Third generation bookshelf speaker delivers enhanced performance and even greater value for money
Quad announced the 11L Classic, the latest version of its critically acclaimed 11L bookshelf loudspeaker. In terms of both sound quality and value for money, the 11L Classic improves upon the original, trailblazing 11L — released in 2002 and its highly regarded successor, the 11L2. It retains the same compact cabinet size, standing 31cm high, 19cm wide and 24cm deep, but broadens the finish options to deliver an even greater competitive advantage.
In addition to their sonic performance, both the 11L Classic's predecessors earned high praise for the quality of their cabinet finish: real-wood veneers smothered in high-gloss, hand-polished lacquer that set new standards for speakers at the price (just £380 per pair). The new 11L Classic is also available in the same sumptuous lacquered finish, but this time Quad is also giving the option of classic, non-lacquered wood veneers, reducing the price by £50 in the process.
In terms of sound quality, an intensive review of every critical component has resulted in substantial improvements. An uprated motor system has been fitted to the mid/bass unit with its 125mm woven Kevlar cone, resulting in improved linearity and a substantial reduction in midband and bass distortion levels. As a result, the 11L Classic can play at higher volume levels than before, filling rooms far larger than its diminutive cabinet size would suggest with crisp, detailed, fully scaled sound.
The 25mm fabric dome tweeter has also been upgraded, its housing forming a shallow 'horn' or 'waveguide' affixed to the front baffle. This controls the dispersion of the dome to mimic that of the midrange cone through the crossover region. As a result, the crossover becomes almost inaudible in the overlap between the drive units, yielding a coherent, detailed and remarkably lifelike midrange performance in a similar manner to the coherence heard from electrostatic panels.
The crossover has itself been significantly enhanced. A sophisticated yet electrically simple network, it is integrated for both phase and frequency through several octaves either side of the crossover point. The handover of frequencies between the tweeter and mid/bass drive unit is seamless, whilst the maintenance of phase allows a deep and broad soundstage to be created between and around the speakers.
In order to reduce interaction between the physical components of the crossover, each section is placed on its own PCB (Printed Circuit Board) mounted separately within the speaker cabinet. This also enhances the benefits of bi-wiring by allowing star-grounding back to the amplifier. Top-quality components are used throughout, including precision-wound inductors, laminated silicon-iron cores for the bass coils and polypropylene capacitors in the signal path.
The 11L Classic's cabinet construction is critical to its high level of performance. A combination of two different wood materials is used for the carcass of the cabinet to reduce the audibility of resonance and to make the cabinet more opaque to sound. High density chipboard and fibre board are laminated together in a structure that breaks up the resonant modes into multiple mini-modal frequency bands that lack the strong sonic signature experienced by more coherent panels such as MDF.
Interior sound from the mid/bass drive unit is partially absorbed by specially selected long-hair acoustic absorbent lining applied to the cabinet walls. In addition, the random particle structure of the chipboard provides a long and diffuse path for internal sound that tries to escape from the cabinet. The net result is that cabinet coloration is reduced in all its forms, so the listener hears only the drive units, unsullied by the box in which they are mounted.
Twin reflex ports are located at the back of the cabinet, augmenting the speaker's bass response and enabling a physical crossover to the bass unit at 68Hz. The ports are placed on the rear panel to baffle any effects of airflow distortion and midrange leakage. The use of two ports reduces the velocity of the airflow, enabling the speakers to be placed close to a rear wall without acoustic problems arising.
The Quad 11L Classic follows in the tradition of small, monitor-class loudspeakers originally pioneered by the legendary BBC LS3/5a in the mid-1970s. This precedent set new standards for accuracy and midband definition when it was first introduced and is still held in high regard by audiophiles today.
Though clearly benefitting from the latest manufacturing techniques and component technologies, the 11L Classic might be considered the LS3/5a's natural heir. A small monitor loudspeaker has distinct advantages, not only for near-field monitoring, but also for music reproduction in the home. The use of a relatively small mid/bass driver aids integration with the treble unit, delivering an accurate power response both on the forward axis and in the room. As a result, the 11L Classic yields an expansive stereo soundstage that belies the size of the speaker itself, with a wonderfully coherent midband that gives lifelike reproduction of vocals and instruments.
Externally, the 11L Classic is finished to a level befitting high-class furniture, with wood veneers especially chosen for their grain structure, then laid and polished by hand. That alone is rare at the price, but the addition of a deep, lustrous, multi-layer lacquered finish is truly exceptional.
Price and Availability
The lacquered version of the 11L Classic is available in cherry or piano black, priced at £379.95 per pair — the same price as the speaker's two predecessors. The non-lacquered cherry and rosewood finish options are £329.95 per pair. Available late September 2010.
Quad 11L Classic Specifications
- Type: two-way vented box loudspeaker
- Treble unit: 25mm fabric dome
- Mid/bass driver: 125mm woven Kevlar cone
- Frequency response: 48Hz – 22kHz +-3dB
- Nominal impedance: 8 Ohms (minimum 4.2 Ohms)
- Sensitivity: 87dB 1W/1m
- Dimensions (HxWxD): 310 x 190 x 243mm
- Finish options: cherry or rosewood classic veneer; cherry or piano black lacquered veneer