My new/used Quad ESL 2905s

First, there’s lots more info on my system here…

Decades ago I had a pair of ESL 57s (as they’re now known), then two pairs stacked, then a pair of Audiostatics, then years later a pair of Quad '989s… I loved the sounds of those, but my hearing was deteriorating, and part of that was excess sensitivity to some treble energy. The '989s began sounding too bright, so I sold them… I’ve been thru maybe dozens of speakers since, but starting the summer of '17 and continuing thru this winter I’ve been seriously upgrading my system… A month or so ago, I began thinking about Quads again, and to make a long story short, I found, bought, and collected a pair of '2905s… Here they are standing in my musicroom.

I had already ordered a pair of BHK 300s so I was well set there; they arrived last week. The quads took little time placing; my wide movie screen requires wider-than-normal speaker placemeent, and I followed the advice of reviewers by pointing them at the listener’s head. After carefully measuring and setting their distances, they sound excellent.

The Quads are the most transparent speakers I’ve ever heard, and that got a little better when the BHK300s were installed. The Quads focus the soundstage so well that I removed my very good centerchannel system.

Because of my uneven, unlevel concrete floor in the front five feet of my musicroom, I bought a pair of spike bars for the rear and matching new spikes for the front from Sound-O-City…

All that improved the systems’ stability and ridgidity substantially.

I’m using Clear Day’s Double-Shotgun-Plus speakercable; that uses six 24g. solid-silver conductors per pole (= 16-1/4g.). (

The PSA M700s will be moving along (not that there’s anything wrong with them; I simply received the BHK300s.); the black amps in the center are inexpensive Emotiva A-700s that drive the eight (sooon to be 10) surround and ceiling speakers.

I’m thrilled with the entire system. … :grinning::grin::grinning:


The last audio show I went to I went to see Rob Flain at the Quad stand, listened to the 2912s for a couple of hours and went home happy. Would love some 2905s, you are a lucky chap, but they need lots of space behind and not my wife. Quad were using their modest Artera stereo amp, about $2,000, and it did a fine job. I think the Nordost cables cost more.

As I finally have a pair of ESL’s, I was wondering if there is any benefit of running them off my PSA regenerator. I’m not clever enough to have any idea whether the cleanness of the power could have any impact on their operation.

Ken Christianson, a longtime Quad dealer in Chicago (the same as the NAIM True Stereo recordist) told me it was just supplying voltage (or something like that) and so didn’t feel it was necessary.

I’m not sure if you have the 57 or 63 model and have never personally heard either. I did/do own 989s and loved them but one developed a buzz and have never gotten it fixed. In my experience they did react to what power cord I used and whether they were plugged directly into the wall or into my power conditioner.

Thanks Mark, that’s what I thought. 5,000 volts apparently.

The ideal setup for ELS is Quad amp, 405 or Quad II valves, and lawnmower cable (preferably orange). It transpires Atlas Hyper 2.0 is the popular ELS cable, it meets the specification required and I’ve ordered a z-terminated 3m pair.

There is nothing normal about ELS, I’ve limited the power of my amp to a maximum of 100w into 8 ohms, and even that is close to dangerous. I may set it a bit lower.

Yeah - I had a pair of 988’s and I think over two years or so they were in for repair five times. Ken and John, his partner in Pro Musica have stopped selling ESLs, though they still sell other Quad stuff.

John is the repair guy for most stuff, and a huge chunk of his time was being taken up dealing with customers’ toasted panels. I think there was only one guy left in the Midwest who actually rebuilt them/replaced and rewired panels and so on. They tried to always have a spare working speaker for swapping out. It was nuts.

I was certainly running too much power for them - 250w class D Hypex, but it is just as easy to fry one with low power. It’s more about volume level. You just can’t get excited and turn it up past a certain point, which was hard, as they sound SO amazing. Though other models are not as susceptible to damage as the 988s.

That’s why I bought your Harbeths - you can turn them up if you want without damage ; )

I knew I wouldn’t have room for the Quads here in CO, so I gave them to a friend. They were in good working order. A couple of days later he told me one was making noises…

Ken had also heard stories of them not working well at high altitudes, but a mile is not a lot around here. There are certainly folks on the Front Range running them here.

Scott Frankland, the apparently only authorized Quad service center west of the Mississippi, strongly recommends a good commercial surge protector, as the panels of at least the '63 and later models can be arced by Voltage surges. I power mine thru an extention cord fed by my whole-system balanced-power powerconditioner and use original powercords.

Steven, which Quads do you have?

Mine have a Quad 2-year warranty from June 2018. I was concerned for jeffreybehr hooking them up to BHK, as I said I have power limited my amplifier . The guy who sold them to me really wants them back in a couple of years, so if I have issues I will fix and store them. Being little more than an hour from Quad’s service centre makes life less complicated. Depending how you look at it, makes you realise how good SHL5+ are for pretty cheap boxes.

yeah - love them. While they are certainly fundamentally different than ESLs, they do have some of their good qualities without some of their requirements and issues. The thing ESL’s do is downright magical though.

I’ve not heard huge numbers of speakers, but the closest thing to the openness of ESL’s came from a largish pair of Wilsons. They were very transparent and fast. They were on the end of some big amps and a dCS Vivaldi stack.

I’ve heard differing accounts of the, for lack of a better word, the fragility of ESLs of various manufacturers. My pair of 989s was from the original batch that were made in the UK. Serial #39 and #40 - so the 20th pair off the line and would have been made in either '99 or '00. They lasted until November of 2014 before one of them began to buzz. Hardly an endurance record but by the same token they weren’t almost DOA either.

Also heard various stories of the Chinese built QUAD speakers and how they started out kinda crappy but then got quite good in that respect. All second-hand information.

I have no idea what the deal was with mine - but it could be that the guy stretching the new membranes for the panels was doing them so they were able to “excurse” (if that’s a word) too far, and were burning holes in the Mylar, or whatever substance was used. It’s a fairly big piece of stuff in a very narrow, very high voltage gap.

Although, in the spirit of PPosts today, it was probably me ; ). The irritating bit was that they would sound fine during an evening’s listening, then when I would come down in the morning, one would be hissing/crackling. So it wasn’t like you knew it when you broke it as with a traditional driver going out.

When, after the 2nd time this happened, I asked John what, if anything I should be doing different, he shrugged and said, “Welcome to Quad ownership”.

Steven, what model Quads do you have?

And what’s an “SHL5+”?

ESL 63. SHL5+ are here:
There is a slightly pimped 40th Anniversary edition and Badbeef has the standard pair I had before.

40th Anniversary as in they were first released as the HL1 in 1977, then HL2, HL2, Hl3, HL4, HL5. SHL5, SHL5+, SHL5+40th. They all look much the same, but the driver has been improved in 1986 and 2010 and the crossover in 2015. They are soft-wall boxes and have killer midrange and zero listening fatigue.

There’s a design and factory tour here, which I’ve not seen before:

The actual soft-wall speaker construction starts at 22:50.

Owning a speaker shouldn’t be a crap shoot as to how they’re going to sound. Yes, of course one day it sounds really good and the next not so hot and especially the latter when your friends are over.

What you describe would be a big negative for anyone and I’m sorry that’s what happened to you. There are a bunch of reports as you describe with ESL (of any kind) speakers. I realize the “speakers” part is redundant.

I owned MartinLogan Aerius (the original model) speakers back in the '90s when my hearing was better than it is now and thought they were exactly as described. Used conrad-johnson pre/power with them and it was a match I liked very, very much. Continued through the c-j line from one better to the other and the Aerius and later QUADs and loved it.

After the 989s went tits-up I got the ML ElectroMotion ESL speakers a few years ago. Not in the same league as the 989s but darn good for the money. Moved from tubed c-j to solid state (the CA200) and while I still miss the old system, I’m not exactly heartbroken either.

I ran across that video a while back, and the interviewer drove me nuts. Then I realized who he is - his company, Spitfire Audio, is doing amazing stuff.

Hi @stevensegal
I power my 2905s direct from the wall socket. I have a P10 but never noticed any difference in performance when using it to power the 2905s.
I also use BHK300 mono-blocks as amplification. Haven’t blown anything up yet.

frank7036: “Hi @stevensegal
I power my 2905s direct from the wall socket. I have a P10 but never noticed any difference in performance when using it to power the 2905s. I also use BHK300 mono-blocks as amplification. Haven’t blown anything up yet.”

  1. Scott Frankland’s* strong recommendation is for Voltage-surge protection, not for SQ.
  2. I’m VERY pleased with my current system; it’s the best-sounding one I’ve every had, and I’ve been thrilled with the SQ of several of my prior systems. But because I own a pair of Atma-Sphere M-60 (OTL, all-triode-vacuumtubed mono) poweramps…
    …after they return from A-S’s repair and refurbishment, I’ll try them with the 2905s. I might buy a Zero Autoformer…
    …to try within their trial period. FWIW, the Zeros’ leads measure a total of 36" so I can use them without speakercable.
  • Scott is the Frankland of Moore, Frankland Assoc. (‘MFA’) of the '80s and '90s, manufacturers of hi-end vacuumtubed preamps and amps.

I was actually thinking using a continuous power supply. I use them for all my computing stuff. I’ve got a spare one somewhere.

The 2905 were reviewed with Bryston 2bsst2, which are big grunt amplifiers, but I’m not sure what they add. The Atmosphere should be just the ticket. Over here a pair of Quad II would be the obvious choice for valves, either renovated originals or the Tim De P reissues.