Love Is Always Better the Second Time Around: The Sanders Sound Systems 10e Hybrid Electrostatic Speaker

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
The First Time Around: The Sanders 10c

About a decade ago I owned the then-current-model Sanders 10c speakers. Toward the beginning of my time with them I wrote:

Yes, the way sound projects from a panel into a room is much different from the way it comes from a quasi-point source like the Harbeths. Whether you like the projection of a panel more or less than the point source is probably a matter of personal taste. It is certainly quite different. The panel projects images in a definitely taller and bigger, but perhaps less rounded manner than the Harbeths. What was clear right from the start is that the Sanders open an apparently VERY large window on the musical event with only a 60-degree subtended angle of separation. What is less clear is whether and the extent to which the nature of the images generated is affected by room damping.

The sound from this system, with the room padding as I currently deployed it, more than any other stereo system I've owned, is focused on a small spot with respect to the walls of the room, just big enough for your head if you sit still while listening, as I do. You only hear correct stereo and the intended frequency response in that small spot. This is true of all other stereos as well, of course, but it is much more blatantly obvious with this one. The sweet spot is really the only spot from which you can hear anything like the intended presentation; elsewhere the stereo is skewed left or right a lot and the highs are very rolled off. If I remove the 4' by 6' patches of Sonex from behind the speakers, the sound is acceptable throughout the listening end of the room, much like with all the other speakers systems I've used. So far, I think that the sweet spot is less sweet that way, however. (There is, however, considerable latitude in terms of listening height, which is nice to have in a floor-standing speaker, allowing a wide latitude in the type of listening chair you use.)

The Sanders 10C will play very loud without strain with what are apparently only a few watts of input. The claimed sensitivity rating in the mid-90s seems realistic. It will play louder than I need without strain or apparent compression.

The overall sound is very clear, even more so than the Harbeth M40.1s. Small details are clarified in a natural sounding, non-etched manner. Like some other electrostats, the sound also is still very detailed and clear at quite low volume levels.

The Sanders have a combination of attributes which is very revealing of recording quality. They are not "forgiving" of the high frequency quality of recordings in the way the M40.1 and AR speakers are. However, the Sanders don't cross the line into being what I call "ruthlessly revealing," which is a term I apply to systems which make all but the best recordings at least a bit unpleasantly bright/nasty sounding.

Thus, if the recording is overly bright, the Sanders clearly tell you that, but they do not aggravate the situation by adding additional distortion to the highs. With recordings that are bright but clean, it is easy to listen around the report of exaggerated high frequency response. The Sanders very clearly reveal, for the first time in my home audio experience, the differences among (1) recordings where the highs are merely exaggerated in level but are low in distortion, (2) those recordings which sound annoyingly bright because the highs are both exaggerated in level and overlaid with harmonic or other types of distortion, and (3) recordings which just have a layer of high-frequency distortion without actually having highs which are exaggerated in level.

The bass can be adjusted to be measurably flat and powerful at high volumes without audible distortion down to 20 Hz without added subwoofers. The room walls shake from the bass power on tap at high levels.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
With a decade more experience with both the Sanders and the speakers which have followed them in my listening rooms—which include the Gradient Revolution Active with SW-T woofer towers, AR-3a, AR-5, AR-303a, KLH Model 12, Stirling Broadcast LS3/6 + Audiokinesis Swarm subwoofer array, Janszen Valentina Active Hybrid Electrostatics, Harbeth Monitor 40.2, Gradient 1.4, and Dutch & Dutch 8c—I recently wrote about the Sanders 10c in retrospect in another part of WBF:

I owned the Sanders 10c and used them in a dedicated room for about a year. Amps were Sanders Magtech Monoblocs, the EQ/crossover was done with Behringer DCX2496 (Sanders later changed to the dbx Venue 360 for the 10e). I also had the Sanders Preamp and Sanders cabling. Later I removed the Behringer crossover/EQ and used my Maui Modded TacT RCS 2.2XP to do all EQ and crossover functions.

Yes, these speakers beam highs--meaning at least the top two octaves--more like a laser beam than a flashlight. Move your head more than a couple of inches left or right and the highs coming directly from the speaker disappear and the sound is what I call "muffled." I think the reason some people comment on this and others don't is that some people don't care or mind what their speakers sound like from outside the sweetspot, much less outside the listening room. Other folks find this muffled sound outside the sweetspot to be annoying and thus complain about beaming, even while acknowledging (as I do) that this high-frequency beaming is exactly why the Sanders have such truly exceptional stereo imaging and staging. That beaming reduces the degree to which the speakers reflect sound off your listening room surfaces, or at least it CAN do so.

Now, this "muffling" outside the sweetspot can be substantially reduced by reducing or eliminating absorptive wall treatment. But then the strong suit of the speakers, their incredible imaging/staging in the sweetspot is significantly compromised from the ping-pong bouncing of highs all around your room surfaces. I've never liked the sound of an undamped room with any speakers, but the Sanders made the lack of damping even more obnoxious. The highs don't "light up" the room with ambience from their reflections as most other speakers do. The reflections are still audibly discrete reflections--ping-pong-like, as I said. Thus, I damped the room with lots of Sonex and lived with muffled sound outside the sweet spot.

Now, let me say right away that perhaps I just never got the hang of how to properly treat the room for the Sanders. At AXPONA demos of the Sanders speakers over the years, I've never heard either extremely muffled sound outside the sweetspot or ping-pong bouncing of reflections off the walls. Sanders demos at AXPONA have always had absolutely top-tier sound quality, as good as any other room at the show. Sanders sometimes set up the speakers on a room diagonal, but not always. He often used heavy drapes behind the speakers and some sort of curtain or screening between the speakers.

Two other issues I had: first, the bass was not strong enough to balance with the panel at the factory-recommended setting of the equalizer/crossover. When I goosed it via the equalizer to measurably match the panel level down to 20 Hz, the woofer box/driver made buzzing/rattling noises in protest at levels above moderate with material with heavy bass. Maybe I shouldn't have spiked the speakers to the concrete floor beneath the carpet, or maybe I was just expecting too much bass extension. But I was used to speakers that could go flat to 20 Hz in this room and the 10c's could not manage that at any level above quite moderate. In fairness, I have heard Sanders speakers at AXPONA several times over the years and the demos there were always top shelf with absolutely no bass problems even at quite high levels. And I know Sanders has made improvements to the woofer in the 10e.

Second, the level of quiescent hiss (hiss from the speaker panels with no music playing) was quite high, clearly audible even outside the listening room. This was entirely eliminated when I swapped out the Behringer crossover/EQ box for the TacT, so somehow the Behringer unit was the cause of that problem. I consulted with Sanders about this problem and he was very cooperative but unable to hear any such problem in his installation. As I said, the 10e now uses a dbx crossover/EQ box and I've never heard any such hiss from Sanders AXPONA demos.

Even with the TacT, I eventually got tired of the lack of usable bass extension and the muffled quality of the sound outside the sweetspot.

But as the last decade has shown me through more experience in other rooms:

1. My prior home's "concrete bunker" basement listening room was an absolute pig in terms of getting proper bass extension and smoothness. Dipole bass speakers like the Gradient Revolution Active and Legacy Whispers were the best for that room because dipole bass created less severe peaks and dips in the bass in a room with such "stiff" walls and so little bass "leakage."

2. In my current smaller listening room (161" L x 132" W x 103.5" H) narrow dispersion of the highs works best since I can't keep the speakers or my listening position very far from the walls. Yes, toeing the speakers in to aim directly at my ears, listening close up, and padding the walls with foam or at least adding audio diffuser panels helps, but reducing the early reflection right at the speakers is also a key element.

3. My recent forays into high-end headphones have also convinced me that there is nothing like an electrostatic driver for low distortion and clarity of sound without overbearing brightness or etch. And, while the stereo imaging and staging presented by headphones is not generally as pleasing or natural as that from stereo speakers, totally removing the room from the equation yields countervailing benefits in terms of the lack of early-reflection-induced distortions/grit/edginess, and extreme stability of imaging and staging. Thus, moving toward speakers which interact less with the room seems a good move. That is why I had so much subjective success in my current listening room with such speakers: the Janszen Valentina Active, the Gradient 1.4, and, most recently, the Dutch & Dutch 8c. Ideally, I want speakers which combine the lack of room effects headphone listening provides with the pleasingly natural "out there" sonic presentation of speaker listening.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Why Move On From the Dutch & Dutch 8c?

Well, it's time. In my history, I tend to swap speakers every year or two. I still think the 8c's are as good as I've said in my thread devoted to them. In my experience, no other speakers had reached their level of accomplishment in my listening room to my ears.

The ONLY thing I've ever found a bit lacking with their presentation is depth of field. Keeping them close to the wall for enhanced bass makes perception of depth behind the speaker plane "more work" for my ears/brain. Yes, true depth is there when I close my eyes or listen in low light. But, still, other speakers have, in my experience in this room and others, portrayed a pleasing sense of depth in a rather more obvious fashion, one that is clearly "just there" in both eyes-open and eyes-closed listening.

I probably could enhance the depth presentation of the D&D 8c's by moving them significantly farther from the wall behind them, more or less to the positions I've used with other speakers in this room. I could add more woof to the 8c's so I could move them out into the room and have the same bass extension/power as they yield with their current near-wall positioning and with lower bass distortion. It would be ideal if D&D came out with a supportive subwoofer add-on of the type Kii has for their model III with BXT. https://www.kiiaudio.com/bxt.php Or, if I could tolerate more room clutter again I could reacquire distributed subwoofers like the AudioKinesis Swarm or Debra.

Not a very good reason to move on, I admit. But unlike my prior speaker moves, at least for the time being, I'm keeping the D&Ds for use in a future high-performance "simple system" either in another room of my current home or in a future home. They are that good and I don't want to be without them.

So chalk up my moving on to audiophilia nervosa/the grass is always greener/Covid money burning a hole in my pocket—whatever. I have no rational reason for new speakers, especially ones costing twice as much.

I thus began casting about for an ultimate room-ignoring speaker, especially in the mid and high frequencies. My current room is actually quite easy in terms of getting both deep and smooth bass: a little electronic equalization goes a long way in my current room and with some speakers the bass has been acceptably flat without any outboard electronic EQ. And in this search, I kept coming back to…
 
Last edited:

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Why Revisit the Sanders Speakers?

Given my retrospective reaction to the Sanders 10c, why consider the newer 10e?

I began to think that the Sanders speakers might just work well and not be too dead sounding outside the sweet spot if I do not put much absorption behind the speakers. Listening to them closer up, as my new smaller room would force, would also lessen the audibility of highs bouncing off the listening room walls. The idea of close-up huge speakers creating an electrostatic-headphone-like presentation—but clearly out in front of me—also began to fascinate me.

I would not need to use spikes; just the also-now-included flat footers. I think in hindsight that part of the bass problems I had with the 10c may have been due to my spiking the bass cabinets to the concrete floor of my old basement listening room.

Three videos Roger Sanders has produced tell a lot about set-up of the 10e:

(assembly)

(essential adjustments)

(recommended adjustments)

The assembly is exactly as I remember my 10c assembly. The equalizer, however, is brand new, now a dbx version rather than a Behringer. Setting up the EQ looked super easy compared to what the Behringer required, if the video was to be believed.

I haven't seen anything else on the market more intriguing to me. SoundLab speakers are really too wide for my room. Quad speaker reliability may be an issue now that production has moved to China. The Magnepan 20.7 is intriguing, but again they may just be too wide for my small room and as up-close-and-personal as I'd be forced to listen, the horizontally displaced ribbon drivers might not cohere very well.

I usually did not spike speakers at all; I'm not sure why I chose to do that in the case of the Sanders 10c. It could be that, as the set-up video said, the speaker may not be all that steady on carpet without the two supports under the front of the cabinet; it may lean forward a bit if you just float the speaker on the carpet. But I could solve that with the now-included flat feet, rather than spikes.

Then there was Robert E. Greene's rave review of the Sanders 10e . As many will know, I'm a huge fan of REG's reviews, often finding his preferences to mirror my own tastes very well. I've purchased many of REG's favorite speakers over the years. His review supported my impressions of the 10e from my AXPONA auditions of this later model. Even by REG's reviewing standards, this review is incredibly helpful in terms of understanding the design principles and why the speaker sounds the way it does. It should be required reading before any high-end speaker purchase.
 
  • Like
Reactions: picears

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
The Second Time Around: The Sanders 10e

The 10c was then. The 10e is now. Why the 10e sounds so much better to me now than the 10c did a decade ago is not entirely clear. The reasons may include some or all the following:
  • The 10e is just that much better than the 10c; the woofer has been changed, for one thing--the magnet structure is reportedly larger and heavier and at some point in the the evolution of the design (not sure if this was before or after the 10c) the woofer was changed to an aluminum-coned design
  • My listening room is no longer a bass pig
  • I am no longer spiking the speakers to the floor
  • I am listening much closer up with the 10e than I did with the 10c—58 inches vs 80 inches
  • The dbx VENU360 Loudspeaker Management System (LMS) is much better at handling the required functions, with much less audible hiss, than the old Behringer DCX2496
  • My tolerance of rolled-off frequency response outside the sweet spot has increased
  • My listening tastes have changed
  • I've been brainwashed by AXPONA auditions of the 10e and REG's totally logical walk-on-water review of the 10e
Yes, I still think the Dutch & Dutch 8c was the best speaker I'd heard in my listening room to that point, and by a substantial margin. It's a truly great sounding speaker and, at $12,500 a pair, a true bargain for what you get. The speakers, a pair of inexpensive speakers stands, plus some sort of Roon core and controller are all you need for fabulous fidelity in a two-channel stereo system. And, right out of the box, it has the sort of "relaxed" high frequency balance (probably down a couple of dB in a broad trough from about 2 kHz up to 8 kHz) I prefer.

That said, if you can afford $27,000 for the Sanders 10e plus an additional Sanders Magtech stereo amp, the Sanders 10e—at least in my listening room for my tastes, when properly equalized—produces reproduced sound quality so far beyond that of the D&D 8c that, had I not now experienced it for myself, I would not believe it possible. To me, the Sanders 10e sounds INCREDIBLE! I'll have more adjectives later, but this is just to say that the sound quality is better than I've ever dreamed possible in a home listening rig, much less achieved.

No, the 10e and associated Magtech amps does not make for a "bargain" system the way the D&D 8c does. But, on the other hand, I'd have to say that in my room the sound quality of the 10e is more than twice as good as the 8c, thus making it, as REG also concludes, a "bargain" in terms of the sound quality it produces. In the world of high-end speakers, it is rare that moving from $12,500/pair speakers to $27,000/pair speakers will produce more than a 100% increase in perceived quality. In fact, the law of diminishing returns usually dictates that the quality increase at this price level will usually be subtle and perhaps just a matter of taste. But the Sanders are an entirely unique experience, in my opinion.
 
Last edited:

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Ordering

Roger Sanders told me he tries to maintain stock of all his products. Thus, there was no long wait for my cherry finish speakers and dual Magtech Stereo amps to be manufactured. That's very refreshing considering the long wait times I've faced with other high-end loudspeaker acquisitions where the wait times have sometimes exceeded six months. My order shipped the day after I placed the order and arrived three or four days after shipment. Since I was willing to pay by check so as to avoid fees Sanders would incur for electronic payment, Sanders paid the $400+ shipping charges. Sanders ships via UPS Ground.

My system shipped in six separate boxes: one for each woofer, one box for the panels and grills, one box for each amp with the dbx LMS shipping inside one of the amp boxes, and one box (actually two long construction-grade cardboard tubes strapped together) containing the steel rails and wood trim strips). While the total shipping weight is close to 400 pounds, no single box weighs more than 95 pounds (the two woofer boxes).

I understand that all Sanders speaker and amps are shipped direct to the consumer from Sanders in Colorado, whether you choose to buy factory direct as I did or work through a Sanders retail dealer. Note that while Sanders does not charge sales tax on factory direct orders, the laws of your state—like those of my home state of Illinois—may obligate you to pay your state sales tax or use tax on this out-of-state purchase. In my case, the law required me to pay Illinois 6.25% of the $27,000 system price, or $1,688 as use tax. Of course, if you order from a local authorized Sanders dealer, that dealer will most probably charge you for local sales tax. The sales tax rate is often higher than the use tax rate one has to pay on out-of-state purchases; it certainly is in my case where my local sales tax rate is at least 10%.

Delivery

On the day delivery was scheduled to occur, UPS only delivered four of the six boxes. I was missing one bass unit, one amp, and the LMS which apparently was packed in the missing amp box. I talked to Roger Sanders about the partial delivery and he said this is fairly common and it could take another two or three days for the other boxes to show up, but he says they always do. He doesn't understand why this happens so often since they are shipped together, leave his premises together, travel together, and are always shown as out for delivery together on the same day, as mine were.

Well, I think I know why. Sanders makes a point that the speakers ship cheaply but safely via UPS Ground, without the necessity of palletizing and in several boxes each of which one person can handle, even though the total system weight is close to 400 pounds. I think the simple explanation is that UPS drivers work alone and some don't want to handle a six-box delivery where two of the boxes are 95 lbs each and aren't even labeled as "heavy" and all the boxes are large and fairly heavy. The drivers load their own trucks or control the loading of them and probably just split up the delivery onto different vehicles or different days. They otherwise would take up too much space on the truck and would have to be placed either first or last on the truck to avoid being in the way of other boxes. And it would take a busy UPS driver at least three trips to the door with a hand truck to get all six boxes to the door. The one "box" holding the metal rails and wood trim strips is actually two very heavy duty construction-grade cardboard tubes strapped together with fiberglass tape and is six feet long.

I knew the woofers would be a tough push up the stairs and I did not underestimate the challenge. The stairs have a small landing midway up with a 90-degree turn. The woofer boxes are a bit smaller, but are heavier than the boxes containing the Harbeth M40.2's which I had pushed up these same stairs a few years back. I'm kind of glad I did not have to move two woofer boxes up the stairs in one day. Deliveries at my old house were so much easier: the stairs were straight, without my current 90-degree landing turn, and I used gravity to assist in getting them down to my basement audio room. All I had to do was hold the boxes back a bit as they slid down the stairs.

The other two boxes arrived the next day, so I was in fact fortunate. Roger said it frequently takes two or three days for all to arrive after the first delivery.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Set Up

Here's a picture of my current Sanders 10e set up taken with my iPhone camera approximately in the listening position. This wide-angle shot makes the subtended angle between the speakers look a lot smaller than the actual 60 degrees and makes the speakers appear further away than they appear to my eyes from the listening position:

Sanders 10e Set UP.jpeg

And here's a wide-angle shot of the listening end of the room. This is basically unchanged from my Dutch & Dutch 8c set up except that the chair is now closer to the wall behind it:

Listening end of room.jpeg


My current associated equipment and general set up is detailed in "My Current Audio Systems" thread here on WBF.

Cardas Speaker Placement Calculator: Dipole or Monopole?

The Sanders 10e being dipole speakers above the bass, close-to-wall placement as I used with the D&D 8c speakers would not be advantageous, especially since one aspect of listening I hoped to recapture was the "easy" perception of depth of field. Thus, as with my last physical set up of the Gradient 1.4 speakers which I found to be extremely pleasing, I decided to follow the Cardas Speaker Placement Calculators.

Since the Sanders 10e is a hybrid electrostatic, which uses a box woofer below 170 Hz and a dipole electrostatic panel above that frequency, I debated whether to adopt the monopole or the dipole version of the Cardas calculator. I found no online discussion of this issue. Since the transition from panel to box woofer is at a fairly low frequency, I decided to try the dipole calculator first. The only difference in speaker (and thus listener) placement between the two calculators is that the dipole calculator places the speakers about five inches further from the wall behind them. If I want "easy" depth perception, that should help.

Preparation for Delivery

In preparation for the delivery, I stored my D&D 8c speakers in my audio room closet still firmly mounted on their stands. The D&D speaker and stand together weigh a lot less than the Sanders woofers. The speaker/stand combos also were relatively easy to move since they are small and easy to grip. I also stored in that closet the floor-pad foam pieces I was using with the D&D speakers.

I set up my Lumin X1 streamer again (I did not need it with the D&D 8c speakers after they became Roon Ready endpoints) and got its firmware updated and working fine. This time around I've put my CD music files on a Patriot 1 TB USB flash drive stuck into the USB port on the back of the Lumin rather than streaming those files from my desktop Apple computer. That way the computer doesn't have to be on when I'm listening to music. I noticed with the D&Ds that the system sounded better with the desktop Apple computer off. Now, rather than streaming files from the Apple computer via Minimserver running on that computer, when streaming files via the Lumin App the streaming would be sourced from the USB stick attached directly to the Lumin X1. This new set up mimics the method of streaming my music files via Roon. When I'm using Roon my music files stream from a similar Patriot 1 TB USB flash drive physically inserted into a USB port in the back of my Roon Nucleus+.

In preparation for the Sanders speakers, I purchased some high-density A/V Room Service Equipment Vibration Protectors for placement under the two Sanders amps, which will be floor mounted. My Lumin X1 went back on top of the rack, with the dbx VENU360 controller for the speakers to be placed atop the Lumin, again with EVPs between it and the Lumin. I got three-foot pairs of Benchmark Studio&Stage star-quad balanced analog interconnect cables to run from the Lumin's analog out to the controller; I already have those in the same length to connect the amps to the controller. I also purchased 8' speaker cables from Blue Jeans Cable. I went with two cables per speaker of the Canare starquad version of BJC speaker cables for better shielding. So I'm using both starquad interconnects and starquad speaker cables.

I also moved my listening chair into the position for the Cardas dipole set-up I decided to try first: speaker center fronts 63 31/32" from the wall behind them and 36 7/16" from the near side walls, listening position 115 3/16" from the wall behind the speakers.

I also figured out a new way to position my listening chair precisely; it was something I thought of when reading the Sanders advanced positioning instructions in the 10e manual. These instructions recommend equalizing the distance from the inside edge of the panel of the speakers to the center back of your listening chair. I'm surprised I didn't think of this technique decades ago.

I pushed a quilter's pin with a "large" white blobby head all the way into the top back edge of the chair's upholstery at its back center point, just avoiding the wooden frame. The center point of the back of the chair was determined through a direct tape measure measurement of the chair's back. The pin is firmly anchored in the chair in that center position. To get the chair centered in the room I measured from the outside edges of the chair's front legs to each side wall and adjusted the chair position until I got equal tape measurements to each wall. This method also ensured that the chair was facing directly forward toward the center point between the two speakers.

The large pin head serves as the bracing reference point for the center back end of my laser measuring meter and butting the meter up against the pin head gives very consistent measurement trials. I can thus measure from the chair rather than from my ears. After many trials I determined that my ears are about 15 25/32" in front of the back of the chair when I sit comfortably. Thus, for whatever listening-position-to-wall-behind-the-speakers distance I want, I just add 15 25/32" and have the desired distance from the pin head to the wall behind the speakers. And obviously the pinhead will also allow easy measuring to the inside edge of each speaker panel to get those distances close to equal, more accurate, I'm sure, than attempting to measure from my respective ears to the inside edge of each speaker.

I'm certainly aware that Sanders recommends non-symmetrical set-up of his speakers for the advantages such set ups yield for smoother bass. That may be, but such set-ups have always been aesthetically unacceptable to me. Besides that, my listening room is too small to comfortably allow such a set up. The left speaker would get very close to one of my CD cabinets or the right speakers would be close to the window. The listening position also would get close to furniture. I'll thus need to rely on the dbx VENU360 Loudspeaker Management System device to smooth out the bass. I really haven't had much problem in this room EQing the bass from various speakers.

I'm also aware that ideally Sanders recommends a seating position that is a bit higher than what my current chair in its "stock" condition allows. Sanders recommends sitting so that your ears are at least a foot above the bottom of the electrostatic panel. The woofer stands 27" tall, about the same as the top of the back of my small Drexel listening chair. The chair normally puts my ears at about 37 – 38" above the carpet, which is about an inch too low.

However, by placing a Target equipment rack shelf below the seat cushion, my ear height is thus raised to about 39.75", a bit higher than the minimum. Down the road, I will probably seek out a listening chair that is a bit higher.

I went chair shopping and found one I really like that is a bit higher-sitting than the one I have now. Unfortunately, like most furniture, the wait time is long--at least until April in this case. That chair-shopping experience refreshed in my mind how amazing it is that most chairs don't meet my need for comfort and erect seating. Sometimes I wonder whether human being chair designers actually sit in their creations. It only takes a second or two with most chairs to determine that "this will never do." I have a feeling that most "accent chairs" these days are designed purely as decoration/for looks, rather than for practical comfort, much less for the erect posture and low back needed in an ideal audio listening chair.
 
Last edited:

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Electronics Set Up

I'm using both the analog balanced inputs and analog balanced outputs of the dbx LMS unit. While some may wonder about the extra A/D – D/A stage this places in the signal path, REG found no sonic problem with this arrangement. In addition, this allows me to take fuller advantage of the Lumin X1's MQA capabilities, allowing full MQA unfolding and rendering. Now, of course that may be "spoiled" by the downstream A/D – D/A stage, but at least I'm now getting more benefit from the MQA than in the past when my DAC would not do the final unfolding. In addition, while the dBx unit accepts AES/EBU inputs, it only accepts digital signals up to a 96/24 resolution, not the increasingly common 192/24 Qobuz material, much less anything DSD encoded. With the Lumin X1 putting out an analog signal, I can take full advantage of most any digital format, as well as upsampling/resampling to PCM rates up through 768 and DSD up through 512.

I have reconfigured my Uptone Audio EtherREGEN ethernet switch to feed the Lumin X1 from the "B" side. This is Uptone's recommended configuration and most users find this configuration (putting the DAC on the "B" side of the switch) to be the best sounding. This was not possible while using the D&D 8c speakers since there were two DACs in the system, one in each speaker. In this reconfiguration, the ethernet input from my router, the Roon Nucleus+, and the dbx VENU360 are all connected to the "A" side of the switch. I did not start out with the Sanders using this configuration. At first, as with the D&D speakers, I had my router feeding my GigaFOILv4 Inline Ethernet Filter, feeding the "B" side of the EtherREGEN switch, with the Nucleus+ and Lumin X1 connected to the "A" side. That sounded mighty fine, but, trust me, it's even finer with the Lumin X1 on the "B" side.

I want to mention that you should not attempt to remove the stock feet from the Sanders Magtech amps. I ordinarily would do this in order to place the A-V Room Service EVPs near the chassis corners in place of the stock feet. When I tried to unscrew the first foot of one amp, however, the foot would not fully unscrew from the chassis. I did eventually get it to tighten up against the chassis again, but did not repeat that experiment with any of the other feet. Later, I removed the chassis cover and discovered that the amp feet are not self-threaded into the bottom plate of the chassis as they are with most other equipment with screw-in feet. Instead, they are secured by a washer and nut on the inside of the chassis. Worse, the back two feet are hidden from access unless the amp were to be partially disassembled. I thus highly recommend leaving the stock feet in place even if you want to use accessory footers as I did. I merely moved the points of support to places along the outer chassis edge which would avoid the stock feet. The amp is very front heavy (the large, heavy toroidal transformer is mounted almost touching the front panel), so the EVPs are best placed skewed toward the front end of the amp so as to equalize weight on the four EVPs.

I decided to use the two Sanders Magtech amps in a vertical bi-amping arrangement. This worked out best for my physical set up. The amp feeding the left speaker was placed on the floor to the left side of my short equipment rack. The amp feeding the right speaker was placed on the floor to the right side of my equipment rack. The left channel of each amp feeds a panel. The right channel of each amp feeds a woofer. This arrangement keeps both the interconnects and the speakers cables as short as possible.

Also, due to the vast power and potential power consumption of the Sanders Magtech amps, this vertical bi-amping arrangement reduces the load on the two dedicated circuits powering the system. While the electrostatic panels demand very little in terms of current, the woofers require substantial current for optimum drive. Each amp is plugged into one of the two dedicated circuits. This vertical bi-amping arrangement avoids stress on the power supplied by each circuit as well as each amp's internal power supply by allowing each amp to drive only a single woofer.

In my small room, even with my open-air floor mounting of the Magtech amps, I would not call the Magtechs "cool" running. The amps are a bit warm to the touch and provide a significant "room heater" effect. But they do indeed run significantly cooler than most amps of similar tremendous power output. Their heat production is nothing like tubes or old hot-running Class A Krell amps. But they don't run "cold" the way some switching amps of considerable power (such as the Lyngdorf SDA 2400 I once owned) do even when enclosed in a cabinet.

The display on the dbx Venu360 cannot be turned off, only set for dim and then there are still other lights on the front panel which cannot be turned off or dimmed. I do not like to look at a lot of equipment lights while listening, especially dancing LEDs as are on the level meters of the dbx unit and which light up and go out with the music's dynamics. Since I look straight in the direction of my equipment rack when listening, the panel light issue had to be addressed. I solved this problem by making a light shield from this 11" x 17" black cardstock. By folding the cardstock so as to rest atop the dbx unit and hang down almost to the surface below I was able to totally block the view of the dbx panel lights. The size of this paper is perfect for this use since the dbx unit is basically 17" wide.

I also made black electrical tape light blockers for the Sanders amps which otherwise emit a very bright blue light from the Sanders logo. I also black taped over the white lettering atop the dbx unit since otherwise that lettering sticks out like a sore thumb atop my equipment rack. I even put black electrical tape over the LEDs on either side of the ethernet port on the back of the dbx unit since I found the flashing from that port (once the dbx was connected to my system via ethernet) distracting as it reflected on the wall close behind it, directly in my center image eye-focus area.

One-meter cables were barely long enough to reach from the dbx to the Sanders amp inputs in my installation. I knew it would be close, but I didn't think it would be THAT close. I had to trim away the strain relief stiff additional jacket at the ends of each Benchmark cable to allow them to make a bit sharper bend and thus reach without being taut.

The supplied power cords for the speakers are said in the Sanders manual to be 10-footers, long enough to allow going from the speakers placed out into the room to a wall-mounted outlet or my P.I. Audio UberBusses. In fact, the supplied cords were only about 7 feet long. I ordered two of these 12-foot IEC power cords from Amazon just to be on the safe side, length-wise. Ten footers would have been long enough and are also available from Amazon. Both the original and these replacement cords are 3 x 18 AWG 10-amp cables and they are not in the signal path; the speakers only need power to energize the electrostatic panel. Sanders thus claims the quality of this power cord doesn't matter.

The dbx unit has an internal fan with a silver-colored grill at the front edge of the right side. Mounted in the open air as I have it, the unit is barely warm to the touch and thus the fan never turns on, which is of course a good thing. Probably it's only needed when the unit is rack mounted, as pro audio folks would do, with a lot of other hot equipment surrounding it.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Speaker Assembly

The video and written manual instructions for assembly of the speakers, electrical connections, essential adjustments, and recommended adjustments are excellent and should be followed to the letter. I encountered no real issues. The fact that I had years before assembled the 10c speakers helped since the 10e is quite similar in assembly. But even without this prior experience, I feel most customers would not encounter any problems if they follow the explicit directions.

The cherry cabinet finish of the woofers is okay, not great. This was also true with my prior Sanders 10c speakers. Nevertheless, fully assembled, the Sanders speakers really look sharp. The contrasting black woofer grill, the translucent black stat panel, and the wood trim pieces really make these look nice.

Oh, and using long strips of Velcro to attach the panels, grills and wood trim strips to the structural metal rail supports is ingenious. It makes assembly so easy, the panels, grills, and trims strips are all VERY secure, and high-frequency resonances are diminished since all these parts are mounted so "softly."

Speaker Set Up and Positioning

I chose to use the flat feet rather than spike for ease of getting the speakers exactly positioned, to keep the panels as low as possible given my low-sitting chair, and because of my bad prior sonic experiences with spiking speakers to the floor, including my prior Sander 10c speakers. I kept the feet screwed in to be as short as possible except as needed to level the speakers. The fact that the speakers each have three rather than four feet makes leveling the speakers a breeze compared to the usual four-foot arrangement. Since three points define a plane, three feet also prevent any residual rocking of the speaker on the floor surface, something which is much more difficult to prevent with the typical four-foot speaker mounts.

I used my iPhone's leveling tool to ensure that each speaker was level in both the front-to-back and side-to-side planes. I used the sides of the woofer cabinet to determine this verticality.

To adjust the speakers so that they were each the specified distance from the side wall and wall behind them, I placed a strip of masking tape near the center of the top front edge of the woofer cabinet. I then put a dot on the tape in the exact side-to-side center of the woofer cabinet. With the speakers toed in toward the listening position, it was then simple and convenient to measure from this dot to the walls by placing the center back of my laser measuring tool at this dot. This method proved to provide highly consistent repeat measurements, ensuring confidence in the accuracy of those measurements. While this dot was about an inch behind the electrostatic panel, this method avoided excessive contact with the electrostatic panel and allowed easy proper angling of the meter so as to shoot the laser beam at a right angle to the wall from the exact center of the cabinet.

The trick to the positioning, and what takes a while to accomplish, is to get three parameters—toe in, distance from side wall, and distance from the wall behind the speakers—all dialed in as closely as possible by moving the speakers just so. Even so, this is still just the first approximation to proper positioning.

Once the speakers were thus approximately level and positioned, final speaker leveling and aiming adjustments were done by using the electrostatic panel angle as a reference. As I've done with other speakers, I masking-taped two-inch diameter circular flat mirrors to the horizontal center of the speakers. Finding the horizontal center of the panels is dead easy because the closely spaced vertical metal slats of the panels provide a handy "grid" for adjusting the horizontal position of the mirror just so. I adjusted the vertical position of the mirror on the left speaker so that, sitting in the listening position with my head aimed straight ahead and glancing to the left using only my left eye (covering my right eye with my right hand) I saw the reflection of my left ear canal vertically centered in the mirror. I then adjusted the left speaker toe-in to get the reflection of my ear canal centered vertically and horizontally in the mirror. I then measured the distance from the carpet to the bottom of that mirror.

I then attached an identical two-inch circular mirror to the right speaker so that its bottom edge was the same distance from the carpet as the mirror on the left speaker was. I adjusted the toe in of the right speaker so that, sitting in the listening position with my head aimed straight ahead and glancing to the right using only my right eye (covering my left eye with my left hand) I saw the reflection of my right ear canal horizontally centered in the mirror on the right speaker. Using only the back flat foot of the right speaker, I then adjusted the verticality of the right speaker so as to get the reflection of my right ear canal centered vertically and horizontally in the mirror, as viewed from the listening position with my right eye only.

Now that both speakers were aimed directly at their respective ears, I still had to make sure the speakers were equidistant from the listening position. Here is where Sanders' instructions gave a new level of certainty. Using my laser meter, I measured from the head of the pin in the center back of my chair to the inside lower corner of each speaker's electrostatic panel. As it turned out, the distances matched to within 1/16 of an inch. I then just nudged the right speaker back a small bit until the measured distances to each speaker's inside corner were repeatedly the same to the meter's 1/32-inch accuracy.

I then made a final check to verify that the reflections of my ear canals were still exactly centered in the mirrors. They were.

There is some ambiguity in the speaker manual's instruction to aim the speakers at your listening position. Sanders recommends looking at the reflection of a flashlight held directly above your head. This is better than nothing in terms of getting the toe in correct and the panels both vertically oriented. However, it will tend to be far less exact than the mirror method I described above. The flashlight usually will not be the same distance from the speakers as your ears are. The glow of the flashlight is a large area compared to the reflection of one's ear canal. The flashlight method will tend to toe in the speakers to face the center of your head, rather than each ear. Years of experiments with the effects of speaker toe-on on speaker imaging and staging have convinced me that "aiming the speakers at your listening position" is best interpreted, from the standpoint of focused imaging and accurate staging, to mean that each speaker should be aimed at its respective ear as viewed only by its corresponding eye, not at the center of your head, not as viewed with both eyes, and certainly not as viewed with the opposite eye. The level of image and stage focus achievable with the method I have described is audibly clearly superior and just as easy to use as a goal. And with the very directional Sanders 10e, the differences are significant as one can easily hear by just moving one's head forward and backward a very few inches from the listening position.

With my equilateral triangle set-up using the Cardas dipole speaker placement calculator, in my 132" W x 161" L x 103.5" H room the speaker centers are 36 7/16" from the side walls, and 63 31/32" from the wall behind them. The listening position is 115 3/16" from the wall behind the speakers and 45 13/16" from the wall behind the listening position. The speakers are 58 5/32" center to center and each speaker thus is the same 58 5/32" from the listening position. Given that the radiating area of the panels is about 40" tall by 13" wide, this is near field indeed. Sort of like massive headphones. And that's exactly the idea.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Equalization

The dbx VENU 360 unit which Sanders refers to as his Loudspeaker Management System or LMS is potentially a very flexible, and therefore potentially very complex unit, set-up-wise. Fortunately, Sanders delivers the LMS already custom configured to fit the needs of the 10e speakers. Sanders also delivers the dbx without any rack-mounting ears or other hardware, a better fit, I think, for most home audio rigs than a rack-mountable version would be.

And if, as I did, the user buys two Magtech stereo amp units, you probably won't have to do much, if any, in the way of what Sanders calls the "essential" adjustments of the equalization. That essential adjustment basically adjusts the woofer level relative to the electrostatic panel level. I found that level match to be approximately correct with the as-delivered settings of the LMS. But I recommend doing this step first, especially if you are not using two identical Magtech amps to drive the highs and lows. In my experience, unless you do this "essential" adjustment first, you will not get as subjectively fine results from the next "recommended" adjustments step.

The "recommended" adjustments basically involve minimizing bass peaks and dips. The procedure for doing this is as simple as I have seen for any EQ unit. Leaving your listening chair in position, you ideally (as I did) put the supplied microphone on a boom microphone stand at the listening position (mike capsule level and centered between where your two ears would be) facing straight ahead. You then follow Sanders' simple instructions to run the AEQ function of the LMS using two to four sets of test tones to first one speaker then the other.

I should mention that before you run the test tones, you have a choice to make about the target curve you want the AEQ function to apply. Sanders says in the instructions to pick the "recommended curve." Another choice is flat bass. You should know that Sanders' "recommended curve" could result in somewhat richer sounding bass than what some may be used to. It starts boosting the lower frequencies at around 500 Hz and reaches a maximum boost of at least 6 dB by 20 Hz. That sort of boost sound nice and warm and strong to me, but some may find that sort of bass emphasis a bit overdone. But I definitely suggest starting out electing the Sanders' "recommended curve" for the bass target.

The test tones take only a few seconds each and the whole test tone process is done in less than two minutes even if you choose to run four sets. You do not move the microphone to any different positions.

Then, you look at the results. Sanders' two rules for applying the AEQ's recommended settings are to (1) limit recommended boosts below 100 Hz to at most 4 dB and (2) zero out any AEQ-recommended changes above a certain frequency since these are likely not "really" needed but are merely artifacts of the measurement system and/or your room.

When making the "recommended" adjustments, one question is, when using the automatic equalization (AEQ) function of the dbx LMS unit, whether to zero out any recommended equalization between 500 Hz and 1000 Hz. In some spots, the instructions say to zero out any AEQ-recommended equalization above 500 Hz. In other spots, you are directed to zero out AEQ-recommended equalization above 1000 Hz. In private correspondence, Roger Sanders told me the current recommendation is to zero out the AEQ-recommended corrections above 1000 Hz, leaving as recommended any AEQ-recommended corrections between 500 Hz and 1000 Hz. This is a decision based on real-world experience with the 10e speakers. As it turned out, this discrepancy in the instructions was not relevant to my set up since the AEQ did not recommend any parametric equalization centered between 500 Hz and 1000 Hz.

The "optional" adjustments of the LMS include (1) the ability to measure the actual frequency response of the speakers in your room using the LMS's RTA function and (2) the ability to use various parametric equalization (PEQ) bands to adjust the speaker's response to taste. Both of these optional steps are discussed in the Sanders manual and I've used both these functions.

For example, one can easily use the PEQ to dial in a presence range dip such as the bell curve of minus 4.2 dB centered at 3 kHz with a Q of 3, which I found helpful with some recordings using my D&D 8c speakers. Or, as another example, Sanders suggests that if you want to reduce overall brightness you can use PEQ to dial in a high-shelf filter at 3 kHz, with a slope of 3 and an amplitude of minus 2 or 3 dB.

The RTA function works well enough and is certainly easy to use. An especially convenient time to use it is immediately after you do the recommended adjustments and apply them to the 10e's. With the supplied measuring microphone still in the measuring position, you can then check the equalized frequency response of the system from your listening position using the RTA function. The RTA function shows a bar graph of 1/3-octave bands. Even with the "slow" setting, the bars tend to bounce around quite a bit, especially in the lower frequencies, but you can get a very general idea of the system response from this RTA function. For more precise measurements, you may want to use another measuring system, such as the very-easy-to-use OmniMic V2.

From the front panel controls, here's an example of how to edit the electrostatic panel's PEQ settings to insert a high-frequency shelf filter to reduce the treble level a bit:

press the Edit button

turn the knob so that the upper PEQ box is highlighted (blue)

press the knob

use the up or down buttons to navigate to the settings for the PEQ filter you want to use; the first filter is part of the factory settings, so you don't want to mess with that one

turn the knob so that the right column is highlighted (white background, blue lettering) if it is not already so highlighted

turn the knob to adjust the settings of each highlighted parameter

for example, you could use BAND3. The filter type is adjustable to be bell, low shelf, or high shelf--set it for high shelf

adjust BAND3 FREQ to 3kHz

adjust BAND3 GAIN to somewhere between -2.0 and -3.0 dB

adjust BAND3 SLOPE to 3

when done, press the Back button a couple of times and then the Save button three times. Your settings now are saved until you edit them again.

You can watch all your adjustments on the graph, which changes in real time as you turn the knob. The blue area below the zero line in the high frequencies shows the effect of the dialed-in filter.

The slope function determines how quickly the filter reaches its minus 2 or 3 dB setting as frequency increases above 3 kHz. With a slope of only 3, the response slopes down to minus 3 dB rather than falling off a cliff at that frequency.

Another function of the dbx LMS unit is that it can mute and unmute each output channel. For use with the Sanders 10e, output channels 5 and 6 are not connected, so I leave them muted at all times. Outputs 1 and 2 are for the electrostatic panels and 3 and 4 are for the woofers. Thus, it is easy to tell how much sound is coming from the panel versus the woofers for any given program, as well as judging how full or thin the sound is without the woofers operating on a given program. It's also amazing how little sound comes from the woofers on many programs; most of the musical energy is often above the 170 Hz 48 dB/octave low-pass roll off of the woofers.
 
Last edited:

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
dbx Driverack VENU360 App

There is a free dbx Driverack VENU360 app which can control the dbx VENU360; you can download it from the app store. I am currently using it. The controls certainly are easier to see and manipulate on an iPad than on the small screen of the dbx unit. You do have to connect the dbx to an ethernet cable for it to be controlled through the internet; there is no wireless internet connectivity within the dbx unit. I did not use the app to set up the speakers since Sanders never mentions it in his manual for the speakers. You have to read the 100+ page dbx VENU360 manual to learn of it. The app allows control of most but not all controls accessible from the faceplate controls of the dbx unit. The major omission are the utility menu settings, such as screen brightness and contrast. Most of the utility settings are not needed once you are controlling the dbx unit from the app anyway.

Note that to get the dbx app to find/recognize my dbx unit on the network I had to go into the Utility menu of the unit via the faceplate controls, go to Network settings, and toggle the Network settings to have HDCP networking on. As shipped to me by Sanders, this setting was toggled off. The dbx manual says it is shipped with HDCP toggled on, but perhaps Sanders changes that in his custom set up for the 10e.

If you are the type of Sanders 10e user who plans to change PEQ settings on a recording-by-recording basis to get the best possible high frequency balance for particular recordings, using the app to control the PEQ settings is, I think, a necessity. Going over to the machine and dialing them in from there will usually be pure trial-and-error sonic guesswork. Since the 10e's are so directional, you will not be able to hear in real time the effect of the EQ alterations you are making. Using the app with an iPad controller in your lap at the listening position, it is child's play to subjectively evaluate in real time the EQ changes you are making.

On the other hand, if you are a set-it-and-forget-it Sanders 10e user, using the app may be overkill. It can't be sonically beneficial (and may be sonically harmful) to leave the dbx VENUE360 connected to your home network all the time. However, I hear no sonic problems caused by having the dbx unit connected to my home network.

It is certainly easy enough to just use the front panel controls to apply some to-taste PEQ filters (such as the presence dip or high frequency shelf filters discussed above) for evaluation over time. But with the dbx app, it is much easier to adjust the parametric equalization from the listening seat and listen to the effect of even small adjustments in real time. And with my iPad Pro as the controller, the app's screen is SO much easier to read than the unit's LCD screen. On that point, however, the device's LCD screen is much easier for me to read if I turn the LCD background contrast down to zero. Sanders had it set on 50, which is halfway up.

I'm not sure if I'll leave the dbx unit connected to the internet permanently, but I wanted to experiment with the app. At this point, I'm leaving it connected for further experiments with fine-tuning the equalization.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Room Damping

I have moved my wall pads so they are directly behind the speakers as they are toed in toward the listening position. The panels are translucent. Thus, I damp the area of the side walls and wall behind the speakers that I can see through the translucent panels from my listening position. My thought is to thus damp the treble from the back wave just before it hits the walls. With an equilateral set up and speakers toed in to point at my ears, the back wave is "aimed" at the area on the side wall behind the speakers near the room corners behind the speakers.

I thus moved my wall pads so as to place a 4' wide by 8' high area of padding on the sidewall adjacent to the room corner and a 2' wide by 8' high padded area on the wall behind the speakers adjacent to the corner. Thus, I moved all the padding into the corner areas behind the speakers. I can always remove some padding or slide it around. It just sits on the floor and leans against the wall. My room, by my calculations has a total square foot surface area (walls, floor, and ceiling) of about 670 square feet. I have foam damping on 96 sq. ft. of , which is about 14%. I have polystyrene diffusion panels behind the listening seat covering about 48 sq. ft., a carpet covering about 2/3 of the floor, plus a couple of CD racks and a bookcase. Thus it seems like I'm probably within Roger Sanders' rule of thumb as to having about 15% to 30% of the area of the room covered with absorption, although I do have the acoustical foam directly behind the speakers as viewed from the listening seat. See Roger Sanders' excellent Technical White Paper on Room Acoustics and Treatment.

I removed the floor pads as well as the ceiling pads. Since the panels are large dipole radiators and thus very directional, very little upper midrange and high frequency energy is radiated toward the floor or ceiling.

The same is true as to the side wall reflection. From the listening seat, with an equilateral triangle set up, when I place a flat mirror on the sidewalls, I see the near speaker reflected precisely edge on. Dipole radiators radiate minimal upper midrange and high frequency energy in the direction of the side edge of the diaphragm. This is easily verified by listening to the speaker from close up facing the outside edge of the speaker. Thus no wall padding is needed on the side walls between the speakers and the listening position where the edge-on reflection is seen.

The wall behind the listening seat is treated to be highly diffusive. There is an area six feet wide by eight feet tall directly behind the listening seat treated with P. I. Audio Diffusion Panels. The listening end of the room also has diffusion added by a bookcase and two large Stor-a-Disc CD racks with shelves mounted at variable angles for easy viewing of the spines and thus variable vertical angle scattering of impinging sound.
 
Last edited:

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Sonic Impressions (Finally!)

Before giving you my personal sonic impressions, I strongly recommend that you read and re-read Robert Greene's review of the 10e speakers for The Absolute Sound. I totally agree with every sonic comment he makes. My own comments will just elaborate and mention some things REG did not touch on.

First Impressions

The first thing I listened for when I fired up the system was background hiss when the music was not playing or during quiet parts of the music. This had been a real problem with the 10c's due to the Behringer DCX2496 unit Sanders was then using and an LMS. This is not an issue with the 10e's. Hiss from the drivers when the music is not playing is very low--I have to put my ear very near the panel to hear anything at all. That's excellent and on par or less than the hiss I heard from the Dutch & Dutch 8c active speakers. With the 10c speakers, I could clearly hear the hiss from outside the open door of the listening room, a dozen feet from the speakers.

Sound outside the listening room while the listening room door is open is a bit rolled off in the highs, but quite acceptable for low-level background music while working. My workstation is about eight feet down the hall from the listening room door.

In the room outside the sweet spot, yes, the high frequencies are still quite rolled off. But unlike my decade-earlier 10c installation in a different room, it doesn't sound uncomfortably or unnaturally muffled. There is no "I have cotton in my ears" feeling as occurred with the 10c's back then.

In the room in the sweet spot--and this was without any dialing in of the speaker positions or any of the "essential" or "recommended" set up of the LMS or any amp or speaker warm up--just a rough set up with the speakers roughly the chosen distances from the walls and aimed at me--the sound was full-on GLORIOUS!

So clean, so clear, so dynamic. The speakers play very loud, totally without strain. Great depth of image, the bass is there in the right proportion (having Magtech amps on both the panel and woofer probably means the factory setting for woofer level is about right). I can hear out instruments in an ensemble without effort--they are just there--clearly presented individually, yet in ensemble. On good recordings, voices are crystalline clear without high frequency hype. There's an overall sense of very low distortion, lower than I've ever experienced in speakers. Apparent frequency response is brighter than that of the Dutch & Dutch 8c I had previously, but still seemed quite even and natural sounding.

They sound, in short, like a giant pair of Stax electrostatic headphones, but with speaker benefits in terms of depth and the sound being "out there" in front of me.

The sound already was much superior to what I remember from the 10c's. How much is the change of room and electronics and how much is the speakers themselves, I can't venture to say. Brighter than the D&D 8c's which preceded them in this room, but with outstanding presence on closely miked recordings. With good recordings these are flat-out AWESOME!

The system plays louder for any given volume setting of Roon or Lumin. Not sure whether that's just the comparative amp sensitivity or the speaker sensitivity or both. The Lumin X1 has a "low output" option which I tried, but, as in the past, I believe I prefer the sound of the normal output level, as do most other Lumin users who have commented online.

I did not hear any problem from my marginal chair height. They sound the same when I stand up or otherwise get my head in a higher position.

The sound is BIG, as in tall, deep, and wide. The stage size and imaging varies more from one program to another than it did with the Dutch & Dutch 8c presentation or the presentation of any other speakers I've had in this room. On a couple of recordings where phase was clearly being played with, there is a more distinct "wrap around" effect than I've ever heard with prior two-channel set ups. On decent recordings, there is no tendency for the sound to "stick to the panels."

The head-in-a-vice issue is not nearly so intense as I remember it with my 10c set up. Yes, the sound changes and shifts to one side fairly quickly as I intentionally move my head from side to side, but there is plenty of room for my head in the sweet spot. I don't feel like the sound changes suddenly with normal sitting head movements.
 
Last edited:

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Somewhat Later Sonic Impressions

Start saving your pennies for these, I say!

I got the speaker positions dialed in as described above. I still have not applied any of the "essential" or "recommended" EQ. Now the sound is mesmerizing. I have never heard such focus and depth from a stereo. Cleanly recorded closely miked centered vocals are way out front and super-focused and super-clean. Not to mention the quite natural tonality and incredible whip-snap dynamics.

Maybe I got used to "working harder" to hear depth with the D&Ds positioned close to the back wall. Now, with the speakers about 64" from the wall behind them, the depth is just immediately, obviously there.

More on the head-in-a-vice issue: On mono material, I can move my head six inches left or right without any significant shift in either tonality or centered placement of the mono image. That's about as good as any other speakers I've had in this room and better than any other speakers in terms of absolutely keeping the image centered if I move side to side.

I still hear nothing to suggest that I made the wrong choice in choosing the Cardas dipole room set up calculator to place the Sanders 10e's in my room.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
Fully Set-Up Sonic Impressions

I did the "Recommended Adjustments," running the dbx's Auto EQ (AEQ) function and then limiting the suggested corrections below 100 Hz to a maximum of +4 dB and zeroing out any suggested corrections above 1000 Hz.

On good recordings, the sound before this AEQ sounded quite balanced in terms of overall response. Sometimes removing bass peaks without fully filling in bass dips makes the low end sound a bit weak.

However, after the AEQ process, the bass sound was even better. The bass still seems well balanced with the highs, but now seems deeper and clearer with an increased ability to follow low frequency lines, such as walking bass. This is just as one would expect from low frequency EQ. But somehow there's yet more power down there as well. A couple of dips near 50 Hz were partially filled in and maybe that's what made the difference. This is the best auto EQ result I've ever experienced, even better than the DSPeaker X4 in terms of sounding "right" when it's done. There seemingly is no need to futz afterwards to restore thinned out bass.

I did try dialing in the presence dip (-4.2 dB at 3kHz, Q=3) I found helpful with some recordings on the D&D 8c speakers. With the Sanders speakers it also is helpful, especially on brighter material. But the electrostatic driver is so clean it merely reports brightness without adding any obnoxiousness to it. I remember that part from my 10c experience as well. It may be that any brightness is less obnoxious since it's not concentrated into the small area of a dome tweeter, but is spread throughout the space driven by the large panel.

The more I listen to the Sanders, the more I think that the real ticket in speakers for my tastes and this room, is getting rid of the box effects higher up and spreading the sound radiating area over a large diaphragm, while limiting high-frequency dispersion. The presentation is just so three dimensionally free and open and non-speaker-like, while at the same time giving me the clarity, precision, involvement, and lack of room interaction I hear from headphones. Those are qualities that always attracted me to Maggie and Quad sound. Close up, such speakers are like giant headphones but with a basically "out in front" presentation, huge depth, and great wrap-around envelopment when the recording presents phase manipulation. But the Sanders eliminate the bugaboos such as limited bass and limited power handling especially in the bass but further up as well, while retaining the time-aligned cohesive presentation of the Quad/D&D and eliminating the vertical-venetian-blind effect and overbright-sounding treble you get from Maggies.

I miss nothing about the Dutch & Dutch8c bass. Yes, the D&D speakers' measurements reveal deeper extension and higher bass levels in the bottom octave than what the Sanders presents. But the bass foundation of the Sanders 10e seems quite strong and full enough. For example, I have played bits of the RR 100 of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man and the Dorian Pictures at an Exhibition organ recording and the low bass is quite room-filling/shaking. I have not noticed either a lack of bass fullness or depth on any material.

In fact, the bass of the 10e sometimes sounds "bigger" than that of the D&D 8c, perhaps because some overtones are reproduced by the panel. Many electronic music creations are startling in their bass power. The 10e bass definitely also seems lower in distortion and higher in detail than the 8c, but again that partly may be because upper overtones are reproduced by the panel. The woofer and panel are really seamless; I can't hear out any transition from one to the other.

Treble brightness depends almost entirely on the program. On good or better recordings, the treble sounds quite natural in level. But on overly bright recordings—and I think there are a lot of those—certainly the majority of commercial material—the Sanders, both 10c and 10e, while definitely sounding bright, just "report" the program's brightness without making it more aggravating the way most speakers do; at least that's the way I hear it. Of course, some material, even or maybe especially modern highly processed vocals, just has a nasty edge built in which some engineers/artists apparently must like. As I've written before, the Sanders speakers very clearly reveal the differences among (1) recordings where the highs are merely exaggerated in level but are low in distortion, (2) those recordings which sound annoyingly bright because the highs are both exaggerated in level and overlaid with harmonic or other types of distortion, and (3) recordings which just have a layer of high-frequency distortion without actually having highs which are exaggerated in level.

Yes, a PEQ-induced dip of -4.2 dB at 3 kHz, Q = 3 is instantly audible and effective at reducing perceived brightness. Those who listen primarily to classical symphonic material will love the spatial "backing off" and reduced brightness effects this sort of equalization provides.

Sanders suggests in the manual that some listeners might want to reduce the treble a bit by dialing in a high shelf filter at 3 kHz with a slope of 3 and magnitude or minus 2 or minus 3 dB. I tried that as well and it, too, is highly effective at eliminating any sense of excess treble on brighter material.

If I wanted to regularly adjust the PEQ for different source material, I'd definitely leave the dbx VENU 360 hooked up to my internet network and use the available app to make the adjustments from my chair. That would be much easier than making adjustments via the front panel controls.

Through the Sanders 10e the Lumin App clearly sounds better than Roon on any program I've tried. This is true for my own music files, Qobuz, Tidal, internet radio, and AirPlay. Roon doesn't sound "bad" in any way, but in direct comparison to the sound of the same material from the Lumin App, Roon generally is a bit brighter/edgier, has less depth, and generally has a less "relaxed" feel. For internet radio, that's true even though the Roon streams are often nominally higher quality (as in AAC rather than MP3 and/or a higher bit rate) than the Tune-In Radio streams the Lumin App uses to tune internet radio. Part of the reason for this may be that Roon automatically upsamples (in a non-defeatable way) all internet radio stations from 16 bits to 24 bits. In my experience, upsampling/resampling any program material, internet radio or otherwise, adds brightness, whether you are just changing to a higher PCM sampling rate, changing PCM bit depth, or changing PCM programs to DSD.

Using my Uptone Audio EtherREGEN ethernet switch in the recommended configuration with the Lumin X1 connected to the "B" side and the ethernet input and other connected equipment on the "A" side is clearly a sonic improvement over my prior configuration of placing the ethernet input on the "B" side and connecting everything else to the "A" side. As The Absolute Sound review and other reviews have found, this $640 unit can make astonishing sonic improvements over other ethernet switches even when used in configurations other than that recommended by Uptone. In my system with the Sanders 10e speakers the manufacturer's recommended configuration provides significantly increased "ease," the imaging improves in stability, and the soundspace significantly expands in all directions, with even greater immersive effects on material where phase is manipulated.

These things were not so clear with prior speakers. I often found pluses and minuses to Roon and the Lumin App sounds. The configuration of the EtherREGEN switch was not so important. The Sanders 10e speakers are just a clearer window as to what's happening upstream. You may not always like that clarity, but the Sanders speakers are quite revealing of source quality in the "reporting" sense I mentioned without adding brightness, edge, or other obnoxious artifacts of their own. And if you find the presentation too bright, the PEQ filters offers a very easy way to reduce the overall brightness. The PEQ works in one-tenth dB steps, by the way, as do other EQ functions.

Holding my iPad controller in my lap only minimally affects the sound I hear from the speakers. That's a first in my experience. Before, I had to put the iPad down leaning against the side of the chair to keep it from significantly affecting imaging and staging. I suspect the reason is that my lap is way below the bottom of the electrostatic panel and the Sanders puts out very little sound up or down from the panel.

Also, closing my listening room door makes very little difference in the sound. As usual I EQed the speakers with the door closed and the door closed mode has always sounded quite a bit better than door open with prior speakers. With the Sanders, there's just a small difference, but not nearly so much difference in terms of bass and imaging/staging as with all prior speakers I've had in this room. Again, I suppose it's because the Sanders are so directional.
 
Last edited:

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,601
3,008
760
United States
Tom, I've been following your audio adventures for years and was surprised to see you move on from your beloved Harbeths. I have also been following Sanders' exploits and have never failed to be impressed with his unique demos at audio shows (remember those?). His unusual single row seating always aligned with a room corner typified his "different" approach to just about everything anyone else did, but the results he obtained were always impressive.
I'm not surprised your efforts have aligned. Your beautiful and careful write-up with detailed explanations are always exceptional (you were one of the first to precisely detail your near-field listening efforts) and can only assume Roger is impressed as well with this recent series of posts. Congratulations on the purchase and the fine sound I'm sure you have achieved. No doubt there will be lots of layers and insights to unwind with time and I will be looking forward to learning more as you reveal them.
Marty
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,601
3,008
760
United States
It's no surprise to me that you preferred your final EQ to the "flat EQ" shown in post #7 . Here is your curve vs both the Harmon curves and the B&K curve which many consider the most relevant EQ curve for home loudspeaker use. If you came to your EQ without referring to either the Harmon or B&K curves, then your ears are a freakin' laboratory instrument!

1.png 3.png
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: dan31

KostasP.

Well-Known Member
May 7, 2016
116
74
135
Melbourne
Hello Tom,

Congratulations for your new acquisition. As an owner of five pairs of electrostatic speakers ( none of them hybrid ) over the years, I fully concur with your described impressions. By the way, the microscopic and forensic detail of your posts are beyond belief!,,,,,You leave no "rice grain" unturned!

A couple of well-intended points to make: 1) with the relatively small RFZ, necessitated by your room's dimensions and the Cardas speaker placement formula, you don't think that the Reflected Sound Field will inevitably have an adverse \ intrusive effect on the Direct Field?

2) Within this inevitably compromised set-up, having to deal with and integrate two distinctly different sound propagation \ sound launching principles ( conventional woofers AND electrostatic panels ), can you see yourself being long-term satisfied with tonal balance, coherence and phase issues, beyond your initial over-enthusiasm of the holistic sound?

Given your experience, I am sure that you will maximize the realities that you are dealing with BUT will you really optimize the full potential of your speakers within these constraints? Thank you.

Be well and enjoy them, Kostas.
 

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
KostasP, yes my listening room is small. I think many audiophiles struggle with similarly small situations even when they don't admit it in print. I do not assert that my findings are applicable to those with significantly larger listening rooms. But now that I've had a number of speakers in this room and have tried a wide variety of room treatment arrangements, i've learned a bit about what works and what doesn't in this particular room.

I am quite surprised that I don't hear the type of problems with the 10e that I heard in my prior somewhat larger (20' L x 13' W x 8' H) basement concrete bunker listening room. I set forth possible reasons for that. But, in any event, with the 10e I hear NONE of the treble ricochet problems I had with the 10c in that larger room even though that larger room was quite well padded with acoustic foam. Perhaps the shorter listening distance now (58 inches with the 10e now versus 80 inches with my former 10c) just eliminates audibility of detrimental room reflections. Or perhaps I've just hit on a better room treatment scheme with years more practice at that.

As other listeners to the 10e have said, I also hear NO transition between the panel and the transmission line woofer. And since, unlike the 10c woofers, the woofers are not making any mechanical noises, there is nothing to call out the fact that the panel is not truly full range.

In general, I am unaware at this point of any audible room-related problems caused by interaction of the panel with my small space. Sure, the woofers interact with room modes, but as you can see from the graphs, the AEQ function of the dbx LMS has this well under control.

As to full-range electrostatics, the "usual suspects" would be Quad, Stax, Acoustat, Sound Lab, and Martin Logan CLS, and perhaps the King Sound. All those can be fine sounding speakers indeed. As I commented, some of these, like the larger Acoustats, the Sound Lab, King Sound, and ML CLS, are just too wide to comfortably fit into my room, as is the Magnepan MG-20.7. The Sanders is only 15 inches wide and the vertical arrangement of woofer and panel and low crossover eliminate spatial cues as to the location of the panel and woofer even from close up.

And, to my knowledge, no full-range electrostatic, no matter how large, can deliver significant power into the room in the bottom octave or more. Measurements may show full bass extension, but this is a small signal measurement. Making a panel produce low bass at higher volumes is challenging even for the largest panels. Dipole cancellation and excursion limitations make high SPL low bass very difficult to achieve from a panel.

Crossing over to a woofer for the bottom octaves eliminates that problem in the Sanders 10e, I can assure you. This may not be an issue for you if your musical diet is limited to smaller-scale classical and jazz. But if your tastes are as eclectic as mine, it's very satisfying to hear the bottom octaves at the appropriate levels with low distortion and no audible discontinuity with the panel which might occur with the usual subwoofer suspects.

The dbx LMS unit is set up as delivered by Sanders to time align the TL woofer and the electrostatic panel. While not shown in my posted measurement graphs, the shape of the captured impulse response via the OmniMic V2 program when in the "Blended" mode shows the single primary impulse of a time-aligned design. I showed the "all" mode which blanks out the time domain measurement window at the bottom because I believe that "all" measurement mode best captures the bass frequency response of any speaker.

Yes, perhaps ideally in a small room like mine the speakers should be small also. Point sources like my D&D 8c speakers can be very effective at close range. And, as REG's 10e review points out, listened to from close up the Sanders electrostatic panel will lose a bit of time coherence because of the varying distance of different parts of the panel from the listener's ears.

But I can assure you that subjectively the Sanders 10e's, even in my small room and from only 58 inches away, sound yet MORE coherent than the D&D speakers did from 87 inches away. The single driver over most of the range, the lack of crossover in the mids, and the flat dipole panel radiation taking the listening room substantially out of the equation carry the day.

I again refer readers to REG's TAS review of the 10e for technical explanation of how the Sanders 10e works and why it works as well as it does. Roger Sanders own technical white papers and audio related articles on electrostatic panels and transmission line woofers should also be read as to the theory behind the 10e.
 
  • Like
Reactions: TheMooN

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
854
280
455
69
Chicagoland
KostasP, as a follow-up to my post #22, in particular see Roger Sanders' article, "An Electrostatic Speaker System Part 1" from Speaker Builder magazine back in 1980. There he explains why a full-range electrostatic speaker just can't do the bottom couple of octaves of bass even when massively equalized. He also discusses comparative listening tests where even doubters were won over to the idea that using a proper transmission line cone woofer in a hybrid electrostatic arrangement sounded better than a full-range electrostatic speaker.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. This is THE place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss vintage, contemporary and new audio products, music servers, music streamers, computer audio, digital-to-analog converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel-to-reel tape machines, speakers, headphones and tube and solid-state amplification. Founded in 2010 What’s Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals, we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people, and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing