Quad Active Studio Monitors
Please note that currently only the 9L is available – please contact us for other options.
Going ‘Active’ has always been regarded as the ultimate in dynamic (ie box) speaker performance – Both Linn and Meridian have long recognized this fact (the key difference being that Meridian build amps and crossovers within the speaker and go far further with DSP processing and control). Why do we want to go down the active track anyway? First off, there is always some compromise involved in matching amps to speakers – have have amps specifically designed to match would have to sound better (and also be safer). Next we consider the crossover – all conventional speakers have these and this is another area of compromise – by their very nature they consume an amps power and are nowhere near as accurate as you’d like to think – if you could place the crossover before the amplifiers a whole lot of problems simply go away. There is an arena where active speakers are considered the norm and that is within recording studios – especially for monitoring. In this setting you have an absolute need for accuracy. If you have two outwardly identical speakers, one conventional and driven by a competent power amplifier and one Active, the latter will sound considerably better – more dynamic, detailed and extended. Up until now this really wasn’t a comparison you could readily make. And any active options were , on the face of it, quite expensive (but you have to remember that and active speaker includes amplifiers).
The standard Quad 11L is already a best selling entry level speaker for both ourselves and other serious audio stores all around the world – it’s a great wee speaker, generous in sound and beautifully finished. The sound for the money is hard to beat indeed. Now take this well proven speaker, add two amplifiers featuring Quads unique current dumping topology (same as in the 909). 40 watts for the treble and 60 for the bass. Custom engineer an active crossover specifically for this model, add balance and RCA inputs, protection and level control. Plug it in and take about 10 steps back. The results is best described as ‘wicked’. No matter how much amplifier we stick on the end of the standard 11Ls they don’t sound like this – we are talking about serious detail, dynamics and drive with a vice like control of bass. An absolute transformation from and easy going value for money bookshelf speaker to a genuine studio monitor for the most critical and demanding audiophile. All that is reasonably compelling, but what just about floored us was the price. Have Quad made a mistake with their costings? Think about it – what would you expect to pay for any half way decent small speakers AND a power amplifier? Then factor in the effectively perfect matching of 4 mono amps and speakers with a custom active crossover. For just NZ$ 1400 a pair and still with the lustrous lacquer finish that defines Quads L series in either black or a particularly tasty dark silver.
Did we mention they have done the same thing with the next model up – the 12L. As it is there is already a clear improvement between the two passive models – the dollar jump from 11L Active to 12L active is just the same but the performance gain is further magnified.
In terms of set up, the basics are easy to understand – by their very nature, these speakers are designed to go relatively close to walls. You can sit them on shelves, or for the best results, employ well constructed speaker stands. The connection to the preamplifier is by interconnect cable – not speaker cable. And so it is important to use a well shielded cable to avoid interference or hum. As befitting their studio origins, the Quads also feature balanced inputs, for use with better quality systems and complete immunity from noise. (and note that we can use the Perreaux SXL2 line stage buffer to convert from RCA to balanced – this allows you to use long balanced interconnects with no compromise.) You’ll find the Quads have a level control at the back – this is not to control volume on a day to day basis, but to match the Quads output level with that of the source component.
Protection is important when you have a speaker system capable of the levels that the Quads can achieve. Because the amplifiers are matched to the drivers, you have a much greater level of certainty and safety than when you pair passive speaker X with integrated amplifier Y. With Active speakers you know exactly what you are dealing with and can incorporate protection circuitry that doesn’t compromise sound quality and only activates when it is needed. But does so immediately. And with the Quads, the second LED on the front (beside the on light) will tell you when you are approaching this point.
We’ve actually spent the better part of a year with the 12L actives as our main speakers at home (we’ve been moving around a little and the big ESLs are better employed in the shop right now). Over this time we’ve really come to appreciate what they are capable of. They have actually bettered our previous home favs – the Shahinian Arcs – in midrange and top end detail by a good margin. And while the bass is never going to be as deep as a floor stander, it’s easily enough and very, very fast. Our own experiences have prompted us to find ways to really capitalize on the abilities of the Quad Active speakers.
The most obvious place to start is Quads CDP2 up–sampling CD player – the trick with this is that it incorporates a very good volume controlled output – in other words you just have the Active speakers connected directly to your CD player, and control volume via the CD players remote. You can even run additional digital sources in via the CDP2s digital and optical inputs, making the most of its up–sampling DAC. This approach is hugely cost effective – a fully functioning Quad system, with an exceedingly good CD player for NZ$ 3400–NZ$ 3800 depending on options chosen. The alternative of conventional speakers plus power amplifier can’t start to compete at this price level.
The cool little 9L, speakers are not only packed with punch but with useful features – 60 watts, USB DAC and remote control. When we say 'little' these are physically bigger than many of the computer adjuncts out there. And they sound really good – poor sound being the main complaint of 'computer' speakers. Yet the 9L footprint is still suitable for sitting on a desk and there’s the optional table stand too.
The dynamic abilities and small size make the Quads the ideal foil for our iPod – While you could connect directly, this is a bit clumsy and the sound quality out of the headphone jack is compromised. Consider the really cool things you can do with the Quad actives and the Sonos system utilizing the Sonos Zone Player 90. This would give access to the music stored on your computer with sound quality you never would have thought possible. If I were starting from scratch again, this would the kind of system I’d own myself. For under NZ$ 3000 including some high quality cables and speaker stands, you could enjoy a completely modern, high performance system that will go places a conventional CD based, passive speaker system can’t even dream of.
Don’t think that we are just thinking in terms of digital sources – our own home system is resolutely analogue. The Rotel RC15150 preamplifier gives you huge flexibility in terms of control and inputs including a very good phono stage. So you can start with a turntable, say Thorens or Project, run straight into the Rotel and then Quad Actives – again you have a seriously high resolution, supremely capable system for around NZ$ 4,000 complete, with plenty of wiggle room for better cartridge selection, cables etc. Plus you pick up extra inputs and the user friendly remote control. Yes – why not have it all?
Is there a downside with the Quad Active speakers? For a while we thought if a small active speaker was good, why don’t they do an active version of the 22L floor stander. Then the obvious struck us – the Quad L Subwoofer is also active, matches seamlessly and the combination of Active 11Ls and the Subwoofer would always be far more capable. Problem solved. The Actives are a monitor type speaker – this means they are accurate, immediate and controlled. If you are after a inoffensive speaker for easy listening background music, or are looking to compensate for thin sounding sources with a big fat sounding speaker, the Quad Actives are probably not going to be your cup of tea – they are all too exciting for that. However, if you really want to get to right into every recoding, to hear detail and nuance with speed and accuracy, and just generally want to enjoy every CD or record to the fullest, then the Quad Active studio monitors could well be just the speaker you are looking for – even if you started by looking at more conventional systems.
The Active speakers come in two finish choices – a flawless high gloss black, or a dark gloss silver finish that hints of the studio origins but is far more attractive than any ‘professional’ model.
Remember that these speakers do change the rules of system building. You don’t have to worry about matching amplifier power to speakers. Or trying to compliment one designers amplifier sound with another’s idea of how a speaker should sound. You’ll be looking at either direct connection of a volume controlled source like the Quad CDP2, or a preamplifier, which immediately brings you into the range of a better class of component. The simplicity of system choices will allow you to concentrate on what really matters to you. Call or e-mail us to find out more about the Quad Active options.
Quad Active 9L – NZ$ 1,200 the pair, black
Quad Active 11L – NZ$ 1,400 the pair, black or silver
Quad Active 12L – NZ$ 1,800 the pair, black or silver
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