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This review first appeared in the February 2007 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement with As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of - Ed.

Reviewer: Jörg Dames
Source: Fonel Simplicité (variable outputs), Audiomeca Obsession II
Amplifier: pre/pro - Bel Canto PRe3/M300, Myryad MXP2000/MXA2150, Funk LAP-2.V2; integrated - Myryad MXI2080
Loudspeaker: Marker Audio Kassiopeia Superieur, Spendor S3/5, Volent Paragon, Sehring 703 SE
Cables: low-level - HMS Sestetto Mk3, Straight Wire Virtuoso, WSS KS1 Silverline; high-level - HMS Fortissimo, HMS Al Cinema, Ortofon SPK 500
Review component retail: €1,200/pr

Welterweight? Since I don't know your name, I won't mention any. Names that is. But you'll agree that hearing any given name prompts spontaneous reactions, sympathetic or not, regardless of whether the name itself is hip and fashionable or perhaps a bit outdated and moldy. What gives? It's probably the various namesakes we've encountered as people throughout the years which trigger our automatic responses to certain names - pleasant and interesting folks or unpleasant dour sorts.

Ditto for brand names. Even though it's nearly 20 years ago when I first crossed paths with a Quadral loudspeaker; and even though I can't recall the precise model (I was, to put it mildly, seriously underwhelmed) - I associate an instinctive impression with the name Quadral. Since then, I've never entertained much curiosity about the firm or its wares. To tip my hat in advance though, it does occur now and then that a name sheds its dross associations and advances to nearly sexy status.

Sexy? Well prior to sonics, today's tester with the long name Quadral Phonologue C Rondo garnered thumbs up for appearance from my girlfriend and various members of our greater circle. Where the enclosure of nearly 11 kilos impresses with mass, the finely manicured round-over edges elicit a certain dose of noblesse. Far less noblesse but rather raw practicality greets one around back where the biwire terminals offer plenty of space for thick cables, thick fingers or both. It makes the business of securing leads anything but a nerve-wrecking fumble. The port above the terminal plate indicates that the Rondo won't fancy getting shoehorned into a bookshelf. Never mind that speakers in this price class usually don't warrant being thus tucked away. Rear-firing ports tend to demand a certain breathing space.

Cosmetically, both the Rondo's transducers distinguish themselves as having been "developed according to pure audiophile standards". Above 3kHz, a ribbon is said to remain active well out to 65kHz which, regardless of the rare youngster hitting a flat 20kHz with her ears, means high rise times, i.e. fast reflexes and an airy character. The membrane of a ribbon is both driver and voice coil, in the Rondo's case a pleated aluminum strip of a mere 12mg mass protected behind a mesh. Nonetheless, I received this alert from Hannover: "Be careful with the membrane. Merely blowing on it can make a mess of things." Thankfully, my kinkier impulses don't include blowing tweeters...

Quadral claims low beaming and good off-axis response for its ribbon to indicate a broader usable sweet spot for companionable sofa fun. Network slopes are of the steeper 3-order or 18dB/octave sort since "shallower filters on ribbons create undesirable bandwidth". While steeper filters incur greater phase rotation, their lesser driver overlap minimizes interference effects and often enables closer listening distances.

The mid/woofer too is Quadral's own and while a 17cm cone at first glance may seem less exciting than a ribbon, it redoubles with a special aluminum, Titanium and Magnesium alloy membrane. That material is dubbed Altima, was first introduced by then developer Berndt Stark for the Aurum6 in 2000 and apparently exhibits excellent impulse response and good self damping. This promises high speed, crisp attacks and avoidance of sonic hardness, the latter often viewed as synonymous with pure aluminum drivers.

Truly, the Rondo is not just another sad bastard spawned from loveless machinations. Not that those would fit Quadral's tagline of "We develop, design and build loudspeaker, nothing else." That's no coy timidity either considering their 30 years of solid business with about 30 employees today. Founded in 1972, this outfit initially focused purely on import and industrial operations until four years later, the first all-Quadral speakers surfaced and with them, concomitant efforts to establish the brand. 1980 caused a big fat exclamation mark in that development when Herr Helmut Schaper's legendary and still current though continuously updated Titan Series launched (its present status is Titan VII).

One could call it solid business acumen meets specialty focus. Hence I was curious as to how the Rondo would carry itself off during a first 4-eared meeting after that long-gone lackluster encounter with an early Quadral specimen. "It's clearer" quipped Sven when in his presence I switched from my 5 times as expensive Sehring 703SE to the Rondo. He meant that the Rondo more clearly transmitted the musical goods. Sven is an old high-school buddy but far from a bona fide hifi enthusiast. Hence I wasn't about to agree with him in such brevity without some additional commentary. Still, the Quadral Phonologue C Rondo seemed unquestionably impressive...

"My voice always had something of the hermaphrodite about it", punned multi-instrumentalist Robert Wyatt during an interview. And that's exactly what initially bothered me about the latest release from this founder of Soft Machine: The widely hyped Comic Opera resembles a 3-act opera of exceedingly fragile soundscapes which float somewhere between Pop, Jazz and occasionally Folk. But some things do improve with age and I merely required repeat spins to finally cotton to the actual depth and variety encoded here.

"On the Town Square" is a pure instrumental and one of the CD's more rhythmic i.e. up-tempo numbers that blend saxophone, guitar, percussion, cornet (a trumpet relative) and the Caribbean steel drum for a quite lively mélange. The Rondo remained unfazed by this relative complexity and dished out a very keen soundstage with good organization, localization sharpness and sufficient aeration to de-correlate the sound of the individual performers in appropriate scale from the boxes for a great first impression. Nothing fell apart on the topic of tonality either. Be it the rather lean bass on this piece, the sax, guitar or metallic and harmonically intense percussion, these two-ways processed the frequency spectrum fed to them seamlessly and perfectly neutral. Grated, "On The Town Square" isn't exactly ultimate bass fare but for such occasions, we naturally keep certain luxury dishes in reserve:

Producer, label owner and disc jockey Laurent Garnier is fully established on the global electrified music scene and I count "City Sphere" and "Forgotten Thoughts" [Unreasonable Behaviour, 2000] among this Frenchman's most interesting numbers - highly varied, intelligently arranged and 'turned on' with rather pitch-black bass runs. The relatively diminutive Rondo surprised with its prowess at conveying the bass-heavy atmosphere of this number into the listening space with commendable scale. Naturally, certain tower speakers deliver more but these Hanoveranians put plenty of meat on the stick to render this type of music with proper involvement factor. This clearly is no bass-anemic ghost. What's more, replay is decidedly tuned for articulation, speed and zero flab from - um, toe to head:

Flawlessly extended to infinity, the treble is a definite winner, not entirely surprising perhaps considering the ribbon technology with its minimal moving mass. True, the upper midrange exhibits a bit of analytical charm but it doesn't default into unpleasantly sharp. Be it John Frusciantes' Omission which suffers a bit from a grainy, two-dimensional recording quality which especially in the treble can broach the objectionable (musically, the solo efforts by the Red Hot Chili Pepper guitarist are highly recommended); or the accompanying sibilants on Calexico's The Ride - nothing tweaked my cochlea in a bad way which particularly for yours truly is most welcome.

It's quite common in the world of music that artists or groups get carried away to following up initial successes with more commercially streamlined offerings. A powerful counter example is Talk Talk. After a few hits in the charts, 1986's Synthie-Pop disc Colour of Spring was followed by Spirit of Eden (1988) and Laughing Stock (1991), two demanding, purely acoustical albums which sadly weren't greeted by much recognition. In the same vein, singer Mark Hollis followed up with his eponymous solo album in 1988.

The title "Inside looking out" comes across as though cut live in the studio, i.e. it's far from tweaked-to-death overdubbing where individual instrumental tracks are layered atop each other. I already mentioned the soundstaging chops of today's review subjects and once again, I felt transported to experience things as they probably looked in the recording location. This illusion of realness includes just the right amount of fine resolution for lip smacks, string squeaks or chair creaks.

Clear regardless of material was that the Quadral Phonologue C Rondo has a penchant for honing in on the very first rise of tones by emphasizing the transient edge. Hence piano sounds more articulated on the impulse elements than the ringing out of the bloom portion; voices lean more to the sober clean than colorful dense side. Acoustic guitars present more string, less wood. Brush taps on the drum rim are cleanly articulated but the typical swirls of the brush across skin move a tick deeper into the background. I first noticed this trait during a lopsided comparison against the above-mentioned far costlier Sehring 703SE (which for its price class plays with good body). Welcome back buddy Sven. Whenever tonal presentation favors the S-focused kind as the Rondo mildly does, it suggests special spaciousness, transparency or actual clarity - which explains why many modern transducers, my Thiel CS 2.4s included, pursue it. Personal taste, that.

I always delight in the occasional sure-fire tip to introduce that or the other underground discovery. Which naturally isn't the Rondo - but only because she's too prominent in the public eye, having been available for far too long already. To not beat around the bush, His Littleness -- moi -- was rather impressed by Quadral's Phonologue C Rondo. From the fit 'n' finish on the one hand to the sonic merits on the other, it's simply surprising what these transducers pack for 1,200 euros a pair. The Rondo truly is a commendable speaker.

If rather than favoring soft-focus sound paintings and gemütlichkeit, you fancy a loudspeaker that's fast, open, direct, neutral and stages spectacularly - then a dealer audition of the Quadral Phonologue C Rondo is mandatory even if you've earmarked a bigger budget. For which, a few suggestions: During your audition, insist on breathing room, at least 50-60cm in the back, more on the sides. The soundstage will surely thank you. In my experience, things will also sound better -- more relaxed -- if toe-in remains mild. Lastly, combine the Rondo with electronics without undue bite or sharpness. The Hanoveranians would pass on such spiked fare without prejudice.

Quadral's Phonologue C Rondo is characterized by:

  • Spectacular soundstaging and precise localization cues.
  • A neutral tonal balance with great top-to-bottom evenness.
  • Sufficient bass quantity and bass quality that impresses with articulation and dryness.
  • Very extended and resolved treble that's blessedly free of the tizzies and sharpness.
  • Seamless coherence.
  • A sonic take that's focused more on the leading edge than the bloom. This speaker is highly resolved and energetic, without however introducing hardness or provoking fatigue.
  • Flawless construction.
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