Against all odds, electrostatic loudspeakers are currently more viable, practical and affordable than they've ever been. True, the box-type, dynamic speaker will forever remain the dominant format, despite the evolution of the flat panel concept, and electrostatics will always need mains power and some sort of bass augmentation - unless you 'go large'. But the Netherlands' Final, being more of the Martin Logan school of ESL design than of the Quad or Sound Labs factions, which unashamedly make big speakers to provide for bass, might have come up with the most welcoming solution yet.
Final - like ML - offers hybrids with conventional woofers, while retaining its preference for tall and thin speakers with small footprints. It is this adherence to compact designs which has led directly to the 0.2 system. It is the culmination of a lot of lateral thinking, in order to make it a speaker which would appeal to a far wider audience than the sort of audiophiles who can afford the floorspace for bigger systems. To do this, the company had to make the main and centre speakers non-hybrids, as the addition of cone woofers ups the girth.
With these new, anorexic panels, Final has made the 0.2 package more appealing from the outset by allowing all five panels to be wall-mounted. Their depth happens to match that of a typical plasma screen - surprise, surprise. But Final has also created a true
That's not all, however, as the Final 0.2 system has one other ace up its sleeve, a development which will leave its electrostatic competition reeling. And why this hasn't happened before (unless it has and I've forgotten...) I'll never know, it's so damned clever. Final has done away with the need for up to five AC outlets and two types of cable - signal AND mains - for each speaker. The trick is a very cool box which looks like a power amp. Instead, of containing amplifiers, it houses the energisers and an audio path, and it takes its power from a single 12V wall wart.
It's this controller which then feeds both the mains for energising the panels and the audio signal down its own dedicated cables. The standard system came with so much of this dedicated cable - with captive attachment to each of the speakers - that I even had extra wire for the rears: out of the box, the rears have 15m of wire, and the three across the from have 5m lengths. If you need more, this can be specified at the point of purchase.
At the back of the unit are two sets of connectors for up to five channel operation: 3.5mm sockets to take the signal from the power amplifier, and non-standard, dedicated three-pin sockets which accept the dedicated leads from the speakers. As the Final control unit sat right next to the Marantz AV-95M multi-channel amp, I needed only 0.5m runs of speaker wire between power amp and controller.
As for the speakers themselves, the system arrived with four primary model 0.2 ESLs measuring 120x20x4cm (HWD); I used the quartet as floorstanders, on their small circular plinths. The centre channel measures only 63x20x4cm (WHD), and it has its own stand, or can be attached to a wall bracket. From there on, there is only one restriction, which will preclude the 0.2 system's use with the most basic of A/V receivers, the ones flourishing in the sub £500 sector: Final recommends 70W or 90W minimum depending on which of the conflicting catalogues you're given, while both agree that the impedance is 4 ohms and the sensitivity 87dB. On the other hand, I find that a bit pessimistic, as I was hardly cranking the Marantz - which I thought was only a 50Wx6 unit - to provide realist levels in a 14x22ft room. So they just might work with all of those budget Yamahas and Onkyos and Denons.
Naturally, panels this small are not going to rattle your teeth with their bass, so the supplied Sub10 subwoofer is mandatory, and its installation can be a bit tricky depending on how your processor or receiver deals with the 0.1 element of a 5.1 system. You need to feed it more than the lowest-frequency effects element of a 5.1 mix, so you will be playing around with both its crossover and level settings - it is recommended that you set the crossover at the maximum point of 300Hz - and you should experiment with all of your A/V processor's set-up variables, e.g. choice of speaker size, internal crossover point or any other fine-tuning options, as well as speaker distance from listener. Fortunately, the Lexicon MC-1 is comprehensively equipped for set-up, so I got a pretty good match.
Inside the Sub10 subwoofer is a 300W amplifier feeding a 10in active aluminium cone woofer and there's also a passive 10in woofer alongside the main driver. At the back are the controls for crossover and level and inputs for mains and left+right or single bass feeds. Final specifies its operation as 28-50Hz fixed and 50-300Hz variable, with a slope of 24dB/octave. The enclosure is a 30cm cube, and there's no grille to protect the aluminium cones, so make use of its size to position it out of harm's way.Read more about the Final 0.2 HTS speaker system's performance on Page 2.