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King Sound ‘the King Panel Speaker Review

Doug Schroeder ventures into the world of electrostatic speakers

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This brings us to one of the most attractive features of the King, “LSESL” or “Line Source Electro Static Speaker” design. LSESL is my own designation for the use of multiple smaller drivers in lieu of an individual, prominent one, what King Sound names the “multi-unit complex”. Line source speakers are gaining popularity in that they provide the punch of dynamic speakers, but avoid the disadvantages associated with larger drivers. There is an engaging quality to line source speakers, however they still have not conquered the deficit between them and larger speakers which can plumb the depths with ease. Part of the appeal of line source speakers is their expansive sound, rather like planars.

The concept of utilizing multiple smaller ESL panels is not unique to King Sound; Quad has been at it for years. It is quite a compelling model, as Quad’s speakers are among the most loved over the past 50 years. Similarly, King has, “…adopted the division and coordination design of the large and small units (drivers),” by computer aided processes. The result is an exquisitely fine tuned, large scale planar sound that strikes the ear as one massive planar element.The coherence between the Mid/Treble and the Bass drivers is nearly flawless, regardless of the fact that some are horizontally oriented and the others vertically.

Imagine how responsive a diaphragm would be which is 1/100th the thickness of a traditional diaphragm! The proportionate weight of the diaphragm material is that of a human hair! Couple the amazing like-air lightness of the membrane, the super-efficiency of the nanotech coating, and the multi-unit complex – no wonder the King stands out in a crowd of panel speakers!

King and the AC Outlet

I chuckled when I read the recommendation in the Manual not to place the King closer than 1 meter (3.3 feet) from the head wall. The length of the wall wart’s lead is about 5 feet; that means you have a whopping additional 2 feet of travel from the minimum distance from the head wall to the end of the power tether. If you are using the supplied wall warts, the speakers must be located where you can get an outlet close to them, unless you want to run an extension cable. One could bring the flimsy power cord from the side wall, which will give you an additional 3.5’ to play with in order to not violate the recommended minimum 1.5’ side wall distance. I’m not sure precisely how King Sound thinks someone with a truly large room will be able to move the speakers a suitable distance from the head and side walls. This may cause some people to secure a longer corded adapter so the speakers don’t sit too close to the walls.

This situation is similar to the ridiculously short cords supplied for cheap recreational motorized air pumps to inflate camping air mattresses and floatation devices. Prior to (in other words, I was smart enough not to get stuck out in the wilderness with an flat air mattress and no means to inflate it) my family’s first camping trip I noticed that the 6’ power cord wouldn’t begin toreach from the car’s cigarette lighter outside the car, across the ground, through the door of the tent and to the mattress inside – about a 20-foot span. I had to splice in a good 15’ length of power cord to extend the pump’s reach. If there’s no outlet near these speakers, you will need to get creative. If it were me and I was in a pinch, I’d be tempted to do the same, splicing in a length of compatible wire to lengthen the reach of the wall wart. I would think this would likely violate the terms of the warranty. However, as is always good policy, I recommend touching base with Performance Devices for solutions prior to conducting your own electrical experiments. But wait, don’t run out for that wire to splice in just yet. We’ve got a different idea coming in the discussion below.

Ever hear of the Tates Compass? It has no needle, so he who has a Tates is lost (“He who hesitates is lost”)! All is not lost if no electric outlets are nearby the location of the speakers, as a rechargeable battery power supply is available – at least, theoretically. After reading a glowing review of the King by Lew Lanese at Stereo Times, who commented on the battery power supply, I was motivated to try it. However, Roger seemed too preoccupied to assist me getting into the battery end of things. He downplayed the significance and suggested I could work up a battery supply for them if I wanted, but he was not carrying them.

I called the local Batteries Plus and found the cost of a compatible 12V7.2ah/20 Hr sealed lead rechargeable battery was $21.99, and a quality charger was $24. So, assuming one wants to go that route and have a twin set of batteries and chargers, the battery setup could be done for about $100. This does not solve the problem of precisely how one attaches the lead for the speakers’ power. I contacted Conde Fung of King’s Audio Ltd. in Hong Kong for that information. I never heard back. What else can I conclude but that King Sound and Performance Devices are not encouraging you to use the battery powered supply (If my email was sucked into a Spam Vortex, my apologies to King’s Audio Ltd.)?


Warts and All…

The King is not a factitious amphibious “fantasy product” that marketing turns into a prince; it authentically has regal DNA. However, the speaker does have some warts – two to be precise – those cheesy looking wall wart power supplies, an obviously inferior part of the design. When I plugged in the panels using the wall warts I felt like I should be powering a rechargeable toy or a cell phone, not a prominent speaker system. I couldn’t help but wonder what was being given up by the use of cheap, disposable power converters. Such anomalies can drive me crazy, as I can’t help but conclude it’s a weak link in the design. However, one simply must accept these things when they are part of a package deal. When push comes to shove, the speaker is so sensational the wall warts are not a “cancel the order” issue.

I’m not an engineer or designer, so I can’t whip up my own recipe for an upgraded power supply. However, I know someone who can! His name is…Kevin Hayes! He is certainly not without options and means; as an owner of the King, he has taken it upon himself to develop a specialty, “VAC-worthy”, power supply! I knew there were excellent reasons for seeking Kevin’s input into this review! His input has gone beyond words, for he built me a set of his custom power supplies. As prototypes, they’re not pretty but they are petite. Machined aluminum boxes about 6”x4”x2”, they each have the necessary 15 Amp IEC socket on one end and about a 1 foot long lead for the speaker’s receptacle on the other. No bells and whistles, just a “get it done” effort. I know that if Kevin determines to market this power supply it will be done up right aesthetically.

I picked Kevin’s brain about the advantages of his power supply. For electrostatic speakers, the power supply needs to influence the quality and amount of polarizing voltage. Variances in the polarizing voltage affect the subjective sound quality. Therefore, the goal of the VAC power supply for the King is to provide clean, unwavering and dynamically stable supply of the optimum voltage. To that end it has been designed as a stabilized, wide bandwidth, high current linear device. It employs high magnetic headroom, large energy supply storage, Class A low feedback stabilization, high speed capacitors, and high quality wire, the same used inside VAC’s best products. Suffice to say it’s built well. And it sounds, well, what-else-would-you-expect. It’s stupendous, like the Renaissance Signature Preamp MkII I’m using!

Kevin, in his understated manner, said, “We find the difference to be quite striking when compared to the OEM supply that comes with the kings…” I concur. He’s on target when he suggests the VAC power supplies helps the King convert the promise of great sound into a reality.

How important are these VAC power supplies? Consider that I would not want to run these speakers without them; in fact, from the first moment they were employed, they have not been separated from the King. If the King speakers are in use, the VAC power supplies are in use. They are so elemental to the best performance of the King that – allow me to play potentate for a moment – I would command owners to purchase them if I could do so. If you are spending $8K for the speakers, cough up the extra and do it right. You will not regret the investment in proper power supplies, especially ones as superbly executed as Kevin’s. I told him to get the product up and running, because when people buy the King they’re going to want to hear what else it can do. People buy stands for speakers. This is a much better and holistic improvement to the already prestigious performance of the King.

My favorite quality that the VAC power supplies add is an elemental, deeper sense to the bass. With ESL’s being challenged in terms of bottom-end, this is a very welcome improvement! I have no clue at this time what the pricing on the power supplies would be; Kevin was unsure initially if he should produce them. I certainly feel he should, as they provide a most agreeable solution to the insipid wall warts. When the owners of the King hear what the power supply does, they will appreciate their speakers all the more; this is a win-win for audiophiles, and for both companies! Oh… remember the shorter wall wart that limited movement of the speakers? With the VAC power supply one can opt for a 2m or 3m 15A power cord to get the proper distance.

(Please consult with King Sound if the use of any third-party power supply will void the warranty on the loudspeaker. –Ed.)

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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