Living with a pair of speakers to me is similar to a marriage. First there is the courtship, then the honeymoon period and finally the happy union that lasts, hopefully a lifetime. And so it is with the ER Audio ESL III’s.

I have been living with a pair of One Thing Audio refurbished QUAD57’s for the last 2-years and after having listened to Ed Swift’s pair of ESL III’s in the UK and been so impressed with the sound, (see separate review), decided to invest in this kit.

The courtship phase starts with one of anticipation of the arrival of the impending (coffin size) crate within which hides ones kit of parts. Here give full marks to Rob and Jan. The shipment arrived in the UK in tact, well packaged and exactly when the courier company said it would. One can even track your parcel through the web from when it leaves OZ. Great service. Courtship continues through the build phase. Here again full marks to Rob for the very comprehensive build manual through any small or trivial queries you have. Rob answers all and usually by return email pending any time lapses. Though the build phase is relatively long it is quite straightforward, I found the critical areas to get right to be the correct and even tension on the diaphragms and then applying the correct amount of conductive solution (evenly spread) over the panels. This can affect sound quality a lot. So get this right and you are nearly home. The courtship finally comes to fruition when its time for that initial switch on, you just gets blown away with the sound these speakers produce. They produce a big wall of sound with pinpoint positioning of singer and instruments within the 3D soundstage. Mid to high frequencies are very crisp indeed and both male and female voices are projected into ones room at a height as if they are standing in front of you, whilst you are seated. Low frequencies for an electrostatic speaker without sub woofer are impressive and accurate, though not heart thumping. If you close your eyes you can imagine yourself being there. They also project a wide soundstage even when standing or moving from left to right. This in contrast to the Quads oh so pinpoint small ‘sweet spot’ is quite a revelation. So the marriage begins.

If I were honest I would rate the mid band of the Quads the best I have heard and is a little fuller and richer than that of the ESLs. This is the only area of criticism I have with the ESLs. Don’t get me wrong the mid is very good but oh the richness of the 57’s. I am sure any owner of these antique speakers will know what I mean. If only one could magically transfer the mid band heaven from the Quads and insert it into the ESLs with their sparkling highs and deeper lows then to me one would have the perfect speaker, if such an animal exists.

I believe that Rob is working on some sub woofers to integrate with the ESL IIIs? Hint, hints Rob! I believe that building a sub into the base of each speaker cabinet would solve the mid lightness by taking some of the load off the full range panels letting them breath more life into the mid-band.

So though I am still at the honeymoon stage with these speakers, I see the marriage will last a very long time, though they may gain a little weight (as all wives do in middle age) with the addition of some active subs. Anyone want to buy a pair of 57s?

I live in the north of England (Lancashire) and am willing for Rob to pass on my contact details should any prospective UK purchaser of these kits wishes to visit me for a preview, before purchase.

Regulated EHT supply review by Colin from the UK.

Recently (November 2004), Rob has given me the opportunity to test out the prototype version of the new EHT supplies for evaluation.

These new boards are a very neat design and simplify the connection to the speakers and the power pack supplies. They fit very nicely into a smallish component case. As the voltage regulation circuit is incorporated into the new PCB design this negates the need for the separate voltage regulator so introducing one less component in the chain. You may need to replace your old power pack (walwart) supplies as the new units operate from 12Vdc supply whereas the old units work off 9Vdc. As these new supplies will initially be offered as a kit, if you are not too proficient at soldering small components to a PCB then get a friend to do this for you. The tracks are very close together at some of the solder points and it is very easy to solder over two tracks if you are a little too heavy with the solder or using too large a tip on your soldering iron. Use the smallest soldering tip you can get on with and take your time. When soldering up the voltage multiplier you can use a heavier gauge tip.

Though only one EHT supply is required to energise both speakers I prefer to have a separate supply for each speaker, in similar mode to Quad electrostatics. These I have housed in a separate compartment under the main panels of my speakers that are integral with the speaker cabinets. Refer to photos of speakers. Be warned! One other major point is to remember to reverse the polarity of the panels as the new supplies provide a positive charge to the panels not negative as in the originals.

Once connected up, charged up and adjusted for peak output the sonic improvement these supplies give is one of increased transient attack, especially on more demanding music like rock. This type of music becomes much more engaging. Continued heavy drums and bass have a much more heart thumping impact. If you play your music loud with plenty of bass content then go for these. When driven hard (loud) for long periods the panels do not flag or lose volume. I noted I could turn down my stepped attenuator volume control one notch (-3dB) and still maintain the same level of sound as before. Listening at lower volume levels I can now hear more clearly little subtleties in the music that only could be heard before at higher listening levels.

Highly recommended. If you have the space beneath your panels where you can house the electrics I would recommend separate supplies to each speaker. Though more costly, does very neatly hide away the electrics (no unsightly external high voltage wires) and to my ears improves the overall sound quality. TOP

   See Also - Regulated EHT supply review by Colin from the UK.

ESL III Review by Colin from the UK


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