Quad ESL 989 Floorstanding Speakers

ESL 989

User Reviews (18)

Showing 1-10 of 18  
Steve   Audio Enthusiast [Jan 25, 2012]

The Quad 989 is a rare beast, with dignificant flaws.

I owned the Quad ESL 63s in the 80s and loved them. So when I finally had the room for Quad electrostatics I bought the 989s based on some very positive reviews from well regarded people.

My first impression of the 989s was somewhat disappointing. They did not impress me the way my old 63s had. I put this down to them being new, to my being older, perhaps a different room acoustic, and my subjective feeling towards the speaker; the fact they were made in China with cheap plastic tops (instead of the wood of the ESL 63).

Within a few months one speaker started to fizz and was returned to Quad.

Since then I've lived with the 989s but have never been truly delighted with their sound (although everyone else finds them exciting, probably due to the unusual look of the speaker).

I had my 989s shipped from England to California a few months ago. During shipped one Quad was damaged, it made fizzing and ticking noises. The insurance company refused to pay for repair based on a convenient clause in the contract (no payout for internal damage unles external damage is also present). Quads only authorised repair is on the opposite coast, and they quoted $750 for return shipping on the 989 (thats not including the cost of repair!). I have decided that the 989s are too exotic a loudspeaker for me - in California. Rools Royce and Bugatti have Quad sales and service in Southern California, but I haven't been able to find anyone within a 1000 miles that will repair my 989. I'm forced to conclude that the Quad 989s are a very subjective purcahse. If you are lucky to find a pair that sound great and are reliable, or you live near someone that can repair them for you when they inevitable fail, then enjoy them.

OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
2
OscarCharles   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 14, 2007]

This review for Quad 2905s.

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.

OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
5
Diapason2003   AudioPhile [Dec 25, 2006]
Strength:

Sound quality

Weakness:

Fragile. Hissing sound making them unusable.

I am an old time Quad enthusiast; I previously owned a pair of ESL63 for two decades.
The ESL989 are soundwise much better. Particularly on the bass side.
One problem: they are fragile. In the last 5 years they have been three times in repair for several months. No one was able to solve the problem (hissing sound as soon as you powerthem on)

OVERALL
RATING
1
VALUE
RATING
1
muysal   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 04, 2006]
Strength:

Mid-Range clarity, transparency, imaging. Strong detailed base but will not get down to the 20's. These speakers will reproduce piano with realism which I think is a good test.

Weakness:

WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) - they need to be 3-5 feet away from the back wall, therefore they take up lot of living space.
The black monoliths are not pleasing to the eye.
Costly repairs, if you encounter problems.
The shipping boxes and the packing materials definitely need a redesign. They do not protect the speakers well and easy to puncture during shipment. I recommend Bax Global over other carriers, if you are considering shipment for service or purchase. Even if you have these on a crate, make sure you re-inforce the side panels from inside the box to minimize the possibilty of damage from careless forklift operators.

The best speaker I have owned by far. For what these speakers offer and what goes into manufacturing them, I think they are underpriced. If you are considering them, do not hesitate. I have auditioned 988's Vintage made in UK which was very impressive. The 989s I have are made in China and in my opinion outperformed the 988s - although opinions do vary among Quad fans. I think you need more room for the 989s to appreciate them - otherwise I highly recommend the 988s. The ESLs are so impressive that I would not mind owning 57s, 63s, 988s - each model is like vintage wine.

Customer Service

IAG which is the distributor shipped the ESL-989 with the Vintage label - which was the finish I ordered. I opened the box to find out they were the 'black' finish. IAG was nice to offer a price incentive to keep them which I did. The Vintage or Neuovo costs a bit more but I think well worth the price over the monolithic black slabs. If your objective is just music then I suppose it does not matter because the internals are the same except the Vintage and Neuovo has the gold plated binding posts versus the cheap plastic posts on the 'black'.

Similar Products Used: I have listened Martin Logan, Magnepan and ProAc. No contest.
Owned Naim SBL, Monitor Audio, Epos. No contest.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Mike Uysal   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 03, 2006]
Strength:

They are strong in about every area I can think of including the base.
They don't go as low as the Naim SBLs or DBLs but yet you will hear plenty of satisfactory base.

I have read one review from Stereophile that you can improve them with REL's sub-woofer (the one that costs 9K). Other reviews suggest that it is not easy to improve the lower and upper base registers seamlessly and the conclusion was that it was not necessary unless you are obsessed with base performance.

Weakness:

Maybe the space issue since they perform better by extending out into your living space.

Various dealers I have talked to have said positive things about reliabilty concerning the current generation ESL's which are now manufactured in China.

Some audiophiles will argue that Quad factory in China no longer uses quality components and relies on local suppliers. They will also argue that ESL 988 and 989s once built in the UK would sound different than ESL's manufactured in China and possible breakdowns to be likely because of cheap quality components. I audtioned a pair of 988s made in the UK, the 989s I have are from China. In my opinion the 989's outperform the 988s and they seem to improve as I keep listening to them. I haven't noticed any glitches yet.

I have the black ones, which do look like the slabs from Space Odysey 2001. The cosmetics and the moulded plastic is not interesting to look at but who cares - after you listen what they have to offer - you forget about the color and the shape and the rest of it because it is all about the music anyway.

If you are considering a buy, do not hesitate because for the price they sell for and what you get in return - they are a bargain.
They will reveal all weaknesses with the rest of your system.
If you have space issues then consider the 988s which are also very good performers. 989's require more room to breathe. They are very flexible in terms of positioning. You will get a different picture into the sound stage depending on where you place them. I personally like them for close field listening - only few feet away and toed in about 20 degrees. I keep them about 5 feet away from the back wall. The only downside I can think of is the room size issue and the WAF - mine claims that her car stereo is about as good as anything else - if you know what I mean.

Customer Service

No experience in this area. The panels are costly to repair. IAG offers only 1 year warranty. Shipment cost is expensive since you will need the services of a freight company. I recommend BAX Global - do not recommend just any carrier since they don't know the difference of speakers from a dish-washer. The box provided by IAG is not that impressive - I mean it does not adequately protect the speaker - since they have wide panels vulnerable to sharp obejcts potentially puncturing the box and the speaker.

IAG should consider a redesign of their box for ther new ESL line.
If I had to send these in, I would reinforce the side panels from inside the box against potential damage from fork-lift operators

I originally ordereda Vintage from IAG. I received the boxes which were labelled as Vintage. When I opened them, they were the black finish. IAG was quite surprised and it just happened that Vintage versions were short in supply so they could not replace the blacks with the Vintage - instead IAG was nice to offer a price incentive over the MSRP so that I would keep the black finish. Cosmetically it was not what I wanted but the financail incentive wa shard to beat so I got stuck with the black. In retrospect, it was not a bad decision because I really don't look at the speakers when I listen - in fact I usually keep my eyes closed and focus on the music.

Similar Products Used: This is the only electrostat I have owned. I have listened to Maggies and Martin Logan's which in my opinion do not even come close.
As far as British designs, I have owned EPOS, Monitor Audio and Naim SBL's. I have listened to ProAcs at about the same price level and comparisons would not be fair - nothing comes close to the Quad ESLs.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
twodolphins   AudioPhile [Feb 22, 2005]
Strength:

Clarity, 3D image of sound, relaxed neutral sound. Beautiful design and impressive.

Weakness:

Not enough loud. Too expensive to buy 4 for home cinema - people from Quad should do something about that.

I am very happy with these speakers. I am the former owner of ESL 57 and 988. Now I have 989 in nouveau finish. There's a significant improvement in bass, and the whole sound image is better. They are also slightly louder comparing to 988. You should match it to tube amplifier to get a louder sound.

Similar Products Used: ESL 988, ESL 57, Magnepan MG1
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
2
David Ede   Audio Enthusiast [May 25, 2004]
Strength:

That midrange lushness and clarity and a flat in room frequency response.

Weakness:

May not go loud enough for some. For my domestic situation I've enough volume and these loudspeakers will go louder than the ESL 63 and ESL 57.

About a year ago I decided that my 989 loudspeakers in somber black were too oppressive for a northerly climate, although they sounded wonderful they seemed to suck all of the daylight from my listening room. I changed them for another pair of 989, this time in the light blue finish. At the time of the change Quad had decided to switch production from England to the Far East and that is where my new loudspeakers were assembled. Quad used the factory switch to improve the quality of components. The new speakers can easily be identified by the sturdy gold plated binding posts for the speaker cables. These replace the rather flimsy plastic terminals used on the original manufacturing run. I suspect also that other internal components have either been upgraded, or are manufactured with better materials or are of higher tolerance than before because the new speakers, even after a considerable run in time, do not sound the same as my original pair. The midrange is richer, more detailed and slightly less nasal than before, the top end is considerably more refined and controlled. It’s still as extended, but tape hiss and applause are less prominent and more integrated into the sound stage. At the bottom end the bass seems tighter and less prone to lumpiness on challenging material. All in all, the loudspeaker, in my room at least, appears to have a much flatter and more natural tonal balance than my original pair. There’s also immediacy, presence and lushness throughout the midrange that really brings this speaker into the same territory as those revered original ESL 57s. They are quite wonderful in this regard. The same manufacturing changes have been applied to the smaller ESL 988: identical to the 989, but with four panels rather than six. As to which is the better loudspeaker. I think I could live with either. I prefer the 989 because the extra radiating area allows for lower frequencies and gives a better foundation to large-scale symphonic material. The mid bass is reproduced differently in the 989 and the 988. Both speakers produce the same overall amount of mid bass, but the 989 does so at lower amplitude over a greater radiating area. The 988 with a smaller diaphragm produces the mid bass at greater amplitude. In terms of which is best. I think a lot has to do with room size, speaker placement, one’s choice in music and personal preference. Some think the 988 is more ‘together’ sounding, while others like the way the extra radiating area in the 989 has freed up the full range part of the loudspeaker to give that mid range lucidity and very linear dynamic response to changes in loudness. My advice would be to audition both the 989 and the 988 and choose the one that best suits your circumstances. Regarding suitable amplifiers for these loudspeakers. I tried examples from Linn, Krell, TagMcLaren etc. with pleasing results. Then my dealer suggested I try the ‘old fashioned’ styled Quad Valve amps at home. The II Forty power amps and QC Twenty Four control amp. Only 40 watts I thought, they’ll never do for me. Well I got quite a shock. My previous experience with valve amps, over 30 years ago, made me expect a warm muddy sound, ideal for solo cello, or spoken word, a bit gutless in other words. Quad make no performance claims for the valve gear, being content to ‘let the results speak for themselves.’ Well I found the II Forty amplifiers to be astonishingly powerful, easily the equal of 200 watts of solid-state power. They produce a wonderful full-bodied and very dynamic sound with a massive dynamic range, no hint of compression ever and even when driving big material loud there appears to be no loss of micro detail or even a hint of strain. This comes across as wonderful warmth and richness, an elusive lushness, but only if it’s recorded that way. On the other hand, play something badly recorded and that’s exactly what you’ll hear, there’s no artificial bloom or bogus warmth. Regarding the QC Twenty Four pre-amplifier. It’s a masterpiece and it performs leagues above other equipment in a similar price band. I expected hum and squeals, but to my astonishment the noise floor is lower than all the solid-state pre-amplifiers I’ve used. The clarity, resolution and neutrality are quite astonishing and dynamic gradations are impressive. It’s superior with CD and digital radio, but use it with a great recording on a high-resolution format such as a vinyl record and, together with the power amps, it exhibits that ‘class A’ fluidity that transcends hi-fi and takes you right to the heart of the music. And of course the 989 loudspeakers just lap it up. Fantastic!

Similar Products Used: Quad ESL 63,Quad ESL 57, ESL 988.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
3
Phillip Evans   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 22, 2002]
Strength:

Tonal quality and sound stage.

Weakness:

I love listening to my quads as much as hearing a live concert.

These speakers produce an excellent, detailed sound stage with a natural tonal quality and reproduce the full musical range. They are easy to listen too. When I first heard them I thought "If I had these at home I wouldn''t want to go out" - It''s true!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Datman   AudioPhile [Mar 24, 2002]
Strength:

Clarity, detail, total lack of listening fatigue, range.

Weakness:

You will really know if your electroncs and front end sound good or not. They are very revealing.

The 989''s replaced my B&W Nautilus 802''s which replaced my Sonus Faber Extrema''s. I was ready for a speaker that did not "sing along" with what I was listening to. The 989''s are definately that. After they broke in (a process that has taken a fairly long time) these speakers reward me with endless pleasure. They are never fatiguing, harsh, or tiring to listen to. They produce excellent bottom end in my room (which I should add is 42 feet long and irregularly shaped--almost no truly parallel surfaces.) They image beautifully and do "disappear" when playing really well recorded music. The 989''s really seem to be "bullet proof." They play plenty loud, louder than I can take. When there is bass in the music, they really reproduce it well, although they do not even attempt to go much below 30Hz. I admit that I have never felt the need for a subwoofer. I am playing the 989''s with the following equipment: Meridian 588 CD Player Sonic Frontiers Line 3 Preamp Sonic Frontiers Power 2 Power Amp Fanfare FM 1 Tuner Tara Labs Speaker Cable Custom Mogami XLR Cables As another reviewer said, they are Quads! What more is there to say?

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Leong   Audiophile [Oct 08, 2000]
Strength:

Very natural sounding; top to bottom coherence; transparant; smooth, lush, very fast; goes as deep as you could ever want it to; sounds great whether in a near-field set-up or set deep into the room; the perfect loudspeaker.

Weakness:

None that I can think of.

Where does one begin? I've heard hundreds of loudspeakers. Most of them cost far more than a Quad. But nothing touches a Quad. First of all, there's no break in the audible spectrum. Highs and mids of Quads have been extolled in some detail, so I feel I needn't discuss those. But what's really a pleasant surprise is the bass. It's deep and rich and as fast as the rest of the frequencies. Not like damped boxes. If you listen to REAL bass, let's say a double bass in a jazz club, it's deep and rich, but not artificially tight. That's how the Quads re-produce bass.

The only caveat I'll have is that they should be matched to a medium powered tube amp (like a Jadis JA 60), and they should be kept in a dry room at all times.

The real test is this: listen to real music, then look for something that re-produces it. I'll bet there's nothing that's going to beat the ESL 989s. They're perfect.

Similar Products Used: Martin Logan and Proacs.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 18  

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