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Sanders Sound Systems - Room 529





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Dennis' Impressions

The Sanders Model 10c Electrostatic (ESL) hybrid speaker sets itself apart from most speaker systems by including an active crossover, an extremely stout amplifier and a reassuring lifetime warranty for all pieces. The modified (to make the unit more robust) Behringer DCX2496 provides factory set 8th order slopes (48 dB/octave @ 172 Hz), the powerful 0.3 ohm capable dual Magtech Stereo amplifiers supplying the grunt. The Sanders Preamplifier handles gain by using an optically controlled microprocessor, switching inputs via sealed, gold plated relays. The preamp also includes a phono pre and programmable remote control.

Four listening chairs were lined up one behind the other, so everyone had a shot at the sweet spot. These chairs were occupied when I entered the room, so I stood toward the back of the room, waiting my turn. This was probably the best sound I've ever heard off axis, and I paced the back of the room, stopping in various places to catch a listen. While the speakers did reveal their location off axis, image drift was minimal, and tonal balance remained the same everywhere I roamed.

When I finally got a chance to sit in one of the chairs, the soundstage was drawn, images now locked in. WOW! Everything appeared, sonically, in life-sized proportions. I don't remember the tracks, nor did I even think to ask, but the lead singer's voice was localized high, at standing height. The presentation of the performance was neither recessed or forward, while the seamless sound of a single driver handling the top 7 octaves of sound was apparent. Bass was strong down to the lowest fundamentals of the instruments playing, the transmission line loaded 10" driver filling in the bottom end.

The drum track demo startled, with realistic dynamics and tone. The drum kit did seem to be located a little high, as were the strings and horns in the next demo. It reminded me of sitting in front seats of a performance, having to look up a bit more than if seated a little further back. The Model 10c is very tall, which probably had a lot to do with this.

Roger Sanders and Stephen Mollner gave freely of their time, inviting the entire HTS crew back for an after hours listening session, demonstration and tech talk. Audio basics were covered along with insight into the design and build of the Sanders Sound system. Thank you, Roger and Stephen! The Sanders Sound room was one of my top three favorite rooms of the show, delivering sound that is to die for.


Wayne's Impressions

The HTS crew had an extended private session with Roger Sanders and exhibitor Stephen Mollner, and it was one of the show's highlights for me. I have been bitten badly by the planar speaker bug, and hearing the Sanders Model 10 electrostatic speakers and supporting Sanders system only made the fever worse.

First we received a historical and engineering perspective on the Sanders Audio products, covering electrostatics and power amps of his own design. It is doubtful that anyone knows more about electrostatics than Roger Sanders, being one of the early innovators in the field. He gave detailed explanations about the ways electrostatics stress power amp designs and the ways his Magtech power amps excel at working with electrostatics, or any kind of speaker load, and went on to explain the engineering strengths achieved throughout the product set we were there to audition.

Roger Sanders states firmly that he is not an audiophile. His point is that all his product performance claims are based in proven science and in measurable terms. While this appeals to the left-brain-centric audio crowd, it is incorrect to imply that all who consider themselves "audiophiles" are wholly right-brain-centric and trust only in their highly-impressionable and easily-fooled listening sensibilities. There are many, self included, who value our hearing impressions AND rely upon scientific fact and measurements to keep those impressions honest and grounded. No doubt Mr. Sanders has refined his listening skills along those same lines, because his system sounded absolutely wonderful!

I have referred elsewhere in these RMAF reviews to a few systems that totally disappeared in their sound field (the Model 10's did not quite), even a system that was the best-sounding system at the show, and that I have heard in my life. I have done so with qualifiers, recognizing that the disappearing act can, with a well-designed product, be a lucky break in some cases and only the result of extreme attention to detail and dogged determination to achieve it in others. And that the "best-sounding system ever" might have been one of a number of excellent systems we heard that weekend under slightly different circumstances, including the Sanders electrostatics. I have no doubt that his system is fully capable of the disappearing act and possibly could even grab the "best I ever heard" title given the proper opportunity. That is how good it sounded. And the system, including cables, comes with a relatively modest price tag of around $20,000. That would include Sanders Magtech amplifiers for the electrostatic panels and for the transmission-line woofers, plus a digital crossover. It is not a budget system, but it is a system without compromise. And from what we heard, it is an audiophile (no offense intended, Mr. Sanders) dream system.

The Model 10's had all the snappy quickness I could have hoped for, and an extremely transparent tonality, very forward and brimming with detail, but still without apparent over-emphasis in any part of the upper frequency spectrum. We heard tracks at generous, if not impressive, volumes. Given the chance, I might have pushed the volume another 6 dB with a clean, uncompressed, unclipped, full-range rock track to see how the system held together.

The Model 10's were set up asymmetrically relative to the room layout, as Roger recommends, so reflected rear-wave reflections are somewhat randomized when they reach the listener. This would be impractical in many dedicated listening rooms with a symmetrical design and fixed seating, and may or may not be conducive to the best soundstage in a given room. But it worked well in the audition room. The soundstage was fairly wide and quite deep, totally convincing. Response from the woofer sections was impressively deep and tight, and gave no signs of drivers bottoming out or being underpowered.

Imaging seemed very good, although the test tracks available did not include an uncluttered track with a simply-recorded, single, centered female vocalist, with minimum ambient effects, that would allow really focusing on the imaging capability of the Model 10's. Mr. Sanders could be a little more accommodating of listener-supplied test tracks. I protested the rigidity of the playback setup, a mood-breaker for which I publicly apologize here. Roger was extremely generous of his after-hours time with us, and the private session was and is much appreciated.

What we heard left little room for anything but favorable impressions. Here's hoping for a chance for some time soon to explore the capabilities of the Sanders Model 10's in greater detail.

Joe's Impressions

I was able to be part of the discussion concerning the history of Sanders Sound products which was very informative for me - thanks to Roger and Stephen very much for taking so much of their time after show hours to sit and talk with us. Unfortunately for me, I missed pretty much all of the listening part of our private session with them, but I did stop back the next day for a short bit to get some quick thoughts.

I was really impressed with the low end capability of these - the sound was very crisp and had excellent impact. Instrument detail was excellent with guitar plucks sticking out most in my mind and vocals imaged dead center albeit a bit higher than I am used to hearing. What really stood out for me was the midrange - there was a snare drum sequence that had several drums being played at once and it was just so crisp and clean with excellent punch. An excellent system - and the amps that Roger took the time to show us use some very unique design principals that I personally will be looking at in more detail.
 

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This is one of the systems that impressed me the most... they were perhaps the best speakers I have EVER heard. They were awesome awesome awesome! So awesome I wanted to take them home with me.

So how different can speakers be from room to room? I wanted these so bad I had Roger Sanders send me a system with two of his Magtech amps for a trial run. Leonard, Wayne and Joe were all at our home shortly after the speaker system arrived. Between all four of us, we spent a full day working on placement for these speakers. For whatever reasons, we just could not get them to sound their best. We had clarity, we had imaging, but the depth was lacking a little and we realized the sweet spot was as narrow as we have ever experienced. I loved what I heard at RMAF and could have listened to it for hours on end, but in my home I was not able to capture it in the same way... it did not leave me breathless like I would want a system to leave me when spending this kind of money. Hence the critical nature of a trial period. I suspect there are a lot of places these speakers will sound good... and there are some who would have been perfectly happy with them in my room, but for this kind of money, I MUST be as happy as a man can possibly be with his speakers, and that simply was not happening. I was no doubt VERY disappointed. Whatever you do, please do not let my experience keep you from giving them a try if you are looking for the ultimate in a speaker system.
 

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This recent post was revelatory to me and I must thank you. I have a pair of speakers, not the Sanders, that I have heard elsewhere which is a very familiar room. but cannot for the life of me get them to sound similarly in my room. I have tried many different set ups, placements and even tried to mess with Audyssey to no avail.

It is way cool to see others with similar issues. Thanks
 

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That perfect sound is sure an elusive bird. Even two different very-nice rooms can give such different results. I cannot help but think that program material, mood, and impressionability often play a role. One's own room can bring a heavenly sound experience down to earth, lay imperfections bare that the excitement factor of visiting a different room might cover up.
 

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I wonder how big of a factor are the high expectations? Not knowing what to expect, a person could be surprised and blown away. Having the pressure of expecting perfect sound could cause some listening anxiety I would think.
 

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Expectations can be a big factor, but they are pretty unavoidable. The listener is responsible for his own experience. If he can't approach an audio experience with a sense of openness and neutrality, he will be a slave to his imagination. That is how people end up with weird, nonsense, faith-based audio beliefs. In my opinion.
 

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That's a good explanation. I've experienced it personally. I was convinced I heard a major improvement from one FLAC file to another until I realized they were exactly the same. And I thought my speakers sounded more detailed and less echoey with absorption panels behind them, but when my wife moved them in and out of the room with my eyes closed, I seemed to favor the sound with them out. It makes me doubt the reliability of what I think I'm hearing. :/ I am convinced though that I prefer the sound of my speakers without Audyssey because I really wanted to hear an improvement with it.
 
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