ESS

ESS logo
  • ESS LABS, LLC
  • 9855 Joe Vargas Way, S. Elmonte, CA 91733
  • Official website
  • rick.caudillo@yahoo.com
  • (626) 443-8324 or 1-888 377-8720
  • (626) 443-8454

Advertisement

Equipment[add model]

ESS manufactures or has manufactured the following equipment (click to expand models list):

Dynamic Speakers
 
Electrostatic Speakers
 
Ribbon Speakers
 
Solid State Amplifiers
 

General information [contribute]

ESS web site (November 13, 2002) The Heil air-motion transformer is the revolutionary midrange-tweeter that, since 1973, has distinguished ESS. loudspeakers from all other speakers in the world. Its principle is simple, yet provides results superior to any other sonic transducer available today.

The Heil diaphragm, made of soft, quiet mylar to reduce background noise, is bonded with conductive aluminum strips. It is equivalent in surface area to a conventional cone type eight inch midrange driver, but is accordion-folded down to a compact one-inch band for better point source dispersion. The low mass diaphragm is suspended in a massive magnet structure concentrating an intense magnetic field around the diaphragm.

When a signal passes through the aluminum strips, the bellows-like motion of the folded "pleats" squeezes air out five times faster then the air motion of a conventional cone driver. The virtual "instant acceleration" provides high definition, crisp transients, and overall spaciousness with superb dynamic range. This type of performance distinguishes the heil from all other transducers.

The Heil air-motion transformer is recognized by the audio industry as the most significant loud-speaker breakthrough of the last half-century and is licensed exclusively to ESS. Once you've heard it, you'll agree that the ESS Heil air-motion transformer indeed delivers "sound as clear as light"

Per Andreasen (November 19, 2002) ESS is short for Electrostatic Sound Systems. ESS made a hybrid using a KEF B-139 bassdriver and a stack of Janzsen tweeters, they were produced in the late 60's early 70's.

Barry Waldron (November 23, 2002) They have not made electrostats in nearly a quarter of a century.

Here is some background on the company. The company was founded in the late 1960s or early '70s in Sacramento, California. "ESS" stood for "E)lectro(S)tatic S)ound" and its first products were indeed hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers. There were various bookshelf and small floor standing models that utilized a Transmission Line woofer and single electrostatic tweeter.

One or more models used the B-139 6" x 9" oval woofer. The tweeter was a single ended oval driver complimenting the shape of the woofer. As I recall, the speakers actually sounded quite good; moreover, the use of a Transmission Line was unique and an ideal match for the tweeter. This combination was not used again, commercially, until the introduction of the InnerSound EROS in 1997. (Audiophile hobbyists began using long Transmission Lines to compliment electrostats in 1977 after the publication of Roger Sanders' first homebuilt speaker project in "The Audio Amateur" magazine.)

As remarkable as these speakers were they did have two major limitations. The first was that the line length was necessarily short that prevented really low bass reproduction. (Subwoofers and bass commodes were not popular for several more years.) Second, the electrostat was limited for use as a tweeter by its single-ended design. (Modern ESLs are push-pull and incorporate a front and rear stator working together, along with a "constant charge" on the diaphragm, to reduce distortion and widen the driver's useful range. A single-ended speaker uses just a backplate ) over which rests a metalized Mylar diaphragm. Because the electrostatic force can only influence and control one side of the diaphragm and its resulting travel, distortion increases as it moves further away from the backplate. It is for this reason that the design is limited to tweeters and is no longer popular. (I find it interesting that some popular ribbon and planar magnetic speakers continue to be manufactured using the s/e design approach.)

My educated guess (not having interviewed company personnel) is that the company recognized these performance restrictions and was looking for ways to improve their products. Enter Dr. Oscar Heil and his amazing A)ir M)otion T)ransformer. This is a driver that uses a pleated diaphragm mounted vertically within a very strong magnetic field and motor structure. The action of the diaphragm is to "wiggle" the pleats and "squeeze" (to use the company's definition) out the sound at high velocity.

The company manufactured a variety of speaker beginning with the popular AMT-1. The AMT drivers were made in different sizes. To the best of my knowledge, ESS was the only licensee of the good doctor's creative genius. As Mr. Willigens noted in his comments, there is also a German licensee perhaps having obtained it through ESS.

During the heyday of the AirMotion Transformer, the most remarkable, yet outrageous development was the Transar (please correct me if I have the model name incorrect). This was a Rube Goldberg device that used a multiple of tiny soft plastic cones mounted vertically, one above the other. Several stacks were attached to the front of a baffle, each driven by carbon fiber rods that connected the many cones together. A voicecoil motor assembly was mounted at the bottom of the assembly. This speaker was a full-range AMT. It never achieved any degree of popularity. If you can find one, it should be preserved as a museum piece.

ESS moved its manufacturing facility several times and went dormant for a few years. The company is back in business and sells its products through company stores on the West Coast and some dealers on the Eastern Seaboard. It is my understanding that they have a sizeable export business.

Also see Heil AMT. They also produce Heil Air Motion Transformers loudspeakers.

Kevin Gong (December 2002): ESS made 4 models back in the early 70's: Transtatic Monitor, Transtatic 1, Translinear, and the ESS 7.

The Transtatic Monitor was a bi-amp system. It used 2 KEF B139 for the low and 9 5"X5" RTR electrostatic panels for the highs. The placement of the 9 electrostatic panels were at the very top of the speaker. The sounds from top of the panels were design to reflect off the ceiling and the sounds from the bottom of the panels were reflected off a cone in the form of a pyramid under the panels. These sounds were to be disbursed all 360 degree around. Crossover was recomented at 800hz. It was listed for about $2000 per pair.

The Transtatic 1 has more then enough information on this web site. It was listed for about $1200 per pair.

I currently own a pair of the Transtatic Monitor which I am using, but I modified the enclosure to the look and design of the Transtatic 1. I also own a pair of the Transtatic 1.

Kevin Gong (December 12, 2002): ESS made 4 models back in the early 70's: Transtatic Monitor, Transtatic 1, Translinear, and the ESS 7.

The Transtatic Monitor was a bi-amp system. It used 2 KEF B139 for the low and 9 5"X5" RTR electrostatic panels for the highs. The placement of the 9 electrostatic panels were at the very top of the speaker. The sounds from top of the panels were design to reflect off the ceiling and the sounds from the bottom of the panels were reflected off a cone in the form of a pyramid under the panels. These sounds were to be disbursed all 360 degree around. Crossover was recomented at 800hz. It was listed for about $2000 per pair.

The Transtatic 1 has more then enough information on this web site. It was listed for about $1200 per pair.

I currently own a pair of the Transtatic Monitor which I am using, but I modified the enclosure to the look and design of the Transtatic 1. I also own a pair of the Transtatic 1.

TAC (February 22, 2009): We, The Audio Circuit, choose to list the Heil Air Motion Speakers under Ribbon speakers. Don May pointed out that in the USA the Heil AMT speakers are not generally regarded as ribbon speakers rather in a class of their own called Heil Air-Motion-Transformers.

The Air Motion Transformer (AMT) is a loudspeaker mechanism, or audio transducer, invented by Dr. Oskar Heil. It operates on a different principle than both electrodynamic and electrostatic speaker drivers. The AMT moves air in an augmented, semi-perpendicular motion using a folded sheet (made of polyethylene, polyester or polyimide), structured around a series of aluminium struts positioned in a high intensity magnetic field.

The AMT was first used in 1970 by ESS (ElectroStatic Sound) a California company based near Sacramento

Ricky Caudillo (March 20, 2009): ESS is back.

>

Hello to all and sorry for the delay. We have been busy setting up our production line we are now in production on the great heil with some new modifications. We have Heil replacement diaphram kits in stock. These are double sided aluminum with mylar as per oskar heils paitant. Parts Express will be our distributor for the Heils in the US.

The Heil Air-Motion transformer uses revolutionary, and unique, technology. ESS Laboratories has been an industry leader since the mid-1970s . ESS is back in business and is proud to announce the introduction of its enhanced ESS-Heil Air-Motion Transformer (AMT). The original air-motion transformer was created by the noted German physicist, Oskar Heil, and his patent was assigned to ESS for production. The technology remains unsurpassed and is state-of-the art. The key to the system is the design of its patented, double-sided diaphragm

davide (December 16, 2012): ess amt 3 rock monitor

Achim Grabow (July 5, 2013): Please send all informations about AMT 1 A Monitor

History[contribute]

Jerry Murray (May 21, 2009): Company Background

American Power & Light, Inc, is a patent research and development company, whose principals have a long history in audio. The ESS Transstatic Model One was an early, 1969, design of the company owner, Stanley Marquiss. Over the years Mr Marquiss has patented several unique and elegant innovations in audio. These innovations are now being offered as the AlixAnne, The Screen and The Linear Actuator Subwoofer.

Loudspeakers in audio have not evolved far beyond the the original 1928 Rice and Kellogg moving coil cone patents. Modern fibre composite materials have made a long overdue revolution in speaker design possible.

American Power & Light, Inc, is dedicated to the music, to being as faithful to the original venue as possible, to giving the listener the highest amount of information density available from the source. From this vantage point, the listener has many more choices in his listening environment.

Source: http://www.americanpowerlight.com/company/Company_History.html

Refurbishing & modifications[contribute]

joseph (January 29, 2011): Having owned the air motion transformer in the past i have been looking for replacements and now they are available. While i bought old units on ebay a few years ago it was nice to see new ones from ESS. I spent a large sum of money on the new heils but the old silver amt pair i bought sound much brighter on the same cabinets. I can only assume they were designed and built with higher standards back then. I swapped out the old diaphragms into the new heils and sure enough the brightness that's missing is from the new diaphragms. Refurbishing speakers is not my forte but i am putting this note in the refurbishing category to let others know that the new diaphragms do not sound very bright compared to the old, so if you come across old diaphragms it's much better to use those for the clarity of your new heils.

davide (December 16, 2012): amt 3

Forum topics on ESS

The following topics regarding ESS in general can be found in the forums. Topics about specific models can be found on the model pages. If you want to start a new topic, click here.