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Thread: ESS amplifier

  1. #1

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    Default ESS amplifier

    Does anyone have additional information or experience with ESS (Electrostatic Sound Systems Inc in Sacramento CA) amplifiers? The company was apparently better known for their electrostatic speakers.

    I just picked up an ESS "Model200" amp from someone local. He indicated it was from the late 70s and has a rating of 100W/ch (though he said it bench-tested closer to 125W/ch back then).

    Anybody know anything about this amp?

  2. #2

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    Julian Hirsch:

    "Suppose you repeat all this, and it ends up being easily reproducible ("true-for-you-too").
    Then it remains to be seen whether the over-$ 500 stuff is really better in a rigorous LAB test.
    There often appears to be a dB-like relationship between quality and price, whereby doubling the
    price is necessary to produce the minimum audible improvement. Is there a plateau of $500?
    Julian Hirsch8 (again) insists that the ESS Model 200 power amp is audibly indistinguishable from
    much more powerful ones. On the other hand, pages 52 and 54 of Ref. 2 say the same amp is
    overly "bright" and "edgy."
    (Such words are rarely used in the shiny mags like Audio, by the
    way.)"


    If you can find the Dec 1974 issue of "Popular Electronics", on Page 73 Julian Hirsch talks about the Model 200 in depth.
    check your garage. :)
    MrBigBlueLight
    Usually right, but sometimes not entirely factually correct.
    Shifting to Plan B

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    I had an ESS 500 power amp pass through here a couple years back. It was blown up so I can't comment on sound. It was one LARGE and ROBUST looking amp, inside and out, I can tell you that.

    I may have read somewhere back then that they COULD be Nelson Pass design amps.

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    Nelson Pass got his start at ESS back in the 70's but IIRC, it was designing speaker drivers most notable the Heil Air Transducer. I don;t believe he made any ESS amps, but who knows. Need to do some more research.
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbigbluelight View Post
    Julian Hirsch:

    "Suppose you repeat all this, and it ends up being easily reproducible ("true-for-you-too").
    Then it remains to be seen whether the over-$ 500 stuff is really better in a rigorous LAB test.
    There often appears to be a dB-like relationship between quality and price, whereby doubling the
    price is necessary to produce the minimum audible improvement. Is there a plateau of $500?
    Julian Hirsch8 (again) insists that the ESS Model 200 power amp is audibly indistinguishable from
    much more powerful ones. On the other hand, pages 52 and 54 of Ref. 2 say the same amp is
    overly "bright" and "edgy."
    (Such words are rarely used in the shiny mags like Audio, by the
    way.)"


    If you can find the Dec 1974 issue of "Popular Electronics", on Page 73 Julian Hirsch talks about the Model 200 in depth.
    check your garage. :)
    Found that statement too...anybody have that issue?

  6. #6

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    Sorry to bring back such an old post, but "Bright" and "Edgy" definitely do NOT apply to my ESS 200s(2) but "Warm & Musical" does.

    - Case in point, a few weeks ago, the evening of getting my serviced ESS 200 amp home from the shop, John Nolte & I sat listening to a set of his quite nice speakers in his living room, comparing my ESS 200 to his Threshold T-400, both driven by a PS Audio Reference Link preamp.

    No surprise that inner detail was considerably better on the Threshold (which has been recently freshened up Jon Soderberg at 'Vintage') as one would expect from Class A, however, we both agreed that the ESS was a "Very nice sounding amplifier" and one thing which stood out in my mind was how much I preferred listening to the ESS over what I would normally KILL to get my hands on, ANY Threshold Class A amplifier.

    Still to my amazement, all I can say is I liked music more on the ESS, and found myself drawn in to the soundstage, instrument activity and the basic MUSIC-al experience whereas the more detailed sound of the T-400 bored me...???

    My foot was moving to the music with the ESS in line, but I felt ansy & just wanted to get up and go get a beer or something when we put the wonderful T-400 back in line.

    I'm sorry, i do not understand this, my reaction.
    -I normally LOVE Class A detail and intricacy, however, I just wanted to go home and hook up my ESS 200 and listen to everything I owned instead of staying longer and enjoying the T-400.

    If anything, John's speakers were more high frequency "present" than not, and in no way would I describe them as overly smooth nor anything but musical and extreeeeeemely open - his hallmark.

    I now have two ESS 200 amps so I can run dual mono, even though I don't bridge them and only use one of each of their 2 channels, per side to eliminate any potential for crosstalk distortion, though even with only one in stereo it's a slam dunk when compared to my sub amp, a Nikko 440, in that the ESS is the 'tube-like' amp for listening and the Nikko is the muscle for the twelve(12!) Polk 12" subs.

    Remember, it's about the music, it's movement, and being moved by it.


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    I bought a pair of the ESS AMT1B speakers from Guinn Unger's Sheffield Audio store in Houston back around 1979 or 80? For some reason, honestly, I don't recall the store ever having the ESS amps at the time. The ESS speakers were well made and I drove them hard with a HK Citation 19 amp I bought new at the same time. Hope you can get the amp up and running.

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