Most people with an interest in home theater know or have at least heard of Ken Kreisel. Until recently I myself actually hadn't, despite being involved with multichannel gear for almost 20 years. Embarassing? A little. Especially now that I know more about him. Some say Ken is a ‘legend’ in the industry and reading up on the man I understand what they mean by that. The Quattro series, introduced in 2013, is his first official collection of speakers while his subwoofers have been around a while. The line-up is rather flexible and can be tailored to individual needs, budgets and rooms with an assortment of fully voice-matched models. My own system reviewed here is a traditional 5.1 configuration in high-gloss black piano lacquer finish.
The speakers have been in my possession some 3 months at the time of writing. I’ve been using two different multichannel separates systems to drive them; firstly a set by NuForce (AVP-18 with MCH-300SEC7) and now recently by Primare (SP33 with A30.7). Two downscaled systems that focus on signal purity and performance fidelity over gadgets and features. No excessive post-processing or EQ have been used other than straight decoding and D/A conversion for a ‘direct’ audio path. I much prefer the transparency of an unaltered signal simply because I think it often sounds best. My room is measured approx 4x5 meters and untreated as far as acoustic panels are concerned (will soon be added). Despite this my room is fairly well-damped with thick rug, curtains and soft furnishings. The speakers took a while to break-in (the subwoofer in particular), about a week or so of continuous playback. Like most speakers the Quattro’s simply need to loosen up until they come into their own and perform as they should. Cut-off frequency is set to 80Hz for all channels. Distances meticulously measured and levels manually calibrated with a sound pressure level meter.
I think the Quattro speakers have a striking look both eye-catching and discreet at the same time. They are fairly compact creations and easy to accommodate. Build quality is high and their weight alone lets you know they mean business. The cabinets are virtually ‘dead’ which is always a good sign. The four tweeters (hence the name; Quattro) undeniably make these speakers stand out, not just in terms of performance but how they look. Since I didn’t want to use the provided metallic grills I thought this odd tweeter arrangement would be a distraction but that concern quickly flew out the window as soon as I installed them. Fact is the tweeters make the speakers look really cool. The high-gloss piano lacquer finish make for a luxurious visual treat but is also highly reflective and prone to dust and fingerprints. Good thing Mr Kreisel saw fit to provide soft white gloves with each speaker - excellent for when you need to handle them and move them around. A nice touch. Worth mentioning is also the sturdy double-box packaging the speakers are delivered in. A serious approach evokes confidence.
Q125 Front L/R
Every Quattro speaker have a purposeful angle of the cabinet intended to aim the drivers directly at the listener. This is meant to reduce reflections from room boundaries and minimize need for toe-in. It’s important to place the Q125 Fronts correctly as there are specific Left and Right versions. The speakers can be wall-mounted but really come into their own when placed on the dedicated floor stand that match the speakers visually. The stand is very heavy and provide sturdy foundation for the speakers, which in turn are bolted to the stand. Adjustable fixings on the back hold speaker cables in place. The supplied rubber feet underneath the bottom plate were a tad pathetic and quickly replaced with flat self-adheasive Soundcare SuperSpikes. This made the assembled speaker considerably easier to move around and improved overall focus and timing of the sound (like most well-made spikes often do). The cable terminals are angled upwards which can make installation using banana plugs troublesome while spades work fine. After e-mailing Ken for support he recommended using bare wire so I ended up doing exactly that. The terminals lock on to bare wire quite well. As I'm writing this I have yet to test bi-wire or bi-amping but I understand that every Quattro speaker, apart from the TriFX model, offer this possibility.
There is a dedicated center speaker in the line-up which is essentially a Front R speaker flipped horizontally on a table base that is partially screwed into the cabinet. I didn’t like the look of that solution however and the downward angle of that particular version proved negative in my installation. Since my center speaker must be placed underneath the TV and lower than that of the Front L/R the angle of the center need to be upwards, not downwards or pointing straight forward like the dedicated center is restricted to. You could ignore the table base and screw the arrangement off and flip the speaker over but that would reveal the screw holes. Instead I chose a separate Front L speaker that I simply flipped with the angle pointing upwards towards me. This gave an improved perception of dialogue and better cohesion in the front soundstage. The speakers are equal and sound the same so this option works equally well. It’s simply the angle one needs to think about depending on the installation. Sadly not every region seem able to purchase a Q125 Front separately. Here I also use the same Soundcare SuperSpikes mentioned earlier.
Q125 TriFX Surrounds
I initially had a second pair of the Q125 Fronts stationed also in the rear, creating a system with identical speakers all-round. Normally that arrangement can work great but those speakers clearly did not belong in the rear dealing with surround duties so the TriFX eventually took their place. These speakers are smaller and of a different design than the front speakers, yet there’s no shortage of drivers. This model is essentially a tripole with midrange drivers on each side of the cabinet. There are multiple ways of using this speaker to control how it radiates the sound. Just as the Front L/R the TriFX are specifically intended as Left and Right. The purposeful angle of the cabinet is intended to direct the drivers directly at you when wall-mounted on each side of the listening position, or behind it. In my room I sadly could not do either so I had to place them ontop of speaker stands. Due to room limitations this was an unfortunate compromise I had no choice but to accept. Even though I picked the tallest stand I could find (that also looked the part) the speakers are still placed too low. I wish Ken would have constructed a nice floor stand to accommodate the TriFX (perhaps one that was height adjustable) but sadly he did not. For the tripole surround effect to reach it’s full potential these speakers also need walls to bounce the side-radiated effects off of. In my room there is no wall directly to the left (open-type architecture apartment). Still, the surround sound works so TriFX seem a rather forgiving speaker. Placed according to Ken’s recommendations I reckon more can be had from these though, provided one has the ‘right’ room - something rather rare in modern apartment buildings.
The DXD-12012 is currently the biggest subwoofer in Ken’s line-up, featuring a dual 12” woofer arrangement. I initially opted for the smaller DXD-808 but because I crave bass and wanted to be set for the future I ended up with the bigger brother. Plenty of in-depth information and reviews can be found online covering the technical aspects of these babies, including the upgrade option of having 2 or 4 of them stacked ontop of each other (!). This supposedly yields an improved end-result as I understand it. Ken calls it “DUO” or “QUATTRO” stacks. I have yet to experience that type of arrangement but can confidently say I don’t lack bass with just the one unit. This is a big and clunky subwoofer, for sure, but surprisingly easy to handle. They are designed to be placed directly in a corner which was perfect for me as the only area where I can actually house a subwoofer is in the front right corner of my rather smallish room. The build of the unit is a mixed affair with piano lacquer sides and the rest in standard black MDF. I think it works though and matches the other speakes nicely. The backside is well thought-out and feature little green dots at the recommended settings so I reckon it would be hard to do wrong here. Quality inputs are provided, including balanced XLR for higher-end systems. One omission is the lack of a 12V trigger input which I must say should be a given on all powered subwoofers, especially at this price. The same rubber feet as the stands came with this unit but replaced with Soundcare SuperSpikes.
Listening impressions - Movies
In short – the Quattro system is effortless, immersive and powerful. Pop in the Blu-ray for “Pacific Rim” and the first thing that strikes you is the formidable transient response and dynamic range filling your entire listening space. The next thing that strikes you is the smoothness in which these attributes are delivered – nothing is allowed to screech or grate at your ears causing you to lower the volume. Something I welcome. Make no mistake - there’s plenty of ‘bite’ and ‘attack’, just without sibilance. The soundstage is very generous in width and depth. It becomes clear quickly that this system have the type of authority which demands your attention but without being aggressively forward. There’s plenty of headroom on offer which makes blockbuster soundtracks an absolute thrill. At this price there should be little-to-no compression of dynamics and these speakers deliver in that respect. In fact - it packs real punch with no sign of breaking up. There are similarly priced speaker systems that exhibit these traits but not all of them manage with so little distortion. The Quattro system stays clear, detailed and composed during the many massive action sequences in this particular film. One just has to make sure accompanying electronics are up to par because it’s evident this system thrives on quality signal and amplication. It’s not all about brute force however though – it’s just as much about delicacy and dynamic contrast. During subtler moments the system projects micro-detailing buried within the mix to great effect only to instantaneously explode with prowess when the soundtrack requires it.
Switching to my favorite sci-fi thriller “Sunshine” it became clear just how well this system deals with atmospherics and a sense of scale, or for that matter – a sense of claustrophobia. The speakers delivered a good dose of realism, almost like being onboard the Icarus space vessel. The system also have this eerie way of projecting detailed cues in the mix that makes it appear as though I have more speakers in play than just a standard 5.1 configuration. The expansive layering of effects in both the front and rear easily draw you in. Clearly the TriFX surrounds are in no small way a contributing factor to the generous bubble of sound. Another compelling aspect was the beautiful rendering of the score by composer John Murphy, sounding lush and nuanced through the Quattro's. I could pick out every note separately as the score almost became it’s own entity. Last time I got chills like this was when I saw the movie in the theater back in 2007.
Animated films of high quality often have reference soundtracks to accompany the visuals. Among those are my personal favorites “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story 2”. There’s plenty of panning dialogue in these soundtracks with directionality of voices that travel not just from side-to-side but front-to-back. This can be a challenge for many speaker systems, even ones that claim they are voice-matched. Thankfully the Quattro’s excell here! I never find myself distracted by voices changing in tone as they move freely around the soundstage. Truly convincing! These two movies also contain a surprising amount of information in the surround channels and the TriFX were again up to the task. Not only do they disperse sound in the back of my listening room but help fill in the gaps towards the front. The effect is seldom one of distraction though, but rather one that hangs in space around the speakers and outward to the sides. This is surround sound unlike anything I’ve heard in my home before! Then again, I’ve only ever had direct-firing speakers in the rear and even though that can work well enough they often call attention to themselves. The TriFX offer the best of both worlds; immersiveness and directionality. A truly multi-talented speaker!
Getting back to the topic of dialogue (an oh-so important aspect of any home theater) the Quattro’s handle well-recorded male and female voices with great levels of poise and clarity. During the first month of owning the system I watched all three initial seasons of my latest obsession “Game Of Thrones” on Blu-ray and marveled at the dialogue reproduction. This show have very high production values with well crafted soundtracks (almost too good for a tv show). At times it was as though the actors were in the room! This is the kind of life-like reproduction that’s hard to come by, even for speakers at this price. Ontop of that I was once again struck by the whirlwind of enviromental and atmospheric cues projected around the listening space, not to mention the realistic clinging of swords and deep, heavy thuds of galloping horses. It’s surprising how much bass they’ve incorporated into these soundtracks but the DXD-12012 was happy to keep up the pace.
One of the most appreciated movies in terms of bass-content is probably Steven Spielberg’s “War Of The Worlds”. Virtually every tripod sequence is a testament to that. When the first tripod cracks the pavement open to reveal itself during the beginning of the movie the rumble of deep bass was excellent through Ken’s subwoofer. I could feel the bass as much as I could hear it, which is how it should be. You get plenty of powerful low frequency pressure with the DXD-12012, that’s for sure, adding to the sense of scale and tension. But the greatest aspect of this subwoofer is actually what you don’t get – distortion. It connects to the room in a way that seem to cancel out nasty room modes, or at least minimize them. There is less of that ‘boomy’ character I’ve been accustomed to with other more traditional subwoofers. This is a controlled beast that mesh with the Quattro satellites really well. And all this is without any room EQ applied. What you get here is clean and accurate bass capable of digging out plenty of low level detail.
Turning to a movie I love to hate - “Prometheus”, by Sir Ridley Scott, I was once again impressed by the level of musicality of the score and the immense atmospherics achieved by the Quattro’s throughout the movie. No matter what I may think of the story and the actors this is visual and aural filmmaking at it’s best. While nowhere near as creepy or scary as the original “Alien” the soundtrack alone helps to at least create a sense of excitement. And during the climax as the gigantic alien Juggernaut ship decend to it’s fate the immersiveness and room-shaking bass was absolute! This is on-the-edge-of-your-seat sound reproduction! The kind that grabs hold of you from the get-go and don’t let go until the very last frame. It’s a good sign when a speaker system manage to make you overlook the many flaws of a flawed movie, at least for the duration, and simply just go along for the ride!
Listening impressions - Music
Hearing how well the Quattro system dealt with instrumental movie score I was anxious to dig into live concert material. I enjoyed Blu-rays covering everything from Dave Matthews, U2, Roy Orbinson and Madonna to The Police and Adele. Sure enough - the transient response, dynamic range and smooth overall character shone through here as well, making well-recorded mixes feel like the live event. Instruments sound full-bodied and voices, while crystal-clear, sound as forward or subtle as needed be. The TriFX lends a nice feeling of envelopment to audience sheers and ambience without being intrusive. As long as the source allows threedimensionality is quite good. It’s fun to really crank the volume with this system because it’s so detailed and composed. It’s rather unusual for speakers mainly aimed at movie reproduction to be so well-rounded with music but Ken have succeeded.
Turning to regular 2-channel it’s evident that the Q125 Fronts can master this pretty well, delivering an enjoyable listening experience. They do need support from a subwoofer though, for sure, since they aren’t full-fledged full-range stereo speakers. Sound that fills my entire listening room is what I demand these days though which is why I find plain 2-channel hopelessly flat and boring regardless of speaker. Music can really come into it’s own in multichannel if you ask me and good recordings can have that amazing toe-tapping effect when pumping through every speaker around you. Norah Jones beautiful album “Come Away With Me” on 5-channel SACD never sounded so alive or breathtaking! The Quattro system breathed new life into her delicate voice. It was a joy to listen from the first track to the last.
Pink Floyd’s classic “Dark Side Of The Moon” was an equally enthralling listen. The regular 2-channel CD almost sounds dull in comparison to the more fleshed-out and dynamic SACD. The multichannel remix seem to have almost liberated the music and removed a layer of fog. Instruments have much more ‘air’ to them and are better defined when separated across several speakers. Additional detail and nuances can be heard on basically every track. The Quattro system delivered tight bass, clean and clear cymbals and excellent vocal presence.
One of my all-time favorite rock/pop/alternative albums comes from American singer Billie Myers, titled “Growing Pains”. It’s an excellent album with equally excellent recording qualites. This was actually the first multichannel music disc I ever bought and it excites me to this day. The Quattro speakers made re-discovering this album a really fun experience. Her rough and unique voice is made full justice, spread out over all three front channels, giving me chills. There are a couple of songs on this album with bass depth completely lacking on the standard CD and the DXD-12012 had me feeling the bass in my gut, but without overhang or thickness. Bass was quick and taught all the way through. The playful use of the surrounds was beautifully excecuted through the TriFX as well. It was the kind of enjoyment that had me closing my eyes singing along to the music.
Next up came one of my passions – isolated instrumental movie score. My ultimate favorite being Polish composer Wojciech Kilar’s classic work for Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stokers Dracula. I have mixed feelings about the movie but the score is sublime! Majestic, haunting, lush and romantic in every sense. Sadly there is no multichannel edition of this score, traditional 2-channel only, but thanks to Primare’s DSP-mode for spreading stereo in all channels I was able to enjoy the music the way I feel it was meant to – coming at you from all directions. Despire going against my own principles this DSP-mode works surprisingly well. The Quattro's belted out the aggressive tracks on this cd with believable, yet silky-smooth, authority. Low-key tracks sounded delicately beautiful. Instruments were defined in a way that I could almost sense the space between the musicians in the recording session. It’s been a while since I heard this score from beginning to end but enjoying it with this system that became inevitable.
If memory serves me correctly this is my 9:th multichannel speaker system in 20 years. That’s a lot of speakers. Apart from the acoustics of the room no single aspect of our system have as much of an impact on the end-result as speakers. Electronics have their fair share but not to the same extent. And boy did the Quattros have an impact! Ken Kreisel have done an extraordinary job with this system and I’m officially a fan. Watching movies have elevated to a very exciting level and music is an enthusiastic experience difficult to switch off. Each satellite speaker works in unison with the potent subwoofer to deliver the goods; highs are extended and energetic yet smooth and non-intrusive, midrange full and lively and low frequencies room-filling but not over-blown. Simply put; there is great balance to the Quattro system. Nothing is ever perfect though and even if I have slight reservations about certain issues I have very few in terms of performance. You get what you pay for here. Are there speakers with better performance? Of course there are. But I’d say you’d have to pay a substantial fee, plus everything is subjective and in realtion to your personal preference. As for me, I’m glad I’ve found a system now that I can safely say I want longevity with. Perhaps not the next 20 years but then again who knows?
+ Strong dynamic capabilities
+ Excellent transient response
+ Large soundstage with perfect channel-to-channel coherence
+ Works with movies and music alike
+ Beautiful design
- No matching floor stands for the TriFX surrounds
- Dedicated center with questionable angle and table base attachment
- No 12V trigger on subwoofer
- Useless rubber feet
- Prone to dust and fingerprints
A/V processor: Primare SP33
Multichannel power amplifier: Primare A30.7
Blu-ray player: Oppo BDP-103D
Music server: Naim UnitiServe HDD
Mainsfilter: Isotek EVO3 Aquarius
Resonance decoupling: Soundcare SuperSpikes / Nordost Pulsar Points
This review is based solely on personal experience and opinions and should be judged accordingly. I am basing this on how the Ken Kreisel Quattro speaker system performs to my ears under my specific circumstances; using my associated equipment, in my particular room.