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

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
962
372
1,625
71
Chicagoland
I once used Mogami's best microphone cable as balanced 30-foot long interconnects with Neutrik XLR plugs. It, too, was very reasonably priced. I have never used Mogami speaker cable. While quite pleasant sounding in terms of smooth high frequencies, the microphone cable balanced interconnects seemed quite midrange colored to me and I abandoned them after a couple of months of use.

All my listening to the Sanders 10e has been done using four 8-foot runs (two for each speaker) of Canare 4S11 speaker cable as sold and configured with ultrasonically welded locking banana plugs at all ends by Blue Jeans Cable. These four 8-foot runs of Canare 4S11 so terminated currently cost about $220 total from Blue Jeans Cable. As Blue Jeans' blurb about this cable says:

"Canare 4S11 is a "star quad" 14-gauge cable, with four conductors together in one outer jacket; it is popular for bi-wiring (where separate wires run to each of four speaker terminals, two of which drive the high and two of which drive the low-frequency elements of the speaker assembly). When conventionally wired [as I use it], star quad speaker cable has the advantage of reducing the EM field around the cable, which will tend to diminish the effect of the signal in the speaker cable upon nearby interconnects--though this is not, in most applications, a significant concern. 4S11 is a very pleasant-looking cable, with a round matte gray jacket, and is quite large--about 3/8 inch in diameter."

I'm not saying that this Canare 4S11 is the best cable for use with the Sanders 10e speakers, only that this is what I've used to formulate my opinions of this speaker, as well as several prior speakers I've used in this room including the Gradient 1.4 and Harbeth M40.2. I did use the speaker cable Roger Sanders once marketed specifically for his speakers when I owned the Sanders 10c a decade ago. It had the electrical characteristics Roger mentions about the Mogami, but was priced much higher.
 
Last edited:

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
962
372
1,625
71
Chicagoland
In response to an inquiry about speakers for small listening rooms, I wrote:

Yes, my listening room is small. I have always set up my systems in this room with the speakers along the short wall. That wall is 132", the long wall is 161", and the room height is 103.5". Also, it has hardwood floors, and plaster walls and ceiling. But with a good-sized window, two wood panel doors, and a sizable closet built into the wall behind the listening seat, It is bass-"leaky" enough not to be a bass pig. The primary listening room in my prior home produced enormous bass resonances due to room modes since it was basically a very stiff-walled basement concrete bunker room.

In my current room, even the Harbeth 40.2 produced minimal bass coloration, at least with the speakers suitably arranged. I did use a bit of EQ with those, but actually much less than with the Sanders 10e. I suspect (but have not tried) that the current Harbeth M40.3HD would be just fine bass-wise in my room since I think this newest version continues the trend of leaner bass from model to model of that speaker.

I do think that if you aren't committed to using an electronic equalizer at least for dealing with the bass, it is a crap shoot as to whether any given small room will produce acceptably smooth bass response with a box speaker. I suggest planning to use a parametric or graphic equalizer to smooth the bass. But, you can try your speakers before buying an equalizer to see how smooth you can get things just by moving your speakers and listening position around.

If it turns out that you do need an equalizer to smooth the bass or other parts of the spectrum, I would recommend the dbx VENU360 (the unit Sanders uses to control the 10e) at about $1,000, which is equivalent in price to the DSPeaker Dual Core and sonically at least as clean as the much more expensive DSPeaker X4. All three of those are easy to use, although the dbx instruction manual makes it look extremely complicated. The thing to remember about the dbx is that most of the complicating "features" should just be turned off for audiophile use, the Auto EQ Wizard is wonderfully easy to use and gets you 90+% of the way there, and that you really need to hook it up to your home network via ethernet and use the superb free app to control it. If that still sounds like too much complication, go with the DSPeaker equalizers.

You are much less likely to need to EQ the bass if you go with a full-range dipole like a Maggie or Quad. But in a small room, count on needing to heavily damp the back wave of any dipole radiator with acoustic foam for best staging, imaging, and depth.

But I've also had great success with various box speakers in this small room. Small rooms more or less force you into near-field listening, and that's a very good thing, in my book. Room surface reflections can be adequately damped with thick acoustic foam. I use 2' x 4' slabs of the Alphasorb 4"-thick stuff. It's expensive, but very light weight and stable enough so that it can be stacked two-high for virtually floor-to-ceiling treatment without any attachment to the walls so it's easily movable. Treat the areas where, from the listening position, you can see reflections of any part of your speakers from the walls, floor, and ceiling. In a small room, for box speakers with fairly wide dispersion, I use two areas of 2' x 8' on the wall behind the speakers, 2' x 2' on the floor and ceiling, and 4' x 8' on each of the side walls, and 6' x 8' on the wall behind the listener. Yes, that's a lot of foam; you can substitute diffusers on the walls behind the listening seat if you think it sounds too dead.

As far as positioning speakers and the listener in a dedicated small room, I've had great success with the Cardas positioning rules for both box speakers and dipoles. The box speaker formula can be found on this page. The dipole formula is here. (The NoAudiophile page allows you to easily see the listening position placement for 60-degree separation.) For most rooms the Cardas formulas yield similar results with the dipole formula putting the speakers a bit further out into the room. The Sanders work fine with either formula since the bass is omni and the range above 172 Hz is dipole so neither formula is spot on, but close enough.

Two things besides bass modes are relatively more important in a small room with near-field listening. First, ensure that your system noise level is low enough. You don't want to constantly hear hiss or hum from your speakers or other equipment from the listening position.

Second, geometry is much more important if you're listening from close up. Toe in amount is critical, as are getting the speakers equi-distant from the listening position. Most important is your listening height with respect to the tweeter if you are using box speakers.

No speaker is perfect, especially from close up in a small room. You have to weigh the pros and cons of any given design. And for me, being honest, I switch speakers every year or two not because of real sonic flaws I "discover," but because I just want to move on and play with something different. Audiophilia nervosa, "the grass is always greener on the other side," I just want new toys, etc. Most of the speakers I've had in my current room are very fine indeed, as speakers go.

The Sanders 10e does work extremely well in this room since, due to its extremely narrow horizontal and vertical dispersion, it reflects very little sound off the room surfaces, other than the walls behind it and the walls behind the listening position. I treat the back wave with areas of acoustic foam in the corners behind the two speakers. Each foamed area is 6' x 8' tall. I use diffusion panels behind the listening seat over another 6' x 8' area.

The extremely narrow horizontal dispersion is not only a very positive aspect in a small room, but it is also the source of the only real "flaws" with the Sanders' performance in this room. Outside the sweet spot, the highs are very rolled off. You MUST listen from the sweet spot. While I don't much care about the rolled-off highs when I walk into the room, this also means that if I lean forward or move the listening chair forward to listen with a subtended angle of 90 degrees between the speakers rather than my usual 60 degrees, I am 15 degrees off axis of the panels, which rolls off the highs a lot. Thus, I really can't listen to Blumlein and other quasi-coincidently miked recordings to best advantage without reorienting the toe-in of the speakers and that is too tedious to do. I could widen the dispersion of the highs by undamping the walls behind the speakers, but in this small room, that really ruins the sweetness of the sweet spot which, with the back wave damping, is ever-so sweet.

The large panel nature of the Sanders also defocuses images a bit compared to quasi-point-source speakers. I can hear that, but that is as much a positive attribute as a negative one, since it also enlarges the stage presentation vertically and horizontally, making the presentation "life sized" even in my small room.

The Sanders woofer boxes also buzz a bit when playing heavy bass even at "moderate" 80 dB levels, but nowhere nearly as bad as the woofer boxes of the Sanders 10c I owned a decade ago. I would never know about this buzz if the dbx VENU360 did not allow easily turning off the panels and listening only to the woofers. I have never heard any buzzing when the panels are turned on, even though I know it must be there.

My rationalizations for changing out other speakers, besides just wanting something new and different, have included:

  • Stirling LS3/6 + Audiokinesis Swarm--aesthetically too much equipment clutter in my small room
  • Janszen Valentina Active--the stage height was too low--I always looked down on it a bit despite playing around a lot with tilt-back--and the best volume level for the side-firing Air Layer tweeters was ambiguous; also a bit or more thin sounding in the midbass and warmth regions and lacking bottom octave extension
  • Gradient 1.4--I had problems with occasional mechanical buzzes and other noises which were quite audible from the listening position, but which I could never fully diagnose or fix
  • Harbeth M40.2--the large cabinets so close to my face eventually produced a feeling of claustrophobia. The Sanders are much larger yet overall, but the panel part at eye level is thin and quite transparent, thus not producing any claustrophobic feeling. Also, the Harbeth binding posts kept loosening up. My room is very dry in winter and the wood panels thus shrink, becoming thinner as time goes on, loosening the posts. Fixing the posts requires demounting the speakers from the stands, turning them upside down to allow removal of the back panel and internal surgery to tighten the lock nuts on the posts, remounting the speakers on their stands and another round of exacting set-up. This is a tough process with a bulky heavy speaker like the M40 series. There is a reason why most manufacturers do not mount speaker binding posts on wood panels, but use plastic or metal instead; plastic and metal are temperature and humidity stable in size, unlike wood and the binding posts thus stay tight once tightened during manufacture.
 

kcleveland

New Member
Jun 5, 2023
2
3
3
60
Hello Tom,

I just want to heartily agree with your very nice, detailed writeup of the Sanders 10e speaker system and Magtech amps. I've also been the proud owner of this outstanding equipment for several years and continue to be amazed at how every other system change (sources, preamp, cables, etc.) is clearly audible with the model 10e.

I'm also a lifetime electrical engineer (38 years and counting) and have had several interactions with Roger Sanders. A brighter more "no nonsense" kindred spirit I couldn't find in this sometimes suspect "hobby" known as audio. Roger has been extremely generous with his time and knowledge and has also offered the best customer support I've experienced. This part of my system has remained constant for far longer than any other component.

Best,
Kurt
 

MRJAZZ

Industry Expert
Jan 20, 2014
403
206
350
In response to an inquiry about speakers for small listening rooms, I wrote:

Yes, my listening room is small. I have always set up my systems in this room with the speakers along the short wall. That wall is 132", the long wall is 161", and the room height is 103.5". Also, it has hardwood floors, and plaster walls and ceiling. But with a good-sized window, two wood panel doors, and a sizable closet built into the wall behind the listening seat, It is bass-"leaky" enough not to be a bass pig. The primary listening room in my prior home produced enormous bass resonances due to room modes since it was basically a very stiff-walled basement concrete bunker room.

In my current room, even the Harbeth 40.2 produced minimal bass coloration, at least with the speakers suitably arranged. I did use a bit of EQ with those, but actually much less than with the Sanders 10e. I suspect (but have not tried) that the current Harbeth M40.3HD would be just fine bass-wise in my room since I think this newest version continues the trend of leaner bass from model to model of that speaker.

I do think that if you aren't committed to using an electronic equalizer at least for dealing with the bass, it is a crap shoot as to whether any given small room will produce acceptably smooth bass response with a box speaker. I suggest planning to use a parametric or graphic equalizer to smooth the bass. But, you can try your speakers before buying an equalizer to see how smooth you can get things just by moving your speakers and listening position around.

If it turns out that you do need an equalizer to smooth the bass or other parts of the spectrum, I would recommend the dbx VENU360 (the unit Sanders uses to control the 10e) at about $1,000, which is equivalent in price to the DSPeaker Dual Core and sonically at least as clean as the much more expensive DSPeaker X4. All three of those are easy to use, although the dbx instruction manual makes it look extremely complicated. The thing to remember about the dbx is that most of the complicating "features" should just be turned off for audiophile use, the Auto EQ Wizard is wonderfully easy to use and gets you 90+% of the way there, and that you really need to hook it up to your home network via ethernet and use the superb free app to control it. If that still sounds like too much complication, go with the DSPeaker equalizers.

You are much less likely to need to EQ the bass if you go with a full-range dipole like a Maggie or Quad. But in a small room, count on needing to heavily damp the back wave of any dipole radiator with acoustic foam for best staging, imaging, and depth.

But I've also had great success with various box speakers in this small room. Small rooms more or less force you into near-field listening, and that's a very good thing, in my book. Room surface reflections can be adequately damped with thick acoustic foam. I use 2' x 4' slabs of the Alphasorb 4"-thick stuff. It's expensive, but very light weight and stable enough so that it can be stacked two-high for virtually floor-to-ceiling treatment without any attachment to the walls so it's easily movable. Treat the areas where, from the listening position, you can see reflections of any part of your speakers from the walls, floor, and ceiling. In a small room, for box speakers with fairly wide dispersion, I use two areas of 2' x 8' on the wall behind the speakers, 2' x 2' on the floor and ceiling, and 4' x 8' on each of the side walls, and 6' x 8' on the wall behind the listener. Yes, that's a lot of foam; you can substitute diffusers on the walls behind the listening seat if you think it sounds too dead.

As far as positioning speakers and the listener in a dedicated small room, I've had great success with the Cardas positioning rules for both box speakers and dipoles. The box speaker formula can be found on this page. The dipole formula is here. (The NoAudiophile page allows you to easily see the listening position placement for 60-degree separation.) For most rooms the Cardas formulas yield similar results with the dipole formula putting the speakers a bit further out into the room. The Sanders work fine with either formula since the bass is omni and the range above 172 Hz is dipole so neither formula is spot on, but close enough.

Two things besides bass modes are relatively more important in a small room with near-field listening. First, ensure that your system noise level is low enough. You don't want to constantly hear hiss or hum from your speakers or other equipment from the listening position.

Second, geometry is much more important if you're listening from close up. Toe in amount is critical, as are getting the speakers equi-distant from the listening position. Most important is your listening height with respect to the tweeter if you are using box speakers.

No speaker is perfect, especially from close up in a small room. You have to weigh the pros and cons of any given design. And for me, being honest, I switch speakers every year or two not because of real sonic flaws I "discover," but because I just want to move on and play with something different. Audiophilia nervosa, "the grass is always greener on the other side," I just want new toys, etc. Most of the speakers I've had in my current room are very fine indeed, as speakers go.

The Sanders 10e does work extremely well in this room since, due to its extremely narrow horizontal and vertical dispersion, it reflects very little sound off the room surfaces, other than the walls behind it and the walls behind the listening position. I treat the back wave with areas of acoustic foam in the corners behind the two speakers. Each foamed area is 6' x 8' tall. I use diffusion panels behind the listening seat over another 6' x 8' area.

The extremely narrow horizontal dispersion is not only a very positive aspect in a small room, but it is also the source of the only real "flaws" with the Sanders' performance in this room. Outside the sweet spot, the highs are very rolled off. You MUST listen from the sweet spot. While I don't much care about the rolled-off highs when I walk into the room, this also means that if I lean forward or move the listening chair forward to listen with a subtended angle of 90 degrees between the speakers rather than my usual 60 degrees, I am 15 degrees off axis of the panels, which rolls off the highs a lot. Thus, I really can't listen to Blumlein and other quasi-coincidently miked recordings to best advantage without reorienting the toe-in of the speakers and that is too tedious to do. I could widen the dispersion of the highs by undamping the walls behind the speakers, but in this small room, that really ruins the sweetness of the sweet spot which, with the back wave damping, is ever-so sweet.

The large panel nature of the Sanders also defocuses images a bit compared to quasi-point-source speakers. I can hear that, but that is as much a positive attribute as a negative one, since it also enlarges the stage presentation vertically and horizontally, making the presentation "life sized" even in my small room.

The Sanders woofer boxes also buzz a bit when playing heavy bass even at "moderate" 80 dB levels, but nowhere nearly as bad as the woofer boxes of the Sanders 10c I owned a decade ago. I would never know about this buzz if the dbx VENU360 did not allow easily turning off the panels and listening only to the woofers. I have never heard any buzzing when the panels are turned on, even though I know it must be there.

My rationalizations for changing out other speakers, besides just wanting something new and different, have included:

  • Stirling LS3/6 + Audiokinesis Swarm--aesthetically too much equipment clutter in my small room
  • Janszen Valentina Active--the stage height was too low--I always looked down on it a bit despite playing around a lot with tilt-back--and the best volume level for the side-firing Air Layer tweeters was ambiguous; also a bit or more thin sounding in the midbass and warmth regions and lacking bottom octave extension
  • Gradient 1.4--I had problems with occasional mechanical buzzes and other noises which were quite audible from the listening position, but which I could never fully diagnose or fix
  • Harbeth M40.2--the large cabinets so close to my face eventually produced a feeling of claustrophobia. The Sanders are much larger yet overall, but the panel part at eye level is thin and quite transparent, thus not producing any claustrophobic feeling. Also, the Harbeth binding posts kept loosening up. My room is very dry in winter and the wood panels thus shrink, becoming thinner as time goes on, loosening the posts. Fixing the posts requires demounting the speakers from the stands, turning them upside down to allow removal of the back panel and internal surgery to tighten the lock nuts on the posts, remounting the speakers on their stands and another round of exacting set-up. This is a tough process with a bulky heavy speaker like the M40 series. There is a reason why most manufacturers do not mount speaker binding posts on wood panels, but use plastic or metal instead; plastic and metal are temperature and humidity stable in size, unlike wood and the binding posts thus stay tight once tightened during manufacture.
You mentioned the use of a DBX VENUS, for bass management duties. Wouldn't the DBX Drive Rack PA 2 work just as well? Is there something inherently better with the Venus, that would be compromised with the use of the less expensive Drive Rack?
 

eslguy

New Member
Mar 11, 2022
8
2
3
76
You mentioned the use of a DBX VENUS, for bass management duties. Wouldn't the DBX Drive Rack PA 2 work just as well? Is there something inherently better with the Venus, that would be compromised with the use of the less expensive Drive Rack?
You have posed a question as to which there is no good answer. The question is - it is good enough for you? Unfortunately the only way to know is try it. I built Xovers for my DIY electrostatics from kits from Marchand and they were very good. but must say the Venues are better - but at a cost. My DIY ESLs had 12 " bass units feeding 8 ft transmission lines in 7 ft tall cabinets and dual 6.5 midranges in similar transition lines. That the 10es approach that with a single driver is amazing. I am not an audiophile but note some things. I love ESLs but others not so much. I respect those opinions as highly directional speakers may be an unacceptable tradeoff. I have the luxury of multiple systems so have some comparisons. Another issue is electronics and cable - shifting a speaker in your listening room probably makes more difference than upgrading an amp or a power cord and costs nothing.
In the end it is what brings me closest to the music at my price point. The only right answer is - "yeah I love the music" The path point is important but the endpoint more so.
 

nil_ptr

New Member
Mar 4, 2024
1
0
0
42
California
Just wanted to say "hello" as a new Sanders Model 10e owner. I've owned different Magnepans for 25 years off and on (the most recent being a customized set that I re-wired for triamplification with a Marchand crossover) but I have being eyeing the Sanders for a very long time, as they tick a ton of the boxes for me.

My setup is relatively simple: Mac Mini + Roon -> RME ADI 2/4 as a digital preamp -> DBX accepting AES input w/ sample rate conversion -> Magtechs -> Sanders. I've definitely gotten surprised with just how finicky they are regarding positioning, but they reward you for attention to detail there.

Really happy with them overall, and I wanted to thank everyone for the great discussion here. I found this thread via searching around for dbx configurations as I too find the "recommended" target curve to be a touch warm for my taste. I am considering targeting a flat curve and then using Roon's (very easy) EQ to apply a less severe shelf which I can do from the listening position.

Happy listening,
Nils
 

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