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This review first appeared in the December 2013 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of Quadral Aurum
in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Quadral - Ed.

Reviewer: Markus Sauer
Heed Obelisk DT & Obelisk DA digital, Garrard 401 with Loricraft plinth, Alphason HR100S arm, Ortofon Windfeld cartridge, Loricraft The Missing Link phono stage analogue
Amplification: Ayre K-5xeMP preamp, Symasym & Ncore power amps
Loudspeakers: JBL LSR 6332, ATC SCM25A
Review component retail: €2'800/pr

Bundle of energy. Active boxes are getting house-broken. Really. Enter Quadral Aurum previously known for their passive speakers and electronics. Now they have two active speaker variants in their top Aurum range.

This review deals with the smaller Aurum Altan aktiv as their first powered take on a popular passive likeness now in its 8th or VIII generation. The Aurum Orkan aktiv tower as the second newcomer is a quasi Altan monitor with two additional dedicated woofers.

Though the gold standard in recording studios for decades, active speakers haven't really met with much luv in hifi. Such negativity is routinely explained away by not being able to morph sonics with speaker cables and amplifiers as two of the voicing games high-enders like to play. Perhaps. I see additional cause in the twinned cables (power and interconnect) which could be less acceptable in a living room and increase opportunities to trip (shy of admittedly still rare wireless solutions like Dynaudio's Xeo models).

Nonetheless, over the past few years more hifi enthusiasts seem to have grown convinced by active virtues especially when they're bundled with built-in DACs and/or preamps. Such bundling enables cost-effective solutions with reduced box clutter. The growing options in this sector surely reflect that. An active newcomer like Quadral Aurum thus must think hard about precise product placement to create a niche. And the Altan aktiv does arrive with an interesting mix of features.

First off there's hifi décor rather than the studio chic competitors like Genelec embrace. Studio standard XLR inputs are paralleled by RCA to support our kind. Internal electronics are purely analog. Many other market options stick to digital feeds which many home users still seem to view with suspicion. An additional appeal for this all-analog approach is that external kit for room correction and such can be upgraded easily without having to replace the speaker. Like most pro boxes the Aurum offers acoustic adaptability to within reason support voicing to personal taste. The chosen input sensitivity embraces older preamps with lower gain than most modern equivalents. In short, first impressions suggested that someone had thought hard about the most desirable features to appeal to both active believers and those who still have to go proactive.

The active Altan borrows optically from the passive Altan VIII. The enclosure looks very similar and is sized identical in fact. The magnetostatic foil tweeter which Quadral have refined to great maturity over many years is the very same too. Even the mid/woofer looks the same though it's technically closer to the dedicated midrange of the top Titan model. Quadral's lead engineer Sascha Reckert enlarged its voice coil for better low bass and beefed up the motor which in passive guise would have driven up the F3 figure beyond real usefulness. Counteracting his ultra powerful magnet's critical increase of inductance is a copper pole cap whose common fringe benefit is greatly reduced distortion. Claimed benefits for the new driver include improved midband nuance and better micro and macro dynamic response. Listening would verify these claims.

Around back one finds the electronics module and heat sink whose real estate has displaced the former bass reflex port to a new narrow slot at the cab's bottom. To show my hand early, even high SPL didn't generate any chuffing from that change. The lower plinth on its short metal stand-offs is purely cosmetic and no acoustic loading feature. I did say that the electronics were purely analog. That was perfectly factual despite 150-watt Hypex class D power modules on the mid/woofers. Contrary to common perception those are analog switching designs without any A/D conversion involved.