Electrostatic vs Dynamic

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Travis G, Jan 13, 2002.

  1. Travis G

    Travis G Stunt Coordinator

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    I was at Ultimate Electronics today and I saw some Electrostatic speakers. I had never heard of them until now. I was wondering if anyone here can tell me the pros and cons of electrostatic speakers other then the obvious price difference.

    I found a website about building electrostats and also wondered if anyone here has tried building them and if so how much could I expect to pay if I were to build a set of quality eltrostats?
     
  2. Donald Shrum

    Donald Shrum Stunt Coordinator

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    I am running a pair of Martinlogan electrostats and absolutely love them. There is a link in the HT hardware sections under speakersis anyone into martin logans.
     
  3. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    Travis, if Thomas (of KLONE AUDIO fame) is reading this, I'm sure he'll tell you that the electrostatics will be difficult, tedious and take a long time to build. You'll also have to deal with high voltages. He would steer you to Magneplanars (buy used if you're on a budget).
     
  4. Ron Shaw

    Ron Shaw Stunt Coordinator

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    Electrostatics were the first 'planer' type of loudspeaker. They are not new, having been around since the 30's or 40's. They have the advantage of low moving mass driven over a large area, resulting in excellent transient response. The disadvantages are: High cost (due to complexity), large size (if good bass response is to be realized), and the high voltage bias on the plates, requiring transformer coupling (there have been special tube amps designed to direct couple electrostatics, but your really getting complex here). It is possible to build your own if you really want to (Speaker Builder had an article on that about 20 years or so ago). Since electrostatics were introduced, planar magnetics have surfaced. These have the same advantages without the need for high voltages and transformer coupling. The best known example are the Magneplanars. Both are critical in placement, large, and expensive. I would also recommend Maggies if you want planer type speakers.
     
  5. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Ok here ya go......
    Hank is correct scratch building ESLs is only for the diehard fan.
    http://www.amasci.com/esloud/eslhwto.html
    http://home1.gte.net/res0f2t3/index.htm
    http://www.justrealmusic.com/
    http://www.audiocircuit.com/9105IMAI.htm
    If you pay yourself $.50/hr labor, it will be cheaper to buy ready made ESLs. Kits are an attractive option. I've seriously considered getting the Metaxas DIY kit link below.
    http://www.metaxas.com/pages/masnewf...rame10500.html
    Planars all have a characteristic sound. ESL's don't sound like Maggies, Maggies don't sound like Apogees, etc.
    I use a very large ESL array for my HT. It's a fullrange panel so there are no cone drivers in the midbass. I'm not a fan of 'hybrid' designs. Maggies are a very good speakers and their MG-1.6 is a 'best-buy'
     
  6. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    Hey, Thomas, you didn't mention those Metaxas units in your e-mails! Now you've whetted my D-I-Y appetite. Those specs look good: 87dB sensitivity and response down to 80 Hz - nice! With that freq response, why would you want more than one panel per side? I wonder what the long-term reliability would be. hmmmm...
     
  7. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Hank

    The $1200 is for a pair of 1'X4' panels with a transformer big enough to drive 4 panels. Additional panels are $600/pr. I think a nice setup would be 2 panels/side so $1800.

    Run all the panels fullrange with a sub at 80Hz or so. ESL's tend to be pretty bullet proof. Only issue is getting service from Australia.

    Other thing to consider is that ESL's are VERY difficult to drive. They are basically a capacitor, and amps don't like driving that type of load. That's why I ended up getting the Aragon 8008BB's. They'll drive anything and deliver enough raw current for arc welding...
     
  8. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    Good point: service AND freight cost from Australia. It would be nice if they licensed someone in the U.S. or Canada to build them. I like the wide frequency range and fairly good effeciency. $1,800 seems ok for first-class sound, but there you go again with the Aragon thing - big $$$. A couple of thou for speakers with top-notch sound that will give pleasure for several years is not too much money, but that would preclude the budget from allowing 2-3 thou more for those amps. Still have thinking to do....
     
  9. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Hank

    The Aragon's can be purchased for $1200 from AudioGon. There's a 3 channel one for $1300

    Metaxas lists a US distributor so freight might not be all that bad. BUT Maggie MG-1.6 are the same price and don't require an arc welding amp
     
  10. Travis G

    Travis G Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks everyone.

    I've heard alot of good things about ESLs And I'm leaning towards the Magneplanars. But what about the disadvantages? I've read that when drivers produce soundwaves shorter then the driver that they "beam." Of course the Magneplanars are quite large so beaming may not be a big problem.

    Travis
     
  11. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    Travis, Thomas may reply here, but I think he'll tell you, as I've read elsewhere, that #1, the realism and soundstage is unrivaled. But, to get it, you'll have to do a lot of placement experimentation and that moving them an inch at a time, relative to their individual placement and to each other is required. Since they are bipolar, they must be placed a good distance from walls (somebody help me here). When you get that ulitmate placement, then you'll have to deal with that very considerable WAF (assuming that the actual size of the Maggies has been approved).

    Any Maggie owners out there, please give Travis some real-world advice.
     
  12. Matthew Anker

    Matthew Anker Stunt Coordinator

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    If only you could hear the ESls you would either build them or buy a pair in an instant. I noticed my website was noted above, FYI: My ESL hybrid system--complete with electronics and the Transmission Line woofer system--only cost me about $800 to build. You can save considerable money by building nearly from scratch. The ESLs have only one feature that may be undesireable for some, that is, there is only a very narrow sweet spot. Otherwise, the imaging and mid to high frequency sound is incredible. Also, you do not need an arc welding amp to drive an ESL. I only have a 150 Watt Crown. If you get the load right, you can drive the ESL/TL with about anything, but your home theatre receivers may not have the guts to drive a low impedance load. If anyone is interested in building my ESL/TL design my fellow ESL builders and I would be willing to help anyone through the building process. I guarantee you will not be dissappointed by my design.[​IMG]
    -Matthew Anker's Electrostatic Loudspeaker Page
    http://home1.gte.net/res0f2t3/index.htm
     
  13. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Travis
    The narrow sweet spot is a function of wider baffles not narrow ones. This is of course dependent on placement and the distance the listener is the panels. I realize this may seem counter intuitive but it's true. Planars with narrower baffles have wider horizontal dispersion at a distance that's most usefull for the average size listening room.
    All planars have a characteristic 'sonic signature'. So ESL's don't sound like Maggies. Maggies don't sound like B&G, etc. etc. The similarities are that with proper placement all planars throw a very wide and deep soundstage. This is a function the the dipole design. Also planars have radiating area that can be measured is sq ft, as opposed to sq in for dynamic drivers. This means that the workload on planars is significantly lower = lower distortion.
    The primary disadvantage is that planars dictate their placement in the room. There will be one and only one place in the room where they sound their best. As a result everything else in the room must be worked in around that spot.
    One of the best deals in audio is the 'Offer Your Can't Refuse" from Magnepan. Get a pair of MMG's deilvered to your door for $550 including freight. Audition them for 60 days. If you don't like them return for your money back. Like all planars the MMG's need a subwoofer
     
  14. Brandon B

    Brandon B Second Unit

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    Travis
    (As Thomas has stated above, now that I read his post more closely . . .)
    For $550 total, Magnepan will ship a pair of their MMG's to your door. You have 60 days to audition them or return for a full refund.
    http://www.magnepan.com/1-800-474-1646/index.html
    You have one year to upgrade and receive a partial to full credit on your MMG's towards larger Maggies.
    Shipping time seems to average about 5 days. They came FedEx ground, so the box was even in good shape (as opposed to my experience with UPS).
    Try them. I bought them as interim speakers until I can finish building some DIY's, and I like them quite a bit. They definitely need to be 2 or more feet off a wall. I started out running them off a Sony Dolby Prologic receiver (200wpc into their 4 ohm load), moved them to an Alesis RA100 studio monitor pro amp (100 wpc into 4 ohms, they suffered in bass quality, but high end perked up a little) and am now running them through an Odyssey Stratos (bass came back, and in fact sounded markedly better).
    Their imaging is wonderful, my only real complaints are 1) no low end. Bass is probably the most important part of music to me, however. I am running mine with a sub right now, but this is degrading the imaging as it is a dynamic driver with a somewhat high XO point. Also, 2) there seems to be a few frequencies where instruments that have seemed forward on other systems have receded to where they are not the most prominent part of the music. I have noticed this on Jethro Tull albums, where the flute is far too laid back from where I feel it ought to be, as well as on some synthesizer leads that are at roughly the same pitch. This could concevivably be a cancellation effect or artifact of my room, but it occurred in 2 different rooms with very different properties, so I don't think so.
    Anyway, they're definitely woth ordering for a demo.
    BB
     
  15. Travis G

    Travis G Stunt Coordinator

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    I went to Ultimate Electronics today and I brought some of my own CD's and compared the Martin Logan speakers to some Infinity speakers of about the same price. I brought my Bee Gees' cd and listened to them. When I heard the crowd cheering it sounded like I was there at the concert. I was highly impressed. Do Maggies sound comprable in quality to ESLs?

    Also I noticed that the center speaker on Magnepan's have a frequency response of 160 Hz - 20 kHz +/- 4 dB. 160 Hz is kind of a high F4 isn't it? I suppose I could use dynamic center speaker but this seems like a waste because it would degrade the SQ of the whole system. I could also set the center channel to phantom and not have a center speaker. Any thoughts on this? Perhaps I could build a small woof to complement it.
     
  16. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    Travis the magnepan centre speaker does cut off at 160 which isn't very friendly for more systems. Magnepan is selling a modified version of outlaws ICBM unit that helps but for me simply using a single MMG works wonders.
     
  17. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Travis

    The 'preferred' center for all large planars is Phantom mode. This is because none of the planar mfgrs make a decent center. The problem using Phantom mode with planars is that if the listener is off axis, the main closest is heard as louder.

    I ended up making a large dynamic driver center because my seating is almost all off axis. It isn't the best sonic match but it's better than Phanton mode or any of the current centers from the planar mfgrs.

    All planars have similar imaging and sound stage presentation. But they do have different sonic signatures. None is better. What's best, Maggie's, ESL's, full range ribbons, etc., is a function of personal preference
     
  18. WilliamM

    WilliamM Stunt Coordinator

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    Travis,
    I would highly recommend if budget allows to add a Martin Logan Cinema Center Speaker with the ML fronts. The sound is seamless.[​IMG]
     
  19. ThomasW

    ThomasW Cinematographer

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    Given that the 'best' center is a speaker identical to the mains, none of the planar mfgrs make a center that's even close. Just look at the radiating area of the planar elements and or the cones in the case of a hybrid. Most are a fraction of the size of the mains. For reference playback levels it's necessary to have a center that can pump out some SPL's, not simply provide 'fill' between the mains.

    My understanding is that Maggie has a large center channel speaker in the works, but it's not ready for primetime.....

    So planar users are left with the following options. Phantom mode, using an undersized design from the mfgr, using a planar main set on edge, or using/making a dynamic speaker. I opted for the last option, given it's ability to have an output level equal to my mains.
     

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