Music Hall cd25.2 Music Hall a25.2 Quad 11L Onkyo T-9 tuner Audioquest Alpha-Snake interconnects No-name 12-gauge speaker wire
The 11Ls just replaced Paradigm Mini Mk3s. A big improvement: I love the Quad's detail, clarity, and pace. So much that I'm contemplating an upgrade to Quad 12Ls (if I can find the old version) or Quad 12L Actives (which I know I can get; the MH a25.2 would serve as a preamp).
My sense is that the system as it stands is well-balanced, and I'm actually very satisfied with what I hear. So I'm trying to decide whether this is an itch I should scratch. My suspicion is that I should stand pat and think about long-range upgrades rather than tinker now, but input would be helpful. I listen to all kinds of music, but Wilco and Radiohead are playing most often. Thanks.
My first thoughts are to suggest Mapleshade HeavyFeet, or Herbies Footers under your CDP and amp. Another thing to consider is upgrading your interconnects and speaker wires to products by Analysis Plus or JPS Labs. Each of these suggestions will bring out the best of what you already have and likely reveal qualities you didn't know were present in your other components. Then you can decide from there whether or to upgrade your speakers.
I owned the 12L2s and really liked them. Sold them to try the active version and regretted it. The actives weren't anywhere near as satisfying as the standard speakers. Also tried the 21L2s but going on memory, I preferred the 12L2s. The L series quads are very good for the money, IMO. BTW, listened to "In Rainbows" last night and "Kid A" (twice) the other night. Great stuff but "The Bends" is my favorite.
I have reviewed the Quad 11L speakers in issue 176 of The Absolute Sound. They are extremely well built, the manufacturer even uses Lyptus for their plywood, a very hard and stable timber from Brazil to make them impervious to vibrations. The bottom line is that your speakers are no slouches by any stretch of the imagination, and are in fact bloody fine music makers. I exercised them with 3 sources (a PDA, EAD T000 + D7000 CD combo, and TEAC Esoteric X-01 Limited CD/SACD player), 2 preamplifiers (ARC LS2-B and ARC Reference 3), and a variety of power cords and interconnects, including Cardas Golden Reference, Audioquest Quartz, AudioQuest Sky, Nordost Blue Heaven. My conclusions were that the more quality you feed into them, the more music the little things are going to give you. . . and do they ever stage well! Before you change anything else, I suggest you may want to play with interconnects and power cords on your entire system. I have become extremely fond lately of the Furutech Evolution series or wires.
I suspect that this far you haven't even scratched the surface of what the Quad 11Ls can give you in music enjoyment! G.
Have the active 11's and they are just too small 12's are better but for cost if you have space go for 21's or 22's if you like sound and want to stay in same line.If you need bookshelves NHT Classic 3's are harder to find now but for a <$1 speaker they rock.Add a good fast sub (for cheap HSU VTF or Aperion 8) and you'd have a great system with way more body.I am interested that Timrhu didn't like actives but you have good electronics so I'd go un-powered if buying 12's.Real Brit sound and very good product as a line.
But I'd also listen if I could to Epos,Totems or if you can swing $1500 Usher Tiny Dancers (used though power might be issue there) if committed to monitors.The one I want to hear is the Zu Tone (and whole line for that matter. Cheers Chazz
Many thanks to all! I'm going to think hard about working on cables, wires, and isolation devices (although I've always been skeptical about spending $100s rather than $10s on wire). Thanks for the suggestions about where to start.
Timru's experience with the 12L actives is helpful; I no longer feel like I'd be missing out if I don't go in that direction. And I like the idea of making the most of what I have. (I'm going to read your review of the 11Ls, Guido. I do love them.)
"The Bends" is my favorite Radiohead as well, Timru, but I've been blown away by the recording quality of "In Rainbows" (and Wilco's new album, too).
I completely agree with Guido, since I have the Quad 21L. I recently upgraded my preamp and you cannot believe what a difference it has made in my system. I believe that the more powerful an amp you give the Quads, the better they will sing - of course with better wires. You can check out the evolution in my system. Before you change the speakers make sure you have a good pair of speaker wires. Try the Signal Cable wires. I am patiently searching for a new power amp. This will happen sometimes in Feb-April 2010.
Have the 11Ls and 12Ls. Have always had tubes on the 11L. Added a class D amp and have been very pleased. Have always loved the musicality of the 11Ls but now they seem much faster as well. 12L are a bit punchier, but you can always add a sub.
Agree with Bob about working with the room, especially placement. Have to disagree about cables, at least until you have basic good quality throughout, and this does not need to coast an arm or a leg if you investigate my suggestions above.
Unfortunately, I'm limited in what I can do with the room. I don't have room for stands, so the speakers are on the same media console as the electronics (and tv). But it is a rigid metal stand, and, while it's not ideal, I don't think it's too bad at my normal listening levels.
Have had a sub hooked up to 12Ls and found them easy to set up. Have a MH25 cd player tubed by Dan Wright, great sound. Missed the speaker cables issue. Would try: Kimber 8tc PNF Symphony Audio Art 5s Could add a substantial improvement in sound for a reasonable price. Match with Kimber Hero or PNF interconnects for more improvement. Audio Advisor has great sound panels for under $100. "Get better Sound" by Jim Smith should help work you through this, also.
Not sure of your budget for a sub but I used (and still use) a James EMB-1000 with the Quads. This sub has been fairly easy to mate with the various speakers I have owned. Especially after I set it on a 2 inch thick maple block. Very clean bass, musical without the muddy boom boom. Look at my system for a pic of the sub. Also skeptical that cable swaps will "dramatically" change your sound. Agree with you on the new Wilco album. haven't listened to it enough to rsnk it among their other albums but it is promising.
Here is a suggestion for isolating your CD player on the same structure as your speakers.
Operating under the assumption that vibration is bad, differentially affects your CD transport and digital components, and that the vibration is coming through the structure of your rack - I would get the largest, hardest and heaviest chunk of hardwood you can find that will fit in your rack under your CDP, a maple chopping block is a good place to start. Place your CDP directly on the block and place the block on several Black Hole sorbothane dots (http://www.tweakshop.com/BlackHolePods.html) between it and your rack. This will isolate your CD player from the rack, give it some extra mass to both resist external vibration and a place for its internally generated vibration to dissipate.
A place to start that has worked very well for me in a rack system that is far from ideal and placed by necessity closer to my speakers than I find ideal. You can experiment with isolating your amp as well using vibrapods or Herbie's footers, but I find my solid state CD player is much more sensitive to vibration than my solid state amp. Tube amps may be a different story...
Thanks for the isolation ideas, Knownothing. I'll start with the cdp.
The James sub is out of my range right now, Timrhu. But it sounds like people have gotten good results adding a sub to the Quads, and there seem to be good options in the $600-750 range (HSU, SVS, REL, maybe Martin Logan Dynamo? and the Aperion 8 is much cheaper). A question for another thread ...
The more I listen to it, the more I like the new Wilco. "Sky Blue Sky" grew on me in the same way (I went from thinking it was nothing special to loving it), and I think this one's even better.
Still thinking about an upgrade, but right now a sub isn't practical--nowhere to put it and two little kids running around the "listening room"--so I'm considering adding a power amp (and using the MH a25.2 as a preamp for now). And I've got a maple cutting board on its way ...
All the responses were really helpful, especially in confirming my feelings about the Quad 11Ls.
I stuck with the Quad 11Ls--and changed everything else! It sounds like your experience with the 11Ls, with different electronics, is pretty similar to mine.
The first thing I did was add a PS Audio A100, which was great, and I tried QED Silver Anniversary bi-wire cables. I also thought hard about a sub, but placement was a problem, and I decided that I was happy with monitors. I also decided that I didn't really want to move to separates, and got good deals on a Naim Nait 5i and CD5i, which I'd been interested in for awhile. So I sold the Music Hall stuff and the PS Audio (and went to DNM cables). I'm really happy with the setup now. I was immediately struck by how much better internet radio (streaming via a Squeezebox) sounds through the Nait, but the clincher was that mediocre recordings I hadn't been able to listen to at all (early Husker Du, for example) now sound great. Naim, at least at the low-end, doesn't do the transparency and soundstaging thing as well as the Music Hall/PS Audio combo, but it has me listening to a lot more music (and listening less to the gear).
In the end, I'm very satisfied with the 11Ls, especially with the current setup. They're fabulous speakers, and work extremely well in my less-than-ideal space (on a console eight inches from the wall). I think I'd have to spend considerably more to improve on them. Feeling settled at home leaves me free to tinker with my cheap office setup.
Ive had 12L 22L and 12Lactive for me active is the way to go. If I can just recommend one HUGE tweak.... difractionbegone pads WILL improve you sound a great deal. I am just a happy customer http://www.diffractionbegone.com/ check out the reviews
This will take your quads to a higher level for way less than $100 believe me
My assessment was that you could not throw enough amplifier at the passive 11/12s to get them anywhere near the actives. The actives @ <$800 are rediculously good and are an off the charts value. However- I do understand that the actives are not going to be everyone's cup of tea especially if you are after a softer/romantic sound.
I also thought that the L2s were better than the Ls but a lot of people, maybe even the majority- prefer the originals.