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Kingsound King III Electrostatic Speaker Review

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How do I know grills are so destructive? I conducted repeated tests with grills on and off with the LFT-8A. When I tested the King III similarly, I was struck by how much worse the speaker sounded with the grills in place. The sound quality had benefitted when I took off the front grill, but I thought the retention of the rear grill might be beneficial. I suspected that if it were removed a large amount of smearing would happen from a secondary wave from the front wall. But when I removed the rear grill it never happened, likely due to the speakers being approximately five feet from the front wall and the corners of my room having been treated with sound panels. Like a projector lens shown against a screen the imaging focused razor sharp. Instinctively, I knew the indistinctness previously heard was the “breakwater,” the grill smashing the perfect wave form!

Now imagine two breakwaters batting sound waves with ever-increasing distortion back and forth. By the time the sound reaches the listening seat you are hearing a smashed wave reinforced by a second, reflected smashed wave. People like smashed-up waves, which is why we go into waves at the ocean and in whirlpools. But smashed up sound waves are not impressive at all compared to an unobstructed sound wave.

It is possible that the effect is radically highlighted with the King III as its diaphragm is much lighter than typical magnetic planars. The sprayed on electro-conductive material on a King III driver diaphragm is vanishingly thin – you can see through it. The diaphragm of the Magneplanar moves like a truck in comparison to the coupe-like swiftness of the King III. With the grill removed, the King III wins the speed and accuracy test easily, which translates into a profoundly moving, vivacious sound.

Over the past several years I have watched as Electrostatic speaker technology has ramped up incrementally until now it has been transformed. Meanwhile magnetic planar technology seems to have hit an immoveable barrier. More powerful magnets and ribbon conductors on the mylar have brought incremental improvement, but in my estimation this has not allowed them to keep up with Electrostatics, especially the King III.

Finally there is MartinLogan, which utilizes a hybrid design and large curved panel array. Both the Magneplanar and MartinLogan rely upon a large sheet diaphragm, which sounds relatively uncontrolled compared to the Line Source grouping of drivers Kings Audio employs. Curving the panel alleviates beaming but also diminishes impact; the ML panel splays the wave while the King III sends it straight ahead. The Summit X has impressive low end only when subwoofers are added, and with their addition introduces the notoriously difficult challenge of mating a larger cone and an ultra-light ESL driver. With the top of the line CLX one has to spend well over $30k for the speaker system to obtain LF (low frequency) extension by addition of outboard subwoofers. To get LF extension such hybrids suffer the consequences, as conical wave launch will never sound the same as panel wave launch. I have the formidable Legacy Audio XTREME HD Subwoofers with 1,000 Watts of Class D amplification, yet I still have to be exquisitely careful, for the slightest overrun on the level of the subs reveals the discontinuity of the cone/ESL driver relationship.

The difficulty is that no matter how good your hybrid woofer is, it won’t have nearly the clarity and transient speed of the panel. One is left with an expression of Electrostatic design which is not fully implemented. In terms of quality of hybrids, my listening experiences lead me to conclude the Sanders Sound Speaker to be more coherent than the Summit X. If not for the King III, I would likely go after the Sander Sound ESL. Another alternative in a search for superior coherence would be the newer, full ribbon Apogee speakers which price out quite a bit higher than the King III.

I am sure I have made many friends in audiophile Panel Land with this frank discussion. However, I don’t see my job as a reviewer primarily to make friends for my own benefit, but rather to tell the technological truth as I see it. Now, I ask those up in arms to calm down, as it is not as though there is nothing untoward about the King III. It has its own issue, which prospective owners will have to settle for themselves. That issue is related to build quality. Those in a huff because I was hard on their Panel favorite, prepare your rocks for throwing.

Kingsound King III Electrostatic Speaker

16 Responses to Kingsound King III Electrostatic Speaker Review

  1. Bob Walters says:

    In addition to being overly long and repetitive, this “review” comes across to me as an unmitigated marketing piece. This is neither reporting nor reviewing — it’s crooning.

    Bias seems to permeate the entire piece. The wall wart is first dreaded, then hailed as a bright design decision, then dismissed in favor of an expensive VAC unit. Reference speakers are trounced without benefit oF audition in the same room or system. Horrid build quality (for devices meant for living rooms and costing as much as an automobile) is lamented then explained away.

    I’m sure that these speakers sound very good, perhaps even better. But this over-the-top exposition, coupled with what I heard from the King II in demos, is tough for me to parse.


  2. Bob,

    God’s Joy to you.
    I don’t know too many marketing plans which call for thorough, unflinching description of a product’s weaknesses. Rather than mask the speaker’s foibles I laid them out in full view and assessed them relative to its overwhelming strength, its sound quality.

    Do not mistake enthusiasm based on performance for bias. I believe you would have a difficult time arguing against my technological reasons for my conclusion.

    I agree with you that the King II was not all that, likely a reason it went away fairly quickly. I also heard it at CES 2011, I believe, and was not overly impressed. It had an integral power supply and crossover similar to the original King; the new external power supply and crossover seems to confer a distinct advantage to the King III. The King II also had one less bass panel than the King III. If you are basing your impressions on what you heard from the King II, be assured the King III is an entirely different experience.

  3. I should add an addendum to the article; I also heard Danny Richie’s efforts at a hybrid mangetic planar at RMAF 2012 and felt it was well executed sonically. I believe the use of smaller multiple magnetic planar drive units, similar to the King III implementation of a Line Source type of array could hold great promise for the magnetic planar technology going forward.

  4. vdorta says:

    To each his own, so thanks to Doug for the great review. I heard the original King years ago and was impressed, so the King II is certainly heavy competition at the price and I can’t imagine how much better the KS-30 would be.

    The Red Wine Audio Black Lightning battery supply ($900) is an alternative to the wall wart + VAC supply, gets the speaker off the grid completely and should sound at least as good as the VAC.


  5. Ant Slappy says:

    No record player or tape unit??? Only CD’s and servers??? Unbelievable!!!!!

  6. Constantine Soo says:


    Thank you for your readership and email. Reviews by Phillip Holmes, Richard Mak, Jack Roberts, Ray Seda, to name a few, are often turntable-related, for they are the vinylphiles. Doug Schroeder’s sole source is digital, so is mine and Ed Momkus’. Therefore, you won’t find insights on analog setups from the last three’s reviews.

    Of course, there are also the unthinkably resourceful, amphibious Dagogoans who have both analog and digital sources, like Richard Austen, Laurence Borden, Fred Crowder, Adam LaBarge and George Papadimitriou. It’s quite a party.

  7. Rob Bertrando says:

    I’ve been waiting to read this review ever since RAMF 2012, when I mentioned to Doug that the King III’s had impressed me, and he proceeded to tell me how they could sound even better (all the details mentioned in the review). There’s no doubt in my mind that of the under $20k speakers at RAMF, the NOLA KO’s and King III’s were the standouts, each in their own (quite different) way. I would have loved to directly (or at least closely) compare the Kings to the Magnepan 20.7, certainly its main competition. Maybe Doug can talk Magnepan into letting him try (they are pretty close to him)?

  8. Rob,
    God’s Joy to you,

    Good to hear from you again!

    I have doubts that Magnepan would wish to send me their flagship speaker in the context of my comments about the inherent weaknesses of their design. I would guess they would be hesitant to have the 20.7 compared directly to the King III. Further, I’m not sure that a 20.7 review would be the best use of my time presently. However, if Magnepan was confident of their speaker and wished me to write it up, I would give it a fair analysis. I would be delighted if they took some of my criticisms and revised the speaker to make it even more performance oriented. Then I would be eager to review it, as I believe the performance would increase substantially.

    Douglas Schroeder

  9. Stephen Fleschler says:

    I did not find a comment concerning listening area width. I have found that ESLs typically have a narrow listening area, sometimes akin to keeping one’s head in a vicelike position. I owned Acoustat Xs, 2+2s, Martin Logan Quest and Monolith IIIs. I have read that the Sanders 10C has a 3 foot wide listening area width. I now listen to Legacy Focus speakers which give me a 9′ to 10′ listening width (it’s a big room). How wide a listening area do the King IIIs have? Thanks.

  10. Stephen,
    God’s Peace to you,

    You have asked a wise question, one which would come into play with most ESL speakers. However, the King III is quite generous in terms of not beaming or being too narrow when it comes to the listening window. I have the speakers directed at me and still have a plentious envelope of sound such that I can turn my head or lean over to speak to another person and have no falling away of the stereo balance, only a slight shift.

    You will note that the treble panels for the King III are quite wide in comparison with ribbons and narrow drivers. Consequently, there is far more forgiveness in terms of the listener’s position relative to the speakers. Regarding the listening area width as you describe it, the King III is rather large, I would say larger than the Legacy Audio Focus speakers. The King III does not suffer from a smallish soundstage at all; on the contrary it is enormous and immensely gratifying! If they were used parallel to the head wall they would yield a giant field of sound. You may lose some of the solidity of the center image if they are used without toe in, so I recommend some to firm up the phantom image in the middle.

    Douglas Schroeder

  11. Satie says:

    Doug, the broader mid/tweet drivers provide more beaming and thus narrower “sweet spot”. Their width is no advantage in this regard. Where the bigger upper range drivers help is in allowing extending the XO down a little, or filling in the lower portion of the driver’s operating range at higher volumes.
    I believe the issue with the superior performance of the King III is that they managed to come up with a better coating that allows the stators to be placed closer without arcing – thus increasing the electrical field and ratio of motive force to moving mass – which they increased also by taking a thinner mylar – which is probably why they had to increase the driver area – since it may have limits in tensile strength at the lower thickness. Can you comment on sensitivity and ultimate bass power?
    Via bracing one can have stronger and more extended bass from the big maggies. The BG Neo 8 array I use for my midrange gives me the good force to mass ratio which is reflected in the sensitivity as well as the detail it can reproduce precisely. It also has the capacity to provide the ear bleed peak SPL I like, at beyond 120 db at the listening seat. The higher SPL is allowed by the greater excursion. The segmented array has very much the benefit you noted relative to the long drivers in getting rid of the annoying plastic sound. For a listener like me, the drawback of even the biggest ESLs is this loss of peak power. If the big events in big music don’t come through, I can’t care much for the details, imaging and ambient field recovery and true tonal balance and texture.

    Completely agree about the grilles needing to be removable on the maggies. There is an issue of taming the ribbon that the cloth does – since it is so much more sensitive than the mids. And there is the WAF issue with the raw maggie drivers looking downright ugly.

    I should note that at the moving mass includes the obstructed air in the gap, which is a limitation on how much of a difference the absolute mass/area of the diaphragm can make. It is interesting that the gap is narrow enough and the stators open enough so that halving the thickness of the mylar can make that much of a difference. I wonder what can be done with a graphite conductor on the diaphragm in a rare earth magnet’s strong field. Perhaps for once the current carrying capacity of the graphite would be sufficient to produce reasonable output with the reduced mass. Probably not, since the graphite is 300 times more resistive than Al, while the neodymium magnet is only 10 times stronger.

  12. silvano says:

    It is true that the electrostatic diaphragm has a lower mass, and therefore a lower inertia, of the diaphragm of a Eminent VI or a Magneplanar, but should be considered which amplifier is used. With a fast transistor instead of a slower valve, the gap is significantly reduced.


  13. John Horan says:


    Since I stopped publishing the Sensible Sound magazine in 2008 I have been fine with speakers. However, the itch returns and I thought back to the speakers that most pleased me toward the end of the magazine’s 32 year run: The original “Kings” as heard at the 2006 CES.

    The haphazard King demo was musically the best of the show, and they have been in a back corner of my mind ever since.

    An internet search brought me to your review. The editor in me want to help (everyone needs an editor), but my music lover part says thank you.

  14. MrAcoustat says:

    I have been with Acoustat speakers since 1984 i heard the Kingsound speakers in a show in Montreal a few years back and i also have a friend that own’s a pair they are great speakers but like many say ( reliability ) will they last ????? in over 30 years with my Acoustats i never had a problem just plenty of mods mods mods they keep on getting better and better Acoustat as been out of the picture ( USA models ) for more than 20 years i for one WELCOME Kingsound they are true full range stats.

  15. Hank Bakker says:

    Having enjoyed Doug Schroeder’s many reviews for Dagogo over the years and sharing a pair of Kingsound King II electrostatics, I was interested to hear if Doug has ever pursued the active crossover route for his Kings.

    Unfortunately I haven’t had any success with either the manufacturer or the USA distributor, with my queries being given the usual patronising response.

    Best Regards,

    Hank Bakker
    Melbourne Australia

  16. Hank,
    God’s Joy to you,
    No, I have not pursued active x-overs for the King. There are a few reasons; I do not have the requisite knowledge to built my own filters, thus it would take another party (who likely wouldn’t do so for free) to be the software guru for the x-over. I also would have to secure the proper hardware, and, frankly, I only have so much time to devote to that if it’s going to be used with a speaker which might see 25% of play time in my systems. I can’t blame Kingsound for being hesitant to go that direction, as electrostatic speakers are tough enough to sell to the public, let alone pushing for an active system. Finally, I have to work with equipment the public can actually obtain, not such esoteric pieces that it bears no similarity to what they could expect to hear. If I customize everything to the point that the sound is not representative of the stock unit, then my review loses some of it’s applicability to the community.

    For such reasons I am content to use an upgraded power supply (VAC Royal Power Supply) to the stock King’s power supply, and work with cabling.

    Douglas Schroeder

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