Review: Quad U S A ESL-989 Speaker

Category: Speakers

I have owned the QUAD ESL-989 for over a year now, and will not think of giving it up for any other speaker. They suit my musical tastes perfectly, as I listen solely to classical music, and particularly enjoy vocal music, especially Bach's cantatas.

The most important aspects of sound to me are precise definition, and reproduction, and the QUAD speakers do this nearly perfectly. They allow pinpoint resolution of each component of the orchestra, but I cannot solely attribute this to the speakers alone, as my amplifier, pre-amplifier, and SACD player also have a significant role to play in musical reproduction.

As I mentioned, the sound stage is unparalleled. The upper- and mid-range frequencies are flawless. The bass (which I only hear when listening to the organ or cello) is precise and causes my body to resonate, as well as the furniture that I sit on, but oddly enough it does not shake the floor, so I must say that this would be the only weak point of the speakers.

I have heard speakers that cost 30 times the price of the QUAD's, and they don't come close to matching the precise sound reproduction. I don't think I'll ever own any other pair of speakers.

Associated gear
Cardas Golden Reference speaker cables
I have the ESL-63, so I can't comment on the sound of the 989 specifically, except to say that Drbond's description of the 989 sound applies as well to the ESL-63.

Now, as for the socks: The socks are there for aesthetic reasons, however the metal grille underneath is for personal safety. Behind the metal grille, there is a thin plastic membrane - a dustcover - which is there for the longevity of the panels. Some people claim a sonic benefit from removing combinations of all three (sock, metal grille, dustcover. Removing the dustcover may or may not be harmful to your speakers, depending on the dust and humidity of the environment. I personally would never take the metal grille off.

I believe I have found 'my' speakers in the ESL-63, and I can't or rather don't want to spend the $$$ on the potentially better 989s - at least not until the next bout of audiphile nevrosis hits me.

Take care,

- Harald
Nice review. I had heard a pair of Quad electrostats in a hotel room for the first time and it was am absolute let down. The speaker looked so big in that tiny room.
Then I got a chance to visit a dealer and that setup really blew me away. He was using ultra-expensive gear form Nagra and tubes. They are amazing speakers, especially for the clarity and being so musical. Some vocals seem eerily real. The only thing these speakers cannot do is the deep bass - of which I am not a fan. I found them tonally very soothing.
I have similar feelings for my Quad dynamic speakers.
Hello Fellow Goners,
I am late to the party, however, I would like to note:
First, Clifton (Gkcc3) thank for your excellent point that "NO" speaker is going to sound like an auditorium performance in ones living room.
Just not going to happen.
Second, everyones actual hearing capacities are very different,
making any equipment review fodder for debate, I'm OK with that.
Third, Music is Art.
We all may sit at the same concert and come away with different views of the performance.
It's all subjective and that's OK as well.
Now here is my point.
I have and play a '66 Steinway M that is next to my Quad ESL 989s powered by a Wolcott P120. I play by ear so when I am learning a piece and I'm listening to Nat Cole, Oscar Peterson, Monk, Chuck Leavell, Basie, Ashkenazy,
Emil Gilels, Diana K or whomever, the Piano reproduction through the Quad 989s is very close.

Is it perfect, no, it can't be. One is live the other a reproduction, but it is very close top to bottom to the Steinway.
This is what I hear with my ears, for what it's worth.
Until then remember, "Art can Beautify the Dull" so enjoy it while you can.
My two cents,