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Eminent Technology LFT-8b Floorstanding Speaker Review

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Eminent Technology's $1,899 LFT-8b loudspeaker system

Reviewer’s Note: This review will not read like most because it will have large segments of parenthetical comments highlighted in bold print. As I was fairly finished with writing the review of the LFT-8A’s, Bruce Thigpen of E.T. shared with me that an upgraded tweeter was in the works, thus launching the “LFT-8B.” Having thoroughly acquainted myself with the speaker, I suggested that I do an in-the-field replacement and finalize the review of the transformed speaker. What has resulted is this review of the two editions of the LFT-8 speaker, versions A and B.

One advantage of this format is that you will see the original review of the LFT-8A in its entirety, while descriptions of my impressions regarding the new version will be close at hand for comparison. An appreciation will be gained hopefully for a reviewer’s caution not to pronounce a technology or product the “ultimate”, since virtually any component can be improved. Finally, it will stand as an example of the benefits of “in the field” upgrades to components.

The primary text, pertaining to the LFT-8A, was written as a distillation of more than six months with the speakers. The post-upgrade impressions are recent as an attempt to capture the essence of the improvement in sound before I utterly forgot the performance of the older model. Since it was not feasible to swap tweeters (re-soldering the old tweeter would be required to reinstall it), I tried to work quickly but thoroughly to make the final comparisons between the two versions of the LFT-8 speaker.

As you read the comments relating to the upgraded speaker, you may feel I’m restating, or in some cases even reversing, my earlier impressions. One of my goals in this format is to express to what extent a driver upgrade effects the totality of a speaker’s performance. Indeed, there was fairly a sea change brought about by the upgrade. I underwent a reassessment of the speaker’s overall capabilities, as I hope to convey below. So, let us begin with the LFT-8A…

I had to beg for this review. I actually groveled before Bruce Thigpen, admitting to him that I’d made a big mistake. I had sold the pair of E.T.’s that I owned and now I wanted to get another pair. To be technically correct, I had owned two pairs which I used in a “stacked” configuration. What got me going on that audio adventure was an article which mentioned that stacking the LFT-8A’s was reminiscent of the reference Infinity IRS V system of the 1980’s. I used 8 channels of amplification to passively biamp the four E.T.’s. It was awe inspiring, some of the biggest sound in two channel home audio I’ve ever heard, including the Magnepan Tympani’s. I had some of my most enjoyable times in audio with the enormity of it all.

It was too much, however – too much hugeness and not enough focus. I began to miss the finesse and detail of a finely tuned system. Looking back, a large part of this was likely due to the moderately priced cdp and amplification, and an inadequate cabling scheme. In one of those fits of audiophile dissatisfaction, I sold the entire system in an effort to rebuild from scratch. I went the opposite direction, from planars to dynamic speakers, from multi-amping to single amp, from solid-state to tubes. In the process, I lost some very good speakers. Later, recalling my enjoyment of them, I called Bruce and asked his forgiveness. I like Bruce; he didn’t hesitate to ship me a pair for review! I already knew a fair bit about the speakers from previous experience, but I was to learn there was much more to them.

“…Eminent Technology has not been relentlessly pressured by a board of officers pushing for changes to be made in order to increase margins.”

I should have known. Bruce is one of those very clever guys. Having produced audiophile components for more than 25 years, he’s proven that his designs have staying power. He’s chosen not to bombard the audiophile community with advertising. According to Bruce, Eminent Technology is, “…heavy on R&D, and light on Advertising.” With the evident quality of the product, I feel he’s largely made the correct choice and avoided some of the pitfalls that have befallen many a fine company (Agreed. Just don’t cancel the entire advertisement budget. –Ed). He’s smart, because when a product is so good that it sells itself largely through word of mouth, it’s enough to keep a small business going and keep the demand manageable. The Eminent Technology products are good enough to do exactly that. The result is a smaller business in which it is possible to speak to the man who designed the very component sold. It’s also very good for the audiophile, since Eminent Technology has not been relentlessly pressured by a board of officers pushing for changes to be made in order to increase margins. The LFT-8A speakers are built the way Bruce wants them, and priced the way Bruce wants, and that’s very good for audiophiles with budget limitations.

Bruce has his fingers in enough audio components to keep a small army of audiophiles happy. He worked on the Coloney AB-1 air bearing turntable, which was later used by Mapleknoll. Eminent Technology was formed by Bruce to pursue building an air-bearing tone arm, the most popular version of which was the ET-2. It lives on today as the ET-2.5 with an optional carbon fiber arm wand.

Bruce, being familiar with Magneplanar’s single-ended magnetic planar speakers, saw an opportunity to design a push-pull version. Over the years he has produced several variants of this push-pull speaker:

LFT-3/4 Large square-ish panel planars
LFT-6 Dipole planar (similar to a skinnier Magneplanar)
LFT-8 Progenitor to review model
LFT-10 Car speakers
LFT-11 Computer speakers!
LFT-14 A small full range speaker which never went into production
LFT-16 Monitor version of LFT-8

In addition, to the above, he’s worked on the Monsoon brand speakers and designed an intriguing Rotary Woofer, which looks disturbingly like one of those old fans without cages that can cut the fingers off a curious child – named unsurprisingly, the TRW-17. I wonder if Bruce will ever see the “20’s” in naming his products? I think he’s too modest; to break the barrier, I suggest that he cut loose and name his next speaker the “LFT-100,000”!

The Linear Field Transducer (LFT) speakers have stood the test of time as niche favorites among planar fans. Well they should, for at the paltry price of $1,499 (Note: This is the pre-upgrade price; the LFT-8B is $1,899) one may not get more for their money in any speaker purchase under the sun. That almost sounds like a concluding line for a review, so I guess I’d better start backing up my conclusion. How about starting with the build quality?

LFT-8B Comment 1: My feeling regarding price to performance has strengthened, if possible, after the upgrade!

The LFT-8A’s are second generation bipolar planar hybrids, having magnet arrays straddling front and back of the tweeter and midrange drivers. The earliest LFT-8 model had the tweeters at the top, whereas on the 8A’s they are mid-cabinet. Improvements to the 8A’s included an outboard tweeter level jumper, to switch between low, mid, and high settings (on the LFT-8 this was located inside the woofer module – not the most user-friendly location) and an improved woofer.

Encased in industrial strength cross-braced metal frames to freeze the magnet arrays in position, the mids and tweets look more like security bars across a basement window than speaker drivers. In the classic LFT-8A design, eight ceramic magnets are used, but Bruce has developed a new optional tweeter with neodymium magnets. (Little did I know at the time this was written that I would be a recipient of these neodymium wonders…) Below, resides the 8” proprietary woofer, which we’ll return to in a moment. The frequency range of the drivers is: woofer 25 – 180 Hz, mid panel 180 Hz – 10 kHz, and tweeter 10 kHz up.


Wife Acceptance Factor

From the front with their grills on, the speakers do a passable imitation of a skinny monolith from the movie 2001 A Space Oddyssey – a tall, black obelisk. It’s the sides that get interesting, with pleasant oak (natural or black) trim and the unorthodox rear woofer chamber. It’s both a solution and a problem. It’s the solution to augmenting notoriously deficient planar bass, and it’s the problem with the speaker’s appearance. One might go so far as to say that the sound of these speakers is inversely proportional to their WAF.

On the back woofer box the two pair of binding posts rest atop the box. This is likely a WAF blunder. The cables must rise up off the floor to hang off the speaker whereas in most situations they can be snaked along to a speaker’s bottom edge. One thing’s for sure, if you can get these speakers into a living room, your wife must really love you. (Connie loves Doug. Period. –Ed)

My guess is that scads more ET’s would be sold if something could be done about the appearance of the speakers. I’m sure WAF kills who knows how many purchases of these fine speakers. The fact that they are so utilitarian in appearance is testimony to the determination of Bruce to produce products that are driven by sonic considerations, not aesthetic (Anyone who comes up with a Mother of a Subwoofer capable of well below 10Hz with an appearance of a fan is not a slave to aesthetics!). But not all is lost, as there is also available beige grill cloth.

17 Responses to Eminent Technology LFT-8b Floorstanding Speaker Review

  1. Niyom Ratbamrung says:

    I need to know power and preamplifier match to EMINENT TECHNOLOGY LFT-8B.

  2. charlie mathews says:

    OHHHHHhhhhh…. a great review. I often think Doug just kinda skims over products (ie DACS) but I really think he has done an exceptional job of reviewing these speakers! I have to admit that I am tempted to buy a pair of the new LFT 8B’s and compare them to my very wonderful 1.6 Magnestand’s. Doug you done good!

  3. irenee Grand says:

    I own a pair of LFT 3 from 1987 and have upgraded the crossover and cabling.
    I use a Wells Audio Innamorata amp (200wts in 4 ohms) and it is plenty to drive them to very realistic levels. No preamp apart from the level preamp built in my Benchmark DAC 2.
    Still very hard to beat, sound wise.

  4. Charlie, irenee,
    God’s Peace,

    Charlie, I had to laugh a bit when you said I skim over products like DACs! If you knew the hours I put in on extra exploration of a product, especially opamp rolling the Eastern Electric DACs! It could be a second job! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the LFT-8 review.

    irenee, you should have a lovely combo with the Wells amp and Benchmark DAC2. If you haven not, spend some time working with various power cords, interconnects and speaker cables, as this will reward you.

    Douglas Schroeder

  5. Gary,
    God’s peace,

    I do not know whether there have been any running changes to the speaker. That is a question best placed with Bruce Thigpen of ET.

    Douglas Schroeder

  6. Gary,

    Bruce has notified us of a forthcoming response in a few days. Stay tuned.


  8. Jim Allen says:

    Hi, Doug and thank you for a GREAT review. I was wondering if you have had a chance to compare the Maggie 3.7i to the LFT 8B. Are they in the same ball park? Is the bass better in one or the other. I know the 3.7i’s cost three times as much. Thanks!

  9. Jim,
    God’s Peace,

    I appreciate your appreciation! Thank you for the complement.

    No, I have not compared the 3.7i to the LFT 8B. My expectation would be the 3.7i would seem much more impressive, as the radiating surface is much greater, and he sense of “wall of sound” would be more pronounced. The bass would be more widespread, but it is not as deep. It seems the 3.7i reaches a loose spec of “35Hz”, which may be closer to 40Hz +/- 3dB, pretty weak. The LFT 8B in comparison reaches 25Hz +/-4dB, or about 29Hz +/- 3dB.

    Single sheet drivers get sloppier with higher listening levels, and my understanding is that there is no double magnet array in use in the 3.7i, as opposed to the LFT 8B. I would expect the LFT 8B to sound cleaner with higher listening levels. Importantly, the tweeter of the LFT 8B is able to be tuned in terms of output. That makes for much better matching potentially with any given system.

    Essentially, it comes down to scale and coherence, with the 3.7i winning in those respects, and the LFT – 8B winning in terms of frequency extension and likely, cleanness.

    Douglas Schroeder

  10. Thanks for the Great Review!
    I live in the Tampa Florida area, and just bought a pair of LFT 8 somethings, used. Bruce thinks they are LFT 8A’s, but needs the serial numbers to be sure. I go pick them up tomorrow afternoon. I will most likely upgrade them to the LFT 8B. I feel so lucky to find a used pair! You almost never see any for sale that are used.

  11. Chris,
    God’s Joy,

    You did well! There are precious few speakers that carry as much sound quality per dollar as the LFT-8 series. Well worth upgrading! They deserve the best electronics you can manage. Play around a lot with placement and toe in. You will love them.

    Blessed Christmas,
    Douglas Schroeder

  12. Derek says:

    Hi Doug. I’m hoping you can provide me with a comparison between the ET LFT8b and the new Maggie LRS +. Clarity (lack of veil), emotional engagement and dynamics (quiet to loud transients with gradations) are my priorities.l Yours thoughts and observations please.

  13. Derek,
    God’s Peace,

    Not having used the LRS, I can’t comment on direct comparison. Having used the .7, I was not impressed by the speaker dynamically. I thought it would be a cool model to use for my Landscape Orientation, but it was like driving a brick, pretty lifeless without ridiculously high power. If the LRS is in the vein of the Maggie house sound/tech, then I would not expect it to be a very lively speaker dynamically. In that regard, I suspect the bass of the LFT-8B would be more impactful.

    As to clarity, I would focus on the components and cabling versus getting hung up on the speaker’s “clarity”. All speakers put out only what the components and cables deliver, and imo in a comparison such as this the components and cables will dominate the result. The Maggies are said to be SO clean, clear, but in my experience they are not all that, at least in the lower end of the line. A speaker like the PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn1 in direct comparison was cleaner/clearer. So, perhaps don’t be over-awed by dipole technology as though it’s the end all, be all.

    One option is to save your money and work toward a speaker like the PAP Trio15 10″ Coaxial and you’ll have the best of both worlds in dynamics and cleanness. It’s a lot more $ but worth it.

    Emotional engagement depends on how well the system is built. I can make nearly any speaker sound emotionally engaging or meh. So much is dependent upon the level of gear and skills of system builder. Here’s a tip; never dump detail/resolution for warmth. There is no such thing as too much resolution, and if you think the system is too resolving, it is almost always a tonality issue to address.

    Don’t get the idea I hate Maggies, as I do not. I have owned the 1.6QR and the MMG, and use the surrounds for my HT. It’s a bounded technology and they are simply not built closer to a cost-no-object fashion, which hinders their performance. Also, with a sock over the panel, they are quite compromised, as is easily heard when listening to a dipole where you can remove the grill, such as the Kingsound King III electrostatic. For that reason alone I likely would hesitate to own a Maggie today. Same with Vandersteen with fixed grill. A lot is sacrificed pushing a wave through a grill. That would be one reason I wouldn’t be surprised if in direct comparison I thought the LFT-8B was cleaner/clearer than the LRS. This is conjecture as a direct comparison has not been done.

    I have zero interest in arguing with any hard core Maggie fans. A long time ago I was one of those dipole newbies and arguing they were the best speaker, blah, blah… Wow, I was so inexperienced. A very nice system can be made with either LFT-8B or LRS, but such doesn’t come together magically. It would take a lot of adjustments, tuning, etc. to achieve it, likely at a minimum 8-10 system changes including cables, components, etc. You shouldn’t expect to simply drop any speaker in a rig and for it to be optimized. To that end, an optimized LRS might seem more emotionally satisfying than an LFT-8B, or vice versa.

    Douglas Schroeder

  14. Robert Struzinski says:

    As someone who has taken on building or assembling my own idea of what a speaker could or should sound like, I have found the process takes time and patience to even get started. I’m 2 years into my build and I have been challenged every step as I proceed. The materials used are the biggest part of how things look as well as how they work for assembly. A single change of 1 wire can be an all day project.

    I have found that combining ascetics with ultimate over all sound is the one aspect that seems to become the largest issue. The overall sound has to come first or you’re just compromising the project and limiting the final objective. There’s no simple way to make some of the parts and keep things looking like they came from a million $ company that has the ability to make dies and molds to form plastic parts drawn in CAD for a one off design. There is an understood acceptance to see some roughness and unrefined parts used when the need for strength and rigidity is required.

    When you think in terms of money sometimes the obvious choice is the only option since it has been proven to work. Simplicity is something that’s rarely demonstrated now. The idea recently is to make things so they can’t be upgraded or fixed by the end user. My hats off to Bruce for trusting his buyers to do upgrades and for planning ahead by making the changes be as simple as possible.

    Of course we all know for most other speaker makers, they will void your warranty if anything was touched.
    When you make a product that has the build quality and is made to perform at levels far beyond most comparable models, especially when you know that the chance of burning up drivers or other parts is not part of the equasion, the mention of warranty becomes nothing but words. Taking care of each buyer on a one on one level is more than a warranty, there is a connection directly with the maker that brings a level of assurance in the speaker that cannot be found when dealing with a large company.

    This is also something rarely found in this day and age. Anyone who is looking at buying these speakers for the dole reason of price and performance needs to put all of aspects behind. There cannot be a wife running the show, the fact that there is an unrefined exterior is part of the allure. Wrapping any speaker I’m a sock and hiding everything is the easy way out. I have considered that myself. I’m a firm believer in screws. I have recently become a fan of hot glue to hold electrostatic panels in place.

    When you’re assembling a speaker that uses 14 panels per side you have to be open to things you may have counted out previously. Hot glue has 1 very nice quality in that it is impervious to rattled, it lends a damping at the contact points and is invisible when applied correctly.

    My speakers would not be good for shipping and would never be something I would expect anyone to be able to assemble. That’s another point that Bruce has been able to overcome. These things take time and can end up costing more. It’s rare to find a hand crafted speaker with the emphasis on producing higly accurate sound at a reasonable price. I have about the same cost invested in my speakers plus a few years worth of planning and work.
    I don’t own a set that can compete with mine and I have owned at least 100 pairs of speakers made by the big names of speaker makers.

    I can’t say how loud they go since I wasn’t interested in that end of the rainbow. Realistic levels are easily achieved and sonically true reproduction of any content at any level is what was achieved. There is a slight difference between good recordings and bad recordings as expected but there is a cushion that seems to bring things in a listenable realm. Of course I’m not using the best amps available, wires are left over 12 ga from a competition car stereo build in 1999. At least the wire is actual copper strand, which is almost impossible to find now. My cables are all XLR pure copper strand again the cables were made in the early 1990s and all custom made by myself. Amps all AB analog, output at 4 ohms is 350 watts 2 ohms 700w. Bi-amped 2 way design using an active crossover.

    The blending of the panels with the woofers was the one aspect I did the most testing and I have found that the common way of thinking (sharp slopes and low frequency points) was the one thing that kept the blending to be seamless. I found an overlap of 100Hz aimed directly at a point where both drivers had a drop in attenuation was the target. That point has to be found and not simply chosen arbitrarily by any math or psuedo guessing. Only real-world plots could show that specific point. The best way to accomplish this was to find the rolloff of the panels. Then find woofers that had a drop around that same point. I was lucky and found a combination after testing only about 50 drivers and 100 combinations. It might be easier to study manufacturers plots to try and find the perfect match. That didn’t work in the real world as far as my tests results showed.

    The overlap is under table. The strange thing is I can reverse the polarity of either driver and see no loss or gain, I attribute that to the natural down points not being forced by a sharp slope. I had to use a 3 way active crossover and not use the midband to achieve this. Sometimes the path to success is not the proven one but rather the unexplored.

    Once again, I have much respect for Bruce’s work and the way he has chosen to make a great sounding speaker available at a fraction of the cost of others.!

  15. Ken Schwarz says:

    Thanks for the Great Review!
    I live in the Tampa Florida area, and just bought a pair of LFT 8 somethings, used.

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