A quick 18 by Andreas, or: The “Quick Expedit”
Since we have been a little bit spoiled with the SB240 in our living room, there was a request to upgrade the sound in the home office too, with something better than the usual PC speakers. Listening to music on them is just annoying, especially with the mini sound converters built into your laptop. In order to narrow down the impressive range of Intertechnik assembly kits, we needed some selection criteria.
It was clear that the source would be the computer(s), supported by the DTA-1 from Dayton. That ruled out a second HiFi system with an extra amplifier and CD player. It was also clear that the assembly kit needed to be under €100 (for each box). That did reduce the selection quite a bit, but it still left us with a few assembly kits. The search and selection feature in the Lautsprecherbau.de forum was helpful here. I mentally put off the installation issue at first, and posted a question in the forum about installing and choosing the right “PC speakers” from a smaller pre-selected group (Quickly AX-5, Needle, AX-5 HR, AX-6HR, Quickly 14, Quickly 18...). Having summarized my preselected boxes, the choice was finally narrowed down to a “small” 2-way system or a wide-range solution.
I was primarily interested in collecting experiences and tips from people who are using similar loudspeakers in a similar application area. I realize that a listening test would probably be the easiest way to find the answers to this. I also realize that listening is subjective, and no one can make the decision for me. So far so good, but after having also bought my SB240 “deaf,” so to speak, I now consider a “blind and/or deaf purchase” from Intertechnik to be a very low risk. Anyway, I did get some suggestions and tips in response to my posted question. Matthias (Da) suggested the Needles, and Chris thought the RS100PC would work, possibly supported by one (or preferably two) SD215Bp models. Both were suggestions that I could get behind, since my personal favorite up to that point was the Quickly AX5 – all of them wide-range boxes.
At the same time I posted my request to the forum, I naturally also consulted the team by phone. After the phone call, I ruled out the wide-range speakers. Why? Because we do often share a desk in the office, which means we would both be positioned outside the “sweet spot.” It wouldn’t have made sense to design the system for just one of us, in terms of the room’s shape, and even then someone would have gotten the short end of the acoustic stick.
So that made it a 2-way system. Why the Quickly 18 and not the Quickly 14? Well, ask someone what an 18-cm (7-inch) bass mid-range speaker can do better than a 14-cm (5-inch) speaker. Even better than asking, take a look at the corresponding construction reports, which also explain the difference. :-) This is in keeping with the motto that there’s no substitute for membrane area except more membrane area. I do see certain parallels here with automotive construction, where you’re always hearing “engine capacity rather than spoilers” or “there’s no substitute for engine capacity except even more engine capacity.” All of this naturally applies within reason, in the full awareness that here (hi-fi) and there (automotive) you can always find little tricks and tools to get more “performance” out of smaller membranes and/or engines.
So I ordered the Quickly18 assembly kit – the compact version, since the speakers needed to fit into the IKEA Expedit shelves facing us. Here I (once again) had to redesign the box suggestion a little bit to make sure the “Quick-Expedit” boxes could be set up in their intended location (SketchUp-construction plan as a zip file). The maximum permissible dimensions were W x H x D 33.6cm x 33.6cm x 39cm. For the wood, I chose laminated beech with a thickness of 18mm, which can be found in any hardware store. I countersank the chassis elements and both of the tweeters and woofers, and since I already had the router out, I went ahead and did the cutout for the terminal – which is pretty important, because you can’t see it later.
I didn’t take any pictures of the assembly process, since there wasn’t anything too spectacular about it. I did have my first experience with the “sawing precision” offered by one of our local hardware stores – once and never again. It may be that another store can handle it better – but for my part, the one experiment was plenty. I had my trusted cabinetmaker “calibrate” the cut boards again to make sure they were all the same width. With laminated beech, a 1-2 mm difference in the board width isn’t so easy to force into place even with a c-clamp. Or maybe it is, but then there’s a risk of cracking the wood – and I didn’t want it to come to that. Anyway, cleanly cut pieces make the later sanding work much easier. I sanded the boxes using an orbital sander (#120 / 240 grit) and then oiled them twice.
I built the crossover on two small boards again. This time I attached the components with hot glue (instead of silicone) and also used cable ties for the coils. The crossovers were then fixed to the back wall with hot glue, which is supposed to work just fine without screws – I hope they’ll stay on, but I’m still a bit skeptical.
The chassis mounting holes were pre-drilled and the Sonofil was stuffed in; everything was welded together, the chassis elements were screwed in – and my Quicklies were done. This time they were quick in the truest sense of the word, because once the cabinets are ready to go (a good use of time between the order and the delivery), it really is fast to finish the box.
I did feel a little uneasy about routing the chassis cutouts ahead of time without measuring the chassis. But everything went well except for the milling depth of the tweeters, which was listed as 3 mm, and which I think is a little too tight. Half a millimeter to one millimeter deeper would have been better, in my opinion. The sliding caliper actually gives me a measurement of about 3.8 mm for the tweeter’s baffle board. But it doesn’t matter, it still works, given that the chassis wasn’t originally supposed to be countersunk at all in the Quickly 18 – the idea was to get the music to people’s ears as quickly as possible.
For the first listening test, I hooked them up to the B channel of my amplifier, the way I had done with my SB15Rear. Sound descriptions still aren’t really my thing, but here are a couple of comments anyway. First I played the CD that was still in the machine; the first thing I noticed was that I must have soldered the crossover together correctly, because everything sounded nice and homogenous, both on the left and the right – the first hurdle was cleared.
Now for the sound. Since a direct sound description is a little hard for me, I first tried a “relative” description compared to the SB240. During the songs, I kept switching back to the SB240. No, it’s not supposed to be a comparison of the two speakers, and it won’t be – after all, they couldn’t be any more different. What I’m trying to say is that I’m better at describing relative differences than absolute ones. In this specific case, then, I definitely hear differences in the bass. Thank God, the basses in the SB240 are deeper and offer more pressure. I can also perceive differences in the middle and high range, which is why the boxes are assigned to different classes. Now I understand what the Blues class is (embarrassingly, I haven’t stopped by at Intertechnik for a listening test yet). But that doesn’t mean the Quickly 18 units are terrible by comparison. Definitely not – at this price, they’re fantastic. Both of them are fine the way they are: different classes, different structures, different prices, different standards – to each his own.
After that, I installed the Quick-Expedit in its intended spot with the corresponding players. Now it was time for the listening test – take two. The placement of the boxes is slightly higher than ideal: the tweeters are at ear height, each in one section of the IKEA bookshelf, about 2 meters in front of us. I played an easy listening CD as the test music, then a wild assortment of MP3s with varying recording quality (rock, all kinds of random pop), various YouTube music videos and web radio. The first thing that surprised me was the bass, amplified by its position close to the wall. The shelf created a kind of extra chamber for it. Depending on the sound source, the bass is almost too strong. With web radio in particular, I have to use the equalizer to “rein in” the lower frequencies or it becomes unpleasant. It’s an effect you also hear with various newer recordings, where a couple of extra dBs are added in the bass range to make sure something resembling a bass comes out of even the smallest speakers on any kind of player. When you listen to it on decent speakers, which in my opinion clearly includes the Quickly 18, it’s just too much.
The other problem with the PC is that it’s hard to tell what other software might be interfering with the sound. In addition to countless audio player plug-ins, there are also the sound-card settings. There are all kinds of ways to “bend” the tone, starting with the obvious loud/soft range. I started by choosing qmmp in Linux (the counterpart of Windows Winamp) as a player, since it allows me to respond very easily to “bass-heavy recordings” by changing the equalizer settings.
I was also surprised by the potential volume – more than loud enough for the office. The most comfortable volume for the room is at 9 o’clock on the DTA-1. At the 12 o’clock position, it’s already a little too loud for me.
After listening to music in the office for several days now, I can say that nothing is missing. All in all, I wouldn’t have expected it to sound as great as it does, given the size – we definitely got more than we expected. I imagine the Quickly 14 units would also have been enough for this setup. But there’s no need to quibble over a few or dollars. :-)
Stay tuned for my next stunt, coming soon / eventually / someday – for sure!
The Quickly 18 assembly kit with Gradient Select loudspeakers is available from Intertechnik.