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 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.
Times review of the Quad ESL-989:
ESL-989 review "Cutting Edge or Simply What is Old is New", by Dan
The Audio Idead
Guide has reprinted a review of the Quad ESL-989 from the Summer/Fall
2000 issue of AIG:
ESL-989 review, by Hy Sarick
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.
More from Paul Seydor review:
Robert E. Greene review
from TAS #126:
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
I plan to write a long review on the
989 and post it on the web (through the usual newsgroups and audioreview.com),
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
the conclusions of Ken Kessler:
From Quad's Homesite:
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
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.
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
Keith Jarrett Trio / Bye Bye Blackbird / ECM 1467
074-2 Saint-Saens / Symphony No.3 / BPO, Levine /
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
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:
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.
THE PRINCIPLE AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT INTRODUCED INTO THE 98 SERIES
OF ELECTROSTATIC LOUDSPEAKERS ARE:
- 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
- The loudspeaker panel is tilted back at a shallow angle
to improve the imaging
- Injection moulded base and top with good structural integrity