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Quad 2812 electrostatic speaker Review

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The 45rpm record set of Alan Parson’s Project I Robot, another MOFI re-release, also demonstrated exemplary performance as delivered by the Quad ESL. The vast and spacious soundstage was meticulously filled with distinct instrument dimensionality and expeditious transients, resembling the Magnepan in its expeditious reaction time, while reminded me of how the Tannoy flushed out instrument tonality via its incomparable dual-concentric 15-inch.

Whereas my focus had always been on the faithful reproduction of solo classical piano and the symphony orchestra, the Quad’s expeditious dynamic transient juxtaposed a duality in personality, rendering scale of the piano and the full orchestra satisfactorily while preserving the dynamics of the jazz quintet. For $12k the pair, the Quad 2812 is a considerably more viable choice in a standard family room than the Tannoy behemoths.

The company’s website also offers the anecdote that its ESL series “reproduces a sound which is indistinguishable between hearing a pair of loudspeakers and having the performers right there in front of you.” The last point merits explorations.

There is the classical concertgoer that sits on the 2nd floor balcony and takes all the sights and sounds of the night’s performance in. The vantage point produced by the Quad was low, as if the listener was on the 2nd floor balcony of the Symphony Hall or the Opera House where the orchestra plays from the pit before the stage. Sound did rise up to considerable height as far as the nature of sound propagation goes but the overall stage perspective was a lowered one.

Whether having the performers right there in front of you is a good or bad thing is not as important as the sensible and more enjoyable perception of the originating point of the performance in real space. Were I to prefer experiencing Metallica playing in my own living room, I would choose the Tannoy Westminster Royal SE that I owned, a sound that attendees of the 2015 California Audio Show experienced in a large ballroom of two 98dB per-watt-at-a-meter sensitive dual-concentric behemoths as driven then by the Pass Labs XA100.5 monoblocks.

The Quad is comparatively limited in terms of colossal output. A 90dB decibel level is attainable for the Quad but compression begins to set in incrementally. The Quad’s aforementioned point-source capability, therefore, does not lend itself to excessive loudness but judicious enjoyment. There is nay a speaker I know of, capable of such extended frequency range and instrument dimensionality in such economical physique. At medium listening level, the tonal realism of instruments was so remarkable that blasting it would’ve disrupted the intricate experiencing process. The Quad ESL’s lower horizontal stance also delineated a lower soundstage from normal listening positions, hence the 2nd floor Balcony seat’s perspective. I can see the reason people stacked their older Quads.

After the Quad came the $30k TAD Evolution One and what an adjustment I had to make.

I missed the 2nd Floor Balcony illusion of the Quad, now being thrown back onto the same plain as the orchestra. I wouldn’t need to let the Quad leave if I were not planning on reviewing more speakers. In the end, the Quad 2812 was proven to make music very listenable, regardless if the source was digital or analog. As such, the Quad may not be the most precise reviewing tool. However, I have now found a $12,000 loudspeaker system that I can recommend to our readers in the Quad 2812. I have been down the path of euphoria for a good decade and decided that resolution and detail is more fun. For the Quad 2812, however, I will gladly make an exception.

Whether one will like the Quad or not depends considerably on his previous experiences. If a reader comes from a lifetime of listening to highly dynamic horn speakers, he will likely find the Quad lacking in that department. However, if one hails from dual-concentric or coaxial listening and prefers phase and tonal coherence over loudness, then the Quad will be perfect. The one aspect of the Quad that no other speaker, British or not, can approach, is the composed presentation it effectuates, from the very real-life vantage point of the 2nd floor balcony no less. Epical scale of music is not as easy to recreate as a sound simmered into a tingling whole. The Quad 2812 is such a speaker.

The Quad 2812 assimilated this listener’s sensibility and sense of reality not for the worse. I was in no hurry replacing them with other speakers as I marveled at the Quad method every time I played them. Truth be told that I was getting uneasy about having to review other speakers afterwards.


Copy editor: Dan Rubin

2 Responses to Quad 2812 electrostatic speaker Review

  1. William Juch says:

    You should have reviewed the Sound Lab U-4iA (now U-545) with the same ancillary equipment. The SL deserves the best and it reveals subtle difference among equipment like no other speaker I have ever had. A compare and contrast from you would have been useful. The Sound Lab does not run out of gas like the QUAD, for example. Perhaps you could request a sample, do a listen yourself, and publish your impressions?

    • Dear William,

      Thank you for your readership and suggestion. The Sound Lab U-4ai or U-545 has been reviewed by senior reviewer Doug Schroeder in January, 2017:

      Nonetheless, regarding the performance aspects of the Quad 2812, I’m sure some will consider its uniqueness more favorably than other readers. “Running out of gas” is a characterization that points to: 1. a mismatch between the speakers and the listener’s preference, and 2. a subjective contrast between two products of differing performance parameters. While I’m sure my assessment and criticism of the Quad 2812 may not be as relevant to those who swear by them, expecting a product to perform in any way counter to the intent of its design is counter-productive. Just my two cents.


      Constantine Soo

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