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Eminent Technology LFT-8b Floorstanding Speaker Review

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Straight line wind is every bit as powerful as a tornado, only spread over a wider area. Similarly, the more “spread out” form of planar sound is no less gripping or moving to me. If you crank these speakers up, you’ll get presence a’plenty. It’s just the sonic equivalent of a wall of water hitting you, not a fire hose.


Maggievandy Emerging

Two of the most popular speakers in the under $2k category are the Maggie 1.6’s and the ever popular Vandersteen 2CE. Having owned both in the past, I have appreciated their virtues and value. They are contenders for the poor man’s Holy Grail of audio, since they have so much quality with a reasonable price tag. The 1.6’s sport large soundstage and coherency, while the Vandy’s bring a palpable bass and smooth non-fatiguing sound. Having spent extensive time with both, I often pined for a speaker which could combine their merits. I never thought such speaker existed…until the LFT-8A (And Oh, so much more the LFT-8B!). What a magical thing it was when I heard it!

After searching for that particular sound for almost a decade, I finally heard what my mind had pieced together as the sonic melding of the “MaggieVandy” speaker. The epiphany came though the Rega Saturn as transport into Monarchy Audio M24 DAC and the Monarchy SM70Pro mono block amps (Yeah, I know, the 70 watt ones). That was the ticket – the E.T.’s in that moment became the “MaggieVandy” I had dreamed of. I have spent a lot of time with E.T.’s. and had not heard the ideal blend I sought. But with the particular synergy of these components I realized Bruce had done it, made a speaker combining the best characteristics of Maggies and Vandys. This is what I heard:

*Excellent bass, midrange, treble integration
*Smooth highs, non-fatiguing like the Vandy
*Sweeping orchestral presentation in a large sound field like a Maggie
*Unexpectedly focused treble with only a glint of edge
*Strong bass without bloat

LFT-8B Comment 7: I recreated this rig with the 8B’s and my feeling of the E.T.’s being “MaggyVandies” was strengthened. The LFT’s meld the best of both into a very desirable package. Confirmation came from my audiophile friend, Dave, who sat listening to a similar setup (with the Rogue Perseus replacing the M24) and who is heavily into vinyl. Our intent was to move out the E.T.’s to listen to a prodigiously large pair of review speakers that had just come in. However, I suggested he hear the improved E.T.’s as he had experience with the originals. We never moved them. We sat for three hours satisfied with the sound and his comment repeatedly was, “This is nice sound!” With the new tweeters they softened and were uncannily like better dynamic speakers in the high-end!

LFT-8A treble is a curious thing. In the past I had heard it sound edgy when I used lower-end products as source and transport. Recently, it’s been more subdued with tubed equipment and a change in cabling. The speaker sports three settings for the tweeter: “High” setting has the tweeter flat at 20 kHz, “Mid” is down 3 dB at 20 kHz, and “Low” is down 6 dB at 20 kHz. The tweeter attenuation switch allows one to augment or diminish the high frequencies. I found myself continuously circling back to the mid setting, the high setting being too strident. Between cable selection and these settings most audiophile’s preference for treble can be accommodated.

One of the very few criticisms of the LFT-8A’s is that they have a rolled-off high-end. Bruce acknowledged that the tweeters are -3dB at 20 kHz and -10dB at 36 kHz. Over the years some users have wanted more extended treble. Some dome tweeters have a sweeter, less terse sound than the E.T. tweeter, but this distinction is not detrimental to the enjoyment of the LFT-8A. I certainly felt the upper-end of the speaker was every bit as good, if not better, than the Magnepan 1.6.

LFT-8B Comment 8: The new tweeter on the B version is according to Bruce, “…almost flat to 50 kHz.” This is superb news for individuals who love economical magnetic planar speakers, but have been less than enthused about the treble!

A bit of tweakery can make a meaningful contribution to the enjoyment of the upper frequencies. Initially I listened with both the front and rear sets of grills removed from the planar elements. I was hearing indistinctness to the treble which wasn’t corrected by moving the tweeter attenuation switch to the high position. In the past I have heard the improvement in clarity that removal of grills brings especially to the higher frequencies. I speculated that the addition of the grills to the back would diffuse the rear, reflected waves better and allow for a cleaner primary wave front. The aesthetic bonus was that blacking out the see-through spaces of the panel made the speaker look far better, like a gigantic novelty circuit board.

Sonically, it was an improvement as resolution increased while yielding a hint more delicacy. My wife enjoys Kate Bush, so we spent an evening hearing The Hounds of Love. On “Running Up that Hill”, we got a kick out of the clarity such that one could hear her British enunciation, “…make a deal with Gode..” The deal was that she, as well as the Cocteau Twins (another of my wife’s favorites), was listenable. Not as much “hissy-tissy” happening in the high-end.

LFT-8B Comment 9: Here, dear reader, is where I hope this review gets interesting. I find it uncanny that I was trying to tweak the speakers to correct what I heard as a deficiency, not knowing that Bruce Thigpen had seemingly been addressing similar aspects of the tweeter. I knew nothing of the new tweeters prior to laying eyes on them. I was content to open first and ask questions later. I discovered several small but cumulatively important changes.

While the actual driver element had remained identical, nearly everything else about the tweeter had changed. The dual magnet array, now neodymium, had shrunk in size, allowing approximately twice the width of the ribbon to be exposed. The ribbon previously floated in an open front/back configuration, now it was nestled in a completely closed back housing. Further, a white material not unlike the looped fabric portion of a Velcro fastener had been placed directly behind the Mylar driver, which according to Bruce, “…loaded the tweeter diaphragm.” All else to the eye remained the same. The crossover was not altered.

These are not inconsequential changes, as the tweeter is no longer rear firing, has been damped substantially, and has double the radiating area. In effect, Bruce has changed what I was attempting to improve through positioning and use of the grills. My futzing could not begin to accomplish what the new tweeter does. While the housing has been rearranged, the identical ribbon element sounds much more relaxed, fluid, effortless and tactile. Bruce has successfully kept the lightning speed of the Mylar driver without the metallic snap sound of the typical planar tweeter. As you follow the original review below, you will see my suggestion to use tubes in the amplification, “…a warm sounding amplification scheme.” This recommendation was to keep from exacerbating the emphasis in treble. The newer tweeter fairly eliminates the need for such measures.

Vacuum Tube On ET

Regarding the mid to upper response of the LFT-8A’s, I strongly urge the prospective owner to consider a warm-sounding amplification scheme. A tube line stage would be an excellent choice. With all solid-state gear, it becomes much more difficult to make the ET’s completely non-fatiguing. It would not be a mistake to go all tubed with the ET’s providing one has enough power to do them justice. If you can’t afford massive tube watts, then reserve the power amp as solid-state.

In my experience with the LFT-8A’s, stranded cabling such as Jena Labs has tended to veil the speaker more while solid-core conductors have brought out more detail – and more edge. The MIT series of cables had the effect of making the E.T.’s sound closer to dynamic speakers in terms of intensity and clarity. I thoroughly enjoyed the Pathos Classic One’s in bridged mode with the MIT AVt MA cabling.

LFT-8B Comment 10: With the improvement of the tweeter I would not hesitate to recommend revealing speaker cables. I have recently added additional MIT cabling and power conditioning products to my system, which bring out yet more detail. The 8B’s have responded positively to this change.

The decision to purchase a planar speaker when you have not heard one can be tantalizing. The planar mystique, like mythical Sirens, lures you until it can no longer be resisted. Go ahead, give in. The sound of the E.T.’s is alluring and they have the capacity to captivate you for countless hours. Earlier I commented that at the paltry price of $1,499 one may not get more for their money in any speaker purchase under the sun. Not only does that sound like a concluding line for a review, it’s the truth.

LFT-8B Comment 11: Ok, so it turned out not to be the concluding line. Here’s another bit of truth; the enjoyment of the upgraded speaker has broken yet another threshold. The speaker sounds like it’s been redesigned and should be jacked up $1k, not four hundred bucks. It sounds richer, more involving and more sensual than I thought a magnetic planar design could.

I was in St. Louis a while back, when I had my stacked E.T.’s running, and took in a system sporting T&A components and Martin Logan Summit speakers. I recall returning home to my stacked E.T.’s and thinking the Summits had an edge on the “Gossamer Effect,” that butterfly light quickness and airiness of the treble. Now, hearing the advance in the E.T.’s, it took me right back to that same Gossamer feeling – lighter than air delicacy and ephemeral ease. I’ll say this, with the upper-end treatment the 8B received, it should now be considered a speaker capable of performance more in the league of the Magnepan 3.6 than the 1.6. You may say, “It’s no Maggie 3.6,” to which I reply, “Maybe not, but with this upgrade it’s the better part of a 3.6 at only 43% of the price!”

For all you E.T. lovers out there, this upgrade IS mandatory, that is if for a very affordable $400, you want to juice the performance of your LFT-8’s well beyond what you thought was possible. I believe the percentage of individuals who do the upgrade and yet be dissatisfied would hover around the .00003% mark. I can’t conceive of someone not being enthralled by it.

I remember learning a principle as a young man: Be quick to admit your mistakes. That advice has been a blessing over time. I didn’t think it would apply so directly to component selection. However, in this particular case I am elated that I relented and “remarried” the LFT-8A. I got a bonus, too; with her makeover to become LFT-8B, she’s turned into quite the “hottie!”

Manufacturer’s Comment:

I wanted to thank Doug for putting in the effort to write this thorough review and then take additional time to supplement the review to add the updated tweeter which appeared during his tenure with the speakers.
We do still try to keep Sound Anchor stands in stock for the LFT-8b’s and can ship them directly to dealers or customers. The retail price of the LFT-8b with the stands should be about $2100.00.

If a woofer dust dome gets damaged it would be best to replace the driver. Unfortunately the dust dome on the LFT-8 woofer could not be pushed out from the back side of the speaker. In this driver there is a mass loading “puck” glued underneath the dust dome. Even though there is a vented pole piece, the backside of the dust dome cannot be seen through the vent because of the presence of the puck.

I also wanted to thank Constantine for publishing the review and for creating a very informative site for those interested in audio.

Bruce Thigpen
Eminent Technology

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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