ACOUSTAT: What happened?

Dr. JM Willsden-Green writes ...

A manufacturer of electrostatic loudspeakers formed by designer James C. Strickland in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA in 1973. First product was shipped in 1976 in the form of the Model X, a hybrid electrostatic/dynamic loudspeaker that featured a built in valve based servo amplifier and a year later the company released models called "Monitor 3" and "Monitor 4" that are basically cosmetically redesigned versions of the Model X.

In 1978 they began to sell the “Modular Reference Preamplifier”, this unit is actually a fairly run of the mill high end pre-amplifier for the time but was typically not sold on its own but rather with Acoustat loudspeaker systems to give customers the option of a complete back end system from the same company, consequently this item sold in low volumes and is very rare these days. The company introduced the MK-121 Magne-Kinetic interface in 1980 but that was a unit that contained dual transformers per channel along with a complex crossover network that allowed their speakers to be used with any amplifier and for a short time thereafter the Monitor Series of speakers were offered with either a servo amp or with an MK-121 option, later the same year the company also introduced the RP-2 preamplifier which was a cheaper option to the original MRP.

In 1981 Acoustat Corp. introduced the Slimline series of speakers in the form of the Model Two, Model Three and Model Four. These were more reasonably priced than previous models from the company but were not available with a servo-amp nor the Magne-Kinetic interface but rather used a cheaper and more traditional single transformer to allow the speaker to be used with any standard amplifier.

In 1982 the company introduced a line of speakers colloquially known as the “tall models”, namely models 2+2, Six and Eight. The nickname is due to the fact that they are almost 2,5 meters in height and are probably the best known products from the company, got good reviews at the time and formed the basis for later products in particular the 2+2 which is probably the best known product from the company, these did not sell well in Europe though, the ceiling height in many European flats is well under 2,5m so we have a problem there.

1982 also saw the introduction of a line of electronic products called Trans Nova but these included a power amp named TNT-200 and the TNP preamplifier and smaller power amp called the TNT-120 was added to the line-up the year after, unlike earlier amplifiers from the company these were generic items and not something intended specifically to mate with the ESL speakers from the company.

In 1983 Acoustat introduced the Modular Hybrid series of speakers including the 2MH and the 3MH, these were sold either as full range electrostats or offered with a crossover and a dynamic driver unit integrated into the base, in a similar fashion the Model 1+1 that was introduced in 1984 was either sold as a full range speaker with a MK-121 interface or sold with separate woofer boxes and an MK-131 interface.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1984 and was bought from the court by David Hafler Co. in November the same year, Mr. Strickland went to work for Hafler and last we heard he is still with current Hafler owner Rockford.

Spares & service : The panels on Acoustat loudspeakers are not made out of Mylar like most ESL designs and will thus stretch if overdriven or with prolonged use but you can basically cure them yourself with a heat gun, even though that is slightly fussy work, a hair dryer will also do the trick although a limited number of audiophiles seem to have any hair to speak of so the former option is probably more realistic. The fabric used in to cover the speakers is a fairly standard curtain type material, any decently stocked fabric or curtain stores should have replacements in stock and fairly cheap to boot, you will need to have it sewn together but that is something that even a semi-competent seamstress can do without a problem if you bring the original. The original supplier of the fabric covers is called The Upholstery Company and they will supply you with a new cover to the original specs. A number of modifications and tips regarding some of the Acoustat speakers can be found on this page.

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