STAX: ELS-F83X full-range electrostatic speakers; a user’s thoughts

I own a pair of ELS-F83X Stax speakers that I bought through the advice of a close friend whose opinions I value very highly.

He rang me one night knowing I wanted to buy a good pair of speakers and told me that these were available. However only one was working which was a fact that didn't deter me as I knew I was more than capable of repairing them. He told me to trust him as he had heard the ELS-F81s and that I wouldn't be disappointed. I bought them the next day for A$2000 and a trade of some very disappointing, locally produced, speakers that I had paid $6000 for. I then simply replaced a resistor in the bias voltage string that had 'expired' and they were up and running just like new.

I have never heard a pair of speakers that sound anywhere near as good as my Stax ELS-F83Xs.

They lack a little bass but they make up for it in spades in regards to musicality. They sound awful being run by solid state amplifiers but then solid state amplifiers sound horrible anyway. The fact of the matter is they are VERY revealing which is a quality solid state amplifiers with their 'dryness' invariably can do without. I have bypassed the 'filter' placed on the input as it was only put in to provide solid state amplifiers with a stable load and it is something best left out of the signal's path.

Mine are part of an all valve (tube) system built by myself and are driven by a custom made pair of monobloc amplifiers that produce a little over 60 watts into a 4 ohm load. The amplifiers are all triode with the final stage comprising of a sextet of GE 6550s which are triode-wired.

The output transformers are Plitrons which have an ultra-wide bandwidth and utilise toroidal cores. The sound that I get is breathtaking and I attribute this to every component being complemented and suited to the 'end-stage' Stax ELS-F83Xs. Electrostatic speakers are best run by valve amplifiers as they are essentially a large capacitor. They require voltage more so than current as opposed to electrodynamic speakers which require the opposite.

The rest of my system is best described as DIY audio exotica with only the CD transport and turntable being purchased components. The transport is a PS Audio Lambda with a clock modification and a couple of other component upgrades. The turntable is a reconditioned Oracle Delphi Mk I with an SME IV arm and Benz Micro cartridge. All my interconnects are made up with Kimber silver KCAG. This includes my tonearm cable.

I rang the company who distributed these speakers in Australia (Audio Dynamics) years ago when I purchased them and they informed me that only three pairs were ever brought into the country.

Through a contact I obtained a telephone number and spoke to someone in another state who purchased a pair of ELS-F83Xs also. They informed me that they had paid A$19,000 for their, then new, pair. I am truly blessed to own one of the few pairs ever brought into this country. I probably would never sell them however it would be interesting to know just what they are worth? The styling is typical of traditional Japanese which I find to be incredibly beautiful and simplistic. Having studied design at university I feel justified in my assessment of these speakers as wonderful pieces of design which fit perfectly into the ultra-modern decor of my listening room.


(Audio Priestess)

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