are at least 90 db average with much higher peaks. These are all actual concert setting listening sessions for me for a couple of hours.
But once that fix is done, I now clearly miss the Quad 57’s for regular casual listening again to artists like Natalie Merchant, Norah Jones, Jazz, Classical, Sarah McLachlan, Blue Rodeo. Now the venue for me because of that midrange is intimate and they are on stage close to me, playing for me in a nightclub. Those voices in that midrange, they sound personal now. That is what is magic about the 57’s to me.

I really look forward to both of the above type listening sessions. A big reason I have multiple speakers. Nothing changes the sound more than different speakers. If you are the type that enjoys multiple speakers time to add a Quad 57 in there ! I think everyone in this hobby should have a go at these speakers at least once to hear why they are still so popular.


A 2 x 4 piece of wood under the stock rear leg pointing the speaker down - more at you, actually raises the sound stage.
I have found some Arcici stands and have raised them just recently so that the middle of the tweeter panel is at my ears in the listening position. It’s too early on but I have found the bass is not lost in any way being higher up. The soundstage seemed about the same level with my ears in my room but they do seem to fill the room with sound easier. They also do look more modern on the stands. I will provide more information on comparison regular wood legs versus Arcici stands once I have had more time to listen.

I hope this information helps those thinking of acquiring these great speakers which is the main reason I posted this here in the review section. So many threads and posts in Audiogon. I am also hoping selfishly that some of the Quad 57 veterans will chime in on tips and advice for me and others here. I’m all ears.

Associated gear
Audible Illusions 3a Tube Pre/Amp with Music Reference RM9 Tube Amp

Quad 33 Preamp with 405 Amp with resistor inserted.

Similar products
Acoustat Model 3
Acoustat Spectra 33
Eminent Technology LFT8a
I have brought my sp10 to the location where the 57's are once for a week to try it out. My VPI TT is too big to move. So I am in the process of setting up a good TT at that location. My opinion so far and remember I am a linear tracker guy and I tend to keep the cartridge on there for a while before I change. But here is my opinion with examples.

Telling tonearm/cartridge differences - Low bass below 40hz will be an obvious challenge – HF needs to be worked on – 57 placement in room is very important. Any sounds in that midrange area will be very good – their strength - maybe too good (colored?) thus sounding better than they should? I don’t think this is necessarily bad. I explain later. Telling of cartridge differences in the transitions between these in the “57’s frequency range” will be excellent as these 57’s are very even in the db levels, I find between the high, mid and low sounds. It is very consistent.

Natalie Merchant Ophelia album and play the song – Effigy . These speakers give me the chills and goosebumps when the lady at the end finishes the song with only her beautiful voice. It is so strong and at such a low volume level it is incredible. This IS the 57 magic to me. I have to call whoever is in the house into the room to hear it and tell me if they hear it and if it is affecting them in the same way. I have played this song on my other speakers and they do a really really good job of it as well. But no chills. That is what I am looking for. I think different cartridges may do different things with this section.

HF – the 57’s really need to be placed properly and pointed at you because of the way they beam. They will compensate for “not ideal” tonearms/cartridges i.e. resonances, shrill sounding - better because their treble does not blare out at you. Another speaker like my 801’s would not let me play those tracks with those cartridges – they would be unbearable. But I find all ESL are sweeter in this regard as far as the HF goes. The 801’s are monitors and let you right away if u have put on bad LP. They cough it up.

Transparency - Chris Rea’s Auberge – Before this song begins we hear a man walking in the street, birds chirping, he walks from one side to the other and kicks a bottle across the street. What frequency does a kicked bottle do – higher midrange ? They reproduce this in a very uncanny way – the scene is so real in front of you. The bottles revolutions as it spins on the ground is so clear.

Soundstage- Eagles – Hell Freezes over – Hotel California – When people come over I like to do this test. The Acoustat Spectra 33’s are placed about 5 feet behind each 57 close to the front wall. The song starts with just instruments. Alternates from left to right at different depths for each instrument. People in the sweetspot think the music is coming from the bigger Acoustats in the back. The 57’s are only about 6 feet in front of them.

Bass – it is what it is – full to 40 hz.
Still The bass is tight and short. So if the cartridge tends to be more loose or longer sounding in the bass the 57’s will compensate and make it sound tighter.
My opinion – I think if a person likes voices and midrange sounds alot - you may not be listening to alot of music that has alot of music below 40 hz because it tends to take away from those songs where the voices are predominant?

Now I listened to Simply Red – Picture Book on my 801’s last night and it was phenomenal - highs, mids - lows . Can’t wait to hear this lp on the 57’s to compare.

The theme seems to be the frequencies they do well sound better ? Wonder why they are so addicting and still popular after all these years:)

With my TT project in progress for that room the 57’s make good recorded cd’s sound nice. Eric Clapton Unplugged is another one that comes to mind. I can’t wait to hear the vinyl versions more there. That is when I will be getting into a personal challenge with the SPL’s I think since vinyl is so linear compared to the compressed way a cd is recorded. I will be turning it higher without realizing it.
Henry I am going to have to stop posting after i have had a big morning coffee on Sunday mornings. I am finding I go on and on.
I am hoping someone that has been able to spend more time with the 57's will come on here and answer your question better. As my experience with them grows I will add more info as well.
Wanted to make a couple of comments to clarify a few points. Full disclaimer: I sell and service ESL speakers primarily Quads. Wayne Picquet is a personal friend and we do business together from time-to-time. And I personally feel the ESL63 is a significantly better speaker versus the original but the scope of this discussion is about the original.

Does a PK rebuilt tweeter panel(or speaker) sound better than the original version? In some ways this is a tough question to answer. All original Quads that have not been restored are now at least 30 years old and most are appoaching 40-50 years in age. Most of them will have degraded to the point that a meaningfull comparison cannot be made.

But all is not lost. I purchased my first pair of originals in 1982 when they were still available new. And I have had the opportunity in the last 5 years to audition originals, never restored, that are still in excellent operational condition. I have a pair in for service at the moment that I would say are working at 95%+ original performance levels. I also pulled a pair of tweeter elements from a pair about 4 years ago that still performed at original specification.

IMO without question a Wayne Picquet rebuilt tweeter panel(or speaker) is an exact duplicate of the original. Why wouldn't they be? He uses the exact same materials as the factory used, and has the same tooling and processes as originally employed by the factory. Wayne's work is better than the original in terms of unit-to-unit consistency and better overall fit/finish versus what was originally delivered by the factory.

Can too much power damage the delicate tweeter panel? A resounding no provided the protection circuitry is in place. This protection circuit was originally developed by Quad in the late 80's for the ESL63. They modified the circuit to work inside the original. With the protection circuit in place it is simply impossible to damage the speaker. Believe me I have tried. It can't be done. And I personally use 300 watt mono block tube amps with my Quads, 63 or original. Worst case is you burn-up the protection circuit but the panels transformer remain undamaged. And the circuit has zero sonic impact. A win-win situation all around.

Any Wayne Picquet restored original will have protection circuits in place. I know because I produce them and he has bought hundreds of them in the last five years. If one has an original restored by Wayne they can use any amp they desire without fear of damage.

A properly functioning original with protection boards in place will indeed hit levels of 100dB. This is provided the amp has the ability to drive the speakers to this kind of level. Most of the amps recommended for the original don't have a chance of achieving this sort of performance. The key when chosing an amp for the original is one with a large and stable power supply. This rules out most of the flea-size amps generally recommended for the speaker.

If one is content with lower SPL levels then small amps can indeed produce a lovely sound. But they will never reveal all the capabilities of the speaker.
Hi Kentaja

Excellent information.
I should qualify that the seller I bought my 57's from sent the panels to Wayne to rebuild. When they were returned to him he put them back into a stock 57 - hence no protection circuit. So this is why I am careful. Reason the title of this thread says "Panels". If I can change the title to prevent confusion I will following this post.

In your experience does this protection circuit on a "57" affect the purity of the sound in anyway ?

Also you said -

"And I have had the opportunity in the last 5 years to audition originals, never restored, that are still in excellent operational condition. I have a pair in for service at the moment that I would say are working at 95%+ original performance levels."

So to clarify then - if someone is looking to buy an original condition 57 speaker - and they find an excellent sample - would you agree the years on it will not have decayed the materials holding the panels together - even if it was stored away for 5 - 10 years ?

IME the protection board has no impact on the sonics. It is not like protection schemes of the past that were in series with the signal input. Instead this circuit rides parallel with the audio signal. It does nothing until the voltage threshold is reached and then it engages to prevent any further voltage swing. Simple, elegent with zero downside.

IME finding original Quads in all original condition that are still close to factory spec. is getting close to impossible. They are all so old at this point only a handful of carefully maintained examples will exist. Is it impossible? No. Improbable most likely.

The particular pair I was referring to was produced in the early 70s, the lovely bronze grilles! Original owner that imported directly from the UK in 1974, absolutely fanatically maintained, look as good as the day they left the factory, and have been in storgage for the past 15 years. Everything works perfect even the rectifier blocks. Musuem quality example of the speaker IMO and I told the owner he should not take less than $4-5K for the speakers. Very rare to find something this old that degrades as it does over the decades in this kind of condition either functionally or cosmetically.

OTOH I see lots of original Quads that look nice, even play nice, but are a far cry from what they should be and their owners want far too much money for them. Restored examples like from Wayne, or the few rare originals in top notch condition are worth $3,800-$5,000. Most of them are worth no more than $800-$1,200 IMO provided everthing is intact and the cosmetics are good. If not they are worth perhaps $300-$500.

IME there is rarely a deal to be found on an old electrostat. You get what you pay for. What initially appears to be a bargain may quickly become a money pit. Full or even partial restorations can get pricey. Again, I have seen great finds and deals on old Quads but that is really more a matter of luck anymore than anything else. It most cases it will work the other way unfortunately.