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

tmallin

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Sanders Magtech Amp Tweak

Way back in Post #8 of this thread I mentioned that "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 found this bright blue light light distracting while listening in a semi-darkened room. When I told Roger Sanders about this, he wrote that there is an even more effective way to deal with the lighted logo if you don't want its brightness in your listening room:

"There is a better way to extinguish the Magtech logo lights than covering them with tape. You can simply turn them off.

To do so, remove the lid from the amplifier. Inside you will see a ribbon cable connecting the logo light circuit board on the face plate to the power supply board. You can turn off the lights by just unplugging either end of the ribbon cable from its socket.

Note that there is no lock on these connectors. They are held in place just by the friction on their pins. So you can just gently pull the cable out of its connector.

Should you wish to restore the lights, you can plug in the cable again at anytime in the future. The connector is keyed so that you cannot insert it incorrectly."


I did not try this for many months, being satisfied with my light-blocking tape method. But recently I decided to try Roger Sanders' suggestion for disconnecting the ribbon cable. I figured that there was a chance that removing the load of the lighted diodes from the amp's power supply might result in a small uptick in sonic quality. Hope springs eternal in Audiophile Land, of course. But diode lights (or LEDs or LCDs) in audio electronics have been identified in certain corners of this hobby as potential sources of sonic pollution. Some equipment (such as my Lumin X1, for example) have settings for turning off the panel lights for just this reason, as well as for eliminating the visual distraction.

First, I powered down the amps. Then I found that with my Magtech amps, there was enough friction on these cable connections that I did not have the finger strength to disconnect the ribbon wire without a tool. But with the aid of a small flat-blade screwdriver, I easily was able to pry the plastic white ribbon wire connector out of its black socket at either end. Note, that, as Roger says, the connectors are keyed so that the white plastic part you have to pry up to disconnect at one end is different from the white plastic part at the other end. Both are easy to disconnect with this screwdriver method.

First I tried Roger's suggestion of just disconnecting one end of the cable. I disconnected the panel end since that was easier to reach and understand where to apply my screwdriver to pry up on the plastic connector. After reassembling the amps (putting the covers back on, that is), and powering the amps back up, I found that there was indeed a sonic result. However, I did not like the sound of this change. There was a slight lack of center fill and slight lack of soundstage focus compared to having the cable connected at both ends.

I won't speculate as to the reason for this sonic effect or whether it would have sounded this way had I disconnected the cable at the main circuit board end rather than at the panel light end. I did not try that.

Instead, I powered down the amps again, removed the covers again, and this time disconnected both ends of the ribbon cables, and entirely removed those cables from the amps. I put the covers back on the amps and powered them back up.

Bingo! Immediately the center fill was back, as was the soundstage focus. As the amps warmed up again I realized that there was indeed a slight sonic improvement over having the lights activated. The stage is yet more three dimensional, and the awesome dynamics of the presentation of these amps through the Sanders 10e speakers was yet further improved. A slight electronic glaze that was unnoticed before was also gone; the amps/speakers sounded yet smoother and cleaner in the mids and highs than they did before, in other words, even though I was not aware of any problem of this nature before.

I estimate that this tweak would take about half an hour per amp to complete if the top of the amp is already accessible. You must remove and replace the 12 sheet metal screws holding the cover in place. You must also determine by visual inspection where to pry off the cable connections and perform this operation. The process will definitely go more smoothly and quickly if you do not move the chassis while the cover is removed. Moving the chassis with the cover removed could slightly change the alignment of the side panels of the amp, making it more difficult to reattach the 12 sheet metal screws through the cover into the screw holes in the side panels.
 
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tmallin

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Understood. Many people would like to see whether their unit is on or not. I leave all my equipment on 24/7 so, unless there is a power outage, everything is always on. Solid-state electronics definitely sound better and operate more reliably that way since the equipment temperature is more or less stabilized.

My only caution is to make sure the adhesive on the stickers is stable over time and will not leave a sticky residue when you try to remove the stickers at the inevitable time of sale. Even without being attached to a high temperature surface, many adhesives are difficult to cleanly remove without alcohol, Goo-Gone, etc., and you don't want to accidentally mar the face plate of your equipment.

I've used Scotch 3M black electrical tape for decades as a light blocker on many electronics chasses. It has never failed to release cleanly and easily with zero residue. This tape also does not peel off and need periodic manual reattachment. Once in place, it stays in place until you want to remove it. It does totally block light, though, so if you still want to see whether your equipment is on, another solution might be a better idea.

With the Sanders amps, in a darkened room, the chassis lights are so bright that I can see a dim reflection from them off the bare wood floor beneath the amps as a tiny bit of light escapes between the face plate and the amps bottom plates.

For my dbx VENU360 loudspeaker management box which comes as part of the Sanders 10e system, there are too many lights on the front panel to block with tape. Instead, I use an 11" x 17" piece of heavy black construction paper folded along the long dimension in such a way as to rest atop the box but with a flap hiding the face plate. The flap is short enough not to contact the surface on which the unit rests, but long enough for total light blocking. This box still runs only mildly warm with this paper in place since the primary vents are not covered by it.
 

DonH50

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Understood. Many people would like to see whether their unit is on or not. I leave all my equipment on 24/7 so, unless there is a power outage, everything is always on. Solid-state electronics definitely sound better and operate more reliably that way since the equipment temperature is more or less stabilized.

My only caution is to make sure the adhesive on the stickers is stable over time and will not leave a sticky residue when you try to remove the stickers at the inevitable time of sale. Even without being attached to a high temperature surface, many adhesives are difficult to cleanly remove without alcohol, Goo-Gone, etc., and you don't want to accidentally mar the face plate of your equipment.

I've used Scotch 3M black electrical tape for decades as a light blocker on many electronics chasses. It has never failed to release cleanly and easily with zero residue. This tape also does not peel off and need periodic manual reattachment. Once in place, it stays in place until you want to remove it. It does totally block light, though, so if you still want to see whether your equipment is on, another solution might be a better idea.

With the Sanders amps, in a darkened room, the chassis lights are so bright that I can see a dim reflection from them off the bare wood floor beneath the amps as a tiny bit of light escapes between the face plate and the amps bottom plates.

For my dbx VENU360 loudspeaker management box which comes as part of the Sanders 10e system, there are too many lights on the front panel to block with tape. Instead, I use an 11" x 17" piece of heavy black construction paper folded along the long dimension in such a way as to rest atop the box but with a flap hiding the face plate. The flap is short enough not to contact the surface on which the unit rests, but long enough for total light blocking. This box still runs only mildly warm with this paper in place since the primary vents are not covered by it.
Yes, excellent point about the adhesive. And Scotch 33+ electrical tape has been the "go-to" tape forever! I've gone as crazy as to make a little "U" of tape so the light is directed up and down, then add a top flap of tape so the only light emission is downward. And it was still too bright on one amp so I just pushed in the U to cover it completely and went back to listening.
 

jeffreybehr

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WOW! TYVM Mr. Mallin for your LONG discussion of your 10es.. I've learned much, I think, including that my my much-different room will sound excellent with the 10es.. Will be ordering them probably Thursday the 21st.. I've been a planar user and lover for decades, most recently with Quad 2905s and Serenity Super-7s, and I suspect that the 10es will be my best yet.

I plan to use different poweramps than the Sanders models, and I'm not tellin' which ones until I get some experience with them.
 
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jeffreybehr

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And they arrived today with......ONE carton, a woofer.. Gee thanx, UPS.

-----------------------------------------------

EDIT Monday the 25th--OOPS alleges that the rest of the cartons are arriving today.
EDIT #2, same Monday--OOPS found and delivered 3 cartons today, not including carton 5, the 2nd woofer box which apparently includes ALL attachment hardware.. Still no delivery date on carton 5.
 
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tmallin

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As I mentioned much earlier in this thread, Roger Sanders says that partial deliveries often happen via UPS with these speakers and it's nothing to be concerned about. It happened to me, too. See Post #6.
 

tmallin

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Some believe that when applying equalization, you should do it by ear, rather than by looking at measurements. Well, if you trust your "good ears" that may work. But with a system like the Sanders 10e which relies on a complex loudspeaker management system in the form of the dbx VENU360 which Roger Sanders delivers to buyers pre-programmed with certain crossover, time alignment, and equalization characteristics, I'd say you should rely on a combination of the factory settings, measurements, and subjective listening. Here's a summary of how I've approached tweaking the equalization of the Sanders 10e in my room set up to my ears.

First, I have long-term experience with using the OmniMic v2 measurement system on a variety of speakers in this and other rooms. I trust it quite a bit, especially in the bass, but also considerably for the upper ranges. My technique for using it is to place the included microphone at the listening position, centered between where my ears would be, pointing straight forward, not at each speaker. I use the "all" setting of the frequency response measurement part of the program. I set the graph for 2 dB per vertical division and generally use 1/6-octave smoothing for measuring, examining the measurements, and looking at the effect of equalization changes I make.

One reason I trust this measurement system is its stability. In my room, measurements using OmniMic v2 are extremely stable from one time to the next--hour to hour, day to day, week to week, etc., as long as my room set up is unchanged. I know how to get the mike into the same listening position spot each time and if I don't change the EQ, the graph looks basically the same from one measurement session to the next, from lowest bass to highest treble.

All adjustments to the settings of the dbx VENU360 LMS are made via the dedicated Harmon app for this device as operated on my iPad. The LMS is ethernet-connected to my home network.

In setting the frequency response for the Sanders 10e speakers, I started with the bass amp and treble amp set for the same gain via the crossover. I then ran the Auto EQ function of the dbx unit, applying the "Recommended Curve" which created a bass result which begins rising at about 600 and reaches +6 dB or higher by the low bass. This AEQ function uses at most 10 parametric filters. I then further smoothed the bass response with four additional parametric filters until I got the measured low frequency rise as smooth as I reasonably could. I also examined the measured effect of the bass level control. This bass control sets the overall level of the bass amp and when looked at on a frequency response graph via OmniMic v2, this bass control acts as a hinge-point around 200 Hz, raising or lowering the response below that frequency by the specified amount. The dbx unit allows changes of 0.1 dB. All that was done looking at the measurements via OmniMic v2.

Then began a process of tweaking the overall bass level until I was satisfied that subjectively it was "just right" to my ears. For this process I did not look at the measured response at all. With the bass amp and treble amp set at the same 0 dB (no attenuation or boost) via the crossover, the bass subjectively seemed a bit heavy/rich, but subjectively it seemed a bit light set to 1 dB less.The zero dB level I talked about was with the bass amp level equal to the high frequency amp level. This was subjectively a bit too rich sounding. I then adjusted the bass amp level by 0.1 dB increments until I found that, subjectively (my system set up, my room, to my ears) a bass amp level of minus 0.8 dB sounded "just right."

For the 1 kHz to 2 kHz range, the Auto EQ produced a measured result with a "ripple" of about plus or minus 0.5 dB, quite good for speakers, in my experience. But I decided to try flattening the measured response in this range further by using additional parametric filters. For this process I just looked at the measured result and got that range as smooth looking on the graph as I could. The measured results in the 1 kHz to 2 kHz range were extremely sensitive to the parametric filter settings. I have now achieved what measures as a "ripple" of plus or minus about 0.2 dB smoothness in this range.

I think that does in fact also sound a bit better than the plus or minus about 0.5 dB smoothness in that region provided by the Auto EQ function. But I acknowledge that I may just be psyching myself out by concentrating on producing a prettier-looking frequency response graph while EQing the response. Now that I have all the filter settings recorded and saved as a preset, I can play around with the filter settings without looking at the graphed frequency response to see if further subjective improvements can be had by further tweaks of the EQ applied in this 1 kHz to 2 kHz range.

The range above 2 kHz required only a slight tweak around 5 kHz to measure plus or minus 0.1 dB from 2 kHz up to 15 kHz, above which the measured response smoothly rolls off to minus 4 dB at 20 kHz. In my experience, I've never achieved flatter measured response from any other speaker in any room where I've done such measurements.

Remember that, at least in the treble, I'm almost totally absorbing the back wave from the speakers with a lot of 4-inch-thick acoustic foam mounted against the walls behind the speakers. The dispersion is very narrow above 1.5 kHz or so. With many speakers, subjectively a gradual high frequency roll off above 4 kHz or so is subjectively desirable, as is a 4 dB BBC/Gundry/presence dip around 3 kHz on concert hall recordings. However, with the Sanders, equalized as described, I hear no subjective need to insert the presence dip or to roll off or tilt down the treble frequency response. The sound is phenomenally natural as I currently have it adjusted.

But, given the memory features, ease, and flexibility of adjustment of all aspects of the sound via the dbx VENU360, I will keep subjectively tweaking/playing around with the equalization to see if even greater subjective realism can be achieved. As I've stated or at least implied before, the dbx box, together with its iPad control app, are real gems in so many ways: sonically transparent, so very adjustable, so easy to make any and all adjustments, lots of presets, superb Auto EQ function, and superb GUI. Yes, the Sanders 10e speakers are themselves inherently superb performers, but the dbx LMS is a real star in this show.
 
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tmallin

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From looking at the various topics I've posted, you can see that I've owned and enjoyed a wide variety of audio equipment, particularly speakers, over the years. Box and panel speakers present sound in vastly different ways within a room. I marvel at how we can get used to such different presentations and even find such different presentations about equally satisfying long term.

Horns, as least in the mid and treble ranges, can be extremely directional. Wave guides are just less directional horns. Both can suffer from both box resonances and resonances within the horn/wave guide. Mounting drivers on the surface of a flat baffle--the usual method in BBC and most other box speakers--creates less restricted dispersion, gets rid of horn/wave guide resonances, but still involves the baffle step, as well as box resonances and cabinet edge diffraction.

Why mounting drivers on the surface of a flat baffle should be regarded as an ideal method seems odd to me. Why not get rid of more of the box resonances, as is the case with dipoles and omnidirectional driver mounting?

Perhaps the answer, at least as to omnidirectional mounting (e.g., Morrison, Ohm, MBL), is that such configurations create too many troublesome room reflections, particularly in smaller rooms like mine, putting a premium on room treatment to combat the subjectively deleterious audible effects of such "early" reflections.

Dipoles, on the other hand, at least large panel ones, seem to minimize room reflections from side walls, floor, and ceiling, leaving only the walls behind the speakers and to the rear of the listener as possible areas for concern. And if the room is large enough so that the back wave arrives late enough, many listeners find an undamped back wave to be pleasing/subjectively enhancing, rather than obnoxious.

A "full range" dipole panel also has the advantage of not having a crossover in the critical midrange. A small time-aligned box speaker like the D&D 8c has the advantage of creating a very focused point-source presentation. The graphed impulse or step response from such a speaker is a thing of visual beauty for its obvious time coherence, but the crossover still is there and in the midrange where it is potentially most obvious.

For BBC-inspired speakers where a single driver can cover the entire range from bass up through 3 kHz or so, even though the drivers are not time aligned, the crossover to the treble driver(s) is not obvious at all, at least if one listens from exactly the right height with respect to the drivers. However, this coherent impression largely falls apart and the treble drivers "stick out" with such a design if one listens above the ideal vertical axis, a practice all too common given the to-me-inappropriately-low stand heights typically used with such speakers.

In the Sander 10e, the electrostatic panel is time delayed by the crossover so as to be, on average, time coherent with the bass driver. But the Sanders panel is not really time coherent within itself from the listener's point of view. Different parts of the panel are at varying distances from your ears, creating some time dispersion at your ears. While the Haas/precedence effect creates a subjectively fairly focused source directly in front of one's eyes and ears, there is a bit of blurring of the images and the impulse response is not quite as clean as the D&D 8c when graphed, with what appears as trailing ringing. But subjectively it is easy to prefer the bit of image "stretch" in all directions that a large dipole panel provides as a greater feeling of openness to the presentation, as well as more lifelike height and size of images. I personally find the Sanders to have fine focus combined with fine openness and lifelike image height and size, and that's even though I listen only 55 inches from the panels.
 

tmallin

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As a good lawyer, I advocate for each of my clients, making the best of the law and the facts for each of them, emphasizing the strong points and minimizing the weak ones. No two clients are alike, of course. Most are vastly different from each other, but, still, if you choose your clients wisely, you can make a good case for each one.

Of course there is no one truth in audio land. Absolute audio truth is impossible where there are no absolute agreed standards at either the recording end or the playback end. I still greatly respect the sound of most of the speakers I've owned in recent years. Just because I move on to a different speaker does not mean that I no longer think my past daily driver was excellent.

I would argue that a line source's constancy with vertical listening position (sounding about the same when you stand up as when you are sitting), is more like real life than the change of perspective one gets from speakers with non-uniform vertical dispersion. When I stand up or sit down at most any sort of concert, the perspective on the instruments at a distance does not much change, and neither does their perceived frequency balance. That is much different from most non-line source speakers, but much like the Sanders--or Maggies, Sound Lab, Martin Logan, and other tall panel line source speakers.

The D&D 8c's I used previously are a Toole-ish speaker in that they do well in the spinorama tests, at least as those tests are interpreted by some of Toole's acolytes in this ranking list. From the shape of their off-axis curves rolling off starting at a fairl low frequency, some have inferred that they must be too dead and lifeless sounding. Nothing could be further from the truth as those who have actually listened to them know well.

The obvious weakness of the Sanders 10e--at least as I have them set up with the back wave absorbed above the bass--is that if you move a foot or so out of the sweet spot, the Sanders sound darker and more lifeless than the D&Ds sounded anywhere inside or outside the room. To enjoy the Sanders you MUST be willing to sit (or stand) more or less exactly in the sweet spot to listen to them for other than purely background music purposes. For many, that is too much to ask so they will either undamp the back wave, impairing (in my view, but not that of Roger Sanders and many other Sanders speaker owners) the sweet spot sound of which they are capable with a damped back wave, or they will look elsewhere for speakers.

I recognize that some are uncomfortable with my serial love/infatuation with various components, especially speakers. Yes, there is the expense, but many hobbies are expensive. As a long-time well-compensated member of the double-income-no-kids fraternity, practicing component audio acquisition at my price levels still leaves lots of disposable income for necessities, other current luxuries and recreation, charity, retirement, and taking care of loved ones in my nuclear and extended family.

I used to have what I referred to as my "stereo graveyard," but I no longer warehouse past speaker and other component loves. I finally recognized that I am generally too lazy to constantly or even occasionally swap out components for yet another comparison. I now pass on most of my past equipment loves to others so that they can enjoy them for much less than new prices as I explore new lenses on the music and sound. I enjoy helping others with less deep pockets pursue their audio dreams.
 

tmallin

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In response to a discussion of stacked speakers, such as the classic vintage "stacked Large Advents" array I owned and used for a time back in the 1970s:

Everyone agrees that the floor and ceiling reflections matter less with stacked speakers because there are now two drivers covering the same range at different distances from each of those boundaries. There will thus be less cancellation at any given frequency, which is especially helpful in countering "the usual floor dip" in the power range. Vertical line arrays of bass drivers and panel bass speakers tend to be even better at eliminating "the usual floor dip."

But stacked speakers still leave plenty of midrange and treble reflections from both floor and ceiling to mess up imaging. Only when the driver is quite large, as in the case of the 40-inch tall Sanders 10e electrostatic panel (time to pitch my current favorite speaker again!) is there truly minimal floor and ceiling reflections since the driver is so very directional at midrange and treble frequencies in the vertical dimension, not to mention that a dipole's radiation is minimal anyway in the direction of its edges. In combination with the panel's 13-inch width, that second effect is strong enough to eliminate the need for treating the sidewalls even in my small room where the listening position and toe in are manipulated so that the reflection of the speaker one sees at the listening position from the side walls is edge-on--easy to do since this occurs with a 60-degree subtended angle between the speakers with the speakers toed in to directly face my ears as I prefer anyway.

In most stacked speaker arrays, the two tweeters will not be close enough to avoid interference cancellation within their bandwidth. (One exception is the Quad ESL 57s, whose tweeters are a line source top to bottom so that stacking basically creates a longer line source tweeter.) A line source array of tweeter domes or cones is (or at least should be) designed so that the tweeters are very close together indeed vertically to minimize this sort of problem. Either that, or the tweeter is some sort of long continuous ribbon or large electrostatic panel.

As far as the allegation that a vertical bass-midrange-tweeter or bass-tweeter array is not able to create a solid center image, I will have to disagree. If you aren't getting a solid center phantom image, it's not because of the vertical array but because of untreated room surface reflections. Use more room treatment around the specular reflection points on all room surfaces until a solid center image at least a bit forward of the speaker positions appears before your ears on a closely miked centered vocalist. I haven't had trouble getting solid center phantom images for decades from vertically oriented cone and dome speakers as long as the room treatment is adequate.

Yes, the treble will tend to appear a bit "up" in direction with speakers so arrayed, but that aids the soundstage height illusion. I find that effect preferable to the vertically very small images/stage often created by coaxial midrange/tweeter arrangements. If the treble stands out too much to suit you, just knock it down in level a bit with gentle electronic equalization starting above 4 kHz or so until you don't hear the treble as so separate any more. Time alignment of the drivers also helps keep the tweeter from sticking out.

A way to combat the small image effect of coaxial midrange-tweeter speakers is to mount the coaxial driver a bit lower than your ears and aim the speaker up a bit toward the ceiling (as in some Gradient models, for example). The enhanced ceiling bounce will ameliorate the vertically small image and provide a feeling of more spaciousness. Not a technically perfect solution, but not too bad sounding, either, I think.

Horizontal bass-midrange-tweeter arrays at ear level do eliminate the "up" tweeter disconnection, but now you have a vertical venetian blind effect from the horizontally mounted drivers, audible with slight head movements as audible phasiness, particularly between the midrange and tweeter drivers. Yes, the wider bass driver separation does help stereo imaging through its "shuffling" effect, but to me and I think most other listeners, horizontal bass-midrange-tweeter arrays with tweeters on the inside create more serious subjective problems than they solve. Maggie lovers work long and hard to get the toe-in just right to minimize the vertical venetian blind effect as heard from their chosen listening position.

A vertical panel covering everything above the bass like the Sanders 10e fixes all these problems as long as you are willing to listen only from the sweet spot and not sway your head horizontally more than a few inches--big "ifs" for many, I know. You get life-sized images, huge depth and vertical spaciousness, wonderfully immersive sound from only two speakers, with all frequencies appearing to come from the same point in space, no treble hot spot, no vertical venetian blind, very fine phantom center images, and no floor dip due to careful crossover design and electronic equalization of the woofer and its transmission line enclosure. The only slight "downside" is a bit of image position fuzzing compared to the best quasi-point-source speakers. That fuzzing is more like real life anyway since exact pinpoint imaging is something usually heard only from stereos, not live performances of any kind, amplified or unamplified.
 

tmallin

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Many reviews of audio equipment are merely puff pieces. Much of the text of such reviews is copied from or is mere paraphrasing of manufacturers' white papers, ad copy, or spec sheets. I try not to do that, but to instead convey a general description of the sonics, plus a lot of set up information. I also admit to allowing my sense of joy and excitement about the sound of new speakers or other equipment to come through. Thus, I seem constantly infatuated with this or that new speaker or other piece of audio equipment. And that is true--that is how I feel when I'm pleased with new audio equipment.

But I also try to point out any flies in the ointment and here I think I do a better job than most. In addition to the sound of the music, I talk about such things as delivery time, packaging, manufacturer contact and helpfulness--aspects of the buying experience that I think may be important to at least some potential buyers.

I also reveal information about equipment construction, such as internal wiring and connections, whether the binding posts loosen up over time requiring repair, and various mechanical noises from drivers, cabinets, or electronics--aspects usually not discussed in reviews, but which I personally find important and annoying if they cannot be easily fixed. I also discuss how I've fixed such problems if I've discovered how to fix them.

As to the actual sound, unlike many other audio commentators, I intentionally try NOT to talk about how particular recordings sound, but to generalize over an eclectic range of listening. Since we really don't have standardized recording or playback paradigms, I think it best not to go into details on the sound of particular recordings. We really don't know exactly how any particular recording is supposed to sound on a particular home system.
 

tmallin

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On the other hand, we all listen to recordings. Here's what I like, what I want to hear on my home audio system:

I think that a great home audio system should be a vehicle for maximizing musical enjoyment. It should not sound good only on the 10 or 20 "best" recordings you own. It should allow you to suspend disbelief with a wide array of commercial recordings. It should not require constant tweaking from one recording to another to sound acceptably natural in tonal balance. If you feel the need for something like a Cello Palette Preamp or Schiit equalizer, you probably don't have speakers I would find acceptable, you don't have your foundation equalizer set correctly, or you're just a lot pickier than I am about tonal balance.

I'm sure some people here are in fact pickier than I am about exact tonal balance of each recording. For them equipment like the Cello Palette Preamp or Schiit equalizer may be a necessary part of any system.

To accomplish my goal of enjoyable listening to a wide variety of recordings without tweaking the tonal balance of individual recordings, I aim for extended, warm, full bass with a good deal of punch. I agree that there should not be a dip in the power range response; "the usual floor dip" should not be there, in other words. The lower midrange should also be warm. In terms of graphed frequency response from the listening position, the low end should start smoothly climbing at about 500 Hz and be no less than 6 dB above the 1 kHz level by the bottom octave. I seem not overly sensitive to a few excess dB in the 500 to 1000 Hz or "forwardness" range. And I plead guilty to being extremely intolerant of excesses in the 1 to 5 kHz range, frequently complaining of "brightness" if that range is at all emphasized. I also do not like speakers which overemphasize the top octave or two so that high strings and cymbals are too hot and wiry/sizzly.

I want a wide variety of classical music to sound believably balanced. However, I'm not extremely picky about exact tonality of any instruments because I'm frankly not tuned in to the sound of different types/brands of a particular instrument when heard live and unamplified.

But I am frankly surprised at how most of the high-end industry and listening public doesn't recognize that with most recordings played on most speakers, stringed instruments sound nothing like they do live. There is a kind of transposition to a lighter/brighter less meaty sound. On most recordings played on most stereos, bass viols sound like cellos, cellos like violas, violas like violins, and violins like unearthly, unmusical, screechy things. I try to pick equipment and apply EQ and room treatment so as to make recordings of stringed instruments more naturally balanced.

Most recordings should not sound overly bright or thin when the speakers are good, properly set up, and properly EQed. At the same time, I want the system to instantly reveal the tonal balance differences, as well as changes in the inherent clarity and detail captured among recordings, but without any over-brightness and without flinging "detail" in my face. These are NOT irreconcilable goals. If they seem to be, you just haven't got the right components, your room set up needs work, or your foundation EQ is not set properly.

I also want the space captured on recordings or dialed in by studio effects to be fully evident. Good speakers well set up should instantly portray the changes in recorded space captured from one recording to another. On large-scale classical recordings, the impression generally should be of a large space. Imaging should be fairly precise, but need not be pinpoint since that's not usually a quality of live music listening. I seek maximum envelopment in the space from two speakers. I want the stage to be straight in front of me, not up or down, and I want recorded images to seem naturally sized, not miniaturized and not constantly inflated.

Most of the speakers I've used in my current small listening room over the past seven years ultimately have done a decent job at approaching most of these goals. Some speakers needed a lot more work on physical set up, proper room treatment, or equalization than others. I never was fully satisfied with my Stirling LS3/6 + Swarm set up. The Gradient 1.4 had some issues with mechanical noises, especially when the power range was equalized to be full enough and it, like other Gradients, tended to sound a bit "small." The Janszens were VERY particular about physical set-up, the level setting of the Air Layer side tweeters, and room treatment and I never got the stage to be quite high enough. The Harbeth M40.2 sounded wonderful when EQed by the DSPeaker X4, but were so visually large from the listening spot that they eventually induced a claustrophobic feeling.

On the other hand the D&D 8c did these things and more (huge dynamics, greater clarity than I'd heard before, lack of room interaction) right out their boxes with almost zero work on my part; careful set up made relatively minor improvements. The Sanders 10e, once the AEQ process was completed was, again, so good, with so little room treatment necessary, that it sort of broke the mold.

In terms of Sanders 10e weaknesses, I've mentioned the need to sit in the sweet spot. This implies but does not make explicit that one cannot really get the best from both Blumlein recordings and all your other recordings with a single set up. If I move my listening spot far enough forward to get 90-degree separation between the two speakers as is appropriate for Blumlein recordings, I'm then far enough off axis that the top two octaves are basically not there. Physical set-up is too exacting and time consuming to simply toe in the speakers more every time I listen to the few Blumlein recordings--I'm too lazy to undertake the exacting set-up process again and again. With every other speaker I've ever owned, moving forward so that I'm 15 degrees off axis with each speaker has not significantly affected the level of treble response. With the Sanders there is a huge decrease in sound quality because the top two octaves are then so rolled off.

One other thing: At high listening levels, on programs with strong deep bass, the Sanders 10e woofer boxes and the listening room structure itself starts to buzz a bit on the strong bass notes. But I honestly know this only because the dbx VENU360 LMS control box allows instant A/Bing of the system with the panels turned off, listening to only the woofers, versus listening to both woofers and panels. When the panels are turned back on, even with program material which is solo organ pedals or electric bass, the upper harmonics totally mask these mechanical noises. This is nothing like the buzzing noise and distortion I heard from the bass driver and woofer boxes of the Sanders 10c I owned a decade ago which was obvious on bass-heavy material even with the panels operating. The 10e uses a different woofer, the transmission line tuning has been changed, and I'm not spiking the woofer box to a concrete floor as I was in my old room back then.

Theoretically, the transition from highly directional panel to omnidirectional bass in the Sanders 10e should not be perfect. But here again I can instantly A/B the sound of the panels playing without the woofers, to the sound of both woofers and panels. Try as I might, I really cannot hear out the woofers when I kick them in. From my listening position about 13 inches above the bottom of the panel, the subjective effect is that of listening strictly to the panels alone. Without the woofers, the panels have no bass; with the woofers kicked in, the panels have bass. There is no shift in image size or placement; I cannot hear out the presence of the woofer or its position, in other words.

Yes, the stage gets larger and more enveloping when the woofers are kicked in, but that is to be expected when bass is added to most all speakers and is all to the good. It happened for example, when the Swarm subwoofers were kicked in below the Stirling LS3/6 even with the Stirlings running full range. In my experience speakers which do not have omnidirectional bass tend to lack in low-end heft and punch. Even with a lot of power and square inches of dipole bass driver (e.g., Legacy Whispers with four 15" bass drivers per side or Gradient Revolutions with added dipole sub towers for a total of eight 12" woofers per side) the bass power and punch from dipole woofers is at best adequate to good, not excellent as it is from the Harbeth M40.2 12-inch woofer, or the D&D 8c woofers, or the Sander's 10" transmission line loaded woofers.
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Some may think I'm chasing a will o' the wisp when I talk about aiming for system which provides extremely satisfying sound quality on a wide variety of commercial material without tweaking the equalization of the system for particular recordings. As I say above, for some listeners, those who are particularly picky about tonality of the presentation, yes, EQing individual recordings may be the only way to achieve happiness. For my current recommendations on how even the most demanding listeners can equalize a system to meet their goals, please see post #85 above.

For me, at least with the Sanders 10e speakers, I have not found it necessary to equalize individual recordings in order to enjoy a wide spectrum of commercial recordings once my foundation equalizer is set correctly. See post #109 above for how I've done this.

Remember, I regard the Sanders 10e as a special case, a particularly easy speaker to get to sound spectacular, even in a small room like mine.

For most speakers including the Sanders, I suggest starting with the Cardas rules for speaker and listener placement, either the ones for dipoles of the ones for box speakers. This will keep the speaker and listener positions several feet from the walls.

With the Sanders, then place thick absorbing foam floor to ceiling against the walls behind the speakers as viewed from the listening position. Then add a lot of diffusion to the wall behind the listening position. That's all the room treatment I need for the Sanders 10e. Then apply your electronic equalization.

With most other speakers in my small room I also need to use more absorbing room treatment to deaden the walls behind and beside the speakers, and the floor and ceiling around the first reflection points of the speakers as viewed from the listening position.

I suggest using speakers which are fairly directional. Avoid speakers labeled omnidirectional or "wide dispersion," at least if you have a small room like mine or even a medium-sized room. The Sanders 10e is uniquely narrow in its high frequency dispersion and thus works extremely well in my small room even with minimal room treatment. The Dutch & Dutch 8c has enough high frequency dispersion to sound natural throughout the room but a narrow enough dispersion pattern to allow it to sound well balanced even without all the extra padding described in the last paragraph. Still, however, for best sound with the D&Ds, as with other speakers, add the extra padding described in the last paragraph.

Don't try to play things too loudly. SPL is completely user controllable. There is a "natural" volume for most programs. Even rock and big symphonies should not be played at home at an SPL that registers more than about 83 dB on average with a meter. Even a single dB in loudness can drastically change the tonal balance and dynamic effects of what you are hearing. Once you know that your system can sound balanced with a lot of material, seek this SPL--it will only take a few seconds to find once you know what tonally balanced sound sounds like.

Aim the speakers at your ears, listen from the correct height with respect to the design axis of your speakers, and listen in the near field (no more than about 6 feet away from the drivers, if possible--closer is better, at least to a point) to further reduce the audibility of reflections from your listening room surfaces.

Once you've taken these steps, of the speakers I've used in my current small room, here is a rank ordering of the difficulty of setting them up so that I can enjoy a wide range of commercial recordings without futzing with further equalization for individual recordings:

Sanders 10e
Dutch & Dutch 8c
Harbeth M40.2
Stirling LS3/6 + AudioKinesis Swarm subwoofers
Gradient 1.4
Janszen Valentina Active

Other speakers I previously owned where this goal was at least fairly well achieved in other listening rooms include:

Legacy Audio Whisper
Gradient Revolution Active + Dipole subwoofer towers
Carver Amazing Platinum MkIV
Cello Stradivari Premier
Acoustic Research AR 303a
Acoustic Research AR-3a
Rectilinear III
B&W 801 Series II Matrix
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Thank you for detailing so extensively your experiences and listening preferences!
 

earlinarizona

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2010
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With the two Sanders amplifiers, do you ever have the urge to try a tube amplifier on the system? Do you feel there would be any softening would add more listenability, or are the Sander perfect for these speakers? Did you ever experience solid state or edgy sound on the system that tubes would clear up. Do you find any listener fatigue?
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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I've only used one all-tube amplifier in my life, the first amp I owned back in 1967 or so, the Dynaco SCA-35. I did use Audio by Van Alstine's FET-Valve power amps for a while and they were fine when used with the speakers around which their sound was voiced, the B&W 801 Matrix Series II.

I have never even thought of a tube amp for the Sanders. First, the Sanders speakers were designed with the Sanders amps in mind.

Second, electrostatic panels are difficult loads for most amps, even most tube amps. The Sanders Magtechs are rock-solid into highly capacitive electrostatic loads and are thus ideal for driving the panels.

Third, woofers surely are best driven by beefy solid-state amps like the Magtechs, especially when, as in the Sanders 10e, the woofers are equalized for more output at low frequencies than they naturally would have. It really helps to have 600 watts or more per woofer.

Fourth, using another amp would require reprogramming the equalization since the sensitivity of most tube amps is quite a bit higher than the sensitivity of most solid state amps like the Magtechs. This could be done, but why, since...

Finally, the sound is so wonderful with the Magtechs on both top and bottom that I wouldn't dream of trying a tube amp. No softening of the high end is needed. Any desired softening can easily be dialed into the high frequency response in 0.1 dB increments through manipulation of the dbx VENU360 Loudspeaker Management System which is part and parcel of the Sanders 10e system.
 
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gleeds

Industry Expert
May 29, 2018
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I have experience with using tubes on the UltraStat panels, including the original Innersound iTube amplifier Roger designed with Terry Tekushan in Ohio. I always preferred to power the panel with one of Roger's solid state amplifiers for sound and many of the reasons Mr. Mallin stated. The Magtech is indeed a super amplifier for ESL's, panels, and for that matter, any other speaker.
 

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