Highlighted User Review

Quad ESL-2905 User Review

quad-esl-2905
MSRP: $ 9000.00

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
5 Reviews
0 Quick Ratings
4.60 of 5

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Reviewed by: Raj J (AudioPhile)
Review Date September 27, 2010
Overall Rating
5 of 5
Value Rating
5 of 5
Used product for
Less than 1 month

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 craftsmanship 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. In fact 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 panels – please don’t lie! you have either abused the panels 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 they are IMMATURE! (See Roxy54 comment on this)

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 ghetto blasters, or how loud can this play… i.e. so called music enthusiasts who don’t really listen to music other than passive listening 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 high end intellect to match up! go get an education!

2. I spent 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 panels 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 loud but requires some very hefty 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 (original 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 coloration, zeros listener fatigue, zero distortion, full of drive & liveliness, fills the entire room and makes the perfect ambiance 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 spectrum 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 panels 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 determine 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 pleasurable 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

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  • JoeESP9 says:

    Hay Raj J:
    I’ve been waiting for your review. I’m glad you added all the background listening information. It seems that our tastes in speakers are quite close. Like you I don’t like horns or boxes. Also, I’ve heard Apogee Grand’s, Mini Grands (not Studio Grands), IRS V’s and ML Statements. I’d love to have any of them. I don’t have the space or the money for any. Well, maybe Mini Grands. There is a pair of Mini Grands on Audiogon right now. I’d have to make too many other changes to accomodate them. I’m also very familiar with Magneplanar’s. I’ve owned three different pairs (MG-1, MG-2, MG-3). I’ve had plenty of sweet spot time with 3.6R’s and MG-20.1′s. The 20.1′s sound a lot better than the 3.6R’s.
    I’m going to find somewhere to listen to the 2905′s. They may be my next step. Thanks for a nice albeit opinionated review.

  • JoeESP9 says:

    This is the third time I’ve tried to comment. Thanks for the great review. Our tastes in speakers are quite close. I don’t like horns or most “monkey coffins” (boxes). I do like Ribbons, ESL’s and Planar Magnetics. I’ve owned three different models of Magneplanars and three different models of ESL’s. Thanks to you I’ve got to find some Quad 2905′s to audition. I’m looking forward to hearing them.

  • JoeESP9 says:

    I don’t get it. Suddenly all three comments show up. Moderators please delete this and the lasst two.

  • Steve says:

    Unfortunately you have overlooked the \crossover\. The panels use do use analogue components in the signal path to create the time delay to the concentric rings of panel.. This circuitry includes caps and also a transformer to perform the required voltage step-up. Hardly a straight line I’m afraid but I agree that these evils pale against what these speakers can do which is throw the most incredible open and vivd 3D soundstage.

    I have found the ESL’s benefit from a stable and consistent supply voltage, I’m running mine from a PS Audio Powerplant Premiere regenerator with shielded cables.

    Amps to date : ML431, Vitus SS010 and NAD M2, all very good in their own way but the later superb – the controlled bass is amazing

  • adam says:

    Hey Joe -

    Sorry – sometimes the WordPress spam software gets a little screwy. Plus – we’ve been trying to switch over load balancers for the site – and that can cause some disconnect in the database.

  • Zoro'sZipper says:

    I listened to Wilson Maxx 3s a while back and was blown away. My mind exploded at the level of reality they could reproduce. The salesman was humoring me and kept switching to different pairs of different brands and quality. Soon I began to feel sad as I realized just what it was I was marveling at. The truth of the moment hit me. If realistic sound reproduction is such an elementary, worthwhile endeavor then why must it cost 50, 75, 100 or 200K just to get started? The basic human joy I received from this experience, as profound and moving as it was, seemed to be entirely, wholly defeated by the out-of-proportion cost. So fast forward a couple weeks and I’m at another hi end shop listening to a couple Quad ESL-2905s. Again, mind blowing sonics. Clarity, presence, detail, unhampered brilliance. The term transparency was conclusively defined. Truly a revelation. But now, unlike my previous audiophile experience, I’m not being assaulted with a $60,000 price tag, but an oddly, somehow reasonable sounding number in the neighborhood of what a used Hyundai fetches. OK, now we’re approaching reason, sanity, possibility. The Quad ESL-2905′s sound defies every existing norm and standard of audiophile excellence, at a fraction of what it’s taking virtually everyone else – as much as two, three, five, ten times less. Amazing.

    Now that this admirable standard has been set, it’s only a matter of time till this technology becomes actually accessible to the wider public. I see it as a worthwhile endeavor, to bring wonderful sound to the masses, but the cost to achieve it gives me great pause. Nothing worthwhile in life is easy, true, except for maybe smiling, laughing, caring, loving and remembering the ones that matter to us. What this suggests, then, is that there have to be pioneers, vanguard explorers and trailblazers that lead the way to green pastures. The particular stripe of character required for this particular leadership can be summed up with one word: rich. The wealthy have been tasked with carrying the load of technology’s burden on the citizenry even as they’re mocked for their foolish, outlandish lifestyles. So there’s just no easy comfortable relationship for me to have with high end audio – it’s been a corrupt, sinister attraction that only grows more insatiable and demanding. Till now. The Quad ESL-2905s are reversing the trend – stopping the flow, if you will – of the ever escalating cost of the pursuit of pure audio. Now the humble, the tired, the ragged masses have a glimmer of hope. I will wait patiently a few more years till this particular interest of mine, this radical type of diversion, is justifiably affordable. Till then, I’ll just eat cake.

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