Quarks — First Listening Impressions

After basic crossover testing I couldn’t resist testing the speakers out with some music…

How to Not Set Up Speakers…

In my previous post I talked about assembling the Quarks crossovers, making sure they fit inside the cabinet with the drivers and binding posts: At this point all the crossover components were inside the cabinets, the binding posts were temporarily installed and everything was hooked up to actually play audio. — So might as well try just that…

However, the speakers are far from finished and cannot be expected to perform as well as they should. — The following picture illustrates this pretty well:

  • The speakers were lying on the floor, facing up, with me standing between them, trying to form something remotely resembling a “stereo triangle”.
  • The tweeter was just sitting in its mounting hole without being pressed in (I need to be able to get it out of the baffle again, to finish the cabinet and baffle…).
  • Since I used alligator clips to connect the woofer to the crossover, the woofer didn’t fit into its cutout anymore at all. I tried to “seal” things with a microfiber cloth, to prevent the acoustic equivalent of a short circuit, without blocking the tweeter. I was semi-successful at best…
  • There is no port tube installed and it would be blocked by the pillow on which the cabinet rests anyways.
  • There is no stuffing inside the speaker
  • The baffle isn’t affixed by anything and there’s wires sticking out on the side.

Disclaimer: Not an Audiophile

I am definitely not an audiophile and I can’t give you descriptions like “the highs are smeared” or “mid bass lacks definition” because I don’t know what the heck that means. I have never owned a pair of speakers that audiophiles would even consider listening to. The only somewhat decent reference that I have are my trusty AKG K240 headphones. — Aside from that I think the best speakers I have ever had access to was what was in my parent’s living room in the mid 80ies…

So let me try, in layman’s terms what I heard and talk about some stuff I listened to:


General Remarks


The most amazing thing I quickly noticed is the way the Quarks reproduce vocals. I have definitely never owned anything before that can render vocals that well and natural sounding. This is absolutely amazing!


String instruments are another thing that sound amazingly good and natural on the Quarks.

Full Orchestra

This is a little bit of a mystery. — Individual instruments sound pretty good, but somehow with large orchestra music something seems to be missing. My guess is that without a port tube, stuffing and the woofer not properly seated in the cabinet the Quarks might not go as low or have some weird frequency response in some range. On the other hand I did hear them produce some pretty low notes which I really didn’t expect given their size.

Music I Listened To

I listened to a random selection of things in my music collection.

Eric Clapton/Tears in Heaven

Well, I did say that vocals and strings sound extremely natural even on the half-finished Quarks. So this was definitely a wow… Like having Eric Clapton in the room, playing his guitar… 😉

Tracy Chapman/Talking About a Revolution

Sounded amazing. Again the vocals were stunning.

Beethoven/Violin Romance No. 2

Well, again, this is string, so it was amazing. While listening to this I initially noticed some strange hiccups that threw me off. Until I realized that I’ve owned this on LP and apparently the LP had a litte scratch when I converted it to MP3. Might be a warning sign to not listen to bad recordings on the Quarks…

Beethoven/Symphony #9, 1st Movement (Opening)

(If you’ve never heard this, you are missing out…)

The first movement of Beethoven’s 9th starts with strings playing descending quints. Sounds amazing. Until the entire orchestra kicks in at which point things start to sound a little — flat? (for lack of better words). Eager to revisit this when the Quarks are actually finished and my Voxel sub is done as well. This was probably aggravated by the fact that I was listening at fairly low volume.

I quickly moved on…

Joe Zawinul/Birdland

Another winner. No vocals here (Manhattan Transfer did a version of Birdland with added lyrics. — If you only know the Manhattan Transfer version, go check out Zawinul’s original…). The Quarks do an amazing job on the opening bass here, even without a sub and percussions sound very crisp.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt/Vivaldi/Le Quattro Stagioni

Meh… — But probably not the Quarks’ fault.

To give you some context: This is unlike every recording of Le Quattro Stagioni that you’ve ever heard. Harnoncourt’s theory is that our way of interpreting “classical” music is heavily colored by the 19th century, and we do a disservice to anything composed before (well, there are no original Mozart recordings, for example). — So the instrumentation and the interpretation is totally different.

Unfortunately I think this might just not be a very good recording (from a technical, not an artistic point of view), so don’t blame the Quarks.


Michael Jackson/Thriller

Overall I liked the sound of it on the Quarks. Again vocals were great and the percussive beat (?) sounds very “crisp”. Definitely foot-tapping…

London Symphony Orchestra/A Whither Shade of Pale

This arrangement of that song for a large orchestra was my “gateway drug” to orchestral music when I was young, so I think I know this recording very well. There is a passage where an organ plays the song’s main theme and there is a counterpoint being played in very low bass. My headphones are completely incapable of rendering that bass counterpoint so I was curious to see whether my half-built Quarks could do it.

Result: To my utter surprise they could. It was barely audible and you might miss it if you don’t know it is there, but it was definitely audible. Looking forward to listening to this on fully assembled Quarks paired with a Voxel. Has been a long time since I heard that…

And Many Others…

I listened to quite a few other artists/recordings (Ulla Meinecke, Udo Lindenberg, highlights from some movie soundtracks and musicals and other things) and the most remarkable thing was the way vocals sound.

Curious to see what things will end up sounding like once the Quarks are fully finished and paired with a Voxel, but even what I heard in this preliminary test definitely had a wow-factor.


I took the crossovers out of the cabinets today, to finish the cabinets. For now the Quarks are silenced again. — The power tool moratorium that prevents progress on the Voxel will end in about a week, when my husband is done with his exam. So it might be a while until I have a chance to hear the Quarks again…

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