When judging the relative merits of hi-fi kit, our main piece of equipment is the humble human ear. Two for starters, but, for the final reckoning, a good few more. Not for us fancy graphs, charts and measurements; the proof of this pudding is in the, er, listening. If our music sounds better on one pair of speakers than on another, then we have a winner.
That doesn't mean we put our fingers in our ears when it comes to the science. And that's why we knew that these Quads would have it all to do in this company for one simple reason; they're very small.
Naturally, this diminutive size has its merits. The glossy black finish and compact stature make them an easier sell to a disapproving partner, and they can do a job in smaller rooms where large, unwieldy speakers can't be housed. But in order to produce deep, substantial bass, bigger is better.
Listening to Burial's epic Ghost Hardware, the Quads just can't delve deep enough to do justice to the dirty ‘hoover' bassline. This in turn impacts elsewhere in the soundstage, the 9L2s struggling to match the presence and excitement that a solid bassline helps to serve up. Similarly, the small cabinets struggle to muster a real sense of scale to truly fill the room.
Can't punch above their weight
Despite this drawback, there's plenty to like about these dinky standmounters. We allow Alicia Keys to indulge herself just a touch on the slightly warbly No One, and the vocals are rich and well detailed.
Switch to the more immediate Wreckless Love and the Quads make a decent stab at the dynamics required, but there's no doubt that some of the bottom-end punch is missing. Elsewhere in the mix, busy drums are delivered with insight and accuracy.
For the money, and in this competition, the Quad 9L2s aren't the all-rounders that others here are. Most notably, they struggle at that bottom end and when it comes to delivering real scale and presence.
That's not to say these speakers shouldn't find a home – for a compact solution that delivers a detailed, rhythmic, articulate sound, these are just the job. Just don't be expecting the bass to bite your ankles.