Where the Sanders Stands in the World
In the late 1950s something along the lines of a new elegance in audio engineering, some analog of, say, the rise of the suspension bridge replacing the massive cantilever structures, almost happened in audio. Serious speakers only a little earlier and even at the time were sometimes as large as refrigerators. One thinks of the Electro-Voice Patrician, with its 30-inch woofer. Two things made fundamental changes, or at least potential changes. One was the development by Acoustic Research of the acoustic suspension woofer, which showed how deep bass could be obtained from comparatively small drivers in boxes of moderate size. The second development that opened new prospects was the appearance of the original Quad ESL (and a few years later of the KLH Model 9).
The electrostatic speaker had been invented in the 1920s in principle, but the Quad and KLH were first practical realizations as commercial products. But the revolution they began was only partial because the Quad was limited in bass and dynamic capacity and so was the KLH, albeit less so. And these limitations dogged the electrostatic for a long time. The Quad made the refrigerator-sized speakers of the time seem oddly conceived. But it could not replace them for bass and dynamics, no matter how much better the Quad was in low distortion and low coloration.
But the Sanders 10e’s belie these limitations traditional for electrostatics. Here are all the advantages of the dipole electrostatic—low distortion, low coloration, differentiation against the listening room—combined with bass extension, dynamic power, and indestructible operation. In anything like a domestic environment the 10e’s have effectively unlimited dynamics and definitely adequate bass power and full extension. One can only wonder about any further real need for speakers weighing hundreds of pounds and having multiple dynamic drivers (This does not refer to line arrays, which use many drivers in a different rationale.)
The Sanders 10e’s, with their intrinsic sonic virtues and their built-in DSP processing (which is user-controllable and room-correcting), seem to me very much the way of the future for audio. Or at least what ought in my book to be the way of the future. In my view, user-controllable DSP adjustment, either built in or added on, is the way audio is going to go and ought to go. And a speaker will utilize it best if, like the Sanders, it is built with that in mind from the beginning. It would not be fair to say that they are the only speaker designs that show how DSP and inventive sonic engineering can produce exceptional results at rational prices (I think for example of the Steinway Lyngdorf System S, though it lacks as much user control as I would like). But the Sanders reaches for, and to my mind, attains a sonic level in the highest echelon that, along with the possibility of user adjustment, makes most other speakers seem restricted and earth-bound.
In my view, no one speaker could be justly declared “the one and only world’s best” because exactly what a speaker in a room is supposed to do is not something that is completely and scientifically agreed upon. There are, after all, people who will make a case for the intrinsic superiority of wide radiation pattern, though I am surely not among them.
But if you wanted to call the Sanders 10e the best speaker ever, you could definitely make a case. Within the category of speakers that emphasize facsimile reproduction of the direct arrival, the Sanders system can surely claim to be the equal of any and far superior to most. And when you consider that even if you buy two Sanders Magtech amplifiers—one comes along as part of the $17,000 package—the total cost exclusive of source components is $22,500, and that you can adjust the speaker to suit your room and your tastes, this system seems to me to be not only a wonder but also a bargain.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Hybrid electrostatic/box woofer with external (line level) DSP electronic crossover, intrinsically bi-amped
Driver complement (per channel): One 10-inch aluminum cone woofer in transmission-line loaded enclosure, one 13" by 40" electrostatic flat panel
Woofer impedance: 4 ohms
Electrostatic panel impedance: 112 ohms at 500Hz falling to 1.2 ohms at 20kHz
Bass power handling: 250 watts continuous, 1000 watts momentary
ESL power handling: Not damaged by any practical input level
Inputs: Analog, PCM digital up to 96kHz/24-bit
Dimensions: 15.5" x 69" x 8"
Weight: 82 lbs. (per channel)
Price: $17,000 (including speaker, electronic DSP crossover from dbx, and one Sanders Magtech amplifier)
SANDERS SOUND SYSTEMS
12054 Deer Trail Road
Conifer, CO 80433