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King Sound ‘the King Panel Speaker Review

Doug Schroeder ventures into the world of electrostatic speakers

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Kevin warned me profusely not to let the foam wedges press against the stator screens, which cover the face of the speaker and lie underneath the grills, both front and rear. This was my largest concern, as I understand they can be dented by the foam wedges. Roger confirmed that the ideal method of unpacking is to stand the speakers up and “walk” them out of their boxes. Normally a second set of hands holds the speakers while the bands and foam securing them is removed. I’m 6’ 5” tall, so I could reach waaaay down to the lower half of the speaker to remove the bands while holding it at the top. If you are short, forget doing this alone, get the help necessary. For you taller guys and gals, you’re still in the “solo setup” game.

As I worked to unpack the speakers they were oriented with a wall parallel to and behind them, so that at any time I could lean one or both against it; in this process the speakers remained between the wall and me, allowing no opportunity for a flop. I took the foam inserts out, working from the top downward. The speaker closest to the wall was wrestled against it while I wrestledthe other toward the listening room. In most instances to move these panels alone you must be able to handle holding an 80-pound object away from your body while angling it to pass under doorways, down stairs, etc. Get them near their final position prior to putting the legs on, because with the legs you are twirling a 100-pound slab-like speaker. I laid the panels on their side (one at a time, as the parabolic shaped, smooth trim is very slippery and could slide on carpet causing the speaker to topple if one is not careful), rested them against the wall with a protective cloth over the trim touching the wall, and affixed the feet.

Standing the speaker up to vertical and placing them in final position requires some strength, as you are rotating a large, heavy object at distance from your abdomen. Like the robot in Lost in Space, I had to extend my arms awkwardly and walk with the 100-pound speaker held away from my body.

Thankfully the spikes were already integrated into the stands. There are two configurations for the stands, and I chose to stick with the “double leg” set up as it was more stable and would prevent tipping if I accidentally bumped the speaker while maneuvering around it as I worked on cabling. If you are moving around your gear on a regular basis, I suggest you go for the most stability by using the double leg stand option.

Regal Appearance

Now that it was in place I could get a better look at it. A fine specimen, the King is super-thin, a little over 2 feet wide (28.8”x1.6”x72”), but imposing head on. It reminds me of certain Loony Tunes cartoon characters which were formidable looking, but turned sideways to reveal they were only two-dimensional (Trust me, this is in no way reflective of the sound of the King, merely it’s physical appearance.) I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of room to maneuver in a 13’ wide space; like the Helix, the King would be shoehorned into place. This would be another ideal test of how a dedicated room with proper tuning can make all the difference in the world in what speakers are accommodated. I had been worried when Bill Dudleston waived away my concerns about the Helix. Now, I was doing the same thing to Roger, who worried over the dimensions of the speakers and the room. He wanted me to start by looking at the Prince II, but after hearing of Kevin’s success in a modest sized room I had made up my mind. Since the Helix had worked, I knew the King would work as well. It did work, as well as any speaker I’ve ever used in the space, and in a few respects better than any other. The importance of room tuning was affirmed, while the adage that one cannot use a large speaker in a smaller room continues to be proven false.

Looking directly upon the face of the King one sees the massive black grill nestled between the blond solid natural oak trim sides. An identical gray grill on the back side is interchangeable; a nice touch. I understand additional colors are to be anticipated in the future. The heavy gunmetal gray feet and chrome spikes sit below, not distracting from, the imposing panel pitched backwards at a shallow angle (I will have more to say about the tilt of the speaker later). Removing the grill exposes its modular drivers, with the larger bass panels oriented horizontally to the outside of the speaker and the midrange/treble panels oriented vertically to the inside. King Sound recommends placement of the speakers with the treble panels to the inside. Perforated shiny rectangular black stators encase the Polyester drivers. Flat black metal framework holds the 7 bass units and 5 mid/treble units in position. The appearance is business-like-beehive without the grills, and Scanda-does-large-speaker with the grills; note: It is my habit to remove the front grills of planars, when possible, while retaining the rear grills.

While a man might not be able to get away with having these speakers uncovered in a high profile area of a home, he might just get away with using them fully clothed.

Removing the rear gray grill reveals nothing different about the panel, save for the fact that the screws affixing the panels are on the front. The speaker would look more polished if they were on the back. One has to look to the bottom of the back to see the tidy tunnel-like housing running along the bottom edge in which are housed electronics including the power supply and crossover. Two sets of well marked, sturdy plastic encased binding posts, with standard gold plated jumpers are located on the top of the metal housing. Note: these are parallel, i.e. both bass and treble positive posts are on the right side of the speaker while the negative posts are on the left. Centered in between them is the jack for the 12V/0.15A power supply – otherwise known as a wall wart (sounds wretchedly like Wal-Mart)! This shockingly low cost item supplies power to the stators. A blue LED illuminates to indicate power is present.


Low Power and Nanotech Coatings

After an audio buddy spent two hours of nonstop enjoyment hearing the Kings for the first time, I led him behind the speaker and showed him the “massive power supply” – the dinky wall wart supplied with the speakers. He did a double take, “That!?” He was expecting a robust power cable, as would most people who are familiar with the classic design of an ESL. AC at 110V (in North America) is supplied to the speaker and the voltage has to be jacked up into the thousands of volts, some panels charged with as much as 10,000 Volts. One of the obvious disadvantages of such designs is the danger of excessive excursion of the diaphragm; if it moves too far and contacts the stator it can cause an electrical arc and burn holes in it. Companies have tried to deal with such issues through tweaking the drivers. Martin Logan has used curved panels, while Audiostatic has developed ESL subwoofer panels which allow longer excursions. King Sound has developed its own solution to the limitations of classic ESL design.

While traditional electrostatic speakers require 110V – 220V AC power, King Sound, through the development of a nanotech coating applied to the diaphragm membrane, has successfully and drastically lowered the power requirements for a full range ESL. King’s online discussion of this technology states of the coating that it has, “…strong adhesive properties, which allows the vibrating diaphragm to have lower requirements for energy, faster response, in-phase change with the music signal, and more resolving sound.” Along with the specialty coating on the membrane, the “sounding plates” (or “signal plates”) sandwiching the diaphragm are of a “cell-structure” designed for uniform distribution of conduction area of the static electric field.

The gap between the signal plates and the diaphragm has been closed significantly by the application of a “special surface protection treatment” to both, the result of which is , “…an insulation layer against temperature and humidity, and also acts as a cutoff layer of current and voltage between both…” In other words, the King uses a higher precision device than most ESL panels. The issue with older panels – the arcing of the signal between membrane and signal plates – that was always a concern has been addressed. The gap between the membrane and signal plate has been reduced by 1/3rd! Thus, the excursion, or amplitude of the membrane’s travel is drastically reduced, resulting in a much higher efficiency, lower distortion, and faster response. Having heard many planars utilizing diaphragms several feet long, I can assure you that the King, to my ear, sounds more lithe and quick than any “full sheet” planars, ESL or otherwise, that I have heard.

7 Responses to King Sound ‘the King Panel Speaker Review

  1. Alex says:

    how does it compare to the LFT-8b..

    i’m looking for perfect sound over 300hz 😉

    • Alex,

      Thank you for your comment and your readership. Please describe what speakers you used before and what aspects about them that you find wanting. Secondly, what is your budget? How large is your listening space? What type of music do you listen to?



  2. Alex,
    God’s Peace,

    The King III is far superior in every respect to the LFT-8B. It should be at about 7 times the price. The only area in which you might be able to get the LFT-8B to outdo the King III would be in LF output. But, by that time you would have to drive the LFT 8b to distortion.

    I suggest that when the King III is set up superbly it is capable of close to panel perfection above 300Hz. If you wish to have perfection in horn, dynamic, dynamic hybrid, transmission line, or omnidirectional models you’ll have to look into other speakers.

    Douglas Schroeder

  3. Mike says:

    How would the King III compared to LFT-VI, assuming both are properly powered? I am particularly interested in exceptional reproduction of symphonic sound (i.e., large scale and high density/complexity). Thank you!

  4. Douglas Schroeder says:

    God’s Joy,

    As an owner of a pair of LFT-VI also, I know precisely the answer. The King III walks all over the LFT-VI. The LFT-VI is lovely, but no match for the King III. I do not know of a single parameter of sound that the King III would take a back seat to the older ET design. That is not disparagement of Eminent Technology, for they make a wonderful, affordable speaker. But, it is acknowledgement that you get what you pay for most times, and the King III is a vastly superior transducer. If your concern is saving money, then you might not agree. However, if your concern is seeking the best performance, you would likely agree.

    If i wished I could haul the VI home to compare, but I haven’t done so because it would be a waste of my time. The differential is vast enough that I’m not motivated to spend the time on it.

    Both speakers benefit from additional subwoofers. Be sure to obtain an upgraded power supply, i.e. the VAC Royal Power Supply, for the King III. Also work with power cords, yes, also to the speakers’ power supplies.

    Douglas Schroeder

  5. Mike says:

    Thank you, Douglas. Out of curiosity, how would you compare LFT-VI with LFT-8b? To put it differently, which of the ET models are closer to the King III in terms of overall sound quality? LFT-8b is still currently available, but I do wonder if I should just jump to a higher level. Thanks again!

  6. Douglas Schroeder says:

    God’s Joy
    The LFT-8B is superior, and would be marginally closer to the King III.
    Imo the LFT-8B at the price level is tough to beat, but there are far better panels to be had, at much higher price of course.


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