Final Electrostatic Loudspeakers
By Ron Goldberg
While in-wall and on-wall speaker solutions for custom applications have undoubtedly come a long way, audiophiles have often regretted the lack of choices to which they've grown accustomed in free-standing technologies. For many customers, the characteristic "sound" of dipolar, bipolar or electrostatic speakers are the A/V system's selling point, all of which are difficult or impossible to pull off in a wall-mounted application. Final Sound is a Dutch company that has developed a modular line of electrostatic panels designed for on-wall home theater applications. The goal is to bring the unique sonic and aesthetic benefits of this technology into a room-friendly design appropriate for a custom theater.
Final offers several models of electrostatic panels, distinguished by size and application, meaning on-wall or floorstanding. The system reviewed here consists of the Model 100 fronts ($1,990/pr.), which at 28 inches by eight inches and only 1.6 inches deep, are sized to perfectly frame an on-wall plasma TV, as well as the 25-inch Model 200 center channel ($1,199), and the S-200 powered subwoofer ($999), which is cone-driven, rather than electrostatic. For the surrounds, I used an additional pair of Model 100s, but the smaller Model 90s can be used as well. The actual radiating panel is flat, as opposed to curved, which is typical of other electrostatics like Martin Logans. Final believes that this design provides a more symmetrical "push/pull" for the driver, and with it, better sonic dispersion.
One of the traditional caveats to electrostatic technology is that the speakers must be fed with power in order to keep the electrostatic charge. In most cases, this means that each individual speaker has an AC wire, but Final has taken a different approach. The power for the individual electrostatic monitors is provided by a box called the Final Central Unit (FCU), which houses individual power supplies and connections for up to 6 speakers. Final supplies a 30-foot cable with special connectors at each end for the output of each power supply to the input on the speaker panel. The cable is UL approved 16/4, and safe to put inside walls. The obvious advantage to this approach is that you only need one AC outlet to power up to six speakers, plus another for the powered sub, of course.