Quad ESL 988 Floorstanding Speakers

4.57/5 (14 Reviews) MSRP : $7000.00

Product Description

Quad ESL-988 Electrostatic Loudspeaker

  • Sensitivity: 86db/2.83V rms
  • Impedance: 8ohm nominal
  • Dimensions: 2.6w x 3.7h x 1.24d feet
  • Weight: 44 lbs

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    Reviews 1 - 5 (14 Reviews Total) | Next 15

    User Reviews

    Overall Rating:3
    Value Rating:5
    Submitted by Graham a Audio Enthusiast

    Date Reviewed: October 14, 2007

    Bottom Line:   
    I have recently taken delivery of my new QUAD ESL 2905's (June 2007). I have auditioned speakers extensively over the past 3 years in my search for the perfect speaker and tried Watt

    Puppy 7's and 8's, Revel Salons, Dynaudio Evidence Temptations, Magnepan 20.1s etc etc ..... the list goes on.

    When I came across the 2905's back in June 2007 I auditioned in awe. They remain the most coherent and seamless speaker I have heard ...... and they have REAL bass. I have long

    dismissed electrostats because they had no bass ........ but the 2905's have redefined for me what true palpable bass is. It's a truly integrated speaker from top to bottom. It is effortless and

    entirely non-fatiguing.

    To answer an earlier thread about whether vocals sound more forward on the 2905's than others my view is no. The vocals sound right ..... but then so too does every other part of it's

    frequency re-production. There is beautiful separation and 'air' between instruments and vocals which makes them 'right'. They are superb ..... but there is a catch that will not please many.

    I am now on my 2nd pair of 2905s after the first pair (then only 3 months old) had a panel failure of some sort. I began noticing huge differences between speaker sensitivities that made

    correct imaging and soundstaging impossible. And then, to make things worse, I lost most of the bass response from both speakers.

    To Quads credit they did provide a brand new replacement pair which I received 3 weeks ago (September 2007) and which are now burning in nicely.

    Recent experiences on the web suggest this is not an isolated case and panel failures in the 2905s and 2805's have been recorded elsewhere. So reliability is clearly an issue with this

    speaker and I remain nervous that the same type of failure will happen again and I'll need to spend another 12 weeks waiting for a new pair.

    So ........... yes, they are a stunning speaker (regardless of price) and compete with units 5x their price. But the "Made in China" thing has clearly affected reliability.

    Ken Kessler of "HiFi News" in the UK gave these speakers a "20/20, Best Speaker on the Planet" review back in 2006. My listening experiences are almost consisitent with those in his

    review, including his lab report findings that suggest he also experienced sensitivity differences with his audition pair. What I wasn't expecting was the 5-7 dB of sensitivity differences that I

    experienced which is, well, kind of important.

    But I also note that Ken Kessler wrote the glossy "History of QUAD" book that accompanied my 2905s when they came delivered in their "bigger then mankind" cardboard boxes ........ so I

    therefore remain sceptical about Kens impartiaility and objectivity in his scoring of these speakers. If Ken knew how unreliable they are now proving to be, he wouldn't be giving them 20/20 !

    It's food for thought and I'm happy to answer questions on my ongoing impressions of my (now 2nd) pair of 2905s.

    Expand full review >>

    Used product for:   1 to 3 months

    Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

    Product model year:   2006

    Price Paid:    $15000.00

    Purchased At:   Australia

    Overall Rating:2
    Value Rating:3
    Submitted by michael klementovich a AudioPhile

    Date Reviewed: June 24, 2005

    Bottom Line:   
    I purchased these Speakers because they intrigue me more than they impress me.
    I had heard them at 2 different audio stores on the east coast and were not impressed at either establishment...They both demo'd these with the Quad Tubed equipment which is not very good. I was bound and determined to make them sound better than I had heard them in the stores. They were immediately wired with silver speaker wire and silver IC's and then powered with the amazing Quicksilver TRIODE 6C33C Push Pull Monoblocks. These are quite possibly the best amps ever made at any price and true to my previous experiences these amps just made the QUAD 988's sing and dance...as best they could. These speakers are so unbelievably GOOD (with some types of music) and so unbelievably BAD with other types of music, that either way they leave me speechless. If one wants to designate a room just for chamber music that these are the speakers for you. That is my reason for keeping them in addition to showing others how good my Klipsch LaScala's and K-Horns really are.
    What can I say...great and terrible!!! No middle of the road with these puppies...They are however the best of the three, the other two being the Maggies and the Martin Logans

    Expand full review >>

    Used product for:   Less than 1 month

    Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

    Product model year:   2004

    Price Paid:    $5000.00

    Purchased At:   Underwood Hi Fi

    Overall Rating:5
    Value Rating:4
    Submitted by Nicolas B a Audio Enthusiast

    Date Reviewed: November 22, 2004

    Bottom Line:   
    I had been dreaming of loudspeakers with the qualities of Stax electrostatic headphones. With Quad's ESL 988, I have found something that comes close to it.

    Music played through the Quad ESL 988 just flows out of them in a relaxed, effortless manner without any trade-offs in sonic precision. That is their special treat. And they always sound extremely
    uncoloured and clear. And the ESL's sound is as homogenous as that of a good small
    two-way monitor loudspeaker. You will never hear the slightest "woof woof here -tweet tweet there"! These loudspeakers teach every other speaker I've ever heard an embarrassing lesson about coherence. At the same time, the resolution of details is astonishing, even with sensibly priced, modest little amplifiers like Quad's 99 stereo.

    It is true that the 988s have less shine in the upper treble than other good loudspeakers, but only very slightly so. Their treble is good, it just doesn't stick out like with most loudspeakers
    in the market. And their bass will indeed play loud and/ or low, but neither extremely low nor very very loud. But for many types of music, and for a still considerable range of loudness, these restrictions simply don't exist.

    The realism of timbre stuns me time after time. With voices, it sometimes definitely sounds as if a person were crouching behind the loudspeaker panel and talking through it. Distant church bells in the background of a recording actually fooled me - I thought I was hearing the bells of my town church. No kidding.
    I also enjoy the 'blackness' of these speakers. With no input signal present, they are dead silent, and their low efficiency turns into an advantage when they play: No hum or hiss or buzz from the rest of the system comes through. Pleasant.

    The 988s disperse their sound narrower than many conventional box loudspeakers, but not so narrow as to make it unpractical. Their ability to disappear as a sound source depends largely on placement. So do the stereo localization and partly the depth of the sound image. All three can be achieved to a considerable degree, though with sometimes a bit, sometimes a lot more work involved than with mini-monitors.

    So many contradictory opinions exist about the best ways of using the Quad ESL63 and ESL988 that I'll resort to just trying what works best for ME in MY room with MY music. Apart from the choice of amplifiers, there are the socks question (remove the cover cloth, making the ESLs even much uglier, or leave it on), the subwoofer question, the placement
    question, the issue of putting them onto stands or leaving them on the floor, and others.

    Hopefully my experiment with an active crossover to relieve the ESLs from those nasty notes below 80 Hertz will work. Above the mid- to low bass, the 988s can go really loud. So, together with the ADAM Audio SubP subwoofer's adjustable high-pass output, the system is ready for colossal organ pieces. The rear wall of my room is going to be padded with some acoustic foam and covered by a folded cotton curtain from Gerriets.

    It is astonishing how such an electro-mechanically complex piece of gear produces such a very clear, precise, and utterly effortless sound. Mr Peter Walker's way of converting the music signal into mechanical movements and coupling the movements to the air is as clever as it is unique. There is no such thing as the one ultimate loudspeaker for all purposes. But the Quad ESL988 deserve to be called a classic. I agree with almost everything Paul Seydor wrote in his review in "The Absolute Sound". In quite a few years of muddling around with HiFi gear, the ESL988 has been the first device I decided to keep forever. I can live with its limitations, enjoy its strengths and stay happy as long as my ears keep working. My search for a very good loudspeaker has come to a happy end. I finally concentrate more on music and less on the gear. After all, it's the music that counts.

    Expand full review >>

    Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

    Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

    Price Paid:    $4000.00

    Purchased At:   German HiFi dealer (

    Overall Rating:5
    Value Rating:5
    Submitted by twodolphins a AudioPhile

    Date Reviewed: November 10, 2004

    Bottom Line:   
    Ok, I am one of those guys who like Quad Sound. That's not unusal for an european guy. However, it's unusal for someone who comes from Croatia and do not have aristocrats in his familiy or father who owns a multinational company and therefore buy himself an expensive audio toy.

    I was infected with audiophile desease when I was younger, while I was working on the local Radio Station in Zagreb and get in contact with sophisticated audio equipment of professional quality.

    Then I moved in Paris and get in contact with all expensive gadgets in local hifi stores, including Stax headphones and french (locally) highly appreciated speakers. I owned also Jadis Orchestra tube amplifier, and Rega Mira3 integrated amplifier, as well as ESL 57, minipods, Atlas speakers and Baby speakers.

    Let's make it clear. There's nothing like british old school sound. It's not only a matter of technical skills to produce a highly sophisticated technical device (almost anyone on this planet can make that incl. China or Croatia). There's a matter of the "perception of the sound". Different cultures have different sound perception, and therefore soud engeneers and technicians from different parts of this globe are producing devices which will reproduce a vision of the sound which is locally colored. You will agree with me that Japanese amplifier has totally different sound color comparing to the Graaf or Jadis. Why is that possible ? Why we do not have a common sens of musical beauty and audiophile qualities ? May be because we have some differences in the perception of esthetics (as well in the visual art, as in the music).

    So, QUAD ESL 988 is the fruit of the long tradition of british (audio) culture and manufacturing ability (even if QUAD is today a Chinese owned company).

    I beleive that this speaker is among 10 best speakers availables on this planet. And therefore one of 3 best loudspeakers of european production. So, probably the best you will ever hear if you are located somewhere in Europe.

    I will not praise here it's qualities in term of clarity of the sound, dinamics, frequency reponse etc. as everything in that sens was allready stated before. I just want to state: so if this is one of 10 best speakers available for a reasonable sum of money, the one who wants to buy an ultimate sound should just stop his eternal search for the holy graal and admit that any other of those 10 will demonstrate the same or similar problems as well as qualities.

    Nothing is perfect. Quad ESL 988 is not perfect either. However, this is what every single audiophile wants the best speaker. Once you admit it's existence, you can discuss about room (for the larger room you should take the big brother ESL 989), esthetics (blue or black ?) and of cours about other few concurent speakers (Hyperion, Merlin, Marin Logan etc.) which may be a valuable alternative.

    Before you decide what to buy, take in consideration the fact that this "eastern guy", which has no money for extravagant toys, has decided however to use all his money, to ask a mortage on his bank and to ask some money from his friends to buy ESL 988 and QUAD II 40. Well, I don't regret. And will never change my speakers, unless QUAD will make a new pair of ESL.

    One of QUAD french distributors recently have told me that a new range of QUAD ESL will be available in january 2005.

    The new range of ESL should be even bigger than 989 and "better" loudspeaker housed in wooden boxes and, of course, more expensive.

    Expand full review >>

    Used product for:   More than 1 year

    Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

    Product model year:   2003

    Price Paid:    $4000.00

    Purchased At:   HiFi Experience Lond

    Overall Rating:5
    Value Rating:5
    Submitted by Sinbad a Audio Enthusiast

    Date Reviewed: February 26, 2004

    Bottom Line:   
    Bigger is not better. I have compared 988 against 989 side by side. In my room (about 46 sq.m) 988 was far superior. The bass was more tight and with more detail on 988. 988 is the best loudspeaker I have heard.

    Expand full review >>

    Used product for:   More than 1 year

    Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

    Product model year:   2002

    Price Paid:    $6000.00

    Reviews 1 - 5 (14 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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