I'm curious about your opinions on Peter Walker's ESLs - from the original ESL 57 to the Quad ESL 63...
So I'm curious about people's experience or opinions of the Walker's Wonders - the 57 and 63. Any formative experiences? What esteem do you hold them in...or not...these days? Certainly technical discussion of their merits and liabilities are welcome as well.
Having been an avid DIY speaker builder since the late 70's, in the early 90's I was about to embark on a particularly expensive project when I realized that the total parts cost was in the same ballpark as a pair of used Quad 63's. So I abandoned the DIY project and bought the used Quads instead. Technically they were the "USA Monitors", rather than the original 63's. They did many things well but had a slight over-emphasis in the lower treble region, which showed up on female vocals. And I learned the hard way my ears are unforgiving of that. I tried a passive notch filter with mixed but ultimately unsatisfactory results. I had them hot-rodded by a company which specialized in such with disappointing results, as the hot-rodding did not address the basic problem. I tried warming up the tonal balance with the Gradient subs, and that helped some. I bought a Cello pre-amplifier which had six bands of passive EQ, and that helped the most. By then I had invested several times more money in solutions to this one (admittedly minor, but DISTRACTING to me) issue than I had invested in the Quads to begin with. I'm under the impression that I'm in the minority on this issue, as I don't see people COMPLAINING about the midrange of the Quad 63's very often!
Eventually I sold it all and bought a pair of SoundLabs. By this time it was late 1999, and I loved the SoundLabs so much that I changed careers and became a high-end audio dealer.
Over the next few years I owned three pairs of Original Quads, the "57's", in a quest to have a less-expensive solution for people for whom the SoundLabs were unaffordable or impractical. To my ears the 57's had a more natural-sounding midrange than the 63's. They still had other issues which made them impractical for me to be commercially involved with, not the least of which was the fact that I'm not a qualified ESL repair technician.
My armchair loudspeaker philosophy is this: A good speaker must do two things. FIRST, it must to SOMETHING so well that you can close your eyes and, focusing on that quality, suspend disbelief and get lost in the music. That SOMETHING can be natural timbre, imaging precision, sense of envelopment, dynamics, extension at the frequency extremes, inner detail, coherence, whatever. But it has to excel at SOMETHING.
The SECOND thing a speaker must do is much more difficult: It must NOT do anything so poorly as to distract the listener and destroy the illusion its qualities have just created. Or to put it more succinctly:
"The highest rated loudspeaker is the least flawed, not the most virtuous."
- Floyd Toole
For my ears and priorities, the original Quads were less flawed than the 63's, but I can easily see someone else arriving at the opposite conclusion.