Agreed. However another reason for getting these over conventional cone drivers is distortion. These electrostats have very low distortion and with the right power can play very load with very low distortion. If you really hate distortion then you will like ML electrostats. If you have to put them very close to the front or side walls then try adding some diffusion or absorption either behind or besides them.
"If you have to put them very close to the front or side walls "
I would go as far as to say that if you have to shove these into the front wall, don't buy these and buy something else. It so diminishes what these will do that there's no point buying them.
One of the best reviews I've ever read regarding setup was hilariously in a home theater magazine.
The EM-ESL started out in our larger living room where I thought the best sonic results would be achieved. Existing furniture behind and around the EM-ESL would be randomizing the reflections of the rear waves which seemed like a good idea. In that environment, I listened mostly to music, some with the speakers aimed directly at the LP and some with them aimed with less toe-in to achieve a deeper soundstage.
I am never terribly excited by results of speakers set up in the equilateral triangle facing the listening position. The soundstage in that configuration was fairly wide with solid imaging but no soundstage depth to speak of. There are those who might favor this configuration for its simplicity, and will find little to be disappointed about in using it. I simply find that with a little extra effort the soundstage and imaging can be improved dramatically.
With less toe-in, the soundstage widens and opens, image clarity becomes much more specific and sharp, and the soundstage takes on a nice depth with the beginnings of a sense of depth acuity. Here is where the setup process starts to get more involved. In a room where the rear waves from the electrostatic panels do not travel along symmetrically-times background reflection paths, I found that any sharp reflections - those that would show up as sharp spikes on an impulse response measurement - were best dissipated or redirected to improve the image and soundstage clarity. As an example, at one point the rear reflection from the left speaker bounced directly off a small TV screen and back to the listener position. When I realized this and changed the angle of that TV screen slightly, the imaging and depth acuity improved markedly. Several such small discoveries in that room led to admirable soundstage and imaging quality, but never to the completely natural and totally sharp image clarity and depth acuity I had hoped for.
Upon moving the EM-ESL to my downstairs listening area, the results jumped to a whole new level of interesting.
Happy accidents in the realm of speaker setup are few and far between in my experience. The one that occurred upon setting up the EM-ESL in that room will never cease to amaze me. A bit pressed for time at the moment, they were placed quickly but with the measurements needed to ensure symmetry with the front wall and listening position. The soundstage and imaging that resulted were very wide and deep, with an open, natural air, a very clear sense of depth acuity, and a kind of density I had only witnessed one other time before that, from a pair of speakers costing 20 times the sale price. Upon adding a bit of equalization to tame the bass slightly and lift the high-frequency droop resulting from the off-axis listening angle, the soundstage density and depth acuity became even more impressive. I had to know why.
Most of the details of the investigation that ensued will be written up separately from this review. To summarize here, the diagram below shows the rear reflections from the electrostatic panels as they occurred from that initial setup. A totally blank wall, a pair of tower speakers sitting just outside of each EM-ESL, and a bookshelf were providing just the combination of rear reflections to give that soundstage and imaging result. The timing of the sharp reflections directly off the wall was such that they coincided precisely at the listening position, within a fraction of a millisecond. Had either of the review speakers been angled one degree differently - this was determined through later experimentation - the density and depth acuity would have been only fair-to-good instead of enthralling.
"At this point no doubt, even most avid listeners have declared insanity in the approach, or at least total impracticality. All I can say in my defense is, you gotta hear it to believe it. Admittedly, the quality of soundstage can be a higher priority to one listener than another. A similar quality of soundstage occurred at a Home Theater Shack speaker evaluation event in February. Two of the four listeners were enthralled by it, while the other two barely took notice, or were distracted by other listening qualities of higher priority to them. So I recognize that much of what I am describing will simply not matter to some listeners. My reason for going into this level of detail in this review is to let it be known what the EM-ESL are capable of. And that is a monstrously dense soundstage that almost seems carved in stone. There may be other ways to achieve it in other rooms; I am simply showing how it occurred in mine.
One must also note that similar results might be achievable with other speakers given appropriate attention to detail. The dipole's rear wave is perfect for the approach, though, with the MartinLogan hybrid design seeming the perfect implementation"