Review WA-Quantum Supreme Loudspeaker Chips
Earlier, Audioreview.nl published my review of the equally enigmatic and effective WA-Quantum Turntable Chips. I refer those who wish to read up on WA-Quantum and their product range to that review. For me, the small Turntable Chips have proven beyond doubt that magic can happen when a small amount of sophisticated material is used in the right place.
For this review I have put the WA Quantum Loudspeaker Chips to the test. The Loudspeaker Chips are more advanced than the Turntable Chips, in several respects. Not only are they physically much larger than other WA-Quantum Chips, they are also more complex in composition, with a corresponding performance... For those who cannot wait to read about my actual findings, simply skip to the listening section of this review.
WA-Quantum has made the right choice in terms of the appearance of their Chips which have a rather distinguished appearance. A bonus when one is expected to apply a self-adhesive label to one's cherished loudspeaker cabinet. Actually their size is not too obtrusive (50 by 80 millimeters) and many will attach the Loudspeaker Chip to the back of a cabinet, as was the case with my Harbeth P3ESR (see photo). By the way, may I recommended that when searching for the ideal position on the cabinet, that one first applies the Loudspeaker Chips with Scotch tape. In addition, it is best to fix the tape to the paper carrier in order to make sure that the chip has a direct contact to the cabinet during tryouts.
As a first position for the Loudspeaker Chips I chose the backs of my Harbeth P3ESR loudspeakers, approximately at the same height as the internal crossover. After the Chip treatment, the sound was clearer, more organised and more open; background vocals were even easier to locate and differentiate. The bass was a bit more pronounced and sounded nimble while the stereo image widened. Even the tonal coherence improved to a quite noticeable degree, which for me reinforced the musical communication between speakers and listener.
With the Loudspeaker Chips attached on top of the P3ESR's in line with the high-frequency units (see photo), the initial results seemed less remarkable than the ones I got with the rear-mounted Chip. This position had less influence on the bass performance but the lateral spatial positioning and tangible presence of instruments clearly improved. Voices gained in expressiveness and were projected more freely and even further into the room. This particular Chip orientation would be a good starting point for fans of 3D imaging. In combination with a second chip at the rear of each cabinet, depth perspective and front-to-back layering became rather magical.
The next step was placing the Loudspeaker Chips as close as possible to the mid/bass units. The stands under my Harbeths are made of HDF and birch (a DIY project of mine) wich allowed me to place a Loudspeaker Chip underneath the top plate of each stand. As with the position on top of the cabinets, a markedly increased dispersion was observed with instruments being projected even more freely from the speakers. Voices sounded slightly sharper but wonderfully open while guitar and other midrange-based instruments gained in solidity. The biggest leap forward with this Chip application was bass reproduction, especially with acoustic standing (double) bass. The result of which was a delightful elasticity of plucked strings followed by tasty and energetic growls. Pure aural bliss. With this 'bottom-position' of the Loudspeaker Chip, music sounded at once more timbrally rich and more dramatic. As before, the results of this new Chip position were enhanced when a second Chip was placed on the rear of the cabinet, close to the crossover.
A "sandwich" of a chip on top and a Chip on the bottom sounded less attractive to these ears, although it resulted in maximum lateral spread and focus but also a little too much emphasis on clarity and brightness (versus tonal richness). When that sandwich was moved towards a more central positioning on both the top- and bottom of the cabinet or even further backwards, that emphasis on brightness receded somewhat while spatial abilities remained practically the same. Loudspeaker Chips on the sides of the cabinets (meaning two Chips per speaker) did not yield clear advantages over the top
As a final position possibility, one Chip per speaker was attached to the baffle, mounted just below the dome of the high-frequency unit. Obviously, a speaker must offer sufficient space on its baffle to pull this one off; in the P3ESR's case, the two lower pozi-screwheads of the HF unit got in the way of a flush attachement of the Chip but I tried it anyway.
As it turns out, this position should in fact get a high recommendation: a rather nice, rich presence of voices and an even better integration of the speakers two units was the result. This old audiodog was time and again happily surprised by the results that can be achieved with the WA-Quantum products. A Loudspeaker Chip smacked between the drivers may not have yielded the sharpest focus but all in all it did cater for the most natural sounding tonal balance. In theory, one could apply three Chips to each loudspeaker: one on the baffle, one against the rear and a third on the bottom - for example. I tried just that and as it turned out, that trio created an almost too overwhelmingly forward presentation. In any case, two optimally placed Loudspeaker Chips are more than enough for a two-way mini.
For those wishing to start with 1 chip per loudspeaker and seeking a starting point, my top tip is the rear of a loudspeakers cabinet, opposite or as close as possible to the crossover. With the correct application of the WA Quantum Loudspeaker Chips it is possible to make advancements in terms of air and openness but also in sonority, expressiveness and focus. That in itself is a remarkable sonic bonus but even more important is the fact that a couple of optimally positioned Loudspeaker Chips can help to create increased musical involvement. That facet alone makes these fascinating labels worth both the effort and the money. Recommended.
By Kilian Baker (Text and photos)
Supplier: Kemp Elektroniks, 020-7764464 / www.kempelektroniks.nl
WA Supreme Loudspeaker Quantum Chip: 80 Euro per pair