Hardware Reviews

Quested OLY-208 magic from the studio

Quested OLY-208 speaker review https://the-ear.net

Quested OLY-208 loudspeakers

Quested is one of those names that seems familiar for some reason but it’s not until you look into its background that you find out why this might be. Roger Quested started his career in the studio world at Olympic studios in the late sixties, he worked with Glynn Johns on the first Led Zeppelin albums and engineered highly successful by Pink Floyd, Cat Stevens and Paul Simon among many others. When he started working for DJM (Elton John etc) as studio manager that he decided to build some big studio monitors, because those that they had at the time didn’t have sufficient power handling. Roger Quested spoke to Proac and ATC and ended up building the first studio monitors to feature soft dome midrange drivers. Initially he built a few for his own use and people he knew in the industry but in the early eighties started supplying the likes of Abbey Road, Sarm and Lillie Yard for Hans Zimmer, the latter becoming a lifelong fan of Quested’s designs.

Quested has continued making studio monitors since that time and has a wide range of passive, active and “massive” designs on its website. One of the passive models has evolved to become the OLY-208, albeit the evolution is largely aesthetic, the VH3208 as the pro version is known has a typical black splatter finish over its MDF carcass and is not supplied with stands. There is a considerable saving to be had by purchasing it this way but the aesthetics will not be to all tastes. That said the Sushi veneer on the OLY-208 divides opinion too but I for one think it looks very nice indeed, and those who dislike being stared at by so many drivers can use the silver grey grilles supplied.

Quested OLY-208 speaker review https://the-ear.net

I first encountered the OLY-208s at the UK Audio show last year, then they appeared at the recent London Audio show where they made a very good impression on the end of a system put together by Crescent Records to monitor live music in the next room. It was at this stage that I decided to get a pair in to see what they could do.

This is not a huge loudspeaker in physical volume terms but when placed on the relatively high 22 inch stands that are part of the package it has a certain presence in the room that is exaggerated when the four drivers and two ports. These drivers consist of two 8 inch Volt bass units, a 75mm Vifa midrange dome and a Morel 28mm soft dome tweeter in a baffle that measures 19 inches across. The crossover uses components from Mundorf capacitors and Volt inductors again.

On paper at least it doesn’t seem very unusual, the wide baffle is distinctly pro of course and bass drivers of this size are not so common anymore, but when you look at its specified capabilities it becomes apparent that it’s not as simple as it would appear. For a start the OLY-208 has a high 92dB sensitivity and this relates to its potential peak SPL of 112dB, not many speaker makers will quote that sort of figure, but it’s not unusual in the pro world. You need plenty of power to do this without distortion of course and Quested recommend amplification rated at between 200W and 700W. I did wonder whether they would work at normal domestic listening levels, I need not have worried.

Quested OLY-208 speaker review https://the-ear.net

The stand that Quested supply with the OLY-208 is essentially a chunky four post type that’s similar to many third party speaker stands, it differs by virtue of having a plinth that’s finished in the same veneer as the speaker and which extends the footprint for extra stability. There is also a shelf provided to stack your records on which is an unusual but potentially handy feature that would add some mass damping too, if you put enough vinyl on it. The speakers are bolted to this stand which is not is not common in many domestic designs and adds a bit of rigidity to the base of the cabinet. The pair of OLY-208s supplied for review were not full production samples but are largely representative of the final product, one detail that is due to change however are the cable terminals. On this sample there are three of these for tri-wiring/amping but with a relatively standard terminal set, the finished version will be nicer and hopefully have cable rather than plate jumpers as the latter tend to undermine sound quality.

Sound quality

The Questeds sit quite high relative to my listening seat, the tweeter is over a metre off the ground but this does nothing to undermine a degree of analytical resolution that is uncommonly high. It feels like you can hear everything that’s going on in the mix no matter how dense the production, this is very much a monitor and it seems to resolve so much detail that it’s uncanny. It’s not the first monitor style speaker I have reviewed but it’s the first to deliver this level of transparency to the source. At first I assumed that this was achieved by a strong midrange emphasis but with longer listening it was apparent that they have pretty serious bass extension and are not obviously rolled off in the treble.

What the OLY-208s aren’t is bright. I had expected this to be the case because it so often is with pro gear but their balance is very even handed and transparent to the electronics in the driving seat. The midrange emphasis I soon realised was due to the tube rectifier on the Border Patrol DAC I was using, this is usually apparent as an increase in clarity from the DAC but the Questeds made it clear that this converter opens up the mid in ways that had not previously been apparent. The effect on music is to make clear how many advantages modern releases have over their older counterparts when it comes to scale and depth of image. The harmonised female vocals on Manu Delago’s Modern People (Snow From Yesterday) came through in such plush, luxurious form with apparently every nuance resolved with a polished precision.

Quested OLY-208 speaker review https://the-ear.net

The slightly grittier Black Mirror (Evita Polidoro, Nerovivo) is also very recent but the production is less smooth and a bit more visceral, which suits her band’s post rock style very well. What this album delivered was more of Polidoro’s drums, it’s her album after all but usually the guitar and bass tend to dominate the mix. Here it became apparent why she has worked with well regarded musicians in the past and is likely to do so again in future. I love the tautness of this album on the OLY-208s, the way they resolve the dynamics without the need to turn up the volume is particularly enjoyable.

It became apparent that despite their size these Questeds need a bit of rear wall reinforcement, the pro models that they so closely resemble are designed for soffit mounting which provides a lot of reinforcement to the bass so this is not surprising. It doesn’t change the sense of hear through revelation but augments the lower frequencies to the point where the better recordings start to really inhabit the room. Felix Laband’s Miss Teardrops was a case in point, it proved to have far more layering and effects than is usually apparent, tension builds superbly and the presentation brings out cymbals without being bright. I love the way that the OLY-208s can do immediacy, scale and deep bass without any forwardness or aggression, there is basically no sense of perceived distortion. This presumably because they are just ticking over at domestic listening levels, if you felt the urge to ‘rag them’ I imagine that the pips might eventually start to squeak, but I suspect that the level would be well over 100dB before this happens.

Quested OLY-208 speaker review https://the-ear.net

The OLY-208s would make great reviewing tools, you can hear everything that’s changed when switching cables or components but their real strength is letting you hear new things in the tracks that you have played so many times before. Examples I enjoyed were the brilliance of the guitar on Mark Kozelek’s Livingston Bramble, Frank Zappa’s shredding on Magic Fingers (You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore, Vol.6) and then there’s Led Zeppelin II. I have a vintage vinyl pressing of this and it’s not the richest of productions, what the Questeds reveal about it is just how much energy the band managed create and the engineer managed to capture, it sounded phenomenal. What makes it even more impressive is that there is no sense of strain from the OLY-208s, just pure rock brilliance and an apparent balance change between Killing Floor and the Lemon Song, the latter sounding quite thick in the upper bass. That’ll be the monitor factor of course, a monitor far superior to what they had in the studio at the time.

Quested OLY-208 conclusion

More recent is Retrograde by James Blake, “the vocal on this is fantastic” as one visitor observed. There were many moments like this with the OLY-208s, they are uncannily revealing loudspeakers with no perceptible colourations, just the plain unvarnished truth about every recording and every element in the system that drives them. They need power but not excessive amounts unless you are really after massive levels, what’s more important is that nothing in the chain is adding distortion or colouration to the signal, given that they will let you get closer to the sound that the artist heard in the studio than a great deal of the competition.

Specifications:

Type: 3-way, reflex loaded, stand mount loudspeaker with stands
Crossover frequencies: 850Hz, 3.5kHz
Drive units:
Bass: 2x 200mm cone woofer
Midrange: 75mm soft dome
Tweeter: 28mm soft dome
Nominal frequency response: 37 – 20,000 Hz (-6dB)
Nominal impedance: 4 Ohms
Connectors: tri-wire binding posts
Sensitivity: 92dB @ 1w/1m
Dimensions HxWxD: 612 (1075 on stands) x 485 x 324mm
Weight: 38kg
Finishes: Sushi wood veneer
Warranty: 5 years

Price when tested:
£12,600
Manufacturer Details:

Quested Monitoring Systems Ltd
T +44 (0)1404 41500
quested.com

Type:

stand mount loudspeakers

Author:

Jason Kennedy

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