News About Quad ESL-98#

On this page I will present you with the information I find about the new Quad ESL series. If you can contribute in any way, please do so.

The new ESL series from Quad          Undressed ESL-989 

The prices on the new series seem to have changed and the UK price is now £4600 for the ESL-989, the new price for the ESL-988 is not known by me.

The Stereo Times review of the Quad ESL-989:
Quad ESL-989 review "Cutting Edge or Simply What is Old is New", by Dan Dzuban

The Audio Idead Guide has reprinted a review of the Quad ESL-989 from the Summer/Fall 2000 issue of AIG:
Quad ESL-989 review, by Hy Sarick

The Absolute Sound #130 has a review of the ESL-988 available online:
Quad ESL-988 review, by Paul Seydor

A test of the ESL-989 is now available at TNT Audio:
Quad ESL-989 electrostatic loudspeaker - Ready for the Big One, by Werner Ogiers
Quad ESL-989 electrostatic loudspeaker, follow-up

Sridhar Mahadevan informed me about the ESL-989 review in The Absolute Sound #126. The
The Absolute Sound is available in an online version and I bought it and here are some comments from TAS #126.

Paul Seydor review:
TAS ESL-989 review pic 1 TAS ESL-989 review pic 2
More from Paul Seydor review:

TAS ESL-989 review pic 3 TAS ESL-989 review pic 4

Robert E. Greene review from TAS #126:
TAS ESL-989 review pic 5

I have visited the Swedish HiFi Show 2000 and heard the ESL-989 driven by Quad II-forty and here is a short review:
The ONLY room that reproduced music was the Quad/Opus3 room. Other expensive loudspeakers heard at the show were Martin Logan Prodigy, Revel Ultima Salon, Wilson Watt/Puppy System6 and all of these failed to reproduce music in a convincing manner. I have seen several comments about the ESL-989 mentioning that these are in fact a high end bargain and I agree, no other speaker in the show came close to the vanishing act and relaxed sound of the Quad ESL-989. As you probably know I am a long time Quad ESL-63 user and the ESL-989 sounds pretty much the same and that is meant as a positive comment. The difference lies mainly in the bass reproduction and there is more bass in the ESL-989 (actually to much in the show room) and I think it also digs a little deeper but a full range speaker it is not. With full range speaker I mean a speaker capable of reproducing close to 20Hz and even if the ESL-989 fails to do this the bass is as deep as the Wilson System 6 and the Martin Logan Prodigy which is not bad and when the quality is as good as is the case here, most listeners will probably accept this limitation. The midrange and treble quality is probably a little better than original ESL-63s but not quite up to my tweaked pair. For those not satisfied with the 35Hz low frequency limit of the ESL-989, the ESL-988 combined with good subwoofers is probably a better choice. I heard Jan-Eric Persson, the Swedish Quad representative and recording engineer in Opus3 records, mention this and I agree. The music played was Opus3 recordings, all of good quality and especially the brand new (first Swedish) Eric Bibb SACD recording. The difference between CD and SACD was quite large and the reproducing system was fully up to the increased quality.
Conclusion: The ESL-989 is probably the best loudspeaker available at the moment and the price tag is also reasonable which makes this a highly recommended product.

Audioreview Quad ESL-988 Page
Audioreview Quad ESL-989 Page

From Sridhar Mahadevan I have received this initial review on the Quad ESL-989:
I plan to write a long review on the 989 and post it on the web (through the usual newsgroups and, but here's a preliminary impression (which you are welcome to post on your website). 
I've lived with the Quad ESL 63s with the Gradient SW63 subwoofer for almost 10 years, so I have a very good feeling for the older Quad models. In addition, I have auditioned and have owned many good moving coil loudspeakers, all of which have come and gone, but never displaced by primary reference.

 I'm still in the process of evaluating the new model, but the following things will be completely obvious to anyone who has lived with the Quads for any length of time.

  1. The ESL 989 totally outperforms the ESL63/SW 63 combination in every respect. Particularly surprising is the bass, which is powerful, dynamic, and really really low. It is astonishing to play CDs that I have heard many many times, and hear for the first time, really fast low-level bass information that I never heard before. Of course, what you get here also is the coherence of sound in the bass, which I never succeeded in getting with the SW 63. Electrostatic bass sounds completely different from moving coil bass. It has pitch, there is no overhang associated with bass notes, and it is fast. The beauty of dipole bass, of course, is that there is very little excitation of standard room modes, so you get almost no bass buildup in room corners.
  2. The ESL 989 resolves low-level detail to an extraordinary extent, and goes well beyond the 63s in this respect (even in the midrange). The redesigned delay lines make the sound even more coherent than it was in the past. The speakers disappear and even more transparent in the midrange than the earlier 63s. Of course, they are also incredibly revealing of source imperfections and component imperfections. But, even bad recordings are tolerable since the speaker is adding so little of its own distortions to the sound.
  3. It works beautifully with medium powered tube equipment (I am using the ARC VT100 MkII, with the ARC Ref 1 preamp). The speaker is a fairly easy load for tube amps to drive, and is relatively compact in size, light (50 pounds),  and easy to move around. These are unique properties that hold true for no other comparable speaker on the market today (at any price point).
  4. For the first time in 50 years, we now have a full range point-source phase coherent loudspeaker with no obvious dynamic or frequency range limitations. And it sounds absolutely glorious. It is a marvellous tribute to the design of Peter Walker, but great credit has to be given to Stan Curtis for the courage in pushing Quad to invest in the design of a full-range expensive electrostatic.
  5. I got an excellent trade-in value for my Quad 63/SW63, so I consider the 989 an absolute bargain for any previous Quad owner considering the improvement in sound it afford (and the total superiority in performance over any other speaker in the market today).

Some time ago there were some rumours about Quad and I received a couple of them as anonymous e-mails, here is one of them:
Having been to your Quad page this evening I thought it appropriate to communicate some details of the ESL`s to you.
The 988 & 989 are direct 63 copies, the 988 is an economised 63, its electronics are now sourced in China, they are rubbish. The injection moulded base and top cap, again are produced in the now "Chinese" Quad factory in the interest of economy. The 989 is the same product with two extra bass panels, can you believe that the electronics are the same as the 63! its true.
Quad is now a 100% Chinese owned company with an English Director of distribution and a small development unit based on marketing. Oh the new owners of Quad are The Sanecore Group in China, check out "Sanecore Engineering" on the www, marketing is in Hong Kong
Anonymous Web Hosting

In the July 2000 issue of HiFi News this article was published and here are the facts:
Former Sansui and Akai president Mr Toshio Tomaki has taken over from Yorkshireman Stan Curtis as head of Wharfedale and Quad at International Audio Group, Huntingdon.
But at the same time, IAG, under the control of Hong Kong trading group Jetop, has apparently reversed its earlier decision to close the Huntingdon R&D facility. As President, Mr Tomaki will be assisted by new Sales and Marketing Director Takahashi, previously with keyboard-maker Korg. Jetop said it expected these appointments 'to facilitate the continued expansion of the group's worldwide consumer electronics activities with the Wharfedale brands'. There would be substantial reinvestment into the group's more specialist product ranges. Higher-end Wharfedale loudspeakers will be introduced later in the year, and new products would be added to the prestigious Quad family', with more NXT flat-panel speakers also planned. Additionally, 'there will be a rapid and sizeable re-employment of personnel to the Huntingdon R&D departments... in addition to the group's three Chinese R&D departments, now headed by British designer Steve Hewlett'.
Wharfedale production and R&D is now concentrated in newly-completed factories in Shen Zhen, China. Quad products, using Chinese-made parts, are still built at IAG's Bradford factory, as are the Airedale loudspeakers which the group sells to the Far East.
IAG was formed in 1997 when it purchased Wharfedale and Quad from the Verily Group, then holding Mission and Cyrus in the pre-NXT era. Stan Curtis, who had been managing director of Wharfedale within Verity, served as chairman of IAG from its inception. Commenting on the recent IAG announcement, Mr Curtis said that he had not resigned, but had been asked to leave IAG after 'some months of conflict' with the Chinese majority shareholders. He said he had been forced to close the Huntingdon Design Centre, making most of the UK design team redundant, although he had not felt this was right for the future of the company. 'I have been delighted to hear that this decision is being partly reversed' he said. 'But of course in all conflicts there are casualties, and in this I have won the battle, at the cost of the war!'
Despite this, he remained 'very positive' for the future of the company, 'as long as it continues with its commitment to allowing these fine British brands to build on the solid foundations we have already achieved: I have the immense satisfaction of being able to say that I rescued both Wharfedale and Quad from the brink... I leave them both in profit with winning products and strong market presence. You could say the time is right and my job has been done.'

The first review of the Quad ESL-989 is now available in HiFi News, July 2000. Rush to the newsstand and buy a copy when it arrives.

Here are the conclusions of Ken Kessler:

and David Berriman:

From Quad's Homesite:
The first review of the new ESLs is about to be published in Hi-Fi News (available mid June).
Production levels are now increasing, but these are very special speakers and will never be 'mass' produced. There is presently a three month waiting list, so please bear with us.

The latest and most improved version of the Legendary Quad Electrostatics are officially on-sale. Although demand is very high and we can only make about twenty of these per week, the ESLs are finally rolling out of our production facility in Bradford.
Production has been delayed by a number of setbacks, but the eagerly anticipated speakers are now making their way to a carefully selected number of dealers. More information soon...

From HiFi News, May 2000, Ken Kessler reports from the Las Vegas HiFi Show:
Quad continued to torment us with glimpses of the forthcoming new ESLs, the 988 and 989 - which do actually exist, work and are being shipped as I write. The ESL-988 is the replacement for the ESL-63, retaining the look and proportion of the ESL-63 in an all-black (so far...) package with better audio transformers, improved diaphragms and greater structural integrity than found in the  ESL-63, and the re-alignment of the electrostatic diaphragm at a slight angle removes the need for external speaker stands. The ESL-989 is larger than the 988, providing additional diaphragm area and extra bass panels to counter any arguments (especially in the USA) that the Quads need subwoofering. Having now heard them at the factory, I can assure readers that is has been well worth the wait.

From TNT Audio Webmagazine, Thorsten Loesch's London HiFi Show report:
Passing through the suite that introduced the Watt/Puppy MK6 to British shores I feel that Dave Wilson has either lost the plot or is simply pandering to a certain sound demanded by a certain group of wealthy Audiophiles. I don't know. Certainly this is the worst incarnation of the Watt/Puppy yet. Maybe the fault was with the Amplifiers, who knows. The Electronics driving the speakers where Krells best.

A Reviewer from an American magazine characterised the sound as worthy of a £ 1,000 Sony Rack system. I agree. Having passed three of the great names in Hi-Fi and having divested myself of the Awards for the worst failure to live up to expectation and price, its time to move on into the Quad suite. Here I was in for more than just a small surprise. On show was a new Quad Valve Amplifier. No, not just a reissued Quad II, a new design. Ex Audio Note UK Designer Andy Grove (Mr. Ankoru) has outdone himself and so have the people who have redesigned the Quad ESL-63. The combination of the new Quad II -forty and the ESL989 Speaker was rather likable. More such stuff please, Quad. Comparing to last year I'd guess Quad deserves the award for the most improved sound of the show.

The opinion on the Wilson Watt/Puppy speakers driven by Krells is perhaps a little out of place here, but I could not resist to include this part. I don't fancy that combination either.

From the Stereo Times Magazine, Adnan Arduman's London Hi-Fi Show report:
Please read my commentary below, having the following in mind:

  • Due to the adverse acoustical (and other) conditions of the show, this is not an absolute review but just my impressions.
  • I only covered the rooms which seemed either original or interesting or showed a new product.
  • I automatically skipped all rooms with a screen (white or plasma) between the two speakers.
  • I always tried to judge using my own CDs, which were:
         R. Strauss / Violin Sonatas / Chung, Zimerman / DG427
         617-2 Keith Jarrett Trio / Bye Bye Blackbird / ECM 1467
         513 074-2 Saint-Saens / Symphony No.3 / BPO, Levine /
         DG419 617-2

I was listening to systems and not to components and therefore, if my impressions are favourable, this may mean that either all the components are sounding good or the synergy is good. In the opposite case, either one or more than one components are sounding poor or the synergy is poor.

Quad were displaying their top-of-the-line ESL-989 speakers (looks like a taller version of ESL-63). These speakers will be on the market in two months time and will retail for 4000.- Sterling. The famous and my long time favourite ESL-63 speakers have been apparently discontinued 18 months ago. I first listened to the speakers with Quad's solid-state electronics. The sound seemed very decent with a touch of dryness probably coming from the SS amps, then for some reason the CD player didn't want to play my Keith Jarrett CD and we had to switch to another player connected to Quad's prototype tube amps. And glory! The sound became much more musical with meat on the mids (instead of bone). It was a little on the euphonic side and lacked some resolution though.

Having the same virtues of their predecessors, Quad's new speakers seemed very promising: they had more low frequency extension, but the high frequency roll-off seemed to be at the same point as the ESL-63s.

From Quad's information material:
(The information in this document has been published in response to repeated requests from potential customers. The information is given in good faith but is provisional in nature and may be subject to change without notice once the product design work has been concluded.)
The new 98 Series of electrostatic loudspeakers are the first new models of this type to appear for 17 years and are the third generation of electrostatics from Quad, the pioneers of this type of loudspeaker. The original mono ESL first appeared in 1957 and subsequently became known as the ESL-57. The ESL-63 appeared in 1981 and was a definitive stereo loudspeaker using the innovative and patented system which uses two sets of concentric annular electrodes fed from a sequential delay line to produce a sound pressure pattern approaching that of a theoretically ideal point source. The 98 series has evolved from the ESL-63 into a family of models of which the 988 and 989 are the first. The ESL-988 is a full range system built around two mid-range panels and two bass panels. It is of similar dimension to the ESL-63, but incorporates a number of improvements in design and engineering (see overleaf). The ESL-989 is a large full range system built around two mid-range panels and four bass panels. This model is Quad’s finest loudspeaker to date, reproducing music with a scale and clarity that is truly breathtaking.


  • Improved structural rigidity and freedom from twisting
  • Re-designed Delay Line system
  • Re-designed and re-engineered power supply
  • Improved output transformers
  • Dynamic Range Control system for protection in humid conditions
  • The loudspeaker panel is tilted back at a shallow angle to improve the imaging
  • Injection moulded base and top with good structural integrity