Andrew King's Quad Comparison

Having been introduced to Quad Electrostatics by a friend of mine, i decided to seek out a pair of the original 57's. These speakers were in production from 1957 to the early eighties and were backed up by Quads legendary after sales repair service. Recently they have decided for one reason or another to stop supplying new panels for the 57. This decision was partly political and mostly economical - it wasn't feasable for Quad to repair the 57's for the price they were asking. This resulted in a large number of 57's (around 70000 when production ceased) being made but which were un-repairable by Quad. The poor consumer was left with a choice to either chance buying a secondhand pair of 57's and hope they worked ok, or splash out on the replacement to the ESL 57, the ESL 63.

I bought my first pair of 57's for 250 pounds and my second pair for 100 pounds. the first pair were in better condition (both electrically and cosmetically) than the second. The second pair needed new tweeter panels and other common faults fixing. This is not the place to describe how to repair ESL 57's. Suffice to say that I now have a good pair of 57's with the oppurtunity to repair a second pair possibly to stack them in the near future. Having now got an interest in these speakers i decided to seek out a pair of the new ESL 63's. It just so happened that a local HiFi shop had an ex-dem pair which were serviced recently by Quad and were on special offer. I went along for a demo and promptly bought them.

But, which are better ? the 57's or the 63's ?

Anyone who has heard a pair of 57's in good working order cannot fail to be mesmerised by the sheer clarity of the speaker through the midrange. Just listen to some well recorded vocals and see what i mean. I cannot think of any other speaker that comes close in this respect. Having listened to some very exotic boxes over the years none have had the effect that the Quads have had on me. It was for this reason that I decided to audition a pair of 63's. It has been said that they are not as `see through` in the mid as the originals and I have to agree. But the 63's are altogether more competant over the audio range and they arent as fussy about where you sit to listen to. The 57's have always been known for their directionallity - not so the 63's. Overall, i would say that the 63's do not excell in the midrange like the 57's but taken as a whole they are considerably better and easier to live with. The only remaining question is are they worth it ? You can pick up a pair of good 57's for 400 pounds - a secondhand pair of 63's start at 1500 pounds. The problem is that the original speakers in good condition are becoming rarer. Rarely can they be bought, plugged in and be ready to go. If your technically competant and dont mind a few weekends effort getting them up to spec buy a pair of 57's. Otherwise your looking at a pair 63's. If you find a cheap pair of 63's be very cautious. Quad will repair the 63's but at a price. Since they were taken over their prices have risen to more closely reflect what it actually costs to repair these speakers.