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Quadral Vulkan VIII
p2 Sound Quality
p3 Conclusion
p4 Measured Performance
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SOUND QUALITY

 There is no running preface to sound quality because – thankfully – our review samples came run in. We ran them for 24 hours with Monitor Audio’s De-Tox disc and I started listening with our Icon Audio 845 valve monoblock power amplifiers set to 4 Ohms. In this case bass seemed a bit one-note and boofy and not quite right. As there is an input blocking capacitor on the Vulkans this may well need to ‘see’ a low source impedance, which it would not with a valve amplifier. Swapping over to our tight, dry sounding Musical Fidelity AMS50 pure Class A transistor power amplifier largely cured these woes. In our listening room I also found it better to use the Vulkans with bass unit facing outward, rather than inward as in our initial setup. So positioned, and firing straight down the room, is how the Vulkans were reviewed.


Quadral put effort into getting an evenly balanced loudspeaker, a property I greatly value, and the Vulkans follow their philosophy closely. With no peaks or dips or artificial emphases, our measurements show, they sounded deliciously smooth and natural, rare with ribbon equipped loudspeakers whose designers like to raise treble just to demonstrate the arresting properties of ribbon treble units – enormous, speed, detail and incision. Quadral have resisted this, so I found I could enjoy their lovely ribbon unit without having to wince at sonic lances, for ribbon tweeters to can be challenging if too forward. The midrange unit integrates well, with no change of character to mar crossover, and bass has been engineered to be tight and fast, rather than large and obvious. For such a large loudspeaker bass energy was held in strong check; the Vulkans are not Tannoys! Doing this helps the loudspeaker play a bass tune, by keeping slow-to-decay  subsonics in check.

Moving up and down in front of the loudspeaker showed vertical integration very good out at normal listening distances – rather better than dome tweeter loudspeakers. Best ear height was just below the ribbons but the change in sound balance was not great as I moved further up or down. Listening on the central axis of the ribbon unit, meaning high up, did add in the hiss of strong high treble at times, but only from CDs possessing a lot of high frequency content.


The opening drum strike of Angelique Kidjo’s ‘Agolo’ was muted in terms of subsonic content. It came and went quickly, sounding powerful but well damped. There was none of the resonant boom that I often hear from ported loudspeakers. The ribbons set out a wonderfully clear, sharply etched sound stage on which every instrument had a perfectly defined place – a real strength of ribbon tweeters, and one the big Vulkan exploits beautifully. With the ribbons sitting high, 110 cms above the floor, the sound stage has a celestial quality, something I always enjoy. And with plenty of treble bouncing off side walls the stage sounds wide, even though we use big acoustic damping pads on our walls as part of the room’s acoustic treatment. Maracas rang out clearly and fine metallic percussion instruments hung in space beautifully.

Swathes of intricate detail accompanied the backing singers and the layered instruments of Kidjo’s backing band, bringing a lovely busy feel to proceedings. The Vulkans sound clean and distortion free, yet although they move along at a brisk pace, they sound relaxed. Able to resolve strong dynamic contrasts this makes for a loudspeaker that is fleet of foot yet engagingly dynamic too.


Turning volume right up with Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ the Vulkans became wickedly loud but stayed relaxed and clean, nearly blowing me back over the settee. Kick drum was both tightly controlled and powerful too. However, the loudspeakers have a slight boxy thud at times, when pushed hard like this, and here I strongly suspect the big bass cones are letting through box colour, not helped by a nearby baffle behind them. This apart though, bass comes over as tight, dry and powerful, giving the big Vulkans a solid kick. Adele’s vocals were perfectly formed and had all the power expected from them.


Listening to Nigel Kennedy playing Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ brought up an interesting discussion with Rafael Todes, of the Alegri String Quartet. Nigel’s Stradivarius came across as big and solid in nature, smooth and deeply detailed – impressive by any standard. There was not the phasiness so common on dome tweetered rivals, doubtless due to the ribbon tweeter. My only small concern here was that his violin lacked the timbral signature of a wooden bodied instrument, with gut strings; it was a shade too metallic in nature. I was using Eminent Technology LFT-16s as a reference here, for their ability to show that such properties do exist in the recording. Rafael liked the sound of the Vulkans but agreed that there was some “sheen” in the sound as he put it, having owned a Stadivarius like Nigel's for some years. I also learnt, by the way, that the top strings of a violin are metal wrapped to preserve their life, or they wouldn’t last more than 30 minutes. The English Chamber Orchestra sounded large and lush behind Nigel, instruments well differentiated from each other in a clean sweep behind him.

The Vulkans captured the deep, resonant tones of Jackie Leven singing  ‘Desolation Blues’ and made him as large sounding as he was in life. They saw right into this recording, surrounding him with floods of fine detail, as well as cues into the surrounding studio, in a performance that came over as easy, unforced yet powerful. Deep male vocals highlight box colour though and again I became aware of some slight boxiness, almost certainly coming from the big bass unit. It was a relatively minor effect though and unintrusive.



 

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