Quad ESL-2905 Floorstanding Speakers

Quad ESL-2905 Floorstanding Speakers 

DESCRIPTION

The new version of the ESL-989.
Maximum Power Output 2N/m2 at 2m on-axis
Sensitivity 1.5u Bar / Volt referred to 1m
Impedance 8 Ohm nominal
Maximum continuous input voltage 10V
Programme Peak (for undistorted output) 40V
Programme Peak (permitted) 55V
Distortion (100dB @1m) - Above 1kHz 0.0015
Distortion (100dB @1m) - Above 100Hz 0.005
Distortion (100dB @1m) - Above 50Hz 0.01
Frequency Response 32Hz - 21kHz (-6dB), 28Hz - 23kHz (usable)
Axis band limits -6dB at 35Hz (3rd Order)
Axis band limits (low level) -6dB >25kHz
AC input 220-240V or 110-120V
Power fuse 100mA anti-surge (100-120V)
Dimensions (H x W x D) 1430 x 695 x 385mm (add 25-55mm for feet)
Weight 34.8kg net

USER REVIEWS

Showing 1-10 of 10  
[Nov 01, 2015]
kb0000
AudioPhile

These are current version of the classic Quad ESL-63 speakers. I am the first person living in the Western Hemisphere to own the ESL 63 speakers, of which I now have two pairs, one International Monitor, and one American Monitor. There came a time when Quad was purchased by a Chinese company, and Quads are now made in China, unlike the ESL-63. There was considerable criticism of the ESL-63 for panel failure, which was, as Raj J a AudioPhile noted, almost always due to overpowering the speaker. However, Raj is way off track when he says, " those who say these speakers have failed and have faulty pannels - please don't lie! you have either abused the pannels by over-driving them or someone else in your household has abused them - again this category of people are idiots! the above two types of people DO NOT deserve Quad ESL's, because thet are IMMATURE!"

I use a Berning EA-230 amp with my Quads-- 30 watts per channel (the amp Stereophile declared is the perfect match with the Quads). That is not "over-driving them", and I have never had any problem with my ESL 60s in some 33 years of use.

Somewhere along the line, some Chinese company bought Quad. While the original Quad 60s were both designed and built in England, today's Quads are designed in England and built in China, the world wide standard for crappy quality. Panels fail in today's ESL speakers because the Chines can't build a decent product, not because owners abuse the speaker. Raj J is 30 years behind the times. Years ago, Quad's engineers beefed up the speakers circuits to withstand overdriving. The problem today is Chines quality control, which does not exist.

In between the ESL63 and the ESL2905 came the ESL960, also made in China, which I made the mistake of buying. The 960 was a small, but noticeable sonic improvement over the ESL63, but a panel failed in both speakers within 6 years of use-- use, not overdriving. On the other hand, my 33 year old UK made Quads are still going strong with no problems.

When you experience panel failure with this incompetently built speaker, your problems are just starting. Getting it fixed is practically impossible. When both my ESL 960s failed after a mere 6 years, Quad's solution was for me ship them (they ship at 100 lbs each) 1200 miles to Quad's authorized service center. Never did that because the authorized service center never replied to my emails.

These are very good speakers. They are also very expensive speakers. They are also very likely to fail, and, when they fail, they are very expensive to fix if you are lucky enough to manage to get them fixed.

I'm 73 years old. I've been using Quad ESL speakers for 33 years, and I hope that the two remaining still working pairs of the ESL63 I have will last as long as I do because I never again will buy anything made by Quad because it is overpriced Chinese junk (think about it. There is a pun there).

OVERALL
RATING
1
VALUE
RATING
1
[Nov 22, 2012]
Colin
Audio Enthusiast

I am purchasing the classique 2905's. I would like to put them onto a base plate with small castors. Can anyone provide the overall base dimensions for the base plate and the positions of the spikes so I don't have any clashes with the castor bolts?

First venture into Quads - anxious.......

Thanks.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Aug 08, 2012]
Richard
Audio Enthusiast

I suppose it is bit presumptuous for me to review something I do not yet own. Let me explain.

I have Naim kit and my present speakers are PMC OB1i's. Nothing wrong with them, or not until I made the mistake of listening to a pair of 2905's. I had never noticed how coloured my speakers were, nor had I noticed the lack of sound staging or imaging. They were always adequate, not exceptional but similar to every other piston driven speaker I have owned or listened to. This includes some silly priced stuff at Hi Fi Shows.

But these Quads were a total revelation. Never have I experienced just how transparent and holographic my music could sound. The bass was somehow a little lighter, but definitely all there and very clean. Deep bass was firm and significant, just not booming or overwhelming as it can be when my PMCs are placed too close to a back wall or in a corner.

I play older music from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Both pop, jazz and classical. I have a very wide range from Beethoven through Miles Davis to Pink Floyd. Whatever was played sounded just right. The images hang there as if the musicians are actually in the room. If you have never heard these speakers, this might sound fanciful, but it is not, I assure you. A wonderful experience.

These speakers are not perfect. Like everything else in life, there are drawbacks. Possibly significant drawbacks to some may be the limit in playback volume. From my experiences, it is more than sufficient. But I am not a head banging Metallica supporter. Also, the bass delivery whilst so fast and uncoloured to my ears, may sound inadequate to those that demand boom-boom sounds from their speakers. To my ears, these are not drawbacks. On the contrary it just reinforces the superlative sound that is available.

Now all I have to do is pay for them. But in anticipation, I have already made some significant changes to my listening room.

BTW, I have been told by Quad that they do not simply deliver and expect you to carry them in and unpack, etc. They actually unpack and position them wherever you wish. I am arranging for my dealer to then do the actual installation and setup.

To me that last bit is important. These are heavy beasts.

If you have never heard them, do yourself a favour and go and listen, listen very carefully and be prepared to be transported into musical paradise.

Richard

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Feb 14, 2011]
Leoross
Audio Enthusiast

For thirty years I have listened to almost nothing but quad esl's and these are the best alround esl of the lot, although the 989 was as strong on imaging, it lacked the taughtness and punch of the 2905's. They are totally transparent abd consequently you just never get listening fatigue, I can't recommend them enough and they are astonishing value. I use Naim CDs, Thorens deck and i pod through Audio research sp 16 and Krell KSA 150. I venture to say that for solo acoustic instruments and the human voice there is no better speaker in any price range. However, there has been a drawback which has been intermittent buzz on the treble panels in one speaker. After 4 months an element needed replacing, under warranty and when returned it still intermittently crackles. I am told by quad that this is a 'common fault ' with this speaker and is to do probably with dampness or moisture in the element causing a shorting effect, hence the buzz. A warm room will cure this. If this is so then this is not a problem, only a minor temporary inconvenience which a quad lover will put up with because of the rewards. I am monitoring this situation and will keep you informed because this may well help other quad lover/sufferers! Keep chasing the butterfly.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Jan 22, 2011]
dpaws
Audio Enthusiast

It's hard to add to what's already been said. Superb speakers that really do fast tight bass! Some thoughts though... room size can be quite intimate, mines 4m x 5m x 3m ceilings, sounds wonderful - with only some heavy cushions in the back corners to kill standing waves. Amps? You need power - trust me. I've tried Graaf GM20 mono's, Levinson ML430, Vitus SS010 but nothing drives them quite like the NAD M2 - a stunning combination and a bargain too! Tweak your speaker cables for taste, I've gone back to Nordost after starting with copper which added just a hint of warmth. Music? Marillion / P.Floyd / Goldfrapp / Bowie / Bon Jovi / Trance / Jazz - anything you can "smoke" to ;) Spend monies on cables - I highly recommend a power regenerator just to nail the input voltage steady. Go treat yourselves or come for a listen! I paid around £4.5k new for mine - shop around and get on the phone!!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Sep 27, 2010]
Raj J
AudioPhile

good day! greetings from Melbourne.
my Quad ESL 2905 speakers were delivered on Friday Sept 24th, have had them running since (72 hours nonstop) they have be run in nicely and sound very warm indeed.

firstly to those who have said that these break easily due to "made in china" are complete idiots! the build quality and craftmanship is second to none, only found on very high end speakers such as Sonus Faber, Wilsons, Genesis audio and the like, these are solidly built and are very sturdy for a panel type speaker. infact these are probably the most sturdiest panel type speaker I have ever come across, other names such as Martin Logan, Magneplanars, Sanders sound, Sound labs, Inner sound etc are equally good, but not close to the 2905's solid build.

secondly: to those who say these speakers have failed and have faulty pannels - please don't lie! you have either abused the pannels by over-driving them or someone else in your household has abused them - again this category of people are idiots! the above two types of people DO NOT deserve Quad ESL's, because thet are IMMATURE!

1. these are extreme fine precision musical instruments! they are for the MATURE MUSIC LOVER who cares for their music and their audio systems! these speakers are not for show offs, loud getto blasters, or how loud can this play... i.e. so called music enthusiasts who don't really listen to music other than passive lsitening perhaps; in other words they are clueless, and sadly you find a lot of these people who have the money to spend on high end audio, but do not have the highend intellect to match up! go get an education!

2. I soent nearly $15 grand (AUD) for these ESL's and I can proudly say that they beat the hell out of speaker systems costing nearly twice that! or way over. I have listened to the following:
Martin Logan evolution II statements in Chicago: very very loud and listener fatigue sets in within few hours.
Sonus Faber stradivari: very nice, smooth and probably the best dynamic driver out there. only draw back they are housed in boxes. not as open as maggies or pannel types.
Wilson X1:outstanding speakers, very smooth and easy to listen to, but there is that boxey effect after some hours of listening
Apogee studio grands: probably my favorite type of ribbon speakers, very nice indeed, can play soft or lound but requires some very heafty amps to make them sneeze!
Infinity IRSV: listen to these in the early 90's can still remember their sound, very wide soundstage and extremely powerful, again requires massive monoblocks that would be ideal to drive these and they are usually tri-amped.
Wilson Beneech Bishop: very good bass & highs, but the mids were no where close to ribbons or ESL type
Genesis 1's and Genesis 300: very cool looks and ok sounds, for the money there are better out there... sorry Genesis fans.
the awesome Klipsh Horn (orginal version): this speaker probably was very easy to listen to, relaxed on the ears and very easy to drive. however they are horns and sometimes have a glaring midrange, although not too bad. preferred the maggies though.
Avant Garde Trio Classico: very annoying, too big and requires massive room to perform well; not my cup of tea at all!
Maggies MG20.1: this was about to be my next purchase-upgrade if you like to call it, until I actaully sat down and did some serious listening to the Quad 2905. as far as the categories are concerned, I personally conclude:
dynamic driver - either Wilsons or Sonus Faber (excellent speakers in it's design & class)
ribbons - Apogees (no longer made although there is some chap in Queensland re-making apogees) for that matter with ribbon designs I would go for Maggies either MG 20.1 or MG3.6
Electrostatic - Quad 2905 period!

3. there are certain things the 2905's cannot do compared to the other types listed as above... but I am not really interested in those other types, since my listening tastes are most suited to Jazz (old & new), live recordings/natural music recordings, vocals from Ray Charles, Toney Bennet, Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson, Holly Cole, Norah Jones, Rene Marie, Dena DeRose, Melody Gardot, to Michael Buble & Nat King Cole, also instrumentals such as trumpet by Chet Baker or Chris Botti, piano by Bruce Barth, Bill Charlap, Errol Garner, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, and the great Ahmed Jamal, and also some easy listening by Tracy Chapman or Nina Simone & the list goes on...

4. to me the Quad 2905 based on my personal music tastes & listening is the best one could possibly ever have! they are the most accurate sounding of all that I have listed. free from any colorations, zeros listner fatigue, zero distortion, full of drive & liveliness, fills the entire room and makes the perfect ambience and soundstage that I have not experienced with any other speaker to date!

5. I guess the magic is in the design, ESL with no cross over = no distortion. also the drive of energy comes from a point source i.e. from one original spot hence the entire specturm of the soundfield is launched into the room without any effort whatsoever. the 2905's are also lightning fast, extremely fast transients and way faster than anything I have currently heard including the Avant Garde Trio's.

6. the 2905's tonal accuracy is second to none! the start/stop, speed acceleration and decay is simply breath taking, leaves you in awe... wondering what they could do this with Quads before...
the soundstage is incredible you can visualize everyone & everything. there are other pannels that will do this be it ribbons from Apogee or Martin Logan or other ESL types such as Inner sound, but there is something they cannot match it's called the "Quad Magic" the essence of the new Quad 2905 magic is simply pure music at its best!

7. the other beauty is that you don't require mega watt amps to drive these gems, just 10V to 30V or so is plenty to drive them to realistic levels - of course depending on your room! therefore somewhere starting at 16watts on tubes to 70watts on tubes would be fine. on solid state somewhere around 30watts to 100watts would be more than enough with good current drive and stable drive capable of going down to 3 ohms.
a simple NAD 35 watt integrated or a 40 watt Musical fidelity will drive the 2905's to glorious levels.

8. but Ah! this is where the Quad ESL magic is! it is not about the watts or power or how loud you can really go ho ho ho... it is about the clarity, finesse, smoothness, & pure musicality that these ESL's can do better than any design I have ever come across. therefore the amplification you match it with, will ultimately determiine the sound you get out of it. if you want pure music with some gusto and balls then perhaps Audio Research or Manley may suit your tastes. if you want something lighter but still have enough of juice to get the bass & lower registers going names such as Bryston, Aragon, Pass Labs or Macintosh will do just fine.
then again like me - if you want clarity, finesses, 3D soundstage, smoothness and very easy to listen to for endless hours, amps such as conrad johnson, golden tube, Quad, Quick Silver, Lam, Audio Note, Sonic Frontiers, Cary and other likes will make these the most pleasureable speakers to listen to and live with.

9. drawbacks: considering what has been stated by other people, and the real problems they have encountered, it remains whether their claims are really true or not... I could think of mainly 2 drawbacks with the 2905's
(1) they do require a lot of space to from the back wall to perform well
(2) installing the stabilizer 10kg bar is a pain in the butt!

summary: if you really like & enjoy your music, appreciate what the artists do in their purest form; just audition the Quad ESL 2905 - you will probably come back with a pair!
cheers to Ken Kessler - probably the best speaker on the planet indeed!
and yes they do bass wonderfully & plenty of too, even way lower than my maggies.
cheers, Raj J

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Feb 23, 2010]
symptomatic
AudioPhile

I bought a pair of 2805's and 2905's three years ago. They have given me no trouble in that time, and they sound wonderful. If you are a volume freak, look elsewhere. But if you are a clarity freak, like myself, you should audition these speakers.

I also auditioned the M 20.1 speakers, which also sound very good. But to my ears, the ribbon tweeter has a different sonic signature than the bass and midrange panels, which makes analog music sound artificial to me. Quad does not share this weakness.

Before the Quads, my main speakers were the ML Prodigy. The electrostatic panels sound clean with the right amplifier, but the bass cones are quite muddy by comparison. Upgrading crossover components is good, but better is an active crossover. As with the M 20.1, the sonic signature of the two speaker types is different. While to my ears the cones are inferior to the panels, the crossover is lower, so the overall effect is similar. Again, the Quads are clearly superior in this respect.

The Quads use electrolytic caps to shape the signal and two step-up transformers per speaker, one for each side of the electrostatic panel. In my opinion, these are both likely to introduce distortion, so as soon as the warranty expired, I had the signal path replaced with a 75:1 Vanderveen step-up transformer from Plitron. Huge improvement. DO NOT DO THIS YOURSELF. GET AN EXPERT TECH TO DO IT FOR YOU. LETHAL VOLTAGES INSIDE THE BOX. THESE SPEAKERS CAN KILL YOU SEVERAL WAYS.

A note on build quality: my pair of 2905's had a much better mechanical fit than my 2805's. The 2905's could almost have been German.

Using Bryston 3BSST and 4SST amps, the Vanderveened Quads are simply stunning. Detail, imaging, and above all, musicality. Digital artifacts are clearly audible, which may be a disadvantage for some. If you are inclined to experiment, consider the JL Hood Class A amplifier designs, which can form the basis of a very fine amplifier indeed. Hint: redesign the power supply for brute force, and upgrade the feedback path.

I do not play my system LOUD. This may have a bearing on reliability. I am a clarity freak, and I unreservedly recommend these speakers to the like-minded.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Apr 15, 2009]
Enrico69
AudioPhile

Quite easy to review these loudspeakers: overall, surely, the best ones on the planet. They play how the perfect loudspeaker should play; only less top of the top performance at very high and very low frequency; soundstage and medium frequency simply perfects!!!
However, to give their best, they need a very fast amplifier.
Weakness: reliability!!!! The ones I have listened were broken after 1 month!!!
So a F1 speaker for performance and reliability.
That's why I did not buy them...but if you can afford a F1 loudspeaker...

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
1
[Aug 16, 2008]
kevin Foster
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Solid construction with a "modern" look. Fantastically accurate, great soundstage, staggering presence....a truly pleasurable listening experience.

Weakness:

Questionable build quality but QUAD has stood by its product and repaired defective units. They may not be everyone's cup of tea so far as aesthetics are concerned (but who really care!)

To describe what these behemoths sound like would not be doing them justice. You HAVE to experience them to understand. Much has been written about soundstage, clarity, colour blah blah that I am not going to repeat. I was a little hesitant in the first place to couple these low efficiency units to a relatively low output amp (in my case a pair of Audio Note Conquest Silver Signatures at 18W pc) but I need not have worried. Sufficient power is available to provide comfortable listening volumes, particularly to the types of music I like. Now that everything is running perfectly, I can only say "Sweet".

BUT, there were problems. My original pair developed issues with some strange buzzing sound in one and Bryan Taylor (owner of The Gramophone...thanks Bryan!!) loaned me a replacement pair while mine were being repaired. Well, if you would know it, these too developed a problem. Fortunately, QUAD stood by their product and shipped them out to Ontario for repair under warranty. Since then, touch wood. no problems to report. Interestingly, talking with Bryan, he also has a pair of 2805's which also have an issue. According to the QUAD people, these units should be left to charge up for 24 hours before use. Doesn't say anything in the manual about that and I have never heard of such a thing but...

Bottom line is that despite what I will call "teething problems" I love these speakers for their crystal clear, accurate reproduction and would recommend them highly. I would just caution prospective buyers to enquire of their retailer what help will be provided in case of failure. These are not cheap units to ship across the continent, after all!

Customer Service

Excellent so far.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Oct 14, 2007]
OscarCharles
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Coherent top to bottom sound, non-fatiguing, punch well above their price weight

Weakness:

RELIABILITY ! Made in China .......... Rating reduction from 5 stars to 3 stars is purely because of need to have both speakers fully replaced after only 3 months.

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.

Customer Service

So far so good but if these units fail again I'll ask for a full refund and buy something else.

OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 10  

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